Thursday, February 25, 2010

A New Tunnel for Critique

Well howdy, y'all!

Welcome back, didja miss me much? Yes, once again this has come a bit late, and I apologize. Work should be back on schedule for Wednesdays next week, after the Olympics.

So, I promised some feedback from the Young Writer's Workshop I attended last week, and, well, here it is... It wasn't all that helpful for me.

The workshop met at the local Powell's Bookstore (I could easily insert a long, loving review of Powell's, but to save time, energy, and space, just check them out at their site) and included about 25 guests ranging from around 12 years-old to teachers and librarians. The hosts were three published children's authors: Rosanne Parry (Heart of a Shepherd), Fran Cannon Slayton (When the Whistle Blows), and Edith M. Hemingway (Road to Tater Hill). The event was well miked, well insulated (they shut the larger of the doors adjoining the mall for less interruption), and well organized. It lasted about an hour, maybe hour-and-a-half.

The topic was "An Inside Look at Story Critique: How Writers Help Other Writers," which sounded really good for me. After all, not only am I interested in writing, but editing and/or proofreading is one of my main interests for an income as well. But the majority of what the three guest Authors spoke about was the importance of writing/critique groups.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't disapprove of writing groups. On the contrary, after hearing the pros and cons from the workshop, I think I would be interested in joining one, myself. However, I was a bit disappointed that this was the main topic when the title suggested so much more. I had hoped that the authors would have offered some useful techniques for critiquing, perhaps some suggestions on receiving critique, or perhaps on delivering it. But alas, that was to come only in the form of a handout.

Also, though I did suspect this to be the case (considering the use of 'youth' in the title), the overall tone of the workshop tended toward the younger range of the audience. Some of their suggestions involved 'summer camps' or 'asking your school librarian,' which obviously wouldn't apply to anyone above high-school age.

However, I did take some useful notes about Writing Groups:
  • Set up a regular meeting interval - once-a-month, every-two-weeks, weekends, etc.
  • If your schedule is such that you can't meet regularly, or if your group is spread across the country (college buddies), it might be better to set up a writer's retreat every year or so, while exchanging drafts via e-mail in the meantime.
  • If your group tends toward longer projects, it might be useful to set a page-cap on the work you exchange.
  • It's helpful to exchange work via e-mail, read, and review it before you meet. That way, you know what you want to say, or what is important to point out, instead of skimming it too fast at the meeting.
  • Make sure to pick a meeting place that is comfortable - coffee shop, otherwise empty house, library meeting room, etc.
  • Writing 'groups' can be as small as 2 and as large as 10, but be careful you don't have too many people that you can't read and critique all of their work.
  • Your group should have a similar goal. Put another way, scriptwriters should be in one group, poets in another. It might be useful to get the opinion of another stylist every once in a while, but more often than not, your writing expertise won't be helpful to each other. Even more specifically, fanfiction writers are aiming for a different media than short-story or novella writers.
  • Benefits of Writing Groups include:
    - getting help in areas that aren't your strength (dialogue, plot, female characters, etc.)
    - drawing off of others' reading experience
    - writing can be a long practice, receiving critique can help break up the year(s) into more manageable segments
    - your group-mates often offer encouragement
    - they can approach your story from a reader's perspective, tell you if it's working for them
    - they can help point out clichéd, weak, or lazy writing
    - reading work aloud (especially dialogue) often helps gain a new perspective
  • Writing Groups do have their pitfalls:
    - showing your work too early, and getting a bad critique, might leave you discouraged
    - over time your group-mates might begin to lose their objectivity toward your work
    - group dynamics, goals, and schedules change--you might have to move on
After the main lecture, the authors then split the audience into three groups; younger writers, teenage writers, and teachers/librarians. Though I, obviously, did not fit any of the three groups, I sat in on the teens and listened to a couple first-pages and critiques. Frankly, the readers weren't very loud, and I have a horrid memory, so I didn't make any comments.

The event ended with our group leader, Edie Hemingway (no relation, unfortunately, to Ernest), passing out a one-page sheet on How To Critique. Probably the most useful thing I got out of the workshop...

Guidelines for Critiquing Other Writers' Work
distributed by Edie Hemingway

  1. First, read the work as a "reader"--for the story (or content) itself and for your first impression.
  2. Go back and read again as a "writer." Look at the different craft elements the writer has used.
  3. Mark the areas you really like--maybe a particular description, natural dialogue, believable characters, etc.
  4. Are the basic writing skills--grammar, sentence structure, spelling, etc.--correct?
  5. Does the dialogue sound natural? Does it flow? Are there unnecessary words that don't add to the story?
  6. Are the characters believable? True to their ages, time, and setting?
  7. Does it have a clear setting? Neutral? Specific in time, place, atmosphere? Does it have an emotional setting?
  8. Are the verbs active? Is there too frequent use of helping verbs, such as am, is, are, was?
  9. Are there echoes of specific words (overused) throughout the piece?
  10. Does the author overuse "qualifying" words such as just, only, maybe, sometimes, etc.?
  11. If the work is fictional, does the plot make sense? Do the scenes drive the plot forward? Is there a climax and resolution?
  12. From what point of view (POV) is the story written? First person? Third person? Is the POV consistent, or does it change back and forth without notice? If the reader is in one character's head, other characters can show their thoughts only through actions and/or dialogue.
  13. When it's your turn to critique, always start with something positive. What is it that you particularly liked about the work?
  14. Be tactful, but be honest and specific when making negative comments or suggestions. Example: "I notice that there is a change of POV here. Was that intentional?" "I notice frequent use of adverbs. Maybe you could try using stronger verbs, instead."
*If you, as the author, do not agree with a suggestion, a safe thing to say is, "I'll think about that." Remember, ultimately, this is your work, and you have the final say about revisions!

Personally, I would put the last two points at the beginning, but that may have something to do with my recent experience with a poorly done critique.

In similar news, I have recently (today, in fact) teamed up with a fellow writer on DeviantArt! We were paired through the Adopt-A-Writer group, and have just exchanged our first communications. I'm really excited about exchanging critiques, so here's hoping for the best!

And, with that, I think I'll be saddlin' up and headin' off into that there sunset...

Until we next meet,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Construction Progress Report

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen,

I trust that this report finds you well. Construction on The Den is going ahead as planned: the supports are holding up, the library is coming along nicely, and the work crew has good morale, despite some of the press our project has received. But more on that later in the report.

This is most likely finding you a bit later than usual, but that must be attributed to the fact that the Olympics are currently underway. In fact, the overall pace of operations has slowed slightly, but I assure you that this speed bump is essential for morale to continue. There is nothing like the four S's (skating, snowboarding, skiing, and speeding full-force down a hill) to get the blood pumping, even if the staff is doing it vicariously through the television. This is, of course, preferable to the extra cost and risk of injury that traveling to, or competing in the games would bring. Rest assured that these minor setbacks will not be detrimental to the project's goals and deadlines. Normal schedules should resume within the next two weeks.

In less exciting news, we have received our first bit of bad press. Yesterday, a rather lengthy review was left on our most recent publication, Nothing Personal, and I'm sorry to say that none of it was good.

I don't want to spend more time in a character's head than necessary; pathos is something to be avoided anyhow, not embraced.

Might I also point out that simply re-writing a story to increase the potency of the effect it already has does not qualify as a revision.

And I don't want to know a character that's going to be murdered a page or two away. I mean, yeah, there's some clumsy writing and some of the detail selection is careless and awkward, but to taunt the reader with a character and then to kill them off is some nerve. I mean, a lot of the breadth here could be summed up in a few good, short, strong paragraphs instead of the engrossing play-by-play the reader is treated to. That way we're not bored and ready to quit by the time the male thief is murdered and don't feel irked with the writer for essentially misleading us and thus wasting our time by teasing us with the eccentricities of a thief we never get to fully explore.

Bottom (yet superfluous) line: Tricking the reader is a cardinal sin, and allowing the reader enough rope to hang themselves with is just plain carelessness--its not much better, but it is excusable, and I think that's the case here. If the story is about the female thief, which it appears to be, then for Heaven's sakes -don't- have the male thief be the object of third-person limited! Don't even use third-person limited at all! Such a beginning requires the use of the omniscient narrator, that way a switch between subjects/people occurs without a second thought, and the narrator is allowed to keep distance between characters the reader isn't supposed to bond with.

Yours Sincerely,
We at The Wolf's Den appealed to the critic with as polite a response as was possible. We tried to give as much appreciation for the time they so obviously put in to their critique, but at the same time give them a healthy amount of objection for a scathing review.

Firstly, I'd like to thank you for writing a review, albeit one that offers no constructive criticism. One might be able to gleam one or two suggestions from your comments, but on the whole, 'scrap it and start over' isn't something any writer can build on. Still, it's nice to get the first purely negative critique out of the way, so thanks.

Actually, revision is just that. So, no, you may not try to point that out.

Third-person limited was one of the requirements for the workshop that this was submitted for. Sorry (not really) you don't approve.

My bottom line: I'm not apologetic at all for the bait and switch. That's what this piece is, pure and simple. Do I think it would hold up for the beginning of a longer work? Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn't. It all depends on the tone. I am sorry that you don't prefer this style of writing, as I (and I'm sure other readers) have found it quite enjoyable when utilized properly. Granted, this may not be utilized properly at all, and the other reviewers who enjoyed it might all be gits... But I prefer to err on the side of self-preservation (and the larger number of positive critiques).

If you'd like to take a bit more time, I'd appreciate a bit more
help and less pomposity.

I am quite pleased to report that this appeal yielded quite a pleasing response. Not only has the critic rescinded some of his claims, but has offered some sound advice that I believe will most certainly be taken into consideration if not acted upon.

I have been taught that the first duty of the writer is to be honest and responsible with the reader; the first duty of the reader is to trust, to be patient, and to be generous; that is, to go along for the ride, quietly correct mistakes, if found, and look over minor, irritating flaws, and to save discussion of more major ones for later.

My criticism of your piece has more to do with the structural, and even spiritual, workings of your piece as opposed to the surface workings. I am talking about bone structure (third-person limited vs. omniscient), as opposed to what color the eyes should be (this word over that word). You already have enough people suggesting better words, sentences, delivery, etc., but you don't seem to have a lot of people wondering about major structural things, like which point of view to select, or which character to make the focus of the story.

I mean, who cares if some piece of writing is 'cliché' when it will most likely be gotten rid of in the revision process? You already know my suggestions for the piece: cut down goblet lover's role to a paragraph or two, and then bring in the female thief, because that's (one of) the directions I see the story going. You don't even have to change the point of view entirely, just the person whom the camera follows. Have the female thief be perched in the rafters or something, critiquing his style in her head, all the while putting up with a killer craving for a ham sandwich. People don't like it when they don't get something they want, it puts them in a bad mood. And I'm sure she knows who goblet lover is. I mean, what -other- thief in the “property re-appropriation business” would be jacking some tawdry bauble all the while professing his love to it as though the goblet were Snow White and he's Prince Charming? What a weirdo! He probably doesn't even bathe, (lol). She didn't even come for the goblet, anyhow, she came for some elaborate tapestry -next- to the goblet (which is why she's about to do what she's about to do), but because she's cranky because she didn't get her ham sandwich, and because she doesn't really like the guy in the first place, and because she -can- kill him, she decides to do it anyway. (When people know they can do something and get away with it, they often do.) And the reason Lady Thief so easily kills Goblet Lover is because she's the pro, and he's just some amateur with a thing for goblets (who's learned a few tricks from the pros or through internet research). He's like that guy at the party that no one likes, not because he's a jerk, but because he's just.... strange. Why do I say, suggest, and explore all of this (the ham sandwich thing is a bit of a stretch)? Because you can totally tell by the way Lady Thief is treated that she's the real hoff-hoffa here. She just glides gracefully and without fault, does what she wishes, how she wishes to, with no fear of failure, for she is the Goddess in this fictive world. -She- is your protagonist, not Kumkuat, the Goblet Hoarder.

Did I mention you have plot, characterization, and atmosphere? Oh yes, you do. We know what's going on, we know who's doing it, and we know where it's happening. Someone is stealing a goblet, it's Goblet Lover who is the one stealing said goblet, and it's happening on a clear night with the moon out in full force, giving everything that soft glow that only a full moon on a clear night can provide. The details could be a little more distinct, a little more exact, the movie playing in our minds a little more crisp and vivid, but we've been given enough detail to work with (anyone with a decent imagination has all they need to image-craft).

You succeed tremendously in attempting to breathe life to this little man who has a thing for goblets such that his love for goblets seems to border on the fetish to the outside observer; he's so involved in his own pathology that he probably doesn't even see the harm in stealing priceless artifacts from the viewing public. The problem is that you've done your job too well. You focus so much on goblet lover that the reader just assumes this must be the one he is to care about; this is the protagonist. So that when he -is- finally killed (because he's not the protagonist), the reader becomes upset, cries foul, and prosecutes in civil court for breach of contract. LoL, I mean, I enjoyed your character so much that I attacked you for killing him! How's that? “Here's the man I'm supposed to care about, and I do, and then you kill him? Wtf? I call shenanigans.”

You had adequate tension in the plot, too. Goblet lover wants the goblet, he's getting the goblet, he almost has the goblet, but then in comes the damn red-head again, suddenly in comes the red-haired Valkyrie to smite him. And for... what reason, exactly? I mean, talk about a sudden turn of events; it's bizarre. This red-haired woman just comes out of no where, omnipotent, and derails the entire story you had set in motion.

And so I have to ask you, which character is this story about? Goblet Lover, or Lady Thief? You make the goblet lover your protagonist due to the fact that Goblet Lover is the “center” of the story's perspective. Because this is third-person limited, and everything we see in this world, we see first in relation to the goblet lover—everything is valued through him, seen through him, measured through him, etc. But then along comes Lady Thief with her laundry list of privileges to wreck havoc on the story.

If the story is about Goblet Lover, then he cannot be killed so early in the story, and not without good cause. If the story is about Lady Thief, then you need to reduce Goblet Lover's role in the story to a few paragraphs and save the rest of the spotlight for her. I mean, you can't have characters, like Lady Thief, come barging in, running amok, and trampling all over the narrative you're weaving. Because Goblet Lover is killed so early, and because he is so easily dispatched (he is effectively a victim, a victim being someone who can only ever be acted upon; things happen to him, but he does not make things happen) it makes the reader think that the story is really about Lady Thief, because why would any protagonist get killed off in a page or two, and so easily at that? After reading your story, the reader is confused. And irritated because of it.

But maybe this has all been for nothing. Maybe this isn't really a story at all and is just some mere exercise turned into the Writer's Workshop because you were bored at the time, making this entire analysis beside the point.

In any case, I hopes this helps, I'm sorry for being a jerk face, and hopefully what you have now received from me is more in line with your expectations for good criticism, because believe or not, I've just given you two, maybe even three, hours of my life. At the very least, I hope you don't accuse me of being insincere.

The staff here at The Wolf's Den are now in process of constructing a most appreciative reply, and we hope to continue catching this critic's eye in the future. We've weathered our first bad critique with enthusiasm and poise, and come away with solid plans for the future.

And that brings us to the final order of business: future planning. This Friday we are mandating the staff attend a Writer's Workshop on good critiquing practices. Powell's Books is holding the event with writers Rosanne Parry, Fran Cannon Slayton, and Edith M. Hemingway, and it looks to be an exciting opportunity. A recap of the event will likely be included in next week's write-up.

As always, thank you for your continued patronage.

Best regards,


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Nothing Personal"

Greetings visitors!

Welcome back to my humble abode. I hope the passage of time has treated you well. It's been a bland week for me. The Superbowl offered a nice distraction, but the commercials weren't nearly as great as years past, and I'm still having a hard run getting my schedule back on track.
I did, however, find some time to write this week, and I'm quite pleased with the results. Here's the backstory (skip down to the center title if you don't really care):

Junior Year at Linfield, I took a Creative Writing course on the art of Short Stories. One of the exercises went like so:
Write two pages (500-600 words) showing EITHER some kind of fight taking place in some kind of a museum, OR some kind of a love scene taking place in some kind of a factory. Use any point-of-view, any characters you want to. It can be romantic, comic, satirical, tragic, realistic, absurd, subtle, outrageous, set in past, present, or future, here, there or where-have-you--or any combination of the above. Write vividly and precisely. It may be an entire short-short-story or just a scene from some implied long thing. Suit yourself. Make it yours.
I chose the first topic, and wrote the following piece.


Differing Tactics

“There has got to be an easier way to do this.” A bead of sweat slithered its way down his cheek as he took in the sight of the ancient artifact for the second time that day. Having scoped out the museum during the day, making mental notes of every inch of that display and its surrounding area, there was only the mental preparations to worry about now. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes and counted backward in his head from fifty. It didn’t take long for his face and body to show the effects of the exercise: his jaw unclenched, back straightened, fists released and hung at his sides, even his face seemed softer after only ten counts had passed.

With the initial phase complete, he began running over the plan step by step. 38 – make sure the lasers are still shorted out – 37 – take out knife and cut glass – 36 – lengthwise so as not to trip weight sensors – 35... Time was meaningless if he made a mistake, so he took as long as he needed, slowing down his counting as he reached the last ten. As usual, he put his mind to focusing on even the softest beeps and clicks, the slightest breeze of air, imagining the most irrational and fearsome implication of each. His breathing sped up; his blood pounded in his ears; his eyes snapped this way and that behind his eyelids. There were only a few counts left now – 5 – I’m not gonna make it out this time – 4 – they’ll be here any second – 3 – Ma always said I’d end up in the clink – 2 – why didn’t I move to Jersey? – 1 – DO IT NOW!!!

His eyes flew open and his hands raced to pull out his knife quick as a hummingbird taking flight. The adrenaline had done the trick, giving him sharper movements and reflexes that allowed him to work with twice the speed he normally possessed. His expression was neither fearful nor twitchy, but rather confidant and calm. The knife was up to the glass now, just about to begin its work…

…when a blast of air picked him up and sent him skidding sideways, whipping the knife right out of his hand and clattering to the floor. Coming to a stop in a crouch, he looked up toward where the gust had originated only to see a red haired woman standing in the doorway. Squinting to examine her more clearly, he could see her lips were pursed in a scowl, and one hand rested on her hip while the other hung at her side. Possibly the most surprising thing about her appearance, other than her being there in the first place, were her clothes. He, of course, had worn the protocol slim black clothing so as to reduce visibility, whereas this woman was dressed in somewhat baggy dark jeans and a red blouse almost as vibrant as her hair, which seemed aflame in the light streaming in from the window.

Raising himself up again, he whispered sharply to the intruder, “What’s the big idea?! Who the hell are you?! And where the hell did that wind come from?!” He hadn’t known that her eyes were not on him until now, their blood-red hue sending a shiver up his spine and stopping his breath inside his chest. Surely their glow was just a reflection of the moonlight from outside, but there was something about her smile that gave him doubts.

“Funny you should mention Hell… But my identity and the wind are of no significance to you.” Her voice sent another bout of shivers up his spine, but he was less aware of it this time as she approached him, heels clicking on the museum tile. “My, isn’t this a lovely sight for a first meeting? Surrounded by treasures of old, bathed in the light of the moon, and completely…alone.” She pressed a fingertip under his chin, drawing it upward and locking her eyes with his. He could have moved, could have resisted, but as he stood there, nearly limp at her touch, he felt like the happiest man in the world…

…and so he died with a smile on his face as, in one swift movement, the woman grabbed hold of his throat and snapped his neck. He was found the next morning, along with a smashed case where the Goblet of Aello had once been.


Years passed, and I joined the Writer's-Workshop group on DeviantArt ( Last month, the project was to write a short piece (600-800 words) involving a complex character and to make sure to "SHOW, not tell". I found the challenge intriguing, but decided that the above piece already fit the description fairly well. So I tweaked the ending a bit and submitted the piece under the new title "Nothing Personal".

At the end of the month, my piece was featured among three that the leader thought best utilized the workshop goals. I felt slightly guilty that I hadn't tried my hand at something new. But then I decided to take the critiques I'd gotten and re-work the piece to make it better - something that I'm sorry to say I have a bad habit of not doing.

Here is the finished (for now) product.


Nothing Personal

“Hold on just a minute, m’ dear, I’ll have you out shortly.” The ancient goblet sat under its protective glass, just as it had been, looking quite…well, bored. Surely it must be, sitting in a museum all day with the occasional tourist giving it half a glance at best. To coddle it against dust and dirt like an invalid––why, it was an insult! Soon it would be out among its admirers, taking chance in its existence like everyone else once again. And he would be the one to free it.

The last echoes of his footsteps faded, leaving him in silence. The whirring of the cameras had already succumbed to the power-cut he’d implemented. Now, only the moonlight and his tools remained as his accomplices. He took one last glance around the hall, making sure nothing was out of order among the other residents since the last time he’d visited. Tapestries hanging limply, paintings posing stiffly, marble and tile looking on coldly––yes, they all seemed to be in order. Not happy, perhaps, but complacent enough.

Turning back to his prize, he took a deep breath and closed his eyes. At first he focused on even the softest noises––a cricket’s chirp, a whine of worn brakes, his own breath whooshing in and out––imagining the most irrational and fearsome implication of each. Then he forced himself to block out each of those petty annoyances and turn his attention inward. Internally, he began at fifty and counted down from there. It didn’t take long for his face and body to show the effects of the exercise: his jaw unclenched, back straightened, fists released and hung at his sides, even his face seemed softer after only ten counts had passed.

With the initial phase complete, he began running over the plan step by step. 38 – make sure the lasers are still shorted out – 37 – take out knife and cut glass – 36 – lengthwise so as not to trip weight sensors – 35... Time was meaningless if he made a mistake, so he took as long as he needed. A bead of sweat slithered down his cheek as he continued counting, his thoughts ranged from specific processes to what he would do with the goblet once it was in hand.

As the numbers grew smaller, it seemed as if all his hard work had been for naught: his breathing sped up, his blood pounded in his ears, his eyes snapped this way and that behind his eyelids. There were only a few counts left now – 5 – I’m not gonna make it out this time – 4 – They’ll be here any second – 3 – Ma always said I’d end up in the clink – 2 – Why didn’t I move to Jersey? – 1 – DO IT NOW!!!

His eyes flew open and the knife was in his hand almost faster than their shadows could follow. The knife was at the glass, slicing horizontally with the speed and precision of a practiced surgeon. And perhaps he would assume that title himself; for a surgeon used cutting to remove objects of harm from beauty, and he used the same technique to remove objects of beauty from harm. He allowed himself a grin as he separated the top of the glass case from its four walls.

“Just stand still, love, this won’t hurt a bit.” Moving his blade to his teeth, he passed the glass top into one hand and reached for his prize…

…When a shadow fell across his hand. He snapped his eyes upward, but a blast of air picked him up and sent him skidding across the room, whipping the glass out of his hand and shattering into a tapestry. Coming to a stop in a crouch, he snatched his knife from his teeth, nicking his cheek in the process, and scanned the room for his attacker. When no one met his eyes in the moonlit hall, he refocused on the shadow and followed it upward, finally finding its owner standing in one of the upper windows.

It was a woman. It had to be. Her red hair stood out clearly, not orange at all, but a bright red that flowed down around her shoulders. And if that weren’t loud enough to set off all the alarms in here, there were her clothes. He, of course, had worn the protocol slim black clothing and black hat so as to reduce visibility and evidence, whereas this woman was dressed in jet black pants and a red jacket almost as vibrant as her hair. Her face was in shadow, but her outline––right hand on her hip, the other at her side in a fist, weight shifted to one side––suggested that she was as happy about company as he was.

Raising himself up again, he glanced toward the exit, shifting his weight from foot to foot. When he returned his eyes to the woman, she was already on the ground, heels clicking on the cold tiles as she approached him. He took a step back, holding his knife––unimposing as it was––in front of him. He whispered sharply to the intruder, “W-what’s the big idea?! Who are you, and what the hell was that?!”

Now that she was on the same level as he, he’d thought she would look less imposing, but her clear features and cocky gait only served to unnerve him more. Her skin was flawless; her lips curled into a smirk; she had a slight crook to her nose, as if it had been broken once, but it only heightened her beauty; and then there were her eyes, their crimson hue stopping his breath inside his chest. Surely their glow was just a reflection of something––the moonlight from outside bouncing off some glass, perhaps––but there was something about her smile that gave him doubts.

“Funny you should mention Hell… But my identity is of no significance to you.” Her voice sent his heart pounding faster. He shouldn’t still be here. The crash would have attracted the guards. They’d be on him any second. And this woman––this admittedly gorgeous woman––shouldn’t be here. This was his prize, his trophy, his damsel. What right did this woman have to it? She was ruining everything. How’d she even get in here? He hadn’t heard a thing. And was that window even open? Who was she? She was an obstacle, that was all, and one he’d have to deal with quickly. He could feel his skin flush with another round of adrenaline…but there was a heat in this blood that was not caused by fear or hate.

“My, isn’t this a lovely sight for a first meeting? Surrounded by treasures of old, bathed in the light of the moon, and completely…alone.” Suddenly she was in front of him, placing a fingertip under his chin and drawing it upward so their eyes could lock. He stood there, his mind barely registering the thoughts of fear and alarm that had filled it a moment before. His efforts had all been for this moment. His prize was her unwavering gaze. His knife was for… Wait, wasn’t that for something else?

That flicker of recognition was enough to snap him out of his daze, but it was also enough for the woman. Even his adrenaline-fueled speed wasn’t enough for, before he’d even had time to tighten his grip on his blade, she had moved her hand from his chin to his throat and snapped his neck.

He fell limply to the floor, blackness flooding his vision. But just before he vanished completely, he heard a low chuckle and two final words:

“Nothing personal.”


If you have any comments or critiques you'd like to offer, I'm always open. Feel free to either comment on this blog or on DeviantArt (

And I believe that's quite enough for one week. Until next time,


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Groundbreaking Ceremony

Heylow all!

So I'm officially starting a blog! Hurray! Now, where's my ticker-tape parade? ...Drat. I guess this little bit of confetti will have to do.

Well, I suppose I should probably introduce myself and set out my gameplan for this here doodad.

I'm Vicki Smallwood, otherwise known as StormyWolf, Stormy, Storm, Vicks, and the occasional Victoria thrown in for good measure. I'm a recent undergraduate with a B.A. from Linfield College - majored in Creative Writing, minored in History - and am now starting to feel the strain of student loans coming due. But I digress on that particular dreary thought...and move on to more cheerful ones.

Further fueling my poverty, I am an avid reader and TV junkie. I'm mostly interested with fantasy books (young-adult and up) but am generally interested in any good writing. The bookstore and local library are my best friends, while the stack of receipts on my desk are most definitely not. But c'est la vi, it seems a small price to pay for sanity.

Other enemies I've accrued are the cable and internet bills, who unfortunately have symbiotic relationships with my other friends, TV and Laptop. The most notable guests into my magic talking box are House M.D., Castle, Leverage, Bones, Fringe, Burn Notice, and Sanctuary. There are a few other daily or weekly visitors, but the aforementioned group get the good china.

And then, after I've pried my fingers from the page, or finished fluffing the cushions for the next evening's guest, I'm usually exercising my digits by punching away at the alphabet. The major outlet of exercise is currently a written role-play site based in the Harry Potter universe. Not only do I own and write for multiple original characters (Stormy Kael, Raven Azure, Narada Moon, Jenny Taggart, Shauna Thercer, Amy Gordon) but I also aid in moderation and graphic design. Essentially, I read through posts, offer advice with characters or scenes, enforce site rules, and discuss new activities or events with the other mods and admins, as well as help find and customize or create skins, banners, buttons, and miscellaneous items for the site. Diffindo is a small community, but we're a close-knit group who enjoy what we share.

But enough about me. I'm sure you're curious what this blog is about. Well, let me tell you. Or, you know, you could just stop reading if you don't want to know...

Anyway, this here blog is here to highlight my writing style and ability. It will most likely consist of opinion pieces, reviews, short fiction, and the occasional reflection. Updates will come weekly, but might increase their pace if and when inspiration hits. I anticipate some pieces may be first-person narrative but convey opinions or histories that are not my own. I will place this disclaimer here, and possibly below the pieces as well.

And...I think that's about it for this first post. Until the next time,


Currently Reading: The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie
TV Anticipation: Human Target, American Idol, Leverage