Monday, December 19, 2016

Author's Choice Awards 2016

2016 is nearly over, and in that entire year there was only one winner of the Author's Choice award. Congratulations again to Reagan Colbert for her stunning novella, The Hidden Soul. You can read my review HERE.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Guess Who?

by Bruce Carroll

The following is a biographical piece about a real person. I did take liberties with some of the minor details. Still, you should be able to figure it out. Think you know who she is? Leave your guess in the comments.

It was a short walk from the greenroom to the stage, but the excitement in the air always made it seem to take an interminable amount of time. She could hear the audience chanting, as if summoning the trio to make their appearance.

Taking that seemingly endless walk, she thought back to how she had gotten here.

*     *     *

“We don’t know what it is,” the doctor said. The young girl wrapped her arms around her aunt, not wanting to hear what the doctor said, but knowing she must. “But it is taking a toll on their bodies.” He looked right at the young girl. “There is a very good chance you could loose both of them.”

The girl buried her face in her aunt’s side. She was not yet ten years old, and already she was facing the loss of both her parents. To a disease the doctors didn’t even have a name for.

That very night, her aunt came to live with her in her home. Her parents’ home. And every day, her aunt and several family members would go to the hospital to be with her parents. She herself was too young to visit patients in intensive care, so she would sit with her aunt in the waiting room. There was nothing for a young girl to do there. The few magazines there were all about fashion or finance.

“Here,” her aunt said one day, holding out an iPod with a pair of earbuds. “Listen to this.”

The young girl pressed the earbuds into place. It was a pop song. A trio of girls sang happily. The young girl smiled. She began to dance in the waiting room, but not so much that she disturbed the others there.

By the time they left the hospital, the young girl had listened to each song at least six times.

“I want to be a singer,” she said to her aunt, her dark eyes sparkling. “I want to join that group!”

Her aunt smiled. “It will take a lot of work,” her aunt told her. “But if you’re willing to work, I’m sure you will be.”

And now, seven years later, she was walking onto this very stage. The trio she had danced to in the waiting room had disbanded, but a new one had formed, and she was a member. One of that first trio’s members was also a member of this newer group.

Both of her parents had miraculously recovered. Her trio had already taken multiple world tours. They sold out Wembly Arena, and ended their last tour by performing for a sold-out audience of 50,000 in her home country. How lucky she felt. She couldn’t help but smile.

The three girls walked onto the darkened stage and took their places silently. She counted her heartbeats as she waited for the explosive chord that would launch them into their first number.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

The Day I Gutted Everybody

I was fed up, the day I gutted everybody. Fed up with the sick hypocrisy that is part of the human condition.

So I snapped. I gutted everybody.

I laid their entrails out for them to see. Racism. Greed. Hatred. Fear. Sins too loathsome to name. I kept nothing hidden. Not even the things that poured from my own heart and bowels.

They were shocked and appalled. Some of them threw up.

I rejoiced. I danced with glee, knowing the vile, abominable creatures had finally been exposed for the appalling things they were.

And then I wept, knowing none of them would ever breathe or walk again.

And I wept again, knowing that even as they read my words, they would not change, or even understand.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Meeting of the Mustangs

by Cathy Kennedy
Review by Bruce Carroll

This is a clever and uplifting story about a wild mustang. It is an easy read, but it may not be suitable for young children as it does include heartbreak, hardship, and death.

The story is somewhat episodic, but some events do connect as the story progresses. It does not have chapters as such, but the narrative does include many divisions for easy reading. I finished it in about a day and a half, and that was with my busy schedule.

While the description of the horses and their perceptions are well executed, the descriptions of the humans and their perceptions are sometimes lacking. At one point two characters decide to “stop at their favorite restaurant for lunch.” We are told “they ordered and ate,” but no details of either the restaurant or the meal are given. It would be nice to know what kind of restaurant it was, what the decor was like, what they ordered and how it smelled and tasted. Then we readers could decide for ourselves if it was “their favorite.”

The eBook itself could use some additional formatting, as I found some paragraph breaks mid-sentence. Still, the story was enjoyable, and the ending most satisfying. I look forward to more from Cathy Kennedy.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

For information about how you can have your book featured in one of my book reviews,

Thursday, November 3, 2016

An Interview With Me

by Bruce Carroll

From time to time I publish interviews with authors and others. Today I decided it was time to post an interview with me. I've answered the same kinds of questions I ask others. I hope you enjoy it.

Describe your childhood home. Does your childhood influence your work? If so, how?
I grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Well, I had a childhood in Baton Rouge. Some people would take exception to the phrase “grew up.”

I got into acting in High School and my first book was Acting: From First Audition to Final Bow, so my childhood clearly influenced that. Beyond that I really haven’t thought about it. In my current work-in-progress, the main character travels across the U.S. I’ve outlined her journey, but she doesn’t even pass through Louisiana. This may change as I write more. Who knows?

How did you first get into writing?
I’m not sure how I first got into writing. It just seemed natural. I remember in about second grade I wrote a nonsense piece that the teachers at my school absolutely loved. I kept getting called out of class to read it to other classes. I didn’t think it was anything spectacular, but the teachers apparently thought otherwise.

Many years later I did some writing on Fiverr and realized people were compiling my short stories and selling them as eBooks. I decided to learn how to publish for myself so I could be the one earning the royalties. That was how I decided to write professionally.

What is your writing process?
I sit down with my laptop and start typing.

Actually, I have found my writing process for my first novel to be very different from my how-to book. Acting: From First Audition to Final Bow started as notes for an acting workshop. I came to a point at which I realized I had enough material for a book.

Akiko has been very different. The character came first, literally in a dream. Then I came up with a story for her. I kept it mysterious, so I could fill in a lot of the details as I write. That’s why Akiko can’t remember her past: I don’t know it myself, until I write it. I did plan out some major events for her story, but a lot of it is written by the seat of my pants. Astute readers will notice the book is actually a series of short stories rather than one continuous story. That makes writing much easier, and, I hope, holds the reader’s interest better.

Sometimes I just start writing, and sometimes I need some sort of warm-up. That warm-up may be as simple as making a list of words as they come to mind, or it may be a specific writing exercise.

What has contributed to your success?
What success? I mean, it was nice when Inkspired selected Akiko for #StoryOfTheDay. That helped me get some views. But I still struggle to pay my bills.

Who inspires you?
Nearly everyone I meet inspires me in some way. I am particularly inspired by my fans. It seems strange to me that people I have never met like my writing and want to read more.

What do you love most about writing?
More than the writing itself, I love when people respond positively to my writing. That is the greatest joy for me as a writer.

Do you prefer print books or eBooks?
It doesn’t matter to me. Ebooks are cheaper and take up less space. On the other hand, I already spend a lot of time looking at a screen. Also, print books make better gifts, and as an author I can’t autograph an eBook.

Are you traditionally published or self-published? Do you prefer one over the other?
I am self-published. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Self-publishing gives the author freedom. The self-published author can literally write anything. That is a strength, but it is also a weakness. There are a lot of poorly-written (and poorly thought-out) books out there. Add to that the fact that the self-published author is ultimately responsible for everything – the book cover, the editing, filling all the plot holes. Sure, a self-published author can hire people to do these things; but that costs money and the author is still responsible in the end.

A traditional author has a team of people working on the book. There are editors, book cover designers, etc. Much less responsibility falls on the author’s shoulders, and the author is free to write. But it is much more difficult to get published. And in the end, both require about the same work as far as marketing goes.

No, I don’t prefer one to the other.

What do you do when you’re not writing?
I enjoy spending time with my wife, Angie, and our daughter, Heather. We love libraries, museums, parks; almost anywhere, as long as we’re together.

Do you remember the first thing you wrote?
No. There was the nonsense piece in second grade I mentioned earlier. Prior to that I wrote a short story called “The Monster Who Ate Carrots.” I don’t recall anything about it, other than the title. I probably wrote something earlier than that, but I don’t remember what it was.

What are you working on now?
Akiko, the young adult action/adventure story about a blind martial artist with a mysterious past. Sample chapters go out in my newsletter, and right now you can get a free copy of Acting: From First Audition toFinal Bow just for subscribing!

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Monday, October 31, 2016

An Interview with Reagan Colbert

Two weeks ago I posted a review of Reagan Colbert's The Hidden Soul. This week the nineteen-year-old award-winning author was kind enough to grant me an interview.

Describe your childhood home. Does your childhood influence your work? If so, how?

Well, I didn't really have a “childhood home”. My family moved a lot when I was a kid, and I suppose that did influence my writing, because it gave  me something to do. I remember sitting in the car with nothing but a pad of paper, and I couldn't really draw, so I turned to words. I also read hundreds of fiction books when I was young, and that mostly shaped my love for writing it.

How did you first get into writing?

Well, like I said, I adored fiction ever since I could read. I would always daydream and come up with little stories that, to me, were the books I wished I could read. I wrote songs as a kid, but writing a book never even crossed my mind, until one day when I was fourteen. I came up with the idea for a story, and it was so detailed and exciting that it suddenly dawned on me, “Hey, why don't I write it?”
     I label that as the day God called me to write, and I'm convinced He gave me that story to set me on the path to become a writer. That was five years ago, and He's still making things happen, so I guess this is where He wants me!

What is your writing process?

It is very, well, different from most! It's pretty simple, too. After initially being inspired with a story concept, I'll mull it over in my head for days, even weeks, before writing it down. Once it takes on a rough shape, and really feels like it could be a complete story, I write an “info dump (the pantster's form of an outline)."*
     That cements the idea in my brain, and once I feel ready, I write. Scene one, sentence one, and I just don't stop until I finish the book. As I write scene one, I don't know what scene two will be, but as I finish that scene, it just kind of keeps playing in my head. I view my books as movies, and they play out in front of me as I write them. I'm usually surprised by what happens!

Where do you write? Is it always in the same place, or do you mix it up?

I write wherever I happen to be, but that's usually in my bedroom/office. However, I've been known to take my laptop pretty much anywhere and start writing!

What has contributed to your success?

I credit 100% of my success to the Lord, who called me here and keeps me going. He has used several people – fellow writers, mentors, teachers, and family members – to get me this far, which is farther than I ever could have expected. Without Him, I wouldn't be anywhere close to here.

Who inspires you?

Knowing that God has a plan for my stories inspires me, mostly. Seeing how much other writers have accomplished (Those who “taught” me, like Joe Bunting of The Write Practice, Jeff Goins, and Jerry Jenkins), makes me believe I can do the same. There are several Christian artists (Tobymac, mainly), whose music inspires me and keeps me focused on my writing.
     But #1, actually, is my readers. Reading their reaction to my stories, hearing what The Hidden Soul did for them, how God used the words He gave me to inspire someone, lift them up, or point them to Him is so astounding. They are my biggest inspiration and motivation to keep writing.

What do you love most about writing?

The power of feeling God writing through you is the best feeling in the world. I've spent hours writing before, then when I go back and read what I wrote, I don't recognize it. When I can read the words and say “Wait, I wrote that?” I know it's the Lord. 
     I really don't know what I would do if I didn't write. One of my favorite quotes is by Flannery O'Connor, “I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say.” Since becoming a writer, I have really found who I am, and especially who I am in Christ. I look back at myself before I became a writer, and it's nothing like who I am now. Just seeing what words have done in my life, and what they're doing in others' lives, is the best part about being a writer.

Which do you prefer, print books or ebooks?

Definitely print books! Even though I write e-books, my goal is to get them in print someday, because nothing beats a good book in your hands.

Are you traditionally published or self-published? Do you recommend one over the other?

I'm currently self-published on Kindle (which is more self than actual self-publishing!), but I definitely want to go with traditional publishing once my books are ready. I have spent years researching both options, and actually attempted self-publishing with a company a couple of years ago, but based on my minimal experience I would recommend traditional.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Well, that doesn't happen often! Usually I'm either writing or thinking about writing, but when I'm not doing either, I spend time with my family. I also catch up on my favorite TV series, StarTrek. (Yes, I'm a Trekkie :). And when I'm not doing “real” writing, I write fan fiction with my sister.

Do you remember the first thing you wrote?

Wow, it's been awhile, but I think the first thing I wrote was a song when I was nine or ten years old. I first tried my hand at writing fiction based on a book series when I was around twelve, but didn't seriously write until I was fourteen. 

What are you working on now?

I'm currently writing the final installment of my “Roman Soul” series, Soul's Redemption. The series is set in first century Israel, and tells the story of Jesus' last days on earth and the start of the early church, from the eyes of Marcus, the Roman who crucified Christ. 
     In this third book, Marcus returns to Jerusalem three years after escaping the legions to find his friend has been murdered. He then seeks revenge, but it leads him to the most unexpected and life-threatening experiences yet, bringing him back to the truest meaning of forgiveness.
The book is almost finished, and I'm shooting for a November 1st release. 

Follow Reagan

You can learn more about Reagan, her writing, and her ministry at her website:
Find her books at
Follow her on Facebook:
Follow her on Twitter:

* "Pantser" is a term for an author who writes "by the seat of the pants." It is the opposite of an Planner, who outlines each event of a story before writing details like description and dialogue. 

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Musings on the Big One

by Bruce Carroll

It would be hard to see, were it not for the sunlight reflecting from the clouds. It gives off no light of its own. But while it may be hard to see, no more than a dot in the darkness as you look at it, it is easy to hear, if you know how to listen. It groans and quavers in the 0.6–30 MHz range. [1]

If you were to go there, you would doubtless notice the banded clouds. While not particularly colorful – mostly ochre and various shades of brownish-orange – the cloud bands are quite distinctive. As you get even closer, you would doubtless notice the clouds are moving. The whole thing rotates every ten hours or so, and you would easily be able to tell by following the famous “red spot,” a storm which has been churning in the upper atmosphere for at least two hundred years (and probably much, much longer). If you watched closely, you would see that the alternating bands of clouds move in opposite directions as the whole thing rotates.

As you keep getting closer, you begin to realize it is big. Very, very big. In fact everything in the solar system, other than the sun itself, could easily fit inside it, if it were only hollow; every planet, every comet or asteroid, all of the dwarf planets, bits of rock and ice and dust, all would fit inside with room left over. No wonder it is named after the king of the gods!

It is also cold. The mean temperature there is around minus 232 degrees Fahrenheit. It has impressive auroras and massive lightning storms (which make its radio signal “spike”).

It has been known as Marduk, Dias, Zeus, Jove, and the name by which we know it today, Jupiter. Not that it cares; it goes on rotating as it revolves around the sun, its storms roiling, its auroras shimmering, its lightning flashing, belching forth radio signals no human ear can detect.

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Sunday, October 23, 2016

October Update (My life as a monster)

Photo by Patty Murphy

by Bruce Carroll

Every year, for five or six weekends in September and October, monsters invade the theme park.

It is all part of Fright Fest, a spooky celebration at SixFlags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois. I have worked as one of the scaractors (scary actors) in the park for five seasons, now. I’ve played a zombie pawn shop owner, a demonic “Founding Father” figure, and a clown (or as we scareactors like to refer to it on social media, a klown). There are monsters in haunted houses and monsters on the midway (not to be confused with the Chicago Bears). I’m usually one of the “street actors,” delivering my scares on the midway.

Last season, there were two major changes to Fright Fest. First was a new guideline referred to as #NoMercy. The monsters come out at six p.m. Anyone in the park after that time is a fair target. We are allowed to scare anyone, of any age, virtually anywhere in the park. The second change was the addition of a new character, Nox, the Demon Overlord of Fright Fest.

Nox is big. Nox is scary. At just a tad over seven feet tall with a strong baritone voice, Nox easily inspires terror in the hearts of nearly every guest in the park. But he also inspires admiration.

Two weekends ago, a little girl came to the park. She met Nox and became a huge fan.

That night, she went home. She had an idea; a creative project she wanted to do. She asked for her parents’ help, and they gladly gave it.

The very next day, the little girl came back to Fright Fest dressed as Nox himself! Her parents had helped her modify a mask to look like the Demon Overlord. Nox saw her, and was pleased. (His response was, “I have no words.”) He dubbed this new junior demon Nyx.

I don’t know what other name you go by, Nyx, but I am glad to have you as a part of our monstrous family. Let the scaring begin!

Update on the Update

A different child created this:

Clearly, Nox has his fans.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Hidden Soul

Reviewer: Bruce Carroll
Author: Reagan Colbert

Retelling a familiar story has got to be one of the most difficult things an author can do. Many make the attempt, but few pull it off successfully. Nineteen-year-old award-winning author Reagan Colbert is one of those few.

In The Hidden Soul, Colbert retells the story of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection clearly and simply, yet compellingly. Everything is seen through the eyes of Marcus, a reluctant Roman soldier. Marcus is lost, out of place as both a soldier and as a person. He hates Rome, hates the violence he and his fellow soldiers are required to dish out. He also doesn’t believe in gods.

Then Marcus meets Simon, a former zealot who has given up his violent rebellion to follow a certain Jesus of Nazareth. Shortly after that meeting, Marcus’ life takes a turn and follows a path from which he can never return to the man he once was.

Marcus serves as an everyman, allowing the reader to experience the events of Christ’s Passion in a very personal, intimate way. He also serves as a reminder that God not only loves all of us, but each of us. As pastor Greg Bostrom has said, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us to love.” Marcus is an excellent example and illustration of that steadfast love.

I have only two complaints about the book, and they are both minor. There are a few typos (or possibly spelling errors) that a copyeditor should have caught. They were neither so glaring nor so frequent as to detract from my joy of reading the book. My other complaint is that the book is apparently only available as a Kindle book. I hope both of these situations will be corrected in future editions.

You can purchase The Hidden Soul HERE.
Learn more about Reagan Colbert, her writing, and her ministry HERE.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Why I Love Being an Indie Author

by Bruce Carroll

Being an author is fun. I love being able to create stories. There is a great satisfaction when I create a particularly good one.

Being an author allows me to share my creative endeavors with others. My heart leaps each time a reader tells me how much she enjoyed my writing. And being an indie author allows me to be published. Without the power of indie publishing, I’d reach a much smaller audience.

But what I love most about being an indie author is the support I get from other indie authors. There is a real sense of camaraderie among them. Most of them are eager and willing to offer encouragement and feedback. Some even become fans. Without that network of authors, I doubt I’d be a writer at all.


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Monday, October 3, 2016

Song for October

Lyrics by Bruce Carroll

Music yet to be written, but should be a gentle country tune with acoustic guitar

The sun shines down upon my face
And life moves at a slower pace
In the summer, in the summer
Though the sounds of summer laughter I hear
I long for a different time of year
In the summer, in the summer

The leaves turning colors so prettily
As I sit on the porch drinking pumpkin spice tea
Wearing a cozy sweater knit by mother
The smell of a campfire from the neighbor’s yard
Though life isn’t easy it doesn’t have to be hard
October is a time like no other

We remember fallen soldiers as children return to school
And the weather is no longer so hot, though not exactly cool
In September, in September
And though it’s been a fruitful year
My favorite time is drawing near
In September, in September

The leaves turning colors so prettily
As I sit on the porch drinking pumpkin spice tea
Wearing a cozy sweater knit by mother
The smell of a campfire from the neighbor’s yard
Though life isn’t easy it doesn’t have to be hard
October is a time like no other

After the harvest some like to rest
But after the harvest, what I like best is...

Zombies rising in the dead of night
The quiet broken by screams of fright
Thinking of Norman Bates and his mother
The blood of the neighbors on the picket fence
The glowing eyes of vampires looking so intense
October is a time like no other

October is a time like no other

Sometimes I think of you.... Sometimes I think of you....

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Striving to Keep My Wits

by Bruce Carroll

Let’s face it; none of us is getting any younger. Last year I turned fifty.

As we grow older, memory becomes a more and more tenuous thing. This is not news for anyone who is leaving middle age behind. More alarming than simple forgetfulness is dementia. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s claim the memories – and eventually the very souls – of their victims.

Being – shall I say, more mature? –  I began reading about neuroplasticity, a phenomenon that has been studied extensively only in the past decade or so. Scientists have discovered that the human brain is much more malleable than was previously thought. This malleability is called “neuroplasticity.”

Our brains change throughout our lives, and researchers have discovered it is possible to guide those changes. It is even possible to stave off age-related memory loss and dementia. One easy and effective way to do this is by learning something new as one grows older. A person could choose to learn anything: how to play a musical instrument, how to rebuild a car engine, how to cook, even how to write and speak a different language.

About the same time I was learning about brains and how to keep memory loss at bay, I read How to Learn Any Language in a Few Months While Enjoying Yourself by award-winning author Nate Nicholson. The techniques Mr. Nicholson offered seemed straightforward and effective. If I were going to learn anything, I decided, I would learn a language. After all, language is used to express every aspect of our lives. What could be more effective for brain development?

Once I had decided to learn a language, I had to choose which one to learn. There are many Spanish-speaking people in the U.S. Perhaps I should learn Spanish? But my exposure to Spanish had been rather limited. I had studied French formally throughout school. Maybe French was a better choice? (Funny how little of it I could remember after all these years.) I had also studied Japanese informally in college. Ah, Japan – there was a culture very different from my own!

I hadn’t yet decided on a language when I happened to be watching an interview with the Japanese Idol group Babymetal. (Yes, I am a fan – kitsune up!) The trio spoke only in Japanese. There were English subtitles, but I remembered enough Japanese that I questioned the translation I was reading. Was that really what they were saying?

After I watched the video, I read some of the comments people had left. There among them I found an extremely racist remark against the Japanese people. Somehow that brought me to choose Japanese as my second language.

Since then, I’ve begun learning (or relearning) French, too. Spanish is next on my short list.

What about you? What do you do to keep your brain healthy? Let me know in the comments.

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Math, Mother, and Memory

by Bruce Carroll

It's funny how an insufferable experience can become a fond memory, given time. Homemade candy helps, I suppose.

As a child, I struggled with math. Multiplication was a bear. Fractions were even worse.

When I was in sixth grade, I brought home a particularly daunting worksheet as my math homework. My parents insisted I begin doing homework almost as soon as I got home. I was granted enough time to consume a snack, then it was time to hit the books.

I endeavored, I toiled, I sweat. It was several pages and the answers were not coming easily. I was allowed another break for dinner. Dinner? I'd already been working two hours and still had a long, long way to go.

After dinner, I was back at my worksheet. I'd complete a page and have my parents check it, only to discover I had done the entire thing wrong and had to do it over.

As a sixth grader my bedtime was early; eight p.m., if I recall correctly. I wanted to go to bed. Badly. My head hurt. I was indescribably frustrated. I just wanted the night of mathematical torture to end.

Finally, at just past ten p.m. I managed somehow to get the last problem on the last page solved correctly. Exhausted, I said good night to my mother.

But she had a surprise for me. She was proud of my hard work, she said, and she went on to tell me that earlier in the day, while I was at school, she had made some Heavenly Hash. Now Heavenly Hash is my absolute favorite candy. I was surprised and delighted when she said I could stay up just a bit longer and eat a couple of pieces.

Sadly, my mother passed away a few years later, succumbing to cancer. I've grown older, and today I can no longer recall what kind of math problems I struggled through that night. But I remember the lesson my mother taught me about persistence and hard work.

What fond memories do you have? Let me know in the comments below.

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Monday, September 5, 2016

When She Fell

by Bruce Carroll

I will never forget where I was the moment Akiko fell in love. She was in the school library with Tommy. The two of them always went there after lunch, before their next class. Tommy would read to her.

Akiko had been rescued from a fire, which had left her blind. That had only been a few months ago. She was learning Braille, but still had a way to go before anyone could call her “fluent.” The fire had not only left her blind: it had left her illiterate.

Tommy had been reading Karen Vance Hammond’s Shoe Marks. Akiko’s friend Sarah had told her Tommy liked her. Akiko had been skeptical, but Sarah pointed out how much time Tommy spent with her. That day, as Tommy read, Akiko had reached out and found his shoulder. She rested her hand there as he read.

When the bell rang for the next class, they both stood. Akiko thanked Tommy for reading to her yet again. That was when Tommy suggested they go out. He had tried to sound casual, but Akiko clearly heard the nervous quaver in his voice. She smiled and told him she would like that. She resisted the urge to jump up and down excitedly and squeal.

And where was I when this all happened? Why is it so indelibly burned into my memory? I was at the Graham Public Library, right across the street from the Lutheran church, seated at a little round wooden table typing away on my laptop. A wall of books silently watched as I created; books with titles like “Get a Literary Agent,” “In the Shadow of Edgar Allen Poe,” and “Teenagers 101.”

For me, it was the first time I had experienced the joy of having one of my characters fall in love.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Fears and Aspirations

by Bruce Carroll

As I write my novel, what do I fear?I fear nothing! I know my story is awesome, or at least worth telling. Even though I may struggle with the middle from time to time (okay, most of the time), I will persevere and my story will be told in the end!

Except that’s not exactly true.

Of course I fear that I am over-confident. After all, I like a lot of things most of my friends and acquaintances don’t. And many of the things they think are very compelling I find lackluster. It seems my tastes, whether in music, movies, books, authors, games, or whatever, are...discriminating.

But that fear is (relatively) easily overcome. I write what I write. Those who appreciate it will. Those who don’t will move on and find something else to read. And if I am the only one who appreciates my work, I will not have failed. At least I’ll have a good story to go back and re-read.

No, what I most fear is wasting time. Sometimes while reading writing how-to articles, I feel my time would be better spent writing. Planning a story and research both take time, and I sometimes wonder if it would be better spent somewhere else. My writing practice can seem like a waste of time. Even writing my work-in-progrss can seem like a waste of time; so much goes unused. Of course I file it, but would I have been a “better” writer if I hadn’t wasted that time in the first place?

There is a strange disconnect here: I know (intellectually) that these things are important, but I often feel they are a waste.

But there is a greater fear, one I hardly admit even to myself: what if I don’t have anything to say? What if instead of a compelling resolution to a particular piece, it simply...


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Monday, July 18, 2016


I have been participating in The Write Practice, an online group which provides training and practice opportunities to writers. I wrote the piece below as a practice exercise and was quite pleased with the results. Please let me know what you think in the comments.

Exhausted, nose and sinuses clogged. Like a drain. Weather’s nice today. Summer cold. What a dumb thing, summer colds. Daughter wants to go to the library. We do. It’s a fine day, not too hot like it has been. At the library I check out Ray Bradbury’s “I Sing The Body Electric.” We go to the park after. Maybe I’ll try out this new Pokemon game. I do. It’s silly. More fun to watch the young people playing it than to actually play it myself. I have Bradbury to read.
My daughter wants to climb a tree. I set aside smart phone and Bradbury and we climb into the only suitable climbing tree in the park. We sit together on a branch. There is bird poop up here. We can see all around. People playing on the playground. Playing Pokemon GO. Enjoying the sunshine or the shade, each as he or she prefers.
My daughter wants to get down. She wants to jump down, but she is nervous. I point out the ground isn’t that far below her feet. It doesn’t help her relax. I jump down myself, show her it isn’t so hard. She follows. The experience was about as disappointing for her as the Pokemon game was for me.
We’re home now, and I’m typing my practice. Word association. Stuffy head. Stuffy-achy-fever-so-you-can-rest medicine, or something like that. Half-remembered slogans. I still remember the product, though, so that’s a win for the advertising agency. Nothing like a memorable ad where I can’t remember what the product or service was. I think of trees. Of childhood. Why does time always escape into the past? Is it lost forever? We only have memories of it. Memory is fragile. I know. As a magician, I count on it. Mandela Effect and all. So many people thinking their version of reality is the only valid one. Or the most valid, anyway. But none of us even perceives reality. Not the REAL reality. If there is such a thing. For our subjective experience, reality is merely a construct, an approximation of what the world is. Then we act on it as if it is real.
Too many distractions. Not from writing, but from everything. Our brains filter out so much of what happens, just so that we can make sense of what’s left. Then we have a memory of sitting in a tree with our daughters and don’t understand quite what happened up there.
Distractions. Pokemon. I’ve been reading about people stepping into traffic while playing that game. Or the teen who nearly ran over a three-year-old while chasing one of the mythical beasts. Not reality at all.
My girl wants to read to me, cutting my practice short. The words she will read are another version of reality. In the end, hearing her voice is worth it all.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Excited Again

For me, writing is a strange thing. I spend my days writing (or doing something else when I should be writing) and have little enthusiasm for it. Unfortunately, this shows in my work. It becomes the proverbial vicious circle, in which I don't want to write because my writing is uninspired and my writing is uninspired because I don't want to write.
     But recently, I had an idea: What if I created a character who was versatile enough to be in a variety of situations. What if I made this character someone I know well enough to know how he or she would act in any given situation? What if I threw in some surprises, things that might work against me writing for this character, just to make things interesting?
     It was a little like creating a character for a role-playing game (like Dungeons & Dragons) and then throwing in some surprises just to keep the player (me) on his toes. I was both player and gamemaster, creating a character who would (I hoped) be interesting in a variety of settings.
     I am very pleased with the results of that exercise. My newest creation (it's hard to type that without feeling a little like Frankenstein) is Akiko, a teenage Asian-American who was blinded in a fire. She has a mysterious past of which she is unaware. Having spent some time in the hospital, Akiko now lives with her foster parents, the Olsens, while the authorities try to locate her parents or a relative. It might sound like an American Girl story, but I promise it will be full of action and adventure. The whole experience of creating Akiko has made me excited about writing again!
     I'd love to tell you more about Akiko, but I won't. Not here, anyway. You see, I promised a very elite group of people I would share things with them first. In an effort to make good on that promise, I will be sharing a short-short story about Akiko with all those who subscribe to my newsletter, Babbling Brook. But you don't have to miss out! Simply subscribe to Babbling Brook by clicking HERE. Hurry, the newsletter goes out on July 4th!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Enter and Win!

You can win a FREE COPY of my book! Yes, it is a print copy. Yes, it will be shipped directly to the winner. No, you don't have to buy anything. To enter, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Navajo Jems

One of my dearest childhood friends was Cara Zamecki. Though we are no longer children, we are still friends. I recently caught up with her and learned about her business as a jewelry maker. I'll let her tell you about it in her own words.

My childhood home was filled with love, and my mother used to sew my clothes. I always wanted to learn.

I got into making jewelry young from going to summer camp. My first piece was a key chain/necklace.

I have one person who helped me go further into making jewelry. Her name is Mar. I'm inspired by stones and rocks. I find beauty in them. I love creating jewelry because my work is one of a kind. Each piece is made from my mind.

When I'm not making jewelry I'm thinking of what patterns from my mind I can bring to life. My first piece was a necklace made at Camp Singing Waters.

Navajo Jems has a store in Beeville, Texas. We moved this month (January) so I put some pieces online during this time so we might see more online.

Thank you, Bruce, for taking the time to spend with Navajo Jems.

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Conceal and Carry

"The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun."
-Wayne LaPierre

Stephanie Claire Rodriguez smiled. The result of the second test was the same as the first: positive.

She and Juan were going to have a baby!

She called him at work. "What are you doing for lunch?" she asked him.

"Eating!" he replied, chuckling at his little joke. "Why?"

"I thought you might want to have a picnic at Lake Park." She didn't tell him about the tests. She would surprise him at the park.

"Sounds fun," he said in his endearing Latin accent. "I probably won't get there until 12:30."

"Then that's when I'll meet you."

They said their goodbyes and Stephanie hung up the phone. She would fix the sandwiches closer to when she had to leave. Meanwhile she thought about their home office. They would have to convert it into a nursery. She wondered if they would need pink paint or blue....

~ ~ ~

It was a gorgeous day, the first truly nice spring day of the year. Sandra Hook decided to enjoy her lunch break at Lake Park. It was a short walk from Livingston Health and Nutrition, where she worked. She grabbed her lunch out of the employee 'fridge and headed out.

Sandra hadn't considered that others might have had the same idea. The park was crowded. Many were on their own lunch breaks, but there were plenty of parents with kids, too. A group of about two dozen in matching T-shirts must have been from a daycare. Leaves had barely begun to sprout on the trees, so the sunlight fell more harshly than it would in later months. But it sparkled on the nearby lake which gave the park its name.

The first shot didn't register in Sandra's mind, and while she was aware of the second, it was the mass of suddenly screaming people that got her attention. Someone had opened fire on the crowd in the park. Gunfire sounded nothing like it did in the movies. The simplicity of an outdoor lunch or some playtime on the swing set had suddenly turned grim.

Instinctively, Sandra ducked down. There was really nothing behind which she could hide. The closest thing she had to cover were some picnic tables several feet away. People were panicked, screaming, trying to run away from danger and getting into one another's way.

Quickly, she opened her purse. Sandra had a conceal-and-carry permit and a loaded Glock 22 in her purse. (The irony of a woman named Sandy Hook having a licensed gun was not lost on her.) She pulled the Glock out, her heart racing. There was no "safety" on the Glock in the traditional sense. The Glock used a safe action trigger system. Around her people were still scrambling for whatever cover they could find. Time seemed slower, drawn out. Though her heart hammered in her chest, her hand was steady. She felt confident. The two hours a week she put in at the firing range had her ready for this moment.

She stood to a half-crouch, just high enough to see over the fleeing crowd. There he was, wearing a red windbreaker and firing into the crowd with a large handgun She took aim, her finger resting lightly on the trigger. People were still scattering as the man strode through the crowd. In the back of her mind, she remembered something about checking the target. But she had a clear shot. If she hesitated, she might not get another chance!

Aiming for the red windbreaker, Sandra squeezed the trigger.

~ ~ ~

Stephanie had just arrived at the park when the shooting started. The horror in her soul was palpable. Was this the sort of world her child would be born into?

Whoever was shooting was off to her left someplace. Nearby she saw a middle-aged man draw a gun from beneath his red windbreaker. She saw him take aim, and realized he was trying to take down the gunman.

The man fired. Stephanie dropped her picnic basket, pressed her hands to her ears and screamed. Then a bullet tore into her midsection, the force throwing her to the ground.

Stephanie was unaware of the copious amount of blood. She was aware only of searing pain, and of a single, two-word thought: My baby! Then she neither breathed nor thought any more.

~ ~ ~

The bullet Sandra fired had missed. Behind the shooter, a woman hit the ground. For a brief instant, Sandra wondered if she had hit her. But the man still stood, waving his gun and shouting. She couldn't make out the words. He was the problem. This was all his fault.

She took aim and fired again.

The man went down. Dead or wounded, he had stopped firing.

Somewhere to her right, she heard a popping sound that sounded exactly like a gun in a movie does not.

~ ~ ~

Officer O'Malley had arrived with the others at the scene. Lake Park. Shots fired. Those two words had filled him with dread.

When they had arrived it became quickly apparent there were three separate shooters. At least three, O'Malley reminded himself. There was always the possibility another gunman had not been spotted.

O'Malley took up position behind the female suspect, his own weapon drawn and ready. He had already seen her fire into the crowd. He shouted a warning to her, unable to determine if she could hear him or not.

The suspect turned, looking to her right, her gun raised. O'Malley had only an instant in which to consider that she might be searching for another target. He shouted a warning again and, getting no response, took her down with a single shot.

~ ~ ~

Juan Rodriguez drove his silver Elantra to the park. He was later than he had hoped, but he knew Stephanie would be waiting for him.

There were flashing red and blue lights. Police cars. People were scattered about. Some were weeping. Some hugging. Some shaking. Some just lay motionless on the ground.

Madre de Dios, Juan thought. His eyes swept the unsettled crowd, searching for Stephanie.

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