May 2016 Kinder Muse Newsletter

Welcome to the Kinder Muse newsletter for May 2016! And yes. . .it’s a wee bit late, but well worth the wait, IMHO!

You’ll want to sit down, relax, and sip on one of your favorite beverages for this one. . .

This month, we have another guest column by Alban Lake Publishing’sManaging Editor, Tyree Campbell, along with a special treat – the first episode of his serial novel: The Adventures of Colo Collins & Tama Toledo in Space and Time!

A Place of Our Own
By Tyree Campbell

Here’s what writers don’t have:  a place to go to communicate, commiserate, and experience professional camaraderie.  Who, after all, understands writers better than other writers?  It doesn’t matter whether a writer is published or unpublished—the problems and questions and topics of interest are common to most folks.

Now, there are groups where you can have your work critiqued, and workshops where you can train in your craft and get critiqued.  You can even go back to school, in a brick-and-mortar or an electron-proton-pixel, and present your work for critique and a grade.

But there are precious few venting outlets, where a writer can go to discuss the process of writing.  Not for presentation of a piece for critique.  Not for someone to “look this over and tell me what’s wrong.”  Not for the certificate or diploma.  But for the process.

What’s this “process”?

I’m glad you asked that.

Stories almost always begin with something called inspiration.  Maybe it’s a squirrel looking for a place to bury a nut.  Maybe it’s a vague scene from a dream.  It could be a random image from some forgotten movie.  Or somebody said something that keyed you into something else, which keyed some other notion, which brought you to the point of, “hey, that might make a good story.”  It could even be a news article or nature scene that causes you to ask, what if?

In fact, most fiction answers questions that begin, “What if?”

So does life.

Upon reflection, life invites what-if questions.  What if I’d gone out with Mary Sue instead of Linda Lou?  Suppose I had joined the Air Force instead of the Army.  What if I had turned left instead of right [wait:  wasn’t that a Doctor Whoepisode?]?  Coulda woulda shoulda.  But yes, that, too, is what stories are about.

Process.  Refocus.

Here’s an example.  Highway exit signs.  True story:  I’m on U.S. Hwy 30 [aka Lincoln Highway] east of Ames and I pass a couple exit signs.  One of them is Colo Collins.  Forty miles later, I come upon Tama Toledo.  I think:  those would be great character names.  But what can I do with them?

So the process begins.  I’ll skip a few steps.  At the moment, I’m writing a novel in episode sequence, titled The Adventures of Colo Collins & Tama Toledo in Space and Time.  I decided from the outset to make this a YA novel.  Two high school seniors, slightly misfit and outcast – and intelligent – are out on their first date.  He decided to quit as quarterback of the football team because he had a conflict with that and Honors Physics, and he chose his education—weird fellow, right?  She’s a bit gawky and lanky and has been waiting for him to notice her.  Ah, karma.

On the way to get a pizza, they find the road blocked by a spacecraft.  Curious, they board it, and are invited by the computer to go into space and make various adjustments, from saving a planet from an asteroid, to helping Nicole find her house keys.

Back to “process.”  Each step leads to the next.  Let’s examine them.

Step 1:  Name selections [inspiration begins].

Step 2:  Young adult novel.

Step 3:  Heroes should be, therefore, young adults.  Thus, high school students.

Step 4:  Genre selection:  science fiction.  Type of writing:  action/adventure.

Step 5:  Choose plot:  decide whether to make adjustments throughout the galaxy.

Step 6:  Do character outlines [helps me remember eye color, etc].

Step 7:  Well, for me it was “start writing.”  Like Indiana Jones, I’m making this up as I go.

Now a word of caution.  Your process will almost certainly be different from mine.  For that matter, my process for another story will most likely differ from this one.  The important thing to take away from this is that there IS a process by which you organize what you’re going to do.

AND. . .it’s important to be able to talk with other writers about their processes, and the problems they’ve encountered in story development.  This is how you learn your craft.

Ah, but where can you hold such discussions?

Well, it used to be that Hemingway and Durrell and Miller and Orwell and various others would meet at Henri’s Bar & Grill near Montmartre and get soused and talk about their ideas.  Or Asimov and Pohl and Kornbluth and Merril would gather at Clancy’s, just off 42nd Street, and chat over plates of kielbasa.

Even these days, you can still do that with writers you know, assuming they live in your city.  But most likely, the folks you know are on the Internet, in the social media.  You may live half a world away from them.  What then can you do?

E-mails still work.  And there are places like Kinder Muse [which is where you are now, reading this], where folks like Relf and I are willing to discuss topics that you post—post them by e-mailing Relf.  And where you can find a few hopefully entertaining talks like this one.

We’ll even answer questions.

Here, writers have a place of their own.


Some of you may be wondering how I put “process” into action on this story.  Okay—go over the steps above.  Then read Episode 1 below.  Oh, and if you decide you want to follow Colo and Tama, Epi 2 is in the August 2015 FrostFire Worlds, Epi 3 in the February 2016, and Epis 4 and 5 in the May 2016.  After that, you may just want a subscription.  J  You can get them all at our store.

The Adventures of Colo Collins and Tama Toledo in Space and Time
By Tyree Campbell

Episode 1:  Let’s Find Out

Colo Collins and Tama Toledo sat in the old red Datsun pickup and waited for the train to pass.  The train was the latest in a series of obstructions regarding their date.  First the battery had balked; then the side windows had rolled down of their own accord; finally, Colo had discovered that the restaurant where he’d wanted to take Tama to dinner had closed three weeks ago.  And now the train.

“It’s okay,” said Tama, and patted his hand.

Easy for her to say that, he groused.  She’d had limited options; most boys didn’t care to date a girl who was twice as intelligent as they were.  Unless there were side benefits, and Tama Toledo had never been one for those.  That hadn’t mattered to Colo, either.  He just wanted to go out.

A month ago, as the probable starting quarterback in his senior year, Colo had had a multitude of options.  He’d gone out with two or three girls, but none of them had impressed him as great to talk with.  Most were artificial, as he’d learned a week later.  They sought the selfies and the prestige, not the relationship.

All that had changed the day Colo had walked into Coach Mather’s office and announced he was withdrawing from the team.  The reason had been simple:  sixth-period class for all athletes was Phys Ed, so they could do their warm-ups and have a little extra practice time “off the books.”  But Honors Physics, which Colo very much wanted to take, was only offered during sixth period.

At first Coach Mather was aghast, then puzzled.  Finally he tried to reason with Colo by pointing out that Colo had a decent chance, with the right training and college team, of making it to the NFL.  But Colo admitted only to a keen interest in science.  “You’re a fool,” said Mather, and dismissed him.

By the next day, word had gotten out around the school.  Shunned by his former teammates, ignored by girls in general, Colo was cheered only by the light smile on the lips of his Physics teacher.  Colo knew he’d made the right decision; it was nice to have it confirmed.

The train passed.  The barrier rose.

Colo’s thoughts drifted to Tama Toledo, now inviting him to put the truck in gear and cross the tracks.  She was at least as intelligent as he was, having demonstrated that in several classes they had shared over the past two years.  She was tall, maybe three inches shorter than his six-one, and slender and somewhat gawky on occasion.  She had long flaxen hair and bright blue eyes, and thin lips, and an abundance of freckles.  He saw all this now.  But for two years he had been looking elsewhere.

“The train’s passed,” Tama said softly.

For the date she had bound back her hair in a ponytail, and put on a black camisole and black jeans.  The touch of eyeliner made her eyes glow as she looked at him.

“This isn’t going well,” said Colo.

“As long as we don’t get hit from behind, I’m happy,” she hinted.

Still he did not move the pickup.  Finally he slapped his hands on the steering wheel.  “Jacob Schmidt told me I was un-American,” he seethed.

“It doesn’t matter what he says,” Tama soothed.

“He was my best friend.”

“Sometimes you need to lose the friends that need losing, so you can find others along the way.”
At first her words slugged him.  In another moment, they began to seem profound in some way he could not identify.  Taking his laments in stride, she was also taking his part, a subtle whisper to him that he was not alone.  His anguish faded, lost in the sound of the idling truck engine.  He shifted in gear and drove on toward a place where they served a decent pizza.

“Jacob Schmidt,” mused Tama.  “He was in my Advanced Chemistry class last year.  I’m not sure why.  I remember one day Mr. Greene put up a big poster of the periodic table of elements, and Jacob stared at it and stared at it for the longest time.  Finally he turned to me and said, ‘I can’t figure out what day it is.’”
Colo barked a laugh, and coughed.  His hands jerked on the steering wheel, but he righted the pickup without difficulty.  “That’s,” he gasped, “that’s priceless.”

“So maybe you shouldn’t worry too much about what he says,” said Tama, and pointed.  “You could turn left up there,” she suggested.

“To Sparkle Vista?” said Colo, surprised.  “That’s where . . .”

“I know what goes on there,” Tama said quietly.  “But I just want to look at the stars.”

Colo took the turn.  “Yeah,” he said, feeling the same inclination.  His spirits lifted.  “I’ll honk the horn when we go through DuMont Tunnel.”

The narrow road began to wind up a gentle slope, the yellow dividing lines barely visible in the headlights.  Forests loomed on either side, great shadowy shapes that seemed to close on Colo and Tama like the pincers of some great black crab.  As the pickup rounded a curve, they spotted the tunnel entrance.  It bored through the mountain and came out to descend into an agricultural valley below, but off to the right a gravel road led to Sparkle Vista, where the stars provided the only light for those who sought the shelter of the darkness.

Another half mile, thought Colo, as the pickup entered the tunnel.  Headlights made a circle of light that pushed through the tunnel ahead of them.

“Honk it,” urged Tama.

Colo shook his head.  “I’ll do it at the halfway point,” he told her.  “That way we get the effect coming and going.  Roll down your window.  And . . . now.”

Colo sounded the horn, one long beep followed by a series of four short ones.

They heard the horn.  They did not hear an echo.

Colo was so startled by the lack of a response to the horn that he almost slammed on the brakes.  His brain refused to function; what had not happened was impossible not to have happened.  It was as if the tunnel had swallowed up the sound of the horn.

“Try again,” said Tama, hushed.

“Insanity is—.”

“When you do the same thing over and over and expect a different result,” said Tama, somewhat exasperated.  “Let’s go insane.  Try again.”

Colo tapped out four short bursts on the horn.  The horn sounded as it should.  The sounds did not echo.

“Told you,” he said.

“We’re not the problem,” Tama returned.  “We’re not getting an equal but opposite reaction.”

“I doubt Newton applies in this case.”

“I don’t know what would apply.”  Tama paused briefly, hesitating.  “Colo, how long is DuMont Tunnel?  Half a mile, right?”

He nodded.  “About that.”

“Haven’t we gone more than half a mile?”

His eyes automatically checked the odometer, uselessly.  “I-I . . .   Yeah, I think we have.  Tama, what . . . ?”

A wisp of fear passed through him.  He started to slow the pickup.

“Keep going,” she told him.

“We should turn around.”

She touched his arm.  The intensity in her voice scalded him.  “I’m a little afraid, too,” she admitted.  “But whatever this tunnel is, it has to go somewhere.  Let’s find out where.”

“I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Tama laughed.  “And they say chivalry is dead.”  Abruptly she sobered.  “Whatever it is, we face it together.  First rule of science:  let’s find out.”

“Good rule,” Colo agreed.  “I like that rule.”

“As for getting hurt . . . , Colo, whatever this is, they have to know we’re here.  If they wanted to hurt us, they could have done so already.”

Colo brought the pickup back up to speed.  “Do you think it’s aliens?”

Tama shrugged.  “It’s someone who has a method of totally absorbing sound,” she answered.  “Maybe scientists can do that; I don’t know.  But it’s also someone who can seamlessly convert a half-mile tunnel into this, whatever it is.  Two miles now, do you think?”

“At least—.”

Headlights reflected back at them, slightly warped, as if in a carnival trick mirror.  He slowed the pickup to a stop.

“It’s a curved wall,” he said.

“It looks metallic,” added Tama.

“We’re blocked.  There’s no way through.”

She nudged the passenger-side door open.  “We won’t know that until we check it out.”  She sniffed the air that rushed into the cab.  “Smell that?”

“Like hot electrical wiring,” was Colo’s assessment.

He opened his door and stepped out onto what he assumed was pavement.  Instead of asphalt, he found a glassy-smooth surface beneath his feet.  In the dim light, the surface looked bluish—the same color, he realized, as the wall itself.  The hot electric smell was stronger, but it was not accompanied by heat.  The air around him felt pleasantly cool.

He moved to the front of the pickup, where Tama stood waiting for him.  He estimated they were about ten feet from the wall.  It blocked off the entire tunnel, and seemed to be sealed over the end of it.

“I don’t see a door,” said Tama.  Her voice shook, just once.  “Colo?”

“Yeah, I’m still scared, too.”  He put his arm around her shoulders and gave her a little hug.  “Together, right?”

She nodded vigorously.  “Together.”

They stepped forward until they were within arm’s-length of the wall.  It was somewhat convex, and the end of the tunnel fit seamlessly against it.  Colo started to reach out and touch the wall, but Tama stopped him.

“Wait,” she said.  “What if . . . if it absorbs you right into it?”

“Follow me,” he said.

“Maybe it wants you, but not me.”

He frowned.  “I wouldn’t like that.  But what do you suggest?”

“We touch it together,” she said.

“Solved it.”

They touched the wall.  Immediately a door slid to one side with a hissing sound.  Tama cried out in surprise.  Colo gasped, and drew her back.

“I didn’t see that coming,” he muttered.

“A door,” said Tama, the hint of a giggle in her tone.  “How quaint.”

The doorway opened to a passageway that led in either direction.  Beyond that was a flat wall.  The floor of the passageway was pale gray, the wall a cool light blue.  On the wall at eye level, in dark blue block lettering in English, was the word BRIDGE, and under that an arrow pointing toward the left.

“I think they were expecting us,” said Colo, stepping into the passageway.

“This doesn’t look much like Kansas, Toto,” said Tama, following.

They turned left.  The passageway bent a little to the right and led to a closed door not a dozen steps away.  Together, Colo and Tama put their hands to the door, and it slid open.  The promised bridge awaited them.

A wide concave window, dark for the moment, curved above what was obviously an instrumentation console.  To one side of the console, fixed into the wall, was an array of three monitors without indicated functions.  A pair of captain’s chairs stood at the console, awaiting occupation.

Behind them, the door slid shut with a snick of finality.

“So we’re staying here, then,” said Colo.

Tama moved to a chair and sat down.  “I’m anxious and nervous, but I don’t get the sense of any hostility,” she said.  “Whoever or whatever is behind this simply wants us to do something.”

Colo shook his head.  “This is so obviously a spacecraft of some kind, Tama.  We’ve been . . .”

“Abducted?” tried Tama.

“More like selected, chosen,” said Colo.  “So far, we haven’t been compelled to do anything.  We’ve proceeded on our own.”

“So we’re still in ‘let’s find out’ mode?”

He nodded, and sat down, too.  “I think we’re going to learn by doing,” he said.

“On-the-job training.  Colo?”

“Right here.”

“If we’ve been selected, we also have the option of turning around and going back to the truck,” she pointed out.

Colo looked at her, and met her gaze.  In the overhead glow of bridge light, her eyes were royal blue, and deep, as if he might fall into them if he wished.  His own, he knew, were gray-green, and he wondered what she saw in them.

“Let’s find out, together,” he told her.

She nodded once, an emphatic gesture of acceptance.

Colo raised his voice, though he thought it was probably unnecessary.  “Hello, ship’s computer,” he said.  “Are you there?”

“Of course.  My sensors have confirmed your identities as Colo Collins and Tama Toledo.  Welcome aboard this craft.”

The voice was a metallic, medium-pitched monotone, like a primitive robot in an older space TV show.
“How were you able to identify us?” asked Tama.

“DNA,” answered Colo, before the computer could respond.


Tama’s deep frown made her pale eyebrows meet over the bridge of her nose.  “But we never gave you—.”
“We touched the door,” Colo reminded her.

“Oh.  Of course.”

“What’s your name?” asked Colo.  “What’s the name of this spacecraft?”

“Neither have as yet been named.  Naming is your honor.”

Colo and Tama exchanged glances.  He gave a little nod, and she said, “The name of this craft is the LetsFindOut.  All one word.”

“I can’t think of a name for you,” Colo told the computer.  “Do you have an image or something that might inspire a name?”

“I can choose an appearance that would be aesthetically pleasing to you.  Look at the left monitor.”
Colo did so just as the face and bare shoulders of Tama Toledo appeared in the monitor.  “It’s you,” he said to Tama, laughing.

Tama looked surprised.  “I’m who you want to see . . . wait a minute.”  She spun the chair to face him.  “Am I naked?”

Colo held up a hand placatingly.  “It’s just your face and shoulders—.”

“Put my clothes on right now!

Immediately, in the chair, Colo was wearing a white summer frock and tan, open-toed sandals.
Colo cried out, plucking at the fabric around his chest.

“Omigod!” gasped Tama.  “Computer, what have you done?”

The metallic monotone resumed.  “I have the ability to dress you for various occasions.”

Tama’s laughter overrode her incredulity.  “Well, put his clothes back on him, please.  And . . . if I’m who he finds inspirational, he can have my face and shoulders in the monitor.  But that’s all, understand?”

The computer restored order.

After a sigh of relief and a stretch of his legs to make sure everything had been restored intact, Colo said, “We should name the computer after the craft, and call her Lettie.  Um . . . Tama?  You must have seen something different in the monitor.”

Tama averted her eyes.  “Yeah.”

“Who was it?”

“It was—.”

“I’ll handle this, Lettie,” Tama broke in.  “Just answer the questions put directly to you.  We are quite capable of carrying on our own conversations.”

The “Oh very well” sounded stiff and huffy, even for a monotone computer.

“It was Legolas,” said Tama.  “Orlando Bloom.”

“Good choice,” Colo allowed.



“It didn’t occur to me that we could choose each other as our inspirations.  I would have chosen you.”

“Yeah.  And now I think I’m very glad that I was your choice.  Even with bare shoulders.”

He reached his hand out, and they did a little fist-bump.

“Lettie,” said Colo, “I don’t think we’ll need an image in order to communicate with you.  But can we do something about your voice?  Let’s try this:  when you speak, let me hear you as Tama, with her tones and inflections, and let her hear you as me.  Can you do that?”

“Of course,” said Lettie, in Tama’s voice.

“Solved it,” said Tama.

“And now, Lettie,” said Colo, “what’s going on?  Why are we here?”

“You had to ask,” said Tama.

“In the Universe, various events are always taking place,” Lettie began.  “The Universe unfolds as it is supposed to, according to the laws of physics—or the Laws of Reality.  Some—indeed many—of these events have what might be considered detrimental effects.  A tidal wave smashing a forest, for example, or an entire species wiped out.  The technology aboard this craft makes it possible to intervene in these events, and change their courses and consequences.”

“So we’re to change the natural course of events in the Universe?” asked Tama.

“Yes, and no.  I said the changes were possible.  You two must decide whether to make those changes.  And I do mean you two.  You must both agree to make the indicated change before it can be carried out.”

“A tie goes to the Universe,” said Colo.

“Something like that.”

“So we might stop a star from going supernova,” mused Tama.  “Or help someone find her house key.”

Colo shook his head.  “Do you realize how crazy this all sounds?”

“As intriguing as this is,” added Tama, “I have to agree with Colo.”

“Your skepticism is understandable.  Might I point out that you are not the only interventionists in the Universe?  You are among many.”

“Many,” repeated Colo.  “So there are others like us.  Lettie, how did we come to be here?  Did you choose us?  Did you just spot the two of us on a date and think, yeah, those two will do?”

“I can tell you only that you two were chosen.  It is fruitless to pursue this line of inquiry at this time.”

“Chosen,” repeated Tama.  “On what basis?”

“It is fruitless—.”

Colo waved his hand in dismissal.  “Yeah, yeah, we get it.  But you did choose us to change the course of the Universe, right?”

“Changes are requested every day—every minute, every second.  Help is requested to locate a house key.  An entire population asks for deliverance from a star about to explode.”

“You’re talking about . . . about prayer,” said Tama, hushed now.  “You’re talking about God.”

“Yes, and no.  God—whatever you conceive of God to be—is not going to lead Rebecca by the hand to her house key.  Nor is God going to throw a stasis field around a star.  Instead, assuming an intervention has been approved, Rebecca may see a reflection from a window crystal and look in that direction, below which she will spot her house key on a ledge.  Scientists may discover that their calculations regarding the impending supernova are off by, say, four thousand years, giving them more time to develop space travel and escape.  Your task is to evaluate the consequences of intervention and non-intervention, and make the decision whether and how to intervene.”

Colo got up and began to pace the bridge.  “Who approves these requests, these . . . prayers?” he asked.

“That is beyond our level of action.”

Tama laughed.  “Above your pay grade.  But it sounds as if Colo and I have the final decision as to whether to carry out an intervention, as you call it.”

“That is correct.”

Again Colo waved in protest.  “But that would make us gods.”


“. . . and no,” muttered Tama.

“You may think of it as acting in the stead of God, if you wish.  But I assure you that this is how requests are answered.  Beyond that, we get into cosmology and metaphysics.  Try not to think too deeply on this.  Do what your heart and mind tell you is right.  No one can ask more than that.”

Tama said, “How do we find out about potential interventions?”

“Why, I tell you about them, of course.”

“What if we make a mistake?” she asked.

“What you might consider a mistake is part of the way the Universe unfolds and develops.  Heart and mind, remember.”

Colo looked at Tama.  The expression on her face seemed to ask, “Shall we?”  He himself still retained doubts.  What Lettie was suggesting didn’t just push the envelope, it exploded it.  He worried about debris, and shrapnel.  He had gotten Tama into this by asking her out.  He was responsible . . .

Her hand touched his.  He had not even been aware that she had moved from her chair.  Now she had dropped to one knee on the floor beside him, looking up into his face, his eyes.

“Let’s,” she whispered.

That was all he needed.  “What’s first, Lettie?” he asked.

Tama smiled, and rose, and stood beside Colo’s chair, her hand resting on his shoulder, listening.

“About eight thousand light-years from here is a world that is going to be struck by a very large asteroid in two days.  That’s Earth days.  You must decide whether to divert the asteroid.  In the meantime, Colo, your stateroom is on the starboard side of the LetsFindOut, and Tama, yours is on the port side.  I suggest you go to them, arrange them however you wish, have a bite to eat, and get some rest.  We’ll arrive in about nine hours.  Earth hours.”

“Wait,” said Colo.  “What about time dilation?  I don’t want to come back to Earth and find that a million years have passed.”

“The time dilation compensator will keep all our journeys in real Earth time.  When you return, you will have been gone however many days you have spent out here, and no more.”

“Good to know,” said Colo.  He glanced up at Tama.  “So:  separate rooms.”

“Unless you are a couple.  Are you a couple?”

He studied Tama’s face.  There was a question in her eyes, along with a bit of delight.  He knew the answer was no, but he also knew that it was not a permanent no.  But Tama was not like his other girls.  If someday they were to be a couple, he would have to earn her . . . and she him.

“Our relationship is a work-in-progress,” Colo replied.

“A wise answer.”

“Very,” said Tama.

The single word came from her in a husky, smoky tone, as if she had not expected such a response from him but was deeply pleased that he had made it.  The tone gave Colo a little pleasant shiver.

“Your quarters assignments stand.  I will alert you when we arrive.”

Colo stood up and turned around.  The aft wall of the bridge was solid, without any sign of egress.

“Lettie said port side for me,” said Tama.  “But which side is that?”

“We’ll have to learn ship terminology,” said Colo.  “But in baseball, the slang terms ‘southpaw’ and ‘portsider’ have the same meaning:  a left-handed pitcher.  So port must be on the left side of the ship.”

Tama started in that direction, but Colo stopped her.

“Directions are determined by first facing the front of the ship, not the back,” he told her.  “That much, I do know.  What I don’t know is how to get out of here.”

Tama studied the wall for a moment.  Finally she said, “Lettie, display signs.”

Two EXIT signs appeared above two doors in the wall.

Voilà,” said Tama.

Don’t miss “Episode 2:  Second Thoughts” of The Adventures of Colo Collins & Tama Toledo in Space and Time, coming in the August 2015 issue ofFrostFire Worlds.


 Get Your Fiction on at
by Ron Sparks

A cockroach uses cooked rice to spell words.  A superhero runs through a wall to stop a crime.  A time traveler leaves a carbon steel knife hundreds of years in the past.  A politician tries to get elected on a dying Earth.  Aliens monitoring humans get attacked by a space monster.

What do these all have in common?  They’re flash fictions stories is a free community of writers who write short stories and share them with each other.  The website welcomes writers of all genres and every skill level.  We release a new Flash Fiction Challenge every week or so and our writers flock around the challenge and share their works on the website.

You’re invited!  Come and read the stories, join the site and write your own!

So what is flash fiction, you ask?  Flash fiction is a style of fiction writing generally noted for its brevity – usually under 1,000 words – and a set of story parameters that the author adheres to.  Most flash fiction stories are used as writing exercises to stretch a writer’s skills and imagination.  Because we approach them as writing exercises, we leave egos at the proverbial door and just write and share.  Writers helping writers and readers enjoying the stories.

Here on, we turn flash fiction into fun and competitive writing exercises.  When we issue a flash fiction challenge, writers converge on the challenge and submit their stories.  Readers vote on their favorite.

It’s as simple as that.  There are no winners or losers, but it’s a lot of fun.  All stories have the same basic parameters, but individual author creativity makes all the difference.

Let’s talk about what makes a flash fiction story.  Each Flash Fiction challenge has a defined set of parameters that a writer must adhere to.  Those parameters on are:

  1. Word Count:  This is the maximum number of words the story may contain.  Be careful; this is the quickest way to get disqualified!
  2. Setting: This can be anywhere in the universe!  Depending on the challenge it might be completely generic, like “On Earth,” or it may be more specific, like “In the bedroom of a medieval castle deep within an old German forest.”  The setting can be one of the most important aspects of your flash story; be sure and incorporate it into the story!
  3. Time Period:  Some stories take place in the past, the present, or the future.  If the time period is specified, you must make your story take place in that time period and it must be obvious that it is set then.  Time periods can be generic, or specific, ranging from “the past” to “August 6, 1945.”
  4. Genre:  If a genre is specified, you must write within that genre.  It can be any genre, so be ready!  Science fiction, fantasy, romance, and more.
  5. Required Phrase:  Some flash stories require all writers to insert a required phrase into the story.  They can be completely random, but you must find a way to insert this phrase into your story.  You may find a challenge with a required phrase of “my pantaloons itch.”  Good luck fitting that into the story!

When writers converge on a Flash Challenge, it’s a lot of fun to see how each interprets and implements the challenge.  This is an example of one of our challenges:

Superhero Challenge
Word Count:   750
Required Phrase:  “that’s gonna leave a mark”
Setting: Earth, anywhere
Time period:  Today
Genre: Superhero Fiction

This challenge is active on right now and waiting for you to throw in your entry.

Come check us out at  We’re a small community right now, and we are having a great time writing quick, short, flash fiction stories together.  We want you to join, comment on the stories, participate in the forums, and submit your own stories.

Come get your flash on!


Alban Lake Publishing’s new drabbler contest is up, with YT hosting the contest. And just in case you’re wondering, the 5th drabbler contest publication is in the mail!


If you’d like to submit an article for consideration in this newsletter, I would be happy to consider it. While there is no pay except gratitude, I will post an ad for you. . .


Reluctant Lady by Tyree Campbell

Almost every lake has a Lady assigned to it.  Garnet doesn’t care for her assignment, and prefers a more exciting life.  Vianna’s task is to get her to go back in and accept her responsibilities.  But what possible argument can she use to persuade her?

Campbell’s story reveals the true purpose of Ladies of the Lake, and it’s not what you’ve heard.

“Reluctant Lady” is a 99-cent e-short story.  It was first published under the title “Acorns” in Aoife’s Kiss, June 2010.  It won the 2nd Place Darrell Award in 2011.


That’s right. . .Thursday is almost here!

Here are the particulars for the next OB Writers Networking Group:

WHO: Published and yet-to-be-published writers, poets, fiction and non-fiction writers, editors, copywriters, and content providers, indie publishers et al. Whether you’re a local OBcean, live in San Diego at large, or are “just visiting” the area, you are welcome to join us.

WHAT: The Ocean Beach Writers Networking group for serious professional writers.

WHERETe Mana Cafe  on Voltaire, between Cable and Bacon in Ocean Beach.

WHEN: Every Thursday from 12:30PM-1:30PM.

WHY: To connect, share resources, referrals – and more!

How: Just go to FaceBook and click  “join” on the Ocean Beach Writers Networking Group and/or email me at to be placed on the weekly newsletter list.

Please be sure to thank Te Mana’s owners, Marguerite and Jason, for welcoming us. Check out this awesome menu as well as their beer-on-tap, decadent Mimosas et al. Wines from Argentina and Chile have arrived! Show your appreciation for the inimitable, cheerful and dedicated staff by tipping often and generously.


Do you have a blog or newsletter you’d like to announce? What about an upcoming reading or other writerly event? This is the place! I’d like to create a long list here – and post to my site. In the meantimes, here are just a few. . .

To receive the Ocean Beach Writers Networking Group newsletter or The Kinder Muse newsletter, just email me at


I just posted the 39th interview in this series with fantasy author, Edward Cox. If you’d like to participate in this series, just send me an email at


Look no further than YT! As you may already know, in addition to being an NLP & Hypnotherapy Life Coach, I’m also a writing coach. Contact me for a complimentary consultation – and to hear about my summer discounts!

Thank you for reading! Feel free to forward this newsletter to friends, colleagues, and family!
Until next time. . .

Humbly Yours,

Terrie Leigh Relf
The Kinder Muse

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