Author Archives: unpublishedhack

Finial Fantasy

Learned the word “finial” today. I have titles!

  • A Flock of Finials
  • Finial Fantasy
  • Finials Off
  • The Finial of Doom
  • The Finial, the Wardrobe, and the Haberdashery
  • Twice Upon a Finial
  • An Infinity of Finials

Of Cats and Men

I’m sitting on the floor of the barn, Indian style, at the farm where I grew up. I’ve got literally four cats either on my lap or curled up directly next to me, and several more cats are nearby, because I’ve just put out food and the entire cat population is there to visit.

Suddenly a neighboring tomcat that’s a bit of a bully comes charging in at full speed.

All of my pet cats scatter.

Tomcat notices me and puts on the brakes. Tomcat just happens to do this while positioned on an empty feed bag.

Tomcat becomes surfer cat as the feed bag acquires tomcat’s momentum, and he skids the remaining six feet, leaning back, eyes wide … wider … super wide. Hair standing on end, ears laid back, horrified at the thing happening to him.

Tomcat and feed sack slide ever so precisely to a stop, roughly two inches from my crossed legs. Still leaning back, looking like he’d rather be anywhere but here.

I lean forward and, not sure what else to do, let loose with a single shout: “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!”

Tomcat disappears so fast, if we lived in a cartoon world, the shadow image of him would have hesitated and then snapped away after him like elastic, leaving a cloud of smoke in his wake.


The neighbor’s daughter saw me spraying a wasp nest and mentioned they had a nest above their front door. I said I’d spray that, too, but it got dark before I could get over there. So I’m wandering around on the patio with a flashlight and find the nest. I debate whether I should knock and tell the neighbor lady that I’m going to spray (I haven’t talked to her, just her daughter) and risk making the wasps angry, or just spray. I decide to just spray. I get ready, aim, and then come an inch from total disaster. Apparently I had the can nearly backwards, and as I press a jet of foam zips past the side of my head, just by my ear. Two inches more and I would have blinded myself, screamed in pain and terror, had the neighbor lady and her four daughters run out to find a red-eyed and sobbing maniac standing on their porch in the dark with a flashlight, at which point the wasps would have woken up and begun to sting us all.

Bear Country

Bear Country

By the ember’s dying light,

Three campers had a beastly fright.

From the darkened murk out there

Came cries of “awk!” and “hss!” and “bear!”

Langston went forth to look about;

The others heard just a muffled shout,

Then silence—

Amy strode swiftly the other way

Hoping for escape that day

She made it out to the nearest stream,

But splashing turned to piercing scream

Then silence—

Scott stayed huddled in his tent

Praying that no harm was meant

But he, too, faced the fangs and rippers

The shriek of rending cloth, screech of zippers

And, eventually, silence—

Dominick Sarch

Back in my teenaged years, when my literary diet consisted almost exclusively of fantasy novels, I once had a fantastic dream. It was lengthy, detailed, rich, and seemed to come directly from the Dungeons and Dragons source material I lived and breathed. All the action revolved around an evil cleric who was leading an army of terrible foes against a kingdom.

When I woke I was so enthralled by the dream I fought hard to remember and re-imagine the gripping dream before it faded the way dreams so often do. I took some notes, ran through the story several times, trying to commit it to memory. What I wanted to capture most of all was the cleric, who I’d felt in the dream presented an especially gripping villain character. But of course he was the part of the dream that seemed to be fading the fastest. It was all I could do to reach back and eke out just the characters name, which after some effort I suddenly recalled as …

Dominick Sarch?

In the dream it had seemed powerful, villainous, and most of all catchy. In the waking world I could accept the Dominick part, but Sarch just sounded like a mispronunciation of “starch” or something made up to rhyme with “march.” I immediately knew it would never fly, but figured if I could get the story down quickly enough I could patch up his last name at some point.

I’ll concede that, if the audience didn’t know any English at all, Sarch might have a certain ring to it that could pass for a valid sinister-sounding moniker, but you just can’t name your villain after a food staple. It just doesn’t sit right.

Decades later, the story is lost, the character has dissolved, but for some reason I still have a line in a miscellaneous file reminding me of Dominick Sarch, the one aspect of the dream I knew wasn’t any good. I couldn’t tell you why I’ve kept it, or why it’s stuck in my head this long, other than to say I’m generally so bad at making up names that when I’ve got one–even an awful one–it’s better than having nothing at all.

But Sarch? Really? My subconscious can dream in rhyme, and this is all the better it could come up with?

It’s Title Tuesday

The Great Toilet Paper Conspiracy

  • Inspired by the tendency for two-ply toilet paper to come arranged so that the layers are not in sync and everything you peel off falls in two. By the time you’ve discovered the problem and unwound enough material to put them back in sync, half the roll is gone. Conspiracy? I think so!

Falling Away from Myself

  • The impression given when you are driving a car and you stop behind a vehicle with a back end large and glossy enough to see your own car reflected in it. Then the light changes, the other car pulls away, and the smooth glide as your reflection floats off at an impossible and diminishing angle is fraught with sublime imagery. You can feel as if you are falling away from yourself.

The Book of Lost Things

  • Formerly intended to be a work of fiction titled The Book of Lost Souls, the Book of Lost Things is a nonfictional compendium of things which were once known but are now lost. This may include everything from scrolls known to have been burned in the Library of Alexandria right down to wherever my keys might be at the moment. One of the highlights of the book will be the herb silphium, which was once the prime seasoning of the Roman diet but only grew in a limited region of North Africa. In a fit of anger during a trading dispute most known plants were destroyed, and silphium was lost to the world. Now nobody even really knows what the herb looked like, let alone tasted or smelled like.

Redacted: The Novel

  • I’m not going to say that I’d tell you what this is about but I’d have to kill you, because that cliche stopped being funny a couple of decades ago. Instead, I can tell you what this book is about as long as you sign this NDA and submit to having 50% of your brain colored in with black sharpie.
  • Don’t worry. Due to inferior technology implementations if you buy the ebook version you can copy and paste the text layer right out from underneath the separate layer of black boxes and still read the entire thing.

Shades of Grey

You know that “50 Shades of Grey” romance novel that swept the world by storm recently? Yeah, I had that title more than a decade ago. To be more specific, just “Shades of Grey,” without the 50, but that’s close enough.

I had a novel to go with it, too. A first draft written during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2002. It was not a romance novel, but it was in part a romance. There was a woman who moved across the country to pursue a graduate degree after her husband died. The husband had been named Grey, and of course for most of the book she’s haunted by the memories of him. Shades of Grey, as it were.

There’s also a professional concert musician who plays the romantic interest. He’s friends with the members of a rock band now called The Undecided, because they couldn’t ever decide on a name and kept changing it so many times. Somewhere in the middle the band had also called itself Shades of Grey.

The rest of the book contained scenes exploring ambiguous moral or philosophical values – more shades of grey. The band is on the verge of both breaking up or making it big. The tentative romance teeters on the edge of flourishing or failure.

There is no sex, so the book always had that working against it. Surely only that — plus a completed second draft and actually submitting it to a publishing house — is all that stood between me and a smash hit. Obviously I already had the killer title.


The Moth-er


Not actually the moth-er

The genius of this super-villain is entirely in the confusing spelling of the name. Written as “The Mother,” almost all who see it will assume the villain is female, and presumably has children, or children analogues like pets, mind-controlled humans, a robot army, zombies, alien seedlings or perhaps all of the above at once.

But in reality this villain will be a moth-themed nemesis of unknown origin and personality, more properly written and pronounced as “The Moth-er” and not mother.

The confusion, assuming his name is always written and never spoken in the presence of superheroes, ought to buy him an extra minute or three to complete his nefarious deeds. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but when most vile plots are foiled with seconds to spare, an additional minute might amount to the end of the world as we know it.

A closing thought: if the mother is code for “one who moths,” then what’s that even mean? Catches moths? Why identify with the prey rather than the predator? Shouldn’t that make the villain’s icon something more like a bat or a spider then? Or maybe just a small net at the end of a long pole?

Low and Bee-Holed

Now I don’t want to be pidgin holed as one of those P-brains (or pee brains, even) who gets too obsessed over a little thing like spelling, when for all intensive purposes we can usually understand each other well enough, but sometimes you’re words really due matter.

Aisle admit to some fussiness. I apparently have a deep-seeded need to correct verbal foe paws when I see them, ranging from stray apostrophe’s to unnecessary quotes put around ‘words’ for emphasis, but as the mourning star shines, what really makes me cry grate crocodile tiers of frustration is the spelling error. Even when I’m not a steak-holder in the matter, such as someone else’s conversation on a discussion bored (you really think they’d be more exciting), I still feel the kneed to make corrections. Old King Coal was a merry old sole, but apparently I’m a reel stickler for details.

Whether it’s big causes like visualizing whirled peas or helping those starving euthanasia, down to the most miner house-holed conversations, proper communication is key. It *should* be as easy as pi, but four sum reason it’s knot.

For example, recently Eye replied to an appalling posting which red, “your in this country, learn the language” with an offer to make the poster the first deportee, but my suggestion only earned an unappreciative “yore a jerk.” Their may be a colonel of truth to that, but I still think it was the foolish poster who looked bad for making such a silly mistake. You simply can’t expect someone to take you seriously while you’re talking about a title wave, or a device that scans for finger prince, or most especially if you’re trying to peek customer interest in a sneak peak of your product. Precise spelling gets a bad wrap at times, but you’ll be mocked if you mangle the lyrics to Comma Chameleon, and calling someone a no-nothing will only cause readers to glance askance at the extent of your own knowledge (unless the principal of the double negative means you really intended to call him a “something-something,” which may be fare game.)

In the same vain, if you try to take the reigns, be prepared for “your royal highness” jokes–far less likely to get any kings or queens than jokers and lumbar jacks. As the great barred once said, “Two bee, ore not too B.” Or was that a line from The Malty’s Falcon? I always get those too mixed up.

But that pails in comparison to the thyme my brother warned me to (and you’ll have to pardon my French here) “look out for the big asshole” in the parking lot, and as I looked around for an improperly behaving pedestrian or vehicle, I ran through the big-ass pothole that he’d been trying to pointe out.

Now some may argue that the time spent trying to be precise is waisted if other people can figure it out anyweigh, but in my mind it’s shear arrogance to save yourself the trouble of doing the thinking if it puts the burden on the udder party. If you don’t have your queue stick lined up with the Q ball, don’t make it my fault when your intentions go a-rye. Even if you have the best can-dew, never-say-dye attitude, I refuse to let your across-the-bored misspellings make a lyre of me.

Mostly it’s the principal of the thing (have Aye used principal already? My apologies if the repetition wares on you), that if you have a capitol idea to share butt know-buddy is abel to understand it, then you mite ass whale not bother.

Dreaming in Rhyme

I had a dream I was a bit character in a Shakespearean play. The other character on stage accused me of being terse, to which I said:
Pithily terse, concisely terse,
wittily terse, and nicely terse,
well maybe not precisely terse!
It’s not every day I dream in rhyme, or make a dreaming joke. To do both at the same time is something special.