June, 1971

The moment around an instant

Do you ever take time and look at old family pictures? I don’t mean just casually glance through them, I mean really look at them.

To me, still photographs are just as engaging to the imagination as a good book or short story. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but what about the thousands of words that weren’t captured in the the seconds before and after the picture? I like to imagine that the moments that were photographed were special moments during special events. What is the event? What is the story behind the moment?

Recently, my mother has been sharing old family pictures with family and friends on her Facebook page. It’s been nice to relive some of the memories associated with them. The pictures that really grabbed my attention were ones of my grandfather from the 1970s. There are two things I remember very vividly about him: his love of chess and the cigarette that was perpetually connected to his hand. I was too young to really remember much else. I don’t remember his politics. I don’t remember his religion. I don’t even really remember his personality – except he was always smiling when he saw me. I don’t know if he was a happy person or not, but he always seemed happy to me.

As I was looking through some of these old family pictures I found myself imagining what was happening immediately before and after the picture was taken. I found myself creating stories around the pictures. There’s my grandfather. There’s my grandmother. There are some other people whose faces I remember, but whose names I do not. What were they all doing before somebody pulled out their Kodak Instamatic and said, “Say cheese!” to a group of people? In some of the pictures you can see the Florida sun creating harsh shadows. Was the sun in their eyes? How hot or humid was the air that afternoon? Was there a deep conversation interrupted to take a picture? And once the shutter clicked what did everybody do? Did somebody say, “Oh, could I get a copy of that?” or did they just carry on with their day and forget the picture had ever been taken? And what about the photographer – the one member of the group who was left out of the picture?

Take some time to browse through your old family pictures. In them, there are thousands of stories waiting to be told. It’s up to us to provide the stories associated with them – or create new stories ourselves.

June, 1971

It’s happening again.

You never really know when it’s going to strike, but my creative juices have been flowing over the past couple of days. I’ve completed chapters three and four of Eileen – the first drafts at least.

I’ve been thinking about holding off on publishing them here though. I hate to sound too capitalistic, but I’ve discovered that it’s very easy to publish e-books directly to Amazon and sell them for Kindle. I had been looking into that and discovered that there are quite a few writers doing that. It might be a way to make some extra money – especially since I’ve been unemployed since last May.

I would keep the cost very low – most likely not more than a couple of dollars. While I’d like to be paid for my work I’d still like to make it affordable for anybody to purchase. I haven’t decided whether or not I’ll do this with Eileen yet. If the story gets long enough (more than 25,000 words) I definitely will. But if it stays under that number it’s still a maybe. I don’t know what magic number (as far as word count) separates a short story from a novel, but 25,000 words is about a hundred pages. That seems like a good cut off number. My wife suggested I sell it as a serial novel. Maybe break it up into three parts and sell them for $1 each. That idea might work too.

I thought about publishing it in both places, but I wouldn’t want people who actually purchase it to feel as if they’ve been ripped off. I have another story I’ve been working on as well, so maybe that one would be a better smoke test for Amazon.

I’m open to suggestions.


Consistent blogging fail

Yeah, so I haven’t kept my word 100%. Sue me.

One thing about the creative spark is that it doesn’t always start a flame no matter how much you fan it. This has been one hella busy month though. It’s amazing how busy a person can be even when they’re unemployed.

But as of right now the tinderbox is open, the flint and steel are in hand, and it looks like the wood is finally dry enough to burn.

See ya real soon.

Eileen – Ch. 2

The next few days were business as usual for Steve. Get up. Go to work. Come home. Tinker. Go to bed. He worked as a security guard for a local tool manufacturer. In spite of his age, he was the most senior security guard there. Most of the other guards who had come and gone were using the job as a stepping stone to bigger things – mostly police work – but Steve was happy to stay there until retirement. The work was what most people would consider dull, but he didn’t mind. It gave him time to think about his electronics hobby without anybody bothering him. He didn’t mind interacting with people when he had to. In fact most of the employees thought of him as a very friendly person, but given the choice he would work in a room alone. He never gave anybody else much thought, but since that one phone call to Illinois Electronics he couldn’t get Eileen out of his head.

He wondered daily if he had spoken to his old girlfriend. He kept pondering that for some time but figured he’d never get the chance to know for sure. He searched Illinois Electronics’ website to see if her name came up in the staff directory, but there was no Eileen listed. He searched online for her a couple of times to no avail. Figuring she had married and changed her last name, he dropped the idea of getting back together with her. Besides, he didn’t really feel as if he could maintain a relationship.

“Good evening. Thank you for calling Illinois Electronics. How may I help you today?”

“Hi. Is this Eileen?”

“Yes it is. I show that this is Steve Parker from East Peoria, Illinois?”

“Yes. You seem to know who I am.” He couldn’t get the nerve up enough to ask if she was the same Eileen he knew before. “The ball’s in her court. If it’s her, she’ll remember and say something,” he thought.

“I remember you calling about an XF-1126 resistor. Did you order that online or did you want to order it today?”

“Actually, I ordered it online the day after we spoke. You have a remarkable memory.”

“It’s a gift. I don’t forget much unless I crash.”

“Oh. Are you a caffeine junkie?” Steve asked, remember Eileen’s addiction to coffee and Mountain Dew.

“You can say that. What can I do for you today Mr. Par-, uh, Steve?”

“I was calling to place an order. I’m building a ham transceiver and I have quite a list here.”

“Not a problem. What’s the first part number?”

Steve started reading from his list. Eileen repeated each item back to him accurately and efficiently. As they were carrying on their conversation, Steve’s memory started to wander back to the days he and his young girlfriend had spent together. They never really talked about their future except that she would be waiting for him every night when he came home from work as vice president of a large electronics company. She was going to be a stereotypical 1950s-style all-American housewife.  Then it hit him. At one time he had dreams for his future. When she left, she took those dreams with her.

“Ok, Steve, your total comes to $58.53 with tax and shipping. Did you want to put that on the same credit card you used online?”

“Yes, please.”

“Ok. I just need you to verify your address.”

“This is it,” thought Steve. “If it’s her, she’ll remember the address and respond.” He quickly rattled off his address, but Eileen didn’t show even a hint of familiarity.

“Ok. Your order is complete. You should have everything with a couple of days. Will there be anything else?”

“One thing.”

“Go ahead.”

“Do you know who I am?”

“Steve Parker from East Peoria, Illinois.”

“Is your last name Corbin?”

“I’m sorry, Steve. I’m not permitted to give out personal information.”

“I understand.”

“Thank you for calling Illinois Electronics, Steve.”

“You’re welcome, Eileen. I’m sure we’ll talk again-” He was cut off once more by the sound of a receiver click.

The source of an idea

Where do ideas come from? I don’t know most of the time. Sometimes I know exactly where they come from. Today I came up with two completely new and unique ideas for two completely different stories. I know the source of both.

Fortunately, I remembered to write them down before I forgot them. That doesn’t always happen.

Sometimes it’s harder to know where ideas go rather than where they come from. But if I remember to write them down when they come to me I don’t forget them easily.

I shore ain’t no prod-a-gee

I’ve been reading Stephen King’s book “On Writing” and marveling at the fact that writing is something he’s done consistently his whole life.

When I first started writing, I actually thought about this. You hear stories about the great dancers who started dancing when they were two, and the football stars who were born running and catching. And let’s not forget the countless music prodigies who make their way onto just as many countless variety and talk shows.

So, needless to say I sometimes feel I am starting at a disadvantage. I mean – I’m almost 40 for God’s sake! Who the hell am I to think I can be a great writer?!?

Beats the crap out of me. I don’t know that I want to be considered a “great” writer. I just want to put some stories on some pages and give people something to think about – or maybe allow them to stop thinking about things for a while. If I make some money along the way, I won’t turn it away.

Either way, it doesn’t matter that I haven’t been writing for the past 30 years of my life. It Just means that I’d better do a lot of writing over the next 30 to make up for it.

About writing…

My boys are voracious readers. For this I am very thankful.

My youngest son, just before bed, asked if he could visit Rick Riordan’s website. We browsed through it together for a short time. There was a very good FAQ section. One of the questions on there was asking for advice for aspiring writers. The one thing that stuck with me more than anything is that there are many writers who start great stories but never finish them.

I guess that’s why I started this blog – to finish stories.


Eileen – Ch. 1


“Good morning. Thank you for calling Illinois Electronics. How may I help you today?” The generic female voice that came through the phone was a little detached, but not unfriendly.

“Hi. Um… I had a couple of questions about a couple of components I need.”

“Sure. Are you looking in the catalog or on our website?”


Steve Parker was kind of a shy person. He wasn’t socially awkward by any means, just shy. An unassuming man of thirty years, Steve had never really ventured past his neighborhood. He rented a small apartment near the local high school; the same apartment that he had shared with his high school sweetheart since graduation. She moved out less than a year after that complaining he was too dull. Always tinkering and playing with his “radio stuff” as she called it. She was a beautiful girl, and Steve loved her very much. But being a shy person, he never bothered to venture out except for work. When she left him, he figured it had been a long time coming. All of their friends thought they were a very unlikely couple anyway. Steve didn’t take it too hard when she left.

It had been almost ten years since Steve had spoken to her, but there was something familiar about the voice on the other end of the phone.

“Do you have a part number?”


“That’s a ten K-ohm resistor, correct?”

“Yeah. The site doesn’t say what the tolerance is.”

“Five percent.”

“Ok. Thanks.”

“Was there anything else?”

“Um… No. I, uh, just need to figure something out and I’ll just order them online if I need them.”

“Sounds great!” The operator sounded like she was trying to be enthusiastic, but fell short. “Before you hang up, do you mind if I get some details from you for our customer database?”

“No. That’s fine.”

“First and last name?”

“Steve Parker.”


“I don’t need to be mailed anything. I really don’t like getting junk mail.”

“That’s fine. It’s just for survey information. Your zip code would be sufficient.”


“East Peoria, Illinois?”


“Okay. Well thank you for calling Illinois Electronics, Mr. Parker.”

“Steve is fine.”

“Thank you for calling Illinois Electronics, Steve.”

Steve chuckled slightly at the reply and how similar it seemed both times. “Do you mind if I ask you another question?”

“No. Go right ahead, Steve.”

“What’s your name?”


“I used to know an Eileen.”

“Have a nice day, Mr. Parker.”

“Steve is fine, Eil-.” He was cut off by the sound of a receiver click.

Now departing – the thought-train – ALL ABOARD!

From time to time I get ideas for short stories. Sometimes the stories have some sort of sci-fi twist (or “SyFy” if you think that’s how you should spell it. Personally I think “SyFy” is stupid.) and sometimes there’s no twist at all. As I’m sure is the case with many writers, much of what I write comes from some sort of personal experience. Many of those experiences are hidden deeply in the story and are barely noticeable. My mind has a tendency to wander – especially when I’m formulating a story. My “thought-train” has many cars, and those cars are attached to each other through some sort of logical progression. To illustrate, I could be in the middle of a conversation with somebody and rapidly change the subject. To the person with whom I am conversing the subject change seems random, but I can almost always illustrate a logical progression… car to car to car. Sometimes my “thought-train” pulls out of the station without me and I stay mentally lost. I hate when that happens. I lose more good ideas by not making it onto the train on time.

Anyway, I’ve decided my first posting should come from a short story I began a few years ago – a “thought-train” idea if you will. The story began in my mind while I was managing a RadioShack store in Central Illinois. As I thought more and more about the story it became more and more complete and I started to put ink on paper (or, rather, pixels on screen). Right now it sits at three chapters long and is incomplete. My hope and prayer is that by publishing it chapter by chapter here I’ll be able to get some feedback from you (YES YOU!) as I finish writing it.

If you like it, please let me know. If you think it sucks, please let me know. I’m open to any and all criticism, especially if your last name is King, Rice, or Crichton (although if it’s Crichton I’ll be really freaked out).

Read on, reader. This story is called “Eileen”.