Cover of SpillworthyOne of the things I’ve always been terrible about is cross promotion. Chances are if I have a guest post up somewhere else I’ll forget to cross promote it over here. For example, I just did a wonderful interview with Johanna Harness (of #amwriting fame) last week over on Friday Flash Dot Org. I’m not sure that qualifies as a guest post, but nonetheless I failed to mention it over here. My bad.

It is not too late for you to go read it and have a chance to win a nice comment prize from Johanna. She says the offer is good through May 10th. That gives you a whole four more days to make good (and a wee bit of today as well). So go read and comment. Johanna has some wonderful wisdom to share concerning many things including reading, writing, the road to the publication of her first novel “Spillworthy“, teaching, and life in general. There should be something for everyone.




Reliable harbinger of spring
You sit dormant
Refusing to yield even one bud
One glimmer of hope
Others may succumb
To the siren songs of warm days
Greening shrubs
New grass underfoot
But I know you too well
Ever faithful
You have never lied to me
So I will wait
Sharpen my hoe
Hold back on planting
Until you once again reveal
Your own confidence
The weather has truly turned


C is for Cyndi

Two months now since you have gone
Two months which seem an eternity
And though my heart is filled with sorrow
It is also filled with hope
Hope for the future
Hope for the dreams
That you will not be here to see unfold
But which I am sure you will be happy with
Once they do
These dreams are for you, dear Cyndi
And they will, I am certain,
Make you smile.


I don’t plan to get all maudlin with these, but seriously, how could C not be for Cyndi?


B is for Boy

He’s a good boy

Though he drives me crazy at times

The way he anticipates me

Seems to know what I’m thinking

Even before I do

Dogs are like that

Constantly under foot

Constantly looking up to you

Expecting solutions to every problem

I tell him I’m not a god

That I can’t fix everything

But he just sits there

Looking at me

Expecting the impossible


A Is For Always

You will always be close to me,
Though I can see you no more.
Your sweet scent is gone,
Your enigmatic smile.
But you, yourself, will always remain.
Will always be close.
Will always have my heart.


Today’s poem is my first shot at the April A to Z challenge. I’m not much of a joiner so I did not officially sign up for the group. But if you are interested they have the official site here, as well as a Facebook page. My own plan is to simply use the concept to kick start my writing again. I think my wife would have liked that.
Miss you, Cyndi.



My story, “The Rains Come Down,” is featured over on the #amwriting Blog today. It examines the theme of grace and dignity in the face of adversity. I hope you’ll go over to read it.


Photo, Four Mule Team, from the OSU Special Collections, via Flickr Creative Commons, no known copyright restrictions.


Naked winter trees against a bright blue sky.

I have a post up at #AmWriting that explores the topic of February. I hope you’ll visit and enjoy it.







I was recently invited to contribute to a popular online writing community. You may know of it, many in the #FridayFlash community have guest posted on Johanna Harness’ wonderful site, #AmWriting. It has been on hiatus for a bit while she has been redesigning it, and I am quite pleased to hear of its imminent reemergence. I wish Johanna all the success in the world with her new and improved site.

But I am not writing about #AmWriting here, though I’ve probably successfully tricked you into thinking I am. No, I’m writing about terms of service, Wolfram Alpha, 2 plus 2, and assignment of rights.


Stay with me now, all this stuff ties in, I promise.

When Johanna sent out her invite she mentioned how she thought long and hard as to which web-based service to go with and how fleeting such services can be. In fact she included this link, Timeline of Popular Internet Services, from Wikipedia. She eventually settled on one and said if I was interested in accepting her invite I should follow the link to sign up for a account on it.

Well sure, I was interested. I love #AmWriting and was thrilled that she invited me to be part of it. So I clicked on the link and started filling out the registration form. Part of the process, as with almost every online registration sign up, was the advice to read the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. So I did.

Don’t worry, nothing untoward or painful here. The TOS and PP (that doesn’t sound good, does it?) were pretty straight forward and innocuous, though I did send her a couple of questions for clarification. She sent me a message complimenting me for actually reading these oft-ignored missives. I replied that I usually check the TOS for two things: is it going to cost me anything, and do I give away all my rights by posting on the site? In this case, no and no.

Well, with all that settled to my satisfaction I got curious and went ahead and checked out the Wikipedia article. (Remember that? I told you this all ties together.) I was scrolling through it and saw a mention of Wolfram Alpha, the “answer engine” launched in 2009 by physicist Stephen Wolfram. It brought back fond memories of giddy times at work when I and a few of my coworkers threw all sorts of questions at it to see what sorts of answers it came up with. It was pretty amazing, easy to use, and very geeky. But the odd thing about WA, if I may be so familiar, was its terms of service. It seems Woflram Alpha not only claimed ownership of their own internal code and design, as is expected, they also claimed ownership of the answers it generated. I was a bit stunned.

So, being the smart ass that I am, I asked WA to solve the following mathematical equation: 2+2 = ?

Thus, according to their TOS, Woflram Alpha now owns the number 4. Please don’t use it without their express written permission.

Of course this was probably just some boilerplate TOS they threw up without really thinking it all the way through and I’m sure they would never try to enforce the unauthorized use of the number 4. I hope not anyway, I’ve already used it three times in this post, and I don’t have deep pockets.

I have seen other Terms of Service and rights assignments that were every bit at outrageous as those at Wofram Alpha, but on websites and publications more specifically of interest to writers. The submission guidelines of one highly regarded national magazine contained a clause assigning them all publication rights in any form or medium in perpetuity. Simply for submitting. Was it an oversight? I don’t know, but when asked they did not bother to clarify.

I encountered similar terms on another popular site a few months later. I pointed out how draconian their terms were in an email. I don’t know if my email can be attributed to the change, but they have since modified their terms to give them the exclusive rights to publish and use the story for one year if the story is accepted, after which time all rights revert back to the author. If the story is not accepted you are free to do with it as you may. Now those are terms I can live with.

So, be careful when your shop a story around. Take the time to read and understand the guidelines or terms of service. Your future as an author, and the number 4, will thank you for it.


I am the guest blogger over at #AmWriing today. If you are looking for my #FridayFlash you will find it over there by the gracious consent of Johanna Harness. The story, Lady In White, also serves as an example for the upcoming Name That Horror Movie Contest we’re having at Friday Flash Dot Org. So head over to #AmWriting and see if you can find the movie title hidden somewhere therein. If you guess it properly in the comment area at #AmWriting you may even win a prize.

My #FridayFlash last week, Room With a View, was also an example for the Name That Horror Movie Contest. Did you catch the movie title in it? No? Well, go back and read it again. The same prize standards hold for it as the one over at #AmWriting. Yes, that means you have to visit Johanna’s site to find out what they are. I’m a sneaking little ba… guy. And next week’s #FridayFlash will also be an example story for the NTHM Contest. Will there be prizes next week? You’ll have to check back to see. ;)



Marines in Saddams palaceI caught a fascinating conversation yesterday on NPR during my drive home. Talk of the Nation host Neal Conan was speaking to Mark Bowden, the author of Blackhawk Down, about a writing project being sponsored by the Missouri Humanities Council. Being from Missouri I naturally perked up my ears.

The project is called Missouri Warrior Writers Project, which consists of a series of writers workshops and educational resources for active duty service members and veterans of the Afgan and Iraq conflicts, as well as for their families. Some, if not all, of the workshops are already over. However, there is also a three-part writing contest with a deadline of December 30, 2011. The three categories are poetry, nonfiction, and fiction. Bowden will judge the nonfiction. All entries will be considered for inclusion in an anthology – Holding Each Elephant’s Tail: Voices from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Winners will be announced by April 1, 2012.

Both Bowden and many of the callers on the show pointed out the benefits of writing about their wartime experiences. Many found it therapeutic, a way to come to grips with their emotions. Some said they were not yet ready to confront their emotions this way, but might do so some day. At least one caller believed doing so saved his life. The show was quite moving. You can read a short synopsis of it at The Talk of the Nation website or listen to the show in it’s entirety. I highly recommend it.

When I got home I immediately tried to run down some details to share with the #FridayFlash community, specifically the link to the project page. I after reading the page I was still a little  confused as to who could participate. It started out with “Missouri’s professional writing community is reaching out to our state’s veterans to give them an opportunity to reflect on their service,” making it sound like it may be for Missouri veterans only. But later there is a  “call for submissions for its national anthology of writing by veterans and active military service personnel of Afghanistan and Iraq about their wartime experience.” I suspected my confusion was that the workshops were held in Missouri, and therefore Missouri centric, but the contest was for everyone in the US Armed Forces and its veterans.

So I wrote to the contact address for clarification. Kelli Allen, Director of Development for the Missouri Warrior Writers Project, replied very quickly with the clarification I was hoping for – the contest is open nation wide.

She said in part, “Yes, the anthology is open to all veterans and active duty involved with Iraq and Afghanistan. … The call for submissions is national and we would be thrilled if you would pass along the information about submission to your organization.”

I know Friday Flash writers are  broad based and far reaching. There may be some participants who qualify for this contest. If not, you surely know of someone who does and you can pass the information on to them.


Photo from Wikipedia, originally from the USMC.

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