Friday, December 12, 2014


Something about a single glass of wine. A hundred stories played in my mind. I chose two:

It is the distortion that I do not see.

It wavers, offset, unbalanced, against a backdrop of perfection,
Deep hues blending one into another like the shift of twilight into dusk into night.

Beauty spills from the scene, and peace, the scent of
And tranquility.
Fingers lacing my hand,
A casual brush of my hair behind my ear.

So that when you smile, I don’t even notice the cracks in the smooth granite,
The weeds in the white lilies,
The scorpion that hides in the sand.

When you look at me with the familiar smile-creases,
When you lean in for our mutual touch,
When you raise your glass in toast to me,

I never notice the poison that swills the wine.
It sinks deep, unnoticed, into the purple liquid.

And on top, on the shimmering surface,
The picture tilts.

And try number two:

One glass of wine is a lonely thing.

If you bring another, place it next to mine, we can gaze outward, toward the sunset, a steady nearness warming our skins. Laughter might fill the air, the occasional witticism. 

Perhaps you enjoy golf.
Perhaps I adore opera.
Perhaps a can of Campbell’s tomato soup is next door to heaven, in your opinion.
Perhaps I inform you that it most certainly is not.

Perhaps we sit in our chairs and chart a course through the stars that is woven of dreams and memories and wishes that never came to pass, yet. We plan the future and take it by storm. We are powerful, we are masters, we are kings and queens in our own right.

And then the darkness seeps in and the clouds cover the stars.
I return my gaze to the glass on the railing.

One glass of wine is a lonely thing.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Coming of Age With a Red Umbrella

This week's Flash Fiction prompt was stunningly beautiful, and that red umbrella held so many possibilities. The most difficult part of the assignment was picking which direction I wanted to take the prompt. Below is the pic, and my task was to include something about coming of age. Scroll down to see my measly attempts:

Beautiful, isn't it?

Here's attempt number one:


They are coming, they are coming,
The things that pass us by.
The choices and decisions
That made my parents cry.

Now the cards are mine to deal,
Mine to shape and mold,
And nothing in this great wide sea,
Can cause me now to fold.

I cowered ‘neath the umbrella
Of my parents careful shade,
Terrified lest I should feel
The rain on my parade.

How many times they told me,
“Girl, it’s not a simple task.
Life’s not a platter with a cake,
And all you do is ask.

“It’s working hard and dancing well,
And living day to day,
And when the sun sets at the end,
You must be on your way.

“Be honest, humble, kind and sweet,
Let all your heart shine through.
And when we’re gone, you just may find
You’ll shade others, too.”

It's one of my rare, rhyming, rhythmic attempts at poetry, but I liked how the message played out in it.
Take number two is a bit darker, in which I feature a victim of abuse, and her escape to freedom:


You grasp his hand, turning it palm-up, tracing your fingers over the lines that map the last eighteen years. It hurts, you know?

The bruises those hands have caused, blue fingerprints against soft flesh.
The pain those hands have inflicted, hard yanks behind drawn shades.
The screams those hands have smothered, molded iron against terrified lips.

You don’t say anything; you don’t have to. He would know, in the silence, what you would have said yesterday. 

Yesterday, when you packed your bags.
Yesterday, when you still feared death.
Yesterday, when the state viewed you as a child.

Today, you grasp his hand, the final goodbye, close his staring eyes, and march your way out of his room to the open door. The rain spatters across the steps, a thousand fountains of silver.

You square your shoulders, open your umbrella, and face the ocean of possibilities.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

You Say Can't, I Say Can.

I'm feeling particularly special today.

Part of it has to do with the fact that it's my 35th birthday, and seventy-nine people just wished me happy birthday on Facebook alone, not to mention the people I saw when I went to church for the evening activities.

I could feel a cheesy grin cross my face at every single wish, so now, by the end of the day, my mouth feels like I wedged a banana in it, sideways.

It's nice to have encouragement, even from people I haven't seen in years and/or have lost contact with nearly altogether.

I was thinking about that today--how far encouragement can go.

A long time ago, about seventeen years now, someone I liked and respected very much, who I felt should know quality writing when they saw it, told me that they didn't think I could write very well. I doubt this person would know how much that one comment stuck in my brain, how it has festered there for years and years.

With every rejection letter I've ever received from any agent or publisher, that comment echoes across the years, the barb still fresh, the point still sharp. He/she's right, you know. You can't write. Everything you turn out is dull, pointless, cliched, too full of adverbs, boring, stale, overly dramatic, underly dramatic . . . and the list goes on (yes, I know "underly" is not a word).

As many of you know, I've taken to writing flash fiction to try to hone my skills and perhaps widen my fanbase a little. At one site in particular, I've written consistently, week after week, slowly making a name for myself, inconsequential though it may be.

This past week, I won third place in the contest. It was exciting to go read the leaderboard to see all the other stories that had placed. The overall winner of the contest gets the dubious privilege of being interviewed during the following week, and their interview is posted on the same site.

The writer who was interviewed was asked what writers she would recommend others should follow, and why. Her answer?:

"Flash! Friday writers, especially Karl Russell and Tamara Shoemakertheir stories makes you want to up your game every week."

Talk about encouragement! That echo from years ago, the one that whispered: You can't write. Why do you even bother? lost a lot of its oomph compared to this line that jumped off my page. And now it's been treading through my mind ever since.

For years, I've believed I was a pretender. I was a girl who wanted to write, and I tried without ever really believing that I could. Today, I finally realized that I'm a writer who may sometimes turn out something not so great, and other times, things that may have a sheen of brilliance.

The important thing is that I'm a writer. I. am. a. writer.

And today, a complete stranger who does not know me and is not influenced at all by her relationship with me, just announced that she likes what I write.

So that voice that echoed in my ears all these years, that didn't believe in who I was inside?

It can take a hike.

Friday, November 14, 2014

In Which I Play Hopscotch With Harry Potter

Last night, I had a conversation with some friends about Harry Potter. Because what else would I talk about anyway? As my friends can attest, Harry is a particular favorite of mine. A new member of the group did not share my love of the dear bespectacled wizard. She asked me, with true curiosity, how I could read and enjoy a story that so clearly deifies sorcery and witchcraft.

My first thought was admittedly defensive. Ah, here once again is the age-old argument that goes back long before Harry Potter even slipped into existence from Rowling's pen. How dark is too dark? How fictional is too fictional? How real is too real?

I've heard this argument a lot, mostly from people who have not read the books, and I'll say here and now that I don't believe there's any basis for the argument. But I'm not writing this post to debate the light and dark of Harry Potter.

When this dear woman, who comes from a completely different background than I do, and who sees many things in a very different light than I do, asked me this question, suddenly, the proverbial lightbulb popped on over my head.

God is big, guys.

That sounds cliché, but just think about it. God is so big, that He can take this one flawed story (did I just admit that the Potter books might have a flaw or two?) written by a flawed human being who does not have a relationship with the Creator God, and He can use the story to touch a whole lot of people who would never even consider picking up a Bible or going to a church service, or even reading Christian fiction for that matter.

The themes of redemption, of self-sacrifice, of good overwhelming and eventually obliterating evil that ring true through the book, have reached out to people the world over, have sparked discussions that has led many a person to examine or reexamine their own relationship with God. And Rowling never even intended it.

Huh. Wow.

And you know what else? God is big enough that He took the potentially divisive question in the discussion last night and turned it into a rock-solid dialogue about our faith walks. This woman and I came away from that conversation not only excited about what God is doing in both of our lives, but with a deep respect for the path each of us has journeyed with Him.

I wish . . .

I wish . . .

I wish it could always be like that.

I wish I could write what God gives me to write without feeling the pricking barbs of other Christians who read my work and wonder how I could possibly include such material in my books. That I could know that I'm pouring my soul into the characters that live and breathe on my pages without feeling the disapproval that trickles, however unintentionally, from well-meaning friends and family.

I know that I write in a world of billions of opinions, and that there will always be a refracted view of anything I write, a fly's vision with a hundred different perspectives of the same thing. I know that I will always have disapproval in some form, keeping company with the shining light of support for my work as well.

I wish it could be like the woman last night, though, who overcame her disapproval of my choices as I overcame my defensive attitude, and we discovered that God had a use for each of us, His vessels used to pour His Spirit in two very different manners.

So . . . my characters use foul language now and then? They slide down the slippery slope of sexual depravity? They live a life of manipulation and greed and back-biting and . . . and sin?

So . . . they're sinners in need of grace?


Guys, listen. I've enjoyed my share of Janette Oke, and Lori Wick, and whoever the next-new-author is on the Christian market. They have an audience who enjoys the lighter side of life, and I can't fault them for it. They have a ministry, and they're faithful in it. I admire them for that.

But God doesn't call us all to the same ministry. Sometimes, we have to carve out our own niche in the rock, and it's uncomfortable, because it's a new space, unused by anyone else, and perhaps that new space is a little scary and dark, because it hasn't been tried yet.

Perhaps, instead of fearing the unknown territory, we can instead focus on how God leads his followers to new places, to introduce them to new ministries, to reach new people who haven't been touched by His word yet.

Perhaps new wine needs to be poured into new wineskins after all.

Who said that?

Oh yeah, some guy who just wouldn't go with the flow, who wouldn't allow himself to be pushed into some used niche carved by the expectations of everyone around Him.

In my writing career, I've had a lot of lines drawn in the sand before me. Write this, don't even touch that subject. That's too graphic, tone it back, would you? For the love of Pete, he said WHAT?

All those lines create a web in front of me, each strand restraining me from what I feel called to write. I could play hopscotch in them all.

Look, I'm not saying let's do away with accountability. Woo-hoo, free-for-all! I'm just saying that . . .

God is bigger than my mistakes, than any story that will ever pound its way out on the keys of my laptop. So these characters who peer out from the white pages and move around in their flawed, human condition, who demonstrate by their fictional existence that light can still pierce the darkness and find them . . .

I think I'm going to let God use them.
Even when they sin.

Because God still uses me. Even when I sin.

That's so freeing, you know?

Friday, October 10, 2014


Here it is, another Friday, another rambling 150ish word shot at the winner badge (or at least a special mention).

I don't carry around a case of clown phobia, so this prompt wasn't as terrifying for me as it may have been for others (if there had been four hairy-legged giant spiders eyeing the boy from the side of the bed, that would have been a different story. Shudder).

I've seen a lot of things floating around on internet and Facebook recently about death. Cancer. Diseases. A "poison pill." 

The thing is, when that time-stamp inks your life, your perspective changes. This little merry-go-round on which we revolve, the social mannerisms, the political correctness, the words we should say, the ones we shouldn't, the cues and mores and ins and outs of culture--that all gets swept aside when the shade of Reckoning slips across our daily agenda.

Deep thoughts early on a Friday. Here's my attempt to put some of these thoughts into words.
Somewhere in this multi-ring circus of drawn-out death–
life with a closing sign, my doctor says–
the actors file into my arena.
They line up before me, balancing on their tightropes,
laughing and jesting for the audience of one,
clowns in full costume,
red grins pasted on hidden faces,
masquerading behind their smiles to tame the pain.

It’s a dance, a perfect symmetry,
where the ringmaster directs,
and the elephants trumpet on cue,
the aerialist releases the bar in sizzling tempo,
the lions wave their harmless claws at the tamer.

Funny how I get to sit in the waiting room,
counting the hours until clock-out time,
my part in the circus terminated with no severance pay.
Now I sit the sidelines, spectating.

Funny how they must toe the tightrope
with surgical precision
until someone falls off,
and they turn on him like birds of prey.

I never noticed it before.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Today's Offering: The Lady's Maid

The Lady's Maid by Susan Page Davis took me back my teenager-hood when I devoured every historical Christian romance novel I could find on the shelves of my dad's book van (he was a Christian book salesman).

Counting the Stars: I gave this one 3. I liked it. I didn't love it, I could easily put it down after a chapter or so, but I did enjoy the story.

Who doesn't love a good Oregon Trail story? I've had a love affair with the Trail since sixth grade when each person in our class spent several weeks writing our own Oregon Trail stories and illustrating them. Mine is still buried in my closet. I take it out now and then and blush over my early attempts at story creation (I think I even stuck a little romance in there. Of course. I can't write a story without it). ;)

This Oregon Trail story seems well-researched and confident in that fact. Lots of little details stand out that authenticate it for the reader, and I enjoyed that.

Enjoyed the love story, the mystery that weaves through the story's theme, and the happy ending with just enough of a loose thread to leave room for the sequel.

It's what I've come to expect from the Christian market with few exceptions. Clean, perhaps a teensy bit shallow and fluffy, good for a brainless escape if you need one. And who doesn't need one of those now and then?

I probably will not read the sequels, though that doesn't mean you shouldn't. ;)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Today's Offering: Gone Girl

This review's gonna have a few spoilers in it, so I'll just go ahead and get that out in the open first thing.

Counting the stars: I gave this book 5 out of 5. Not because I'm a suspense fan, not because I'm even a Gillian Flynn fan. It was just. that. good.

Gone Girl reads differently from just about every other suspense that I've ever read in that a.) its main crutch was not based on plot and plot alone, and b.) Flynn stole a page from George R.R. Martin's strategy in this book; she caused the reader unceasing anguish as he/she struggles to decide who's the "bad guy."

Because there is no bad guy. Or there are lots of bad guys. But each one has enough humanity in them to make you see the other side, pulls the empathy from you, even if it's just a scattering, and you nod along, thinking, Mm-hmm, that makes sense, that makes sense.

It's not a feel-good book. Gracious. I felt horribly sorry for all characters involved by the end of the story, the total and absolute destruction of each person's psyche, the awful heartache of this so-called marriage.

But that's one of Flynn's master-strokes: she can make the reader cheer on a guy who deliberately carried on an affair for over a year behind his wife's back. Because the wife is worse, way, way worse. You start out thinking she's a victim, and then you come back and realize anything that doesn't cater to her formula becomes the ultimate victim.

I really enjoyed the ebb and flow of the story. Most thriller/suspense novels I've read rely 95% on fast pacing, tight plot, quick turnaround, and 5% on character development. This one was possibly closer to 50/50. I always like books that start out strong - intense description, layered language, beautiful metaphors. Quite often, though, these books that begin strong don't maintain their quality the whole way through. By the end, it often seems as if the author would rather be done (i.e. was in a hurry to get their manuscript off to the editor). I didn't feel that with this one. The writing carried superb quality the entire way through the very. long. story. Some of the metaphors and imagery, I wanted to gift-wrap for myself, a nugget to enjoy again later when I needed some beauty in my life.

I could go on. This book was, unlike Amazing Amy, simply amazing.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

What's Not To Love About Castles and Marriage Proposals?

I loved the flash fiction prompt this week; there was so much "scope for imagination," as my dear literary heroine, Anne Shirley, would put it. We were bidden to include somewhere in the piece a proposal of marriage, but to think outside the box. I was so excited about the prompt that I wrote two pieces. See below. :)

I'll start with my favorite:


What dreams may come to he who waits,
Baited upon the silvery string of moonlight’s beams—
The tryst with darkness and dawn
A sacred revel of dancing shadows and fancy flights,
A brief marriage between slumber and waking.

Here, he can play the knight who rides to the castle,
Who bows before king and country,
Who woos and wins fair maiden.
Here, he rides, tall, strong, to meet the enemy,
Who returns in triumph, the honored hero.

Here, the limp is merely a distant memory,
The withered hand but a legend, folklore, fireside chat over wine.
Here, no one sees the ragged strips of flesh that cover the side of his face,
That partially blind his right eye.

Here, he is no monster.
Here, he is loved.
Here, he is whole.
Here, he proposes marriage. 

But the dawn brings divorce.

Loved the concept of the marriage during that short slice of time when the deep slumber of night fades and morning wakefulness encroaches, when dreams are sometimes at their best . . . or worst, as the case may be.

Here's my second effort. I enjoyed writing this one as well, but had some struggles with grammar, after which my inner majorly critical perfectionist made me bump this piece down to second place (or last place, depending on how you want to look at it). :)

Castles of Air

I’d known her since that time I pasted mud across her face, when we made pies in the gutter and called them chocolate. Her pigtails morphed to ponytails, and then her hair swung low across her back. I proposed marriage to her in the apple orchard when we were nine.

She baked apple pies for the reception instead of the traditional wedding cake. We made plans, she and I, for the honeymoon—a trip to Europe, to walk the old ways through history as we tour the ancient architecture, visit graves and smile at the Beefeaters in London’s Tower.

Fate called her before her time, left me to walk alone, to finish the pages of this book we’d begun. The pictures blazed in full color until she went; now their edges are tinged with brown.

I went to Europe anyway, painting the chapters with washed-out colors, gripping my aching brush to render the unfinished stories, building castles in the air.

I love doing Flash Fiction each week; what a great way to keep the creative juices flowing as I wear thin with day after day of slogging through word counts in my ongoing novels. Anyone have a creative writing bent? Come check out the Flash Fiction group of which I'm a part. We'd love to have you!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Vain Race

This was the photo prompt for this week's Flash Fiction contest, and I had to carve a story in approximately 150 words from it. I wasn't too sure about the image; it didn't awaken the Muse as I had hoped, but I gave it my best shot. I gave it such a shot, that I wrote two stories for it, which I include here. The second story WON!  Out of a field of over 75 staggering entries, my piece somehow floated to the top. Here they are. I hope you enjoy. :)

Mirror Mirror

Who do you think can lose the race first?
Who’s got the form that sprints this path the worst?
Who is the sorry one who brings up the rear?
Who is the one that runs from her fear?
Who’s the girl who cowers from the fans?
Who’s got the milky flesh of one who never tans?
Who’s fat, and ugly, and pimply, and shy?
Who’s the one who asks the mirror, “Why?”
Who’s the girl that hides behind the crowd?
Who failed so many times to make her mama proud?
Who slits her wrists and cries out from the pain?
Who cowers in her bed and waits for day to wane?

Who is this girl who stares back at me,
Who reflects, just a moment, what all of them must see?
Who’s blind, it seems, to the heart that lies within?
Who thinks her true beauty is just another sin?

I was to include the theme of "war" at some point in the prompt, and my idea in the piece above was to make it about the internal war of the girl in the mirror. Below, the war is still internal, though the piece has a different feel.

Vain Race

One runs from fear, the monsters of his past slavering at his heels.
His father’s fingers press against his throat,
Anger distends his features, twisting, purpling, panting—
Daddy’s familiar face the scene of a monster.
Death from fear or flight to freedom? Nightmares cross the finish line first.

One runs from love, tears and kisses shrouded in but a memory
The taste of her lips haunts his dreams,
Shivers across the flesh of his arms.
Mea culpa, my Father. I have sinned in the arms of a married woman.
Death from vengeance or flight to freedom? A bullet crosses the finish line first.

One runs from death, the Reaper’s cold breath shimmering in the darkness behind.
The pain creeps into his lungs, pulsing, aching.
He inhales, and a knife slices down deep inside.
He coughs, wipes the blood that bubbles past his lips, speeds his pace.
Death from bleeding lungs or flight to freedom? Cancer crosses the finish line first.

Friday, September 5, 2014



When the wind sweeps o’er the moor,
And the heather rustles, disturbed, ‘neath the weight of it,
When the rich scent of peat coats the forty green shades,
And the wee folk chatter in the deep mists of evening,

I return to the cairn to dance with the babe
Stolen from me, the night the banshee screamed.
We cavort on the stones that mark the bones,
Dancing our lullaby, our Danny Boy,
To the tempo of the gales
That wrench our breath from our lungs,
Mine healthy and pink, hers gray with ash and rot.

We frolic and gambol in our own wild art
Through the night when the gray dawn lightens the mist
And the cairn claws my baby back to its cold breast again.

They say I am spirit, the woman of the mists,
Who wrings her hands while treading the moor.

Perhaps I am. Perhaps I am simply Mother.

Till next eventide, my babe.
My Stella.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Today's Offering: The Stone (first book in The Chronicles of Quat)

Attention, fantasy lovers. A new book is on the market (well, not so new anymore; it was released in April of this year--it's just new to me).

The first book in The Chronicles of Quat, The Stone is the first full-length book out by author Bryen O'Riley, and from what I understand, this is the first segment in a series.

Counting the stars: I give this book 4/5.

Ms. O'Riley certainly is a talented pen-wielder. Her characters are believable and thoroughly human (even if they're not necessarily of the human race in her fantasies), and I, as the reader, was able to identify with their struggles and the journeys they each took in their respective cases.

Though only a side character, Chet was a favorite of mine from the book. First, what a great name! I grew up devouring Hardy Boy Books, and Chet was my favorite character from those as well. 

I digress. Chet plays the best friend in this book, loyal, trust-worthy, always staying by Tad's side, even when it means risking life, limb, and general comfort and ease. He brings out the boyish side in Tad, that if left untouched by friendship, would read a tad (get it?) dark for me.

I'm intrigued by Etan, Tad's older brother. There's some tension near the beginning of the book between Etan and his and Tad's mother, and sneaking suspicions wormed their way through my mind that maybe we might get to see a brother-against-brother climax. This didn't turn out to be the case, but Etan still remains shrouded in mystery, and O'Riley develops his character just enough that I'm pretty sure we're going to get some interesting twists on him in Book 2. We'll have to see.

Imagination! It was interesting to read some of the purely imaginative creations of Ms. O'Riley's pen. Short, flat people that lived, camouflaged, amid forest foliage, who, like Rumpelstiltskin, make deals with disastrous results for others. Blinders, not his real name, but as he said in the book, his real name was too difficult for simple humans to remember, so he goes by Blinders instead. He's a creature that can't be seen, even if you're standing nose to nose with him. 

A drawback, at least for me, was the lack of romantic storyline. This diehard romantic found it hard to care much about the key relationships in the book (Chet and Tad made the longest inroads into my affections) when there was no "true love" for which to root.

If you haven't figured it out from reading my own books, I always keep a weather eye out for "true love."

By the end of the book, there is potential for one in later works, and I look forward to reading about that, but the lack of romantic tension in The Stone did tend to dry up the book a little for me.

Overall, this is a first book with lots of promise, both for the rest of the series, and for future works. I'm looking forward to reading more.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


I admit it, this blogging thing is hard. I pour loads of creative energy into my manuscripts, and then, when I push back from the computer, mentally exhausted, I've got nothing left for my poor neglected blog spot. Ideas flee far away, and so here the site sits, empty.

If there's anything I've learned from the publishing world, it's that authors must maintain their online presence. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, Goodreads, on and on ad nauseum.

Beyond writing, I try very hard to keep up a reading schedule. How can I write what people want to read when I don't have any idea what's currently on the market? So every night before I sleep, no matter how late it is (1 a.m., 2 a.m. whatever), I make myself read a chapter from whatever book happens to be on my bed stand. It's an exercise in discipline, sometimes an exercise in futility if those lids keep drifting closed, but I keep trying none-the-less.

So here's my experiment. Since I continually struggle for new ideas about which to blog, I'll start regularly blogging about the books I've just read. Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal, Classic, Christian Fiction, whatever happens to make its way in front of my bleary eyes.

The blog may not always be about these things, but at least it'll be a regular post. Better than an empty blog for months on end.

I hope you'll still decide to stop by for a quick read. If you don't, I'll not hold it against you. 

As long as you purchase my next book when it hits the market. That particular action atones for a multitude of sins.

Friday, July 25, 2014

An Open Cage


She struggles, like a great bird, trapped within Nature’s cage, and the waves that crest her bow threaten to whelm her feeble structure.

To whence would’st thou flee, oh sparrow? Thou who longs for the flight of eagles, to soar far above thy entanglements.

My heart yearns in sympathy, to travel with thee to new lands, and for fresh sensations to dazzle mine eyes. Oh, that I could quell the prison that binds me here, and rise on new swells of freedom.

Go on, then, Queen of the Seas. Shatter thy bonds; flee the tide that shackles thee to the shore. ‘Neath wave and tempest and spray, direct thy rudder ever eastward toward the sun and day and promise of new adventure; turn thy stern to the end of dreams and stench of bitter night.

For that is all I see. A cage, stretching long, long in front.

Sometimes, or maybe quite often, a feeling of restlessness stirs inside me. It eats at my bones and tickles an itch that throbs down deep, so deep I can't reach. And I feel guilty, because after all, I live a fulfilling life, a life filled with good things and good people, fine relationships and beautiful children. In so many ways, I have been blessed, and yet that bone-deep agitation pulses on the edges of consciousness.

There is no name, of which I am aware, for this itch. 

Perhaps it's just me, peering into the looking glass of what could be, if only I would get out of the way and let the Master finish his craft.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fallen Reader

Apparently, I've been ruined as a reader for all time.


Back in the day, I used to sit down with a nice, fresh book from the library. I'd rifle through the pages, inhaling the scent (you fellow book lovers know the scent to which I'm referring--you Kindle lovers who never crack a book will not understand), and I would crawl onto the couch or the bed or the floor or the park bench and settle in for an unparalleled flight of fancy.

The authors never made mistakes. The tone, structure, narrative style never even hit my radar. I simply immersed myself in the story and digested every word with absolute satisfaction.

Fast-forward a few years. I wrote a book, then two, then three, then four, five and six. Every word was studied, every adjective used, then discarded, then used again. Sentence patterns were read, and reread, flipped around, reversed, turned upside-down, then right-side-up. Books were read aloud until my throat ached and my voice rasped. The overuse of adverbs galloped through my nightmares. 

Plot lines! Oh, dear goodness, the torture of a hole in my plot line!

A college professor once told me (and perhaps it wasn't an original quote, but the first time I heard it, it came from him) that to be a good writer, I had to be an avid reader. I took that to heart. Every night for years, after the kids were in bed and I'd closed up shop for the day, I crawled in my bed and cracked open a book. 

The hour didn't matter; it might have been midnight or one or two in the morning. I would still read. Sometimes, I would only make it through two paragraphs. Most often, a chapter. A particularly engrossing book might have kept me awake till four in the morning as I'd tell myself, "Just one more chapter. That's it." Until the next cliffhanger, and then I'd burn some more of that midnight oil and keep going.

But the simple, relaxing enjoyment had flown.

Now, I study every adverb, every adjective. "Why did they put 'slightly' in there? It would have made a stronger sentence without that word!" 

The occasional typo presents itself, and I smirk. "See, I'm not the only one."

I grow green with envy when a particularly interesting adjective or simile pops up. "Now why couldn't I have thought of that first?" I went with my husband to see Catching Fire, the second story in The Hunger Games trilogy. My enjoyment of the movie was tinged with the fact that jealousy ate away at my innards.

Fie on thee, Suzanne Collins! Why must you come up with such an interesting story?

All joking aside, if I had a choice whether or not I would begin this journey again, this relationship with my keyboard, I wouldn't refuse it.

Yes, it does affect my view of other literature, and yes, it is often frustrating that I can't simply sit and enjoy.

But on the flip-side, I've known few activities more enjoyable than the pleasure of allowing my fantasy unparalleled freedom, of constructing a world in which other keen readers, like myself, can wander freely. Perhaps I will never be another Suzanne Collins, author extraordinaire, but I am Tamara Shoemaker, weaver of ideas.

And I'm fine with that.

(Photo courtesy of my six-year-old daughter. This is apparently what I look like when I write a love scene, as I was doing when she took the picture). ;)

Friday, June 13, 2014


Apparently, I am now hooked onto this Flash Fiction group. I love taking a picture and weaving a story, however short, from what I see. Here, I share with you what I felt when I saw this one. If you see something different, feel free to let me know. There's so much room for exploration in this picture.



The steady plunk of berry juice dripped crimson onto white sand around her bare feet, the red divots trailing a path of hard work behind her.

Her stained fingers gripped the splintered handles of the baskets she carried, the weight in her hands echoing in the tight strain across her shoulders and back.

Every day, day in, day out, her footprints marked the sand, her berries crushed their juice through the slatted floors of the baskets. Each evening, when she arrived, she entered the leaning door, ducking her head beneath the crossbeam.

“Evenin’, Pearl.” She rested her baskets on the scratched table and leaned over her friend on the bed, the back of her weathered hand brushing against the woman’s forehead. “I brought your favorite again. Think you can eat somethin’ tonight?”

A bowl relaxed in her fingers, a spoon traveled to a crooked mouth. Purple stains twisted down a wrinkled chin.

A smile stained their lips.

Friday, June 6, 2014


Trying out my poetic wings, which hopefully will not pull an Icharis and melt while I soar too close to the sun.

Recently, I joined a Flash Fiction page - every Friday, I absorb a picture they post, then I write what comes to me based on the scene they provide. Below is the picture and my entry. Apologies for the Poe-like tone--it was what came to me last night at midnight (when I decided to ignore sleep and write instead).



Heat sears the air,
Shimmering distortion vibrates a sandstone roof.

The fire of afternoon brilliance
Shades the dips and dells of
Craggy rock and verdant moss.

It melds heat into the sun-kissed bones
Of citizens below.
Unconcerned, they while away treasured moments,
Chatting with the Reaper
Above the gong
That tolls their final hours,
Sun-blinded and unprepared.

Light flees across the slopes,
Lining leaves and roots
With golden shadow.
It plays in the crevasses and ridges,
Chases the darkness down the cracks
Before dancing away,
Flirting with the whelming blackness
Of Shadow.

Like a laugh that dies before it is heard,
The colors fade.
Amber, then silver, then gray,
And purple.

The citizens turn their faces skyward,
The knell sounds its clanging strokes.

Four hours left,
Three, two, and one,
And then,

Blackness waits.

The night
Sweeps over once more.

And there are no stars tonight.