We don’t do challenges, apparently, or do we?

May 2, 2013 at 8:50 am | Posted in A-Z, advice, Challenge, Kindle, Kindness, Milestone, Patience, Short Stories, Sleep, Sunday, Writing, Reading, YA, Young Adult | 1 Comment

The April A-Z Blogging Challenge has come and gone. So has April. I thoroughly enjoyed following the blogs of all you bloggers out there who had the guts to commit and execute such a feat and blog every day in April from A to Z.  My hat’s off to you. Your tenacity and creativity deserve a huge pat on the back.

Pat on the back (2)

Speaking of a pat on the back, you may have noticed that we, here at SLIW, recently had a first birthday. * Insert another pat on the back here * If I were to say things like “Wow, what a year!” or “Boy, have we learned a lot,” it would be terribly cliche (although I personally love cliches) and awfully boring.

So, in honor/honour (yes, I’m bilingual, too) of the A-Z challenge that we missed and the milestone that we just passed, here is an entire A-Z in one go; the A-Z of our first year. It blows my mind to think that a little over a year ago, we/I had no knowledge of most of these terms.

A-Z challenge

(Yes, I know this says 2012, but I preferred last year’s logo to this year’s and since we missed it anyway, what difference does a year make!)

N.B. The item in caps at the end of each list explains how we made it through . . .

A         Authors, Absolute Write, Artists, Amazon, Acceptance, Accountants, ADVICE (taken!)

B         Blogging, Blogs, Bloggers, Books, Business, Bluehost, BANTER

C         Contests, Connections, Characters, Cover Art, Categories, Contracts, COFFEE

D         Duotrope, Decisions, Domain, DBA, Digital, DONUTS

E          Energy, Edit, E-book, Editors, ENTHUSIASM

F          Facebook, Follows, Friends, #FF, Formatting, Focus, Favorited, FAMILY

G         Google, Goodreads, Graphics, Guidelines, Genre, GRACE (of a deity perhaps)

H         Hyperlink, Hashtag, HD, Handle, HUGS

I           Interviews, Insomnia, ISBN, Indie, Images, Instagram, ICE-CREAM

J          Journey, Joliet Small Business Center, JELLY BEANS

K         Kindle, KDP, Kindle Fire, KINDNESS

L          Likes, Links, LinkedIn, Legal, Lawyers, LOVE

M         Marketing. Mail Chimp, M&Ms, MEDITATION

N         Nook, Ninety-Nine Cents, Networking, NUTS (pun intended)

O         Opinions, Omniscience, OREOS

P          Publishing, Pricing, Promotions, Photographers, Proofread, Pinterest, PATIENCE

Q         Quality, Questions, Query, Quicksand (just kidding), QUIET TIME

R         Readers, Reviews, Royalties, Rejection, Rights, Retweets, Reblogs, ROCK ‘N ROLL

S          Smashwords, Short Stories, Support, Strength, Schedule, Submissions, SLEEP

T          Twitter, Tweets, Tweeps, Teens, Taxes, Teamwork, Trends, TEA & TAI CHI

U         Underestimate, Underachievement, Up-and-coming, UNDERSTANDING

V         Vonnegut, Voice, Victory, VACATION

W        Website, Writers, WordPress, Words, WINE

X         X-factor (that special je ne sais quoi!) EXCITEMENT

Y         Yahoo, YA, Young Adult, YA Lit, YOGA

Z          Zzzzzzz . . . time to get some!

If you have been on any part of this journey with us, we thank you! If you are just starting out, we thank you, too!

Have a great day!

Clare @ SLIW


Short Story Sunday, um Monday #3

March 4, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Posted in Homework, Short Stories, Sunday, Teen, Writing, Reading, YA, Young Adult | 2 Comments

Short Story Sunday

Well, it’s Monday night so this is hardly Short Story Sunday. No internet access all weekend is the reason, but the repair man has been and we’re back. So, we’d like you to meet Frank; a teenager with a homework assignment. As if homework itself wasn’t bad enough, Frank has been asked to boldly go where no teenager has gone before; into the future to look back on life. It’s quite a trip. Enjoy!


By Amanda Yskamp

“Given three days of limbo between death and beyond and the chance to live them in your happiest time, what would you choose?”

Develop your answer in 250 words or more.

Why did teachers always ask such crazy, impossible questions? As if his sixteen years had an endless wealth of times, plural, happy or otherwise, into which he could just dunk his dipper and have a drink. He just didn’t think that way. As far as he could tell, it was all one time, with ups and downs, but just one time that began on his birthday and just kept going until it didn’t anymore. And limbo? What the hell was that? Not to mention “beyond.” Was that meant to satisfy all the kids in his class from the devout to the devoid? To Frank these three days sounded more like the hour to gather what you could before the Gestapo marched in to get you. A measly three? And then what? What was he supposed to write? What was it with teachers’ endless quest to quantify and grade?

His essay was due tomorrow, and since he’d discovered no escape or loophole in their all‑powerful schedule, he sat in the screen’s glow and wrote:

So I’m dead now. Don’t ask me how it happened because that’s not part of the story, or how old I am, though I hope to hell that I make it past sixteen. For the purposes of this tale, let’s just say I died today and that it wasn’t too painful, and seconds after the old heart pump stopped and my last breath evaporated, a stopwatch started, tick tick ticking out three days of bliss or whatever before the next end, which I can only assume is the last and final terminality of ends called “beyond”, unless you happen to see that as a varied eternity opening outwards, which who knows might be true, though I kind of doubt it, not to be too pessimistic . . . only logical, but that’s not part of this story either.

He stopped there, looked it over for typos. He clicked on email, Facebook, Youtube, Hype Machine, several music blogs, and Facebook again. One hour had elapsed.

“Why didn’t I ask any questions in class?” He thought. But he hadn’t and almost never did. He felt that if he let out just one, a terrifying torrent of questions would spill from him and mark him as the freak he alone knew he was.

“I should have asked if we get to have lots of different moments or just one three‑day joy event. But what the hell would that be?”

He clicked on his Facebook photos. Skiing? That blast of white speed? The week at Karina and Paula’s bungalow on the beach in Mexico? He was so tan, and everyone was together still.

“I should have asked what she meant. Happy how?” He thought, clicked into an online Thesaurus and read through all the synonyms for happy, copied and pasted this list onto the page:

blessed, blissful, blithe, captivated, cheerful, chipper, chirpy, content, contented, convivial, delighted, ecstatic, elated, exultant, flying high, gay, glad, gleeful, gratified, intoxicated, jolly, joyful, joyous, jubilant, laughing, light, lively, merry, mirthful, on cloud nine, overjoyed, peaceful, peppy, perky, playful, pleasant, pleased, sparkling, sunny, thrilled, tickled pink, up beat, walking on air

The differences between these words, he thought were not just a matter of degree, but something else he couldn’t really say. Had he ever been on cloud nine or was the feeling as dated as the slang? He clicked on the links to follow the branches to etymological derivations and quotations. Sparkling? Probably never. Albert Einstein said, “A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?” So simple, but was that true? If so, then why did old Albert need relativity? Frank thought. Maybe it didn’t make him happy to be brilliant, to be privy to the universe’s secrets. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Happy is the hearing man; unhappy the speaking man.” Well, that’s it, Frank thought. That’s the loophole. I can just put that in and be done with it. It would be an act against happiness to write this essay. He copied that and pasted it into his essay, attributed, of course. Ralph Waldo never ceased to wow teachers. Another hour was given to that.

“Come on,” he thought. “Write. Write anything.” He let his fingers hover over the keys.

When I got to Limbo it looked like, he typed, and then erased it.

Typed; Limbo is a kind of threshold. You enter it one way, but then erased that. It was pointless. He’d lost the whole idea. He changed the font of everything to 14 pt. That sometimes worked to fake out teachers. He started typing again,

You’re thinking, I don’t want to be dead, I want to be alive. Unless your life is miserable, and yeah, I know lots of people have that kind of life, but most people don’t want to die and leave everything and everyone they know and love. But then you find out there’s this consolation prize. You get three days of whatever was your happiest time. I guess somebody is standing there at the doorway and gives you a slip of paper when you come in, like from a fortune cookie

But with the words all big like that, what he wrote looked like a child’s writing, so Frank went back to 10 pt., cut some words and added others.

You’re thinking, I don’t want to be dead; I want to be alive, if you still have the power to want at all, being dead. There’s somebody standing there at the doorway with a slip of paper like from a fortune cookie, and it tells you that you have three days to return to your happiest time. But isn’t that a weird way to live and die? You’re kind of launched on a forward path, leaving your life, why would you want to go back to some other time?


Frank pushed away from the computer and stood up. What time was it? Where the hell was Leon? He said he would text by now. Frank took out his phone and keyed his message with his thumbs: “WHERE R U? I M N LIMBO”

He waited for the rumble of the vibration.

“3 DAYS KID 3 DAYS” Leon’s text said.

“I K R? HAVE U MADE IT OUT?” Frank texted back.



“Dinner!” his mother shouted for the third time. Another hour had elapsed.

“Just a second!” Frank called back.

Attendance at dinner was non‑negotiable. The seven, no six of them, all sat down together at 6:00 to eat whatever had been cooked, and if you complained, it was your turn to cook dinner the next night. Frank erased the last two sentences, and before heading out to the dining room, typed,

This three‑day limbo will have to wait until I die, because it hasn’t been written yet, though I have hope for happy, happier, happiest times ahead. Give me the F already and let’s move on.


Meet the author of Frank’s Three, Amanda Yskamp . . .

Amanda Yskamp

Amanda Yskamp’s work has appeared in such magazines as Threepenny Review, Hayden Review, Caketrain, Redivider, and The Georgia Review. She lives with poet Doug Larsen and their two children on the 10-year flood plain of the Russian River, where she teaches writing to young people through Northwestern University’s distance education program and privately. She has never and would never assign such a preposterous writing prompt.

Amanda’s story appears in Suddenly Lost In Words, Volume 2 available now at AMAZON US or AMAZON UK 



Short Story Sunday #2

February 23, 2013 at 9:11 pm | Posted in Finding your voice, Foster Care, Invisible, Short Stories, Suicide, Sunday, Teen, Writing, Reading, YA, Young Adult | Leave a comment

Short Story Sunday


by Abby Goldsmith

Cherise planned to become a ghost. She was halfway there already, unseen and unheard, just another kid in overcrowded Hollander Home. After she dumped her duffel bag in the attic bedroom they’d assigned her to, she grabbed a pair of scissors from the bathroom drawer, sought solitude, and found it on the back porch.

She sat on a rotting bench and angled the open scissors against her wrist. Rain whispered in the darkness. It sounded alien to her. In her mother’s trailer, rain would have pattered on the tin roof.

Blood welled in the cut. Cherise pressed the blade deeper, sawing quickly to stay ahead of the pain. She almost didn’t hear the porch door creak open.

Then she registered the sound for what it was. Furious at her own stupidity, she hid the scissors in her lap and tried to hide her blood‑slicked wrist. She’d never lived in foster care before. For all she knew, this house had hidden surveillance cameras. She wished she’d checked.

A little boy maneuvered his child‑sized wheelchair onto the porch with difficulty. He appeared to be alone. The door fell shut behind him, followed by the creaking screen door.

“Hi,” he said. “I’m your suicide watch.”

Someone had mentioned a child genius living in this house. Judging by the arrogant way he spoke, Cherise guessed this was him.

She stood. No one would bother her in the woods. By the time this kid alerted the household and they found her, she’d be dead.

“Everyone says you’re mute,” the boy said. “But you’re just afraid to talk. Afraid of what you’ll say.”

Cherise walked down the porch steps and into the rainy night.

“If you start speaking,” the boy said, “you’re afraid you’ll scream.”

No one had articulated her problem quite so accurately. Cherise wondered, just briefly, if he was genuinely sympathetic. That seemed impossible. Kids were never nice. Kids in foster care had a lot of problems. This handicapped genius kid probably meant to reel her in so he could slap her with a harsh joke. He was toying with the new girl.

“I’m not toying with you.” He spoke as if he could hear her thoughts. “I just want a little talk before you’re gone. I’m Thomas Hill.” He flipped open a small notebook on his lap, tore out a sheet, and began to fold it. “The resident genius, as you’ve guessed. You’re less blind than most people. There’s nothing wrong with you at all, other than your speech phobia, which is no big deal. You’d be surprised at how many seemingly ordinary people suffer from phobias and deeply buried psychoses. A good ninety‑five percent of the population. And you have far better reasons for yours than most people do.”

Walk away, Cherise urged herself. Her wrist throbbed sharply. She needed to finish the job before she lost her nerve.

Curiosity held her in place. Could Thomas Hill really hear her thoughts, or was he just prescient?

“Your mother punished you every time you spoke.” Thomas fluffed the paper, sculpting it. “For most of your life, you couldn’t speak without suffering for it. That’s why your throat closes up when you try to talk these days.”

Cherise had never considered her muteness in this light. She felt the pain of thirst and hunger, smelled the dirty gag in her mouth, heard flies buzzing around the trailer. Glitzy, the baby, her sister, had died crying.

It’s true, she realized. Ma Chavez hated complaints. The comprehension made her gasp, and tears came to her eyes, riding a wave of hate. She made me mute (and pathetic). She killed my baby sister. Her mother’s parole would come in ten years, way too soon. I hate her, hate her, hate her. I’ll kill her. Cherise clenched her bloody wrist. The pain of torn flesh was nothing compared to the agony inside her. If she’d seen her mother’s face at that moment, she would have ripped it to shreds.

“You’ve earned your anger,” Thomas said. “It’s not your fault. It doesn’t mean you’re crazy. It means you’re right.” He studied Cherise with the unabashed interest of a child, but his eyes, a vibrant purple color, didn’t match the rest of him. His eyes looked much older.

“You associate speaking with pain,” he said. “It’s so ingrained, even knowing the cause won’t help you much yet. But time will. You won’t be mute forever.”

Heart thudding, Cherise opened her mouth, wanting to ask how he knew these things. Her throat thickened with terror. Words stuck there, aching. Thomas was wrong. She would never speak.

“We’re having a conversation right now,” Thomas said.

The last of her uncertainty vanished when she met his gaze. He saw her. Not the mute girl, not a victim of abuse and neglect, not a tragic news story, but her. Cherise Chavez. It made no difference if he was psychic or just guessing; he saw the truth.

Crickets chirped blithely on, unaware of the miracle taking place. Cherise walked back onto the porch.  Do you hear my thoughts? She directed that thought at Thomas. It felt strangely natural to speak this way.

“Yes.” He answered exactly as if she’d spoken out loud. “I’m a mind reader.”

Rainwater dripped down her hair, mingling with her blood‑soaked sleeve. Now she had another question. Why would a mind reader take notice of Cherise Chavez? She was doomed.

She supposed Thomas must be an altruist. With his ability, he probably rescued suicidal losers all the time. He would fail this time. Cherise knew she wasn’t worth his effort. She was defective, broken, incapable of having a bright future.

“You’re wrong about yourself.” Thomas faced her with a pained expression. “I don’t waste my time saving people. There are way too many problems in this world, and time is precious to me. But you’re worth my effort; you and what you survived.” He looked haunted. “Cherise, I know what your mother did to you. It’s usually easy for me to see the reasons behind what people do, but some people have a darkness that I can’t fathom. Some memories are bad enough to make me vomit. Or weep.” He made the latter sound worse. “Your mother’s behavior went beyond anything I can understand. And yet you still see beauty in this world. That makes you amazingly resilient. I’ve never met anybody like you.”

Cherise had never been so complimented in her life. “Why?” she began to say, and heard her own voice. It quavered like an old lady’s, yet she felt no fear of speaking in front of Thomas. None at all. There was no danger that he would misunderstand. He’d know what she meant, whether or not she messed up the words.

Why are you trying to help me? She finished in her mind.

“We’re both lonely,” Thomas said. “There’s no point treading around that issue.” He faced her squarely. “Let’s get something straight, Cherise. I’m not trying to buy a friendship. You’re the first person I’ve approached like this, and I’m only doing it because I want your mind nearby. But if you disagree, I’ll understand. If you decide you’re better off alone, I’ll stop bothering you. I promise. I’m not acting as an altruistic savior or anything like that. This is my own self interest. I absorb things from people. Memories take me minutes or weeks, depending on the person’s age and how much I want to absorb from them. Talents and inner strengths take longer. For those, I need to live with the person for at least a few months. You have phenomenal inner strength and other rare qualities. I’d rather not see your mind go to waste.”

Cherise had the impression that he was sincere. He meant every word. His honesty made her smile a little. The expression felt brittle and unfamiliar.

He indicated her bloody wrist. “I picked up your intent, so I packed a bandage. I can wrap up your wound. No one else would have to know. I’d check it periodically to make sure it doesn’t get infected.”

The more she studied Thomas, the more she realized how ancient he looked. His eyes belonged to someone who had lived hundreds of lifetimes.

“You see me,” Thomas said quietly. “Your perception is a little like mind reading. You understand everyone, but no one understands you.”

He handed her the folded paper, transformed into a perfect origami lion. “For you. Squeeze his mane ‑ here and here ‑ and he’ll roar.”

Cherise tried it. The lion roared silently, soaking up spots of her blood. She wondered what Thomas wanted with her.

“There’s a lion inside you,” Thomas told her. “Your words have potential to change history. When you rip your mother’s grip off your throat, everyone will listen.”


Abby Goldsmith

Abby Goldsmith is an animator by day, and a novelist by night. Her animation credits include Nickelodeon and Disney games for the Wii, Nintendo DS, and other platforms.  Her short stories and articles have appeared in Escape Pod, Fantasy Magazine, and other online venues. She’s currently seeking a literary agent or publisher for her epic science fiction series of books.

Connect with Abby:




Abby’s story “The Lion Within” appears in Suddenly Lost In Words, Volume 2 available at Amazon US or Amazon UK



Short Story Sunday #1

February 16, 2013 at 9:19 pm | Posted in Kindle, Love lost, New Jersey, New York City, Reading, Romance, Short Stories, Sunday, Teen, The Big Apple, Writing, Reading, YA, Young Adult | Leave a comment

Short Story Sunday

This is the first in a series of short stories on a Sunday. What better way to spend a snippet of your Sunday, because really that’s all a short story takes . . . a snippet of your time. So, without further ado, and in keeping with the love theme of this past week, here is


by Connor Thomas Cleary

I packed a toothbrush and a change of underclothes. Not sure I’ll need them, hope I will. New Jersey Transit hauls me toward the city, toward that big, loud, riot of a city. She’s the only reason I ever go there. The conductor hands me a yellow paper roundtrip with a few hanging chads. I stash it in my wallet behind a Metro Card with a logo worn away by the credit card sheath. Even though she broke up with me months ago, that face keeps fading.

The view from my window is beautiful in spite of the iron sky. Autumn blooms between the stations, surprisingly radiant in the muted light. Soon, I know, these washes of warm color will give way to the cold palette of a city pressing ever outward like greedy fog. I try to hold on to this warmth, to bring these colors with me. I shove a handful of Sugar Maple Red in my pocket, hide some Birch Yellow under my hat, and poke some Oak Orange into my sock.

Mid‑town bound, I’m going to see a show. She’s going to be great.

I told her to break a leg—how strange.

The Big Apple. Teeming, wormed with subways.

My train rumbles to a stop in the bowels of Penn Station. I step into a river of bodies. We flow upstairs. Popcorn and perfume. Fast food and stale air. I lower my head and charge for the A‑C‑E. I go with the flow. I weave. I press forward, desperate to escape this buzzing, subterranean hive.

My guts writhe. Anxiety saturates my nerves and I want to tear my skin off. There is too much. Energy, jostling, noise, pressure. Everything. The collected weight of the city presses down on me, compacting me into a tiny, shuddering caricature of myself. I don’t show it. Out of my way, city dwellers, I’ve got places to be.

The subway car is packed to the elbows. No one sees anyone. I never got the hang of avoiding eye contact. Too curious, I guess. So many people, so many stories; where are you all going? Backed into a corner near the doors, I try to remember to breathe.

You all look miserable. Stop it.

Up and out into the canyon streets, I try not to gawk like a tourist, but I gawk like a tourist. I imagine the slow ascent of the skyline over the centuries. It makes me feel small.

The streets and sidewalks are stampedes, stopping at red lights to gather strength like a dammed river. The clamor gets under my skin, it sneaks in when I breathe. Makes me feel neurotic. Closing my eyes and planting my feet, I imagine it breaking around me. I am the steadfast rock, affixed to the streambed. Thicker skin, that’s all I need.

People walk too slow.

The show is starting soon, can’t wait to see her. She’ll be in character when I do, but still. I choose a seat at random, wrestle my luggage between my legs, and pretend to peruse the playbill even after I’m done reading all the bios I care to. I know almost everyone in the show, so I eavesdrop the audience for comments about them.

She’s in the New York City Musical Theatre Festival this year. It’s kind of a big deal.

Over the years we spent together I, somewhat reluctantly, developed a sincere appreciation for musical theatre. Never thought I’d say that. Still wouldn’t call myself a fan, but I’ve learned to respect it.

The show erupts onto the stage. It’s all camp and bombast shot through with wildly impressive tap. The songs are catchy. I know I’ll be humming them to myself for days. Happens every time. And I know, no matter how much I fight it, the emotional climax will get me just a little misty.

The show is great. Best performance I’ve seen yet.

Afterward, she finds me on the outskirts of the sidewalk crowd. We hug for a very long moment. She whispers, “I miss you,” into my chest and the crowd disappears.

But then it’s back, and it’s time for pleasantries. I give brief, pat‑on‑the‑back hugs to other cast members and offer polite but sincere compliments. Good job. You were great. The show was great. Congratulations.

It’s good to see them, if a little awkward. It’s been a while.

She needs to be here. I know that. Most of her friends have already moved here, and her theatre group is starting to make a name for itself. Besides, she loves it. I wish I could too.

After milling about for a while, I’m invited to dinner and drinks with her and three other cast members. As we walk, we exchange secret smiles like new lovers. Each glance and grin erupts like butterfly sparks inside me.

On the subway with four theatre girls after a show, I don’t bother trying to keep up with the conversation. They chirp at each other like excitable birds, I have no idea what they’re talking about half the time. They’re still bubbling with adrenaline. I amuse myself by making up stories about the other passengers, or tracing specular highlights down silver rails, or pretending to read the back‑lit ads. I do anything to hide my discomfort. It makes her feel bad. Guilty, maybe? We wind our way toward a restaurant one of the girls knows. Live music tonight.

She takes my hand, tells me about city life and its many wonders. “It’s just so alive, isn’t it amazing?” Actually, it unnerves me. A group of men across the street shout and jeer and explode with laughter. She giggles. “Oh, New York.”

For her, I’ll try to enjoy it.

We move closer as glasses of wine and beer disappear. We touch each others’ legs and rub our hands together beneath the tablecloth. I try to keep up with the conversation, but the band is there to fall back on when the girls inevitably lose me again.

We’re the last to leave, we all lost track of time.

It’s too late to catch a train back to Jersey.

We say goodbye to her friends at the subway. They’re going uptown, and we’re going down. Then I’m alone with her. I fall into those blue eyes. We give in. We kiss. We grab handfuls of hair and grope at each others’ backs.

I’ve missed you so much.

Maybe we could be together again if I could just learn to love this place the way she does. Maybe I wouldn’t have let her get away so easily. But some part of me doesn’t want to be comfortable here, it goes against my nature. I like being on the ground, seeing stars at night, the taste of clean air, the susurrus of leaves. Nothing about this life appeals to me.

I try. I really try, but something won’t let me love it. It disturbs the otherwise calm waters of my being. Her soft, small hand is my anchor, she leads me to her apartment. We barely make it to the bed.

In the morning light, we embrace and say goodbye. I pull my bearded cheek across the silk of hers, and stop. Just shy of a kiss.

Everything aches as I lose her again.


Connor Thomas Cleary

Connor Thomas Cleary wrote a story about a town terrorized by dragons when he was nine. His writing has matured a bit since then and he now works as a professional writer, designer, and nerd journalist. He runs his own blog, The Blue Key, and his own business, Four Stair Multimedia and Design. His work has appeared in the Boxfire Press “Heroics Anthology,” on Feathertale.com, and Nerve.com.




Connor’s story appears in Suddenly Lost In Words, Volume 1 now at SMASHWORDS,  AMAZON  US  & AMAZON  UK



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