What If a Suit of Armor Could Give You The Heart of A Knight?

Running Wild Press
Running Wild Press

As you know, we’ve been visiting with co-authors of Running Wild Press’s Anthology of Stories, Volume 2. Please welcome Amelia Kibbie, author of the short story “Idylls of the King.” Here’s the first paragraph to get us started:

James glanced at his mother every few moments as they walked briskly towards the train station. Her expression was blank, though she raised her lace-trimmed handkerchief to the corners of her eyes from time to time. Once, she caught him looking, just as another family with their children trotted past, toting small luggage. The two young girls wailed openly and their mother streamed silent tears in a continuous torrent.

What inspired you to write this story?

I actually wrote this for another anthology called “Heart of Steel.” The prompt was to write an LGBT love story that featured a knight of some sort and had a happy ending. I heard about it in a writing group and wanted to participate. However, I didn’t want to go the traditional fantasy route. So I thought, what if an old suit of armor could help someone have the heart of a knight, even if they weren’t one in the traditional sense? I also have to give credit to the sequel to “The Woman in Black” which isn’t a good movie but has a cool premise — the kids removed from London to escape the bombings and move in to a isolated manor house.

I could use a suit like that!

What would you like readers to take away from your story?

This is a story of bullying, and yes, the bullies get their comeuppance, but the only way that happens is when someone EMPOWERS the bystanders. That is one of the underlying lessons here that anyone can take away. You might not be the one being targeted, but if you stand there and watch you are complicit.

An important—and timely—lesson indeed.

Amelia, how long have you been writing?

Since third grade. We had a our first ever creative writing unit and I wrote a Superfudge fan fiction.

Do you write full-time? If not, what do you do for a living?

I work for a small school district. We are preschool-12th in one building and we have a daycare with babies as young as three months! I spent 10 years teaching middle school English, one year in high school, and now I am a teaching coach and part time MTSS interventionist. That means I work with kids who face barriers to success that are not in special ed. So this would include things like emotional regulation, executive functioning, some forms of autism, home problems, etc. It keeps me VERY BUSY!!

Do you only write short fiction? If not, how does writing a short story differ from writing a novel? (Other than the obvious length/time.)

I used to only write long, long novels. I wrote a few short stories and considered them practice. When I hit 30 and decided this writing thing was something I really wanted to try and do, I started taking them more seriously. Especially after one won a prize. I wrote a novel but I pretty much hate it now. I love writing short stories because you get to the meat of the conflict without the extra stuff. Also editing is a breeze, and beta readers are easier to get because it isn’t such a big time commitment. If your short story fails, you wasted your time maybe, but NOT as much time as I wasted on that novel I’m sick of.

I understand all too well.

However… I am working on a novel again!

Oh, no!

What does your typical “writing day” look like?

I don’t have one. I work full time and I have a toddler. You gotta get while the gettin’s good. Mostly when she is napping on the weekends I try to get something done. I steal little bits of time when I can.

A toddler and a demanding job? I am secretly vowing to never complain about being busy again. Is there any chance you squeeze in time for reading, just for enjoyment?

My husband and I just celebrated our sixth anniversary. He planned the whole thing, which he dubbed the Anniversary-Scary. He gave me a bunch of books to read before we went on a secret spring break trip. They were ghost stories from Lincoln and Broken Bow, Nebraska, Cheyenne, Wyoming, and a new copy of The Shining. We road tripped down to Estes Park to stay at the Stanley Hotel. I powered through all those books before the trip and I’m still working on King’s collection Bazaar of Bad Dreams.

That. Is. Amazing. Well done, husband! (Mine sometimes pretends to be interested when I run plot ideas by him. Ha!)

Other than this spectacular anthology, do you have any recent or upcoming releases you’d like to tell us about?

I have a short story in the pro-human science fiction anthology (made famous by tumblr) called Humans Wanted. It’s a fantastic collection and I’m honored to be featured with other authors of such talent.

Fabulous! Readers, check that out.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

First, live a rich life. I’ve based so many of my characters and locations on places I’ve visited. You have to DO STUFF so you have a great treasure chest to pull ideas from. I think fanfiction is a great gateway to writing. I’m not hating on ff in any way, but I see it as a stepping stone to your own original work. Some people I know want to write, but they are so nose-deep in consuming the narratives of other people that they don’t give themselves room to come up with their own ideas. Lastly, keep a notebook with you for ideas, lists, clippings, etc. I call mine a commonplace book (in the tradition of the old English variety) and I can’t live without it. One night I thought I lost it and I cried for an hour before I found it.

I get it, man. I get it.

Where can readers learn more about you and your work?

Check out ameliakibbie.com and click on the tab “read Amelia’s work.”

I hope they will. Thank you for being here!

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Nick Mazzuca Talks about “Buck It And Bolt”

Nick Mazzuca

Running Wild Press

As you know, we’ve been visiting with co-authors of Running Wild Press’s Anthology of Stories, Volume 2. Please welcome Nick Mazzuca, author of the short story “Buck It And Bolt.” Here’s the first paragraph to get us started:

My rig has a big ass. She moves slow – if you count hurtling through vacuum at 29000KPH as slow.  Turns like a pig and pitches like a clumsy drunk. She’s a whale. I bet my life on her every single shift.

She hasn’t killed me yet.

Intriguing! What inspired you to write this story?

It started out as an outline for a radio drama. I had the idea for a story where two people in a high-risk, high stakes situation had to communicate over radio where only one has eyes and knowing how to use the tools in front of you is how you get out alive. After running into roadblocks in creating the sound effects I needed for the ambient atmosphere of the piece I decided to turn it into a short story. Also, I have long enjoyed the notion that even in the science fiction future we’ll still need highly-capable working class folk to do the dirty, dangerous work. I got to know the bus drivers who worked my morning commute, all of whom were smart, capable, and determined – always on the bottom of the totem pole, always necessary, and just trying to get to the end of their shifts.

I usually find them more interesting than anyone else on the bus!

What would you like readers to take away from Buck It And Bolt?

I want them to get the sense of triumph and adventure that comes from being very good at a dangerous, dirty job as well as the sense of comradery that comes from sharing said job with another person.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been composing character-based narrative since the first time I got my Star Wars action figures back in the 80’s.

Funny, I was learning about romance in the 80s.


Do you write full-time? If not, what do you do for a living?

I write part-time on an as-needed basis. I left my educational admin job and became a full-time freelancer where I do mixed media, photography, video, translation, and assorted dogsbody work.

Do you only write short fiction? If not, how does writing a short story differ from writing a novel? (Other than the obvious length/time.)

I write play scripts and screenplays in addition to short fiction. In one sense short fiction is wildly different because play scripts are character- and dialogue-based. Screenplays are image- and movement-based. They’re similar that that all three are, essentially, minimalist, efficient art forms that require you to establish your characters and do your world building right off the bat.

What does your typical “writing day” look like?

I pre-schedule my “shift” in my google calendar and set research, outline, pre-writing, and page goals the night before and leave a block of freestyle time to map it out on the whiteboard, then plug away.

So jealous of your discipline and organizational skills. This is actual footage of my writing style.


What are you currently reading?

I’m currently doing a re-read of Warren Ellis’ hard-boiled dystopian absurdist comic Transmetropolitan. Think Blade Runner meets Hunter S. Thompson with bigger guns and better drugs.

Other than this spectacular anthology, do you have any recent or upcoming releases you’d like to tell us about?

My cyberpunk trans narrative play I, Weapon got picked up for reading at the Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Alaska.

Oh, my gosh, congratulations!

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Keep pushing the boulder. And when it rolls back over you, give it a bit, then get pushing again.

Also: sometimes trying to get to the end of a decent draft is like punching through a wall. The wall doesn’t heal, but your hand does – so keep punching until the wall breaks.

Where can readers learn more about you and your works?

You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @nickmazzuca



Check out My Interviews for more opening paragraphs from great Running Wild Press authors like Nick Mazzuca.



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Author Laura Selinsky Talks About “Seawall”

Laura Selinsky

Running Wild Press

As you know, we’ve been visiting with co-authors of Running Wild Press’s Anthology of Stories, Volume 2.Today, I’d like to welcome Laura Selinsky to my blog. I thoroughly enjoyed Laura’s “Seawall” short story last night. If you have aging parents, you will, too. Here’s the first paragraph:

“There were dunes here once. Great tall dunes. Wright Brothers coulda launched their plane in Jersey rather than down in Carolina.  When your grandmother was little, the town fathers burned the dune grass and pulled down the dunes.” Eleanor swept her hand towards the sea.

What inspired you to write this story?  After Hurricane Sandy, I was looking at pictures of the destruction of my 85-year-old dad’s hometown, Sea Bright, New Jersey, and I was struck by the cyclical nature of our relationship with the sea. How many times have I seen the seawalls raised and destroyed along the shore, and in alternate eras, how many times have I seen the dunes raised or leveled?  I thought that image, the seawall, made an excellent metaphor for the raising and collapsing of walls between people, even in deep-rooted relationships. In the story, I explore that cycle with a mother and daughter.

I know it well, which is perhaps why I connected instantly. The mother-daughter scene in traffic was especially good. It made me remember a trip I took with my mother to Cape May. Shoreline roads are truly challenging, especially with an elderly parent in the passenger seat.

What would you like readers to take away from your story?

I’d like them to see the hope of changing cycles in human relationships.  The reader and the well-loved may be on opposite sides of a wall now, but no wall stands for ever.

How long have you been writing?

I have written prose and poetry since I was a very little girl.  In elementary school, I even wrote an “opera” and twisted my little sisters’ arms until they performed in it for me.

Meanwhile, my siblings were twisting mine so I would stop singing. Ha!

Do you write full-time?

I write daily, as a high school English teacher for students with significant learning difficulties, but most of that writing’s in the form of reports and emails. Last year, I was privileged to write about my students for a national magazine.  I edit constantly, working with/for students, friends, and relatives.  Fiction-writing, which I love dearly, is limited primarily to school breaks.

Do you only write short fiction? If not, how does writing a short story differ from writing a novel? (Other than the obvious length/time.) 

I am passionate about and intimidated by a YA high fantasy series that I’ve worked on for almost a decade- that’s currently two novels and two outlines. From my perspective, the biggest difference between long and short forms is organizational.  Making sure that the character’s hair color or nephew’s age or whatever doesn’t shift from chapter to chapter is big. On the practical side, Deadlines are a very effective motivator for me, and the short window deadlines associated with short form writing are wonderful for making me get work done.  For novels, there’s no practical equivalent to having a short story drafted in two weeks to fit a submission window.

What does your typical “writing day” look like?

Forty-two weeks a year, there is no “typical”— writing gets shoehorned in between other responsibilities. During spring break week, and six weeks of the summer, I garden early, then write from 9:00 am until I have to start cooking dinner.  If I have a challenge, such as a plot problem to unknot, I’ll pack my lunch, as I would for school, and take my lunch bag and coffee into my study, where I’ll confine myself to the computer until the problem is resolved.

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Vic James’ contemporary fantasy Gilded Cage and Jonathan Franzen’s Purity.

Other than this spectacular anthology, do you have any recent or upcoming releases you’d like to tell us about? 

Right now I am working on two short stories of under 1000 words that I hope to read on an upcoming podcast. Shells is about an autistic child of five and his relationship with his grandmother; I was inspired to imagine the early childhoods of persons with autism.  Pooh Sticks imagines the effects of a difficult mother on adult sisters.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

1. Write! And don’t let anyone tell that that you wasting time or doing something trivial.  There are people spending hours a day watching reality TV or nattering on about craft beer, so why shouldn’t you pour your time into writing.

2. Find a good critique group and stick with it. I rely on the women with whom I critique to keep my looking honestly at my writing (or my not writing if I’m slacking).

Where can readers learn more about you and your works?

I am easy to find through search engines. The name Selinsky is unique; Laura Nelson Selinsky, even more so. Look for “Laura Selinsky” on Twitter; I’d love to meet readers there.

If my readers search for “Julie Doherty,” they may find Miss Universe UK 2006. Oddly enough, no one has ever mistaken me for her. I wonder why . . .

Thanks for being here, Laura!

Check out My Interviews for more opening paragraphs from great Running Wild Press authors like Laura Selinsky.


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Meet New York Author Elan Barnehama

Elan Barnehama

Running Wild Press

Elan BarnehamaAs you know, we’ve been visiting with co-authors of Running Wild Press’s Anthology of Stories, Volume 2. Today, I’d like to welcome Elan Barnehama, a New Yorker by location and a tortured Mets fan by default. He wrote “Just Be,” a short story I heartily recommend.

Elan is no stranger to publishing. His first novel, FINDING BLUEFIELD (2012), explores what happens when society’s invisible become visible. His work has appeared in many publications online and in print, and some of his stories have aired on public radio.  Elan has taught writing and literature at several colleges, led community-based writing workshops, was a fiction editor, worked with at-risk youth, coached high school varsity baseball, had a gig as a radio news guy, and did a mediocre job as a short-order cook.

Here’s the first paragraph of “Just Be” to get us started:

I returned to school in the new decade, but it felt indistinguishable from the last one. The walk to school, the classes, the teachers, the piles of homework, and the war in the jungles of Vietnam, they were unchanged.  Except Samm. Her brother had killed himself on Christmas Day, just four months after returning from Vietnam. She had changed.

Elan, what inspired you to write “Just Be?”

It’s an excerpt from ESCAPE ROUTE, my novel-in-progress.  Set in 1969 NYC, ESCAPE ROUTE is narrated by 14 year old Zach who is obsessed with the war in Vietnam, finding an escape route for when the US decides to round up its Jews, and a girl named Samm.

What would you like readers to take away from “Just Be?”

I’m hoping readers connect with the idea that often the best way to deal with tragedy is to focus on the present.

Do you write full-time?

I teach college writing and do some freelance writing and/or editing as well.

What are you currently reading?

I’m in the middle of a couple of novels.  The first, on my nightstand, the second, for when I am on the subway: The Gargoyle Hunters, John Freeman Gill, and Things That Happened Before The Earthquake, Chiara Barzini.

Other than this spectacular anthology, do you have any recent or upcoming releases you’d like to tell us about?

I was one of three editors that worked on a collection of stories from eleven global women. The book, A Mile In Our Shoes: Personal Stories of Global Journeys, will be published this fall by Whyte Tracks Publisher, Denmark.  http://amios.y2yinitiative.org

Where can readers learn more about you and your works?


Twitter: @elanbarnehama

Thank you for joining us today, Elan. I hope for your sake the Mets have a good year. 😉

Check out My Interviews for more opening paragraphs from great Running Wild Press authors like Elan Barnehama.

Posted in Author Interviews

Meet Ninja Author Tori Eldridge

Author Tori Eldridge

Running Wild Press Short Stories

Author Tori EldridgeAs you know, we’ve been visiting with co-authors of Running Wild Press’s Anthology of Stories, Volume 2. Today, I would like to welcome Tori Eldridge to my blog. Tori wrote “Life After Breath” in the Anthology.

Man, I thought I was badass because I own a sword and a couple of tomahawks, but Tori Eldridge puts me to shame. Let’s get to the deets. First, here’s the first paragraph of “Life After Breath”:

The acrid tang of seawater and kelp clung to my skin and pierced my sinuses. The coast had been like this for days. A: a thick marine layer, trapped the heat around my legs and bit my face with cold, wet fog.

Tori, what inspired you to write “Life After Breath?”

I lived in the boonies of Malibu for twenty-two years and habitually broke my writing day with a hike up the mountains or a walk along the coast. One day, I headed out in the summer heat and got caught in a fast moving fog that was so dense it swallowed the shore and absorbed all sound except for the caw of a pair of crows racing to escape. Rather than return home, I continued walking and let my imagination run wild.

Sounds like a pretty surreal experience. It’s obvious you carried the tone of that day into the story.

What would you like readers to take away from “Life After Breath?”

I’d like the readers to delve into pathos of love, loss, horror, and redemption and come out of the story with a renewed joy for life.

How long have you been writing?

Writing is a relatively new career for me. I began my journey as an actress, singer, dancer on Broadway, television, and film before I tried my hand at writing screenplays in the late 80s. I wrote my first novel in the 90s, followed by a non-fiction about physical and emotional protection a decade later (after I earned a 5th degree black belt in To Shin Do Ninjutsu), but didn’t commit to pursuing writing as a career until six years ago.

Oh, is that all?


Do you write full-time?
Yes. I write almost every day. And because, I’m an immersive type of person, I no longer teach Ninjutsu, sing professionally, or perform in theatrical or TV/film productions. However, that’s not to say that I support myself and my family through writing. My husband does an excellent job of that, a blessing which allowed me to “stay at home” with our kids (not counting the fourteen trips to Honolulu to shoot motion capture for Final Fantasy or the tri-annual trips to various ninja seminars!) and now affords me the luxury to write full-time.

Do you only write short fiction?

Although I have several published short stories, I consider myself to be, first and foremost, a novelist. It’s a far more immersive process that requires a marathon mindset and pacing. Fortunately, I’m a self-disciplined, self-motivated person, and organized. I’m good at mapping out and accounting for my progress, which is similar to my method of outlining. Before I being the actual writing, I have the acts and scenes outlined with brief snippets describing their purpose (ie. plot advancement, character development, important info, etc.). Naturally, this changes along the way. But it’s a great comfort to have a road map of the race and an idea of how long each segment should take to accomplish.

What does your typical “writing day” look like?

I’m a morning person, so I like to begin my creative work as soon as I’ve fixed my tea and set my laptop on the bistro counter. I’m also a kinetic person (having been a lifelong dancer, ninja, athlete), so I maintain my physical health by standing for the first portion of my writing day (anywhere between eleven and one). I like to snack while I write so there are meals and nuts while standing. Then I break for lunch and switch locations where I’ll either continue with creative work or switch to writing business types of tasks. Having a tiny MacBook and being an agile human, I find some rather amusing locations and positions! When I call it quits, I take a walk or hike in the hills. Then I’m on to other non-writing tasks.

Annnnnd that is why you are so fit and I’m over here planning a wake for my curvy fit pants. 


What are you currently reading?

I’m reading The Devil’s Triangle by Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison and listening to Ararat by Christopher Golden.

Other than this spectacular anthology, do you have any recent or upcoming releases you’d like to tell us about?

I have a short story written for a disaster relief anthology coming out in the spring and I’m hoping for a book deal soon on my mystery/thriller about a modern-day female ninja with Joy Luck Club family issues that my agent is shopping. Meanwhile, I’ve got stories in Never Fear The Apocalypse and Never Fear The Tarot.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Patience and diligent effort wins the day. Whether you’re writing short stories or novels, the process takes far longer than you imagine. Enjoy the process and it will become its own reward.

That is certainly true.

Where can readers learn more about you and your works?

I have a brand new website! It’s gorgeous with tons free content–my Mindful Musings blog, the 57 podcasts from my Empowered Living Radio show, podcasts interviews with me as the guest–as well as links to all my books. I hope your readers will check it out. http://torieldridge.com

I hope folks will check you out. Thank you for being here. I’m away to chop up some carrot sticks. With my dumb sword.

Check out My Interviews for more opening paragraphs from great Running Wild Press authors like Tori Eldridge.

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When Characters Eat Dirt – Ken MacGregor

Author Ken MacGregor

Running Wild Press

Author Ken MacGregorI’ve been featuring authors from Running Wild Press’s Anthology of Stories, Volume 2. Today, I’m delighted to welcome Ken MacGregor to my blog. Now, Ken, forgive me, but when one hosts a MacGregor on the FICTION THAT’S PLAID TO THE BONE blog, one decorates:

Author Ken MacGregor


Okay, that’s better. Sorry, but . . . MacGregor. It needed to be addressed.

Let’s have the first paragraph of your short story, “Like Chocolate,” shall we?

Vera knelt in the cold mud, waiting until she could no longer hear Johnny’s feet crunching through the fallen leaves. Her tongue tingled. A strand of saliva hung from her lower lip, almost to the ground. She worked her mouth until it fell.

Gritty! I love it! What inspired you to write this story?

While researching another story, I came across geophagia (eating dirt), and was fascinated by it. The idea of having a character discover a propensity for it by accident spawned this story.

That is fascinating. What would you like readers to take away from your story?

Hopefully, that, regardless of our circumstances, we’re all basically the same, and that what’s really important is human connection. That, or that dirt might be good to eat.

It would certainly be cheap! How long have you been writing?

Since I could hold a crayon. I’ve been getting paid for it since 2012.

Do you write full-time?

I do not. My other job is bookmobile driver for my local library.

At least you’re around books all day! Do you only write short fiction?

I’ve co-written a novel that will be published serially very soon. The difference between long and short form are fascinating. In my short fiction, I try to engage the reader immediately, and take for a quick, intense roller-coaster ride, leaving them breathless and hungry for more at the end. With a novel, there’s more time to get into the characters and their lives, their dreams, their motivations. There’s time to explore things about the world you just don’t get in the short form. Both are fun and gratifying, but my true love will always be short fiction.

What does your typical “writing day” look like?

I don’t really have one. I write whenever I have downtime: on lunch, on a break, after the kids are asleep, before anyone else gets up, while waiting for my turn at the Secretary of State, in the doctor’s office. I’m either reading a book or writing something whenever I have a spare moment.

Wait, what? What are you doing at the Secretary of State’s office?  Hey, maybe you’re so good at short fiction because you’re so short on time!

What are you currently reading?

A novel by Brian Aldiss, a collection of Isaac Babel stories, and a collection of [author redacted] stories for a publisher (as an editor).

Other than this spectacular anthology, do you have any upcoming releases you’d like to tell us about?

My co-written, debut novel, HEADCASE, will be released late spring/early summer (in installments) from LVP Productions. Once the serials are all out, it will be released as a boxed set, and a limited edition, signed hardcover. This book has been in the works for a few years now, and we (Kerry Lipp, my collaborator, and I) are very excited to see it finally realized.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Be patient. This is a long game. You may not have anything see print for a long time. You will get rejections (I’ve had hundreds). You will wait to hear from publishers. Things take time. While you wait, work on the next thing. Also, be nice. Publishers and editors all know one another. If you’re nice, you may not be remembered, but if you’re a jerk, you will be. And they’ll make sure everyone else knows about it, too.

Where can readers learn more about you and your works?

Website:  http://ken-macgregor.com

Twitter: @kenmacgregor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KenMacGregorAuthor?ref=hl

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/macgregorken/

Check out My Interviews for more opening paragraphs from great Running Wild Press authors like Ken MacGregor.

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Running Wild Press Anthology of Stories Volume 2 – Gary Zenker

Gary Zenker

Running Wild Press

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be featuring authors from Running Wild Press’s Anthology of Stories, Volume 2. Today, I’d like to welcome Gary Zenker, author of Stolen Memories.

Gary Zenker

Here’s the opening of his story, which sets the tone perfectly:

That smell! It’s obvious that Little Johnny’s diaper is full and needs changing. I don’t see him but he’s in the room somewhere, that much I know. I start to yell for him and my wife but my voice comes out more as a harsh bark.

How long have I had this cold affecting my voice? A week? Two weeks? I can’t really remember. Maybe it was when I gave Little Johnny my keys to play with. Kids that age are walking …crap, what is the word for it? You know, that thing in a lab where they grow all the germs on purpose. It’ll come back to me.

Yes! Kids are little germ factories! If you’d like to read the rest of Stolen Memories by Gary Zenker, download Running Wild’s Anthology of Stories, Volume 2

Gary, what inspired you to write Stolen Memories?

That would spoil the story, so let me say it is a situation many of us have been exposed to, especially once we are at an age where have grown children. I was thinking what it must be like to be on the other side of where we normally are, and started writing in a way I haven’t before, so it was a bit experimental for me. I guess it worked out okay since it was accepted for the anthology.

Your “experiment” sounds fascinating. What would you like readers to take away from Stolen Memories?

Someone’s perspective that isn’t their own.

How long have you been writing?

Since college, so that means…a while ago. I had an irregular fiction column in the school newspaper “The College Reporter” and was editor and co-conspirator of the College humor magazine “Hullabaloo,” for which I write about a third of the content. After college, I had a regular column in a couple of local weekly newspaper, then took a 15 year break from writing fiction, until I found my writing voice again about seven years ago.

Do you write full-time?

I write full time but not fiction. I write and re-write business content, including web sites, ad copy, brochures, speeches, scripts etc etc. Flash non-fiction with a specific purpose.

Do you only write short fiction?

Thus far, mostly short fiction. Short fiction is not necessarily, as many people or publications would have you believe, bite size lit fiction. It is storytelling in a much narrower confine of space. In the same number of words others are just painting their scene, you have to create a scenario people understand, characters people can empathize with or hate, introduce a worthwhile conflict and come to some sort of resolution – even if it isn’t a final resolution. That requires knowing where to leave holes and leave out detail that is unimportant to the story, that the reader can fill in for him or herself. I like the challenge of trying to fit it all in as few words as possible, so that the story is fairly complete in its brevity.

It does boil down to extreme efficiency, doesn’t it? I’ll admit, we novelists find that challenging at times.

What does Gary Zenker’s typical “writing day” look like?

I wake up wondering whether I will ever have another idea for a story and where it will come from. Later, I am in the middle of driving and an idea hits me so I grab a pen and pad and start jotting notes while involuntarily and without warning start driving in multiple lanes. After a couple of honks from nearby drivers, I pull off to the side of the road and try to finish my thoughts on paper. Or I start speaking into the voice recognition module of the phone and watch it record something not-so-close to what I am actually saying. I get home and run to the computer where I type it all in and play with it, skipping from the end to the beginning to the middle, whatever piece of it I have an idea that I want to get down. Then I check through my mail and read all the rejections I have received and wonder whether I shouldn’t be an accountant like my father was, and avoid words as much as possible. Later, I’m drawn back to the piece and I do some polishing. I do more polishing and ready it for critique at my writers groups. Next day, repeat.

Ha! Your days sound much like mine. I even tried handheld dictation, but I hate the sound of my own voice, so that didn’t last long.

What are you currently reading?

Mostly the other work from the anthology in which I am featured, or short stories and novels from other writers in the two writers groups I run.

Other than this spectacular anthology, do you have any recent or upcoming releases you’d like to tell us about?

I have a podcast I am getting ready to launch, 999 Words Or Less, that features a story from different authors and then a 15-20 minute interview, talking about their inspirations, ideas or whatever comes up.  www.999WordsOrLess.com.

I’m definitely going to check that out. Sounds like the kind of thing that would be good to listen to while on the treadmill, etc.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Surround yourself with good writers who understand how to help you improve your work without forcing their own thumbprints on it. Understand that not all critique is worth following, even if it is well-meaning.

Very true. I always tell my partners, “Take what you can use, and discard the rest.”

Where can readers learn more about you and your work?

www.GaryZenkerStoryteller.com – web site featuring my fiction work

www.youtube.com/results?search_query=gary+zenker – My YouTube Channel with readings

www.writersbloxx.com – Part party game, part writers tool, all fun.

Here is the other stuff you may want to know:

Gary runs two writers groups:

  • The Main Line Writers Group meets the third Monday of the Month at Peppers Restaurant in King of Prussia PA, 7 pm
  • The Wilmington-Chadds Ford Writers Group meets the second Monday of the month at McKenzies Brew Pub in Glen Mills PA 7 pm

Gary’s groups often sponsor public events. Upcoming events include:

  • Noir at a Bar West Chester, Monday April 30, 2018 7 pm – 12 local author read stories of suspense, crime and maybe a bit of murder. Free admission. More info MainLineWritersGroup@gmail.com
  • Noir at a Bar Oxford Saturday June 14, 2018 7 pm – a benefit for the Oxford Public Library. Theme – Killing Carey Bresler (Library Director).  More info MainLineWritersGroup@gmail.com

Thanks so much for being here, Gary.

Check out My Interviews for more opening paragraphs from great Running Wild Press authors like Ken MacGregor.

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“Justice” – A Short Story by Julie Doherty

Running Wild Press

Running Wild Press

Someone once called my books “romance with teeth.” Man, I love that. Love isn’t always pretty, is it? In fact, sometimes, it’s downright shitty. It can hurt like a gut stab and take much longer to heal. Most of my readers know by now to open my novels with one eye closed. They expect a bumpy ride. Most of them love it. (Except you, “Utter shite, but I still cried at the end.”)


God bless every one of you for hanging on long enough to get that happily ever after you crave. By golly, you left nail marks on the book cover, but you did it!

I decided recently to embrace the dark side of my writerly self that sneaks into my romances. I wrote a dark and disturbing short story called “Justice.” Just for kicks, I submitted it to Running Wild Press. Imagine my surprise when the editor emailed to say she loved it!

I’ll give you the opening to set the tone:

Johnny Sinclair says God don’t answer no prayers. I’m gonna say one anyway.

Please, God, don’t let Mama hear my belly. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I cross my arms and lean forward in the passenger seat of our 1987 Coachman Classic motorhome. My stomach rumbles, but Mama don’t notice, and that’s a miracle. I can’t wait to tell Johnny how God just saved me from a bloody mouth. Johnny will say Mama never notices me anyhow, but that’s a daggum lie. When I do something wrong, she notices me plenty.

Beginning to get a sense that our  main character doesn’t have the best life? Know who does have a good life? The show dogs in the back of the motorhome:

Vice—or, as Mama makes me call him, Champion Maple Grove Miami Vice—ain’t hungry. He ain’t sunburned or bit up by mosquitoes, and he didn’t sleep three straight nights in a passenger seat, neither. No, he’s lying on a tufted polyfiber cushion covered in ultra-soft polyester fleece. He smells like baby powder, and his belly is chock full of my dang hot dogs.

Hmm, interesting.

I shouldn’t complain, I guess. Staying home with Tom would have been worse. Far worse.

Why? What’s so bad about staying home with Tom, the kennel help?


Find out by downloading Running Wild’s Anthology of Stories, Volume 2 . “Justice” is only one of 20+ awesome short stories sure to tug at your emotions and make your imagination run wild.

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FLAD: The Not-So-New Disorder Afflicting Writers


Well, I have it. Finish Line Adjustment Disorder, or FLAD, if you will. With four novels under my belt, I now recognize the early stages of the disorder. It starts the moment I see THE END looming and leads to a general inability to focus on anything having to do with real life. I become a stranger to my family, my coworkers, and my community. Dinner? Clean clothes? Meetings? Housecleaning? Pfft. How am I supposed to do all that and recover my loved ones from that Delaware devil, Captain Jacobs?

While most of the FLAD-afflicted grapple with extreme obsession, some poor bastards face unrelenting avoidance. In stark contrast to the preoccupied, these dodgers live in immaculate houses and drive shiny cars. Their cups line up in spotless cupboards beside alphabetized tins. They launder clothes on the hour, then clean the dryer’s vent holes with Q-tips. They volunteer for every activity at school, church, and work. They take two-hour naps, Tweet, and complain on Facebook about not having time to write. In short, the writers with this form of FLAD will do anything to get out of finishing their novels.

Because FLAD presents itself in several ways, an inordinately high percentage of writers are simply misdiagnosed as addle-brained, OCD, lazy, or clean freaks, leading to ineffective (but tasty) self-medication with booze and chocolate.


An afflicted writer basks in the sun.

Though we are light-years away from a cure, studies prove that finishing a novel can afford a period of peace and a return to clean underpants. Unfortunately, for the seriously afflicted, reinfection by way of a new idea often occurs within minutes of typing THE END.

I have about 5,000 words to go. Send rum. And those little truffle things with the hazelnuts inside.

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Halloween Pranks That Would (and Should) Get You Arrested Today

Halloween PranksHalloween was a big deal in my childhood home, not so much because it meant candy—which we appreciated, of course—but because it meant Halloween pranks–tricks played on neighbors without getting into serious trouble with our parents. We’re not talking about hiding behind a door and shouting, “Boo!” here, either. We’re talking about stuff that would (and should) get you arrested today.

One of our favorite Halloween pranks involved hiding in a cornfield at night and throwing dry kernels of corn at passing cars. “Corning,” we called it. It worked best when launched from an outcrop jutting out over the pavement. An ambush spot like that meant little chance of drivers giving chase. There were occasions when we had no choice but to run—fast—and that was the best fun of all. We stumbled over cornstalks and smacked into trees. We didn’t have to win the race back to the rendezvous point. We just had to be faster than the other guy.

Occasionally, a prank victim slammed on the brakes and fired up a spotlight. This sent us scrambling like escaping jailbirds. Only once was there a threat of a gun. That was made by my dad, actually, when we found ourselves the victims of corning. There was no gun in the car, of course, but when Dad yelled, “Annie, hand me the gun,” it sure made those kids in the cornfield run like hell.

We made “dummies” by stuffing some of Dad’s old clothes with straw or leaves. These were tied to ropes and dragged across the road at night, thereby making drivers think they were about to hit someone. Yes, we did that! And so did every other kid for twenty-five miles.

I won’t even mention the soaping of windows–or waxing, if we hated you. Or, the roadside purses filled with dog shit.

Things were different then. People drove around our rural back roads expecting—dare I say even hoping?—for this sort of thing around Halloween. It was fun. Sport. Really, we shouldn’t have done it. I know that now. It was dangerous. Someone could have been hurt or killed. They weren’t, but they could have been.

Of course, I have to put up the disclaimer that none of these activities are recommended, even though it’s unlikely that children today could put their phones down long enough to make a dummy or stake out a cornfield… So, here’s my disclaimer: DON’T DO ANY OF THIS STUFF. It’s not only dangerous, but illegal. Roads are busier now, and cars are faster. You could kill someone, and nobody—NOBODY—wants that.



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