Don’t Look for the Dollar Signs, Just Write

Tell your story before you worry about padding your bank account.

I’ve heard it more than once that everyone is seeking those dollar signs and are ready and willing to do what they want to make sure that their account grows along with their acclaim. I might be a sucker, I might be a fool, but one thing I know I’m not is a sellout, since I’ll tell my story in the hopes that people will enjoy it, and that it will inspire others to do something great. I’m not an idealist, and I’m not foolish enough to think that living without pay and writing without wanting to become known is the ultimate goal. But if all you’re writing for is the money you might as well own up to it and make it known that your stories are little more than minor variations on a mold that was made a long time ago. Be fair to yourself and your readers and be original.

Money is important, there’s no doubt.

It’s important to make money to survive, there’s no doubt of that, especially since people need to pay their bills, they need to eat, they need to support their family and so on. But if money is the only drive you have when it comes to writing then there’s something missing. People might scoff at the idea that passion is that important, but one has to remember that people who read your material, if they’re in need of a great story, will know when someone is dialing it in versus when they dig deep deep and seek to tell a story that will last. Passion is what separates the great stories from those are trying to make a few bucks.

I know, people who make the big bucks and those who support them are going to counter with the idea that if one makes the money, then there’s no reason to keep up that type of passion, especially the type that can wear a person out. That’s kind of like riding a wave with the idea that it’s going to last forever, without seeing that rocky shore come closer and closer. Passion doesn’t keep you off the rocks, but it sure as hell teaches you how to dodge, evade, and navigate a landscape that’s ready and willing to tear apart any writer that doesn’t know how to handle the pitfalls that come with writing.

Here endeth the sermon…for now.

You want to write? You want to make money? Then reach down deep and find the passion you need to make it happen. Change as you feel the need, not just when people tell you to. Adjust, evolve, adapt, and keep the passion that brought you to this game. The moment you search for dollar signs is the moment that you lose sight of what it is you’re all about. Your writing is meant to show your state of mind and how you want to speak to the people. Accept the money if it comes, use it to your advantage, but my advice is to keep that passion for as long as it lasts. The money will come if it’s meant to, and if you learn how to make flow.

Write, just write, and let the money come if it will.


How Do You Get Started Writing?

A lot of people fail before they ever get started because they get in their own way.

This is bound to be a short article mostly because, well, getting started with a story is something that requires a lot of effort, but only a single step. You’ve likely heard that before, right? There are entire textbooks dedicated to the idea of writing, what it takes, and what it requires to help a story move forward. So I won’t take up a lot of your time, but I will say that starting a story is just about as tough as finishing one. The rest is just figuring out the details.

Keep it simple, don’t complicate things from the start.

A story is going to get complicated one way or another since the moving elements that make it work will eventually collide and create a bit of chaos that can spiral into utter madness very quickly. There’s no need to get into the mental thicket that quickly, especially since moving into it slowly and surely, while following an outline, will help to keep things sorted in some manner. There are a couple of ways to avoid getting bogged down that quickly, such as:

  1. Brainstorming: This is one of the most basic methods you can use to create and refine an idea to be used at various points throughout the process. In fact, this is one of the best ways to get an idea rolling since it connects the various pieces of the idea that might come at different moments.
  2. Outline: I know I’ve worked with plenty of outlines and they do help if your thoughts tend to scatter. Keeping things neat and tidy does help to keep the story rolling forward in a manner that avoids the habit of rambling on and on. It’s not perfect, but it’s a nice point of reference to have at hand.
  3. Notes: This is reliable, but not nearly as much since notes can be lost, shuffled, or mixed up in various ways. From napkins to notebooks, notes are a very rough way to when it comes to piecing a story together.

How you go about putting your story together is up to you. But going freestyle isn’t a great way to do it, I’ll say that to each ear that’s willing to bend to listen.

Take the first step, then take another.

In other words, start out with the first sentence, then write the next, and then find your way through the first paragraph. Once you’re past that hurdle you’ll find that it gets a little easier with each sentence that comes after. You’ll no doubt need help as you progress, but that’s what sites like this are for. The help you need is the help you’ll eventually want.

Just don’t be shy about asking for help, take my word on that.


Writers Write…Let Them

A writer’s opinion is just as versatile as anyone’s, and more so in some cases.

A writer is there to write, not for you to criticize their mindset, or to say ‘you wouldn’t understand’. Writers are there to be open, to eliminate the barriers to one line of thought or another, and to bring one story or another to life. Sure, there are writers who will refuse to see one line of thought or another, we’re human after all, but assuming that a writer won’t be able to change their mindset or widen it to encompass different lifestyles and what they mean to people is akin to someone saying that ‘you’re this gender/race, you wouldn’t be able to understand’. Without the needed information, of course we won’t. But is it possible for a writer to learn? I did note that we’re human, so yes, of course, we’re definitely able to learn, to take direction, and respect the lifestyles of others.

Seriously, we can write about anything if we’re given the chance. You don’t want your life to be misrepresented? Then let a writer know what you’re all about, or write your story on your own.

Writers aren’t bound by opinion.

It doesn’t matter who a writer votes for if they’re open-minded, or what they feel is right. A good writer can open their mind to other venues of thought, perhaps not to agree, but at least to understand and comprehend. A great writer can write anything, no matter the point of view. Some might call this being shiftless, faithless, and without any true moral center.

Those that say such things aren’t quite as open-minded as they think.

A personal anecdote.

Not long ago I responded to a Craigslist ad for an individual that needed a screenwriter for an animated series. While the individual explained that he was an LGBTQUIA+ ally, and that he was firmly set against Donald Trump (not sure why that mattered since this is 2022, not 2020), and needed someone that could understand the mindset of a transgender individual as well as the LGBT community. In other words, this individual wanted someone that could think the way they wanted them to, and could adhere to what they wanted to see. In all honesty, wanting someone that can tell the story you want isn’t a bad thing.

But upon admitting that I didn’t care for President Biden, and did in fact vote for Trump, the pause in their voice became a little too obvious. Did I vote for Trump? Yes, I did. Do I like him? Not really, but it felt that he was the lesser of two evils at the time, much as he was when he ran against Hilary Clinton. But to be fair, I don’t care about this, because it doesn’t define my mindset. I don’t care about gender, about race, about skin color, or political affiliation. I’m here to tell a story, that’s my purpose and my goal. I’m a writer, a teller of tales, and someone that sees human beings, no matter how they identify, as human beings.

Quite honestly, the idea of rejecting a writer’s service based on who they voted for is a bit ridiculous. We writers are here to tell a tale, to continue the truths and fictions of our species, no matter how we need to think or believe in order to get the stories out where people can see them. Those that are hung up on finding someone that thinks as they do without seeking to help others understand their values and way of life are, sadly, those who have convinced themselves that inclusion is what they say it is, rather than the idea of sharing what makes us unique.

We are writers, and while belief is important, it is also fluid and versatile enough to accept more than one set of ideas.


The Ode

Ode to the Writer

By Tom Foster


We are the lords and ladies of creation, yet we are still just players.
In the beginning we are as in the end.
We do not aspire, we simply do.
There is the dream, tempered by the reality, and given form by the thought.
By our thought, by our dreams, and by the reality we impose.
It’s a madness of the sort that only poets and writers can truly understand, and even among those only a few can comprehend.
Comprehension, that is a truly frightening thing.
We play with words, we are those that can immortalize, and those that can do what must be said and say what must be done.
It is confusion, this comprehension, and in the midst of it all, it is the single word that carries power, the one among all that is ever elusive, ever there, always waiting for us to return to, to remind us what it is that drives us, what keeps the fountain flowing.
Every last soul that has ever put ink to paper, ever put finger to key, every vague idea that swirls inward from the maelstrom we call the world, the universe, and everything in between and without.
For everything that could come, for everything that has and will come, we are there. We are the ones that do not deny the voice that tells us, “this must come to pass”, or “this must be remembered”.
It is who we are, what we do, and through everything, it is the lifeblood of those who cherish this timeless art form, this undeniable urge to say, in their own manner, “I AM”.
We are not gods, we create, and yet in the process, we are created. It is our words, penned and copied throughout the ages that have helped to shape the world, to say that, “WE ARE”, that “WE EXIST”.
Whether tyrant or savior, good or evil, saint or sinner, the words that are put to time’s test are those that will come to define the world we know. Memory is not enough, though it serves.
As do we.
We are the lords of creation, the ones whose words will last and echo into the ages, for all to see, and all to remember.
Is it truth?
The better question is: Does it matter?
We are the lords and ladies of creation, and by our words, the world we know is shaped, molded, and given to the next generation, and so on and so forth until the whole mess ends, only to be rebuilt, and to crumble again.
We are the lords and ladies of Creation, and this is our legacy.


Be Grateful

Be grateful.

That’s all I can impart to people of this world, or this dimension, or whatever. I come from a place that’s identical to this one, but with a few differences. You’re allowed to use violence in that place I come from, but to a degree, and not without good reason. If you can document your reason on your cell phone, then you’re in the clear. You get that? You can slap a Kevin or a Karen in the face in broad daylight if you’re found to be in the right, and nothing will happen.

Somehow though, we still have both Karens and Kens, or Chads, or whatever the hell a person wants to call them. In my world though, the Karens and Kens are a lot tougher, and they hit back if they feel they’re in the right. A lot of times they’re not, but it’s as though being stubborn and born to be aggressive with their views is something they can’t escape. It’s almost like a curse.

If a person is accused of being a Karen or a Ken it becomes obvious if they are or aren’t very quickly. For one thing, the real troublemakers don’t back off, they double down on their rhetoric and go even harder. Here, in this world, I’ve seen Karens back off without any reason to do so. It’s not because they realize they’re in the wrong though. It’s the fear of what’s going to happen if they get physical. People in this world don’t want to run afoul of the cops. Even if a Karen gets in your face here, like one did to me, you can’t slap them or punch them for what they’re saying.

I don’t know whether to think that my world is better or worse for this. But our Karens and Kens know better than to think that we won’t try to shut them up for being mean and nasty. Here, people get away with it all the time since apparently you can say whatever you want, so long as you don’t get physical. It’s kind of nice in a way, you don’t have to worry as much about a Karen coming back to beat your door down or take things even further. In my world, Karens often get arrested because they want payback for being beaten. It makes sense, but if things escalate to a certain point, the cops will finally step in.

For instance, if you pick up a weapon and strike a Karen in my world, it’s a misdemeanor so long as you can prove that the Karen started the argument. Here, it’s assault and punished with time in jail, or even prison. Picking up a gun in my world is a bad idea, since it comes with jail time. But here, even if it isn’t that different, you’re liable to get shot in return, and you might even get life in prison. In my world you might get a little jail time and pay a heavy fine.

So, like I said, be grateful you don’t live in my world, especially if you’re a Karen or a Ken. You’d get your ass beat the first time you decided to do anything but mind your own business.

What? How did I get here? Well hell, I don’t know. If I did I wouldn’t waste the breath telling you to be grateful. Pssh, stupid.

You Will Listen

Vader, WA

            He wasn’t moving. The tornado had no such qualms as it continued forward. Still, a mile off, it was racing toward him with the onrushing speed of an enraged animal. It howled as it collected great clods of earth, young trees that had not rooted, and other detritus that was added to its bulk. The screaming that could be heard as its many elements collided was devastating.

            He was not moving.

            The winds that preceded the storm blew all around him away as the individual stood his ground. He was rooted to the earth, and he was not moving.

            His gaze traveled upward as the looming column of earth, vegetation, steel, and other materials that had gathered moved closer. Its rough, grating voice became a screech as metal scraped against metal, only to change in pitch and tone as earth met steel, and the rasping whisper of vegetation was quickly lost in the incessant howl that emanated from the core.

            The individual did not back down.

            Common sense stated that he should have been running for his life. He should have evacuated with the rest of the nearby town of Vader. In fact, he should have been miles away at this point. This was a class F5 tornado, a twister that didn’t belong in this part of the world. There wasn’t enough moisture, and there were too many mountains, and this made for an area inhospitable to such storms. That was why he was here. This storm wasn’t natural, nor did it belong in this neck of the woods, so to speak.

            He could hear the voice within the furious winds. It reached out to him with a whispered threat he’d heard before. It was not natural, and not of this world.

            But he didn’t back down.

            It threatened, cajoled, and promised that he would be swept away like so much chaff. As it thundered upon the ground, eating up the distance between them, the figure felt the mounting pressure of the tornado. It promised him nothing but pain, a death by pummeling, stabbing, thrashing, and shredding.

            He didn’t move.

            The furious spirit within the storm grew closer, closer, and even closer as he stood his ground. Its roar grew even louder as the guiding spirit glared down upon the man, threatening with every other syllable.

            His only response was a smile.

            The furiously churning funnel of the tornado blotted out the landscape and sky as it grew closer. He didn’t move. He didn’t speak. As it grew even closer, he kept his place, and finally reached forward with his right hand. There was no surprise on his face as he felt the storm tremble, and stop.

            “You will listen, to me.”

Tell the Story, Don’t Force It

The woke revolution wants its own story told at the expense of many others.

Tell the story, don’t force it. Forcing an idea is the same as seeking to control the hearts and minds of the target audience. Many people in the entertainment industry are bound to make it as clear as they can that they’re not out to influence people. Instead, they’re out to entertain the audience and tell a great story. Unfortunately, that message gets lost when the various ideologies that directors and writers possess come out in their stories.

Much like anyone else, I enjoy a good movie or a TV show. But not at the expense of the story. A good story tells a tale that people enjoy. What it doesn’t try to do is push an agenda of some sort. There are a few elements that make it obvious that a movie or TV show is being used as a platform for an idea.

Every story deserves to be told

There’s nothing to say that any story should remain untold. By this measure, woke stories are perfectly okay and should be allowed. Here’s the problem though. Woke stories are often extremely lopsided while claiming to be equal in all ways. In other words, making one type of individual look ridiculous or extremely negative in one way or another is considered to be okay. But when a story is told at the expense of the actual entertainment, people tend to notice.

Well, some folks notice. Others do their best to s hut their eyes to the inequality they’re building while preaching about equality. Yeah, you read that correctly.

Woke stories feel way too forced

When the point needs to be made that a woman, a minority, or ANYONE that is considered to be ‘oppressed’ is in charge of the story, then it’s a loss. Let’s set the record straight, women CAN be a lead character. Minorities CAN and HAVE made movies and TV great. But they’re not alone, and their success didn’t come from a vacuum. Like it or not, a good story is a product of everyone and everything that goes into making it. Unfortunately for the woke revolutionaries, the same can be said of a failure.

There’s no secret to telling a great story. Tell the story, don’t force ideologies onto it. Let the story run free, don’t feel the need to inject anything that doesn’t feel natural. Just write, and let the story tell itself as it will.

What It Means to be A Freelance Writer

There are a lot of things to be said about being a freelancer.

If you’ve worked online then you’ve probably heard the term ‘freelance writer’. It’s pretty common at this point. There are a lot of ads out there trying to entice people to work for one company or another. The thing about being freelancer is that you don’t belong to any single company. You aren’t beholden to anyone unless you want to be. There is your reputation to consider, since as a freelancer this is one of the main tools that will help you to become known to various sources and employers. If you don’t have a stable to great reputation, then you might not be able to drum up that much business.

You’re not connected, but that’s a good and bad thing

As a freelancer, there are a lot of resources at your disposal and you’re not going to upset anyone by looking to one competitor or another for work. But you’re not typically connected to one employer. The downside of this is that you typically won’t have the same benefits. A company isn’t going to give you benefits if you’re taking on various jobs for other competitors.

So to be blunt, you’re not an employee, you’re a temp that can be used as needed. In this manner it’s tough to get into freelancing since you have to work even harder to gain any loyalty. This does open up your options though. You can take on work from anyone who wants to use your services. But at the same time, there is the general idea that they can ditch you any time they want.

There are ways to ensure your success

I won’t go into every single point you need. The success you want is based around how much work you’re willing to do. But if you want a single bit of advice that will help, if you’re planning on going this route, it’s this:

Keep every bit of documentation. It doesn’t matter if it’s a simple agreement written up between you and the client, or a verbal agreement that’s recorded. Protect yourself and your interests by making sure you document every job. Otherwise, match up with jobs you feel will get you paid. Work outside your comfort zone when you can, and definitely build your own reputation. There will be a few more articles to come on freelancing, but for now, just take this last bit of advice.

Have fun with freelancing, and whatever you do, just keep moving forward.


by Tom Foster

“I am courage.”

            “I am dependable.”

            “I am responsive.”

            “I am loyal.”

            “I am exuberant.”

            “I conscientiously analyze.”

            “I balance with charm.”

            “I desire an ideal.”

            “I see optimistically.”

            “I use to be steadfast.”

            “I know of friendliness.”

            “I believe in compassion.”

            “This meeting will now come to order.  Ladies and gentlemen of the assembled Zodiac please assume your rightful seats.”  With an imperious gesture, the figure beckoned to those twelve who had each entered the room upon speaking their key phrases.  The room in which the figure stood was quite plain, composed of granite walls painted over in various colors, from a deep and passionate red to a gentle aquamarine.  A swatch of color had been painted to denote the color that was known to correspond to each sign, each of them easily five feet across and reaching up to the ceiling twenty feet above. 

            Ten feet from the wall, in front of each color, a chair sat facing inward towards the raised platform the figure now stood upon.  Each seat was carved from a solid piece of teak and fashioned in the sign for the one that would sit therein.  From the first seat, that of the Ram, to the last, that of Pisces, each chair was carved to resemble the creature or personage each sign was known by.  Great curving horns adorned the top of the Ram’s seat, while the horns of a massive bull had been carved upon the armrests of the second.  Twin sculptures rode the sides of the third chair, Gemini’s trademark, while the armrests of the fourth chair were carved in the shape of a crabs claws. 

            Hidden by the feminine form that sat in the chair of Leo was the fierce visage of one of nature’s supposedly most noble creatures, the mighty lion.  The back of the chair around the face had been carefully rendered into a flowing mane, the artistry so detailed that it was easy to believe that at any moment it might leap from the chair and attack.  The back of Virgo’s chair was etched deeply with the likeness of a woman that could only be described as heavenly, her face at peace as she cradled a staff and a handful of delicate flowers to her bosom.  As with Virgo, Libra’s symbol, that of the scales, was carved upon the back of the chair, deeply etched with one side just barely higher than the other.

            Scorpio’s chair was unique like the others in that it appeared to be no less than a very large, two-tailed scorpion, its bulbous stingers raised in attack position as they curled over the head of the one that sat upon it.  A leaping centaur graced the back of Sagittarius’s chair, while the feet had been designed in the form of hooves.  Horns that curved backward, much like a goat, denoted Capricorn’s chair, while upon the back of Aquarius’s chair was a scantily clad woman gently stroking the feathers of a great bird, perhaps a heron.  Rounding out the group was Pisces, whose chair was verily covered with the images of fish swimming all about, their bodies so finely rendered that they might soon swim from the surface of the chair and seek refuge elsewhere.

            As each person took their seat the figure standing upon the platform appraised them all in turn, enjoying the absolute authority she had over them.  With her cowl and bulky robe none of them would truly know who or even what sex she was.  Her voice was being carefully modulated by a specialized mouthpiece she wore over the lower half of her face, allowing her to remain completely anonymous.  As for the robed and hooded figures that now sat in a half circle before her, she could easily tell the men from the women.  After all, she had selected each of them many years ago.

            Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius, and Aquarius were all masculine while Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn, and Pisces were the feminine aspect of the Zodiac.  They were placed from left to right beginning with Aries, each individual facing from their seat towards the Speaker, who commanded the most respect of any in the room.  Standing a good five feet above them all, she could see by observing their supposedly calm demeanors that at least a quarter of them was nervous.  The subtle tics and shakings of their garments betrayed their emotions.  A slow smile spread along her face, hidden by the voice modulator.

            “Dark times have come to our doorsteps my gentlemen and ladies, thus have I called you to hear this night to discuss such.  We stand on the precipice to a new age, an age in which those of us and others who are like-minded must decide on how best to control what will be left from the ashes.” 

            No one spoke, as they hadn’t been given leave yet.  She enjoyed this type of power, it was intoxicating in a way, but also liberating.  So long had she been a pawn in the earliest stages of her life that the absolute and total control over others was a balm to those sensibilities that she had felt were abused and taken for granted by those who had looked down upon her for so long. She would show them all what she had become one day when she and her brood were the last ones standing. They would see-

            Her thoughts were rudely interrupted by the sudden wash of light that came from above, forcing everyone around her to wince as they too were taken by surprise. The magic, if one could call it that, was broken at that moment however, and as she looked in irritation to the portal leading into the realm she was forced to call home, she saw the heavyset and gray-haired form of her sire, holding out a vaguely U-shaped communication device as he refrained from stepping into the lair.

            “Tandy I just got a call from the superintendent of your school.  You and I need to have a talk young lady.”

            She closed her eyes in frustration, pressing her lips tightly together as she looked around. Her sire, her father, looked around as well, his eyebrows rising in expectation as he gave them all the same look.

            “In case you were wondering o’ mysteriously hooded strangers, that means out.  Your leader and I need to have a chat.”

            Murmurs and words of assent reached her ears as Tandy watched her friends, who’d known each other right away of course, get up from their chairs and go shuffling out. Many of them removed their hoods before passing by her father, who nodded at some of them and just shook his head at others. He didn’t approve of all of them, but more often than not minded his own business when they were over.  She could only imagine why he had picked this time to step into her personal life.  With the look, he gave her at that moment as the last friend exited she did not doubt that she was about to find out.

                                                *                      *                      *

            After another hour had passed and her ears had already finished burning from the scathing lecture she was back in the garage, sitting on the single step as she looked out upon the gathering room.  Most times she could just close her eyes and pretend that the scene in front of her was as it should be, with the vibrant colors and magnificent carvings and the grandeur that it was worthy of.  She wished for that every day instead of the shabby, knockoff appearance she’d worked so hard to make seem authentic.

            She’d started the Zodiac council as a joke to start with. Its beginnings had been simple and taken place within the confines of a storage room in their high school with the permission of the principal. At first, it had just been a chance for the bunch of them to get together and bullshit about their day, but after a while, they’d wanted another reason to get together beyond hanging out. A social club could be anything really, from the nerds who enjoyed debating about fantasy novels and television shows to the jocks who often made their way down to the weight room or the local stores where they hung out to talk about their interests. Among their number, they had a few of everyone from the hierarchy that so typically ran a school, yet none of them had ever felt the need to judge each other.

            They were friends, best buddies, and more than that they’d been together for so long it was hard to imagine being apart. In another couple of years, at least a few of them would be gone, off to college and a new life outside of their small town.  But for now, they still had each other and were loathe to let each other go. Attempts to get them to break ties with one another had begun once junior high had hit and several of them had started developing new friendships with others.  That hadn’t stopped them from getting together though.  But still, they’d eventually needed something else to do besides just hanging out. 

            The Zodiac council had been her idea, as she was the eminent nerd/popular/jock in the group. Among them all, she was one of a kind, and the others knew this. That was why they had come to her with the request that she find something to keep them interested. It wasn’t that they would go on and forget about each other, but they wanted variety in their friendship now, and she could understand that.  She’d been wanting a bit of a change as well, and she had found it in the Zodiac.

            Her interest in astrology, which many thought of as a pseudo-science, had always been fairly strong, and with her minor background in astronomy that she’d coddled since the sixth grade she’d come up with a fantastic idea.  At first, the Zodiac plan had been a little hard to weather for several of her friends, but after about the second meeting, the lot of them had gotten into it and had even started to make suggestions on how to make it better. From that point, ideas had been accepted, evaluated, and either respectively dropped or integrated into the main idea, and the Zodiac council had begun.

            To date, they’d kept it going for nearly two years, and in all likelihood, they would keep it going until one or more of their members left.  The fantasy of it was something that they all enjoyed, but it had never gotten so crazy that they forgot the real world they had to go back to. Sometimes though, she wished she could.

                                                *                      *                      *

            “I’m sorry I embarrassed you in front of your friend’s sweets,” her father said as she stepped back into the house, “But missing school is a serious issue and makes us both look bad.”

            She knew he was right, and that he had a valid point, but her feelings were still slightly hurt.  He’d gone after her like a bull chasing a red flag when her friends had finally left. At least he’d had the decency to give her that much before lighting her up with his latest lecture.

            “I know dad,” she replied. Deep down she knew he meant well and that he cared, but it seemed to be an unspoken rule that no teen would ever dare show their parents that they understood how much they cared. 

            Slipping on a light jacket she made for the front door, her hand closing around the knob as her father spoke again.

            “Where are you going?”

            “I just wanted to take a walk is all. Maybe down to the corner store and back.” The corner store was a good mile away, her father knew this, but she also knew that they lived in a relatively safe neighborhood. 

            “You’re sure you’re okay?” he asked, becoming the doting father once more, the guy she loved dearly and always wanted to appease. She didn’t have a bad life at home, but sometimes she wished for a little more.

            She nodded, “Yeah, I’m okay.  I just wanted to take a walk is all. I’ll be back soon.”

            “Okay,” her father said with a nod, “Just be careful out there, it’s getting dark.”

            “’ Kay dad,” she said as she slipped out the door, knowing full well that he would watch her until she was out of sight.  It was kind of irritating, but at least it meant he was a good father, and not just a yelling, swearing tyrant.  Her life was pretty good.

                                                *                      *                      *

            Forest Grove was the type of place you went to be ignored she believed.  There was plenty of community and enough to do to keep busy, but it wasn’t like other towns she’d visited during her high school years. Some towns, smaller towns, and even bigger ones had a great deal more pride in their schools, their community organizations, and even their school teams.  Forest Grove was proud, but it seemed muted sometimes, almost as though they would only come together under the worst of circumstances.

            Night had fallen as she’d stepped out into the open air, and she was walking largely in shadows as she made her way towards the corner store, fully intending to do just what she’d told her father.  She had walked this way so often that she no longer feared the deep shadows that pooled around and within several of the properties that she passed. Some of them were ringed by high bushes and trees whose branches hung down like tendrils from some huge, ominous beast, but for the most part, the rest were clean-cut and kept up pretty nice. 

            One such home that hadn’t seen the touch of a gardener in a long time was the old McLowry place. The home itself was still in good condition, but its yard had long ago gone wild, and not even a notice from the city had done any good. The real reason behind this of course was that the McLowry’s hadn’t been seen for nearly a year.  While there were many theories about where they’d gone and what had happened to make them just pick up and leave, the one that seemed to persist more often than not was that they had fallen behind on their house payment, and rather than deal with the banks had just up and left. It was a simplistic and unsatisfying rumor, as well as a bit unrealistic if one had known the McLowry’s, but it was the one bit of gossip that had become the norm.

             She’d known the McLowry’s pretty well and had hung out with their three eldest boys throughout their younger years. The eldest, Eric, had always seemed kind of spacey, but he’d been a nice guy, as had his two younger brothers, Sam and Caleb. Their youngest brother Cole, who had been born only about five years ago, had been in first grade when the family had up and disappeared.  No one had ever given any thought to the rumor that foul play might have been involved, which was fortunate.  To think that anything had happened to any of them would have been horrible.

            Corrin and Leonard, the parents, had been nice people, kind of laid back and prone to being on the go all the time.  This was probably why she’d never bothered to count the McLowry boys as anything other than good neighbors instead of best friends. 

            Now as she stood looking at the empty home with its jungle-like front yard, she couldn’t imagine why she would have stopped. The wide front windows were devoid of any curtains, allowing for a very clear view of the house.   As she and anyone else could see there wasn’t anything inside, not even a rug left behind for the tile floor of the kitchen area near the back of the house.  Why had she stopped though? Usually, she gave a glance at this place and kept on walking. It held only a few better-than-average memories for her and was not a place she would have thought would evoke such melancholy.


            She was about to turn and walk away when she could have sworn she heard her name whispered from somewhere on the grounds, close enough that she should have been able to see the speaker. But all she saw were shadows, and she’d seen enough horror films to know better than to go investigate. If someone was playing a trick it was better to just keep going.

            We’re still here, Tandy.

            Now that was damned spooky.  She was about to walk forward again when she suddenly realized the view of the street had been replaced by the faded and blank view of the garage door at the end of the front drive.  Shaking her head and blinking her eyes did not change the view, or the disorientation she suddenly felt. How had she gotten here?

            Inside, Tandy.

            She blinked again and she was startled to find that she was now at the front door, which was standing wide open, the screen door propped open as she stared into the empty interior of the house.  What in the hell was happening?


            Again that sounded too close, and she had to be anywhere but in her right mind if she was getting this close to the house. This was becoming way too much like a horror movie, but she got the feeling that if she started trying to resist the result would only be the same, and that she might soon enough be put in front of something that she wouldn’t like.

            Close the door, Tandy.

            She tried to shake it off, but as before she blacked out for what felt like a second, and when she woke next she was standing in the front room, slightly closer to the hallway that would lead towards the three bedrooms that were located at its terminus.  Her throat clenched as something suddenly passed through her peripheral vision to the right, there and gone before she could even register what it had been.  Turning she thankfully found that she could move, but still she could see nothing as she looked along the front window and then to the wall that separated the living room and the garage. 

            There had been something there, and as she looked closer her breath caught as she saw something upon the wide front window.  Upon moving closer she could see it was a small handprint, like that of a child.  The faint lines and patterns of the palm print were so distinct that she could imagine that the young child that had made it might still be nearby, though such a thing was impossible.  Leaning over she noted that the handprint wasn’t fading away as it should, but instead was becoming more distinct as something else was appearing above it. 

            It took her only a moment to realize that what was appearing were the smudge-like letters that were often made by fingers when writing on the condensation that formed on the glass.

            Hi Taddy.

            Tandy wanted to back up but couldn’t, her mouth opened wide to scream even though all she could muster was a choked squeak.  Taddy had been what the young McLowry brother had called her in the past, as his minor speech impediment had not allowed him to pronounce his n’s.  She wanted out of here like now, but as she tried to turn she felt a presence looming behind her, something she could not see but could sense in a way that seemed far more visceral and oppressive held her in place.

            Do not struggle.

            The strange, almost willowy voice could not have belonged to any of the McLowrys, though as she tried to fight she felt the grip of not one but two separate individuals upon her wrists as they dragged her forcefully forward, not stopping until her palms were flat upon the glass.  She felt the sensation of flesh upon her own but could see nothing as she struggled to escape the unseen grip of her captors.  Before she could so much as shout however an equally invisible hand covered her mouth, clamping down just hard enough to stifle any sound that might emerge.

            Her heart was racing as she felt the presence loom even closer, ghostly breath seeming to tickle her neck as she suddenly had visions of rape, dismemberment, and a death so grisly she could not fully appreciate its horror.  Surely someone would come by and see what was happening?  Someone out walking late at night like she was would perhaps come by and see a young woman being forced up against a window, against her will.

            But she had conceded at this point that it was Forest Grove, and the town started closing up around 8 o’clock.  Few if any individuals would be out at this point. She was alone, and would likely not survive this.

            Be still.

            She could not, and even as the sleeves of her light sweater were pulled back she attempted to struggle, but to no avail. The force that had her wasn’t letting go, and as she felt rough hands lightly grasp her forearms she tried again to scream, to kick, to even bite, but nothing worked. She was trapped.

            You will bear these marks, the voice said, these symbols.

            Before she could wonder at the meaning of the words she felt something burning itself into her forearms, hot, aching heat that slipped past her flesh and scoured bone as she tried once again to scream.  The hands did not let go, nor did the burning sensation end as the hands now clamped around her forearms, the same hands that were burning her, slipped down slowly, initiating new points of pain only to move on again and again as her entire arms felt as though they were on fire. She wasn’t allowed to move as tears streamed down her face, her conscious mind not allowing her to pass out as should have been warranted in such a situation.

            You will serve, as you desire. The voice slipped into her ears like venom, muddying her thoughts and creating confusion as the pain continued to rise.

            Finally, the unseen hands came to rest just above her budding breasts, eliciting disgust and rage so strong within her that she bucked again, this time finding a small amount of leverage as the hand seemed to withdraw ever so slightly. Sensing that minuscule bit of freedom she attempted to break free, but the hand upon her mouth clamped harder and was suddenly added to as more hands wrapped around her waist and legs, firmly pinning her in place.

            The last marks seared into her chest, causing more tears to flow as the voice spoke to her again.

            You shall be our vessel, it said, our link to this world. Through you, we shall thrive once again.

            The burning within her arms and chest continued to simmer as she stood there, realizing only a moment later that no hands bound her, no one was holding her in place, and she could work her lips once again as the presence had departed.  Tears stained her cheeks as within she could sense another presence, something, or someone, watching from behind her eyes, a simple observer and nothing else. This should have unnerved her greatly, but as Tandy looked up to the window she saw something that truly scared the hell out of her.

            The McLowry’s were there, all of them.  The parents, and the four boys, were all visible within the window in stark detail as though they stood right behind her.  Her pain was forgotten for only a moment as she turned around, half-expecting to see them and half-expecting what she found, which was nothing.  Looking back to the window she saw nothing but the unkempt yard outside and the dark street beyond. 

            Her sleeves had been rolled down again, and the pain she could recall from only moments before was gone, as though nothing had ever happened.  Rolling them up she almost dropped to her knees as she saw the symbols etched into her flesh, each one vibrant and bearing such detail that she almost wept at the sight of them.  Her horror was swiftly replaced with awe as she sank slowly to a knee, unable to breathe as she held her arms to her body.


            This voice was real and startled her so badly that she slipped as she spun around, landing hard on her backside as the shadow behind her did not advance.  She could see from the ambient light that the stranger was male and that he appeared to be in his late teens or early twenties. But apart from that she didn’t know him. Something though, some part of her, said that she should have. 

            “Who are you?” she said shakily, fear staining her words once again as she attempted to keep her distance. The figure did not move towards her, but neither did he move away.

            She couldn’t help but feel somehow drawn to the man, no matter that she was instantly afraid of him as well.  He was good-looking, blonde, with a well-kept beard and mustache. There was a lean look to him despite his obvious and impressive musculature, a look that gave her the impression he had done and seen much in his time but had remained unbroken.  This was a man that looked as though he’d walked through hell just to see what it was like and then walked back out under his own power.  It was an odd thought to have, but one that seemed to fit.

            “No one you’d know now, but someone you or yours might come across in the future.  I have one bit of advice for this new life you’re about to embark on.”

            How did he know anything about her?  Who was this guy?  More and more questions began to pile up as the seconds passed, but she couldn’t entertain them all as she licked her lips, focusing instead on the moment and not what she would have liked, which was getting the hell out of here.

            “What do you mean?”

            The stranger turned as if to go, his ice-blue eyes raking across both Tandy and the house as though evaluating every square inch.  It was a look she did not care for as it made her feel as though her every fault was laid bare, her every lie exposed.  But then the stranger had turned all the way around, and the feeling passed. 

            “Keep one eye on the horizon, Tandy. There’s a storm coming.”

            “What do you-?”

            She was about to ask what he meant, but in that instant, the darkness took hold again and when she woke she was outside, on the road, her sleeves rolled down again.  Frustration and fear warred within her as she looked back to the McLowry house, seeing that the interior was completely dark and, as far as she could tell, empty.  She looked long enough to satisfy herself, but could not see anything other than the bare flooring and the shadows that played along the walls and ceiling. 

            Had any of it really happened?  As she rolled up her sleeves she had her answer.

            Oh yes, it had happened.

Always Busy

By Tom Foster

“You prey on the unsuspecting and the unwary.”

“I do.”

“You bring pain to everyone you touch.”

“Yes,” the woman sobbed, “so much pain.”

There was a certain kind of satisfaction that came from making the unrepentant suffer, especially after considering what they’d done. Muriel said that it was a guilty pleasure, but Raphael figured it was warranted. He should have felt bad simply because the aggressor was a woman, or so his friend Arvin believed. But women could be every bit as evil as men, they simply weren’t as aggressive that often. Women tended to be aggressive, but in a manner that was far different than men. They were deadlier, in Raphael’s opinion.

Take this woman, for instance. Her name was Anna Parkasian, and she’d been married three times, and had six children. All of them were dead, either through suspicious means that could never be connected to Anna, or in ways that were deemed as self-defense. She’d killed one husband by stabbing him in the crotch, claiming that he’d been about to beat her to death with a hammer.

The truth that had never been revealed was that she’d killed him while he had been sipping at a glass of brandy and reading one of his favorite books for the second time. What she’d done to her children was even worse.

She had paid others to harm her children, even stooping so low as to find the most deranged and troubled youths that would accept fifty dollars or less to do her bidding. One of her children, a 12-year old boy named Avery, died of massive blunt force trauma caused by the impact of a Chevrolet pickup barreling into him at roughly 45 miles per hour. If that hadn’t been enough, Avery had survived for nearly an hour after having his skull crushed by the front left truck tire, as well as the rear tire.

The high school student that Anna had paid hadn’t been able to keep quiet, claiming that Anna had paid him to do this. In all fairness, he’d been looking down the long tunnel of a long prison sentence. But Anna had been smarter that time, as she always was. There had been no proof left to show that she had in fact had anything to do with the high schooler, whose name was Tim Goulter. Tim might have been serving out a decade-long sentence for manslaughter, had he not been shanked in the prison shower less than a month into his sentence.

It would be kind to state that he’d reaped what he’d sown, but that was Anna’s doing as well. A payment to the commissary of a cousin of Anna’s that was incarcerated in the same facility had ensured that a favor would be dealt. Unfortunately, Tim had become collateral damage to be tallied up when all was said and done. One more number to add to Anna’s long list of transgressions that were now coming due.

Raphael noted the beads of sweat that were rolling down Anna’s pallid, pain-wracked features, and he smiled. They were almost done.


“Do you ever think about what we do?”

Raphael shook his head, glancing briefly at Arvin as they made their way through the ephemeral corridor that allowed them to travel from one point in the world to another. This method of passage was unknown to the people they were sent to judge. It was faster than walking, faster than flying, and in fact only one known method was quicker. But that was reserved for the one that sat above all, the one that was spoken of but never seen.

“No. Do you regret it?” Raphael asked in turn.

“No. These people escape justice. We make sure it’s delivered. The human race is faulty, they let their morality get in the way of actual justice.”

Raphael thought for a moment, then replied, “They’re afraid. They don’t want to condemn their own to a single moment of pain if they’re not certain of their guilt. Even those that are guilty are seen as worthy of respect. They’re a strange race, that’s certain.”

They walked in silence for several moments, until Arvin decided to state, “Do you think we’ll ever be judged in the same way?”

“If we are, we’ll have earned it.”

There was no more talking as they continued to make their way forward. The tunnel walls began to shimmer and grow translucent, giving way to the world they would seen rejoin.

“Will this task ever end, do you think?”

Raphael snorted, “Humans are a simple but complicated species. They’re always busy, always finding ways to build or destroy themselves. Since they’re always busy, we’ll always be busy. At least, that’s what I believe.”

Arvin had nothing to say to this. As the pair kept walking, the world bloomed into existence around them, revealing a squat, wooden shack in the middle of what looked like an old-growth forest. Raphael sighed, wondering what could have possibly brought them to this place. Like he said, they would always be busy. Humanity would make certain of that.

Whoa to The Karen’s (Parody)

It’s a bad day to Karen

Whoa to the Karen’s, or rather, woe to the Karen’s. Or maybe it’s best to say both. Congress passed a law that many are calling spontaneous and highly controversial only two days ago. The Karen Control law, as many are calling it, has to do with an issue that has been on the rise since 2017.

Historically, Karen was, at one time, a very popular name. Especially back in the 1960s. In the past six years however, the term ‘Karen’ has been affixed to an untold number of women. Some deserve this label due to their behavior, others do not. The term Karen has become synonymous with a difficult female. It has also been affixed to those with a poor attitude and a penchant for needlessly stirring up trouble where none exists.

Whoa to the Karens

The Karen epidemic

The Karen epidemic has grown increasingly difficult to manage over the years. In the latter half of 2022, Congress decided to settle this issue. The Karen Control law is simple enough, as it was created to protect those who find themselves bullied by those women who feel the need to cause trouble. It is also meant to protect the women in question, who were determined to not always be at fault. This is a tricky issue, as many have decided, but the law has been set in motion, and as of yet, there have been no obvious drawbacks.

In fact, the appearance of Karen videos on such platforms and YouTube have dropped over the past few days. Even the term Karen appears to be waning at this time, though many have stated that it started dying out not long after 2020. Some claim that this term has been normalized and therefore not given as much thought. But the effect of the Karen Control law is clear. Karen’s aren’t able to bully others any longer.

It Sounds Like a You Problem, Not a Me Problem

Taking accountability instead of blaming others for your choices is important.

Has anyone ever said to you, “This sounds like a you problem, not a me problem”? It’s not something that sounds polite right off the bat. But it is accurate in a lot of ways. People telling each other about their problems is normal. We seek help and others are willing to give it when such a thing is warranted. However, some folks love listing their issues and problems to others rather than taking accountability for the things they’ve done or said. The fact is, some folks don’t like taking responsibility. It means they have to admit they’re wrong.

It’s fair to state that no one wants to admit that they’re wrong. It doesn’t stroke your ego, and it does make a person face up to their own mistakes. There are plenty of people that don’t want to look in the mirror to admit that they made mistakes. Blaming others means that a person can’t face what they’ve done or said. Yet, somehow, this has still become common practice.

The reason this happens is kind of amusing, in a sad way.

Telling people that “It sounds like a you problem not a me problem” sounds kind of mean and dismissive, doesn’t it? Some people might even call it a microaggression. But the truth is that this is how some people tell others that the problem they’re complaining about amounts to something that they’re responsible for.

The truth is that too many people who don’t take responsibility often do this for various reasons. They feel inadequate, they don’t like being ridiculed, mocked, or made to feel small. In such cases, their need to shove their personal responsibility onto others translates in several different ways. In fact, this is where victimhood can and does come from. But that’s a subject for another article.

In short, if you have an issue, forget the tissue and grow up. Take responsibility for your own life and stop blaming others. Have enough self-respect to look at your life and think about what you can do to fix whatever’s wrong, not blame others for your own mistakes.

Yes, Women Gravitate Toward Jerks

It’s irritating that women love jerks, isn’t it? But there are reasons.

Yes, women gravitate toward jerks, and it’s a pain in the ass. Unfortunately, some ladies do have their reasons. A lot of guys don’t want to listen, or they want something that’s well out of their grasp. A lot of guys don’t want to lower their expectations. But the truth fellas is this: women are going to make up their own minds. They might not always enjoy the consequences, but they do.

It’s about confidence.

Like it or not fellas, confidence is key with a lot of people. It’s a strength and weakness thing that a lot of people don’t enjoy hearing about, since there are those who believe that being a nice guy should be the ticket to making people happy. That’s a nice thought, but it’s not realistic. Jerks have an edge because they’re confident in themselves, at least on the outside.

Self-confidence is attractive to many people. Women love this quite often. Not all women care about it. But enough want the confidence that exudes from a jerk’s pores that it’s been noticed for years. Granted, not every man that feels confident in their person is a jerk. But this goes to prove a point, if you know what you’re worth and know how to prove that you are, people take notice.

Women like the dangerous aspect

This is kind of debatable since women do like the edgy, rebellious type. This much has been proven more than once over the years. But unfortunately, this is a quality that backfires on a lot of women at one point or another. Either the bad boys grow up, get tamed, or they somehow reveal a vulnerability that topples their entire image.

There’s also the very real possibility that they’re such narcissists that women will have to fight for their time in front of the mirror. That’s kind of a funny image to be honest.

It’s annoying as hell, but it happens.

The fact is that yes, that women gravitate toward jerks, and it’s tough to understand. Nice guys aren’t owed the attention of a woman just because they open a door or are willing to buy women anything they want. But ladies, and I say this with respect, finding a man that treats you kindly but will take no shit is tough for one reason: you don’t appear to be looking for that.

The Broken Record Syndrome is Very Real

Have you ever seen a person get so mad that they keep repeating themselves?

If you watch YouTube or are a creator, or watch TikTok or Karen videos, then you’ve likely seen this happen more than once. The Broken Record Syndrome, as I’m calling it and a few others might know it, is very real. People get so upset or so threatened or so triggered that they end up repeating the same thing. Sometimes they’ll do this for a few seconds. Some do it for minutes at a time.

The idea of a broken record is that it gets stuck and can’t escape that one point where it skipped. This same idea appears to apply to people who are so angry that their thought process breaks down. They simply go back to the last thing they said in order to convince themselves that they’re saying something worthwhile.

Often this happens during a verbal fight or an altercation that might even feel staged. But the general rule of this syndrome is that the person speaking becomes stuck on a single line that they repeated over and over. It becomes repetitive after the second time, and irritating every time after this. Unfortunately, assaulting a person to see if it helps their internal needle get back on track isn’t allowed, but it’s certainly tempting at times.

Why do people do this? Well, the unfortunate fact is that this can’t be chalked up to a mental condition, unless one is ready to make a quip about such things. But people continually repeat themselves for the same reason they do the same things in their lives. They expect a result at some point.

It might be interesting to conduct a study of this with others in attendance. THere are plent yof people out there who wonder about the same thing, don’t you think?