Book Giveaway Starts Next Friday

Posted by Janie Sullivan on April 18, 2014 in Fiction Writing, Writing Life |

It’s true! Rhonda Jackson and I are going to give away three autographed copies ofOne Hundred Years from London our new book, One Hundred Years from London, in a raffle copter contest starting on April 25 and ending on May 1, the release date for the book. There are 25 short stories in this collection, 18 by me and 7 co-written with Rhonda Jackson.

Here is the table of contents:

Personal Essays/Memoir
One Hundred Years from London: My Early Years
My First Date
Sir Randall, the Amazing Tuxedo Cat
Slow Motion Moments
General Fiction
What Happened in London . . .
Part I: Spelling Murder
Part II: Twila Turns 18
Wrong Number
Writing Contest
Western Fiction
The Duplicate Saloon
Kids Halloween Stories
Trial Run
Lucky Spider
A Very Spider Halloween
All about Families
Defining Family
Emma Sue’s Angels
Jenna and the Burglar
In Sickness and in Health
Visiting Granny
Bonus Section: Collaborative Fiction
Visiting Granny (Revised)
Alexis’ Aggravation
Louisa’s Score
All that Shimmers . . .
Finding Booth
The Gift


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On May 2, I will announce the winners! Each winner will receive an autographed copy of the book and a handy shopping tote bag with the SHOP SMALL logo supporting Small Business Saturday on the front.



Be sure to come back here during the week of April 25 -May 1 to enter for your chance to win one of the books! See you then!


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First Book Under New Imprint

Posted by Janie Sullivan on April 12, 2014 in Fiction Writing, Writing Life |
One Hundred Years from London

One Hundred Years from London

This is the cover of the first  book published under the new Center for Writing Excellence imprint. It is at Create Space right now, waiting for the initial review.  After the first review, I will order proof copies for Rhonda Jackson (co-author) and myself so we can review the interior of the book, do a final edit and get it ready for release on or near May 1.

To celebrate this first book, we will give away a copy of the book to the first three qualified people who submit comments on the release announcement post on May 1. More information on what those comments need to have in them to qualify for the free books available on May 1,so be sure to check back here then.

Once released, the book will be available on Amazon, Kindle, and Create Space. It is a compilation of short stories for light reading. Categories include: Personal essays, Memoir, General Fiction, Western Fiction, Halloween Stories, and All About Families. The bonus section at the back of the book includes a series of fiction stories co-written by Rhonda Jackson and me.

Watch this space (and our Facebook page) for more information as the release date approaches! Happy Spring reading, everyone!


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Official Launch as a Small Press

Posted by Janie Sullivan on April 11, 2014 in General Writing |
Small Book Publisher

Center for Writing Excellence

It is now official, I have launched the Center for Writing Excellence as a Small Press. I currently have two projects I hope to have published by the end of the month. One is a short story anthology with stories by two different writers and one is a coffee-table type book with personal essays, poetry, and photography.

I am also in discussions with two other writers on the possibility of them submitting their manuscripts for publishing through the Center. Adding those to my previously published books, and I have quite a library of self-published volumes. This is exciting, and I know it will be a lot of fun.

Previous works include: three fiction anthologies, each one with short stories by 18-26 writers; a series of how-to writer’s books on topics like character creation, blogging, and writing techniques; course manuals for two fiction writing courses (a third one is in process now), another fiction anthology with 16 stories by one writer, and a compilation of writings (poetry, essays, short stories, a play, and family history) by various members of one family.

I am looking forward to my new direction! Please let me know if you have any advice, questions, or information for me.


Honorable Mention NYC 2014 Short Story Challenge

Posted by Janie Sullivan on March 25, 2014 in Fiction Writing, Writing Contests, Writing Life |

NYC 2014 Short Story ChallengeRhonda Jackson and I co-wrote the following story for the 2014 NYC Short Story Challenge. Our prompts were:

Genre: Drama

Subject: Stealing

Character: A retiree

The beginning of the story is a character description that I had written previously, but never did anything with. We changed some things, adding more information and finished the story. Here it is:

Visiting Granny


Her veined and age splotched hands were barely distinguishable from the faded coverlet as she nervously picked at loose threads. Wisps of yellow-grey hair flew about her wrinkled face, her eyes darting from the window to the door as if she expected someone, or something to enter either opening. She gasped and jerked as a tiny sound, like pebbles on the screen, came from the window. The stained light green cotton bed jacket slid off her bony shoulders with the movement. Whatever made the sound was gone now, but she still stared fearfully at the window. It was growing dusky outside, impending storm clouds not helping the gloomy late afternoon light, and she became visibly more anxious as the day faded. She sighed, lips flapping over empty gums while her teeth rested in a glass of murky water on the bedside table. Her surprisingly bright blue eyes closed and she thought, “I’m afraid to sleep, afraid not to sleep.” She shivered.

In the hall outside the room, Alice wondered if Granny would even know her if she went in. Ever since she came to this place, Granny was getting really creepy and now that Alice had her driver’s license her mom sent her every week instead of coming herself.  It wasn’t fair. She sighed heavily, pushing slowly on the door, hoping Granny would be asleep.

Afternoon was quickly giving way to dusk as the night crept closer to granny’s window. She stirred restlessly in almost -sleep as she tried to remember what she was afraid of. The door moved slightly inward, fingers with green polish on the tips wrapped around the edge. Granny dragged herself awake and shrank back into the bed, staring at the door as shadowed eyes under blue and orange hair spikes peered from above the fingers. She thought she saw a flash of something: Anger? Defiance? in those eyes, then they were just Alice’s eyes, sad and resentful as she pushed the door wide and strode into the room. “Hi, Granny.”

“Alice, what are you doing here? Where is your mother? I thought your mother was coming. Visiting hours don’t start until later.”

“No. Just me. Mom sent me to see if you needed anything. They let me in for a few minutes because I told them I had to go to the store for you before visiting hours.” Alice said, her lips drawn down in what was becoming a perpetual sulk whenever she was around her grandmother. She stared at the teeth in the glass in disgust.

“I need your mother to tell those…those…prison guards, that I’m being robbed!” Granny almost shouted in a whiny, creaky voice.

“She went to Albany. To some conference for the Methodist women,” Alice explained. “So. Do you need anything?” She would not even make eye contact with Granny.

“There is a man. He comes through that window and he takes my money. My snack money,” Granny pleaded. “He thinks I’m asleep. He comes through that window. And. He. Has. A gun.”

“Yeah. Mom says that I need to go to the store for you.” Alice completely ignored what Granny was saying. “She says you need things like toothpaste and shampoo. I’m supposed to check on those things.” Alice went into the bathroom and rummaged in the medicine cabinet. Her voice sounded hollow as she added, “You need new towels and wash cloths? Mom wants to know.”

“I don’t need anything. I just need someone to believe me,” Granny said forlornly. “Nobody believes old people.”

“So, you only have half a tube of toothpaste. I’ll get some and some soap. You just have that little slimy piece. You want any chips or snacks or anything?” Alice started to write a list on old breakfast menu. “Is this what they feed you?” she asked, reading the menu and squinching up her face, repulsed by the offerings.

“It’s not so bad. Old people like things bland. Keeps us from being windy. But this man is real.” Granny refused to be dissuaded or to have the subject changed.

“If he’s real, what does he look like? Why doesn’t anyone hear him come in? Don’t you have alarms on the windows in this place? Costs enough.” Alice blinked in disbelief and resentment. Her mother and Alice had been doing without to keep Granny here.

“They tested the alarms. All in working order. He looks like Bill. He looks like my grandson,” Granny broke into tears.

“Bill’s been gone for five years. He won’t be back. Once he got out of jail, he went west. I think he went to Alaska to work on the pipeline. Last I heard, he was on the run again. He won’t come back here. They’d be looking for him,” Alice toyed with a little figurine sitting on the nightstand. She hadn’t liked her cousin, Bill. He was mean and rotten to the core, although she did think that he might be right about some people needing to be beaten or even killed. She supposed he could have robbed her granny but he was long gone. And Granny was just plain bats.

“I think it’s him. It looks like him,” Granny said stubbornly. “And he never forgave me for testifying against him when he beat up your Aunt Ellen. He beat her and beat her. I just couldn’t stand it anymore. Someone had to stop him.”

“Well. I don’t think he’s here. Maybe. But I don’t think so. I’m going to the store. You want anything besides the toothpaste and soap? I can get some of those coconut candies you like so well,” Alice offered. Despite being forced to come here every week, she kinda liked the old lady. Even if she was crazier than a Bessie bug.

Granny heaved a sigh, defeated for the moment. “Bring me some of those anti-acids and some baby oil. And some of those red licorice twists. Like those better than the black ones but I’ll take the black ones if there isn’t any thing else. Like to suck on them. I can’t pull em apart with my teeth anymore. Have to suck.”

“They’ve got them in little pieces now. They taste the same. I’ll get you some of those.” Alice said impatiently and wrote it down.

“And some of those coconut bars without the nuts. The dark kind,” Granny added as Alice scribbled on the list.

“Got it. And I’ll bring you some of that coffee drink you like so much.” Alice put the list in her shirt pocket, scowling at her grandmother.

“Not supposed to have coffee but that’s okay,” Granny’s face lit up like a mischievous child.

“Every once in a while won’t hurt,” Alice quoted her granny, remembering when Granny used to say it while giving Alice milk with coffee and sugar as a child. Those were good times. Sometimes Alice longed for the good times, but mostly she resented Granny for getting old and changing everything. She even found herself wishing Granny would just die so she would not have to be reminded of the good times. So she didn’t have to be burdened with a crazy old lady to take care of.  “I’ll be back in awhile. I’ll stop at the bookstore and get some of those mysteries you like so much. And a pair of those reading glasses they sell. Yours seem to be broken.” She picked up Granny’s glasses. The lenses were broken. It looked like someone had stepped on them.

“It was him. They were by my bed, on the nightstand. He knocked them off and stepped on them when he took the money out of my wallet. He thought I was asleep. But I wasn’t,” Granny said sounding defensive.

“I’ll get you some more. I’m off. Be back soon.” Alice rolled her eyes about the glasses. Stupid old lady. The she leaned in as if to kiss her, but backed off and left for the store.

The LVNs came in to help her settle for bed, followed by the night nurse who greeted her cheerfully. Granny showed her the broken glasses. The nurse laughed and told her she should be more careful when she got up to go to the bathroom at night. No one listened to old people.

Alice returned just as evening visiting hours started. The sun had set and darkness was building. She had two sacks, one with grocery items and the other with the promised books and two pair of reading glasses. “Just in case,” she said darkly.

“What took you so long?” Granny asked, her voice sleepy and cranky at the same time. “Where’s your mother?”

“Uh, remember? Mom is busy with the church ladies. So I came.” Alice’s eyes skittered around the room, finally lighting on the dark window. She wished Granny wasn’t so forgetful. Alice sighed as walked over and started to pull the yellowed window curtain aside.

“No! Don’t open it!” Granny was pushing herself down into the mattress, trying to get as far from the window as possible.

“What?” Alice turned to her grandmother, dropping the curtain back into place, but not quickly enough. Granny thought she saw something in the window before the curtain dropped. Something that looked shiny-red or slimy-red or maybe just red. Anyhow, whatever she thought she saw was enough to startle a soundless scream from her throat.

Irritated, Alice flipped the curtain open again, watching Granny, her back to the window. “See? Nothing there.” Under her breath, she started to mumble, “Crazy old bat….” The end of her sentence was swallowed up when the window exploded in a shower of silvery glass.

A man climbed in through the broken window. He was wearing a red jacket and black pants with bulging pockets. No alarm sounded. There was no noise marking the shattering of glass. The man grinned.

“Why, Alice. How you’ve grown,” he leered. “I put a blanket on the other side of the window. Masks the sound. Only you and Granny here know I’m back. And here. Been playing a little game with her. I been coming in and out of the window while she was sleeping. Silence the alarm and lift the window. Nothing to it. I make just enough noise to wake her and scare the puddin’ outta her. Tonight is the final act, I broke through the window this time to really scare her. I’ve been waiting for a long time for this.” He started toward the woman cowering in the bed. “I’ll just put my hands around that skinny throat and rip her head off.” He relished the thought.

Alice stepped in front of Bill, her back to Granny. “I’ll be glad to help you, Bill. All I do is fetch and carry. I hate that old biddy,” Alice said bitterly.

Bill looked down at Alice, a satisfied gleam in his eyes. “You used to be such a goody two shoes. Look at you now. The little rebel, spikey headed and green fingered.” Bill obviously approved. “You sure you can do this?”

“You just give me a gun and watch me.” Alice grinned wickedly. She turned around and slapped her granny in the face hard. All the resentment she held for her granny showed on her face.

“Well now.” Bill grinned. He picked up the glass and dumped Granny’s teeth in his hand. He jammed them into her mouth. “Now you can talk plain, old lady. Now you can tell the police everything. If you’re still alive to do it.” He ground a pair of her new glasses under his heel and laughed.

Alice picked up Granny’s frail arm by the wrist. She reached for her medication and popped a pill roughly into Granny’s mouth. She jammed a glass of water against her lips and forced Granny to drink long and hard. Granny coughed and sputtered. “Swallow, you old bitty. You want to live don’t you?” Alice laughed evilly. “At least long enough to feel the bullet.”

“You’ll do,” Bill said seriously. “You want to get out of this one horse town and come with me? I’m headed to the bank to make a little withdrawal without the slip if you know what I mean.”

“I need a pillow and a gun. Gotta take care of Granny here,” Alice said grimly and a little triumphantly.

“Well, I got one for each pocket and one for my ankle. Take this one,” Bill said. “But I got Granny. I owe her, don’t I, Grandma?” he said, passing a gun to Alice and then slowly taking the safety off the one he held now in his right hand.

Granny tried to scream but her heart burned and her jaws hurt. Alice moved her hand across the gun, gently caressing it while she slipped off the safety. Bill raised his arm. Alice pulled the trigger and watched Bill fly backward through the broken window.

The door of the room burst open. Nurses flew in and then doctors. Cops were everywhere. An ambulance arrived. Bill would never bother them again.

The next afternoon, Alice’s mother sat on the edge of Granny’s bed. “I’m okay now,” Granny said. “Alice gave me my pill so my heart settled down. They kept me in the hospital a while. But I’m back.”

“That Bill was always a bad ‘un,” her daughter said.

“Ain’t never coming back again.” Granny nodded soberly. “But my lands, this little one, spikey headed and green fingered, she’s the best.” Granny took Alice’s hand as Alice bent to kiss the top of her granny’s head.

“Love you too, Granny,” she whispered.


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Final Flash Fiction Contest Winners

Posted by Janie Sullivan on March 9, 2014 in General Writing |

The Flash Fiction Contest is officially over and the winners have all been notified! The prompt for the contest was: “They crinkled their noses, wondering what could make the room smell like this.” Each writer was to write 300 to 500 words. Here are the results:

First Place

Ordering Chicken at the Wide Awake Cafe, by Marla Cantrell

They crinkled their noses, wondering what could make the room smell like this. I know that’s what they’re thinking, these parents of mine. Later, heading home, they’ll say unkind things about my housekeeping, about my cooking. But the smell is not unpleasant.  Bay leaf, cumin, cinnamon, orange peel. I tossed them all in a saucepan, added water, turned the burner low. It smells like Dudley to me, and he is gone.

My mother’s house smells of gardenias.

Dudley had the fairest skin, and black hair. He was unreasonably tall, and folded himself into cabs when he left my apartment late at night.

“Let’s go out,” my mother says.

“No,” I say. I am too tired to embellish.

“We’ll get that fried chicken you like so much.”

I’ve been a vegetarian for three years, though my parents have yet to notice. I used to be beauty queen. I have a shelf in my closet with my tiaras. There are five. In the end, I give up.  My father shuffles into his coat. My mother smoothes my hair. Outside, in the brittle air, I cough.

“You aren’t getting sick, are you?” my mother asks. She feels my forehead, and then we climb into the car.

At the Wide Awake Café, I order the chicken. I order biscuits. I ask for strawberry jam.

“Getting out is all you needed,” my mother says, and my father grunts beside her.

When the food comes, I push the chicken away.

“Honey,” my mother says to my father, “tell Doe who we saw last week.”

My father is folded over his plate. “Roger,” he says without looking up. “Down at the feed meal.”

I stuff a piece of biscuit in my mouth.

“He asked after you,” my mother says, and raises an eyebrow.

Roger knew me when I was a better person. When I twirled a baton and told the judges my grandma was my hero. That I wanted to grow up and teach other girls to love their bodies, love themselves.

“Is he married?” I ask, my voice unsteady.

“No,” my mother says. “He was, to a Yankee who broke his sweet heart. He moved back a few months ago.”

The last thing Dudley said to me was this: “You’re a small town beauty queen looking for the guy who’s going to remember that. I’m not that guy. The sooner you realize that, the better off we’ll both be.”

It stung so much I didn’t mention Dudley’s cheating, which seemed to be the entire point at the beginning of our argument.

When I was about to hand off my last title -  Miss Magnolia, 2002 – I started to cry. I felt my life shutting down. Roger saw me breaking apart. He stood up. He clapped. And finally he shouted, “I love Doe Starling, always and forever!” The crowd whooped and hollered and I took a bow.

It was better than any crown I ever wore. It was the the best and brightest night of my life.

Second Place

Duty Calls by Mary Vogel

They crinkled their noses, wondering what could make the room smell like this. Sirens screamed from the street below jolting them awake.

“What’s that smell?” Alex ripped the blankets off and sprinted to the door. She tapped the doorknob, feeling for heat.

It was hot.

Now what do we do? Alex tried to remember what the fireman at school taught her.

Thick smoke seeped under the door and encircled her feet.

“Tina, get up!” Alex tore the blanket off her sister and laid it in front of the door. She ran to the window and as she lifted the blinds, revolving red lights rallied around the bedroom. “Look, Tina, three fire trucks are here. We’re saved!”

Alex shoved the window up and freezing air rushed her face. It felt fresh and she breathed deeply. Turning, she saw her baby sister rocking back and forth, hugging her knees.

“Come on baby.” Alex softened her voice and reached out her hands. Tina jumped into Alex’s arms and clung like a monkey.

“Help, we’re over here!” Alex waived out the window trying to catch someone’s attention over the wail of sirens.

A ladder thumped against the house beneath their window. “I’m coming, Sweetie. Hold on. I’m almost there,” bellowed a voice from below.

“He’s here.” Alex squeezed Tina tighter.

Massive gloves gripped the windowsill as the fireman heaved himself up. He reached an arm through the window and wrapped a glove gently around Alex’s arm. Looking directly into her clear blue eyes he said, “Hi Sweetie, I’m fireman Frank. What’s your name?”

“Alex. And this is Tina.”

“Listen, Alex, I can only carry one of you down at a time. I need one arm to hold the ladder. I am going to take your sister first, and then I am coming back for you. I promise I will only be one minute. Watch from the window as I go down and come right back for you. Do you trust me?”

Alex’s eyes pierced his as she nodded in agreement.

Frank whisked Tina into his arms and raced down the ladder. As he neared the bottom, outstretched arms grabbed the child from his grip. Frank heard the mother’s wails of gratitude above the sirens as he ascended the ladder to retrieve the other girl.

“What are you doing Frank? We got the girl. The mother said there is only one child left in the house,” Frank’s captain shouted.

“No, there’s another girl, Alex. I promised I’d be right back. I saw her.” Frank shouted back.

“What are you talking about?” Tina’s mother stepped forward in disbelief. “Alex was my older daughter, but she died of leukemia two years ago. What are you saying?”

“There was another girl in the bedroom. I have to save her, I promised,” shouted Frank as he hustled up the ladder. He pulled himself through the window and searched the room for the girl.

“Alex,” he shouted frantically over and over to an empty room.

Third Place

Paradise? by Julie McCarty

They crinkled their noses, wondering what could make the room smell like this. A sickly sweet smell, and much stronger now that they were inside. The mice peered through the hole into what seemed to be another world – filled with sunlight, giant trees, high humidity, and heat.

Cautiously, they poked their heads out. An outside world indoors, a hot jungle with the click and whirr of a pump, tinkling water. Paradise?

Another mouse emerged from under a door. This mouse, unlike them, moved slowly, nonchalantly, toward a grate in the wall with a hole half-hidden underneath it.

“Psst!” the bolder of the two mice whispered.

The traveling mouse stopped. Seeing the hole and the noses, he said, “Whoa,Dude! Come out here so I can see you!”

“I don’t think so,” said the first mouse. “Why are you out there? Someone could see you!”

“Nope. Sleeping,” said the resident mouse. “I shouldn’t share my good fortune, but it gets a little lonely around here sometimes. Come on.”

The house mouse turned and ambled back to the door. The new mice hesitated, but finally scurried along the wall to where he waited.

The same sweet smell was even stronger as the mice peeked under the door. They blinked as a haze stung their eyes. Several people slouched on furniture, asleep. And on the floor – food! Pizza boxes, fast food containers, and candy wrappers littered the floor.

The house mouse said, “I used to be like you guys, scared and hungry, on the move, and then I found this place – and got on the gravy train, man! I come out here at night, everyone’s asleep, and have my pick of the leftovers.”

“Aren’t you scared of the people?” The timid mouse spoke.

“Naw. I try to stay out of sight,” said the house mouse. “One night they saw me, and for some reason they thought I was very funny. They tend their trees, a lot of people come and go, and they laugh and eat and sleep.

He grinned and patted his belly.

“What is that smell?” asked the first mouse.

“It’s the trees, man. They burn ‘em, and it makes this haze, and it makes them slow. It even makes the cat slow.”

“Cat! Are you crazy?!!!”

“Relax,” the house mouse said. “He’s s -l -o -w. Now if you’ll excuse me, stay if you want, help yourself to some grub, chill out, whatever.”

And with that, the house mouse took one more deep breath of the heavy air and ambled back to his hole.

“Let’s eat!” said the timid mouse. “I’m feeling quite brave, and you heard the mouse. No danger here.”

“There’s always danger,” replied his friend. “You go on.”

So the emboldened mouse went to feast, and the wary one lay down until he was awakened by the opening of a door, the entry of a human, and one cat who, having been outside in the fresh air, was decidedly not slow.

Fourth Place

Winter Saturday of Small Discontents by Maren Tirabassi

They crinkled their noses, wondering what could make the room smell like this. Something infiltrated the January Saturday dirty oven smell that remembered layers of spill back to Thanksgiving. The beagle smelled it, too, with his olfactory-enabled snout. It was Dove soap and Minnesota pine, vanilla dabbed behind the ears as poor-girl perfume – that was the best they could make of the ghostly scent.

“I don’t know.” The man said. “Something in your dough?”

“I … guess,” the woman with the rolling pin and a flour thumbprint on her cheek bisected by one tear, looked doubtfully at her bowl then at her husband with the leash in his hand. “Walking the dog?”

“Yeah. Willie misses her already and she’s probably just getting to the airport. “Ta da!” He made a little finger-fireworks in the air, “The longest time till he gets his college girl back. Exercise will do him good.”

“You, too,” she murmured below hearing aid level. Louder. “Watch the ice.”

The oven smell had awakened the grandma-ghost. Smells are … friendly to lingering spirits who also can’t be seen or heard. She floated down to watch her own daughter more closely. No sense of proportion! Missing a child gone back to school for four months is sad the way a rehearsal is a wedding. There will be all kinds of missing, just like there will be all kinds of going away. Marriage or estrangement or illness or … The grandma-ghost could tell stories about loss to turn the heart inside out with sad.

But one’s own sad is one’s own sad – there’s no hierarchy to loss or loneliness. The limited imaginations of the living are their safety valves.

The middle aged woman who was not fastidious about Easy-Off had tree and star cutters for Christmas cookies by her board as if culinary conjuring would roll back two weeks to the beginning of Christmas break.

“I meant to make cookies. We were just too busy. I meant to make cookies. What kind of a lousy mother is too busy to make cookies …

“I meant to sing carols. We were just too busy. I meant to sing carols. What kind of a lousy mother is … I meant to read ‘The Night Before Christmas.’ What kind of a lousy … meant to make epiphany stars out of aluminum foil … meant to …”

Her hand closed around a jar of red sprinkles. She stared surprised at her fingers – some kind of Ouija bake-off. “I miss my daughter.”

“So do I.”

“Who said that?” As she looked up, the man with the parka and disreputable earflaps came into view, beagle bounding through the snow beside him. A surreptitious hand found the corner of his eye.

“Old fool.” she said and carefully set the red sprinkles next to the rolling pin.

“Which one?” whispered the ghost and watched her long ago little girl toss the tree cutter in the drawer and pull out a heart.

“Not too late for Valentines.”

Fifth Place

The Scent of Eddie by Robert Douglas

They crinkled their noses, wondering what could make the room smell like this.

The hospice nurse and chaplain were used to the stench of a urine-Clorox mix that permeated the air in the shabby nursing home, out of sight on a wooded cul-de-sac and out of the minds of families who used the facility to warehouse relatives too feeble of mind or body to care for any longer.

But on this late November morning, Eddie’s room was an aromatic oasis of citrus. It was like walking into a sunny Florida grove, far away from the reality out in the dimly lit corridor where lonely widows sat in wheelchairs waiting for death or one of their grandchildren — whichever came first. The same reality Eddie had shared.

Until today.

The chaplain closed his eyes and inhaled the sweet fragrance. “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” he said to the nurse.

“Look here,” she whispered as she approached the patient’s bedside. “I think Eddie has gone over the rainbow.”

The gaunt and grizzled patient who had been grimacing in pain during their last visit was resting peacefully with a five-pound bag of oranges in his withered arms and a smile on his face.

There was puzzled silence until a tearful hospice volunteer returned with a nursing home doctor and orderly to pronounce Eddie dead and wheel him away.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” said the chaplain, embracing the volunteer he knew had become close to Eddie over months of regular visits. “But do you mind me asking, what’s with the oranges?”

The volunteer wiped his eyes, took a deep breath then explained:

Eddie made his living picking fruit all his life until he could no longer climb up a ladder with a full bushel bag. He followed the harvests from Georgia for peaches to Michigan for apples. But his heart was always in Florida’s orange and grapefruit groves.

We were trading memories one day and I asked him, “Where were you when you heard JFK died?”

“Up an orange tree in Palm Beach County,” he said. “That’s one time everybody remembers where they were.”

With another assassination anniversary coming — surely the last for Eddie — I went to Publix to buy him a bag for old time’s sake. His face lit up. I cut him a piece to have one last taste. I wiped his mouth and tears. He wrapped his arms around the bag, closed his eyes, smiled and just let go.

The three of us put our hands on Eddie until the orderly gently told it was time it was to say goodbye. Then we took the bag from his arms, left his old room and gave an orange to every lonely soul we passed on our way out, spreading the scent of Eddie along the way.


Flash Fiction Contest Winners

Posted by Janie Sullivan on March 4, 2014 in General Writing |

Flash Fiction ContestThe winners in the Flash Fiction Contest have been notified. Check your email to see if you are one of them! Names and stories will be published here by the end of the week, after all five winners have confirmed their winning notice. Prizes will also be sent out once I have confirmations from all five.

I intended to get this information out sooner, but have been preoccupied with doctors and tests at the hospital after a fall I had on Sunday. Everything is OK now, so I can start moving ahead.

More information to come . . .


Moving Ahead

Posted by Janie Sullivan on February 23, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life |

These first weeks in 2014 have been challenging for me. I am at a crossroads in my career and have decided, after a great deal of thought, to finally take the steps down a slightly different road. I mentioned some of the changes I was contemplating the last time I posted, and now I have solidified those changes.

Center for Writing Excellence

Changing Directions

The final issue of Excellent Writing, the newsletter for the Center for Writing Excellence, will be published on March 3. The winners of the Flash Fiction contest held in January will be announced and prizes will be distributed at that time.

The January contest will also be the last contest we offer. The contests have been great fun, I have met a lot of wonderful writers through them, and the judges have done an exemplary job evaluating the work of so many talented writers, but the time has come to move on.

The Center for Writing Excellence will still be here, but our focus is changing to encompass more editing and publishing. For more information on the editing services we offer, click here: Services or on the Services tab above. For more information on the publishing options available, click here: Publishing, or on the Publishing tab above.

We have also shortened the Novella class from an eight-week course to a more compact four-week online course. You and a friend can take this class together for the price of one enrollment. Check out Write Your Novella in 30 Days for more information. The course starts March 23.

On May 17 we will offer the Self-Publishing workshop again. This workshop will give you some excellent tools to self-publish your own book, or to help you decide whether or not you want the Center for Writing Excellence to publish it for you!

I will be posting here on the blog site once a week or so, providing information about editing, publishing, and other writing related topics. I will also be looking for guest bloggers on these topics, so if any of you have something you would like to write about in 400-500 words, please contact me, either through the comments below or at janiewrites1@gmail.com.

Happy Writing Everyone!

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Changes at The Center for Writing Excellence

Posted by Janie Sullivan on February 15, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life |
Independent Publisher

Independent Publisher

Over the next several months there will be some significant changes made to the Center for Writing Excellence. I want to concentrate more on editing and publishing so have decided to set the Center up as a book publishing company. To that end I will be offering customized services for writers who have a manuscript ready to publish. Services will be offered ‘cafeteria style’ and include:

  • Proofreading
  • Editing
  • Interior Formatting/Design
  • Cover Design
  • Obtaining ISBN
  • Distribution through POD printing
  • Marketing

Watch this space for more information on this new adventure.

In order to prepare for the publishing arm of the Center, I am going to put the newsletter on hiatus. The Flash Fiction contest will run for the last time in April.

The other major focus of the Center will be the courses, both the 8-week online courses and the Webinars with both local and online participation. I am also thinking about adding some shorter online workshops and welcome any suggestions for topics.

Your support over the past four years has been amazing and I have met some wonderful people all around the country. I hope to continue the relationship we have built.

Onward, writers! New goals, new heights are out there, let’s go get them!

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Self-Publishing: Are You Ready?

Posted by Janie Sullivan on January 26, 2014 in General Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |

In the past,self-publishing, also known as Vanity Press Publishing, was difficult, expensive, and held a stigma for ‘real’ writers. Fortunately, that image is changing. With Print on Demand (POD) options, the expense of self-publishing has diminished significantly.

Self PublishingMany authors are choosing to use POD printing for a variety of reasons. If a writer is fortunate enough to get a publishing contract today, this is typically what he or she can look forward to:
  •     A time lag of sometimes more than 18 months before the book actually appears on shelves.
  •     Holding physical book signings in local bookstores – sometimes with very few sales.
  •     Hoping for some media attention from the review copies that were distributed.
  •     Sitting at home waiting for the royalty checks to start coming in.

Typically, royalties are small, with the publishing house taking a big chunk, along with agents, editors, and others, leaving very little to the writer. The dreams of huge advances are rarely realized in today’s publishing world except by writers with established fan bases. More often, the publishing house will want the writer to go out and build his or her own platform before coming to the publisher. There are isolated incidences of big advances for unknown writers, and we applaud those authors, but we also need to be realistic when it comes to actually landing one of those contracts.

Things that have changed with the advent of POD self-publishing include much faster print to shelf time, larger royalties, and more work for the writer beyond the actual writing. As a self-published author, you create your own brand, build your own platform, and do your own selling and marketing. Yes, it is more work, but if done right, it will be more rewarding.

The writer is at the very center of the platform. He or she can determine just how far to go. Adding in a website or blog is the start of the marketing process. Every writer who wants to sell his or her work needs a website or blog to create the brand, present information about the book, offer incentives, and interact with his or her audience. Social media like Twitter, FaceBook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and others are excellent ways to spread the word and grow an audience.

As more and more people opt for self-publishing, the stigma is decreasing, but it is still important to create self-published books that look professional, and are grammatically correct. One of the reasons for the negative opinions about self-publishing is the fact that the product itself may not look professional. You, the writer, can ensure your books do look professional with good editing, an enticing cover, and professionally presented content. POD printers all offer editing and marketing services, or you can choose to take on those activities yourself.

The bottom line with POD publishing is YOU have control. For more information on how to self-publish your books, plan on attending the Self-Publishing: Are You Ready webinar on May 17.

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New Year Writing Opportunities

Posted by Janie Sullivan on January 11, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Contests, Writing Life |

Do you have your 2014 Writing Goals outlined yet? The Center for Writing Excellence has some exciting opportunities for you to help jump-start your projects.

Fiction Dialog ClassTo start off, we have a very exciting, interactive 8-week class on Dialog starting tomorrow (January 12). The Dialog-Breathing Life Into Your Writing class is an excellent opportunity for you to learn how to help your characters speak to each other in ways that are believable. Like our Facebook page (Center for Writing Excellence) and you can take advantage of the 15% discount offered on the registration page. We also have a payment plan option (1/3 down, 1/3 halfway through, and 1/3 at the end of the course).

Another fun way to get your muse started is to participate in the Flash Fiction contest:

  • Flash Fiction ContestContest starts at 10:00pm (Mountain Time) on Friday, January 17, 2014.
  • Contest ends at 10:00pm (Mountain Time) on Sunday, January 19, 2014.
  • Contestants will have 48 hours to write and submit a flash fiction story of 300-500 words based on a single prompt.
  • Cash prizes available for the top FIVE entries!
  • Entry fee is only $4.00 for one $6.00 for two entries.

And, to round out our first month of Writing fun is a Webinar on January 25. This is a 3-hour session called  Self-Publishing – Are You Ready?. 

Self PublishingHow to publish and promote your book using the latest Indie book publishing techniques. The entire process from your word processor to a real book in hand. Even if you don’t have a manuscript ready yet, this workshop will give you the tools necessary to publish when you are ready. Fiction, non-fiction, ebook, or print, this workshop will help you get your book into your reader’s hands.

The Webinar starts at 9:00am (Mountain Time) and ends about noon. The fee is $39, but if you register before January 20, you can take $5 off. OR, LIKE our Facebook page and you can take advantage of the C4WE Discount and pay only $30!

 If your book is already written and you are in need of an editor, we also offer Editing Services: 

Editing ServicesThe Center for Writing Excellence will edit your books, novels, and short stories. We will check for grammar, spelling and punctuation errors as well as review for content. The technical review will look for consistency in voice, tense, and syntax. The content review will examine relationships between characters, looking for consistency in behavior, etc. It will also cover things like errors in time frame, reliability of ‘facts’ and ‘believability’ of actions, dialogue, etc. Comments will be provided on plot and characters as well as in an overall critique of the work. Qualify for up to a 15% discount (information available on Website.)

Lots to do – I better get busy! Hope to see all of you in one or more of the C4WE events!

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