If LOTR Races Were Writers…

I am a nerd. I wear this badge proudly. I can speak knowledgeably about Star Wars, Star Trek, and the Lord of the Rings. Yes, I can even talk about the Silmarillion. And so, it should come as no surprise that I think about questions like this:

If each race from Lord of the Rings represented a type of writer,
to which race would I belong?

Of course, before I can answer that question, we need to look at what type of writer each race might represent.


Hobbits are gifted storytellers, lovers of simplicity, and they value a good party as much, or more than, a hard day’s work. As writers, they are often distracted by social engagements, but this makes their writing richer… when they get around to it. Don’t forget that the writer of The Hobbit was a hobbit.


Elves are a poetic race with a tongue that is beautiful to listen to, but difficult to understand. They compose epic poems praising high ideals and their knowledge of obscure history is secondary only to the Valar and Maiar themselves. The fact that they do not age and cannot die unless mortally wounded or heartbroken assists them in having a longer perspective than men. As writers, words come easily to them, but their high literature is not accessible and is often shunned by the mainstream. That is okay with them, as they would rather their Rivendells be hidden away from average eyes anyway.


Dwarves are fans of action and gold. They carve stories out of the living stone of imagination, crafting complex structures that impress all who see them. They are concerned with the details and how elements fit together. Dwarves are a serious race, not grim, but focused. Every now and again though, they dig too greedily and awaken things best left asleep. As writers, they are know how tell a good, axe-wielding fight scene and have great attention to detail. Their books are often bestsellers and go on to live comfortably on the silver screen as well as they do on the page.


Of all the races, men are the shortest-lived. In other words, men are entirely forgettable. Their end is a mystery, for they neither dwell in the Halls of Mandos like elves, nor return to the earth from which they sprang forth like dwarves. Being short-lived, men are often also short-sighted. As writers, men do not use outlines and often have no idea where their story will end. They simply write to see where the journey to take them.


Don’t remember the pukel-men? They weren’t in the movie version of LOTR, so if that is your only reference point, you won’t have any idea who I’m talking about. Technically speaking, the Pukel-men, or Drúedain,  are counted among the first men who walked on Middle-earth. They resembled Neanderthals, were friendly with Elves of the first age, and hate orcs with a passion. They are a secretive race and wish to be left in peace. In the war of the One Ring, their leader, Ghân-buri-Ghân, played a vital role, guiding the Rohirrim to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. If that hadn’t happened, the war against Sauron would have been lost. As writers, the Pukel-men are ultra-niche, keeping to themselves, wanting no influence in the outside literary world.


Ents are a long-winded race. It takes hours to finish a sentence, days to finish a paragraph, and many seasons to tell a whole story. Though they speak slowly, they say the things that must be said. And once they get into a groove, nothing can get them off course. As writers, they are not hasty. They write slowly and thoughtfully, but their stories are always worth reading. I believe Tolkien himself had a bit of Entish blood (sap?) running through his veins, as it took him about twelve years to write LOTR.


Strictly speaking, wizards aren’t writers at all, but editors. These are the wise folk who know the land, can see the needs of the time, and offer guidance to those wise enough to listen. They speak all languages and give of themselves freely for the good of the quest.

Now, I realize that these are only the main races of LOTR and that I haven’t covered any of the bad guys. Maybe I’ll do that in another post. In any case, now that I’ve laid out the races and the types of writers they represent, I must admit that I am a hobbit. I am often distracted by the happenings within my life and find it difficult to simply sit and write for hours on end. lego_gollumThough, perhaps that is for the best. Were I to become too focused on something, I may turn into another race altogether, referring to my writing as “precious” and viciously attacking anyone who came between it and I.

No, I think I am happy as a hobbit, but even more so because I am surrounded by a fellowship made up of each race. I value my writers group, the Weaklings, and know that if my quest to become a published author is to be realized, I must draw from the strengths of my companions.

What are you?


Flash Fiction Challenge | On his own terms…


Jared Venus was going to kill himself. He had known this for some time. The knowledge was a twisted comfort against the disease that threatened to do it first.

No. Whatever else, Jared was in charge of his death.

Lots of people use guns. Or knives, slid from wrist to elbow. Unimaginative.

Jared wanted to fly.

Standing at the edge of the canyon, he was ready. It was either this or cancer.

“Sir,” said a girl nearby. “Are you going to answer that?”

“Hm?” Jared looked at his phone. The Clinic.

“Jared?” Wind muffled the voice. “There’s been a mix-up…”

Jot Update | Cool Things are Happening

jotThings are shaping up well for Jot. We have confirmed our lineup, and as soon as I get a chance, I’ll be updating the Jot site to reflect the changes. Until then, you get advance notice!

We’re still working on the exact times when each session will start, but here are the basics:

Andrew Rogers (Zondervan Marketing) – Book Proposals

Bob Evenhouse (Indie Author) – The Writing Life

Josh Mosey (Blogger) – Flash Fiction: A How-To

Matthew Landrum (Poetry Editor of Structo Magazine) – Eyes and Ears: Finding Your Material/Your Material Finding You.

Q & A with Chad R. Allen (Editorial Director of Baker Books) – Stay tuned for how to submit your questions.

We are super excited to have Chad Allen on board for the evening events. One thing that writers conference attendees hope to see is an editor from a major publishing house. Chad certainly fits the bill. His blog is full of excellent information about the publishing process and his new series of posts on crafting book proposals is a must-read for any hopeful author.

But the good new doesn’t stop there.

Baker Book House and Icons Coffee have both donated gift cards that we’ll be giving away at the conference. Simply drop your name into the bucket when you arrive and you might win! And if that isn’t enough, enjoy this coupon from Icons Coffee, good for the night of the conference only.


Obviously, it is a better deal to get a free drink than a dollar off, so why not bring a friend to Jot?

According to the Facebook Event Page for Baker Book House, 22 people have committed to attending Jot, and 11 people are still considering the matter. That’s pretty cool! If you are thinking about attending, make sure that you let us know so we can make the right number of handouts and such.

Thanks to everyone who has encouraged us so far. We are hoping for a good night and a good turnout! Maybe we’ll see you there!

I am glad she said yes.

On this date, eight years ago, I asked my wife to marry me. Here’s how it went down.

DeAnne and I started dating in February of 2004, after I asked for her phone number at the end of a church group winter retreat. Technically, I asked, “So, do you have a phone?”, which she kindly understood what I meant and jotted it down for me. I have a way with words.

Doesn’t this look like a fun place for a first date?

Our first date was February 20th and consisted of me waiting at the entrance of the restaurant where we were to meet for hours on end, telling myself that I had not been stood up, eventually calling her house, leaving a message, waiting some more, getting a phone call that her car had broken down, but that she was getting a ride with someone else and she would need a lift home after the date, to which I said yes. She showed up and saw me sitting at the entrance with a sign bearing her name (like at an airport). This lifted the tension a bit. After dinner at Kahunaville in the mall(the restaurant is closed now and in its place is a furniture shop), we got tickets to a late showing of the Adam Sandler comedy, “Fifty First Dates”. But since my carefully crafted schedule was thrown out the window by her broken-down car, we had time to kill before the movie. Lacking other ideas, we drove to a nearby grocery store (Why did we leave the mall? I don’t know. I was nervous.) and walked the international foods aisle, which I said was how I got my culture. We returned to the mall in time to see the movie, which was okay, but the company was far better.

Fast forward to almost a year later. It is late January. DeAnne’s birthday is coming up. I know that I love her and that I want to spend the rest of my life with her. It took months of careful saving, but I bought the ring (another adventure for another post) and had been hanging on to it for at least a month. I knew her rules for how the question should be popped (not in public, not surrounded by friends or family, and I must have her father’s blessing). All I was waiting for was the right opportunity.

Even though I had the ring at Christmas, I didn’t want to ask during Christmas, because I wanted the date to stand out for its own significance. I wanted to do it soon, and I wanted it to be a surprise, so I decided to make it seem like I was just doing something for her birthday. I made sure that we both had the day off and told her to let me plan the whole day.

Now, you might be asking yourself if she suspected something at this point. Fair question. She was certainly hoping that I was going to ask soon. But an unforeseen transmission replacement right after Christmas had her convinced that anything I had saved for a ring was now changing gears in my car (that’s was a transmission does). In fact, she went to her sister a couple of days before our special “birthday” celebration and cried about how I wasn’t going to ask her soon because of my stupid car. Of course, you’ll remember that I had already had the ring by this point, so the car repair just came out of my savings.

card_1Well, dawn broke on our special day and I showed up bright and early with homemade Monkey Bread and the first of many homemade “birthday” cards. The first card contained a riddle and the promise of more clues. The riddle said, “Farms have these; they’re made of wood. Plus one more name for right and good.”

So we went to Barnes and Noble Booksellers, where we had spent a fair amount of time together while dating. At the cafe in Barnes and Noble, a present (a gift card and a hot drink) and another card/clue were waiting for her. This clue consisted of a series of questions, the answers of which fit into a grid where certain letters were circled. After the questions were all answered, the circled letters spelled the next location, which was Eddie Bauer.

Eddie Bauer was my employer at the time and they made possible my saving up for the ring. They also have fine quality clothing that lasts a long time. When we got there, DeAnne went to the counter were a package (a nice, warm sweatshirt) was waiting for her along with her next card/clue. In the card was a picture of a cow with a speech bubble, an arrow pointing to the speech bubble minus the letter “O” plus “VVVVVVV”. That’s right, we were off to the movies.

It was a morning showing of “Meet the Fockers”. Don’t judge, there weren’t many options that morning. Anyway, at the ticket counter, another card/clue was handed to DeAnne before we went into the theater. The clue was this, “This garden will your hunger sate, with bread sticks always on your plate.” The movie ended around noon and we left for lunch at Olive Garden, DeAnne’s favorite restaurant.

At this point, DeAnne was pretty sure that the day’s surprises were done. We saw a movie, she got a couple of gifts, and now we were eating out. Obviously, a fair amount of planning had gone into her birthday celebration, since she was recognized at each place and handed something to open. She thanked me for a really nice birthday and asked what we were going to do for the rest of the day. I told her that it wasn’t over yet. Just then, her next card/clue came with our bill.

This clue sent us to the grocery store where we had walked the international food aisle so many months before, but on this day, we went in search of some snacks to sustain us for the remainder of the day. We checked out at the help desk, where she got another card/clue. It sent us “where Hollywood’s library is certainly Grand, but overdue fees can get out of hand.” And so we went to the movie rental place near her house, Grand Video, for a couple of movies to watch that night.

Now, I don’t know if they are still open or not, but when I showed up there the day before to drop off the next clue and leave a picture of DeAnne and I (which is how the employees at each place knew us on sight), the manager gave me some free movie vouchers just because he thought I was doing something cool. So if you live in the Grandville/Hudsonville area, and if you don’t do Netflix or something like it, give your video rental business to Grand Video. Anyway, DeAnne and I went there together, the clerk handed DeAnne another card/clue. I was really stretching by this time, so the clue said this, “Umm, clues for the next few places were really hard to come up with, so basically you’ll just have to trust me and follow my lead. I love you!”

We were near her house and it was getting cold, so we stopped by to pick up some warm clothes and a blindfold. So far, all of the places that we had gone that day had some significance throughout our dating relationship, but this time we were off to somewhere new, somewhere that I hoped would have a special significance all its own. After leaving her house, I had her put on a blindfold and I drove her to a park.

I imagined that the park would be a very nice place to come back to in future years, but on this cold night in Michigan, I had forgotten that the sun goes down obscenely early and that I would be asking for her hand practically in the dark. In any case, I had a flashlight, but the view that I imagined was ruined.

card_finalSo we got out of the car at the park. Still blindfolded, DeAnne followed my lead up a hill in the dark and I gave her the final card. It had a little mushy writing and the letters w-i-l-l-u-o-y-r-r-a-m-e arranged in the question mark. While she was trying to read it there in the dark, I pulled out the ring box and got down on one knee in the snow. Since she seemed confused, I asked out loud.

“DeAnne, will you marry me?”

Now, what happened next has been debated for eight years. DeAnne says that her first word was, “yes,” followed by, “wow,” followed by, “my dad agreed to this?”. I insist that it happened in reverse order. Either way, she said yes eventually and we headed back to her house where her family all knew what was happening and greeted us with congratulatory hugs.

It was a perfect day, and it’s been a wonderful eight years. I’m so glad she said yes. I love you DeAnne!

Innermost Secret 54 | The Final Secret (My Nose Job)

DSC00863The end is here. This is my final post in my Innermost Secrets series. It’s been fun reliving old memories from my days at Camp Manitou-Lin, but now it is time to say goodbye to them and start creating new and ever more horrifying secrets.

Want to start at the beginning? Try these: Innermost Secrets 1-8, 9-15, 16-21, 22, 23-27, 28-32, 33-37, 38-4243-48, and 49-53.

54th (and final) Innermost Secret

  • One time, I broke my face.

It happened while I was in high school. My church’s youth group was participating in some kind of multi-church event. The games were of a competitive nature. The winning church got more of God’s love. Just kidding. The winners just got bragging rights, which I guess means that they actually sinned more. Oh well.

Anyway, the game that broke my face was one played with a large ball, probably about four feet in diameter. Each of the four churches designated ten players to represent them. The players were organized by height along one of the four lines and assigned corresponding numbers (10=tallest, 1=shortest). Numbers were then called out and the people associated with them ran to the center of the square and tried to both prevent the giant ball from crossing their team’s line and get the giant ball across a different team’s line. When things got boring, multiple numbers were called.

It was during one of these boring moments when three numbers were called out. A small mob soon formed around the ball, and then it was airborne. Once it was up, the mob gathered below, all waving fists and elbows, anything to guide the ball away from their team’s line.

And then I made contact. Not with the ball, but with someone’s elbow. Possibly, it was the back of their head. At the flash of pain, I fought my way out of the scrum. When I touched my nose, my fingers came away red.

Now, nose bleeds and I are no strangers to each other. When I wrestled in middle school, not a practice went by without my nose leaking a bit of heart-juice. I would just wad up some toilet paper, shove it up my nose, and return to the mat.

When I saw the blood that night, I thought, Man, that’s really bleeding, but I didn’t think anything other than that. I excused myself to get some toilet paper from the bathroom. My trick about stuffing a was up my nose wasn’t working though. The flow was just too strong. I ended up pinching my nose shut and waiting for the flow to staunch itself.

After ten or fifteen minutes, it slowed enough for me to look in the mirror and assess the mess that I would need to clean up. But in looking at the bloody mess that lived below my nose, I noticed something else. My nose was no longer centered on my face. It was noticeably off, probably by half and inch or so.

When the event was over, my parents were called, and I went off to the emergency room. This wasn’t my first trip to the emergency room after a youth group event, and I feel bad for my youth pastor that he had to make at least two calls to my parents that preceded hospital visits for me.

The doctor who looked over my x-rays said about the least helpful thing a doctor could say, which was to state the obvious. “It’s broken,” he said. I knew that, but I didn’t know what to do about it. I asked. “Well,” he said, “in a little while, we’ll have to re-break it and set it properly so you can breathe normally through it again.”


By the time we left the hospital, my nose no longer hurt. It just looked strange. I imagined that I looked ruggedly handsome in a way, but that didn’t really help the breathing issue.

I soon met with the Otolaryngologist  (Ear, Nose & Throat Doc), and we scheduled my nose job over Christmas break, so I wouldn’t have to miss any school while I healed. Very thoughtful, I thought. I mean, what kid wants to miss school?

By the way, my nose doctor’s name was Dr. Nosanov. I just think that’s funny. Okay, back to the story.

For the surgery, I got to be put all the way under. I remember hearing Simon and Garfunkel playing when I started counting backwards and wondering if I would wake up thinking about the same thing as when I went under the anesthetic. When I woke up, I wasn’t thinking that. I was thinking about the episode of Seinfeld when Jerry goes to the dentist, gets anesthesia, and wakes up to blurry images of what he thinks are people just putting their clothes back on. Thus, I thought, “I hope people aren’t having sex in front me,” as I woke.

My second thought was one of discomfort. The initial break had taken only a second and within an hour, my nose no longer hurt. The surgery left me with two black eyes, swelling so bad that I couldn’t see or hear well, no sense of smell (my nose had been packed with gauze and between my ears, a little sling had been fashioned to catch anything that dripped out), and no sense of taste. In fact, the only sense that was working well was touch, and since the only thing I could feel was pain, it was the one I wanted least.

The rest of my Christmas vacation was pretty grim, but by the end of it, the swelling had gone down enough to hear and see and such. I went back to the doctor to get my gauze out and he said that it would take a little while for all of the swelling to go away.

I don’t remember how long it took, but when the swelling did go all the way down, I was in for another surprise. As shocked as I was to see my nose on the wrong side of my face when it broke, I was more shocked when I looked in the mirror and saw that my nose, though centered, was a stranger to me.

Before the surgery, my nose had something that I like to call, “The Mosey Bump”. My brother had it, my father had it, and his father before him. In the picture below, you can see it quite clearly. It was quite a feature.


The Infamous Before.

But after the surgery, my bump was gone. Where once stood a mogul, now I had a clear ski slope. I had gone under thinking that the doctor was just going to straighten things out, but apparently, once he got in there, he couldn’t help himself and he just had to make my nose prettier.


The Beautiful After (I’m on the right)

It wasn’t until I got a chance to read through the surgery notes (which I had procured for my Army ROTC scholarship documentation) that I learned what happened to my Mosey Bump. It fell victim to a tool called a Bone Scraper. I kid you not. It didn’t even stand a chance.

Now, I’m fine with my new nose. That happened quite a while ago and I’m used to it. When I see pictures of the old nose, that is the one that looks strange to me. But now I have children of my own, and I fear for them. What happens if they inherit the Mosey Bump and start thinking that they are not mine? What if they want to get some kind of plastic surgery, like their old man had?

Oh well. All that for another day I guess. Sorry for the long post, but it was the last of my Innermost Secrets and I wanted to do it justice. Also, unlike many of my secrets, this story is all true, so the details were just sitting there, ripe for the writing.

Thanks for reading!

Flash Fiction Entry | Led By Curiosity & The Extreme Weather Meant

This story satisfies the requirements of my own flash fiction challenge, as well as the one from Julia’s place. Enjoy!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

768px-Water_ice_clouds_hanging_above_Tharsis_PIA02653When scientists found a way to sustain life on Mars, Annie Taylor volunteered. When NASA assigned roles, she led.

By Curiosity, or rather the rover’s long-dead bulk, Annie landed her craft, Aries. Toting a crew of two hundred and scant resources necessary to tame the elements, it had taken two years for Aries to reach its destination. The community thrived under Annie’s leadership. Discoveries made daily; hope restored to man’s dominance of the cosmos.

Until the storm.

When radar picked it up, Annie was notified.

“What will we do?” asked the messenger.

Die, she thought, knowing what the extreme weather meant.

“Tonight, we feast.”

Flash Fiction Challenge | Led By Curiosity


In yesterday’s post, I gave some reasons on why writers should try their hand at flash fiction. Today, I’ll be giving everyone a chance.

It doesn’t matter if you claim to be a writer or not, if you are curious about flash fiction, please take a few minutes and write up a 100 word story. It’ll be good for your brain.

The prompt for this flash fiction challenge is “led by curiosity.”

The rules are simple. Write a piece of flash fiction that includes the phrase “led by curiosity”. Aim for 100 words or less. Post your entry, or a link to your entry if you have your own blog, in the comments below. There’s no end date on this challenge.

If you do have your own blog, be sure to link back to this post so your readers can read the other submissions as well. Feel free to use the image above as a link if you know how to do that.

That’s it. Have fun. I can’t wait to see your submissions!

I’ll post my own pretty soon.

Why Write Flash Fiction?

jot_eblast2In a couple of weeks, I’ll be speaking at Jot: The GR Writers Mini-Conference on the topic of flash fiction. If you haven’t heard the term before, flash fiction is simply very short stories. Think anywhere between two (2) and five hundred (500) words.

Flash fiction isn’t new, and short stories have always had a following. In fact, many well-known authors of acclaimed novels got their start in writing short stories for magazines. My favorite example for this transition is Kurt Vonnegut, author of classics like Slaughterhouse-Five and Timequake. But as time has replaced the short stories in magazines by ads and articles on how to improve your sex life, readership of short stories has become almost niche.

Now take the population that reads this niche and shrink it considerably. The folks that are left are the ones writing flash fiction. Now shrink that number considerably and you’ll be left with the ones actually getting their flash fiction published.

So if flash fiction is a niche within a niche and there are so few people publishing it, why write it?

Here’s why:

  • You will learn the value of the right word. If your goal is to make a book as thick as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, you can afford to be wasteful with words, adding in superfluous languages, ten names for the same character, and description as wordy as a dictionary. But when you are limiting your number of words, you can’t afford such extravagances; you need the right word, not a bunch of the wrong ones that mean the same thing.
  • You will learn to kill your darlings. By limiting your word count, you will have to make the tough decisions about what is necessary to the plot and what needs to go.
  • You will get to know your story more intimately. If you are writing a novel-length story, consider writing one of your scenes as a story within itself. What are the important elements of the scene? What descriptions can you use to bring your characters into the right light? These things will become evident when you force yourself to abide by a truncated word count.
  • Media consumers are becoming accustomed to briefness. Tweets that are 140 characters long. YouTube clips under 3 minutes long. Attention spans are shortening by the second. If we stay on this course, novel lengths will eventually shorten to flash fiction lengths anyway. Why not stay ahead of the curve?

By distilling your characters, plots, and settings, you are making each element richer. Flash fiction will help you become a better writer whether you use it as a writing exercise or as your main artistic form.

Please join me at Jot: The GR Writers Mini-Conference as we will look at some tips for writing flash fiction.

I am the “Paper Bag Strangler”.

During our first year of marriage, my beautiful wife and I used brown paper bags to bring our lunches to work. And because she loves me, DeAnne would write notes on my bag. And because I love her, I would write notes on her bag.


It started out just on the front of the bag. But in time, the front grew too small for the amount of message that we each wanted to leave, and words spilled over to the bottom of the bag. We were being stereotypical newlyweds, and it was wonderful.


DeAnne was working at the now-defunct Linens-N-Things. It was a great place to work for a newlywed, because everything that we didn’t get at our wedding, we were able to buy at a steep discount through her employee status. DeAnne worked hard as a full-time lead and was soon promoted to become part of the management staff. All the while, she would go on her lunch bag and read the note that I had written for her.

I was working where I still work, Baker Book House, but was acting as the store’s music buyer then. I made sure that Baker had music to sell, handled returns and promotions for my department, and had a working knowledge of all branches of the Christian music scene. And everyday, I looked forward to my lunch break, when I would be able to read the note that my wife had written me.

Things continued along these lines until my wife was transferred to a store closer to my bookstore. We were excited to be working less than a mile from each other, but our brown paper lunch notes met an obstacle. Shortly after the transfer, while DeAnne was still meeting all of the staff, she started to hear comments about her lunch bags.

“Did you see what DeAnne’s husband wrote?”

“No. What?”

“I don’t remember exactly, but I get the impression that if she ever tried leaving him, he’d kill her.”

Now, for the record, one of the sayings that my wife and I have and live by is “Death before Divorce”, but it is something that we both agree with, and I don’t think I ever wrote that on one of DeAnne’s lunch bags. My notes were mostly about things like how pretty she is and how much I love her. Occasionally, I would draw a dinosaur or something. But I don’t think I ever knowingly threatened her.

After that, I stuck to writing on the bottom of the lunch bags.

Since then, we’ve gone green and use re-useable lunch bags, and though we no longer write each other notes for all to see, we have found other ways to help each other feel loved.

Here’s hoping that you have love in your life and that you are actively seeking to help others feel it. Thanks for reading!


Here’s my newest post about Jot! If you are in the West Michigan area and are willing to help us out, we’d really appreciate it! Exclamation points!

Jot Writers Conference

There is a reason Jot is free. Most writers aren’t rolling in piles of cash. We understand that. In fact, we represent that.

So here are a few ways that you can help us out for little or no cost:

  • Re-blog our posts. If you don’t have a blog of your own, start one and use it to re-blog our posts.
  • Tweet or Link to Jot on Facebook. Use this link, it’s short! http://bit.ly/ZZFvAw
  • E-blast your contact list info about Jot. If they tell you that the email wound up in their spam folder, maybe you should just remove them from your contact list. Those aren’t the type of people for you.
  • Print out and hang a poster at your favorite library, coffee shop, or public writer hangout. (Click here for the jot_mini_poster)
  • Talk about it to your friends. If you don’t have friends, talk about it to strangers…

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