Amy’s Lesson

(This is a short-short story–about 1,500 words–I put together the other day. My thought is to write a third novel following Paul and Amy from Sudden Mission and the sequel, but from Amy’s point of view. So this is an exercise in writing from Amy’s point of view, plus a little view into the dystopian world they live in, and some seasonal fun. Happy Halloween. – GLP)

Amy Grossman shrugged her shoulders against her backpack straps as she entered the small town. The breeze pushed a lock of her auburn hair across her grey eyes and she gently looped it back behind her ear with her right hand.

Aside from the breeze tossing gold and brown leaves and bits of paper around the street, nothing else moved in the town. Empty storefronts looked out on the main street. Windows shattered, doors smashed in, and the products formerly offered for sale inside gone.

They seemed to cry out to the empty streets. Why?

Fall was strong in the air and the early morning frost that coated her sleeping bag was still fresh in Amy’s memory, and just then it made her shiver. Normally, the autumn breeze would bring crisp scents and a promise of harvest and feasts. But this small town had been ravaged by looters, gangs and rovers in the last two years. The smells in and around it held a strong suggestion of decay and rot.

Fortunately, the smells of not-so-freshly dead were long gone.

BOAmy jumped, startled by the sudden rush of breeze and scrape of dry leaves on the sidewalk near an alleyway. She found herself in a fighting stance, holding her bō in an attack position, looking around. She still had nightmares from her experiences on this last summer’s mission trip. The lost souls they went to save, the hellhounds, the battles, the demon, and the possessed–all continued to haunt her daily life.
She remembered there was a term for what she now experienced. Nightmares, jumping at sudden noises, being hyper-vigilant. She just didn’t remember the term. It’s not important now, anyway, she told herself. There isn’t anyone to help me deal with it other than Paul and my family.

She shook it off and continued on. She sought a grocery or hardware store that may still have something useful left. This was the third town in the last few days of foraging. They were having to go further and further from their community each time they sent out foragers. And each time they returned with fewer useful items, less edible foods.

Amy had a short list from the community, most of which she found already. But she still needed to find some tools and some special oil, undamaged clothing, and any edible food.

The community produced almost everything anyone needed from their household gardens and a few small farms. But, they always sought to add any unspoiled canned food and stocks of clothing. Amy could not carry all that back in her backpack, but would note the location of large stocks of clothing, food, or hardware for larger groups who would come later with trucks.

Fuel was rare now so vehicles were only used when absolutely necessary and there was a large cache of supplies to bring in.

She stepped carefully across the threshold of a broken entry door, trying not to make too much noise. Her eyes scanned the dingy, dark interior of the former hardware store.


Nothing moved.

She didn’t expect to find much on the shelves. Most were cleared of anything useful. Everything left behind was damaged or destroyed and joined the detritus covering the shelves and floor of the store. She moved carefully toward the rear of the store and found the door to the back room. This is where stock was kept until brought out to the shelves. Looters often overlooked this part of the store operations, and the community harvested a lot of good tools and material in these back rooms.

This one, though, was well looted. Boxes torn open and the remains of spilled fluids and powders littered the floor. If there had been tools and equipment back here, they were long gone.

She shook her head, but still made a loop through the room to make sure she didn’t miss anything.

Outside, she identified a small grocery a couple of blocks down the street and made her way to it. Just after the Troubles, the time when Satan threw reality into chaos and decimated two-thirds of the world population, supermarkets and grocery stores were difficult to enter. Power failures caused frozen and refrigerated food storage to fail. The resulting smell of rotting food could be overpowering. Now it wasn’t so bad. You just didn’t touch or move anything from the freezer or cooler units.

She walked slowly through the aisles of the grocery. What she found was boxed food chewed into by mice, or worse. All the canned food she saw was dented or bulging–and most of those scattered on the floor. No coffee in cans, bags or bulk at all. At the bulk bins for coffee, she opened one and breathed deeply of the aroma. Even empty, it still held an aroma.

I miss good coffee, she thought.

She sighed and shuffled on.

In the candy aisle, she saw one little bag dangling from a display hanger. It had a patina of dust, but a dull orange and yellow could be seen through it. As she drew closer, she recognized it.

Candy corn.

Carefully, she pulled the small bag from the hanger bar and gently wiped the dust off the package. Yes, it was candy corn. It was intact and the candy inside looked unharmed, even safe to eat. The pieces had bright white, orange, and yellow parts.

She resisted the urge to tear it open and devour all the pieces immediately. Tears filled her eyes and spilled down her freckled cheeks. Memories of her childhood, Halloween treats, and the flavor and sweetness of candy corn in her mouth drifted through her head.

Then another memory–a lesson–came to her. Something she could do to share this special treasure.

Candy corn.


Amy watched the small children enter her little Sunday school classroom. She could barely contain herself as she sat on the floor waiting for them. They circled around her and joined her on the floor doing the normal things small children do; wriggling, giggling, and squirming around.

“How are you all this fine Sunday?” Amy said. This was the signal for the children to settle down and pay attention. After a moment, they were attentive.

“Fine, Miss Amy,” they chorused.

“Good,” she said. She looked around at the small, sweet, smiling faces. “We have an interesting lesson today. Who can tell me what God is?”

One little boy shot his hand up. Amy nodded to him.

“God is good,” he said.

“Thank you, Brad. That is correct. Anyone else? What is God?”

A little girl on the other side put her hand up.

“God is our Heavenly Father,” she said when Amy looked at her.

Amy smiled and nodded.

“Right. Did you also know that God is three in one?”

All the children looked at Amy, some confused.

“God is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” she said, using the fingers of her left hand to enumerate the points. “All three in one God. It is called the Trinity.”
Another little boy raised his hand.

“Yes, David,” Amy said.

“Does he come apart like a toy?”

“No, not really,” Amy said. She chuckled softly. “Let me show you something that might help understand God.”

She reached behind her and into her pack and carefully brought out a small package. Her hands shook just a little. There was enough for all the children here, with some left over. But for all she knew, this was the last package in existence. She carefully opened the package and spilled the contents out in her hand.

“This is candy corn,” she said. “I want each of you to take one. Just take one, hold it in your hand and look at it carefully.”

The children all took a piece of the small candies. Amy realized this was the first–and likely the last–time that these children would see and experience candy corn.

“Notice that there is a white part at the tip, an orange part in the middle, and a yellow part on the large end.”

She used her own piece to demonstrate as she spoke, pointing to each part. “But the candy corn is one piece. This is like God. God has the Father part, the Son part, and the Holy Spirit part, but is just the one God.”

The children looked at the candy and back at Amy. No one raised a hand.

“And, do you know the best part?” Amy said. She held up her piece of the candy.
Most of the children shook their heads. No one raised a hand.

“God is sweet and good! Just like candy corn.” Amy popped the candy corn into her mouth and chewed. The flavor wasn’t as strong as she remembered, and the candy was just slightly stale. But it was good and sweet. She savored it a moment, with those childhood memories flooding back. Then she noticed the children hadn’t moved a muscle.

“It’s okay,” she said, smiling. “You can eat your candy now.”

< The End >

Keep writing.

Self Promotion

One of the more difficult parts of the modern publishing paradigm is self promotion. I’m not good at this and always had trouble with it. It seems like bragging and I’ve never been comfortable with that.

Self promotion plays into job interviews. I probably understated my skills and accomplishments in my resume and interviews. Turns out, this seems counter to current trends where folks overstate skills and experiences, sometimes to the point of complete fabrication. While I may have understated things, I was always honest.

Now, though, I have to reach out to various people and institutions to arrange readings and signings. Self promotion.

Since Sudden Mission is a Christian-themed middle-grade/YA novel, I need to find venues for readings and signings that fit the message, you might say. Around Spokane, we have Christian-based businesses or mission groups in the form of coffee shops or cafe/churches. These are found all around the city and I’ve made contact with some.

The first reading/signing event at Indaba Coffee (the Broadway location), turned out great. Most of the audience were friends and family and a few other regulars at the coffee shop. I introduced myself and gave a little intro to the reading (not really enough it turns out), read two passages, then opened up to questions. There were a lot of questions and we got some good discussion going. We planned the event for about an hour and we got wrapped up in just about that amount of time. I even managed to sell and sign a few books.

I handed out a lot of those promotion cards I had made and left a stack at the coffee shop. That, I think, is a handy tool for those who aren’t ready to buy a copy immediately, but want to check it out more.

Based on this, I’m going to move ahead with more reading/signing events at other neighborhood venues in the area. I made contact with another venue and plan to visit a third this week.

Libraries are another resource. If you look at my Events page, you’ll see I have a couple of things scheduled at the Whitman County Library. That wasn’t too difficult since we have a lot of family in that county (just to the south of us). It could be more difficult getting into the Spokane County Library system to do similar readings since it is a larger organization. But, libraries, like most public institutions, are financially strapped. An author willing to volunteer for readings and programs may succeed.

Libraries in public schools may reject Sudden Mission for various reasons, libraries in Christian schools in the area are more likely to accept it. I did make contact with a number of Christian school administrators and librarians in the area to see if I can generate some communication. So, we’ll see how that goes.

Libraries, as I mentioned above, are often financially strapped. Whitman County Library did order a copy of my book for their collection and I’m grateful. But, I will also ask if they want another copy as a donation. I plan to offer copies to any other library I work with, so long as it ends up in their collection and not part of their book sale. While this won’t boost my sales numbers or author ranking on Amazon, it will get the book more exposure.

Keep writing.



Saturday, I have the first of a number of readings from Sudden Mission. Check the Events page for the schedule and details.

I haven’t done an interpretive reading since college and I have my share of stage fright. I’m hoping the audience is kind and things go well. Choosing the passage to read, practice, and more practice are on the list for this week.

My editor gave me some positive feedback on the sequel this week. Whew! We are in edit mode, now. Things will get busy with that project so the frequency of blog posts may slow down.

I considered setting up a third novel in this series, doing the planning and all, and writing the first draft in November for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). With the edit process going, I decided to put that off. As soon as we are edit complete on the sequel, we will go right into proofread. So, the workload would just be too much.

The current target to release the sequel is February 2, 2016. That may change, but I hope not. I’ll keep you informed on how things are going.

Keep writing.



Busy Week

I had a recent interview with an arts reporter for the Whitworth University campus newspaper, The Whitworthian. It came out this week, on Wednesday. I immediately ran up to the campus and picked up a few copies of the paper version. Here is the online version of the story: The Whitworthian.

Last week, I wrapped up the rewrite and edits for the sequel to Sudden Mission. The working title is Nasty Leftovers. I uploaded the document to my publisher and put together my production team. I can now say that the sequel is now in edit and our tentative release date is February 2, 2016. This may change. The editor is going to look it over first and let us know if this date is good.

Other marketing and community outreach efforts are starting to come together. I made contact with the libraries of local Christian schools to offer a visit and reading. I’m still waiting to hear back, but I hope there will be a couple of events.

In October, I’ll be at the Whitman County Library, 102 S Main, Colfax, WA, on the 27th (12:30 to 1:15 pm) to read to a group of middle graders and talk to them. This is open to the community, as well. While I only get about 25 minutes with the kids, I’ll have time to talk and visit with anyone else interested.

As a result of my contact with the Whitman County Library, they ordered my book to include in their collection. That is so cool!

December 3, from 3 to 6 pm, I’ll be back at the Whitman County Library again for a signing. This is during the Colfax Winter Festival and Festival of Trees. I’ll have books to sell and sign, and look forward to meeting lots of folks.

I have things to do to prepare for these and other events (like the Indaba Coffee reading and signing). I’m going to see about getting some posters or something made to help promote the events.

I’m trying to keep the Events page up to date, so check in with that periodically for changes, updates, or new events. If you can get to one, even just to say “Hi!”–it would be greatly appreciated.

Keep writing.



Older movies and some older TV series, centered on New York City, often portray artists (playwrights, writers) as living and dying by the reviews of the local newspapers. Sometimes those stories are set in Los Angeles, too.

But, this is today. Yes, I want to see reviews. Lots of them. But, I don’t live or die by them.

When Sudden Mission launched in mid-August, we started a blog tour and got some bloggers to review the book. So far, the reviews have been positive. Generally short. But positive. That’s good to a point.

Then you get to Amazon and there are reviews there. One is especially good and from someone very close to the demographic Sudden Mission is written to. That same person posted her review on Goodreads and couple other sites. She is a voracious reader and does a lot of reviews.

The rest of the Amazon and Goodreads reviews, so far, are by adults and friends who like to read YA and young people fiction. Just because they are friends, though, doesn’t mean the praise is fluff. They are professionals and don’t mince words about story, writing, and quality. So, I’m thankful for their feedback.

This brings us to a review we tried to get earlier, but I just found on Tumblr. The reviewer, for some reason, didn’t get the review at the time promised. But, here it is and it is generally positive.

4amusingmuses Review

So, the reason for the late appearance isn’t because she didn’t like it. She did take me to task on one area. Character description. Fair enough. Some people like more, some like less description. I’m on the side that wants to leave the reader more latitude, or give them room to put themselves into the main character role. Still, she had some valid points and those are things we worked on in the editing process.

But, I’m not dying and will take the constructive input.

I’m sure there will be more comments and reviews that dislike one part or another of the story, my writing style, or some other aspect of the book. There may even be reviewers who trash the book due to a difference in philosophical views. That will be expected. It is the world of today and the anonymous reviewer has a lot of leeway in what they can say.

I don’t live and die by the reviews, though. Any attention, comment, rating, or review is good. This is especially true on Amazon. I think people use the reviews to determine if a book is something they want to read. The blurb helps, but the reviews can be the better tool.

I know I use them when trying to make a purchase decision on Amazon or other online retailers. I read the good ones and the bad ones. Then I make a judgement. I know I’m not alone.

If you are a reader, put up a rating on a book you read. Even if you don’t comment or review, the rating is a metric for what people think of the work. It helps other readers.

Keep writing and reading.