Content Counts

Word count is a huge topic in writing circles.

Even though there are fabulous guidelines, every beginning author thinks they are the exception.

I love short stories. I love to write them. I love to read them. It’s like eating a bag of potato chips. Bag open. Salt, oil and chips consumed with gusto. Bag tossed. All without sitting down.

Here’s my word count for my currently published stories:

Preparing for the Fiscal Cliff 5639 – nonfiction
My Mother-in-Law Misadventures 28554 – memoir
The Duel: A Von Crapp Brothers Tale 1364 flash fiction
Safari in the Mist: A Von Crapp Brothers Tale 9226 short story
Psychic Toll Call 841 flash fiction
Print Your Own Booklet Using Microsoft Word 2974 how-to
Seductive Murder 1885 flash fiction
Hunting August Moon 84021 novel


(All these links go to Smashwords, where the short stories are free.)

My word counts above include chapter titles, but don’t include the Table of Contents, the required cover page and introduction or the final acknowledgments.

My first book wasn’t fiction. Non-fiction should be seventy to eighty thousand words, but we wrote this book to meet a specific need. (The Fiscal Cliff still looms, actually. Shame on the government.)

For my second book, I compiled a list of short pieces I wrote when Darling’s mother lived with us (for a decade). Still, the book is too short.

I published The Duel as practice. I don’t recommend that method of learning to self-publish, but I left the story for the curious. It is free on Smashwords, though Amazon doesn’t give me the same option.

Safari in the Mist was just as long as it needed to be to tell the story. That’s okay, but at some future date I will compile all my Von Crapp Brothers stories into a single volume with a better word count.

Psychic Toll Call and Seductive Murder came from my reservoir of short stories written over the years, long before computers became useful for writing. As fun stories, I wanted them published, and I made them free (on Smashwords and on my blog site) so people could see my writing style.

Hunting August Moon took months of writing, and I topped out at over 110,000 words. After numerous edits, it dropped to 84,000. Hunting August Moon hits the sweet spot for novels. It doesn’t disappoint.


Shadow Warrior

I found a bit I wrote a long time ago – perhaps as much as three decades, but more likely two.

This is the rough draft. I typed it exactly as I found it written – and I shudder when I read it. The passive voice alone kills me. I’ll consider it a character draft, and don’t want to lose my warrior, so here it is.

Criticism not accepted. I have enough of my own.


At night he hung his travel hammock under the largest of the three merchant wagons and smiled as he slept. The merchants took turns guarding their gold, especially from him. During the day he rode his black stallion near the wagons, but ranged across the area watching for trouble. He saw signs of bandits, but they must have seen the man in the leather pants and silver mail with the red wolf emblazoned over his heart, for the bandits faded away and didn’t approach the wagons. The merchants spoke with him and joked during the day. The eldest daughter of the leader smiled enchantingly whenever he approached. She was only seventeen and he wasn’t interested in someone half his age, although she was beautiful.

The fourth night of their journey, a mere half day of travel from their destination, the merchants drank too deeply and watched less keenly than usual. The shadow of his shape hung under the wagon and he had shown no interest in their gold. The shadow under the wagon would look solid until morning.

He moved silently at the fringes of their sight,aided bu a wild magic that coursed in his blood and glowed behind his eyes.

The shadow of his movement solidified briefly next to the sleeping form of the flame-haired daughter. In her dreams she felt the kiss from the raven-haired warrior with the wolf’s head for a heart. She might have felt a brief caress before drifting into a deeper sleep.

The bag of gold was easy to find under the seat of the lead wagon. Feeling generous he took the gold and left a bag of fairy gold in its place. Once opened, the merchants could spend it, but the night would turn the gold coins to paper. With his quirky sense of humor, the paper would have the image of an eagle on it – his own private joke.

The shadows shifted again and his stallions snickered as it stepped into the familiar realm of almost-reality.

He counted the gold coins the next day, leagues from where he left the wagons. His chain mail was replaced with black silk and leather, a flaming eagle on his breast. Impersonating the wolf’s head was fine for a few days, but there were still fools who would want to challenge a known champion, and he wasn’t interested in fighting.

The shadows and mis-direction were his realm, and blood doesn’t cast a shadow – especially his own.

As he settled down after his meal, he pulled the bag of coins out for a final count in the flickering light of his campfire.

The bag was full of wooden chips, each with a laughing face stamped on it.

His eyes widened in surprise, then the little grove was startled by the sound of laughter.


Eton Nosh

Eton Nosh, an engineer tired of all the politics in the office, meets Ferendossi Melanchi, a tall, intense man who offers Eton a card. “When you’re ready to try something new, just tap this number here three times.”

“Fascinating. I don’t see any embedded chip or anything. Does it need to connect to my cell phone or something to make the call?”

Feren laughs. “No, it’s a new technology around here, but it will get you an interview for a job you might enjoy – at least a lot more than the one you have.”

At some point Eton taps the card – and he’s teleported to a training center for IT recruits for Grand Galactic Bank and Repository. Enrolled, his name isn’t a hindrance in this new class. He doesn’t stand out at all. Galactic beings from two dozen planets are there – and so is Ferendossi.

“I was ready for a change. It helped that I could get a recruit from your planet.”

Somehow Feren gets control of all the wealth on Terra.

“You know, every planet is named Dirt in their own language. I don’t know why that is. Some philosophical discussions could spring from that, if I had the inclination.”

Okay, so at some point Eton figures out the banking process that allowed Feren to gain control of the Wealth of Terra and he gets it back, but in his own name.

Eton Nosh, owner of Terra, the surrounding planets, and other celestial entities in unrelated systems. Essentially, I’m now a landlord.


Yeah, this story has some potential. There are some sticky points. How did Feren manage to get the planet in his own name. Maybe a filing status thing or something. If Feren now owns the wealth of Terra, why does he bother with the class? Maybe there is a minimum commitment time, or there is jail time and fines? I have to figure that one out.

Feren is charismatic and charming and glib, very much a hedonist who makes no excuses for enjoying his life. Physically, he’s a tall humanoid, dark black hair, raven-dark. Clean-shaven (yeah, I thought about a mustache, but then we get a Snidley Whiplash sort of character, and that’s not at all what he is), so he is clean-shaven with emerald eyes. Clever. Loves to do card tricks. Has a novelty site where he sells cards created on other worlds, but on Terra they are unique. He’s done the same on other planets, so he has a nice steady stream of income. Nice clothes, neat and tidy.

Eton Nosh is short. He keeps his brown hair cut short so he doesn’t need to mess with it. Though he tries to stay clean-shaven, he has a five-o-clock shadow by three. He stands only five foot, nine inches tall, maybe slightly more than that, but that’s how he reports it. His eyes are blue, but a light blue that doesn’t attract attention from men or women. He hardly ever looks someone straight in the face, unless he’s talking about processes, which he is passionate about – or as much as he can be passionate about something. Not greatly muscular, but wide-shouldered and thick forearms with long hair on them. He has bushy eyebrows that most people notice right away. A nice smile, though he has a couple crooked teeth on the bottom front. He keeps them in good shape, with brushing and flossing. His nose is slightly crooked from getting hit one too many times as a kid, but otherwise unremarkable. He has some few freckles across the bridge of his nose, but you wouldn’t see them unless you were pretty close, and nobody really gets that close. It isn’t that he is unlikeable – he is. His coworkers like him and when he actually says something, they listen because they know it is worth their time. His bosses don’t like him much because he knows their jobs better than they do, and because he is liked among his peers. He is slim, but doesn’t look athletic. Maybe “fit” would describe him.

He likes puzzles. He likes word games. He likes sodoku, though he goes through periods with that, liking it for a while, then bored with them.

For now, that will do.

So now we meet Eton Nosh, owner of the wealth of Planet Earth.Oh,except he renamed it “Etonia.”


von Crapp Brothers commentary – part one

The bit about Chamomile tea is a family joke, or an internet joke that is funny to the family. I wrote a blog post with the entire joke.

Hey, what can I say?

Here’s the family test for a sense of humor…

A horse walked into a bar. The bartender said “Why the long face?”

If you laughed out loud, you’re golden. If you chuckled, you might be okay. Otherwise – fail. You will never get any of my jokes.


The Duel – the first Von Crapp story

This story was a lark. My brother and I were talking, the idea formed when I hung up, and a few minutes later the bones of the story were in place. I knew immediately that I loved the characters. I’m planning an entire line of Von Crapp t-shirts, actually, so keep an eye open for a link to those! And my Von Crapp App …

Anyway, this one was the first, but there are more adventures with Vic and BA. My novella with them starts next Wednesday on my personal blog.

Thanks for reading.


Chapter 46 Commentary

In order to properly finish a book, you need to move all the people where they belong and wrap it up. One of the things that bother me the most are the books that leave a character unintentionally wandering at the end of the book.

I try not to do that. So a few more weeks, and this book is finished. Then where do we go?


Chapter 44 Commentary

Well, you made it to the final battle, essentially the end of the ride. Oh, there’s a little more to come, a few strings to tie, and some final things to do, so come back for the final few chapters.

Well done, and thank you for reading.


Chapter 43 Commentary

This is a great chapter. I like it a lot. Fast-paced, well-written, good conversations… Yup, this one has it all.

If I do say so myself.


We get some explanations. Then we get a surprise. Then we get action. Then we get a cliff-hanger.

I read it twice today and liked it both times.

Thanks for reading! Enjoy.


Chapter 42 Commentary

I have to admit, this is one of my favorite chapters. I wrote this chapter right after Maddie met the girls, and I touched it up a few times. I really like Abe, and suspect that he and Sarah will show up in the world again in the future. They may not, but I can only hope.
And the question is, if Abe is Transformed, but injured so severely, will that injury heal over time? Will he regain his lost faculties?
I honestly don’t know, but I like him. I think Sarah does, too. Though I’m pretty sure neither of us thinks he should have a gun.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy.