Every Single One Of My Titles

Turn of Phrase #1

Why not post when I come up with a turn of phrase that particularly tickles me during my writing adventures?  Maybe this will turn into a little impromptu series like my ‘snippets’, which are short excerpts from rough drafts.  They have their own category so you can find them all in one place if you want.

I’ll give the turn of phrases their own category, too.

Here’s today’s: “His lower back crackled like cereal when you pour the milk over.”

Silly, yet evocative.  I like it.

Fifteen thousand Words Into a Reality Show Yarn and It’s Getting Interesting



I posted an excerpt from this work-in-progress a while back, and shortly thereafter I stalled on the story and put it on the back burner.


I wasn’t alarmed, this happens to me often.  Writing half of a story and then letting it sit for a few days or weeks until an idea for the second half percolates to the surface of my mind is pretty much standard operating procedure.  Apparently, my subconscious really wants in on my stories.

Also, this is more dialogue-heavy than most of the snippets I post.  I like to think I have an ‘ear’ for plausible dialogue, for writing things the way actual people might actually say them.  Sometimes that means damn the grammar, and that’ just the way it’s gotta be.  Honestly, I don’t think I was too rough on the English language this time.  I’ve done worse before.

Without further ado, enjoy this snippet from what my subconscious came up with.  I censored the Very Naughty Word near the end because I try to keep it basically PG-13 for the blog and save the really racy stuff for the paying customers.


   I turned the set off after the setup, the little teaser that runs after the opening credits and hints at developing storylines, asks the viewers to wonder what’s going to happen to who and when before the commercial break.  I tore through the cabin until I remembered where I had plugged my phone in and dialed Isaac, ignoring the flashing bank of notification icons crowding the top of the screen.
“Chad, you don’t just turn off your phone in show biz.  It’s just not done unless you’re Greta Garbo,” Isaac said without a hello, voice wounded like he’d just been run over in the street and left to bleed.  And in a way he had.  A talent’s agent deserves to know the high points of what’s going on in his talent’s life.  It’s his bread and butter.
“Isaac.  I’m sorry.  I’m really sorry.  After the fight on set, I just needed some time.”
“You can have time.  But you gotta talk to me.  The lines of communication have to be open or I can’t work for you, Chad.  I need to talk to you two weeks ago.  Can I talk to you two weeks ago?  Because I’ve got a hell of a deal for you.  Two goddamn weeks ago, Chad,” Isaac said, warming up from wounded to ready to inflict some wounds of his own.
“Okay, okay, I get it.  I’ll never do it again.  I’m serious, Isaac.  The next time I go incommunicado on you for more than an hour or two will be when a meteor shoots out of the sky and whacks me in the forehead, okay?”
“George Alalay left the show,” Isaac said.
“You heard me,” Isaac said.  “He showed up for the shooting day after the fight, then he stopped showing up.  He had his agent call Jim, wouldn’t even talk to him himself.  Nobody knows where he is, either.  You know the fan rags are starting to cook up conspiracy theories, Chad?  They’ve got you two running off to get married, they’ve got Jim secretly working for a rival network to sabotage Touch the Stars, they’ve got an Afghanistani drug cartel kidnapping you two and the network keeping the ransom demands secret, hoping to salvage the show.  It’s gotten very creative.  And Stars is on hiatus.  They’ve already re-run the season finale from last season, then they’ll run the two shows that are already in the can, then they don’t know what the hell they’re going to do.  If they don’t get something in the can in the next week it’s all going to go right down the drain, Chad.  And that’s not the worst part.”
“No?  What’s the worst part, Isaac?”  I had a feeling I knew what he was going to say, and I didn’t like it.  I should have left the phone on.  I’d bet I had messages from Angelique and Kat, telling me their plan wasn’t going to work out.  They must figure I’m deliberately ignoring them.  Pulling a Garbo, disappearing into a hole and pulling my millions in after me, and f— the little people.
“There’s no way in hell I’m going to be able to land you anything, movie or network, once you’re the man who killed Touch the Stars at the height of its power.  You’re poison, Chad.  Unless you can bring this thing back to life.”
“How… I don’t know where to start,” I said lamely.
“Call Jim.  No, don’t call Jim.  Go see Jim in person.  Word is he’s hanging around the Will Smith Memorial Country Club playing thirty-six holes of golf a day.  And then figure out how to get George back,” he said.  “I’ll do what I can, but I’m not having any more luck finding him than I had finding you.  Just get back here, from wherever you are.  And we’ll see if you have a career left to save.”  He hung up with a disgusted snort.

Untitled. Where’s that Title?


(This is the comment I left on the author’s blog.)

I’ve used all three of these methods for finding titles for my various short stories, as well as a fourth.

Every once in a while, I dream up a title that I like so much that I have to write a story around it, reversing the process of finding a title to fit a story.

I can’t be the only writer who does that. I just can’t think of who the others are at the moment…

Originally posted on I Read Encyclopedias for Fun:

Earlier today, I was going through Goodreads and was thinking about how authors come up with titles for their books.  I find it to be one of the most difficult things to do, besides actually finishing the book.

I’ve seen some titles that are rather generic looking, which is unfortunate.  They’re not memorable.  I’ve seen some that make little to no sense to me when I see the book cover.  However, those ones make sense once I read the book.

So, where does the title come from?  When is the book given a title?  To answer the second question, I guess it depends.  I’ve already got a title for my first book, but have no idea what to do about the titles for my trilogy.  My short story that I’m writing for Camp NaNoWriMo has a provisional title that I may stick with.  As for the first question, let’s look…

View original 264 more words

Stalled at 51?




2013 01 22 13 48 48

2013 01 22 13 48 48


Some of you might have noticed that after publishing my 51st ebook title, Riding the Drone, in February, I haven’t released anything new.


So… has writer’s block struck, you might be wondering?


No, no.  Since I started self-publishing at the start of 2012, my stories have gone straight to ebook.  But that’s not what’s happening now.  51 is a nice number to pause on, I thought, while I take a run at seeing if any of the pro-rates-paying markets out there are interested in my writing.


Today, I sent out story number 10.  Since February, I’ve run up a few rejections, and sent the stories right back out to new markets.  My optimistic plan is to issue stories in ebook once the folks who publish them relinquish exclusive rights.  We’ll see how it works out.


I have a good feeling about this.  Don’t disappoint me, highly competitive pro market. :-)

S.A. Barton on Patreon, a Site for Connecting Artists With Patrons



Trying something new, a site that connects artists with people who want to be patrons of the arts. Apparently quite a few artists are having some success with it, so let me go ahead and give it a try!


Take a peek right here, and tell me what you think.

Snippet: An Untitled Cat Story I’m Still Working On


This is pretty close to what Kwirrrf looks like, in case you’re wondering.

Except, of course, he’d never wear a collar.


 “…but it’s expecting us right now,” Sandy said.

“Right,” Clay and Eileen said together.  The three took dinner to the cat’s tent.

In the tent, four of the graduate students sat on the floor rubbing their jaws.  The fifth, a skinny young man with a shockingly large and bushy beard, held his shaggy facial hair out of the way with one hand while he carefully licked down the length of Kwirrrf’s tail, which rested on the tabletop to allow proper licking leverage.  The bearded man’s tongue was streaked with gray down the middle.

“Tank guud,” he slurred as he straightened up, clay-coated tongue still protruding from his mouth.

“Leave me, whatever your name is,” the cat said to the bearded student.

“Dick,” he said, a little more clearly as his tongue regained moisture.

The cat’s eyes flashed green and the student screamed.  While it hadn’t harmed Sandy and Clay aside from causing pain, this time the cat’s glare withered flesh.  In moments, all that remained of the student was a small mound of ashes.

“That was his name,” Eileen said quietly.  “Dick is short for Richard.”

“I’m not convinced that was the sense he used that word in,” Kwirrrf said, pretending that he hadn’t misunderstood…

The Author, With Attitude

More than 40 years ago, already I was confrontational.  Such defiant.  Many challenge.



Snippet: Garbage Music

This is one I’m working on for a magazine’s submission call for music-themed speculative fiction.  Deadline is tomorrow, so I’m furiously editing.  This snippet has had a quick editing pass, but is not finalized yet.  Garbage Music is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which the last bastion of civilization survives around Melbourne, Australia.  Because why let the northern hemisphere have all the fun?



Neyerneyemeet was small and black, black as the richest soil by the riverside where The One People planted rice, black as the night without the moon, and the whites of her eyes glinted like stars from her face, which was downturned as she watched her own seamed dark hands plucking out the notes in the flickering light of a menagerie of oil lamps resting in notches along the walls of the broad chamber behind the blanket. The instrument she plucked was outlandish, strange, a thing of ancient technology from before the Last World War, a thing of factories and not of today’s careful handmaking. The One People still made things like this, but sparingly, computers and electronic tools and solar skins and even satellites and spaceships. But handcrafters made them one at a time and the things they made looked like handmade things. This thing was shiny plastic, smooth, machine-stamped when it didn’t need to be, reflecting the flickers of lamplight, garish apple red at its broad body that covered Neyerneyemeet’s lap, and angular, a jutting triangle with a long black neck against which metal strings lay glossy like brass. A black cord joined it to a box, and from the box wailed the strange music.

Neyerneyemeet looked up at her, white eyes blazing in the deep black face, with centers like holes in the night. Their eyes met. Neyerneyemeet kept playing, a finger adjusting a dial on the red face of the instrument: the music grew quieter and wailed still, but more softly. Jacinta opened her mouth to speak but found all of the questions she had, had fled. She closed her mouth and sat down on the cold stone of the floor, not noticing the chill, lost in listening.

The music paused for a short space, a handful of seconds, not more than a minute. And then it began again, quiet, high, irregular, softly crying. Jacinta closed her eyes and let the crying move through her. She could hear the baby in the music. The music grew, slow at first, then faster, faster, swelling, questing. It grew sure and bold and brash and Jacinta could hear something like herself in it, exploring and questioning behind its surety. It grew still more sure, regular, softening around the edges, less brash, more predictable. And then suddenly it swelled and burst into a wild fragmented breakbeat shriek, echoing off the walls and multiplying into uncountable threads and undertones, all clashing, wounded, screaming in agonized minor keys. The shrieking, the screaming, went on and on until Jacinta thought her ears would bleed and her head could take no more, overwhelmed. And then one of the fragments emerged from the chaos, limping, wounded, a stark single tune, simple, stripped, naked, wandering, lost.

Jacinta reeled, feeling her body shake as she sat on the stone floor…

Snippet: Reality Show Story, Working Title “That’s All”

I watched reality shows… well, okay, bits of them… to see if I could pick up some bits and pieces to make this one feel authentic to readers who watch them.

Not that I’ve never watched a reality show before, but I do have an allergy to the format in general.  But that’s neither here nor there.

So far, this story is heading toward novella territory, over 17,500 words (or roughly 70 paperback pages).  It’s a near-future yarn, in which your living room television is augmented by feeds of the actual emotions of the actors.  The main character snatches victory from the jaws of defeat with the help of an unexpected friend, Galore Holland.  Her death triggers a great deal of difficulty for the protagonist, Chad Miklos.  It may cost him everything… or catapult him into even greater fame.

There might be more going on.  I’m still writing.  But here’s a little excerpt from the rough draft, as Chad flees a party at which his agent, Isaac Chen, has been haranguing him in a most unwelcome fashion:

I got into my car and told it to take me to the coast.

Would you like…” the feminine voice of the computer started.

Shut up. Most direct route to the nearest coastline. Top speed.”

Under me, sixteen electric motors thrummed like sixteen Satans playing bass fiddle, four on each half-axle. The late great supercars of the past couldn’t match the acceleration of a GMMS Peregrine. The car whipped down the wide driveway so hard my vision blurred. It wove through the city streets and up onto the highway without stopping; the red light had been conquered in the last generation with the death of manual drive. Top speed, though, was limited by road and conditions; the computer topped it out at 275 km/h in the patchy rain. I pushed the sliding top open and adjusted the seat as high as it would go. The wind bellowed in my ears as my head cleared the roof. The raindrops slammed into my face in waves, like swarms of bees stinging the flesh raw. My eyes narrowed down to the thinnest slits possible in self-preservation. All I could see was the red blur of the Peregrine’s hood and smears of green from passing trees through the raindrops caught in my eyelashes.

I rode like that all the way to the coast. I let the car idle for half an hour in the parking lot of a nameless beach overlook, watching the waves. I had no idea where I wanted to go from there, so I told it to take the scenic route home, reclined the seat, and went to sleep.

I dreamed of sitting in the bushes with Galore, on the ruins of an old parka, drinking cheap tequila out of a paper bag.

Just don’t forget me,” she said, and I woke up in my dark garage gagging. The car was off but the computer was always paying attention. It rolled the window down in time for me to puke on the concrete floor.

The show must go on.

A Departure From the Norm: the Michael Dunn Loud Music Shooting Verdict in Florida

I don’t often do news and/or politics here, but for some things I make an exception.

I’ve been sort-of-following the latest trial du jour, the whole nasty mess down in Florida with this Michael Dunn guy who fired a pistol into a carload of teenagers who were playing their music very loud.  As far as I can tell, he approached the car to bitch about their music, then decided he felt threatened–probably after being told to bug off–and opened fire on the four teens, killing one.

The jury returned a verdict that damn near made me do a spit-take with my coffee, it was so weird.

They found him guilty of firing a gun into an occupied vehicle.  Okay, check.  Makes sense.

They found him guilty of three counts of attempted murder for the three teens in the car who were not hit by his gunfire.  Check again.  Sensible.

They couldn’t arrive at a decision in the case of the kid who was shot and died.

What the hell?  

That can’t be right.  Let me re-read what I read.

The jury decided Michael Dunn attempted to murder the three kids he shot at and didn’t hit, but can’t figure out if he murdered the one he shot at and killed.

That ranks very, very high on the list of stupid things I’ve heard.  Florida jury, did you lose your mind?  I wish I could help you find it, you ridiculous people.




CNN’s article on the Michael Dunn verdict


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