Wednesday, April 30, 2014

30 Days: "Mirror Jumpers" by Ryan Simmons

Aiden finds himself in the Afterlife having traveled through a portal in a mirror. Although he has not yet died, he is in the Spirit Zone, where deceased spirits live. Aided by his twin sister Ava who died at birth, he is on a quest to return back to the living world before his body dies and he is trapped forever.

Ryan Simmons is a local graphic designer and "Mirror Jumpers" is his first graphic novel. Check out his other amazing work at his website: 

Monday, April 28, 2014

30 Days 30 Stories: Haiku

By Julie Daines

This year, I'm sharing some awesome Haiku. Most of these were written by my friends for a competition, and I'm posting them without permission, so oops.

Anyway, here are some great Haiku poems about books:

Swan Song (Haiku by T.J. Reed) 

Young girl, heart of gold
Devil roaming happily
Will the world end?

Keturah and Lord Death (Haiku by Michelle Ratto)

death permeates all
life and love in the village
and forces a choice

The Hunger Games (Haiku by Christine Tyler)

Thanks for the burnt bread
If you kiss me you get soup
I'd like to frost you

To Kill A Mockingbird (Haiku by Scott Rhoades)

Fearing boogieman
two finches learn tolerance
among injustice

Pride and Prejudice (Haiku by Taffy Lovell)

Rich men want a wife
It's a universal law
Mother's want the match

The Hobbit (Haiku by Scott Rhoades)

He's number thirteen
with some dwarves and a wizard
What's in his pocket?

Where the Wild Things Are (Haiku by Rachel Taylor)

They held Max up high
"And now let the wild rumpus begin"
They all roared out loud.

The Body Finder (Haiku by Taffy Lovell)

I hear the echoes
From the missing and the dead
And the one who killed

Have you got a book Haiku you'd like to share? Leave it in the comments.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

30 Days: "Mucho and the Robot Baby" by Alicia VanNoy Call

Mucho and the Robot Baby

One day, as a young man was leaving school, his child development
teacher clasped an unbreakable ID bracelet around his wrist and handed
him a robot baby. The young man was a mere fifteen years old, and an
only child, so he didn't have much experience with babies. He toted
the ten pound assignment home in the provided carrier. It made not a
sound the entire afternoon.

At dinnertime, the robot baby began to cry. The young man, whose name
was Mucho, got up from the table with a grumble. Remembering that the
robot baby was programmed to record his presence, Mucho scanned the
bracelet across the robot baby's back and changed its diaper. The
crying stopped. The rest of the evening, every time the robot baby
cried, Mucho would scan the bracelet and record his attentive parental
behavior in a small blue journal. He changed, fed, burped, and rocked
the robot baby for five hours until it finally seemed to sleep.
Exhausted, Mucho crawled into bed and fell into a deep slumber.

That night, the world ended.

Mucho awoke to the electronic whimper of the robot baby. He looked at
the clock, confused by the disparity between the hour and the relative
darkness outside. He scanned, fed, and changed the robot baby. He put
away his pajamas, attempted to check his email – the internet was out
– and opened his bedroom door.

His parents were sitting at the kitchen table, eating canned peaches.

“Good morning, dear,” said his mother.

Mucho looked around at the fortified windows, the furniture pushed
against the door, the emergency candles burned down to stubs.

“What's going on?” he said

“Armageddon,” said his mother. “But you were up half the night with
the baby, so I didn't want to wake you.”

Mucho peered through two boards out into the ash-drifted street. He
could see distant fires, the sun blotted out by smoke, and an
overturned police car.

“I can't believe Armageddon snuck in under my nose.”

“You've always been a deep sleeper,” said his father.

“Does this mean playoffs are canceled?” Mucho wondered. He was a big
basketball fan.

“Hard to say,” said his mother.

From the other room, the robot baby started to wail.


Later that week, Mucho's parents became ill. His father said it was
airborne contagion. (Mucho felt fine.) His mother said it was that flu
that had been going around. They laid themselves down in bed and after
that, declined rather quickly. Mucho paced the room with the robot
baby while his parents bestowed their parting advice.

“You take care of that baby,” said his mother. “You don't know when
all this silliness will end. If school starts back up tomorrow, you'll
want a good grade.”

“Don't forget to brush your teeth,” said his father.

Mucho half expected his parents to rise from their death bed and
attempt to eat his brain. He had watched a lot of cable television
after all. But they moldered away peacefully, and in the course of
time Mucho forgot about them.

But he did not forget about the robot baby.

Day after day, he cared for the robot baby. He became familiar with
its cries. The short, clipped cries for a diaper change. The
lingering, lusty howls for a bottle. The hiccuping whine for a
burping. The fussy complaining sound of the robot baby when it wanted
to be held – that was Mucho's favorite. He held the robot baby to his
shoulder, sang to it, and rubbed its back. After while, the robot baby
would signal its contentment with a gurgling laugh. Mucho learned to
love that sound.

He learned that that robot baby didn't like being left face down. It
didn't like being dangled by one foot. And it didn't like being left
alone. He grew very fond of the robot baby, and carried it around the
house in a sling made from an old bed sheet.

At first, Mucho would look out between the boards every few days, but
after a couple of months, he gave up the practice. He found it
depressing to see no variation in the view -- the same deserted street
and the same burned out houses.

Mucho lived for a year on canned food and bottled water. He grew very
thin and very grateful for his mother's couponing hoard and his
father's camping gear. And every night, after walking the floor for
hours, after feeding, changing, and burping it, he faithfully recorded
his treatment of the robot baby.


One morning, Mucho awoke to an eerie stillness. In the first few
moments, he couldn't identify the reason for his apprehension. Then he
realized that he hadn't been roused by crying. He peered at the robot
baby. He listened at its chest. The robot baby was silent. He dangled
it by one foot. Nothing.

In the same moment that panic began to swell in his chest, Mucho heard
a distant voice. Holding the robot baby close, he tiptoed into the
living room. He squinted out between the boards, shocked to see two
men walking down the middle of the street. They were dressed in puffy
suits of yellow plastic. They carried instruments with antennas and
wires. One spoke again, raising his voice in order to be heard by the
other. The voice sounded faraway and muffled, but Mucho heard it

The voice said, “Did you catch that bit on SNL last night?”

Mucho jumped to move the sofa out of his way. He fumbled with the
stiff locks and threw open the door. He stepped out onto the porch and
yelled at the backs of the passing men.

“Hello!” His voice was hoarse from disuse.

The two men turned. They stared.

Mucho waved.

The men came toward him, holding their instruments out at arm's length.

“I thought you said it was clear,” said one of them to the other.

“They told me it was,” said the other.

Mucho stood, a grin plastered on his face. “Hello,” he said again.

The men looked at Mucho. They looked at the dials on their instruments.

“I'm sorry,” said Mucho. “I am just a little surprised. We haven't
seen anyone for such a long time.”

“Who else is with you?” said one of the men.

“Just the baby,” said Mucho.

“You have a baby in there?” said the other man.

“He's right here,” said Mucho. He held out the robot baby. “But to be
honest, I'm a little worried about him. He hasn't cried in nearly –,”
Mucho pulled the small, blue journal out of his pocket. “ – six

The two men looked at the robot baby. Then they looked at him.

“What's your name?” one of them said.

“Mucho,” said Mucho.

One of them reached for his arm. “C'mon, Mucho. Let's get you cleaned
up. Are you hungry?”

Mucho wouldn't leave until he had gathered the robot baby's
belongings. “We'll need them,” he told the men. They led Mucho down
the desolate street to their vehicle, gave him a bottle of water and
two chocolate bars, and helped him climb into the back seat.

As they drove away from Mucho's neighborhood, he stretched out on the
soft fabric upholstery.

He closed his eyes, the robot baby cradled in his arms, and dreamt of
high school. Wide, well-lit hallways. Pretty girls with long, straight
hair. And good grades of which his parents would be proud.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

30 Days: "Winter Theater" by Bruce Luck

by Bruce Luck

We stoke the fire and open the blinds to welcome a new winter day. Wrapped around steaming mugs, our fingers are warmed. All is quiet beyond the frosted panes. Fog hides the sun. The yard is lifeless. Then she remembers.

The feeders. They are empty.

I trudge through the snow and a jay squawks for his peanuts. I lay them in a screen mesh basket on a bed of black sunflower seeds and he steals one when I leave. Feeders are filled and suet is tacked high upon the aspen trunk. Thistle seed is poured into a thin cylindrical feeder. Snow shakes out of bare branches as it is hung in the Hawthorn tree. The birdbath is frozen. I chip away the ice and refill it with warm water from the kettle. 

Frosted breath hangs in the air. I return to the house and knock snow off boots. With camera and binocs, I settle into my seat, just in time for the opening act. The stage is set, the show about to begin.

The sparrows appear first. A throng of them flock to the Norwegian pine and take cover in its branches. Heard but hidden they slowly emerge. Timid and cautious, they hop to outer branches and survey the yard. Satisfied, they fly to the feeder. Three land as others wait at the fence or sway on wires above. Each feasts then returns seeking safety offered by the pine. The next group takes flight, the feeder sways, and, the ones below ascend to higher branches. There’s safety in numbers and they work in tandem, sharing the seed while others stand watch, ready to warn at first sight of danger.

A larger bird, a dove, ascends and sparrows scatter from the feeder. Through binoculars we delight. The collar differentiates it from the usual mourning doves, a new species to grace our stage. It’s mate joins juncos foraging on the ground. Seeds that they miss pack into the snow and will sprout in the spring. Sparrows reappear and dove willingly shares the feeder.

House finches enter stage right. A domed feeder under the Hawthorne tree discourages the sparrows and the finches can feast unfettered. Bright red male and drab females pluck seed and scamper to the branches. Snow sifts and is joined by by discarded hulls littering the sidewalk below. 

A shadow appears, ominous, and swoops through the yard. We didn’t see what it was but know it was massive and dark. There’s no movement in the yard as dove, finch, and sparrow hide in pine or among the ivy. It’s eerily quiet as act one comes to a close.

Slowly they reappear, cautious and attentive. A jay sails for the feeder, quick and skittish. It plucks a peanut then scoots out of the yard. Sparrows are wary, yet dash for the feeder and tempted by the life-giving nourishment that’s there. 

Goldfinches, tiny and yellow, venture forth. They cling to a thin cylindrical feeder protected by bare Hawthorn branches. First a few, then more, then a dozen hang upside down or sideways or at any angle to extract its thistle.

Black-capped chickadee sings and announces its presence. It lights on the basket, sneaking a sunflower seed, taking turns with the sparrows. Birdsong again fills the yard.

A blue streak flies across the yard. Bluejay lands on the basket, dispersing doves, sparrows, and chickadees. Swaying with the feeder, it picks up a peanut, then another and another. Finding one it likes, off it flies to tuck it away in the gutter or under a loose shingle on the roof. He returns to the feeder, inspecting peanuts and selecting the next best one.

Then hawk returns without warning. 

God, no. Please, not our birds. 

It’s a sharp-shinned and circles the pine, hoping to flush out anything foolish that chooses flight over protective branches. Confounded, it sits on the fence, waiting. We walk out, arms flailing, to shoo it away.  It’s brazen and squawks and is no hurry to leave. Finally it flees, but with a final attempt to chase prey out of the pine.

The eery silence has returned. Sparrows roost in the pine, the gamble not worth the risk. Morning feeding is over. We take the intermission and go about our day.

Act three opens in the afternoon. The sun has burned through the fog. 

There is movement across the fence. Something black and white clutches a trunk high on the maple. The red bright spot on the back of his head blurs as he pounds the tree with a rat-a-tat-tat. Downy woodpecker’s mate flies into the yard and pecks at the suet. She moves to the fence and uses cedar planks to scrapes grease from her beak. 

Sparrows stand guard as others splash in the birdbath. Finches and chickadees fill the air with song. The sun drops below the houses and its the last chance to replenish. Birds partake of the life-sustaining nourishment to help fight off the cold. And we watch with apprehension.

Has the hawk had the success in other yards that eluded it in ours? It must eat, too, and surely it will. Has it not a right to food as the others do to seed, thistle, and suet? 

Must it be our birds? 

Hawk is aware that day is turning to night. With swiftness he brings terror back into the yard. Birds scatter. One slams into the house and hawk is on it at once. Defiantly, it parades on the fence, displayed its prize for all to see. Talons claw at red meat, grey feathers float to the snow. 

Please, not the finches or chickadees. Or the downy. The sparrows are numerous. Yet, can we accept one sparrow less? Is one to be valued over the other? Or over the life of a sharp-shinned hawk?

The final curtain closes and we realize we, too, have been players in this winter drama. Our providing thistle and seed, has drawn in the predator. Our kind act of giving life has brought death. Had we not interfered, would this scene have played out? 

Is it better to succumb slowly, silently, hungry and chilled, than in a flight of frenzy and terror?

Hawk looks back, then springs and takes flight. Off to roost, nourished and ready to fight off the cold.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

30 Days: "The Quest for the Perfect Pet" by Yamile Saied Mendez

The Quest for the Perfect Pet
by Yamile Saied Mendez

One day after dinner, Mamá finally said I was ready for my first pet. 
But not a cat. 
Cats made Papá sneeze.
Not a dog either. 
Everyone already has a dog and I wanted my pet to be:
Most of all, my pet had to be a good listener. 
I wanted a friend I could tell secrets to. 
Early next morning, I set out looking for my perfect pet. I passed the pet store without a glance in its direction.
I walked straight into the zoo. 
Right away, I found my perfect pet. After some tugging, and pushing and shoving and flapping of giant wings I brought it home. 
My pet was special. 
Ostriches aren’t that common in my neighborhood after all. 
My pet was different too. I could bet all of my Easter candy no one but me would bring an ostrich to school for show and tell. 
But my ostrich wasn’t that much fun. Instead of sitting primly while I served tea, it swallowed Mamá’s china tea service in a single gulp. 
I asked her to give it back, but it just stared at me and then started crying because her stomach hurt. I patted her head and told her “this too shall pass,” but she wasn’t a good listener. Before Mamá even said a word of protest, I took the ostrich back.
Now that I was pet-less and looking, I took advantage and chose another pet from the zoo.
My hyena was special.
 That’s for sure. 
But when she saw the mess the ostrich had made in my room, she started laughing and laughing. It wouldn’t stop. 
She laughed so much, I suspected she was laughing at me. I told her I needed a hug. After the incident with the ostrich I was so tired I became teary. But the hyena didn’t cuddle, she said. She just insisted on ordering some take-out. 
In the end, I made her a Cuban sandwich with mustard and sweet pork that she ate on the way to the zoo. 
The hyena wasn’t fun, cuddly or a good listener, but I was determined to find the perfect pet. 
Then I saw this cute little guy, doing all kinds of summersaults and jumps. Before his mama noticed, I grabbed his hand and we ran home. 
My spider monkey was special and different and oh, so much fun! 
He showed me the correct form to swing from the monkey bars at the park, and later, we snacked on dried plantain chips, my favorite kind.
But then my monkey got sleepy and cried for his mom. I gave him a hug as he cried and cried. I felt bad for the little guy, so I took him back. 
I definitely needed a pet that was special and different and fun, but most of all, I wanted it to be cuddly. And then, I had an idea. Because what’s more cuddly than a bear? 
A panda bear!
Oh my panda! It was special and different and it was so much fun to watch him climb the trees and dawdle all over the park! But his claws frightened me, and when it smiled and I saw his big teeth? I wasn’t so sure I wanted to cuddle with it. 
I took it back to the zoo where to my surprise I found the zookeeper waiting for me! After I promised I wouldn’t borrow any more animals to try out as pets, he agreed to send the police back to the station and me back home.
I wanted a pet. 
The perfect pet.
Someone who would listen to me.
I was so distracted by my longing for this creature that I walked right into the pet store sign. 
Bunnies for sale, it said. Come and find your perfect pet.
With butterflies in my stomach, I walked into the store.
In a wooden pen, a single bunny played with a plastic ball. 
She jumped over a log. 
She rolled on the grass. 
She played hide-and-seek with me.
She was black like midnight, so small it fit in my cupped hands. When I kissed her head, she nuzzled against my lips, soft and cuddly. 
“You’re the perfect pet,” I whispered in her long ears, “You’re special. You waited for me all this time. You’re different. I’ve never seen such a small rabbit like you. And you’re fun. I saw how you played with the ball.”
I didn’t need to say how cuddly she was. She fit right into my heart. And while I talked to her, she listened, flicking her little ears, like she understood everything I said. 
She was an excellent listener. I mean, her ears were perfect for the job!
I paid the store lady with some money Ratón Pérez left me for my teeth the week before, and we walked home. 
Both of us. 

My perfect pet and me.  

This is my daughter Areli with her perfect pet, Midnight. She's my constant source of inspiration.
Disclaimer: at least she hasn't brought a hyena home. Yet. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

30 Days: "Master of Masters" by Mattie Noall

Master of All Masters
By Mattie Noall


He was doomed.  There was no way around it.  As Kenneth hunkered in the roots of a large tree a million thoughts tumbled around in his head.  He should not be in this situation.  It had been a mistake.  One big stupid mistake.  He was the very best spy the king had.  He knew how to get out of situations that no one else could get out of; they didn't give him the nickname of Speed for nothing.  Yet here he was.  He was trapped.  Eventually the enemy would find him, they would torture him to try and win his secrets.  He couldn't give them to them.  No matter what they did to him he could not give those things to them.  He knew too much.  He could hear enemy soldiers closing in on him.  They had dogs.  He had only managed to evade dogs a few times.  It usually ended up with him rolling in some unmentionable substance.  He had looked for some means of escape.  He had tried to find something to use.  This was the cleanest and smallest grove of trees he had ever seen.  It was the only thing this close to the enemy castle.  And he had had to hurry too much.  He'd been sloppy.  He should not have gotten into this mess.  He had gotten a tip from an informant.  He had trusted the informant only because he was recommended by another well trusted informant.  When the price was too steep and the timing all wrong he should have seen it.  But he had trusted too far and he was getting too old for this stuff.  He knew better but now he was going to be caught and he was sure that the two informants were going to have a big fat purse for this.  He should have trusted his gut like he usually did.  So much for well-laid plans.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

30 Days: "The Cold" by Caitlyn Byers

The Cold: A Sonnet
By Caitlyn Byers

I hope I survive the alternating
runny and stuffed up nose, the red, sore nose,
the brain that can’t focus on anything,
thanks to the pills in the bottle that shows

a claim to be non-drowsy but it LIES!
And still my head is all stuffed up and I’m
falling asleep, dreaming of the demise
of whoever’s made my brain think “Bed time!”

So I cough and I hack and I choke as
I try to breath in but the catch in my
throat that is an uninvited guest says
“I’m here to stay” no matter what I try.

and plot what will happen when I take hold
of the idiot who gave me this cold.