So I’ve already burned through the Barnes & Noble gift card the in-laws gave me for X-mas. Excited to finally finish The Drifter (2016), the debut suspense novel by Nick Petrie that I started in the summer of 2016 from the library. Went ahead and grabbed his sophomore effort, Burning Bright (2017) as well.  Also grabbed The Fireman, the 2016 magnum opus by Joe Hill. From the darker side of things is The Dark Net (2017) by Benjamin Percy. And finally, from the YA section of the bookstore, Marissa Meyer’s Renegades (2017) which seems to be a kind of Dystopian teenage superhero epic of 2 books (the second book is expected sometime later this year, I believe). Given all the other books I have checked out from the library (including a lot of nonfiction) and the stack of unread comic books and graphic novels, I’d say my bookworm menu for 2018 is quite robust.



“This is how to override your writer brain. Publish anyway.” | Shaunta Grimes

I gotta say that Shaunta Grimes really hits it home in this one (with humor too). I can certainly identify with part of what she’s discussing here. 

A few words by Shaunta Grimes“I didn’t make a conscious decision not to publish. It just happened. And then it kept happening for more than two years. As evidenced by the zero fiction that I published.

I was still writing. I’ve written three novels and a dozen short stories in that time. They’re nice and cozy on my hard drive, wrapped in a thick layer of my fear of publishing them.

A fiction writer’s brain is a crafty trickster. It’ll convince itself that writing a whole shit ton of blog posts and MFA packets is the same thing as writing. It’ll rationalize that finishing novels is the end game and totally blow off publishing like it’s no big thing.”

And . . .

“Your writer brain will do everything it can to protect you from the hard, hard work of creating a story and then putting your baby on a street corner and hoping everyone thinks she’s pretty.

Of course your brain is trying to protect you (and itself) from that. That, friends, is crazy town.

And then one day you look up and realize that you have three novels on your hard drive, and you haven’t even sent them to your critique partner. Because one day in 2014 you walked into Barnes and Nobel and realized that they didn’t pick up your second book.”

READ: “This is how to override your writer brain. Publish anyway.” @shauntagrimes

“How to use Active Reading to Become a Better Writer” | Jed Herne

Intro: Authors often discuss how reading improves your writing. However, there’s a big difference between passive and active reading, and if you’re serious about using published novels to improve your writing you must learn how to do the latter.

When you read passively, you consume a novel as entertainment — you’re trawling through without paying attention to detail. This lets you form a broad judgement (“this is great!”).

By contrast, active reading involves specific focus on an author’s craft. It is to passive reading what fly-fishing is to trawling. Active reading encourages your judgement to be precise (“this is great because the chapter endings created lots of suspense!”).

Read: “How to use Active Reading to Become a Better Writer” by Jed Herne @ProWritingAid


Project Zero-13 | A Work in Progress

{ 744 words began Jan 7, 2010 }

Stirred by the furtive movements of what was likely a rodent of some kind sniffing about in the foliage that surrounded him, the man awoke with a slight disorientation while lying under a bed of leaves, mud and twigs.  Vivid images of the dream he was having still lingered in his mind.  Like most dreams it was not an exact documentary of actual events, although inspired by them.  Instead it deviated from the script, as dreams often did.  A certain degree of surrealism had replaced realism.  Just before he was awakened, he had experienced the dream’s unscripted happy ending which was in direct contrast to the real life events he experienced prior to arriving to these woods to elude capture from his unknown pursuers.

The happy ending was that he actually knew more than just his first name; that he knew exactly why he wore the strange costume, that underneath it was not some man that no one knew, and that he had the ability to speak.  Yet the truth was something straight out of a comic book.  Other than his first name and general sentience, he did not know those answers.

The man sat up and surveyed the dark woods.  He noticed a pair of curious raccoons retreat away from him.

His mind was a blank slate and physically he just felt a certain kind of strangeness.  Lacking the ability to speak was certainly a concern.  Yet his natural senses were keen.  He somehow knew that he was still being hunted.

As he stood up and started brushing off the leaves and mud, an image flashed in his mind.  Could it be a memory, distant or recent, or was it just more dream residue?  He didn’t get much time to debate the matter because he heard a helicopter approaching fast.

He used his quick reflexes to spring into action.  He leaped into the trees, moving from one to the other with swift and canny movements.  His speed and strength were remarkable.  And so was his hearing because despite the distance he increased, he could hear his pursuers.

Blue Team Five to Mother One, we’ve regained visual on Project: Zero-13.

He dropped down from the trees when he reached a clearing.  He experienced a flash of images, a mental sequence.  It had to be a memory.  He saw himself in great distress as men in white lab coats prodded and probed him with unknown instruments that delivered pain.

Before continuing his escape he glanced back into the vast woods and despite their darkness, he could see his pursuers.  There were several of them, maybe seven on foot and their infrared tracking strobes pierced through the darkness in random angles.  When the helicopter arrived above him, he peered up at it and counted another three men inside it.  Infrared tracking strobes beamed at him from above.

With unimaginable reflexes he turned to make a hasty escape but despite his swiftness, his pause had given the recovery team too much of an advantage.  The next thing he knew he was covered in fiber netting that prevented any further progress no matter how much he struggled.  He felt a piercing pain as hypodermic darts were shot into him from behind.  Almost immediately he lost consciousness.

# # #

The man regained consciousness laying flat on his back upon a lab table, but he was severely disoriented and could not move.  But he could hear and smell just fine.  He smelled formaldehyde most of all.

Thank you for returning him to us relatively unharmed and intact, Lieutenant Colonel. Please extend my thanks to your men.  I don’t need to tell you how valuable Experiment Zero Thirteen is to us.  Or the powers-that-be on Capitol Hill.

Well, I’m not sure how you think dropping this—this super-hero in the middle of the Afghani desert is going to get the results they want.

That is why I am the scientist and you are, well, you. With all due respect, of course.  This hybrid will prove to be a formidable ally in our nation’s fight against terror, that elusive, faceless enemy which continues to threaten liberty the world over. The American people deserve to see their taxes payoff for something they actually support.

You sound more like a politician than a doctor.

Me, a politician?  Oh, heavens no, Lieutenant Colonel.  I’m far too intellectual to be a politician.  But believe me when I say that Project: Zero-13 will be a success.

{ not fin }

Written in January 2010

Copyright © 2010-2016 by Brandon L. Rucker. All Rights Reserved. | RuckerWrites | @RuckerWrites

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Just Another Dame | A Work in Progress

{ 894 words began in 1998 }

It’s Saturday night in the Big City and I got nothing going on. So what’s a sorry bag of bones like me do but go down to The Watering Hole and get sauced? It’s my only option, aside from drowning my sorrows at the bottom of a bottle in front of the tube watching old movies that remind me too much of the olden days when things were simpler, better. I could go prowling the streets looking for trouble like any other practicing scumbag, but that’s not advisable when you’ve got the sting of a devious dame playing you for a fool still fresh in your gray matter. Instead, I go on down to the ‘Hole to get liquored up. I’ll go on feeling sorry for my sorry ass, but this way I’ve got company, which misery loves dearly.

I travel by foot, using the City’s alleyways to get where I need to, avoiding street merchant whores and panhandlers. The sitting bums in the alleys are too inebriated to do anything more than mutter reflections of a once better life to themselves. I don’t have the heart to inform them that you rarely ever rise back to the top once you hit rock bottom.

The ‘Hole is only a few blocks from my brownstone and I arrive in less than fifteen. I’m what you might call a regular here, which means that Chuck, the meat n’ potatoes big stiff at the door, doesn’t so much as give me a once-over. So I stroll in and immediately I’m pounded by the pulsating groove of dance music that nobody’s dancing to. It’s early yet, but not too early to get on with my futile attempt to wash away my misery with some fine fermented beverages. As I take in the bar scene and its sour aroma I notice the medley of cheap perfume and even cheaper cologne mixed with a hearty blend of smoke, sweat and sin. It’s the whiff of alcohol that’s the icing on my cake. As I make a beeline for the bar some asshole bumps into me, drops his Coors light on the wooden floor and says “My bad, man.”

Damn. I forgot both Friday and Saturday nights are amateur nights.

When I get to the bar I take my usual spot, a corner stool, bar tender’s right, with an angled view of the entrance. Jacqueline’s tending bar tonight and she serves me up my first shot of Jagermeister on the house ‘cause she’s good people and she knows I’m good for it.

“You still hurtin’ over that girl done broke your heart, Lenny?” she says, announcing my pathetic plight to the world.

“She was no girl,” I correct her, “more woman than I’ve ever known.”

Jacqui says, “I still say you ought to leave them young’ins alone and get yourself someone more your age,” implying someone like her, on the south side of forty-something and more settled. I consider it for a moment after downing my shot. As it trickles down my gullet, blazing a trail of fire, I give the idea some serious thought. I look Jacqui over, taking in her robust figure and hearty assets. She don’t notice ‘cause I’ve got my shades on. You can tell that in her day she was a nice corn-fed shit brick house, and that’s all right with me. Nowadays she’s a bleached blonde broad who wears too much makeup and her extra pounds are in areas most guys don’t approve. Added to the equation is a shaky self-esteem and two college-aged trophies at home with different absentee fathers and you feel me drifting. It doesn’t take me long to realize that, while not exactly murder on the eyes, Jacqui’s nowhere near the catch my Angel was.

Then again, if there’s one thing I learned from my fling with Angel is that beauty is obviously in the eye of the beholder. No way a cat with a mug like mine pulls a dame like her without some measure of charm and something particular she can bank on. But I’m trying not to think about that right now.

I say, “I don’t know, Jacqui, maybe you’re right. I am starting to get on in years. Getting a little long in the tooth to be chasing skirts anymore, true enough.”

Jacqui, pouring drinks, says, “Yeah, you gotta stop thinking they’re coming to ya with the best of intentions inspired by a heart of gold ‘cause ain’t none of them skanks thinkin’ about nothin’ else but themselves.”

As my bartender who apparently doubles as a cynical fortune teller says that, a petite young honey takes the bar stool right next to me and asks Jacqui for a glass of her best red. She glances over at my empty shot glass then looks up at me and says, “And what are you having, mister tall, dark and mysterious?”

I’m embarrassed at being a little dumbfounded by this dark-eyed brunette beauty. Somewhere in the encyclopedia under the word coincidence is a picture of this moment.

“Well, big boy?” she says with a slight country drawl.

“Uh, I’ll take a shot of Cuervo. Gold.”

Out of the corner of my eye I see Jacqui shake her dirty blonde head. Bless her heart for her concern but what she don’t know is that this time it’s going to be different.

{ Not fin }

Written: Fall of 1998

Copyright © 1998-2016 by Brandon L. Rucker. All Rights Reserved. | RuckerWrites | @RuckerWrites

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Short-term Effect | A Work in Progress

{ 452 words began in 2006 }

I come back to consciousness with a mouth full of blood and a busted lip the size of Texas. I can’t remember how I got this way. I got a few scrapes and bruises on my face, a knot on my head that’s throbbing. They say ignorance is bliss, and for a few minutes as I sit here in this dark, quiet alley, I think: yeah, short-term memory loss does have its charm. Then I remember: she’s not next to me anymore.


She’s unforgettable. It doesn’t matter that I’ve taken a few bumps to the head, the face. Dames have a knack for leaving long lasting impressions on a fella.

Roxy Star was what she told me to call her. I called her Foxy Roxy not just ‘cause she’s sexy as hell, but because she was sly like one. I’d never known anyone, let alone a little street rogue, who could pick a pocket or pull a short con like Foxy Roxy. She’s the best, at least for an amateur.

In just two nights and a day we’d gotten to know each other pretty good. That’s after she tried to lift my wallet in Moe’s bar. Funny way for a girl to introduce herself to a fella, especially a guy she would end up spending the night with in a motel, the next morning telling him she loved him and that they were long-lost soul mates. Usually that kind of movie ends with me waking up the next morning alone, the only trace left behind is a lingering sent jam-packed with memories of yet another dame gone goodbye.

Love, man.

It sounds crazy now, but it’s the way she said it with that passion in her voice, that conviction in her eyes . . . I believed her. At first I thought, yeah, right, she’s just like all the other skirts-in-heels that have come and gone before her. Difference is none of those previous dames have been anywhere near as convincing in triple the time me and Roxy have spent together. I remember that second night being especially intense. I’d scrounged up enough leftover cash to really splurge and treat her like a lady ought to be, y’know? She seemed real impressed with it all, last night. I can’t help but believe she meant the words that came from her lovely mouth.

But she’s gone and I can’t remember how that’s come to be. I could blame it on the drugs and liquor all I want—and I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, either, but there’s gotta be something else at play here.

Way my luck runs, man, it’s probably for my own damn good that I can’t remember.

Written at different points from 2004 to 2010.

Copyright © 2004-2016 by Brandon L. Rucker. All Rights Reserved. | RuckerWrites | @RuckerWrites

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Four Deep | An Excerpt

{ 397-word excerpt }

Three-thirty now.  He’s got the four of us waiting with our cocks in our hands, but since I’m responsible for this partnership I’m the one who’s going to get pissed on.

At this hour with Mulligan’s now closed we’re lucky we haven’t seen any cops sweeping the parking lot.   I’m sure it’s just a matter time, though.  After another five minutes we finally see the rat bastard’s Monte Carlo pull into the parking lot, then next to my Ninety-Eight where we’re all leaning against it.  I notice he doesn’t switch off his engine.

Considering the situation I can’t bother with pleasantries.  “Raleigh, you got our take?”

The twitchy bastard hands over a black gym bag from his passenger seat.  “Yeah, it’s all there.”

I give the bag to Bert as he hops back into my car so he can do a quick visual.  I bet no more than four seconds go by before he’s humming “mmhm” to himself, which isn’t good news.  “Raleigh, Raleigh, you’re short, man,” He finally says with that incredulous disbelief that raises his voice an octave or two.  “I see . . . ten . . . eleven . . . twelve grand here!  Four ways that’s only three grand, man.”

Tevin says, “Dude, that puts us out one k each.”

“I think somebody failed grade school math,” Percy says reaching for the piece that he keeps in his inside breast pocket, thankfully not pulling it.

The total take was twenty k with our cut being sixteen of that.  Nice and even, Steven.  So divide that by four and that should be four grand each.  But that ain’t the case, hombre.  Looking back at Raleigh I tell him to turn his car off and stay awhile, but—

“That’s all right,” He says, now brandishing his Glock nine at us.  “I’ve got other plans.”  Next thing I know he peels off in his Monte Carlo, leaving us not only with our cocks in our hands but now with a sever case of blue balls.  Naturally, the boys are livid.


“Lets chase his ass down!”

“Bert, Percy, don’t worry about it.”  They won’t believe it, but I’m actually prepared this time.  “I took out an insurance policy in case something like this happened.”

Acknowledgment paints Bert’s face.  “Let me guess, dude don’t know you’re banging his girl?”

“That’s only the half of it.”

Written: December 12 & 13, 2009. The full story originally published in February 2015 by Dead Guns PressThis sample is for electronic access and online archiving, and is intended for reading and reviewing purposes only – any other unauthorized use or dissemination is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2009 – 2016 by Brandon L. Rucker. All Rights Reserved.

Image by Joshua S. Hooten and is Copyright © 2016. | RuckerWrites | @RuckerWrites

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