short story

Flash Fiction: The Black Raven

For those who may not know, I have two day jobs. I tutor students of all ages in reading and writing. I also coach freshmen girls' basketball. Anyways, a few weeks ago, I was tutoring an eighth grader in our writing module. My student picked a journaling topic. As an instructor, we are encouraged to journal and share with the student, so I wrote for ten minutes from this sentence: Due to the raven that follows him wherever he goes, a young man is convinced that something terrible is about to happen.

Below is my raw story from the ten minutes of writing time.

Bob turned around. Sitting above him in a tree branch was a black raven. It cawed at him. Bob shook his head and turned around, continuing on his walk through the streets. Starling was filled with people on this warm summer day. A man in a black suit hailed a cab and two women ahead of him were laughing while they walked.

Bob stopped at the street corner. The street sign read Third and Broad. While he waited for the signal to change, he glanced ahead. On top of the street light was the black raven.

Wasn't there an old wive's tale about ravens? He thought they were bad luck or a bad omen. He shrugged it off and started across the street with the change of the signal. Bob walked two more blocks and turned left. His meeting was on Fifth Street. When he turned on Fifth, the crowds diminished. The silence gave him a chill, but he moved forward.

When he reached the steps of the Seers' Building, the raven was sitting on the silver overhang of the building. The raven's black feathers were a stark contrast to the shiny building.

Bob strolled through the revolving doors and took the elevator to the thirteenth floor. He stepped off the elevator to find a receptionist's desk. The woman had black hair and green eyes. She stared at him.

"Mr. Jones, I presume," she said. "Yes." "Mr. Ozark is waiting for you. Go ahead." She pointed to a large door behind her.

Bob pushed open the heavy door. Inside the room, Mr. Raven Ozark had his back to Bob, looking out the window behind his desk. Perched on the colossal desk was the black raven. Bob gasped. 

Here's my question for you–should the story continue? If so, what happens next? I'd love your help to finish the story!

Sneak Peek Snippet: The Adventures of Zelda: Pug and Peach

I am starting a new series in an attempt to post more of my fiction on this blog. The goal is to post a snippet or chapter from a work in progress (not published yet) here on the blog every few weeks. This week I decided to post the first chapter from The Adventures of Zelda: Pug and Peach. Pug and Peach (the third in the Zelda series) officially launches on September 2, but for those who want a sneak peek, here you go. 


The Mouth Game

I jump on Lucy’s bed and curl up under the covers with her for the night. I close my eyes and let the exhaustion take over. My pug body is tired after a long day of playing and chasing my brand new sister. My sister is my Christmas gift. She was the best gift ever—making me the happiest pug on the planet. She is a Boston terrier, and her name is Peach.

Peach is a little bigger than I am, with tall, pointy ears, droopy lips, and a pug-like smashed face. Peach doesn’t have nearly the number of wrinkles I do. She is dark, brindled-brown with patches of white, including a white stripe down her head to her nose, and a small peach spot on her nose. I think that’s why she is named Peach. Although she is a good-looking dog, Peach is not as pretty as me, especially since she doesn’t have a curly tail. Her tail is short and a bit crooked. Honestly, I don’t really care what she looks like; I am just excited to have a canine friend. 

When I open my eyes the next day, light shines through the window, and the spot next to me is empty. Lucy is awake already. I stand and stretch—my body isn’t used to all this exercise during the cold season. I hear movement downstairs as I go through my morning round of sneezes.

My family is gathered in the living room and eating breakfast. I see Peach nestled in a spot between Lucy and Hannah on the couch. Lucy is laughing as Peach repeatedly licks Lucy’s face. I feel a pang of envy rip through me, but I ignore it and walk into the kitchen.

I smell bacon!

Nate is cooking in the kitchen, so I sit patiently next to him. If I stay calm, I am sure he will give me a piece of bacon. But it is so hard to remain calm when bacon is at stake. I sit and stare. I can’t see the bacon, but the smell is overpowering.

Ruff. Ruff.

“Zelda, quiet,” Nate says. I sit again. I didn’t mean to bark, but I couldn’t help it. Peach wanders into the kitchen.

“Hi, Peach,” Nate says. “Do you want some bacon?” Peach trots over to Nate and starts leaping into the air.

She is springy!

“I think that means yes,” Nate says, laughing. I inch closer to him. He better not forget about me. Nate grabs a piece of bacon. I do my best sit and stare at Nate with my bulgy, brown eyes.

“Good sit, Zelda,” he says. “Peach, can you sit?” Peach continues to leap for the bacon while I wait patiently like the model pug that I am.

“No, Peach,” he says and tries to get Peach to sit.

How long will I have to wait?

Finally, Peach sits, and Nate gives her a piece of the bacon.

“Good girl, Zelda,” he says and gives me the remaining bacon. I scarf it up in a second.

“Okay, that’s it for now. You’re free,” he says. I walk to the living room. Peach follows.

I find a comfortable spot on the couch next to Lucy. Peach jumps onto the couch and squeezes into the spot next to me. I look at her, and she nips at my face in a playful manner. I bite back, aiming for her mouth, but she shifts out of the way. I try again; this time she opens her mouth as mine approaches. We lock mouths, attempting to maneuver our mouths over top each other’s.

We shift and squirm as the game continues, trying to get an advantage. Peach ends up upside down on Ben’s lap. I jump on top of Peach, confident that I have her mouth cornered.

“Mom, what’s happening?” Ben asks. I snap at Peach, but she dodges to the right. I pause for a moment to listen.

“They are playing, don’t worry about it,” Hannah says.

Oh, good. Hannah understands.

While I am distracted, Peach nips for my neck. I jerk backward just in time.

“They seem like they are trying to hurt each other,” Ben says.

“No, this is how dogs play. If they were trying to hurt each other, you would know,” Hannah says. “Although this is a funny game they are playing.” I go in for the final bite.

I have her mouth!

“It kind of seems like they are trying to figure out whose mouth is bigger,” Ben says. Hannah laughs.

“It does,” Hannah responds.

I have Peach’s mouth for only seconds before she wiggles her way out of the hold. But the moment of victory supercharges me. I leap off the couch and sprint around the coffee table, into the dining room, sliding as I go, and back to the living room. I jump to the couch and give Peach a quick nip, urging her to follow my next move. I leap again, but this time I run up the stairs and away from the slippery floor. I hear thumps behind me, and I know Peach is following. She catches up to me quickly, and I run under Lucy’s bed. She’s unable to fit, so she stops and barks at me. I lie on the floor panting for a few minutes. Peach keeps barking.

“What’s going on up here?” Nate asks. He walks into the room. Peach stands on her hind legs and licks his hand. I crawl out from the bed.

“Oh, hi, Zelda. Come on, let’s go downstairs,” he says. We follow him downstairs to the living room. I see an open blanket.

“It looks like they are done playing the ‘Whose Mouth Is Bigger’ game,” Ben says.

For now, but we will play again. 

The Adventures of Zelda: Zelda Meets Peach

IMG_0127 I am gearing up for the release of The Adventures of Zelda: Pug and Peach at the end of August, and I thought you might need to get in the Zelda spirit. Here's the last chapter of the second Zelda book. More Zelda teasers and spotlights are coming to the blog over the next month. Get ready!

Zelda Meets Peach

After the incident with the fake pug, I am staying low key around the house. Honestly, I am a little embarrassed at my mistake. My family, on the other hand, is busy with activity. Hannah is covering boxes during the day and placing them under the tree. I notice Hannah and Nate talking in hushed voices about “presents.” Lucy is running around the house mumbling about “Santa Claus.” Even Ben is more talkative and playful than normal. He keeps telling me how much I am going to love my Christmas present.

I watch and listen from my perch on top of the couch. I can tell we are getting close to the big day, the day when everyone unwraps all the presents under the pine tree.

“Okay, Zelda, we will be back later,” Ben says. “Tomorrow is the big day.” The family leaves without me. I watch the white stuff fall on the grass from the window. I hope I will get a new owl. Or Milk-Bones. Or a Nylabone. Or all of them. Christmas is the best.

When my family returns home, the snow is illuminating the darkness outside. My family greets me. Hannah and Nate send Ben and Lucy to bed. I am warm and toasty in my blanket, so I stay downstairs with Hannah and Nate. After a few minutes of conversation, Nate gets up and leaves the house.

“Zelda, it’s bedtime,” Hannah says. We walk upstairs together. I jump onto Lucy’s bed while Hannah checks on Ben. When Hannah returns, she gives Lucy a kiss and pets me. She says goodnight to us and closes the door.

I wake up in the middle of the night to a scratching noise. I want to bark, but everyone is sleeping. I don’t want to get in trouble. I listen for a few more minutes to the scratching. I hear a few whispers and the scratching stops. I fall back asleep.

The next time I wake up, Lucy is moving out of bed. It must be early; only a few streams of light are peaking through the window. As we walk down the stairs, Lucy is mumbling about Christmas and Santa.

Hannah and Nate are waiting downstairs. The pine tree is lit, and the number of gifts under the tree has doubled.

“Merry Christmas,” Nate shouts to Lucy and me.

“Shhhh,” Hannah says. “You will wake up Ben.”

“It’s time for him to get up anyway. It’s Christmas morning—time for gifts!” he replies. Lucy wanders down the stairs and sits in front of the tree.

“Wow, look at all these presents Santa brought,” she says. I hear a few creaks from above, and a few minutes later, Ben appears on the stairs.

“Merry Christmas,” Nate shouts again.

“Merry Christmas,” Ben replies. He walks down the stairs and takes a seat on the couch.

The fun begins. Presents are passed around, and the family opens the gifts. I run around and investigate all the new toys and objects. So far, there isn’t much for me. Only a few gifts remain when I hear a whimper from upstairs. And then, the scratching noise returns.

What is upstairs?

I run up the stairs. The whimpering and scratching is originating from Hannah and Nate’s room, but the door is closed. Hannah and Nate appear next to me.

“You grab Zelda,” Nate says, “And I will get Peach.” Hannah bends over and picks me up. Nate opens the door, and a dog runs out.


I squirm and break loose from Hannah’s arms and chase the dog down the stairs. When I arrive downstairs, the dog is licking Ben’s face. She is dark brown and white with tall ears. She is bigger than me, but not by much. She doesn’t have a long snout, but she also doesn’t have wrinkles.

“Merry Christmas, Lucy and Zelda—meet Peach, the Boston terrier, our new dog,” Nate says. Peach wanders over to Lucy and starts licking her face. I stand motionless, unsure what to do.

Did I hear Nate correctly? Is Peach here to stay?

I walk up to Peach and bark a few times. She doesn’t seem to mind. When I get close, she backs away from Lucy. I nip at her front leg, and she allows it. She reciprocates, and we start rolling on the floor together. I find my owl and she chases me, trying to get it from me. When she finally grabs hold, we play tug-of-war.

“Well, I think they will get along fine,” Hannah says.

“Lucy, do you like Peach?” Nate asks.

“Yes, she’s nice. And now Zelda has a friend.” Lucy says.

“Yes, she does,” Nate replies.

“She’s so friendly and sweet,” Ben says.

“We definitely got lucky with Peach,” Hannah replies. “And with Zelda. She’s turned out to be a pretty good dog.”

“Yes, she is,” Ben says. I take a break from tug-of-war and wander over to Hannah, who is sitting on the couch again. I jump in her lap and give her a kiss. Peach follows my lead, and we both are in Hannah’s lap and giving her kisses. I have a friend to play with all the time. Even better, I have a family who loves me enough to find me a friend. My pug life is awesome. It’s another merry Christmas!

Learn more about The Adventures of Zelda series.

The Final Hour - A Short Story

At the beginning of January, I had a story burning inside me, so I took a break from revising The Photograph and Zelda book promotion. The words flew on to the page (or rather my macbook) in a matter of hours. The result is this short story titled The Final Hour. All writing is personal in one way or another, but this story is heavily connected to the emotions and struggles from last year. The Final Hour is available here on this blog, Wattpad, and also in the Amazon Kindle store. The Final Hour will be free on Kindle for February 25-27 and after it will be priced at $0.99. If you read on a Kindle or a Kindle app, I would love for you to download the story for free today or tomorrow. Also, I would love your honest feedback. Let me know what you think!

Cover Design by James,

The Final Hour


When I wake up to the phone ringing, my heart fills with dread. I glance at the clock. 4:02 a.m. The scenarios start running through my mind, and instantly I am awake and alert. The last time the phone rang at this time of the night, Mom’s heart had stopped beating.

I hear hurried footsteps approaching my doorway; I sit up, anxious for the news.

“Jake, get dressed, we need to go to the hospital,” Dad says.

“What about Claire?” I ask.

“I’m about to wake her up. She’s coming with us.”

“Is that the best idea?”

“I don’t know,” he says. “But Grandma and Gramps are meeting us there.” Even in the darkness, I can see the redness in his eyes.

“Okay.” I get up and turn on the lights in my room. I find a pair of jeans, throw on a T-shirt and a hoodie. I walk into the hallway and bump into Claire, my ten-year-old sister. At this hour, she resembles a zombie—her eyes are barely open, and she’s stumbling toward the bathroom. I change course and walk to the other bathroom downstairs.

Once my eyes adjust to the light, I splash warm water on my face. I stare into the mirror. My blue eyes are surrounded by dark circles.

“Jake, are you ready?”

“Yeah, Dad.” I open the door and walk to the kitchen. I look at Claire and give my dad a questioning look. He shakes his head from side to side, and I know Claire has no idea why we are heading to the hospital. I don’t know either, but I’ve learned to expect the worst.

The warm, humid air smacks me in the face when we walk outside to the car. I take off the hoodie immediately but carry it with me. The hospital is a cold place.

The drive is only fifteen minutes. At this point, I am confident that my father and I could drive here with our eyes closed. The car ride is silent except for Claire’s light breathing in the back seat. I wish I could fall asleep like she does. Honestly, I wish I could fall asleep and wake up to a new reality—a new life where my mother isn’t dying.

We pull into an empty parking garage. Dad hurries us out of the car to the front entrance. We sign in, get our visitor badges, and head for the intensive care unit. Claire is almost running to keep up with us. Dad’s pace worries me even more.

We pull open the doors to the ICU waiting room. Grandma and Gramps are waiting inside.

“Jake, why don’t you sit with Claire for a few minutes in here?” Dad says. I nod. Dad, Gramps, and Grandma walk through the double doors to the ICU.

“All right Claire, let’s find something on TV to watch.” I know I usually can find cartoons around channel 40. I walk up to the TV and flip channels until I find something suitable. I glance up at Claire.

“Will this work?”

“Sure,” she says. “Jake, what’s going on with Mom?” Her wide-open eyes plead for the truth.

“I don’t know Claire, but I don’t think it’s good,” I say. I look at her, wondering if she comprehends what I don’t have the heart to tell her. We both stare at the television. Minutes pass, but it feels like hours.

When the double doors open, Claire and I both jump. We turn and look, but we tune back into the television when we realize it’s not our father. Another few minutes pass before the doors open again. My father calls to me; Gramps and Grandma join Claire on the couch.

As I approach, I notice Dad’s face is flushed, and his eyes are puffy. I take a deep breath.

“The doctors say this is it. Mom’s organs are shutting down, and it is time to say good-bye,” he says, looking at the floor.

“But she was awake and talking a couple days ago,” I say.

“I know, son. But her body is giving out. There’s nothing else they can do.”

“No. She’s come back from this state before.”

“And it was a miracle. We had more time with her. But this is it.” My father reaches for me and pulls me in. I protest, trying to keep up a tough-guy image, but after a moment, I give in. A few tears well and drip onto my shirt. I back away and regain composure. I have known this day was possible for a month now, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

The doors open; I remember Claire.

“Claire,” I mumble. “What do we tell her?”

“We tell her the truth,” Dad answers. “She needs to say her good-bye, too.”

“It will crush her.” I am losing my mother at seventeen, but Claire is only ten. I am entering my senior year of high school this year; I’m almost an adult. Claire has so much more growing up to do. And now it’s without Mom. I can’t bear to think about it.

“Hey, we are going to make it through this,” Dad says, grabbing my shoulders and looking into my eyes. “We are going to be okay.”

I look back at him. It’s hard to believe him at this moment.

We walk into the waiting room. Dad motions to Gramps, who moves to a new chair, and Dad sits next to Claire on the couch.

“Claire, we need to say good-bye to Mom now. It’s her time to go home,” he says. Dad waits for a response from Claire, but she says nothing.

What really is there to say?

“Is she awake?” Claire asks, breaking the long silence.

“No, dear. The doctors have her sleeping so she isn’t in pain. But you can still say good-bye. She will hear you.” I can’t listen anymore. I stand up and walk to the other side of the room and sit down at a table. I take out my iPhone and play the latest mind-numbing game. I don’t want to think right now.

“Jake, c’mon,” Grandma says. My family is moving in the direction of the double doors. I stand up and walk through them.

My father leads us to Mom’s room with Claire at his side. The nurse tells us to take our time and to tell her when we are ready. The room is eerily quiet except for the beeps of the machines and her ventilator. My father walks to the left side of the bed and takes Mom’s hand. Claire stays at our father’s side, clutching his other hand. My grandparents walk to the opposite side of the bed. Gramps lays his hand on Mom’s shoulder, and Grandma takes Mom’s right hand. I watch from the foot of the bed, trying to ignore every inclination that is telling me to run away from this scene.

“I wish I didn’t have to say good-bye to you,” Grandma whispers.

“We love you,” Gramps says. He gives his daughter a kiss on the forehead and takes Grandma’s free hand. Grandma whispers something into Mom’s ear and kisses her on the cheek. She releases her grip on my mother, nods to my father, and turns for the door. Grandma takes my hand as she passes and squeezes it before exiting the room.

“Jake, why don’t you take Mom’s other hand,” Dad says. I take Grandma’s spot next to the bed. Mom’s hand feels strangely warm.

“Claire, it’s time to say good-bye,” Dad says softly. Claire looks at him and then to our mother.

“Good-bye, Mom,” she says. She turns away from Mom and buries her face into my father’s side. I hear the sniffles; I need to escape this place.

“I’m sorry, Mom.” I walk out of the room, through the double doors, out of the ICU, and into the hospital hallways. I hear my name, but I don’t stop. I am almost running by the time I pass the desk at the entrance. I shove open the doors and step into the fresh air.

Compared to the dry, cold hospital air, the summer humidity has never felt so good. I walk to the other side of the building, out of immediate sight from the hospital entrance, and collapse to the ground.

I breathe in the fresh air. Peeks of light are breaking through the sky. The sun is beginning to rise. I stare at the sky, wanting this day to end.

“Jake, it will be okay,” Claire says, walking toward me. “But we have to say good-bye.” I see my grandparents waiting at the corner. Claire offers her hand to help me off the ground. It’s almost comical; there is no way her tiny frame could support me. But I can’t deny her gesture. I grab her hand and stand up.

“I’m so tired of all this, Claire. I’m tired of all this hurt,” I say as I walk with her to our grandparents.

“I know,” she says. “Me, too.”

My grandparents say nothing, and we walk back in the hospital, down the white hallway, through the double doors, into my mother’s room. My father is still next to her, stroking her forehead and whispering to her. When we approach, he waves us in. The beeps of the machines and the rhythm of the ventilator have disappeared.

“It’s time,” he says. I know I can’t escape this time. I walk to Mom’s free side. I grab her hand. It has already lost some of its warmth.

“I love you, and I will miss you,” I whisper. I squeeze her hand. Claire walks over to me and grabs my other hand. My grandparents stand at the foot of the bed. The nurse stands behind them.

We watch and wait. Mom’s breathing is labored. I can see it’s a struggle for her without the machines. I glance at the monitors behind Dad. The heartbeat blip is taking longer each time. I can’t believe she is fading so quickly. I look at Claire. She is staring at Mom with tears in her eyes, but for some reason she is smiling. Gramps has his arm wrapped around Grandma. I hear a slight gasp, and I turn back to Mom.

“It’s okay, honey. Let go,” Dad says to her. I hear one last breath before I notice the flat line on the monitor above him. We stand for a few more minutes, hoping for a miracle.

The nurse moves into the room.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” she says. She looks at Claire and me. “Your mom was a fighter.” She nods to my father.

“It’s time to go home,” he says. He gives his wife one last kiss on the cheek and stands up slowly. He waits by the door as Gramps and Grandma give their daughter one last hug. When they finish, Claire nudges me to the side. She walks up to Mom and whispers in her ear.

“Enjoy the stars, Mom.”

Mom’s hand is freezing now. I can’t believe her body is cold already. I have nothing left inside me, no words to say. I turn and walk away.

My father, sister, grandma, and grandpa walk through the double doors for the final time. We exchange no words, only tears and sniffles. As we walk through the hospital, I examine the white hallways I’ve memorized over the past few months. I don’t want to see these hallways ever again. When we pass by the front desk, the woman tells us to have a good day. Nobody responds.

The doors slide open in front of us. The sun has risen, and the brightness is blinding. I feel a small hand grab mine.

“The sun is up,” Claire says with a smile.

“Yes, it is.”

“It’s going to be okay,” she says.


“Mom said as long as the sun rises every day, we will be okay,” Claire says, releasing my hand. She runs forward and grabs Dad’s hand. I hear her tell Dad the same thing. Her words are something Mom would say. I stop for a minute. I hear birds chirping amid the sounds of the street and cars. I see my family walking in front of me. Claire is now skipping. I look up at the sky, the few scattered clouds, and the bright ball of sun. I take a step forward.



Author Spotlight with Randy Shaffer


Today's author spotlight is with horror author and friend Randy Shaffer. His short story, The Horror, has been holding steady in the top 100 horror kindle books in January. Besides his horror short stories, he also writes nonfiction and has a background in film. His interview is fascinating and worth the read, even if you aren't a horror fan.

Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do outside of writing? What are your hobbies and favorite things to do outside of writing?

I was born and raised in Mentor, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. I am married to a lovely woman who serves as the president of the Burning River Roller Girls in Cleveland (she's also a marketing guru for a jeweler). We have no kids, but we do have one mean-spirited cat we dearly love and adore (she just tolerates us).

I went to Wright State University for a year where I studied film production. Alas, the professors weren't particularly keen on crafting cinema people would actually want to watch (or care about), so I transferred to Kent State University and studied writing and film theory instead.

I basically live and breathe writing. I'm paraphrasing, but Stephen King once said that writing was easy, life is hard. I couldn't agree more. I'm always working on stories, screenplays, books and other ideas. I even shoot skits and video blogs every so often. I don't sleep very well, only a few hours a night. My brain is always running wild, so I am continually looking for ways to keep my mind occupied.

I love movies, though I'm not a fan of going to the theater, unless that theater is a drive-in, in which case I would gladly go to the theater. I have a pretty slick setup in my house, with a terrific 1080p projector, Blu-ray and theater-quality 7.1 surround sound. There's basically no reason to leave the house with a home theater this nice. And with ticket prices the way they are, it's cheaper just buying the film when it hits video. I also really love sharing and discussing movies with people, especially films they have never seen.

I am a bit of a gamer. I feel that gaming is the next big storytelling industry. This latest console generation (PS3 and Xbox 360) really pushed the envelope in this regard. I can't wait to see what the next generation has in store.

And naturally, I love reading. I try and read at least 50 books a year. Last year I read more than double that.

How long have you been writing? What books have you published?

I've been writing stories since I was about 10 years old and I wrote a piece of (hilarious and embarassing) Planet of the Apes fan fiction. But the storytelling bug first bit me when I was 6. I was bullied by this kid named Jake and, in order to comprehend his actions, I created a story (in my head) about who he was when he wasn't bullying me at school. It was a sympathetic tale that had him dealing with cruel parents, jealousy over siblings and bullying of his own. In my story, he was a victim, too. And that's why he picked on me. A few years later, I discovered that I wasn't far off. He was abused by his parents and ridiculed by his siblings, and this drove him to dark places. Once I made that discovery, I was hooked on storytelling.

At current, I have four books published, with a fifth on the way at the end of January. And several more short stories and novellas coming in the next year. I've also got three full-length novels being prepped for sale to publishers.

Right now, I'm focusing on short stories, novellas and shorter novels, primarily because I believe there's an untapped market of readers (with e-readers on their smartphones and tablets) who simply don't have the time for longer books. We live in a very busy world, with hundreds of daily distractions. An 800-page book simply isn't going to appeal to those on the go. But something shorter might just whet their appetite. I'm trying to find that audience, and see where they take me. But I'm also seeking that core base of readers. It might sound dumb, but if I could be the guy you read in the bathroom, I would be a very happy man. That writer gets to share their stories with the world all the time. In lesser words, that person is always working.

What books or authors influenced your writing and why?

That's a tough question – one I could probably spend thousands of words discussing. I'll try and be brief and highlight just a few authors.

Stephen King. He is a master writer, and his stories have shaped who I am. Any self respecting horror writer should aspire to churn out the kind of work he does … with books that are maybe not as long as his, though.

J.K. Rowling. Her Harry Potter series is an absolute game changer. It shifted the entire landscape of young adult fiction. And even better, the books are remarkably well written, with a terrific amount of plot and a perfect balance of character.

Michael Crichton. His books are so immeasurably fun, nerdy and awesome. You learn something about science while exploring a great thrill ride of a plot. I am devastated that he's gone and I won't get to read another one of his new books (outside of those ghost-written books that keep coming out).

And finally, F. Scott Fitzgerald. If ever there was an author who nailed society in just one book, it was this man. The Great Gatsby is my all-time favorite novel. It speaks to our culture in such brutally honest ways, and it's still relevant to this day. I suspect it will stay relevant forever. I read his work, which is usually very lean and concise (Gatsby comes in at under 200 pages), and I can't help but smile, cry, loath and love. So awesome and so completely unforgettable.

What draws you to write horror?

I absolutely love writing about what scares me, though what scares me is not necessarily limited to just the horror genre. But even when I was a kid, I would write horror short stories.

I've always been fascinated with that crossroads between fiction and reality, and my mind is always conjuring new stories that explore that realm. The horror genre is a particularly potent field for that kind of storytelling.

My novelette, The Horror, for example, is about a young couple being stalked by an unnamed killer, all while isolated in a haunted house maze. On the surface, it's a tense thriller, built upon anxiety and dread. But metaphorically, The Horror is about how fear can sometimes drive us to irrational places. It questions whether or not you – the reader – would ever go to a haunted house after reading this story, despite the fact that what I wrote is purely fictional. My thesis was to spark an inner-debate. And my hope is that readers can apply what they learned about fear to other aspects in their life. Should we let fear drive us, or should we focus on the more joyful aspects of our admittedly brief existence? And can we really prevent such fears from infecting our being?

But I'm not just limited to horror. I've also written Does She Smile at Home?, which is a character drama about a man suffering from an existential crisis. Also in 2013, I completed a nonfiction manuscript about swing culture and alternative sexual lifestyles. My idea with these books was to explore the nature of human beings, from their darkest, most hidden corners, in order to discover something deeper about our ever-evolving, yet curiously ever-consistent culture.

What is your favorite part of being an indie author?

It's tough being an indie author. Sometimes it's frustrating. Sometimes it's upsetting. You sort of live and die by reviews, guerrilla marketing and the thoughts of others, which can be very challenging to your wallet, your emotions, and your ego (which is crucial for a writer to have, mind you). You have to make sure you find the right person for your book, otherwise they might not like your story, or connect with it in the right way, or the way you hoped.

But when you do connect with a reader … that's downright magical. I love discovering new readers. I find myself reading the books they are reading and sharing with them so much more than just my stories. Connecting with another human being is a rich, wonderful experience, and I sincerely welcome the opportunity to uncover new readers and friends. There are challenges that indie authors must face, and they can be quite grueling, but the end results are deeply rewarding.

What is on the horizon for you in 2014? What books are next to be released?

I'm working on a slew of short stories and novellas, which should be rolling out this summer. I've also got the remaining four issues coming of my five-issue series, Wicked Neighborhood, which readers have described as a "Goosebumps for adults" horror series. I'll be publishing the second issue, The Foot, on January 25 (my birthday), with further issues in the months following. Once that series is completed, I'll be publishing a full-length version of the complete series in both ebook and print formats. After that, I'll be taking my work to comic cons to garner an even larger audience.

I'm also hard at work editing three full-length books, two fiction and one nonfiction. I am hoping to get one of those books in the hands of a publisher in 2014.

And lastly, I'm crafting an audiobook of The Horror. I'm hoping to release it sometime this summer, or early fall, well ahead of the Halloween season … my busy season, so to speak.

Thanks again to Randy for coming on the blog and sharing his story with us. You can connect with him at the links below.


Author Page:


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Books by Randy Shaffer


The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Thanksgiving

IMG_1367 Today's post is a chapter in The Adventures of Zelda: The Second Saga which will be released in late December or early January. Share this story with your friends and family to get a laugh or two!

A Pug Thanksgiving

When Hannah told me we were going to see Tucker and Whitney, I was super excited. I couldn't wait to play with them and chase Jack Jack the cat. Now that I have arrived, my excitement is waning. The house is filled to the brim with people of all sizes- from tiny children to giant men. Anywhere I go, someone wants to pet my head or pick me up. Ben and Lucy are running around with other children; Hannah and Nate are ignoring me. I can't escape the madness.

With all the commotion in the house, I follow the lead of Tucker and Whitney. I curl up on the couch next to Whitney in between two unfamiliar bodies. I try to fall asleep, but the noise in the house is deafening. It's no use. I get up and wander towards the kitchen, following my nose. The smell is overwhelming, but in the best possible way. I wonder what they are cooking.

The kitchen is busy with activity; I have to walk carefully to avoid being trampled. My nose leads me in front of the oven. Unfortunately, the oven is in the center of the kitchen, surrounded by moving feet. I take a step back and try to see in the oven, but I am too short to look in the window.

I see a foot coming towards me and I jump to the right. I can't stay in the kitchen any longer if I want to stay in one piece. I walk back to the couch and jump next to Tucker. From this spot, I have the perfect vantage point of the kitchen. I sit and wait, hoping to see what is giving off the delicious odor.

Not long after I sit down, the kitchen mysteriously clears. Most of the group vacates to the living room. I leave my spot on the couch, and someone claims my seat moments later. I don't mind. I'm willing to give it up to figure out what is cooking in the kitchen.

I walk straight to the oven and stand on my hind legs. The oven is warm to the touch on my paws. I look into the window. The window is dark, but I can make out the outline of something. It is big and sort of round with a pale color. I have never seen anything like it. Honestly, it looks disgusting. I jump off the oven, disappointed.

How could something so ugly smell so good?

I wander around the kitchen looking for scraps. I find a few bits of cheese and crackers under the table before returning to the living room. A spot is open next to Hannah, so I claim it and lie down.

I can’t sleep with the noise and activity. After what seems like an eternity of trying to fall asleep, Hannah carefully gets off the couch and heads to the kitchen. I follow her.

"Is the bird ready to take out?" she asks.

Bird? That's one big bird.

"I think so."

"Great! That means it's almost dinner time," she says. "Z, come here." She walks away from the oven to the other side of the kitchen.

We watch as Nate's dad opens the oven door and reaches inside. He pulls out something completely different than what I saw. It is golden brown, almost a pug color brown. It looks moist and tender. And, oh my, the smell. It reminds me of chicken, but tastier. I need to get a piece.

“The turkey looks and smells great," Hannah says as Nate's dad places it on the table.

Turkey? What kind of bird is a turkey?

I hop onto a chair in the kitchen and stare at the magnificent cooked turkey bird. While I fixate on it, the rest of the kitchen is a blur. People are moving everywhere and carrying food to the table, to the counter, and back again. They are shouting to one another and laughing, so I sit and wait. The turkey bird is unreachable at the moment, but at some point I know an opportunity will arise for me to take a sample bite. Or two. Or three.

I watch as Nate's dad cuts up the turkey bird. I am a little sad watching the giant bird being dismantled into bite-sized pieces. But, in the long run, I know it's better for me if it is sliced. It's a lot easier for me to get my paws on a slice, than on the whole big turkey bird.

All of the food, including slices of the bird, is resting on the counter in the middle of the kitchen. It's impossible for me to reach the counter unless someone lifts me up. Eventually the food will move to plates around the table and the opportunity will come.

The seats are filling up around me. Children and adults are staking their claim on chairs. I know it's only a matter of time before someone sits on me, so I hop to the ground. I look for the kids' section of the table, the gold mine for scavenging.

Lucy sits down on the far end of the long table. The table is the longest I have ever seen. You could have twenty pugs sitting on chairs! Sitting next to Lucy is a boy smaller than her. He is the lucky winner today; he will be my helper on the turkey quest.

In a few minutes, the room is quiet and the table is full with people and plates. I sit next to the small boy and wait. He eats for a few minutes and then stops. He backs his chair up.

"Christopher, you need to eat more before you get up," a woman says from across the room.

"But Mom, I'm not hungry," the boy says.

"You need to eat the rest of your turkey and potatoes." The boy looks at his plate. I take my opportunity. I walk over to the far side of him, hidden from his mom's view. I put my front paws on his lap.

"Hi Zelda," he whispers.

This is it. I know it.

I leap on to his lap. My head is at table height, but I can't reach the turkey. I put a paw on the table.

"Zelda, down," Hannah yells from the far end of the table.

It's now or never.

I put my other paw on the plate and reach for the slice of turkey. I grab for it with my mouth, but as I put my weight on my front paws, the plate flips toward me. The turkey flies to me and I catch it in my mouth. I leap off the table and on to the ground out of the way. With the turkey in my mouth, I look up.

Uh oh.

The plate is upside down on the boy's lap.

I'm in trouble.

I bolt for the living room, but I slow down when I hear laughter. I stop and turn, setting the turkey on the floor. The table is erupting with laughter; I am okay. I listen to the conversation as I take my first bite.

"I can't believe what just happened."

"Zelda must have really wanted some turkey."

"Christopher, let's get you cleaned up."

"This will be something to remember for years."

I savor the turkey. It does remind me of chicken, but juicier. After the first bite, I gobble the rest of it in seconds.

"Happy Thanksgiving Zelda," Nate shouts. The table laughs. I lick my lips and smile.

The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Scary Story

Zelda Dino I am currently working on a sequel to The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale. Since it's Halloween week, I thought my reader's might enjoy this story. Enjoy!

A Pug Scary Story

It’s a cool autumn evening, and the family is away so I am keeping watch over the house. The house is completely dark this evening; Hannah and Nate forgot to leave the lamp lit in the living room. I head upstairs to Hannah and Nate’s bedroom looking for any traces of light. Luckily the curtains are open, providing a few streaks of light. The light bounces off the wall creating shadows. I sit on the bed, staring out the window, looking for any signs of life. The nearly empty tree branches are swaying with the breeze, but not a soul is on the street.

Without any adventures in sight, I lie down on the bed. I am not sleepy, but I can’t think of anything else to do. And before I know it, I drift to sleep.

Crackle, Crash! 

I lift my head, listen, and wait. I hear a rustling noise from downstairs. I jump off the bed and creep down the stairs. The noise stops when I reach the bottom of the steps. I wait for a minute. I turn to head back up the stairs when I hear it again.

Crackle, Crash! 

It sounds like the noise is coming from Vacuum’s closet. I side step to the closet and peer inside. The darkness is overwhelming. I use my nose to guide me. I smell nothing unusual except for Vacuum’s terrible odor. My eyes adjust and I see her resting in the corner under the coats. The remainder of the closet is empty.


I back out of the closet slowly, waiting for any movement or noise. I wait for a few minutes and head back to my bed upstairs. Maybe my ears deceived me. In another few minutes, I am on the verge of a fabulous nap.

Crash. Boom.

The noise is louder and more distinct. It is definitely inside the house. Once again, I walk downstairs and investigate again. I check over and under the couch. I check the the dining room. I check every nook in the kitchen. I see nothing unusual. I move back to the living room and check Vacuum’s closet again.

Wasn’t Vacuum on the other side of the closet last time?

She was under the coats last time. But this time, she is standing at the entrance. I bark and wait for a response, but as usual she stays silent. Vacuum only responds on her terms.

Instead of going back to the bedroom, I find a comfortable spot on the couch. I will be ready if I stay down here. Once again, my pug nature gets the best of me and I drift into dreamland.


What is that? 

I spring to my feet and jump off the couch in the direction of the closet. I don’t waste any time, sliding straight into Vacuum at the entrance of the closet.


Vacuum thunders toward me with her front light blazing.

What is going on? 

I turn around and run for the couch. I land safely on my perch on the top of the couch cushion, but the visibility is terrible. The darkness seems to be growing.

I hear Vacuum approaching. I freeze and sink into the couch. If I don’t move, maybe she won’t be able to see me. Where is she? She must be right next to the couch by now.

What is she doing?

As soon as I ask the question, I have the answer. Vacuum’s arm swoops toward me. I jump the opposite direction and run for the stairs. I will be safe upstairs. Vacuum can’t climb stairs on her own.

The noise fades and stops; I know Vacuum is resting now. I relax and try to figure out what game Vacuum is playing with me. She was making the noises to get me downstairs. I am sure of it, but why?

Thump. Thump. Thump. 

There she goes again. I ignore the noises this time; I won’t give in to her games. The thumps continue several more times.


I turn and see Vacuum at the bedroom entrance.

How did she get up the stairs?

Vacuum moves toward me, quicker than I have ever seen her move. Her arm is outstretched, reaching towards my body. I realize this isn’t a game anymore. If Vacuum gets any closer, she will suck up all my wrinkles and curly tail. Without my wrinkles or curly tail, I won’t be a pug!

I jump off the bed and dart past Vacuum. I run down the stairs and find a place to hide under the coffee table.

Thump. Thump.

She is coming down the stairs.

Thump. Thump. 

The thumps stop. I know she is close. I try to lie still, but I am shaking with fear.


I feel the suction of Vacuum’s arm on my tail. I’m in trouble. I try to squirm away, but if I run I might lose my tail. My best chance is to try and rip Vacuum’s arm off again. I turn and try to grasp for her, but I don’t have enough room to make this move under the table. Instead, I move towards Vacuum’s body. I move out from under the coffee table bringing her arm with me. I know I only have a split second. I reach for her arm with my jaw. I grab hold and yank it off my tail. The force of my yank frees my tail while I lose control of her arm. The arm flies through the air and lands on my forehead.

Not my wrinkles!

But it’s too late. I know it. It doesn’t matter if she releases or not. The wrinkles are gone. My tail might not ever curl again. My life as an adorable pug is over. I close my eyes.

* * *

“Mom, why is Zelda twitching and making noises in her sleep?” Lucy says. I feel a small hand on my forehead.

“Lucy, dogs have dreams just like us. I bet Zelda was running and barking in her dream,” Hannah says.

“Does Zelda have nightmares?” Lucy asks.

“Probably,” Hannah says. I open my eyes and look at my fluffy, curly tail. I breathe a sigh of relief. I get up and walk to Vacuum’s closet. The door is open; she is sitting at the entrance staring at me.


I turn around. Vacuum’s arm has fallen next to her, but I am not taking any chances. I run to the couch and sit in Lucy’s lap. I look back at Vacuum; she has a devilish smile on her face.

Zelda and the Pillow Thief

IMG_0694 I thought my readers might enjoy an update in The Adventures of Zelda saga.  I wrote this quick story last week, but expect a few more to pop up here over the next several weeks. To read more of the pug tales, pick up a copy of the book. Also, if you have read the book, I'd love for you to leave an honest review at Amazon.  Thanks friends!

Zelda and the Pillow Thief

I love bedtime. In fact, I haven’t met a pug who doesn’t love bedtime. Every night, I curl up under the covers with Lucy and she pets me until we fall asleep. I wake up the next morning refreshed and ready for another day of adventure.

But, for the past week, I’ve had trouble sleeping. After I get comfortable under the blankets with Lucy, I try to fall asleep, but I can’t. It’s too hot and the air is stuffy. I feel like I am going to sneeze the night away. So, I move out from under the blankets and sleep next to Lucy. I end up waking up every few hours; she tosses and turns all night. I just can’t win.

I tried sleeping in the living room on the couch or in my dog bed, but I don’t like sleeping alone, and it’s a bit chilly in the living room at night. I tried Hannah and Nate’s bed, but they kicked me out. Ben is worse than Lucy at tossing and turning so I didn’t even last in his bed for one whole night.

So I am back at square one, trying to sleep in Lucy’s bed. I need to get my pug beauty sleep, so I have enough energy to chase squirrels, run through leaf piles, and do well at school.

Tonight, I find a great spot next to Lucy, under the covers at her feet. I don’t feel hot like normal so I close my eyes. I am jerked awake with a kick to the butt from Lucy. Aggravated, I crawl and lie next to her stomach, out of harms way. But, she feels like a hot, sunny walk, so I keep crawling until my head is out of the blankets, resting next to Lucy’s on the pillow. My head sinks into the pillow; I breath in the fresh air and relax.

I wake up a few hours later overheated again. Lucy has rolled away from me so I scoot up and spread out across the pillow. My whole body sinks into the pillow. It feels incredible; the pillow is by far the best bed in the house. I fall asleep and wake up when Hannah comes in to wake Lucy up for school. How have I not slept here before?

The following night I have no hesitation. I jump on the bed and go straight for the pillow. But, Lucy’s head is right in the middle of the pillow.

She stole the pillow! I have to get it back. 

I lie down right next to her with my head on the pillow, hoping she will move away from me, relinquishing the pillow on the way. I lie waiting, when a big yawn comes over me and the next thing I remember is light peeking through the curtain the next morning. I open my eyes and Lucy is right next to my head on the pillow, eyes closed, fast asleep. My plan failed.

The next night, I jump into Lucy’s bed before she does and sprawl out on the pillow. It is wonderful and I fall asleep instantly. I awake to a conversation.

“Look Mom, Zelda stole my pillow,” Lucy says.

“She sure did,” Hannah replies with a smile. “But you can move her out of the way, she’s only a pug.”

Only a pug?? I don’t think so. 

But, at that moment Hannah grabs me and moves me off the pillow. I squirm and fight it, but it’s too late. Lucy has claimed her spot on the pillow. And I’m stuck sleeping next to her again.

I crawl my way to my spot, head to head with Lucy on my pillow, when I devise the perfect plan to get my pillow back.

I stay awake and wait for Lucy’s eyes to close and her breathing to become regular. And in a few minutes, she is asleep. I crawl up the pillow and step across her head and lie down with my body sprawled across the pillow and her head.

Sure enough, in a few minutes, Lucy wakes up confused and rolls out from under me to the other side of the bed. I am so excited I almost get up and lick her face, when I remember, she might take that opportunity to steal the pillow again. Instead, I lie down on the pillow, with my front paws touching one end and back paws at the other end. And soon enough, I am dreaming about a world with endless peanut butter, steak, and a friend to play with everyday.

Coming Soon - The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale

Last fall, I began writing a collection of short stories called the Legend of Zelda. The stories are loosely based on the life of our pug named Zelda. I published one Zelda story a month on this blog from October through March, and after writing thirteen Zelda stories, I decided to self-publish the collection. In the midst of this decision, I took one of these stories to my writing group to be critiqued. The reception was great, although they had a few good suggestions to create a story arc for the Legend of Zelda. I revised the thirteen short stories, sent them to be proofread, and booked a designer for my book cover. Unfortunately, the process took longer than expected on my end as I took time off for my stepfather's illness and passing, along with moving.

But, I am excited that I am super close to announcing a release date for what will now be known as The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale. (During this process, I realized the Legend of Zelda is copyrighted and decided it was best to change the name.) I have some final formatting to do and a couple design tweaks. When those are done, I will set a release date. Until then, the teaser is below or you can read the first two chapters on Wattpad!

Zelda Run

What happens when a stubborn pug encounters a snowman, a giant leaf pile, or Jack Jack the cat?

Zelda is a curly-tailed, wrinkly, stubborn pug. But, she isn't an ordinary pug content to eat and sleep her days away. Zelda is always searching for a new adventure, mystery to solve, or squirrel to catch, and her unexpected reactions cause readers to smile and laugh.

The thirteen short stories in this book connect and build into a story arc creating an exciting chapter book for all ages, young and old.

The Adventures of Zelda will be available the summer of 2013 in paperback and across the major e-book platforms.

The Legend of Zelda Update

I planned on April being a big writing month. My goal was to have the first Legend of Zelda collection out on Kindle by the end of the month along with significant progress in the novel revisions. Those were my plans. And then life happened. My stepdad has been in the hospital for about a month now. For a couple weeks, it was pretty scary and I spent many hours in the hospital. Thankfully, he pulled through the worst of it and is on the long road to recovery. Needless to say, I'm not reaching my writing goals this month. But that's life and I will put aside my goals to take care of family whenever it's needed. The good news is I received great feedback on my Zelda stories a couple weeks ago at my writing group. From that feedback, I am revising all twelve stories of the first collection and I think the revisions will make the stories more enjoyable for children and adults. After the revisions, they will go through final edits, cover design and formatting. I have formatting under control, but looking for recommendations for designers and editors. My new goal is to have the first Legend of Zelda collection available by the end of May. The goal is very attainable on my end as long as life doesn't get crazy again and I find a reasonably priced cover designer.

I am really excited about the Zelda stories and my novel. Hopefully, I can get my butt in gear and get them out into the world soon!

Thanks for the prayers, love and support the past several weeks!