How I Write | Tom Merritt

Reading Time: 2 minutes

How I Write is a short segment that lets authors talk a bit about themselves and how they write. Today’s segment features Tom Merritt.


Mac or Pc: 70% Mac, 30% PC. I have a MAcBook Pro that I do a lot of my other work on so I’m often on it when I find time to write. But I also really like my SurfaceBook and thanks to the magic of Dropbox and Office 365 can use it to write too!

Pen or Pencil:

Do you mean stylus? ;). I don’t write anything but my rent check with a pen anymore. Is that sad?

Thick Crust or Thin Crust:

Thin. I’m from the St. Louis area so I love that style. But I do have a solid admiration for Chicago Style deep dish pizza.

One word that describes your writing style:


A bit of background about how you got to where you are as a writer:

I’ve been attempting to write books since I was in high school. I wrote my first complete novel, Boiling Point from 1993-2001. After that National Novel Writing Month really got me energized to stop making excuses and stop being a perfectionist and just write. On demand publishers like Lulu let me trot out a few novels to see what people thought.

What software/apps do you use to help with your writing:

You know I use SimpleNote to take some random notes and occasional scene sketches and then Word to create the novel. And I use a browser for research. That’s about it.

What is your office/desk/writing set up like:

I write wherever I am. It’s most often at the kitchen table, but sometimes on a couch sometimes on an airplane or in a hotel. NaNoWriMo really helped me stop using location as a procrastination excuse.

Are you a planner or a fly by the seat of your pantser when you write:

I like to know the world very well so I usually sketch that out. And then I usually have a very high level view of where the story is going. The rest is just flying by the seat of my pants, filling in the gaps and then going back and seeing if I can identify the holes that still need to be filled in or the contradictions, weak spots, etc.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever received:

Just write. You can always revise but not writing will not get your work done.

What’s your latest published work you want to tell people about:

Pilot X from Inkshares. It’s the story of a timeship pilot who loves to fly but keeps getting sucked into situations where he has to save his people and eventually the universe.

Flash Fiction | An Empty Saddle

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The horse came back alone. Slay stood staring at it’s empty saddle as it trotted towards him. When the horse, Slay’s sister had named it Diamond, reached him he pulled a bit of carrot from his pocket and let Diamond eat it from his hand.

He then reached up and grabbed the loose reins.

It’s done.

Sarah had left early the day before. She had been wearing a white button shirt and tan pants tucked into her bright red calf high boots. Her long black hair had been pulled back into a long braid that ran all the way down her back.

She had looked down at Slay with her haunting, purple eyes. He had always loved them.

“It’s time.” She said.

“How do you know? Couldn’t you be wrong?”

“No. It’s time. I know it is. Can’t you feel it?” Slay could hear the awe and excitement and fear in her voice.

Slay wanted to shake his head and tell her no, he couldn’t feel it. He wanted to scream at her to stay, to give up this crazy mission, but he couldn’t.

Because he could feel it. He knew as soon as he woke up that she was going to leave. It was like the world was waiting, holding its breath.

Slay played his last, desperate card.

“Isn’t there someone else?”

Sarah just stared at him.


Still she stared.

Slay felt anger and rage boil up inside him. How could she, his twin sister just leave him?

He almost shouted at her then. He wanted to tell her “Fine, go. Get out of here! I don’t need you!”

But he didn’t. Instead he stood there. Hands clenched into fists with a solitary tear running down his cheek.

Sarah reached down and brushed her hand against his cheek. As she pulled her hand away sunlight sparkled in the tear that she had caught. She carefully placed the tear right below the corner of her left eye. It would stay there, now, forever.

“I know it’s hard Slay but there’s no other way. They need a Keeper and I am the strongest one left.”

Something happened that Slay couldn’t sense but that pulled Sarah’s head away from Slay and to the west. She stared off into the distance for a moment then turned back to Slay.

“I have to go now. I’m sorry Slay. I love you.”

She reached her hand out and Slay took it in his own. As always he marveled at how slim and delicate her hand was in comparison to his rough, course hands.

“I love you too.” He said, nearly choking on the words. Tears now flowed down both their cheeks.

Sarah dropped his hand and turned Diamond to the west. She set off at a quick trot.
Slay stood there, rooted, long after she had disappeared over the horizon.

Flash Fiction | Spices Under the Porch

Reading Time: 2 minutes

That summer seemed to last forever. It was 1982 and James was 5. It was the last summer before he went to kindergarten.

He spent that whole summer playing underneath the back porch of his family’s old farmhouse.

It was dark and musty and comforting. Of course there were spider webs and mice and nasty things, but there was good stuff down there too.

There was a little burrow, long empty, probably from some long gone family of foxes or prairie dogs, that he filled with GI Joes or Hot Wheels or water. Way in the back where the sunlight barely cast itself was an old wooden box with a latch.

When James had finally found the courage to open it he had found it filled with papers that had turned to dust in his hands. He imagined that those papers had been treasure maps or secret papers from a spy.

None of that compared though, to what he found under there one summer day, right before he started school. He had been shopping with his mom for school clothes all morning and by the time he got to climb under that porch the summer sun was low in the sky, turning everything it touched to golden treasure.

James was just making his way under the porch when he noticed something. The smell was different. He could still smell the musty earthy smell that was always there but there was something else, something he couldn’t quite place. Later in life, if asked, he would say that it was a spicy smell, like cardamom and cloves and coriander all rolled into one, but then it was just something different. Something other.

He hesitated, there at the threshold of the darkness. He wasn’t afraid but he knew instinctively that he needed to proceed with caution. He moved deeper into the darkness, slowly and silently, like a hunter stalking its prey.

As he moved towards the back, closer and closer to the old wooden box, the spicy smell grew stronger until it filled his nostrils.

He stopped when he was almost beside the box. There was only a little empty space left behind. James waited there for an eternity of heartbeats. More than he could count on his fingers and toes but still nothing.

He was just about to turn back and seek refuge in the sunlight when something shifted outside. A cloud broke or a branch moving in the evening breeze. Whatever it was a shaft of light somehow penetrated to the back of the darkness and then he saw it.

Two eyes flashed red in the darkness. James’s breath caught in his throat. For a second he thought it was maybe the neighbor’s cat, Tom, but he new that wasn’t right. Tom’s cat eyes were green in the darkness not red.

He called out, his voice tight and quiet, “Is there someone there?”

The eyes flashed again and then something shot by him, so quick he couldn’t even see it. He turned as it flashed by, catching orange and white as it sprinted towards the summer light.

James would tell the story for years after of the fox that had scared him that day but when he dreamed of it he would always remember the part that he had put away and hidden. The face he had seen just before the fox started its flight had been that of a little girl, with the eyes of a fox.

Toddler = Weapon of Mass Destruction

Reading Time: 1 minute

If you have (or had) toddlers you know what this post’s title means. If not, let me enlighten you. My progeny (obviously their destructive tendencies come only from me and not the amazing Mrs. Colemind) have all destroyed things when they were toddlers. Expensive things. The first thing I remember was a window, then there were doors, closet doors, laptops, toys uncountable, computers, and the list goes on and on.

Yesterday another WMD was released in the Colemind home.

Our youngest, who is 3.5 going on 13, wreaked some mass destruction on our home. I’ll warn you now. The image below is pretty graphic.

Here’s a quick rundown of the above destruction:

  • Electric Griddle
  • 2 Plastic Tupperware containers
  • 2 – Mrs. Colemind’s amazing brownies
  • 2 – Mrs. Colemind’s amazing cupcakes
  • 6 – Colemind macroons (the coconut ones, not the French ones
  • 2 – Colemind almond joys (macaroon bars, almonds, drizzled in chocolate)

I’ll pause here for a bit so you can mourn their passing.

Okay. Lessons learned:

  1. Don’t stack flammable/meltable things on top of the griddle. Even if it’s not plugged in.
  2. Don’t leave griddle out where toddler can plug it in.
  3. Toddlers will find things to destroy. ALWAYS!

Luckily I noticed the heat coming off of the griddle before we left or we may have added a house to the list of things our children, as toddlers, have destroyed.

Flash Fiction Friday | The Theater

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I’m starting a new challenge for myself this week. Flash Fiction Friday. I will post a 500 word (there’s the ‘f’ again, can’t lose with alliteration) flash fiction piece on the blog each Friday.

This weeks idea comes from Chuck Wendig’s blog: Right vs. Wrong. I hope you enjoy.

Salem stood at the door of the abandoned theater. The people walking by flowed around him, though no one saw him or looked at him.

He tugged at the cloth covering his empty left eye socket. It had been empty so long that he didn’t even remember what it was like to see with two eyes. But the cloth still bothered him. He ran his fingers through his bright red hair which always stood on end, like candle-flame.

He looked at the door, reading what lay beyond. Layer after layer of posters had been posted and pulled down from the doors over the years, leaving a mosaic of past entertainment that was impossible to discern.

He opened the door.

An old man stood inside the ticket booth. Thick round spectacles made his eyes huge saucers of cloudy blue.

Salem walked up to the ticket booth.

“I have nothing…” Before he could finish the saucer eyes blinked hugely.

“Go on in.” Said the old man. His voice dusty parchment. “You’re always welcome here.”

Salem bowed his head in thanks and went inside the theater.

An old movie, black and white, something Salem had seen lifetimes ago, but couldn’t remember the name of, flickered on the screen. The theater wasn’t full but it wasn’t empty either.

Towards the front, he saw who he was looking for. The rough haired boy practically glowed. Salem reached up reflexively with his left hand to the massive sword strapped to his back. He hoped he wouldn’t have to use it.

He made his way down to the row behind the boy. The seat directly behind him was empty. Salem sat down quietly, then leaned up and placed a light hand on the boy’s shoulder. He closed his eyes.

Visions assaulted Salem’s senses. A visual and aural cacophony that only he could see and hear. Two lives stretched out before the boy; one a life of pain for him and everyone he met, the other a life of service and hope. That one was dim, like the shadow of a shadow. The life of pain was almost too bright.

The boy already walked this path, though he didn’t know it.

Salem watched visions, looking for something, anything, that could change the boy’s path. His empty hand reached, again unconsciously, to the sword on his back, that would end the pain for countless lives.

Just as he was about to pull the sword free Salem saw something. Something dim. Would it be enough? It would have to be. He couldn’t bear the pain of the sword again.

Salem opened his eyes and pulled his hand from the boy’s shoulder. The boy didn’t even notice.

Salem reached down under the boy’s chair and grabbed the ratty backpack. He pulled a small leather book from inside, the boy’s diary, and pushed the bag back under the boy’s seat.

Salem leaned forward and whispered into the boy’s ear, “I’m sorry.”

When the boy turned around there was only emptiness behind him.


Green Eggs and Ham | Dr Seuss’ Birthday

Reading Time: 1 minute

For the great Dr.’s birthday we decided to have a bit of a celebration. Green Eggs & Ham of course. The colemind progeny decided to have theirs a la carte, while I and the Mrs. had burritos–scrambled green eggs, canadian bacon, cheese, hash browns, and spicy ketchup. It was a delicious tribute to one of the greatest authors of all time.

That’s right, one of the greatest.

Just look at these quotes:

Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

A person’s a person, no matter how small.

You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!

While his books were simple, the messages and lessons were powerful. He used simple words and illustrations that have shaped generations of children. He is what we should all aspire to as authors. He told stories that made people think.

Oh, he did sell 600 million plus copies. There’s that too.

When Yeast Dies…Make Flatbread Pizzas?

Reading Time: 1 minute

What do you do when you go to make homemade pizza for a date with Mrs. Colemind and the yeast you were going to use is dead? You make the best of it, buy some min-flatbreads, and whip up some flatbread pizza. Still delicious even if it’s not technically “pizza”. Notice the all-important Diet Mountain Dew in the corner.