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My son and I were having a discussion about writing essays for scholarships. The natural question, to me, was “How long does it have to be?”

“5,000 word maximum” he says. Pffft . . . puh—leeeeeeze. I have bowel movements longer than 5,000 words. At 5,000 words I’m just getting warmed up, as a general rule, especially if I’m on a roll about a subject I’m passionate about. I can understand how that can seem intimidating to a student, though.

I started thinking about it a little. When I write a story I rarely ever have a word count in mind; I write it until it’s done. Seems pretty cut and dry to me. Most publishers and editors are going to have word count requirements based on their specific needs or desires, to be sure. If I happen to encounter one who wants a story to be a certain length then I will work to that spec—until then, it’s my choice, so I’ll take my ball and play elsewhere for the time being.

This is relevant right now because I’m on the cusp of finishing my next, err, short story. Thing is, I don’t consider it ‘short’, per se. As I write this post it’s sitting at around 20,000 words, and I’m not quite done yet.

The Apocalypse of Hagren Roose story cover

click to enlarge

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the title is The Apocalypse of Hagren Roose. Hagren has had a few personal issues with his daughter and has been a less than stellar father figure. He’s about to find out what price his actions have extracted from him.

I’m going to release it in digital format, beginning with the Kindle platform and eventually for the Nook and other e-readers as well. But that’s not the point of this post, is it?

When I’m asked if I’m working on anything I tend to hesitate, because I’m not quite sure how to properly approach it. It’s way longer than a “short story” if you ask me, but it’s well off the mark (in both content and word count) to be considered a “novel.” For someone who likes to have a fairly square idea of what defines an object trying to stick the correct property to Apocalypse can be difficult because there is no hard and fast standard. Listed below are some general guidelines, and I do mean general (thanks to Rob Bignell at inventingreality.com for the breakdown):

n Short story – 7,500 words or less
n Novelette – 7,501-17,500 words (many editors simply lump this category into either the short story or the novella groupings)
n Novella – 17,501-40,000 words
n Novel – 40,001 or more words

Personally, I would think a full blown novel would be far more than 40,000 words. But that’s just me and my two cents worth. At this very point in this post you have read 487 words! See how fast that goes?

I propose a new category, something a bit more descriptive to give readers a more precise idea of what they’re getting into. How about a shorvella? Whaddya think? It’s catchy—not quite a short story, not quite a true novella (although Apocalypse falls nicely into that category now, which I admit just sounds cool: The Apocalypse of Hagren Roose – a Novella).

So, essentially, scholarship applicants who are being required to write an essay are being asked to write almost the equivalent of a short story . . . and truly, some short stories, by other definitions, are around 2,000-2,500 words! So that’s two or three short stories!

Well, I can’t say with any certainty that shorvella will catch on. But if it does you can say you know precisely where the term got its start!

Word count for this post — 646.

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Quite literally, a book review condensed to six words. Not my words, I assure you, but they do refer to The Light, The Dark, and Ember Between. Wow, huh?

After a few days off I’m back on the tour trail for the last leg of this journey.

The review above came from Ms. Tara Stone Gill at 25 Hour Books. One of my favorite lines from her review is:

I found myself rereading whole paragraphs to just soak in the imagery again and again.

Guess I did something right ;^)

Also today is a quick seven question interview with me at All Voices. Take a few moments to check it out, won’t you?

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As much as I get anxious about book reviews, the fact is that good or bad they play an important role for both the writer and reader. I received the following review from Haley at The Life (and Lies) of an Inanimate Flying Object:

The Light, The Dark and Ember Between is a collection of short stories that show people and events the way they really are. Each story is a beautiful picture of humans and emotions.

Each story in The Light, The Dark, and Ember Between is beautifully set up and developed quickly, by way of characters, setting, and dialogue. I was instantly drawn into each one as quickly as I turned the page.

J.W. Nicklaus is a wonderful writer. His words are fluid and lyric and full of beautiful vivid descriptions, the kinds that you re-read paragraphs because the words were beautiful. His characters are real people living with real situations, fighting to live though their losses. Some stories are funny (Reydeo says “T.V. is dead!” = Radio says TV is dead), some are sweet (“momma didn’t spank me after all, and I told God thank you when I said grace”), some that dabble in the supernatural (“I beheld Satan falling as lightning from heaven.”) and some that make your heart sing (yes, I fell in love with you when you were in second grade and you never knew it.).

I enjoyed each and every one of these stories, and this book will stay on my bookshelf for years. They’re the kind that you read over and over, whichever you feel like reading that day. I look forward to more from Nicklaus, and I encourage everyone to get their hands on this book as soon as they can.

Content: there was an occasional cuss word scattered through some of the short stories, but it wasn’t overdone, overly offensive, or inappropriate.

Recommendation: Ages 10+ to lover of any genre.

I’m trying to remember what I was so worried about ;^)

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Only three days left . . . not for shopping, but for my second tour. Today has two stops:

• A brand new review of The Light, The Dark, and Ember Between at Reading at the Beach. Two words come to mind: stocking stuffer.

• A guest post I wrote for Market My Novel about one of the ways I write when I’m not actually writing. Bewildered? Check out the post!

Stocking Stuffer, Stocking Stuffer, Stocking Stuffer, Stocking Stuffer . . . ;^)

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ember_betweenOne of the reviewers who had, well, reviewed my book, had asked me if she could do an interview with me. “Of course,” I’d replied. So she will be posting the interview this week. Her questions were actually very good!

One of her questions is as follows: “In the spirit of Ten Word Quickie, define ember between

I know that some of the folks whose blogs I follow like a little story now and again, so I thought I’d share my answer with you.


With the meeting long over, the more social of the scribes collected themselves around the living room, half-empty wine glasses and various notebooks scattered upon the coffee table in a strange kind of artistic still life. Polite murmurs and trailing laughter ebbed and flowed as they’d stumbled from one subject to the next. Somehow the group had managed to hopscotch into a discussion of phrase and word origins.

Jerry had been quietly following it all, mutely darting his eyes back and forth as the verbal tennis match bounced through the room like child on a bed. His eyes fixed on Mel as she explained what she believed was the origin of the phrase “between the lines.”

“As I understand it,” she began, waving her pen in the air like a conductor, “it was largely derived as something literal from early military letters and their writing style. Seems many times correspondence was done in code, for obvious reasons. It was believed that sometimes highly secretive information would be written in invisible ink in-between the lines of text. Eventually the phrase came about as a suggested method of trying to discover coded messages in these letters as recipients—or interceptors—were told to ‘read beetween the lines’.”

Brent leaned forward and onto the edge of the couch. “Invisible ink, you say?”

Wine glass in hand, Mel only nodded, caught in mid-sip.

“I’ll have to try that on my agent next time she asks for an update,” he smirked.

Andi, the most easily excitable of the group, tossed her hand in the air and waved it about. “Oh, oh — what about ‘between a rock and a hard place’?” She glanced around, seemingly convinced she’d tossed a wet blanket on the proceedings. Heads swiveled all over the living room.

“I grew up in southern Arizona,” Kelly began, tossing her long red hair back over her ear. “Actually, it’s a well established bit of history that’s told by families in the area. In the very early 1900’s copper mining was the economic engine that drove business in Bisbee. Apparently the miners, who were being paid pretty low wages for incredibly dangerous work, had formed unions in an effort to muster some sort of leverage with company management. The economy was pretty bleak and the miners picked a bad time to try and improve their pay and working conditions.”

Wide-eyed, Andi interjected. “Was this during the Great Depression?”

“Around that time, yes,” Kelly answered. “Not only did management not cave in, they summarily deported some of the miners to New Mexico. So it’s thought the phrase came about because the miners were caught, literally, between their work in the mines—underpaid and dangerous as it was—or face the prospect of no job at all during a really rough economy.”

Once again, words of intrigued approval floated around the room—”interesting” and “fascinating” easily the most popular. Jerry leaned against the arm of the easy chair he’d been sitting in. He knew what was coming.

Mika, perhaps the most effectual and bookish of the bunch, gently rocked back in her chair, hands clasped in her lap. “Jerry—you’ve been, as usual, very quiet.”

“I assure you it’s not from a lack of attention,” he said.

Mika smiled. “I wouldn’t think it in the least.” Suddenly she leaned her weight forward causing the front legs of the chair to thump against the hardwood floor. “It seems to have escaped the purview of most everyone here that you have a book that has flown in under the radar.” Jerry immediately felt like a dart board, every set of eyes instantly fixed sharply upon him, accompanied by slack jaws and a surprised gasp or two.

“Um, well, I suppose so, Mika.” He hated her in this moment, but only playfully. Her smile did little to curry his favor.

She gracefully swept her hand across the room. “So, given this current discussion, it only seems fitting that I ask you what the origin of ‘ember between‘ is.” He looked around, trying to find the smallest loophole he could crawl through. Focused attention didn’t suit him, at least not here, right now, and loopholes evidently were not to be had. He closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath.

“It is the outward consequence of pleasure and pain, the altar upon which we place our sorrows and wishes. It’s the light that noiselessly erases the dark.” He glanced up and caught every stare still affixed upon him.

“It is the station each of us keeps between the stars in the heavens and the tribulations below. The ember between . . . it is us. It is Hope.”

Warm silence filled the room. Disturbingly absent were the gentle affirmations and raised eyebrows of the trivia-fed mind. Yet each face, male and female alike, projected serene respect.

Looking across the room at Mika, Jerry could read her lips as their eyes met—”Well done.”


For those who don’t know, my name isn’t Jerry :^)

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I say “official close” because my official virtual book tour ends today, but I will truly finish where I started—on the blog of Ms. SlightlyIgnorant—but that won’t happen for a few days yet.

In the meantime I’ll have a little surprise tomorrow, but for today I ask that you take a trip over to As The Pages Turn. It’s an interview with a completely different twist, so don’t expect the kind of questions you’ve seen up to this point.

I’ll save my thank you’s post for a little later.

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Hope everyone had a nice weekend! I started mine with my second baseball to the left eye. I’ve had my fill of those, so I’ve officially taken my last eye-ball. I’ve no plans to even out the right one with a couple hits either, but thanks for asking ;^)

Today’s stop is an interview at Beyond the Books. While the questions are, again, a slightly different riff on others you’ve seen, the most outstanding difference (save for my answers, of course!) is that this interview has my mug on it. Yes, I’ve stooped to showing myself to garner readership; if nothing else, people might look out of morbid curiosity, right?

If you didn’t get a chance, please don’t miss my interview with Barry Eva from Saturday morning on A Book and a Chat. You can catch the link below, or find it at my site, under the Events section.

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