Archive for July, 2015

This story was free from 7/31 – 8/7/15 – hope you enjoyed it.

I have a reading today, at the Nearsighted Narwal in Tacoma at 7pm (2610B 6th Ave, Tacoma, Washington 98406). I’ll be reading from “After Ours”, it’s a collection of 12 stand alone flash fiction stories that in their whole tell a story. What happens to the shop elves and other Folk when the human’s have a zombie apocalypse? Here’s the first story in the book: “After Ours” Published by Six Point Press Copyright 2015 Cheryce Clayton Art by Michael Shaudis Edited by Mir Plemmons After Ours cover art 5 1. “Practical Hats”

“We need to make more hats,” Twigge whispered from her nest under the giant green sewing machine.

“They’re not coming back,” Leef answered from the window sill. He didn’t bother to disguise himself as a cat anymore, he just sat and stared through the dusty window at the dark, empty street.

“They always come back,” Twigge insisted. “Blue Flu, Spanish Influenza, and Bubonic Plague. They always come back.”

Leef turned from the window and looked into the dark storefront. The Haberdashery had survived war and disease before. Each time the after had come and someone had opened the doors, marveled at how well stocked it was and business went on. New owners, same store, same home for Twigge, Leef, and the other Hobs that lived inside the building.

“They went crazy and ate each other, you saw it,” Leef said. He refused to glance over at the rotting pieces that used to be William P. Rutledges, Proprietor. The non-customer had stumbled in without any hat whatsoever, growled like a dog, and then attacked their shop human.

———————- Thank you for reading,

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How to write shock

Posted: July 26, 2015 in Writing

A portion of this was originally posted to my fb page.

How to write shock

His knees went out as he fell…
His bowels turned to ice water…
She gasped…
I stared in disbelief…
A sudden chill swept through Paul, as if a cold wind cut through….
When writing shock you can do better than tropes and stereotypes, yet they exist for a reason. There are dozens of different types of shock and a thousand variable combinations. Every character is going to react differently and the same character won’t respond the same way twice. And within all of those variables will be common themes – cold, sudden awareness of the gut, knees give out, time slows down, people hyper-focus, the mind rejects information, the sound of other’s voices echo and fade with your pulse, and numbness. Just not all of these in one person for one moment during an event.

Let’s talk a bit about the different types of shock.

Emotional shock – hearing of a loved one’s untimely death, an unexpected relationship breakup, losing a child in a store, seeing violence that the character is not accustomed too.
Physical/medical shock – receiving a traumatic and unexpected injury, being hit with a concussive blast wave, a sudden loud noise.
Intellectualized shock – having information suddenly line up to reveal something bad, betrayal, grief.
Delayed shock – the numbness of knowing you should be in shock or grief but feeling nothing until a sudden moment when it all hits – ptsd.
Retriggered shock – seeing, hearing, or smelling something that sends you back in time to the moment, ptsd.
Compounded shock – when a series of incidents or injuries suddenly overwhelm you.
Cultural shock – your brain fills in blanks when you have no point of reference.

Shock is never simple, by its nature it requires that all of your characters defenses have been destroyed in an instant leaving the person reeling and in …shock.

An unplanned cross country move is considered to be as stressful as a death of a loved one or a divorce. The lack of familiar places and people erodes a person’s ability to process stress and can compound until the person breaks. And that is the reality of shock – for the length of time you are in shock you are broken. The old fashioned mental breakdown is shock – the inability to cope with and function through stress.

Knowing this, and wanting to write a character in shock from an event, you need to plan a reaction arc for the character. If you prefer to write without outline, you need to consider the arc in the rewrite.
1st is the shock from a physical or an emotional source.
2nd keep track of the environment, including other characters, around the character because the character will be oblivious.
3rd use the environment and other characters to show that your character is disassociated and …in shock.
4th give a clear cut end to the shock – be it a fade to black, a slap across the face, sudden clarity
5th and understand that true shock rewrites a person on a primal level. The character changes or it wasn’t shock.
Now, focusing on number one, a character hit by a stray bullet during a robbery they never noticed will react completely different that a soldier hit during a fire fight – the civilian may look down as the red blooms and try to figure out what happened while the soldier doesn’t notice he was hit until after the shooting stops. A character walking in on her husband having sex with her best friend will react differently that a woman walking in on her husband raping their 4 year old child – the betrayal of an affair can invoke sudden disbelief and then rage while walking in on something heinous can cause violent puking or an instant psychotic break. And seeing a commercial airplane crash in person when you don’t know anyone on board is not going to hit as hard as seeing a news report of the same crash and realizing that your loved one is on board – watching a plane crash when you intellectually know that people are dying is a punch to the gut “wrong” moment that gives way to disbelief; the moment of realizing someone is dead while watching an intellectualize retelling on the news is a trigger for disassociating and shutting down.

The symptoms of shock are confused when writers combine medical shock with emotional shock.

Medically, untreated shock kills. Emotionally, untreated shock can induce long term mental issues.

And yes, your character can have both happening at the same time, but trying to write both co-morbid can lead to tangled messy descriptions that leave the reader unimpressed.

Medical shock from physical injury is by definition a sudden drop in blood pressure. The why varies but the symptoms are pretty consistent: pale clammy skin accompanied by rapid thready pulse with rapid shallow breathing – all pointing to low blood pressure. The person may exhibit dizziness, pass out, become confused, belligerent, or panicked, their lips may go white, their face can lose color (darker skinned people turn grey), and they might clutch their chest in a classic appearance of a heart attack.

Emotional / psychological shock from seeing something horrific, witnessing a betrayal, or learning of a grief-inducing fact occurs when someone is made suddenly and acutely aware of their own vulnerability – even if they do not notice at the moment. That’s key – shock is the minds way of protecting you from the fact that you are powerless. Shock is a protective buffer that damages. Think of it as a reflexive flinch away from a spider that sends the car of your life spinning out of control.

Emotional shock is a shutdown mechanism that is supposed to buy a person time to process, but people don’t and so shock can be retriggered.

Writers have a character witness a murder and the character exhibits symptoms of physical shock not emotional shock because in the moment a person’s subconscious can devastate a person’s body. For that brief flash of emotional pain before the shock takes hold, the blood pressure can crash, the heart can skip a beat or two, the system can completely flood with adrenalin and if the physical stress continues the body can die – so shock is triggered as a buffer to buy time.

To write a non-injury induced state of shock it helps to understand that the basic triggers are unexpected, unprepared, powerless, repeated, relentless, cruel, humiliating, or remembered.

Now, think about witnessing that plane crash: what happens when a person sees a second plane crash? They either flash back to the first crash and retrigger or they don’t go into shock the second time because they’ve seen this before. Same with other reasons for emotional shock.

Soldiers and medics get programmed to run toward danger where others would go into shock simply because that flood of adrenalin overrides the stress and they have compartmentalized the reality that would induce shock, hence the high rate of delayed shock also known as ptsd.

Going back to the example of walking in on a pedophile: certain events will trigger an instant, unblockable urge to puke or pee or crap – the sudden need to purge. This requires that the witnessed event to abhorrently taboo – like the rape of a child, body parts, genocide. It is a response that is culturally and personally dependent on internalized definitions of allowed, normal evil being breached or expanded suddenly. The sudden purge response is not shock, though shock may follow, it does not threaten or take power from the witness and can easily morph into rage instead of shock. And while we’re on the subject – you can have a sympathic response to someone else’s purge reflex – like yawning it’s contagious.

One last bit on cultural shock – your character cannot describe or interpret things they have no point of reference to. A fellow writer friend recently described walking in a college hallway, seeing some interesting geometric art, having the disorienting moment of realizing that it was words in an unfamiliar language, and then stopping to watch how others present glanced at the “art” and glanced away without ever really seeing it. I once picked up a rock on a beach and threw it at an annoyed bird only to realize that it was an egg, I was standing on the camouflaged nest, and the bird had a reason to be pissed at me. That was a gut-sink moment that left acid in my mouth and tears in my eyes – shock.

Your character cannot be shocked by things he/she cannot culturally reference. If Captain Joe Spitefir has never seen the tall, blue, reptilliod aliens young, he cannot be shocked when they bring out platters of small fish to eat – until an alien tells him that there will be no truce because he just ate the kidnapped young of their enemy…

For writers: the take-away on shock is it really helps to sit down and break the moment down into the micro before you write or rewrite the scene. Shock should be used as a pivot point for a character and not as a quick tension builder to be forgotten in the next scene. Breaking the moment into the quarter second micro allows you to consider the event in the time dilation hyper focused manner of someone entering shock and gives you the freedom to explore the reaction and what is being blocked so that you know how the character is affected, effected, and changed moving forward. Plus, it lets you decide what needs to be said versus having to rewrite to fit later.

Pot talkin’

Posted: July 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

The full story is available on Quarterreads, it was free the week of July 24-30, 2015.

I use flash fiction to develop characters, to build stories and see if they have legs, and to capture a scene for later use.  The recent surge in micro-markets has encouraged me to put more energy into editing and finishing these orphans.

This story. “Pot Talkin'” was originally titled “Believe it”.  It first appeared on

Pot Talkin’ Copyright 2015 by Cheryce Clayton

All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the Publisher, except for short quotes used for review or promotion.


Pot Talkin’

We used to believe.

I used to believe.

Hell, I know you used to believe.

Ever step back and think about it? Ever question yourself?

Try it. Think back to when you believed and ask yourself “Why?”

Bo says it’s the pot talkin’ – when I start to ask questions. He doesn’t get it.

The pot just lets me quit shaking long enough to realize that there are questions that we forgot to ask.

Even though I know it’s too late for questions. It was already too late when the broadcast news quit calling them saviors and started demanding answers. The satellites fell within weeks of the first public questions. There’s no one to record the world burning.

The fact is that the world is a big place, hell, Seattle is a very big place, just forget about the interstate. And without power, you aren’t going anywhere. Even if you wanted to try. Without the satellites, internet, phones or cameras; no one is watching. And humanity gets real ugly without witnesses. There aren’t enough shepherds to keep the flock alive and heroes quit trying when you throw rocks at them for helping.

So, I’m smoking pot, holed up in an old Victorian Manor with Bo. It’s off Volunteer Park. Some biker converted it into the ideal place to wait this out.


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An old story

Posted: July 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

Permission is an old story set in my SO universe. It is available on Amazon, it was free the week of July 17-24, 2015.

Permission:  A long, long way to run


Cheryce Clayton

“Permission:  A long, long way to run” is published by Six Point Press

Copyright 2014 by Cheryce Clayton

All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the Publisher, except for short quotes used for review or promotion.

Cover by Michael Shaudis


Permission:  A long, long way to run

“We are a blunt people. Even our poetry is without music.” Tanma liked pronouncements like that, and I, their prisoner, would smile and nod my head.

That he wanted more from me, or at least something different, everyone in the small installation knew. What puzzled me was what he thought I could do for him.

“I have never liked poetry myself,” I answered, shifting my gaze from Tanma to the other’s without apology.  We spoke in English and I struggled to keep my accent flat and to use common words.

“But your people mix poetry and music together, Camille. I heard you.” Tanma again spoke before anyone else, and I smiled at him with a confirming nod.

“In singing, your voice is just another instrument and words the strings. It is music first and poetry second.” I looked away from Tanma, not being able to identify the question he kept shooting me from the depth of his black eyes and not willing to open my mind.

“We are a blunt people. Even our music has no poetry,” and he sighed before standing and walking away. The rest of the evening meal was silent as I ate my vegetables and tried not to see my captor’s plates.


“You have a rapport with plants I envy.” Shento, one of Tanma’s mates, spoke as she shifted into my light. She, like the rest of the Delmiks on the planet, wore a full body containment suit during the day. I identified her by the small pink flower painted on the mirror of her chest.

“Hunger provides an excellent incentive,” I said. I looked from my reflection back down to the small dandelion plants I was trying to coax into growing faster. My shaved scalp was now shadowed by a halo of straight black hair that tried to frame my face.

“Renn completed her survey of your blood. It is her opinion that you could eat a few of our animals.” She struggled to kneel beside me, and I kept my mind sealed tight as she put her gloved hand on my shoulder. Still, some of her concern leaked through, just as Tanma’s burning question kept invading my mind.


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Let’s talk about fb.

Posted: July 6, 2015 in article

Because your fb experience is different than my fb experience. FB is a very complex platform of programs and algorithms and personally set perimeters. Your daily web activities affect what you see on fb just as much as your actual interactions on fb affect what you see. Much like google, fb believes in putting you into a bubble of people and things you like and shields you from seeing things you have programmed it to believe you don’t want to see. You need to work to stretch your bubble and you need to strive to pop it from time to time. Your personal bubble is set by the politics and likes of the other people you interact with, the things you click on, and your other web activities. The ads on your side bar are a direct reflection of your bubble. The common misconception is that those ads are exclusively driven by web addresses you have visited and ads that you have interacted with. This is only part of the way the algorithms work. If you have a long chat with friend A who loves back yard chickens you may see a chicken ad in the rotation for 72 hours. Your ads will reflect your perceived likes AND things the top ten people you recently interacted with like. If you find an ad annoying or offensive – block it. Take the half a minute and go through the block process for that advertiser. In the case of mega-advertisers it won’t completely block it simply because blocking wallnart.cum doesn’t block iluvwalnart.cum or shopwalnart.cum. (and yes, I typoed on purpose, not only to be funny but to prevent autolinking and a slew of wallnart ads in my feed for weeks to come). Because what you post affects those ads as well. The other variables that affect your feed are friends and access. Access is whether you are getting onto fb from a cell phone, using the app or loading the page, or if you are using a laptop or computer. You see a lower percentage of posts when using a mobile device. I do not have a work around for that – I just try to pay attention to who I haven’t seen in a while and visit their wall from time to time. The number of friends a person has directly influences what they see on fb. A person with under 100 fb friends will see everything everyone posts, shares, likes, or comments on. Everything. I post a lot – Hi. The average fb user has between 250 and 350 fb friends, and they see about 50% of what happens. Fb decides what 50%, so if there is someone you haven’t seen in a while – search, click their name and go to their wall. Fb will unfollow people for you if you click hide this post one too many times. The next tier of fb users has between 500 and 1250 friends. We see 20% of post, shares, and likes. After that is people with 1250 to 3500 friends. 5%. And then the players with 3500 to 5000 friends. Just assume that they see nothing. Uncustomized – their feed looks like twitter. There are ways to customize your feed and maximize what you see. It’s work and not a quick fix, but it’s well worth it and no different than clearing out your email inbox daily and checking your spam filter. A lot of people and articles recommend using the ranking system that fb provides, the close friend vs acquaintance designators. I don’t because the computer will show you the more *liked* posts by acquaintances and not the important ones. Ie, “look at the cute cat” gets 22 likes therefore you see it but “Uncle Joe has cancer” got no likes so you never saw it. To customize your feed, open up your friends list. Now, take the time to unfollow every person you don’t know. Seriously. And understand that if you only have 250 friends you may very well know each and every one of them. If you have more than 350 friends – unfollow everyone you do not know, recognize, or interact with regularly. These are the friends of friends, the game adds, and the randoms. If you recognize the icon or name, by all means leave them active, but unfollow those you don’t know or who have no icon. You can defriend if you want but they might notice. Unfollowing allows you to refollow them later if you realize that you know and miss them. In going through your friend list, be sure to unfollow anyone who makes you frown or gives you a momentary flash of annoyance – even cousins and coworkers. No one can tell if you unfollow them, unfollow does not block them from interacting with your posts, and you can always refollow them if you start to interact with them. Oh, and you can’t see if they already unfollowed you. But you can suspect that a person has unfollowed you if the only time they interact is right after a mutual friend interacts. Friend B clicks like and comments on your post, Friend A (whom you haven’t seen click anything in weeks) clicks like and then likes three other posts of your and a photo from last week. Now that you’ve weeded your friend list, go back to your news feed. Make it a policy and a habit to unfollow pages that people share that you are not interested in. Not the “Joe likes ‘Flaming Nut Runners’ page”, not the “please like my new page” requests. When a friend shares a link from a page or website that you don’t care about the “She took three common garden pest and when she was finished I…” posts and unfollow that page or website. You’re blocking spam and you have to do it each and every time. You can use a program like Fluffbuster to do it for you. Understand that somethings just won’t block, I figure they paid the big bucks. And I unfollow people who regularly post things I find disgusting or annoying – even if I like them. Next, quit complaining about game requests, game players don’t like games that spam their friend list anymore that nongame players like getting spammed. If you tell me a specific game spammed you with my name I will delete that game, I won’t quit playing games. FB makes so that you have to actively block each and every game that spams you. There used to be an option to block all games – they removed it. There used to be an option to not allow games to spam your friends list – they removed it. Games and ads pay for fb, you’re going to see them from time to time. Be proactive and block games when you see them, fb will get the hint eventually and you will see fewer and fewer. Ok, you unfollowed your ghost friends, your unfollowing and/or blocking ads and games as they pop up (yes its time consuming but taking one moment to block will stop the next 50 times that article gets shared). Your feed should be getting cleaner, don’t hesitate to unfollow anyone boring or who spams memes and no content. Hell, don’t hesitate to unfollow. Do hesitate to unfriend. People take that seriously. It hurts people’s feelings, it causes strife. It’s petty and it’s rude to unfriend someone publically over a tiff that very well could heal with time. It’s too often used as a punishment and not as a way to walk away. If you really feel you cannot stay friends with someone then unfriend and block. This prevents them (or you) from fb stalking and “keeping tabs”. If you’re not willing to block then just unfollow. If you do get unfriended by someone – block them. When you block, they cannot see you, your comments on others posts, or your likes – and you cannot see them. Watch out for new friend requests as people often make a second account. I clear my blocks once a month because I really don’t care if someone petty wants to fb stalk me – they can get in line. Point – if you report a photo or comment of a friend to fb for anything other than directed bullshit aimed at you – you are being an ass. If you don’t like what someone is posting – unfollow them. If someone starts posting things you find offensive (be it religion, violence, breast feeding, or general asshattery) – unfollow them. If you report them and you don’t unfriend them you are a rude, tattling, troll that doesn’t have the guts to be public in your opinions. If you see friend A post a picture (breastfeeding), you like the picture, and then see friend C ranting about reporting a (breastfeeding) picture within a few hours later – chances are friend C is an ass and you risk your other friends getting reported by keeping that person as a friend. I private message, tell them I will continue to like and or share the same types of pictures and if it really offends them could they please unfollow me. Most will hit the defriend without reply. Fb news feed maintenance is an ongoing thing, the same way your email inbox didn’t get 8000 unviewed emails overnight, your feed doesn’t get cluttered overnight. Just unfollow things and people as you go to keep it to a minimum. And refollow anyone who takes the time to engage you. Now let’s stretch that bubble. Open fb, and then open a new window and go to your preferred news source. Have you liked their fb page? Read a couple of articles. Share one. All with your fb news feed open. Now go directly to a blog you like. Do the same. Basically do your daily web surf with fb open in the background. Back to fb, see an ad you actually like? Click it. Ads pay for fb, you might as well get good ones. Do not use brand identifiers in writing posts or comments unless you like and want to promote that product. If you hate wallnart – misspell it. If you love and want to promote California Raisins, used the brand the way they do. You have to tell fb what you like and want to see, you have to click like and share on businesses and politics and media or fb will just show you what your friends like. You want to promote your own business, self, or product on fb? You have to build a healthy friends list, full of active engaged friends. Note the word friends. Not fans. Not customers. Friends. People you interact with and who in turn interact with you. (I suck at this part…J Click like on other people’s posts, share, and comment. Interact. Post things worth reading. Don’t fall into the share without comment trap. FB will combine 3 or more shared posts in a row, only show the first and then give a “see more” tab. When you go on a fb cruise and share everything that catches your eye – people don’t necessarily see any of it. Same with key words. Say Thanksgiving, Superbowl, Easter, etc. in a post and you could get hidden in a list of related posts much the same as you don’t see every birthday greeting a friend gets. If you spam shared memes fb will limit your reach. If you do it regularly fb will throttle your reach. And don’t allow one friend to troll another friend on one of your posts. People will hold you as the host/ess accountable for a bad time they had on your wall. I give a warning and then I delete and state that I deleted. The only thing more annoying than a troll is getting a comment deleted without an explanation as to why. “Sorry kids. Deleted the comments because I’m just not in the mood for politics today, feel free to take it to your own wall.” Or “Wow, really didn’t think that could be so misunderstood. My bad. Deleted everything and will rethink.” Or “Troll! Defriended and Blocked! Sorry” There is a bit of a debate about sharing from your page onto your wall, the thought being that you’re spamming the same thing twice. You’re not. FB limits page reach, the only way to get a page post out there is through shares. Share it your own wall, ask page fans to hit share, share it to groups, share it onto a willing friend’s wall. You cannot share enough. Besides, my comic page has around 1000 fans of whom I am friends with 97. I have 750 fb friends of whom 97 have like my comic. That 1500 people who do not overlap. Between all of my pages and active groups I have a reach of around 9000 easy. Add in fb friends who I can count on to hit share and I get to around 25000. The example being that every time I share one of my books available on amazon I sell 2 or 3 copies within the hour. Some people will say that I am spamming my friends, I disagree. It’s no more spamming than the friend who treats fb as a second twitter account and posts an ongoing play by play of a sport event. I’m a writer, someone else is an artist, a third is a model, and a fourth is a sportsball fanatic. We post on fb about our ongoing lives and if someone isn’t interested in your ongoing likes and dislikes they can unfollow. That isn’t to say that you should be “that guy” and post three links a day to your book, music, or etsy. It is to say that if you are in the business of selling something I should be able to easily find a link to buy it from your “about” section and not have to search for your fb page to find a link to your blog to find a link to your store, amazon, or concert schedule. Groups and events are their own little worlds. Consider groups to simply be locked forum board threads. A great resource and a great way to meet and maintain friends. Groups allow for focused discussions and the ability to ask a question without random people chipping in. Groups can overwhelm your feed. I unfollow notifications from most groups. I am not active in groups when real life get busy. Groups require an active moderator the same as any forum. Events are a great way to calendar things. If you are planning an event, try to make sure no one else makes a new event as it really dilutes the brand and confuses people. Events can have multiple hosts, and you should add those people directly involved as hosts. Only invite those people in the geographic area and share the event on a regular schedule along with adding content to the event. Last thoughts, fb is different everyone. Some people only have real world friends – getting on to check on family and such from time to time; some of us make real world friends here and sit around chatting while sharing videos and coffee, and some use it as a twitter-like dating site from their phone and are never offline it seems. FB should never be a point of stress for you. Questions?