Category Archives: writing life

Get Your Copy! Literal: Defining Moments

This summer I wrote a poem that my workshop mates called a call to action! I was encouraged to publish it and since there was not time to send it to to any publishers, in the centuries old tradition of poets before me – I’ve self-published it. This being the age of the independent author, I went with a reputable indie publishing company. Only to be come up against technical obstacles.  So the actual bound book and eBook files will be late. But thanks to a conversation with an old friend from high school, I’m sending the chapbook into the wild as a PDF. This particular version has a copyright notation that allows the PDF file to be shared.  Share widely. Literal: Defining Moments.

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New Chap Book – Literal: Defining Moments

literal-ebook-2A new book is coming out very soon. LITERAL: Defining Moments is my first chap book. The poem Literal is a language poem, following the meaning of words and creating a trail for the reader to follow. How often do we use words without thought to actual meaning?

It’s a political poem, because poets have a responsibility to bring the forth what doesn’t work in our world and our society. A deeply personal work, it is one I could not fail to create and keep true to what is integral to the fabric of who I am, an individual of integrity.

The book will be out soon in all the usual distributors. As soon as pre-sale is open, I’ll post it and I do encourage you to at least go read the pre-sale page, that will help boost inventory before the book is on sale in the retail venues.

I wrote this poem while participating in the Napa Valley Writers Conference this summer.

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The juju is back.

Returned last night from AWP 2016. I’ll just say up front, I signed up for #AWP16 last spring, long before my year of horror erupted. I was invited on two panels, and both were accepted. Once the tribulations of this year from hell began, I pretty much forgot about AWP. Before I knew it, I had a week to get ready. I almost flaked and didn’t go. Things are still pretty tough even though moving a little forward.

I’m glad I didn’t flake.

The two panels were well put together and well received. I thought we’d be the only veterans panels and I was so wrong on that. A dozen or so veteran oriented panels and readings. I met some outstanding military writers, veterans and spouses.

More than that, I came to the realization that the more than a decade of procrastination on my book, the collection of memoir essays about my military service has been in part due to the muzzle of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell that I was subjected to for all but the last year of my career.

A big ol’  crack in that OD green/BDU/ACU camouflage Berlin wall closet was struck during #AWP16.

I’m coming out from under my rock. I’ve got my mojo back on. The juju is back. The ones who shall not be named be damned with their piddlyshitasshat meddling in my family’s life. If need be, I’m going back to da Nile so I can get my creativity back in play.

That said, sent in my application to the Napa Valley Writers Conference today. (Priority admission deadline 23:59 tonight!). Wrote a book review today. Check it out.

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Back at it. One thing at a time. First….writing. The rest, in time. For the time being I’m concentrating on writing. Once that is back in sync, Three by Five will come out of hibernation. Book reviews will return later. There you have it. The pieces are being put back together.


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If you006 follow this site, you know for the last six months or so, something has been off. Posts are late, Three by Five interviews are late or don’t happen, no reviews have posted, no blog postings.

The truth is life is getting in the way. We’ve had a lot going on in my family, and have been dealing with an unfortunate disagreement with a neighbor that resulted in a lawsuit, stress related illness, and an accompanying inability to concentrate on more enjoyable tasks as a result. I’ve been unable to engage consistently in other things or concentrate at work, which is tough when the work is creative writing.

So, I’m not getting any writing done and I’m overwhelmed with those writing tasks that keep me from creative writing too. Guilt and failure are overriding emotions related to this.

I’m putting everything on pause so I can regroup. And stop beating myself up about not keeping up.

If you are on the schedule for Three by Five, you’ll be first up when I come out of hibernation.

If you want to be on the Three by Five deck, still email and I’ll put you into the rotation. I just can’t say when the rotation will pick back up.

Current calls for submission noted on this site will continue but, I am reviewing their viability given the low rate of submissions. So if you’ve been thinking about submitting your story for Dress Right Dress or DADT, do it now or risk the project called off due to lack of interest.

This is a radical action, to temporarily abandon the hard work I’ve built into this site over the past ten years. If this torpedoes my “platform” so be it. Right now, it’s time to take care of myself and my family so I can return and hopefully get back to providing a useful, informative, supportive site for emerging writers and authors. And more importantly, start writing again.


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In November – Novelist Chase J. Jackson

Chase J. Jackson, writes mystery, thriller, and suspense. unnamed-1

VAH: The kick off question is always why do you write?

CJJ: I write because writing is one of the most powerful forms of self-expression. I love the idea that I can create characters, dialogues and situations that people can relate to and can get a message from.

VAH: What got you started?

CJJ: I became a writer in the 4th grade. I remember my teacher gave an assignment with a variety of words listed and we had to create a story using those words. I wrote the story and when the teacher gave me my assignment back she asked if I got that story from somewhere. I told her I didn’t and she said it was really good. That’s when I felt like a writer.

VAH: Who were your influences:

CJJ:  R.L. Stine Goosebumps and Fear Street books influenced me as a writer. My friends and I collected all of them when we were in elementary school.

VAH: What do you remember about one of your earliest stories?

CJJ: I remember writing a story in the 6th grade about one of my classmates. The teachers thought he was funny, girls loved him & all the guys thought he was so cool. So I thought, this guy has to be an alien. There’s no way someone is this well rounded in the 6th grade. So I remember writing a story about him being an alien.

VAH: And your favorite piece that you’ve written?

CJJ: My favorite piece that I’ve written to date is my first novel, Whispers In The Dark. I spent a lot of time working on this book and developing the characters and making sure there was a message that readers can take from this story.


Chase J. Jackson Bio:

Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Chase J. Jackson developed an interest for writing suspense and mystery at an early age after reading all of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books. As a teenager, Chase began writing short stories and poetry based on his experiences. After winning a local poetry slam, Chase decided to bring his writing to life through the art of film. During his collegiate career at the University of West Georgia, Chase studied literature, cinematography, and film editing, ultimately graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English. Working two jobs to save money for film equipment, Chase filmed one of his short stories, Paralysis, which chronicles a teenager named Alyssa as she battles with sleep paralysis. In 2011, Paralysis was nominated for Best Film by The Peachtree Village International Film Festival.After college, Chase dedicated his time to writing his first novel Whispers in the Dark. Chase’s goal is to keep the readers interest from the very first page to the very end, keeping them on the edge of their seat until an ultimate surprise ending. Chase’s future plans include writing his second novel, The Parish Prophecies, and traveling across the country to film other various projects.


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Sam Slaughter – the Writer’s Life


1932805_10152273115942354_772377606_oVAH: Today the third and final installment with Sam Slaughter as we talk about the writing life. Sam – are you a full-time writer?

SS: I am indeed a full-time writer, though what I write tends to range widely. I get paid to be a copywriter for a health and wellness company here in Central Florida. That is my Monday through Friday job and as far as writing jobs go, I enjoy it. It is the first (paying) writing job that I’ve held that allows me to work creatively and collaboratively and since so much of my other writing is done by myself, I revel in the atmosphere around me.  In addition to that, I try and write something else (creative work of some sort, or book reviews) every morning before work. I’ve found that trying to do so after spending all day in front of a computer never works so I gave up trying.

VAH: So how do you get going the page/screen is blank?

SS: Stubbornness, sometimes. A glass of bourbon other times. I read somewhere that Russell Banks suggests that three drinks is the perfect amount to drink while writing, if you are into that. Now that I write mostly in the morning, I don’t drink, but I have found it to be beneficial previously.  Running also helps me because it isolates me and the voices in my head, allowing me to focus on something that I could write.

VAH: “Voices in your head,” such a good way to describe an author’s head space! What is your process when working on a new piece of writing?

SS: I hear it or see it or whatever it in my head long before I put anything on paper. Usually it starts with an image or a line and I build it out from there using the typical journalistic questions of who when and most importantly why. As a writer I’m always observing (I think there’s a certain point when you can’t not people watch whenever you’re in public) and plenty of times I’m left going what the hell or why would he do that. Those are the moments I build off because I’d much rather make up a person’s life story using what I can see than hear what actually happened, truth stranger than fiction be damned.

VAH: Getting your work out there – do you have a submission system or plan?

SS: I take what was referred to somewhere as a Hydra approach. I’ll send out a story (usually I’m sending out two or three or however many are ready at the time) to three places. When I get a rejection, I’ll then send it out to two more places, like a hydra getting its head chopped off. I don’t know if this is effective or not, but it makes me feel like I’m being somewhat productive.

VAH: What does your typical writing day include?

SS: When I wake up and drag myself about of bed, I make some coffee and boot up my computer.  I’ll either start a new piece or pull up an old piece to edit.  By around 7:30 I get ready for work. At work, I work on various projects—whatever is needed. During lunch or if I have a free moment, I try and use those to read or write down some notes or sentences on whatever I’m working on.  Night time I usually reserve for reading and just letting my mind wander around whatever it needs to in order to be able to write the next day.

VAH: Sam, what would you like to share about your current work?

SS: Last year I finished my first novel, DOGS.  I am currently shopping it while I work on a variety of other projects, including a second novel. The working title of the novel is Alternate Frequencies and will be an exploration of communication and love, of the desperation born out of not being able to talk to your own child even when he is in the very same room, and the lengths to which a parent will go to show his love. When he is only two, Markus Van Dennen is involved in a serious car accident, landing him in a six-month coma. His father, Chuck, escapes with minor wounds.  Throughout his time in the hospital, Markus’s grandmother sits by his side listening to old time radio shows. When he finally does wake up, life is different for Markus. Whenever he is around people, he sees them talking, but he doesn’t hear what they’re saying. Instead, life plays out like a radio show for him. Some days are dramatic, some unfold like a detective’s mystery, some are just plain funny.  His family, already strained from the previous six months not knowing whether or not Markus would live, are knocked off balance when they realize Markus doesn’t really hear them. Chuck and his wife, Darcy, are at odds over what to do about Markus while their older daughter Jane tries to keep the family together no matter what. Daily, Chuck and Darcy fight over what to do. Both want Markus cured, but amidst their fighting not once do they think Markus might be happy how he is. Jane is forced to watch as Darcy offers an ultimatum, threatening to walk out of the family if Chuck does not agree with her plan. Chuck, forced to show where his devotion lies, must make a decision that will effect the rest of his and his family’s lives.

VAH: Thank you Sam, for taking some time with Three by Five and sharing about your writing life.

Sam Slaughter was born and raised in New Jersey and currently lives in Central Florida.  He was educated at Elon University and Stetson University. He has fiction and nonfiction published or upcoming in a variety of places, including McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Midwestern Gothic, The Circus Book, The Review Review, and Heavy Feather Review.  He is the Book Review Editor for The Atticus Review and a Contributing Editor at Entropy. He was recently awarded the 2014 There Will Be Words Prize and his first chapbook, When You Cross That Line, will be published in 2015.

Social Media:

Twitter:  @slaughterwrites
Instagram: @slaughterhouserising

Sam Slaughter Sampler:

1) An excerpt from DOGS, published at Revolution John

2) Part 1 of the story “Fame in the Graveyard,” published at The Circus Book

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Sam Slaughter – What the Writer Reads


148859_910208288313_845933055_nWriter reads

VAH: Sam, who is your favorite author?

SS: It sounds cheap and like thousands of other white males out there, but I’d have to say Hemingway.  Having studied his prose as a grad student and having read countless stories and books by him, something about the prose always speaks to me. The parataxis is intriguing and his background as a cub reporter jives with my own, though I don’t have anywhere near the amount of experience that he did.  There are other things, but I feel I’d fall into super nerd fan boy speak and I’d rather avoid that.

VAH: Imagine you’re stranded in a snowstorm, or stuck on a deserted island. What books would you hope to have with you or hope to find?

SS: First, I’d rather be stuck on a deserted island—there’s something very literary and less freezey-to-deathy about that. The immediate thought is to bring something practical like How to Survive on a Deserted Island or 79 Military Practices to Keep You Alive. Beyond that, though (because who wants to be practical?), I’d bring The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway, The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor, Brillat-Savarin’s The Physiology of Taste, and if allowed, a set of encyclopedias. I’d also take the biggest tome of blank paper I could. I think all of those books have their various methods and, at least with the encyclopedias (and Physiology to an extent) there would be some practical knowledge to pull from them. I’d need a balance of practical and impractical to survive, I think.

VAH: What is the most memorable book, story or poem you’ve read?

SS: Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. Being named Sam, it comes up a lot in one’s life. When you combine that with the fact that I enjoy cooking, it is near inescapable. It’s memorable because of its omnipresence in my mind. (It doesn’t/does help that I have the character tattooed on the inside of my arm as well.)

VAH: What author or books keep you up at night because you can’t put them down?

SS: Like many others, I read the last Harry Potter book in a little under 24 hours. I also read the memoir Crazy For the Storm by Norman Ollestad in the same amount of time. There aren’t specific books or authors that will always keep me up. I once read the better portion of a book on Roman history in an attempt to fall asleep. It didn’t work, but I learned a lot about Nero that night.

VAH: I’ve actually not read Harry Potter, but I’ve done similar with Outlander books.

Which reader are you – always finish what you started or put it down and move on if you don’t like it?

SS: I finish books even when I don’t like them. Even if I hate it, I force myself to go on. The only explanation I have is that I’m a stubborn individual and don’t like losing, even if its to the voices in my head telling me I couldn’t follow through on something. It’s something I’m working on.



Sam Slaughter was born and raised in New Jersey and currently lives in Central Florida.  He was educated at Elon University and Stetson University. He has fiction and nonfiction published or upcoming in a variety of places, including McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Midwestern Gothic, The Circus Book, The Review Review, and Heavy Feather Review.  He is the Book Review Editor for The Atticus Review and a Contributing Editor at Entropy. He was recently awarded the 2014 There Will Be Words Prize and his first chapbook, When You Cross That Line, will be published in 2015.

Social Media:

Twitter:  @slaughterwrites
Instagram: @slaughterhouserising

Sam Slaughter Sampler:

1) An excerpt from DOGS, published at Revolution John

2) Part 1 of the story “Fame in the Graveyard,” published at The Circus Book

More Sam Slaughter on the 13th of the month.

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Three by Five Welcomes Sam Slaughter

Welcome to Sam Slaughter, this month’s highlighted author.1932805_10152273115942354_772377606_o

Writer beginnings

VAH: Sam, let’s begin with why do you write?

SS: I write because at this point I can’t not. My mentor, Mark Powell, described it best, I think. He said at one point that if he goes for a long period of time without writing, he starts to feel physically ill. I’m going to steal that. I get antsy if I go more than a day or two without writing. Hearing stories and lines and whatever else in my head all the time, writing is a release for that, like opening a faucet or whatever other cliché you want to put in there. It feels good to write (even though it can be torture at times to sit in front of a blank screen) and so I keep doing it.

VAH: When did you start writing?

SS: I started writing because, as a kid, I always told stories. They were mostly to myself, in the safety of my own room as I played with my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures, but they were stories nonetheless. In public places, I would make stuff up constantly, wanting to sound more interesting than I was. Looking back, I can only imagine how crazy I probably sounded. In eighth grade I remember one particular assignment that really sealed the deal for me. We had our weekly spelling list—this may have been a marking period list, it was pretty long as I remember—and we had to write a story using all of the words. I wrote some fantasy tale

VAH: What are influenced your development as a writer?

SS: I have two different lists for this, really. First are the authors that I was reading when I was much younger—the ones that made me want to write in the first place. Among them, Brian Jacques, Jonathan Kellerman, RL Stine, Christopher Pike, and Caleb Carr come to mind. These writers wrote compelling pieces that were not hard to grasp. I read more because I was always interested. If I didn’t have that bunny hill education in reading, I probably wouldn’t have gotten to the point that I’m at now. If I would’ve jumped right into the canon, there’s a good bet that I would’ve hated reading and writing. I didn’t start reading a lot of “classics” until late in college, when I felt I was finally smart enough to understand them. I wasn’t in some cases, but what can you do? You can’t win ‘em all.

The second list of writers, after I started to actively pursue “literary” fiction writing, is the list more likely to pop up on my shelves these days. TC Boyle, Chuck Palahniuk, Flannery O’Connor, Kurt Vonnegut, Pinckney Benedict, Ricky Moody, Anthony Bourdain (his nonfiction, not his fiction), Steve Almond, and Rick Bass.

If I were to add any to that second list now, they’d be: Ron Rash, George Singleton, Ernest Hemingway, Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, Karen Russell and Denis Johnson, among many others. I realize my taste in writers is terribly uniform and I’ve been working on changing that in the past year.

VAH: What do you remember about your first story or poem?

SS: The first story I wrote was about a bartender of a medieval tavern-turned-hero. I believe he had a sword that could either freeze an enemy or light them on fire. He saved a damsel at some point. Beyond that, I don’t remember anything else about it. I wrote it when I was in eighth grade for an assignment in Spelling, when we had to use a list of words in a story. At the time, I was into fantasy role-playing and, for some reason, I thought being a medieval barkeep was cool so all my heroes were bartenders.

VAH: What is the favorite piece you’ve written to date?

SS: My novel, Dogs, is up there because I learned what it meant to write a novel.  As far as pieces that are or will be published, I really enjoy my story “Welcome to Milwaukee” which will be out in 2015 in Midwestern Gothic. The idea came from a trip I took to Minneapolis one time and it stuck with me until I finally wrote it down.

Sam Slaughter was born and raised in New Jersey and currently lives in Central Florida.  He was educated at Elon University and Stetson University. He has fiction and nonfiction published or upcoming in a variety of places, including McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Midwestern Gothic, The Circus Book, The Review Review, and Heavy Feather Review.  He is the Book Review Editor for The Atticus Review and a Contributing Editor at Entropy. He was recently awarded the 2014 There Will Be Words Prize and his first chapbook, When You Cross That Line, will be published in 2015.

Social Media:

Twitter:  @slaughterwrites
Instagram: @slaughterhouserising

Sam Slaughter Sampler:

1) An excerpt from DOGS, published at Revolution John

2) Part 1 of the story “Fame in the Graveyard,” published at The Circus Book

More Sam Slaughter on the 13th of the month.

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Bernadette Geyer Part 3

BerlinerBuchertisch.berlin_liestBernadette Geyer: Writing life

VAH: More with Bernadette Geyer, this installment focusing on the writing life. Are you a full-time writer?

BG: I am a full-time freelance writer, editor, translator, and workshop instructor. All of the above are writing-related and from that I cobble together sustenance. My first love is writing poetry, but I do a lot of other things to pay the bills and buy groceries.

VAH: Would you say writing is a vocation, occupation, or profession?

BG: I consider poetry my “vocation” but for my “profession,” I write non-fiction, I provide editorial services, and I serve as a workshop instructor.

VAH: Writing for a living seems to always encompass so much beyond the creative journey. For you, when the page is blank, what gets you writing?

BG: I actually have a list of ideas for non-fiction articles I want to write and a journal full of jottings that can be developed into poems or essays. A blank page in front of me is never blank for very long. On the off chance I sit with a blank page in my journal, I sometimes just practice “observing” what’s around me. I will practice writing details, or description, or simile, or interpretation, or even just playing around with sound echoes, so that what I write builds on the sounds of the original word or observation. Sometimes, out of all that mess, will come a phrase that stands out as important and worth exploring further.

VAH: What you describe resonates with me as a means for practicing aspects of the craft. How would you describe your “process” when working on a new piece of writing?

BG: I am typically very slow in my process. When I get something onto a blank page and I think it’s promising, I will typically type it up and print it out for myself. I have a small desk in the house that I call my “editing” desk. No computer, just the desk and a chair and a lovely lamp. Most often, I will put the draft there for a while (a week or two, maybe a month, depending on what else is going on in my life at the moment) so that I can return to it with a fresh perspective. I walk past the desk very frequently because of its location and so I feel like the poem is always asserting its presence, even if subconsciously. I’ll look at it, and tweak a word. Or, I’ll scan it and have a sudden thought and then sit down and revise for an hour. Then I let it sit again. Type up a revision, print it out, let it sit some more. I usually have several poems in various stages of this process, so that it’s not usually more than a couple of months between finishing new poems. Sometimes I’ll finish a few in the course of one month! That always seems like a small miracle to me.

VAH: How about your typical writing day – what’s that like?

BG: This definitely depends on the kind of writing I am doing on a particular day. If it’s non-fiction, the day will involve a lot of research. I will sometimes forget to eat, but usually I try to tear myself away from my desk long enough to have a meal while not at the computer. I don’t typically devote a whole day to poetry, unless I am taking a workshop outside of my apartment. With my poetry, a 2-3 hour stretch is typically what I can do in a day. Sometimes the poem requires research, sometimes it requires that I get out of the apartment and wander while I think. Most poems are written in fits and starts over a long period and there is nothing “typical” about the process of writing them.

Bonus question –

VAH: Do you have a submission system or plan?

BG: My submissions are all tracked in a MSExcel file. I always note the date of the submission and how it was submitted (online, via email, post). On a separate page, I have a list of all the poems that I am actively submitting. Next to each poem I put a tic for each place to which I have submitted it. If a poem is currently under consideration at a place that does not accept sim subs, I make a special mark so that I know not to submit that poem elsewhere. I try to have poems submitted to 2-3 places at a time if those places accept sim subs. I am very methodical and persistent, albeit a little slower than many other poets I know. The Excel file is also where I track which litmags wrote encouraging personal notes on the rejection slips and specifically asked for me to submit again.

Bernadette Geyer Sampler:


Kunstquartier Bethanien,” Slow Travel Berlin, December 2014

The City behind the City of Berlin,” GoNOMAD, November 2014

Fellowship Opportunities for Writers in Berlin,” Funds for Writers, September 19, 2014

The Social Media Model,” The Los Angeles Review blog, September 4, 2010

Making Every Word Count,” Absolute Write, July 27, 2006

When Leaving Isn’t Easy,” Go World Travel Magazine, January 2006





32 Poems – Thumbelina’s Mother Speaks: To the Toad’s Mother

Heron Tree – Parable of the Great Outpouring

La Petite Zine — Contrary to Popular Belief

The Paris-American – Thanksgiving

Redux: A Literary Journal – Fire Ants Invade Hong Hock See Buddhist Temple; Remembering Is Short; Haunting

Verse Daily – Without Warning




Bernadette Geyer’s first full-length collection, The Scabbard of Her Throat, was selected by Cornelius Eady as the 2013 Hilary Tham Capital Collection title, published by The Word Works in early 2013. In 2010, she receivedBernadetteGeyerHeadshot a Strauss Fellowship from the Arts Council of Fairfax County. Geyer’s poems have appeared widely in journals including North American Review, Oxford American, The Paris-American, Poet Lore, and elsewhere.

In July 2013, Geyer relocated to Berlin, Germany, where she works as a freelance writer, editor, and translator. Her non-fiction has been published most recently in Slow Travel Berlin and GoNOMAD. Geyer also leads online creative writing and social media marketing workshops for writers.

Connect online with Bernadette Geyer: WebsiteFacebook PageTwitterBlog.

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