Story Review: “Terms and Conditions”

Terms and Conditions: Must be Met

We meet the fictional Shoeb as he faces a life-threatening problem of his own making. We see the world through his eyes and emotions, yet sometimes we’re privy to other characters’ inner thoughts. While the short story could take place anywhere, anytime, it seems to be set in the present, in a city, perhaps in India or Africa. Setting isn’t so important. Character and plot points are.

In “Terms and Conditions” we follow a workaday man as he spirals deeper into a dilemma that has him saying and doing things against his morals. He tries bargaining with a higher power to get him out of this jam that could harm his beloved, pregnant wife and young daughter. O’Henry fans (and readers who haven’t read O’Henry) will appreciate the ironic twists and surprise ending. The opportunity to heighten irony was, I think, missed by not having both the antagonist and the protagonist utter the title words.

Aashish Jindal deftly handles emotions and descriptions where other novices might have been unable to resist overwrought pathos, schmaltz, contrivances and further insults to readers. The fact that Aashish includes the opening scene again later in the short story might indicate that he doesn’t have confidence in his writing skills, or in readers’ ability to retain a crucial scene, or he simply forgot to delete the redundant scene.

If you don’t notice comma omissions in this next sentence, reading the story will be smooth sailing for you. “‘You know that I want to but my boss is really after me to meet this collection deadline’ Shoeb replied apologetically.” If you did see a boo-boo or two, then this is your warning. The mistake is made throughout.

Any author who can craft a short story that depicts the believable transformation of a good guy gone bad, seriously bad, deserves serious consideration when you’re looking for a quick read. According to the description, this is Jindal’s second book. Keep writing, Mr. Jindal. You’ve got a knack.


By Beth Fowler, author of “Ken’s War.” Visit


Critique this short story, please!

tanzola-house-with-pretty-shadowsI’m thinking of submitting this short story to a fiction contest. Would appreciate your constructive comments.

A Star on the Farm


“I don’t care about silly movie stars,” I said.

My big sister Elma, our nearest neighbor Lucy, and I were lying on our stomachs under the shade of the giant lilac bush next to our chicken coop. Lucy had brought over the movie magazine.

“You’ll care when you’re grow up like me and Elma.” Lucy had turned twelve last week.

“Listen!” My sister Elma read from the magazine: “It says more movies will be shot in color in 1937.”

Lucy grabbed the magazine from my sister. “I get to cut out Claudette Colbert for my scrapbook!”

I taped a four-leaf clover onto the first page in my scrapbook. Lucy and Elma sang “I’ve Got You under My Skin” as they clipped movie star pictures.

When Lucy wasn’t looking, I scratched myself as if something itched under my skin. Elma giggled behind her hand, partly so Lucy wouldn’t notice and partly to hide her crooked teeth.


About a week later, Lucy galloped right through our vegetable patch, shouting, “Elma! Elma! A photographer is….” Lucy gasped to catch her breath. “A photographer from the city newspaper is coming tomorrow afternoon!”

“You smashed our seedlings,” my sister said.

“Never mind about that.” Lucy bounced on her toes. “I’m going to braid my hair and wear my satin dress for the photographer.”




“Why would a photographer come here?” Elma asked.

“Daddy said a photojournalist is writing about farmers,” Lucy said. “Put on your Sunday dress and comb your ratty hair if you want your pictures in the newspaper.”

Elma was silent. Two sparrows raised a racket tussling in the dust. My sister was probably searching for the right words to explain to Lucy that the way we looked was the way farmers are supposed to look.

“My picture will be in the paper,” Lucy said over her shoulder as she left. “Just like a movie star!”

Momma stepped of the chicken coop with a bushel basket. “Remember the crazy quilt we sewed last winter?” she asked.

“Yes.” I remembered embroidering chain stitches onto the patches.

“I traded that quilt for these eyes.” Momma called pieces of potatoes “eyes.” She plopped the basket down. “Let’s plant these eyes before the sun gets too hot.”

She dug a hole in the dry ground. I dropped an eye in it and Elma pushed dirt over it.

Elma tugged her overalls. “We don’t get the city newspaper anyways, so it doesn’t matter if I won’t gussy up for the photographer.” She said that to an eye before kicking soil on it.

Momma moved along the furrows, digging more holes for the eyes. Gardens don’t wait for newspaper photographers.


The next day we were eating fried chicken under the lilac bush when Lucy bounded into the backyard. I think she stayed clear of the garden so she wouldn’t get her black patent shoes and white anklets with the pink lacy trim dirty.

“Aren’t you the looker!” Elma said.

Lucy was wearing a shiny dress with matching ribbons in her braided hair. She smelled soapy.

“Is he here yet?” Lucy pinched her cheeks to make them rosy.


“The photo-germal . . . photojournalist,” Lucy said.

We heard a motor and saw a dust cloud floating over the hill. Soon, a car pulled up to our fence. A man wearing a stiff white shirt and a bow tie and hopped out. He carried a box.

Lucy ran to him. “Are you the photojournalist?”

“Yes. Are you the lady of the house?”

“No. But you can take my picture and put it in the city newspaper,” Lucy told him.

Momma staggered out of the house, lugging rolled up carpets. She hung them over the rope between two trees. She squinted at the man and said, “You can take your pictures if you want, but we have work to do.” She beat the carpets with a paddle, making the dust jump off.

Between grunts as she whacked the carpets, Momma told me to draw enough water from the pump to make dinner. “Elma, you stack that cord wood over there.” Elma’s eyes rolled toward the huge pile of logs.

“Perfect,” the man said. “I prefer to shoot candid photographs. And I’ll deliver a copy of the city newspaper to your doorstep, to boot.” The man loosened his bow tie and peered into his camera box hunting for candid photographs.

Elma stacked wood straight and tight like we’d been taught. I put all my weight into the pump handle to coax the water up. Lucy twirled to make her skirt and braids flare out.

“Where’d she go?” the man asked, looking for Momma.

“In there.” Elma pointed to the chicken coop.

The man with the camera stood by the door to the chicken coop. He waited for Momma to step out so he could to take a candid picture. He aimed carefully.

In a less than a second, Momma flung that bird onto the stump and chop!

The people at the newspaper company weren’t going to get any pictures of Momma killing the old hen for stewing. The man had forgotten to press the button.

He leaned against the coop and wiped his face with his untied bowtie. Large wet spots darkened the armpits of his white shirt. Lucy stood next to him, fluffing her dress.

He took a picture of her. Then he took another one of Lucy on the porch swing. Lucy at the gate. Lucy in the grass. Lucy in the garden. Lucy on the cordwood Elma had stacked.

Elma sat on the fence rail for a breather before feeding the chickens. Dust streaked her face and around her eyes. Damp hair stuck to her forehead.

“Look at you!” Lucy said. “You look like something the dog drug in.”

I couldn’t hear what Elma said to Lucy as the camera clicked one final time. Lucy left, walking on stiff legs like one of our hens.


It wasn’t until after we’d dug up potatoes one day that Momma found a brown envelope tucked just inside the front screened door.

“Lookie here, girls,” Momma said.  She pulled a handwritten note, a five-dollar bill and a clipping from the city newspaper out of the envelope.

She read the note to us. “I won an award in a photojournalism contest and thought I should share at least some of my winnings with you.” A fountain-penned squiggle was in the spot where you’d expect to see a signature.

The photo in the clipping showed the back of Lucy’s head, kind of blurry. You knew it was her head ‘cause of those two big ribbons in her hair. In the middle distance my sister stood with thumbs hooked in her overall straps and a slight frown on her face.

Elma and I read the caption aloud together. “ ‘Looking pretty fades. Working hard pays,’ says Elma Green, the face of farming’s future.”

I taped that clipping into my scrapbook next to the four-leaf clover.


By Beth Fowler, author of “Ken’s War.” Visit



     By Guest Blogger Tara Fox Hall


Making a reader care about a character is the most important job of a writer. If a reader cares about a character and sees him or her as a believable personality, then the reader begins to identify with that character, and lose himself or herself in the story. As writers, that instant connection is essential to establish early on, so you hook readers and get them to stay for the whole story. They need to want to know what is going to happen. You need to set the hook deep on your first try, and not lose them in the second chapter, or worse, the second paragraph.

How do you do that? Presumably, you are telling a story either because you just plain love that story, or because the plot and/or the characters in it are important to you personally in some way. Your characters need to be as vibrant to your readers as they are to you, and someone your readers can identify with. That doesn’t imply that readers have to be just like your characters, or have the same background. But there does have to be something either in the makeup of the character or the plot of the book to make the reader care about the character.

Yes, I acknowledge that if you write series, it’s a bit easier to hold a reader’s attention once it’s gained. In my short story “Partners” from the Promise Me Anthology, I wanted to tell the story of how Danial and Theo, the two main characters from my novel Promise Me, met and eventually became friends. Anyone who has read that book would naturally be interested in this story, but what about new readers who hadn’t yet sampled my vampire series? How to make them connect with my characters, so that they not only enjoyed the story, but also wanted more?

My tale begins with the vampire detective Danial on one of his jobs, trying to find a thief at a construction site. Instead he discovers the werecougar Theo, scavenging off garbage. Right after, the real thieves show up in force. While Theo does help Danial capture the real culprits, he then melts away in the night, leaving Danial to face the police.

Hopefully, this first scene intrigues the reader. Why is Theo scavenging for scraps when he’s a powerful supernatural being? Why does Theo help Danial, when he could easily run instead? And why does Danial let him help, when he obviously chooses to work alone? Last but not least, why is Danial the vampire solving crimes and not out seducing young women in nightclubs, like so many of his paperback fellows are wont to?

Promise Me connects readers with its characters.

Promise Me connects readers with its characters.

Another story in my Promise Me Anthology is a vampire romantic suspense called “Night Music”, newly published its own novella. The young heroine Krys has come to a park she knew in her youth, fresh from the double whammy of her brother’s death from cancer and her new divorce. She hears music that night that brings her to tears with its aching melody, yet her handsome neighbor David denies he created it.

Again, hopefully the reader wonders who David is, and why he is making the music, even if they suspect he’s a vampire. How will Krys discover his vampiric nature? Will he bite her or will they have sex, or both? After that happens (‘cause one of the two ALWAYS HAPPENS in vampire romance, if not both), what will be the consequence?

Make readers want to know what happens next, and your reader base will grow, guaranteed!

Book Title: Tempest of Vengeance (Promise Me Series #11) – paranormal dramatic romance

Date released: April 2015

Melange Link:

Blurb: A chain of tragic events culminating in the shattering of the magical “dream bond” between Theo and Sar turns the lovers against one another, as Ulysses attacks from all fronts, hoping to destroy Devlin for good. The return of Lash reignites the fire between he and Sar, even as he saves her daughter Elle from certain death. Finally joined under Oath, Lash, Devlin, and Sar face the storm of Ulysses’s wrath, knowing it will take their combined strength and courage to save all they love from his tempest of vengeance.

Tara Fox Hall’s writing credits include nonfiction, erotica, horror, suspense, action-adventure, children’s stories, and contemporary and historical paranormal romance. She is the author of the paranormal fantasy Lash series and the paranormal romantic drama Promise Me series. Tara divides her free time unequally between writing novels and short stories, chainsawing firewood, caring for stray animals, sewing cat and dog beds for donation to animal shelters, and target practice. All of her published children’s stories to date are free reads on



Beth Fowler is the author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”


 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.




Science or Fiction in Science Fiction?

Science or Fiction in Science Fiction

By guest blogger John Steiner – Author website:

There are schools of thought in writing science fiction regarding how realistic it should be. This is more than the Star Wars versus Star Trek conundrum over which is better. This is about how to tell a science fiction story. The answer depends on the focus of science fiction.

To start, George Lucas himself has never considered Star Wars to be science fiction, rather he calls it a science fantasy that retells the grail stories. Unless we make a long stretch, the Force doesn’t exist. “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power,” Alec Guinness tells us, “It’s an energy field generated by all living things. It surrounds us, it penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together.”

galaxy-551242_640At best, that could be Dark Matter, but for being generated by living things only. Star Trek likewise makes a number of assumptions that we learned since 1968 aren’t scientific. For instance, the human alien hybrid Spock wouldn’t exist. Goats and Crayfish have more than 70% commonality in their genes, yet there aren’t any crayfish/goat things running around. Most of Star Trek’s aliens are vertebrates, tetrapods [meaning four-limbed], mostly mammalian and most of those are themes on primate evolution.

The truth is that aliens won’t have any common genes and may end up using one of numerous possible Xeno-Nucleic Acids [XNAs] and any of over 200 amino acids in proteins entirely unlike anything on Earth. They could have skeletal support that we haven’t seen or imagined. Maybe they don’t use neurons to contain the mind, but something like nucleic acid computers, allowing their minds to exist within a single cell. And that’s just addressing carbon-based life centered on cellular structure with water as the chemical solvent and molecular oxygen as a metabolic oxidizer.

Yet, we’re glued to these stories, because science alone isn’t the focus. Instead, they offer the feeling of interstellar travel and interspecies contact. Fictional storytelling requires bringing real emotions to surreal or unrealistic events. However, science fiction where the science is as close to real as possible also has lasted the decades.

Space Odyssey 2001 and its follow-ups like 2010 bring with them the environmental dangers of space for thrills as intense as Klingons bearing down or cybernetic black knights with energy swords barring the way. Others of the hard science fictions are still leaving their mark on audiences; like Sunshine from 2007, Gravity, Solar Crisis, or Interstellar just this last year. They prove to us that making the science itself integral to the story can still induce exhilaration.

Myself, I like to reach for as much of the above and more into my science fiction. I love the wide cast of characters that Star Wars and Star Trek bring, along with the military action of Aliens, Halo, Mass Effect, and Battle for Los Angeles, but the hard science stories remain my favorites, and so I want scientific facts to come alive in my own work.

For those writing science fiction, I suggest that you first decide what makes the story. If it’s about a character who bought a ticket on a star-hopping cruise liner then you can skip the science. Like the alien, Alf, all the reader needs to know is that when they turn the key the ship goes. In the Giants of Ganymede by James P. Hogan, the science of how a dead human astronaut found on the moon could be 50,000 years old makes science come to the fore of the story and drives the main plot.

In the aforementioned Battle for Los Angeles, how the aliens crossed the stars isn’t important, because we see events unfold through the U.S. Marines tasked with defending the west coast from them. And yet, we’re given glimpses of realism that could’ve just as easily been left on the cutting room floor. We see the aliens rescuing one of their own who is injured. We’re told they want our planet for its water to be used in fusion, and have no interest in talking to us or acknowledging our intelligence.

My preference for science fiction is that human ships don’t have gravitational field generators, and must rotate ships for the sense of gravity or use gene therapy to render astronauts immune to the effects of prolonged zero gee and free fall. When considering shields or cloaking devices, I drew a line defining the extreme limits. In Star Trek there is never a convincing explanation for how a shield blocks weapons fire while still letting communications and sensors to work through them. Likewise with the cloaking device, where it flawlessly bends light around the ship, yet that ship can see past the field preventing light and other energy forms from getting inside.

However, I asked myself a harder question. Is it more energy efficient to simply devote power into not getting hit than to pump out megawatts for a bubble larger than the ship at all times just to keep an instantaneous pinpoint attack from getting through? Yes, space has radiation and high velocity particles that need to be kept from damaging a ship or the people inside. However, does that require an energy field of such power that most nuclear reactors would not have enough juice for an appreciable duration? In fact, suppose absorbing some of that energy is the more economical option.

Granted, a larger question science fiction writers should ask themselves is whether aliens are out there. If so, we have to wonder why they haven’t come here in the lifetime of our civilizations? If there are hostile aliens, why haven’t we been invaded before now? For that matter, why not hit us before we even invented the wheel, much less before discovering flight?

I reason for being such a stickler to accuracy is also to ponder the future of humanity. What will our institutions and cultures be like in centuries yet to come? What are the limits of artificial intelligence, and how will they really react to learning of their own sentience? I wonder how future conflicts between humans will pan out in the future, and what definitions of society are on the way for which we haven’t invented terms for. New promises and perils are coupled with old adages and questions that have haunted us down the ages.

To learn where your work will shine the brightest takes experimentation. Toy with single-scene stories or short chapters, and you’ll find that balance between science and fiction which suits you best.
Flipspace Mission 1: Flight of the Mockingbird

Flipspace Mission 2: Branching Out

List of published works available at Melange Books

Author website:

Find ice, magic and romance in Frozen

11 all-new short stories to inspire holiday romance


This season, keep warm with a collection of winter themed love stories from Satin Romance, a Mélange Books imprint. Frozen, A Winter Anthology showcases eleven tales of romantic magic. Ranging from contemporary and young adult to fantasy and paranormal, this book will keep you turning the pages from one unique happy ending to the next.

Eleven authors each contributed a story true to their niche. Meet winter spirit Jack Frost who falls in love with a mortal, go on a journey with Jess and her commitment-phobe boyfriend to Sweden, and see what time traveller Drew is getting up to around Christmas. Freelance photographer Lizbeth meets fate when she gets snowed in in her car, Tiffany is reluctant to join her progressive grandmother at Lake Superior, the sheik’s daughter Nila’s has a difficult decision to make, Cara discovers miracles, and the magical couple Alaric and Cassandra are thrown into turmoil by thriving in different seasons. Read what happens when a single mother meets an old friend, and the consequences of falling off a ladder for ice sculptor Sam.

Here’s a peek at what to expect…

The Ice Hotel Wedding Test by Charmaine Pauls
Jess and Derrick have been together for twelve years. When Jess finally gives Derrick an ultimatum, tie the knot or set her free, he proposes a bizarre test to decide their destiny.

Love Thaws a Frozen Heart by Valerie J. Clarizio
Casey is hell bent on getting Noah to sign divorce papers. Hiding out at his camp, Noah is hell bent on not signing. Procuring a snowmobile, Casey sets out in a blinding snowstorm to find him. After crashing, she is near death when Noah finds her. Will a few cabin-bound days cause either of them to change their mind?

Lord of Ice by April Marcom
Jack Frost gave his heart to Lilly the day she was born, making her the perfect leverage for a fire spirit whose heart is set on becoming Lord of Ice.

Frozen Moments by Nancy Pennick (‘A Waiting For Dusk’ story)
Drew keeps proposing. Kate keeps saying no. It’s their little game. Can the holiday season change that? Kate has lost her best friend, and Drew does his best to cheer her up in this delightful story of love and memories.

Frozen In Time by Christina Kirby
Lizbeth travels the world as a freelance photographer and answers to no one. After her last relationship, that’s exactly how she wants her life to be, easy and all her own. Jonas is staying at his family’s cabin while he deals with the loss of a fellow fallen solider. He wants nothing more than to be left alone and to avoid Christmas. Neither plan on spending Christmas with a stranger or finding the person who’s exactly what each other needs.

Frozen With Possibilities by Rhonda Brutt
A resort on the shores of Lake Superior in the middle of December was not exactly what Tiffany had in mind for a mid-winter vacation. But when she agreed to accompany her progressive grandmother on this frozen trip, she discovered that life is filled with possibilities, if you only go after them.

Frozen Heart Thawing by Nicole Angeleen
In the depths of winter, Thomas Everett grudgingly meets his betrothed, Nila Sarvani, the daughter of a powerful sheikh. The passion they share takes them both by surprise, but the ruthlessness of American business threatens to tear them apart. Nila must decide if her dreams can be realized if she allows herself to fall in love.

Frozen Dreams by Elena Kane
In a world surrounded by snow and magic, Cara finds herself grossly out of place. Ridiculed by all, she lives her life in terror from perpetual bullies until she runs into a stranger in town. Ben is everything she always wanted, but never expected. Better yet, he sees past her differences. Could Ben be her dream come true?

Her Frozen Heart by Tara Fox Hall
Alaric has always loved the winter season, second only to his love of spells and sorcery. When his beautiful neighbor Cassandra reveals she’s a natural witch, he’s instantly smitten, even as he despairs of attracting her interest. Is there hope for a magical couple who thrive in different seasons?

The Thawing of Holly’s Heart by Marilyn Gardiner
What happens when a single mother meets an old friend and, despite the conviction that she will never again open her heart to another man, finds herself falling in love?

Falling On Ice by Bess Kingsley
After the horrible year ice sculptor Sam McLeod has had, falling off a ladder at Nationals into the arms of her nemesis is the absolute last thing she needs. Or is it?

Frozen, A Winter Anthology is now available in electronic format from Satin Romance and all major internet providers. The printed version will become available soon.


Satin Romance


What do Chopsticks Have to do with Tips for Writers?

Beth Fowler headshot

Hear an excerpt from the beloved YA novel, Ken’s War, read by the author. She then provides tips for authors and insights into writing and chopsticks (!).

Go to





 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.




“Personal War Rages Inside,” book reviewer says

Rhonda Cratty’s review of Ken’s War –

With video and computer games, sports, and life, how do parents and teachers get a boy interested in reading a book? It needs to be full of action from the start, have a well-defined relatable character, as well as a plot that hooks the reader. Ken’s War by B. K. Fowler is a book that teenaged boys would get so involved in that they will choose to sit and read.

Chapter One begins “Between Purgatory and Hell ” and that is just the title. Fowler immediately grabs the reader’s attention with, “Everything was going wrong in Ken Paderson’s life. He was supposed to be practicing for his driver’s permit.” By the end of the first page the reader is drawn into Ken Paderson’s world. He and his father are moving to Japan because his father, who is in the military, has been reassigned. Ken and his father have issues, there has been a fight with his father’s commanding officer’s son, he has a broken arm and they are on an U.S. Army transport plane -in the Vietnam era.

Soon he finds himself on the remote post on Kyushu. Ken struggles with culture shock as his thoughts and beliefs are challenged. B. K. Fowler challenges the reader’s thinking through the way Ken makes sense out of his new world. How he thinks about friends and allegiance, enemies and duplicity.

Ken’s War is not just about the Vietnam war, which is always in the background. It is also about the personal war raging inside Ken as he tries to make the journey from teenager to young man.

A journey filled with lots of action, a Japanese girl, a budding but forbidden relationship, misfits, lessons in martial arts, even baths at the communal bath house.

Through it all, Ken struggles with the normal teenage difficulties, finally, coming to empathize with others around him, including his father, and to see the world through other’s eyes.

B. K. Fowler writes in depth of the time, area, as well through a teenage eye that comes through on every page.

Ken’s War would be a wonderful gift to encourage reading and difficult conversation. Ken’s struggles make him a good model for boys and young men. Ken’s War by B. K. Fowler is a well written action packed book, sure to help the teen boy in your life get interested in reading.

ken's war cover


-Learning at home by Rhonda Cratty is a parent resource, filled with ideas to help children become the best they can be. Daily activities for family fun, that make subjects become more than pencil and paper, moving learning into everyday life. Learning at home can be purchased in print ($8.48) or eBook($4.48) form through

For more information please see