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Excerpt from novel in progress: Indigo Dawn

Beyond the firmament, explosions of plasma cleaved the darkness in a vast, cataclysmic storm. Here spiral galaxies spun like fiery pinwheels into the sizzling energies of creation, and blinding neon rainbows tore across the borders between limitless dimensions. Here stood a gateway where dimensional crossroads met and merged into one, like soap bubbles joined by the thinnest veneer of swirling plasma. Here. in a space/time pocket far beyond the dreams or nightmares of Earth and Her people, Haj had been standing guard since time immemorial.

At this unlikely junction, the division became thin enough to cross. There was no actual physical point of entry; the gate existed in all places and times at once – just as Haj did. To the human eye, Haj was a profoundly autistic boy locked inside his own head. To those who could see, Haj was a guardian and protector, a shifter of frequencies standing like a levee against a tide of unrelenting strangeness.

A look into Haj’s eyes was a glimpse into eternity. Those who met his gaze felt a brief disorientation, then a plunge through stars, directly into the very heart of being. Through Haj’s eyes, they had come to know themselves more deeply. Through Haj’s eyes, the Universe seemed almost orderly. Unfortunately, very few had been given the privilege of looking into those eyes. Haj tended his inner landscape without taking notice of most people; but in the luminous pathways of the Indigo Net, Haj graced many with the gift of his gaze. He had become legend among the Indigos.


Excerpt from novel in progress: Indigo Dawn

Anyone who has spent time on the sea at night has felt the thrill of strangeness, as the moon danced on swells and whitecaps all the way to the horizon. Even from the safety of the shore, the ocean calls in a voice at once familiar and alien. Creatures mythical and modern haunt the deeps, from Kraken to Leviathan to the great white shark. Even at the shoreline, the ocean covets its mysteries, but out on the belly of the sea, beneath a blanket of moonlight, all the rules change.

Even after two years on the oilrig, the ocean’s melodies still haunted Winter. Night after night in the middle of the North Sea, the ocean sang Her siren song, calling Winter by name. While the riggers drank “near beer” and shared stories in the galley, Winter prowled the deck alone, a white specter yearning to walk that shimmering moonbeam highway to realms of beauty and terror. He ached to walk on nameless, misty shores in search of the flame-haired enchantress he saw in his dreams. She was like the sea, beautiful and treacherous, alluring and deadly. Just her voice could freeze the blood of lesser men, but Winter always sensed he was more than mortal. In the endless nights he prowled the decks in search of Her, wondering if it were She, not the ocean, who called his name.


He spun in the direction of the voice. It was Valo, the only person on the rig he called a close friend. Valo stepped up beside him and looked out into the shimmering void. For a few minutes the two men stood in silence, soaking in the eerie splendor of the moonlit whitecaps. Shreds of clouds were drifting in from the north, shrouding the moon in phantom vapors. Winter shivered.

“Can you feel it?” Valo whispered. “A storm is coming.”

Winter could see his breath as the air grew cold. Lightning glowed in the distance, soon followed by a low complaint of thunder.

–From Indigo Dawn by Hank Eder

Can cliches kill? You can bet the farm on it!

No cliches

Clichés can kill your writing faster than you can say, "One fell swoop..."

Aah-ite! If there’s one thing I find even more annoying than pronouncing “all right” this way, it’s gratuitous use of clichés. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts you hear them everyday. They’re as common as flies on poop! In fact, they’ve become so ubiquitous, our ears are becoming numb to their presence. What does this say about folks who toss clichés around like fairy dust? What does this say about all of us?

Ever kill two birds with one stone? Or clean them out in one fell swoop? I don’t know about you, but I never keep my eggs in a basket. They sit in their cozy cartons in the fridge. They’re on the shelf just under the butter and right next to the clichés.

Just like that fridge, our brains are like automated cold storage devices, with shelf after shelf of accumulated thoughts and ideas. Some ideas are edgy and fresh, while some are as stale as last week’s milk. It’s time to rearrange our mental shelves and toss out some of the spoiled verbiage we’ve collected.

“But I like that cliché,” I hear you saying. “It makes me feel warm and fuzzy, and surely everyone will recognize it and be comforted by its familiarity.”

Not so fast! What does familiarity breed? Not prize roses. But here I go having to use a cliché to explain why we should eschew clichés!

Let’s look at this from the point of view of an agent or publisher considering investing time. money, or both into your literary gem. Your opening “hook” is magnificent. She’s hungry for more. Her eyes tear at paragraph two and are slammed by the commonest of clichés. Her breathing slows, her eyes glaze over, her ears fill up with wax,  and she chucks your masterpiece into the slush pile.

Why do clichés invoke such a strong reaction? Simple. They represent a commonness of thought. What agent or publisher wants to represent common thoughts? Chances are good if you have a cliché right there on page one, you probably have them strewn about like unexploded land mines all throughout your work. Let’s face it, choice of common words or phrases indicates a lukewarm or common intellect. It’s a real deal-killer!

Even some of the devices we use to spice up our writing can be hackneyed and cliché. For example everyone knows (and I do speak for everyone!) that use of simile and metaphor can make your descriptions really pop. That is, unless your similes and metaphors are worn out clichés.

Here are some examples:

The track star ran like the wind.
The old cur dog is ugly as sin.
The diva sings like a canary.
The deputy is as dumb as a box of rocks.

She’s a brick house.
He’s a real dog (unless you’re referring to Old Yeller).
She’s the apple of my eye.
He’s a real live wire.
You’re all that and a bag of chips.

Elderly mother

Yes, Mom can proofread for you, provided she is educated and can recognize a cliché..

So what’s the best way to exorcise the cliché demons in your writing? Try a two-fold approach. First, show your work to someone whose opinion you value. Yes, it can be your mother, provided she is educated and knows how to spot a cliché. Second, let your work sit on the shelf for a few weeks, then when you go back to it, you will see it with fresh eyes.

When you or your mother find worn-out clichés in your work, show no mercy! Remove them immediately. Send them to Bit Heaven and don’t look back. Then find some unique way of expressing yourself. Be bold and daring. What’s more unique — a rumble of thunder or a complaint of thunder? Train yourself in the art of “convergent divergence.” That means take concepts that don’t seem connected, and make them seem like they’ve always been together.  Put them in a blender and spin out some traffic-stopping similes.

For example:

John sat alongside the road like a bucket of old paint.
The spider’s webbing stuck to Ely’s finger like a radioactive booger. (Forgive the 16 years I spent teaching middle school!)
Brittany grabbed the football player like a famished Venus fly trap.

Now you’re getting the spirit. So don’t just sit there like an elephant’s used  facial tissue. Start cranking out your masterpiece without using worn-out clichés. Even your mother will love you more!

Until next time, may your similes shine and your metaphors move. Happy writing!

New flash fiction at my website

Check out the flash fiction story, “Siren Song,” at my website:

Please feel free to send me some feedback.

More “can’t-live-without” tidbits and Deep Insights into the writing life coming soon!

Coming soon

Thanks for stopping by. In the very near future this blog will contain snippets of my writing, as well as featured “gems” for aspiring writers. These will include tips to improve your writing, how to find paying markets, writing meaningful dialog, and much more.

We’ll be speaking really soon.


Watch this space

Big things are coming.