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Masha and a Hornless Unicorn Named Aralock

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I have an eleven-year-old Russian student named Masha.


In school, writing assignments are often kind of boring. I do them a little differently. This is an exercise that we do in class. I write a paragraph, they read it and we go over pronunciation and vocabulary. Then, they write a paragraph, I go through it making corrections while we discuss the changes. It's fun and helps with learning every part of reading, writing, vocabulary, pronunciation, syntax, grammar, spelling, conversation, punctuation, and more. It works better if the students are already fairly advanced, which Masha is.

We've already done some reading and that went well. We read my horror story that's in the anthology "Horror Without Borders", and is also in "A Flash of Horror - Part 4 of 4": http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2018/11/a-flash-of-horror-part-4-of-4.html

She liked that enough that she wanted me to write another part to it, which is quite the compliment. And, I had a feel…

Leading a Writing Group - Session 13

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We had a student-led day.


I wanted to see what ideas had stuck out in the kids' minds. They threw out a few good ones that we discussed: foreshadowing, frame stories, black/white/grey characters, and dialogue. I helped them to remember in media res, personification, tense, and point-of-view. Then they asked about the details of some of the points of view and we went over first person, second person, third person objective, third person omniscient, and third person close.

That felt like enough review for one day. I asked what they might want to be the prompt and we ended up with three suggestions: Christmas, adventure, and apocalypse. So, the prompt ended up being a Christmas adventure apocalypse.

Our youngest member wrote a story about the daughter of an evil mastermind who wanted to work with him in the lab. Initially he rejected her, but then they reconciled. So the happy ending of the father/daughter reconciliation was just the start of destroying a world, which is a neat idea.

I Went to a Writing Group - November 13th, 2019

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There were four things to think about in this prompt.


Analiese led the group in selecting a noun, a verb, and an adverb or adjective. I threw out "Turtle!" as the first thing, and it was accepted. Next, "shook" was chosen. Then, "quietly." Finally, we were challenged by Analiese to do a gender swap if we could. Since I am a man, that means writing a story from the perspective of a woman, or about a woman as the main character.

My first attempt was pretty straight forward. I thought I might be able to get everything into the first sentence and went with: The mother turtle shook quietly

And then I stopped that nonsense.

I crossed it out and began again.

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Susan the tortoise gazed at the trees in the distance. Sooo far, they were so far away. A gentle gust of wind blew across the field and the grass shimmered, rising and falling in great organic waves. The leaves on the distant trees shook, and a few quietly fell from their heights to join the fo…

The Most Disturbing Thing I've Ever Experienced

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Scarier than jumping out of a plane, being poisoned, vomiting blood, being told you're going to die, being shot at, wrestling alligators, or a car crash, is memory loss.


Yesterday a friend of mine, Scott, sent me a Facebook message.

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U watch "myths and monsters" on netflix yet? ... it's about mythology and books and why/how they write their books .. I thinks its interesting figured youd def like it

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I was playing a great role-playing game called "Call to Adventure" with a couple of friends, so I simply responded.

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I haven't yet, but I'll check it out.

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Today I did check it out. I watched the first episode. I cannot tell if I've watched it before, and that's disturbing.

Even though I had my African ordeal in late 2015, I didn't realize I was having memory issues until a few months later. I slowly noticed that my short term memory was not good, and not getting better. That made sense, whe…

Leading a Writing Group - Session 12

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I had a fun idea for the kid's writing group - nail bending.


Pole barn nails are fun to bend. Just wrap some leather around both ends so you don't draw any blood, grip hard, and bend.

I knew that the kids wouldn't be able to bend the nails. But, I thought with my help that we could probably make a dent or more. I've done it before with women that couldn't quite get the nail to bend, I just grab ahold of their hands or wrists and help.

Unfortunately, the difference was just too much in this case. So, it was a little bit of a letdown, a little bit of a frustration. In a couple of weeks I'll probably get them some easier metal to bend so they can get the feel for it. They still had fun trying, and it's a great way to use up their energy.

We went over the concept of foreshadowing. That's where you mention something lightly early in the story because it's going to be important later.

The prompt was, of course, strength. Some version of great strength, or…

Explorations in Business - Part 8 of ?

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My own psychological resistance to trying to make money is quite astounding.


I remade my website so it doesn't completely suck. But right now the only thing that you can do is sign up for a consultation.

Here's a post I recently made in the FounderCo Facebook group.

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I've been a little surprised at the immense amount of internal resistance I've had to reaching out to people. I think part of it is that this centers around a personal issue that is close to me. I've been doing a deep dive on my own psychology and seem to be making some progress in the recesses of my soul.

A friend of mine suggested that I reach out to a gym owner she knows about doing classes. So I just sent this email.

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And here's the email. (I cut out the last name.)

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My friend Joanie said I should reach out to you. She said she and her husband Rich like your gym.

I am working on launching a meditation coaching business focusing on helping people manage the…

Why City People Are Less Friendly

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I think most people probably realize that cities are less friendly places. For instance, there have been experiments done where a person falls down in the street and they count how many people pass them before someone helps them, or how long it takes for someone to help them. The numbers are always higher in cities. That's just a small example, but you get the idea. The real question is, why?


I think there are a few reasons that all converge. And, it's a bigger issue than some people realize, because it's a massive cultural divide.

In a city there are masses of people. It only makes sense to think of people in groups rather than as individuals, there are too many individuals to think about. So humans lose their individuality and become perceived of as part of a mass or group, unless you happen to know them closely like family, friends, or co-workers. In the country there are fewer people, you can think of them as individuals because you have the mental capacity to handle t…

Giving Feedback on Someone's Writing

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A friend of mine reached out to me recently because he's working on writing a book. I'm guessing we'll get together and discuss it more in the future, but I highly encouraged him to do the work of writing, because you can spend your entire life studying something and never get around to the doing. I know that from personal experience. (And, I did send him a big list of videos and books to check out, probably too many.)


This is a writing exercise he did with my comments included.

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I will offset my comments like this.

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So since I think I should just start writing, I used a writing prompt to create a very short passage . This is the first time I’ve just written off the top of my head . Lemme know if it’s decent, like if there’s room to grow, anything . Thanks.

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The important part about writing is that your style is going to naturally change over time, so you want to get past the early and fast changes as quickly as possible. There is alw…

Dasha Does Poetry

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Dasha is a student of mine. She's originally from Russia, but lives in Texas now, and is somewhere around my own age. She's an advanced student. We're working on finding very specific pronunciation issues and developing more advanced writing skills.


We've played with writing a few different things. We did some writing where we pretended we were exchanging business emails. That was useful, but probably a little too easy for her. Fiction is a little more difficult to write, so we mostly write prose. But, we did do poetry one time. It was kind of amazing. It's probably not quite as useful for learning English because the rules in poetry are quite different than normal language, and just too flexible.

I did the first stanza, she did the second, and we kept alternating from there. After she writes her paragraph or stanza then I go through doing some editing while we discuss different options on spelling, punctuation, grammar, syntax, word selection, tense, point-of-view…

I Went to a Writing Group - October 23rd, 2019

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The writing prompt looked simple and easy enough, but it was deceptively complex.


We were just given three nouns: rage, lobster, sandwich. From there it was up to you. I was a little surprised at how similar most of the stories were. It was a good reminder for me that I have a neotenous, or childlike, perspective in life. I tend to be more imaginative, playful, and engaged with the magical and mysterious.

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Lonny the lobster was a friendly chap. He had had a long and eventful life. Now, he no longer felt the urge to get in fights, to participate in the series of constant battles necessary to work one's way up the social hierarchy. No, all of that was behind him now.

Lonny had chosen his own little lobster-sized cave out of everyone else's way. Every day he would walk to the reef where a friend of his had opened a sandwich shop. Lonny was on his way there now. Leaving a trail of uneven footsteps behind him, the result of injuries that had never healed, and would nev…

Leading a Writing Group - Session 11

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In this session we went over the idea of flashbacks, where we go to an earlier time in the story. Then I introduced the prompt, a very difficult prompt to do off the cuff with a short story, time travel (and the crowd goes "Ooooohh").


The eight-year-old wrote about a time machine that went wrong. There were bunnies involved. She intended it to be a horror story, but it didn't come out that way. In the story she broke the fourth wall, meaning she talked to the reader as a reader, which was pretty awesome.

The eleven-year-old had someone walk to the other side of a river, and crossing that threshold threw them back in time. He included some nice details like the main character getting out of bed with messy hair.

The thirteen-year-old had an interaction between three young siblings: Jack, Katie, and Josh. The youngest one, the seven-year-old, pushed the wrong button in the time machine. There was some confusion between grey and red. Maybe some color blindness was involved.

I Went to a Writing Group - October 9th, 2019

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Sometimes it seems like life is one giant obstacle.


The prompt was about facing obstacles.

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When telling any story, the main character's desire is crucial. This desire forms the backbone of the plot, as the obstacles that prevent your character from achieving what they want and how your character responds to these obstacles drives the story.

Write a story or scene in which your protagonist faces an obstacle. What is this obstacle? How does it stand in the way of your character and what they desire? How does your character respond to this obstacle?

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Notice the name that I use in this story. I was thinking of Robert the Bruce, who was a Scottish king at one time, and Lenny Bruce, who was a legendary American comedian. Also, just before we started writing someone mentioned a town called Eden. And I'm reading "A Child's Garden of Verses" by Robert Louis Stevenson right now. I think all of that combined a bit in this story.

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Leon…

Leading a Writing Group - Session 10

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I only had two students for the writing group, but it went well.


The idea that we covered was personification. That's when you take something that isn't a person and make it seem like a person. In kids' cartoons this might be a singing and dancing carrot. In poetry this might be a cloud that is described as happy or sad. It is used a lot, and it's great.

The prompt for the day was "big tree." We talked about the biggest trees that we've seen. Neither of the girls have seen the redwoods or the sequoias, which are amazing, but they have encountered other rather large oaks and pines.

The youngest wrote about a dragon that was in the top of a tree. A person climbed up to help the dragon, named it Tiny, and fed it a cow.

The oldest wrote about a palm tree that was all alone, but who eventually was able to find his own kind. The tree was personified.

Here's what I did.

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Seventy-five dollars. Bucky von Buckminster would make seventy-five dollars…

88.9 Hey Radio, Cloudland, and Me

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I love the name Cloudland. Let me paint you a quick picture about a time I went mountain climbing.


I was 19 and I was halfway through a crazy adventure. I had ridden a bus from Michigan to Washington State for four days. I rode my mountain bike across the desert and over the Cascade Mountains, from Yakima to Mount Rainier, in three days. Now, I was on the second day of my two-day climb of Mt. Rainier. It's a fast climb, and today we are supposed to reach the summit.

There's a glacier that we need to get up before the sun gets too high. Apparently, the idea is that we are going to climb through this section while it's still really cold in the morning. Then, as the sun rises the ice and snow is going to heat up and there will probably be a small avalanche. Then, we're going to come back down this section again later. For the plan to work, you need to not be there when the avalanche happens.

But, one of the guys that I'm roped to is having problems, major problems. He…

Haunted Tunnels Under an Insane Asylum

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In Traverse City, Michigan there is an old insane asylum called the Grand Traverse Commons. Under the Commons there are old tunnels that some people say are haunted. A friend of mine saw the pictures of me in these tunnels and asked if I could write something about them, because he runs a publishing firm in Russia called Horroscope Press, and he's launching a magazine in the near future. I've been trying to think of what exactly to write, and now I've decided.


I've been thinking about writing a poem about this for a few weeks. I think it's a cool idea. But, it's going to be translated into Russian, and sometimes poetry doesn't work great for that. Although, my favorite poet is Ovid, and he wrote in Latin.

Today I sat down with some earplugs in to shut out the world and wrote six stanzas. I like them. I'm going to use that, embedded in a little prose opener, followed by a little explanation. I think it will make a good piece for a magazine. Let's see…

The Most Immersive Dream I've Ever Had

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I don't usually write down my dreams. And, I don't often remember them. As I'm waking up they fade away. It's amazing how they can be so vivid one moment, and then a few moments later I'm left wondering what I was thinking about, and I don't know. But sometimes, sometimes I remember them a little longer, and sometimes I feel compelled to write down a few notes on them. A week or two ago I had the most vivid dream I've ever had. Even now the memory of it seems like an actual trip that I went on. I took a few notes.


Here is what I wrote down.

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earl, two kingdoms separated by river and culture, new flying machine, under water almost died, almost enslaved, almost forgotten or not recognized, son took place, made it back, everything made of wood, read part of a book

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Basically, I was an earl in one kingdom. It was a city (it kind of seems like I should use is) on one side of a river. There was another city almost just like it on the oth…

My Interview for "Darker" Magazine

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"Darker" is a leading horror magazine in Russia. The "Horror Without Borders" anthology that I've been working on with Oleg is out. In English it's available as an ebook. Since the anthology is out "Darker" asked for an interview.


It's an odd interview that works well. Since I don't know Russian it makes sense to do it this way. They sent Oleg a series of questions that he passed on to me. I read them, let them percolate in the back of my mind for a few weeks, and then wrote these answers and sent the document back to Oleg. He might even be the one translating it.

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Interview for DARKER Magazine – with Jeffrey Alexander Martin of JeffThinks.com

1 - During the work on stories from around the globe, have you had a chance to push the borders of horror, for yourself? Have you come across such exotic views on the genre that struck you? If so, could you give an example?

Stories are how we make sense of the world. Horror stories deal …

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