December 2019 Year End Recap

Fort Stockton area writers group, Critique Café, has had it’s best year ever. Celebrating eight years in existence, I’ve watched these writers grow. Some have come and gone, but it has been a joy watching these folks learn to give and receive constructive criticism, improve their skills, and put out an amazing body of work.

The group produced two anthologies of our work this year, and published a newsletter each month. We held an art contest for our Children’s Edition cover, and gave support and prizes to young artists.

I’ve observed many come out of their comfort zone, lead groups, give speeches, and take the risk of baring their souls through their work. We’ve cheered each other on, supported, encouraged, and poked great fun at each other.

National Novel Writers Month has challenged and made better writers out of some brave people; 50,000 words in 30 days!

We’re so grateful to the H. Edward Petsch Foundation and the Fort Stockton Public Library for its sponsorship and support. We have some great community supporters as well.

It’s been a wonderful atmosphere to grow as a writer, and we ‘ve had the added benefit of meaningful friendships as well.

If you’ve ever thought of writing anything at all, and would like some feedback and support, we’d love to have you join us on 1st and 3rd Mondays at the library @6:00 p.m. ~ Jody Day ~


November Newsletter: Critique Café Publishes Book

Critique Café Publishes Book

The eighth edition of The Best of Critique Café releases in November 2019. The theme for the current edition is Children’s Stories: The Magic of Books. We’ve included stories for children of all ages, and we had a great time doing it. The members of our writer’s group are strong in different genres, but we found it challenging and rewarding to pursue this collection of stories for kids. We decided to hold an art contest and have featured the winners on the front and back covers. First and second place winner is a 14 year-old Fort Stockton homeschooler, Jessica Meierhoff. We think her first place piece perfectly embodies the theme.

We will celebrate this release with a launch party at the Fort Stockton Public Library on Monday night, November 18th at 6:00 p.m. We’ll have our books available that night, award the art contest winners, and enjoy some light refreshments. Join us!

Screen Shot 2019-11-14 at 10.56.02 AM


October Newsletter: Of Black Dogs

Of Black Dogs

Glenda Bonham


Did you see it? That darting movement from the corner of your eye? Was it real? Of course, it was. Why do we always try to deny it? Why do we rationalize it to be a shadow or something else we understand?

This is the time of the thinning of the veil; from the last of the Dog Days of Summer until All Souls Day. It comes like clockwork each autumn. We even celebrate All Hallows Eve, but deny our own eyes. The veil between the living and the dead is thinning as you read this. The other side is moving closer to us – accept it.

It starts with a small shadow from the side of your vision that vanishes before you can focus on it. You always do a double-take, but can’t see it clearly. Those are the Black Dogs running through the veil.

Sometimes in the hush of your own home, you can hear the faint scratching of their nails on hard surfaces. Yes, they are very much around you this time of year. Have you ever caught a slight glimpse of a dark dog curled up on your sofa, or in a chair? Of course, it really is there; the veil slipped for a split second. Have you felt a light brush of something on your arm and felt the hair stand up? Your hair was reacting to an energy force you can’t see. It means a Black Dog is near.

Black dogs are often associated with lonely stretches of road, crossroads, churches, and places people have been executed. They’re most clearly seen near water, by night. No one knows why. Folklore for centuries has been filled with tales of the Black Dogs. Paranormal research pioneers have just started proving the coming of Black Dogs in autumn. Some paranormal theorists say these are spirits of your own pets returning for a visit.

Have you been visited by a Black Dog before?

Screen Shot 2019-10-02 at 11.53.06 AM.png


September Newsletter: Writers Are Different

Writers Are Different By Richard McGee

Writers are always trying to improve their craft. They listen differently than other people; listening to a conversation often has little to do with the subject of the conversation but noting the ebb and flow of words so they can write better and more natural dialog themselves. They like to watch people perform routine tasks so their fictional characters will behave more realistically.

Writers even watch movies and tv shows a little differently. They are watching the interaction of characters, listening to dialog, and identifying plot points. My wife and I recently watched Grantchester, a Masterpiece series on PBS. We have enjoyed this series the last two years and looked forward to watching the third season. The show is a murder mystery with a police detective and church vicar cooperating to solve crimes.

The main character of the series, a church vicar, was replaced in this latest season. In the fourth episode, the new vicar asked the detective to accompany him to visit his family. Of course, a murder occurs, and they work together to solve the case. My wife loves murder mysteries and enjoyed the episode. Watching it as a writer, I was ecstatic. The show’s writer had revealed the new character’s backstory to his partner and to the viewers. It made me more empathetic to the character and it provided the depth to him that would provide many more story ideas in the future.

A good writer must build a good backstory for his characters and often struggles with how to share it with the reader. As a writer, I watched this show, fully appreciating how it was accomplished.


September Newsletter Member Spotlight: Jodie Martin

Member Spotlight: Jodie Martin

Screen Shot 2019-09-18 at 2.59.03 PM

Jodie Martin writes contemporary Western fiction, and is glad to wake up in Texas every morning.

Spotlight Feature Article by Jodie Martin

Clyde lifted his head up from the sun baked earth. As he did so, he could feel something clinging to his cheek and temple area of his head. He felt an empty hole in the recent past and wondered what had happened to him. With his right hand, he gingerly stroked his face to feel all the debris which seemed to have attached itself there.

Sensing what felt like open wounds, he traced the edge of the areas with his fingertips. In doing so, he realized that he must have been on the ground for quite some time as the blood from the open wounds aside his head had dried, and blended with the earth and small pebbles where he had just found himself. His head throbbed like a bass drum, being beaten by an over exuberant high school band member.

He checked his essentials. He could still see, so he still had his eyes. His arms and legs still worked, as best he could tell, and he could still hear the hot summer breeze whisper out of his left ear. He checked, sure enough, his right ear was full of dried blood and dirt. He’d live, he finally decided, as long as he got his wounds cleaned out and bandaged up. Out here, a feller was more than likely to die from an infection, than a snake bite, truck wreck, or falling into a gultch. Though some had died that way. Clyde knew he just needed to get back to his truck and clean up, then maybe he’d figure out what that hole in time should be filled up with.

Stumbling to his feet, Clyde scanned the horizon to find the sun, and get his bearings. Seeing the evening sun, he started walking in the opposite direction, only guessing that he’d find his truck somewhere in the distance. Luckily, the cab of his old Chevy soon loomed into his vison. Salvation was his if he could get to it before whatever had attacked him caught up. As he stumbled his way forward over greasewood, prickly-pear, and all sorts of desert flora, the “boom, sboom” throbbing in his head was, thankfully, lessening. The thought of that cold water in the can in the bed of his truck began to call out to him more and more as he trudged along. He felt as though someone had taken a dry cotton rag and used it to wipe out every ounce of spittle out of his mouth. Even the sweat that he should be drenched in was completely missing. He instinctively knew that was a bad sign; he needed water, and badly. He’d lost much water in the bleeding he’d obviously done, and the heat of the day had not done him any favors.

Reaching up from the draw he was now walking down, he grabbed the root of a wild persimmon tree to pull himself up and out of the draw. His arms screamed out in protest, as he was not a young man. In his youth, he’d have already been at the truck, enjoying a cool drink, but instead he strained against pain in his body as he pulled himself up the steep bank. Just as he cleared the edge of the draw, a couple of voices pierced the hot evening silence, and Clyde froze, hoping he hadn’t been seen and wanting to hear whatever he could from the mystery persons.

“You think he’s dead?”

“I don’t know, why don’t you go back and check see?”

“I don’t think so! What if he ain’t? I may have to hit him again. Don’t think I’ll be able to sneak up on him again, if he ain’t dead.”

“Well, if he’s dead, you should be able to sneak up real easy.”

“If he’s dead, I won’t need to whack him again, you big dummy!”

“Just shut-up and get in the truck!”

“Dang it; he took the keys!”

“Who in the Sam Hell takes their keys outta their truck when they’re out in the brush?”

“I don’t know, but one of us has to hot-foot it back and fish them out of his pocket.”

“And I guess you want me to do it?”

“It was your idea to steal the truck in the first place, so get to it!”

“This is more trouble than getting a job and just buying a truck!”

“Maybe you shoulda thought of that before now.”

Clyde lay under a cedar bush in the shade, listening to the two would be bandits, argue. He tried desperately to identify their voices. His thirst was growing, but he knew they’d not go anywhere, as his hand patted the keys in his pocket. He knew either one or both of them would return to the scene of the crime, to find him gone. If only one returned, he’d have to fight the other for his truck, and that cool, cool water.

As he thought it over, he was a little surprised to find that he was sharing the evening shade with a Chicken snake; a black non venomous snake known all over the southwest United States. An idea occurred to Clyde as he thought out his dilemma, and an impish grin spread across his bloodied, crusty face. His idea almost made him laugh out loud. With surprising speed, Clyde grabbed the chicken snake just below the head and allowed the snake to wind around his arm. Knowing the snake was non-venomous made him somewhat braver.

Now Clyde couldn’t wait to get either one of these desperados alone. Soon, the loser of the straw draw headed back to get the keys. Just as he got out of earshot, Clyde leapt from his hiding place, screaming about rattlesnakes and flung the chicken snake at the remaining thief. It hit his chest, and wrapped around his neck, like a clinging vine. The young man passed out, and fell to the ground. Clyde now slowly walked up to his truck and got a piece of rope out of the bed and tied the young feller’s feet and hands. After a nice cool drink of water, he loaded him in the bed and started back to town. It was coffee time, and the sheriff would be there. No use wasting time hunting down the other desperado. The sheriff loved that type of thing; besides, Clyde was all out of snakes.