The Impostor (Fiction Improvisation)

July 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Photo credit: Brigitte Thom | | License: CCO

Photo credit: Brigitte Thom | | License: CCO

Fiction Improvisation by James Pence
Title: The Impostor
Keywords: Anthony, Kelly, governor, arthritic, pander, salubrious, begonia, ancestry,
Situation: Man mistakenly wins a Newbery award.

NOTE: This improvisation was fun. I did make some changes to the situation, however. Instead of the man winning a Newbery Medal, I created a fictional award. Don’t want the Newbery people getting mad at me. I hope you enjoy it.

    *      *     *

It was a mistake. It had to be.

But the check Anthony S. Newell held in his hands looked plenty real.

Granted, he’d never heard of the Society for Quality Young Adult Literature (SQYAL), but they’d evidently heard of him.

Anthony’s hands trembled as he examined the check for what seemed like the fiftieth time. Maybe it was a scam or some kind of sales pitch. He’d gotten them before. They send you what looks like a real check, but when you read the fine print you realize the check is about as real as a dollar bill with Donald Duck’s picture on it. It’s just a hook to get you to read their sales copy.

But there was no fine print with this check.

And no sales copy.

Just a letter.

On very expensive stationary.

Dear Mr. Newell,

Congratulations! The SQYAL Board of Governors is pleased to inform you that your self-published novel Teenage Werewolves from Jupiter has won first prize in our Best New Science Fiction category. Enclosed is your award check in the amount of $5,000. We hope you will be able to attend our awards ceremony in New York City on August 5th and personally receive your SQYAL Award. You may RSVP to the following e-mail address:

Anthony looked at the check one more time, turning it over in his hands.

“Do you want me to get you a microscope so you can look closer?”

Anthony turned and frowned at his wife. “Not necessary. It’s real.”

“You aren’t planning on keeping that, are you?” asked Kelly Newell.

“And why shouldn’t I?”

“Well, for starters, they probably thought they were giving it to the real Anthony S. Newell.”

Anthony’s face flushed. “I am the real Anthony S. Newell.”

Kelly shook her head and walked into the kitchenette. “Whatever.”

Anthony stormed behind her. “Don’t question my ancestry. My legal name is Anthony Seymour Newell.”

Kelly poured a cup of coffee from a carafe that looked as if it hadn’t been washed in years. She shooed flies away from a half-eaten peanut butter sandwich on the countertop. “And you just happen to share that name with a bestselling author, except that his middle name is Samuel.”


Kelly waved away more flies and took a bite of the peanut butter sandwich. “And you deliberately design your book covers to look exactly like his. You even use the same font for your name.”

“There’s no law against that.”

“And you write the same genre he does. You even copy his subject matter.”

Anthony went back into the living room. He grabbed the check and waved it at her. “None of that matters. This is real.”

Kelly replied, taking a sip of coffee. “You’re impersonating one of the biggest, richest authors of our time, and it’s all just a big coincidence.”

“I didn’t say that. But I know that this check is real and I’m going to New York to pick up my award in person.”

Kelly shrugged. “Just sayin’. If that check is real, you’d better plunk it into savings. One of these days you’re going to get a cease and desist letter from the real Anthony Newell. And that letter could cost you a lot of money.”

*   *   *

Anthony contacted SQYAL by e-mail to let them know he was planning to attend the August 5th awards ceremony. They were delighted and even offered to make his travel arrangements. First class, roundtrip airfare to New York City. Two nights in the Ritz-Carlton. Limo service from the airport. Gourmet dining.

And his room! He had a deluxe park view suite, with a fully stocked bar. King-sized bed. Jacuzzi. 60-inch curved screen ultra HD TV. And even a vase filled with begonias, his favorite flower.

They were thorough. Must have checked out my website bio.

This was the life.

The only strange thing was that in almost two days, he hadn’t seen any other award winners around the hotel. And no advertising for the award ceremony, either.

No matter. He’d gotten an email, inviting him to Suite 2102 at 7 p.m. that evening.

When the time came, he dressed in a tux he’d bought specially for the occasion and headed up to Suite 2102.

As he stood before the door, he straightened his tie and brushed dandruff from his shoulders. This was his big moment.

Anthony took a deep breath and knocked.

The huge man who opened the door looked more like a bouncer than a literary executive.

Anthony stepped inside and heard the door close behind him. Then he heard the click of the deadbolt.

There were no other award winners there. Just one man, looking out the window toward Central Park, his hands clasped behind his back.

Anthony felt the bouncer behind him. Gentle but firm pressure on his back moved him forward. His mouth went dry.

When the man turned around, Anthony felt like throwing up. He knew the man’s face. He was standing before the real Anthony S. Newell.

“Anthony Seymour Newell,” said the man, not smiling. He motioned toward a table. “Sit down. We have a lot to talk about.”

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12 Things You Might Not Know about Friendly Revenge

May 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Friendly Revenge Cover

Friendly Revenge by James Pence

My YA novel, Friendly Revenge, launches this week, so here are 12 things you might not know about Friendly Revenge.

1. Written in 1996, Friendly Revenge is my first novel, preceding the first draft of Unseen (Blind Sight) by three years.

2. Friendly Revenge is a spin-off from the first piece I ever had published, a short story titled The Preacher’s Kid.

3. An Easter egg at the end of Chapter 3 in Friendly Revenge references a former pastor’s son named Jeremy Archer. This is the name of my main character in The Preacher’s Kid.

4. Both Friendly Revenge and Unseen are set in the fictional town of Grant City, Texas.

5. In the original version of Friendly Revenge, I was much too specific with technology and computer jargon. It dated the book very quickly. For example, in the original version, Palmer’s prized possession is a 286 computer. (If you don’t know what that is, Google it.) For this release, I had to do quite a bit of updating.

6. In 1999, Friendly Revenge was released briefly as an e-book on a 3.5″ floppy disk. This was before the days of print on demand, so the book could only be purchased on floppy and read on a computer. The publisher was Hard Shell Word Factory, one of the original royalty-paying e-publishers.

7. In 2003 when Tyndale picked up my novel, Blind Sight (Unseen), I reclaimed the rights to Friendly Revenge and took it out of print, in hopes that it might find a conventional publisher.

8. Most of the character names in Friendly Revenge were chosen randomly from telephone books.

9. Another Easter egg in Friendly Revenge is Sandy, the name of the dog Palmer had to give up when his dad became a pastor. Sandy is my 11-year-old Lab/Golden mix.

10. I wrote the first half of Friendly Revenge in an advanced creative writing class at Dallas Theological Seminary. By the end of the semester, I had Palmer in a horrible mess and had no idea how to get him out of it.

11. I wrote the second half of Friendly Revenge on Kismet Island in the Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence River. The Thousand Islands would come into my writing later when I included them as the setting for the climax of Unseen.

12. Yes, I do have an idea for a sequel and have begun working on it.

And now, as the late, great Paul Harvey used to say, you know the rest of the story.

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Fiction Improvisation 3.0

July 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Fiction Improv 3.0

Okay, Peeps, Here’s what you gave me:

2 Names: Beulah and Harvey

Occupation: Environmentalist

5 Words (I’ll use at least 3): Verbose, superfluous, ambiguous, fun, and onomatopoeia.

Situation (I put out an extra call for this item and two people responded at almost exactly the same time. Since I don’t know which one was first, I’ll accept both.): (1)Getting wisdom teeth out and (2)Waiting in a crowd for a bus

All righty, this one is definitely going to be interesting. Time to let the elements cook a bit. I’ll post a short-short story or a scene by Sunday night. Max word count is 1,000. Minimum 500. 

The story turned out to be 787 words.


photo credit: Hipster via photopin (license)

photo credit: Hipster via photopin (license)

The Green Battery?

So this is what it feels like to have your jaws crushed under a steamroller.

Even though the city bus was only going about ten miles per hour, every time it hit a bump or rolled over a pothole, Harvey felt a fresh surge of pain. And it wasn’t just coming from the four empty sockets that once held his wisdom teeth. His whole body ached in sympathy.

What he wanted—needed—was quiet. But that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.

First, the bus, for which he had waited nearly an hour, was stuck in rush-hour traffic.

Second, the woman behind him was apparently trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest unbroken stream-of-consciousness cell phone conversation.

Of course, it could hardly qualify as a conversation. The verbose woman never paused long enough for the person on the other end to get a word in. All Harvey knew was that the other person was named Beulah, and the only reason he knew that was that the woman apparently felt a pressing need to insert her friend’s name in every other sentence.

“Well, Beulah, you know I think what she was wearing yesterday was just atrocious, don’t you, I mean, really, how could she possibly wear black to a wedding rehearsal dinner doesn’t she know she has practically cursed the poor couple before they ever start on the road of life together, of course, Beulah, she might as well have cursed them because I don’t give that marriage six months, if they make it seven then, Beulah, you can say I told you so and by the way, did you see what the preacher’s wife was wearing…”

Harvey looked at his watch. It had been going on for two solid hours.

photo credit: Brno via photopin (license)

photo credit: Brno via photopin (license)

At the bus stop, she stood behind him—talking.

He’d have moved but the crowd was pressed so tight, he couldn’t get away.

On the bus, he hoped to place some distance between them.

She sat on the seat behind him—still talking.

And the longer she talked, the more his head throbbed.

He had to do something, but what?

Move? Not possible. No empty seats.

He could turn around and give her a dirty look.

That wouldn’t work. Besides, he’d already done that several times. The woman was clueless.

Grab her phone and stomp on it?

He’d get arrested.

But maybe, just maybe…

It hurt to even move, but Harvey stood up and reached inside his coat. As he stepped into the aisle, he put on his most stern expression, pulled out his I.D. and flashed it at her.

“Ma’am, pleashh hang upff. I neeth thoo thalk thoo shyou.”

She gazed at him, a blank look on her face.

At least she stopped talking.

“What did you say?”

Harvey realized that with a mouth packed full of cotton, he probably made Brando’s Godfather sound eloquent. He had to keep this brief. Every superfluous word he spoke only added to his pain.

He pointed at his I.D. badge and struggled to make each word clear. “I…needth…thoo…thalk…thoo…yoo.”

“Beulah, I’ll call you right back.” The woman broke the connection and then said, “Now what is it? You interrupted a very important conversation.”

Harvey pointed at his I.D.

The woman squinted. “Environmental Protection Agency?”

Harvey nodded.

“What do you want with me?”

Harvey pointed at her phone. “Ish…thath…phone’s…bathry…green?”

“Green? What in the world are you talking about.”

Harvey shook his head and pointed at his I.D. again.


photo credit: DSCN3642.JPG via photopin (license)

photo credit: DSCN3642.JPG via photopin (license)

The woman’s face flushed. “I—I don’t know.”

“I…thoughth…ash…mush.” He held out his hand. “I’ll…haff…thoo…sheck…ith.”

“But, but you can’t do that!”

Harvey pointed at his I.D. and held out his hand.

The woman looked around at the other passengers. “Do you see what he’s trying to do? Somebody tell him he can’t do this.”

Most of the other passengers ignored her. A few shrugged and gave her a “What can we do?” look.

“You can’t do this!”

Harvey held out his hand. “Doo…yoo…wanth…me…thoo…arresth…yoo?”

The woman’s face was so red, she looked like she might explode. “Oh, all right.”  She slapped the phone into his hand.

Harvey popped the back of the phone off and took out the battery. He turned it this way and that, scrutinizing it and shaking his head.

“Shorry. Goth…too…confishgathe…ith. ”

“My phone?”

Harvey shook his head. “No. Jush…the…batthry. E.P.A. regulashion…35491…dansherous…bathries.” He handed her phone back to her. “Go…buy…a…green…one.”

He stepped back to his seat and sat down.

An instant later, the rest of the passengers erupted in applause.

Harvey smiled. That was fun.

Of course, there was no E.P.A. regulation 35491. He’d have to give the lady back her battery.

And he would.

Just as soon as she got off the bus.

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An Author’s Ice Bucket Challenge

August 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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mercy-killer-front-smWhen I wrote my mystery/thriller, “Mercy Killer,” I wanted my lead character to be struggling with a debilitating illness. Ultimately, I decided that he should be someone with ALS. As I researched about ALS and wrote the novel, I was deeply impressed by the courage of those who face this horrible disease and also that of their caregivers.

In light of the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, I am going to donate 100% of my royalties for the rest of 2014 to ALS research. So, if you purchase a copy (paperback or ebook) of “Mercy Killer,” you will not only get to read a great story, you’ll also learn a little bit about ALS. And you’ll also be helping to find a cure.

Here’s a link to the book’s listing on Amazon: Mercy Killer

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The Root Cause of Writer’s Block

August 4, 2014 by · 5 Comments 

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As someone who wrestles daily with writer’s block, I have come to a conclusion. It may or may not be profound, and it may not be true of everybody. But it is definitely true of me.

My writer’s block (or creative block) manifests itself in many different ways, but I believe that there is one root cause: fear.

Here’s an example, not from writing but from my other love, art. Last year, I completed a pastel portrait of my twin DanielNathan2nephews, Nathan and Daniel. They were eight or nine years old when I began working on the painting.

They’ll begin their sophomore year in college later this month.

It took me ten years to complete a 15″ x 22″ pastel painting. Good grief! Michaelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in only a little over four years!

Why did it take me so long?

First, I didn’t think the likenesses were quite perfect. Second, I was afraid that if I continued working on the portrait, I’d only mess it up worse. And so I put the painting away and forgot about it. I was so afraid of ruining the portrait, that I hid it away rather than face the fear of failure.

As I look at my own struggles with writer’s block, I see fear.

Fear that my writing isn’t any good.

Fear that editors and publishers won’t like it.

fear word in wood typeFear that readers will hate it.

Fear that I won’t be able to sell it.

Fear that I won’t be able to top my last book.

Fear that I’ll mess up what I’ve already done.

Fear of failure.

Fear of success. (What if I get too much writing work and I can’t stand the pressure?)

I run away from what I fear.

When I do that with my writing, it’s called writer’s block.

And writer’s block is nothing less than creative paralysis.

Join the discussion: Do you agree that the root cause of writer’s block is fear? Why or why not? What other causes would you point to.


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Overcoming Writer’s Block

July 28, 2014 by · 6 Comments 

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Writer's blockHi, I’m Jim and I’m a full-time freelance writer.

I’ve been writing since the mid ’90s, and writing professionally since 2000. I have written nine books, fiction and nonfiction, and all but one have been published by major publishing houses.

I have a confession to make.

I struggle with crippling writer’s block. In fact, I fight the battle against writer’s block every single day. Most days, when I think about getting started on my writing projects for the day, I get cold chills. We’ve all heard the cliche about the blocked writer staring at a blank page (or screen) for hours.

I don’t do that. As a rule, I don’t even get that far.

You see, if I stared at a blank screen, it would be obvious that I need to write. Instead, I dress up my writer’s block by trying to appear productive.

I check e-mail obsessively, because I never know when someone might write me, wanting me to help them write a book, or a proposal, or whatever.

I visit Facebook (just to check on important writing matters, you know).

I read blog posts on my Feedly reader so that I can stay up with all my writing friends and on current issues.

I check several news sites because it’s important to stay up on world events. There might be a book out there, just waiting to be written.

If I’m not careful, I soon find myself in an endless loop, circling from website to website to website, feeling incredibly busy, but not getting anything accomplished.

So why am I telling you this?

Struggling with writer’s block (or creative block for you musicians and artists), is an annoying and frustrating problem for anyone, no matter where you are in your professional development.

But for someone who is a full-time freelancer, it is far more than an annoyance.

For the full time freelancer, writer’s block can be a career killer. It can be devastating.

In my ongoing battle against writer’s block, I’m going to be writing down some observations, techniques, helpful hints, books, and whatever else I’m finding that helps.

Because I know one thing for sure. I’m not the only artist who suffers from creative block. Hopefully, I’ll be able to share some things that will help. If nothing else, at least I’ll be writing.

Join the discussion: What about you? Do you suffer from writer’s block? What do you do to defeat it?

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