Life Gets In The Way

Today I’ve opened the door and invited J R Wagner in. I’m so pleased he was able to find time  in his busy schedule to share something with us. Enjoy!!

Life gets in the way
-a story of a day in my life…coincidence or fate, you decide.
By J. R. Wagner

It was winter. I was standing along side the slush-covered road up to my ankles in wet, nasty, gray, polluted snow.  My car, having just done a 360 in the middle of the winding country road had found itself half on, half off the guide rail.  There was no getting it off without some roadside assistance.

Fortunately, my auto insurance company rooked me into paying an extra nine bucks a month for their roadside assistance and now, after six years of never having a need for it (that’s $648.00 pissed away) it was time to cash in.  I reached into my pocket to pull out my cell and realized (with a few expletives) that I’d left it in my car.

I began trudging back toward my car. My feet had long since lost any feeling and the impact of each step stung like a sonofabitch.  As I passed the rear bumper, I heard it.  The scraping of a plow truck barreling down the road.  It was coming from the opposite direction. The direction I was facing.
I thought nothing of it, opened my car door as far as I could, which was just far enough to squeeze my oversized head through and search for the phone.  Spotting it quickly, I leaned the rest of my torso inside and picked it off the floor. The radio was on.  Nirvana was playing. The sound of the plow grew louder as I extricated myself.

I shut the door and began walking back to my safety spot behind my car on the opposite side of the guide rail so I don’t get run over by another motorist or covered in a deluge of nasty tar and grime infested slush from the plow.  When I reached my spot of pre-packed snow, I flipped open my phone (yes, before the days of touch phones) and began to dial.

I glanced up quickly as the giant orange plow truck, yellow light flashing, rounded the corner –now just a few hundred feet from my stranded vehicle.  He didn’t slow.  Assuming he will pass by (perhaps he doesn’t see me at all, just the car) I continued punching in the number to the roadside assistance place.  My un-gloved hands were stiff and nearing on numb. As I went for the last digit, the phone slipped out of my hand.  I cursed and bent over to retrieve the phone, now buried in six inches of road slop.

That’s when it hit me. It didn’t hurt –not then anyway.  I felt something.  I wasn’t exactly sure what but it was enough to force me to stand back up, leaving the phone where it lay.  Something warm was on my forehead.  Odd.  Then it rolled into my eyes, which felt even stranger -yet somehow, the warm sensation was soothing in the freezing environment. When it made its way into my mouth, I knew something was wrong.

It was blood.  I was all to familiar with that taste having had my wisdom teeth pulled not two weeks earlier. My vision began to spin.  I immediately reached for my head and felt a warm, sticky gash just beyond my hairline.  I could feel the blood coursing out of the injury with every pulse of my ever-quickening heartbeat. The plow had passed. I could hear it’s obnoxious diesel engine growing faint in the distance.

I had to do something but I wasn’t sure what. I was confused and growing more so.  I needed to stop the bleeding.  I stumbled for my car, remembering I stashed a first aid kit in the trunk. I fell once but quickly regained my footing.  I reached the trunk only to find it locked.  My keys…where were they?  I searched my pockets with the hand not applying pressure on the injury and found nothing but cash.
I heard a song in the distance. I’d heard it before but couldn’t recall the name.  I was becoming less and less lucid. My vision began to blur.  I began to panic.  I needed to call for help. My phone!  I remembered dropping it in the snow. Quickly, I turned.  There was a thick line of blood in the snow that ended where I hoped my cell sat.  My God, so much blood.  I began walking toward the largest patch of red snow (sure my phone was in there somewhere) when I fell to the ground.  This time I did not get up. 

My strength was gone.  My head was buried in the snow far enough that all I could see was the reddening of the snow in front of my face.  I was going to die.  Rather than pissed like I thought I’d be if I’d met an untimely death, I was relaxed –comfortable even.  I just wanted to sleep.  I was so tired.  I shut my eyes.
Something warm touched the back of my neck.  I heard shouting.  I didn’t want to open my eyes. I didn’t want to wake up. People were touching me, yelling at me. They rolled me over.  I saw light –the sun maybe?  Some blurred faces.  Lots of movement.  I heard a woman’s voice –calming yet commanding.  Someone touched my head and I let out a scream I never knew I was capable of and my world went black.


I lived. Apparently the plow hit a softball-sized chunk of ice and sent it hurtling at my head.  The driver never even knew I was there.  It turns out, the plow truck driver’s daughter was a volunteer for the local ambulance company and happened to be driving home when she noticed the blood along the road.  She thought someone had hit a deer.  After I was loaded in an ambulance and began my trip to the hospital, another car came whipping around that bend in the road.  There were two policemen, three volunteer EMT’s and a tow truck driver standing in the road.  The car provided little warning as it slid silently across the icy surface of the road.  One policeman, the tow truck driver and an EMT were able to jump to safety.  The others, including the plow truck driver’s daughter, were struck by the car.  The policeman would never walk again, the EMT suffered multiple fractures in both lower extremities and the plow truck driver’s daughter was pinned against the guide rail (a-la Signs).  She managed to stay alive for twenty minutes.  Time enough for her father to return to the scene and say goodbye to his daughter.  At her funeral, I met the woman who would later become my wife and the mother of my children. She is the sister of the woman who died –the other daughter of the plow truck driver.

WOW! This is some story! I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. Thank you, Josh, for a wonderful guest post.

J. R. Wagner, (Josh to those who know him) is the author of Exiled, the first book in a series called The Never Chronicles.  Exiled releases June 5th.  Hobbies include reading (mostly YA), cycling, paint ball (bring it on!) triathlon, adventure racing (a sport which requires it’s own blog post to explain) and most importantly, spending time with my beautiful wife and daughters.  He lives in Pennsylvania, USA.


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Describing People, Part One : Faces

I recently wrote a guest post on inspiration for JR Wagner’s blog  [ ] and I mentioned people watching as a rich source.

One of the comments made was by someone who experienced difficulties describing people, especially faces. I gave him some tips to help, but then it occurred to me that other people may also have the same problem.

Here are some thoughts and tips that may help.

Start with a list – a very general list. You could create a table in Word or Excel, or create a database in Access to store the information.

Look at the features one at a time.

What shape is the face?

Face Shapes

What shape are the eyes? What colour are they? Are the brows heavy, light or average? What colour are the eyebrows? Does the eyebrow colour match the hair? Are the lashes long, short or sparse?

Eyes Shapes

Is the forehead wide, narrow, average?

Are the cheekbones prominent, high or hidden beneath chubby cheeks?

What is the nose like – large, bulbous, pointed, turned up at the end, button, wide, flat, broken?

Are the lips full, luscious, thin, lopsided, large lower lip, a perfect cupid’s bow? What colour are they?

What is the skin tone like – pale, tanned, peaches & cream, brown, black? Are there any blemishes on the skin (scars/moles/freckles/zits)? Are there any facial piercings (not including ears)?

Look at the shape of the chin. Is it pointed, wide, rounded, double? If it’s a male – has he got a beard/moustache/stubble or is he clean shaven.

Ears – are they large or small? Do they stick out? Are they pierced, and if so, how many times? Are there earrings?

Is the person wearing make up? Is the make up light (natural looking) or heavy? Does it enhance the features or disguise them? Does it complement them or make them look tarty?

Look at the hair – colour, length, style. Is the hair colour natural or can you see roots of a different shade?  Also look at how the hair frames the face (or not as the case may be).

Look at the neck and how the head sits on it. Is the neck long and graceful? Is it short? Does the neck disappear under a double chin? Is the skin smooth or like crepe paper, crinkled with age?

Once you’ve made your basic list then you can start thinking about how to embellish on the features you want to include. Sometimes similes are good, but not if you over-use them. However, thinking about a simile to help describe a certain feature can lead to a wonderful descriptive phrase.

Take it slowly; build your list of different features and any descriptive words that come to mind. After a while, revisit your list and add any new words that you think of. Keep doing this at different times and eventually you’ll have a comprehensive source of information to use when crafting your characters.

Other posts in this series:

Describing People Part Two: From the Neck Down

Describing People Part Three: Gestures, Expressions & Mannerisms

Book Review: Devil’s Kitchen by Alison DeLuca

Having devoured The Night Watchman Express, the first in the Crown Phoenix series, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Devil’s Kitchen (book 2). I purchased it the very day I finished the first book and can honestly say I’m glad I did!

Devil’s Kitchen is more involved than The Night Watchman Express yet the story flows from one book to the next seamlessly. There is more drama, greater subplots and increased intrigue in Devil’s Kitchen and is so well written, I found myself completely immersed in it.

This book is a little darker than book 1; all the main characters experience trauma of varying degrees and I found myself sympathising with their predicaments and willing them on in their attempts to escape them. They each have great morals, genuinely care about others and still have the backbone to stand up for themselves.

The author demonstrates great skill crafting her characters; they have real depth. The antagonists are manipulative, cruel and remorseless and these traits jump off the page.

Devil’s Kitchen itself is depicted as a wicked place run by nasty people. Again Ms DeLuca’s superior world-building and descriptive flair creates believable settings that are tangible and interesting.

Again, this Steampunk adventure will appeal to young and older adults alike. The gripping story keeps you hooked to the very end and I, for one, eagerly await publication of the next book in the series, The Lamplighter’s Special.

I would strongly recommend this book and again, would give it more than 5 stars! Alison DeLuca is an incredibly talented author and I wish her every success.

Grammar Gripes

I don’t know about you, but there are some grammatical errors I see in people’s writing that really make me tut!

 Now I’m the first to admit I’m not perfect, BUT these particular gripes aren’t too difficult to wrap your head around. So I thought I’d clarify them in the hope that if it helps to improve even one person’s writing, it’s time well spent.

 1)      YOUR v YOU’RE

 The number of times I see ‘your’ used instead of ‘you’re’ is unbelievable!

 YOUR – means belonging to, as in your house’, ‘your car’, ‘your dog’ – you get the idea.

 YOU’RE – is a contraction of ‘you’ and ‘are’, as in you’re (you are) going to bed’, you’re (you are) welcome’ andyou’re (you are) not very happy today’.


2)      THEN v THAN

 This is another one that tends to crop up on a surprisingly regular basis.

 THEN – has three uses in grammar:

Adverb – ‘I didn’t know it then, but I know now’

                        Conjunction – ‘The President spoke and spoke well, then sat down’

                        Adjective (less common) – ‘The advice on bending the rules came from the then Minister, Paul Johns’

THEN means ‘at that time’, ‘at the time in question’; ‘after that’, ‘next’, ‘afterwards’; ‘in that case’, ‘therefore’.

Used at the end of a sentence to emphasize an inference being drawn: ‘so you’re still here then?’

 Used to finish a sentence: ‘see you in an hour then

THAN –       introduces the second element in a comparison: ‘he was much smaller than his son’, ‘Jack doesn’t know any more than I do’

                    Used in expressions introducing an exception or contrast: [as preposition]: ‘he claims not to own anything other than his home’ [as conjunction]: ‘they observe rather than act’

                         [conjunction] used in expression indicating one thing happening immediately after another: ‘scarcely was the work completed than it was abandoned’



 This is my other main gripe. It doesn’t tend to crop up as much as the two above, but is still misused regularly.

 THERE –    relates to ‘in’, ‘at’ ‘to a place or position’:

                   ‘we went to Paris and stayed there seven days’

                   ‘at the end of the day we are there to make money’

                   ‘I’m not going in there – it’s freezing!’

THEIR –      means ‘belonging to’:

                   ‘we went to their house’

                   ‘where are their clothes?’

                   ‘I had a collision with their car’

 THEY’RE – is a contraction of ‘they’ and ‘are’, as in:

                    they’re (they are) a good team’

                   ‘they’re (they are) busy with decorating’

                   ‘who do they think they’re (they are) fooling?’

I hope this makes things much clearer!

Do you have any Grammar Gripes? Please share – I’d love to read them!