About zwoodle

I’m a noodle.

Comments and Reviews

Here’s what people have had to say about my writing.

Homecoming (2017)

This is such a sad, but uplifting, story. The initial feeling that perhaps there is an element of estrangement between the children and their father changes as they dig through old memories and put them in perspective. It is the difference in the eyes of the younger, carefree footballer compared to the eyes of the soldier that reveals the truth, the effect that war can have on a person and subsequently their loved ones. The eyes have given Jace the understanding he needs to try and bridge the gap with his father, despite the latter’s dementia. Moving. – Steph Ellis

Miscalculation (2015)

This emotive piece made me think of two cultural references: the scene in The Godfather where Vito Corleone is frolicking with his grandson in the garden before dying the perfect death (oh, the injustice after he was the mastermind of so much violence) and Vultures by Chinua Achebe where “the Commandant at Belsen Camp going home for the day with fumes of human roast clinging rebelliously to his hairy nostrils will stop at the wayside sweet-shop and pick up a chocolate for his tender offspring waiting at home for Daddy’s return.” Yes, love can be found everywhere even in those “whose very name inspired fear.” The line “caskets were not supposed to be that small” had me reaching for the tissues. And the conclusion brings home the perpetual cycle of violence these people are involved in because you just know their families are going to want revenge… – David Borrowdale

Help Wanted (2015)

I am obviously a failed punster never having made the leap to Civil Serpent. This bit of witty commentary drew me right in, the balance of the job descriptions kept me going. – Bill Engleson

I, Tiger (2015)

Having made the beautiful animal extinct, man is reduced to creating a synthetic version and still learns nothing. What a sad state of affairs. – Steph Ellis

What Would Freud Say? (2015)

This story was a hilarious romp from beginning to end: the dry, lonely professor who thought he could isolate the composition of love (“attraction plus compatibility”) and was proven most spectacularly wrong. But the punchline, though funny, isn’t what sets this story apart. It’s the subtle character development and worldbuilding, painted with a powerfully understated and masterful hand. And let’s not forget the fourth-wall-breaking title. This story is clever and knows it, but it’s so clever, we buy the whole kit and caboodle anyway. Awesome. – Rebekah Postupak

Stages of Love (2015)

A hauntingly beautiful story with a less than obvious use of the bookends and an excellent use of the photo prompt. We have a life’s worth of passion and heartache between the bookends. Very well done. – Donald Jacob Uitvlugt

One Year, Five Months, Thirteen Days, and Seven Hours (2015)

KM submitted two fantastic entries this week. Sadly one was a tad over the word limit, as it would have been a real contender. Thankfully the other was strong enough to bag the golden ticket. I echo Jacki’s words of this being a complete story simply told. The repetition of the missing girl’s name really cranks up the tension. What a terrible situation for the boy: knowing that just being alive is a constant reminder to his parents of that tragic day. Great writing, KM. I know you’ll make a fantastic contribution to the FlashDogs anthology. – David Borrowdale

The Night He Became a Man (2015)

Unfortunately, this story fell two words outside the maximum word count, and was therefore out of the running. However I felt it deserved a mention for the freshness of the story. There is a lot of excellent flash about brutal goings on between people, but less about basic decent behavior. The story was well told and used the bookends seamlessly. Such a shame about those two words!! – Jacki Donnellan

Collateral Damage (2015)

A brilliant description of a difficult dilemma: sabotage the planes, kill the pilots, and be branded a traitor, or let them fly. Inactivity would be the easier choice, “but she couldn’t bear to see another dead child carried through the streets.” Great story. – David Borrowdale

Trophies (2014)

I liked the imagery of the dragon’s eyes here, and the power they still wield despite the fact the dragon has been killed. I felt a tug of horror at the revelation that the dragon had been a mother defending her young, and that her mission had been futile. I liked the mention of the villagers, and how the hunter sees himself as the balance between his people being the slayers or the slain, but I also liked the note of uncertainty at the end of the story, when the hunter begins to doubt himself and his worldview starts to shift. As well as the subtlety of the story, it was very well written and expertly paced. – Sinead O’Hart

This story highlights a hard-to-swallow truth, “kill or be killed.” How we wish it weren’t so. The most profound line, “They were the same, she and he.” highlights the dilemma of a tortured conscience. Even though of its philosophical bent, the story has the identifiable structure. – Pratibha Kelapure

Aftermath of Neptune (2014)

“Aftermath of Neptune.” “Aftermath of Neptune” is a piece of juxtapositions: happy beach versus nightmarish coastline, whimsical love versus nonsensical death, and the line “destroyed but free.” This line—and the story in general—paints a vivid picture of the cost of freedom. That cost is not only the broken bodies strewn across the beach, but also the main character’s innocence in her brutal, war-tainted coming of age.

We also like the clever reference to Neptune. In addition to being the Roman god of the sea, Neptune is known for his violent, tempestuous character, as well as his power-plays for Jupiter’s position as king of the gods. This is particularly fitting for a story that takes place on a beach but also comments on the ravages of war and tragic loss of innocence. Splickety

Word of Dog (2014)

Earlier in the week I’d read something written in 1944 that poked fun at a character who’d excitedly asked a companion “Did ya know d-o-g is g-o-d backwards?” So the title of this piece provoked a shallow inhale in preparation for a slow, lazy groan. I was sure whatever the coming groan lacked in energy would be made up for in a series of overly dramatic eye rolls. But neither groan nor eye rolls were to be. “Word of Dog” had all the technical elements of the best flash fiction and tapped into that most important and elusive non-technical element — it made me feel something. – Matt Lashley

Salvation (2014)

I like this one very much – a cautionary tale, a grown-up version of WALL-E. I loved the idea of the scout carrying an ancient crayon drawing of Earth that his ancestor had made as a child when the planet’s inhabitants departed. The last line makes for a fully rounded story. Excellent! – Geoff Holme

Novels

Extraordinary
Young Adult/Fantasy
Coming soon

A teenage girl heads to the desert with her best friend, determined to find the geocache she and her brother were searching for when he died – and meets aliens disguised as animals on the run from the government.

Crusade
Historical Fiction
Coming soon

An English soldier forms a special friendship with King Richard during the bloody Third Crusade, where he meets and falls in love with a Muslim captive.

Short Stories

A note to schools and libraries:
I do not impose an expiry date on my work, and, whenever possible, I am happy to donate copies to at-risk and disadvantaged schools. Please contact me; I will be glad to help out. Teachers, be sure to check out my Resources Page to find out where you can get comprehensive lesson plans.

Jippā
(flash fiction)
Horror
Now available!

This short horror story is based on a nightmare I had some time back.

No one believed him that the monsters were real. His uncle grew frustrated and impatient with the nighttime fears the boy should long have outgrown. His aunt was more sympathetic and well-intentioned, but she dismissed them as being merely nightmares.

Only he knew that, at night, the truths always revealed themselves.

After the lights went out and all was dark, the silence of his room was broken by quiet scratching and moans. He covered his ears against the screeches, but they grew louder and louder until they filled the air, and he could feel them even in his lungs.

Then, when a scream threatened to burst forth from his throat, and he could bear it no longer, there was silence. Not one sound. It was the same disquieting nothingness of forest animals when they sensed a new predator.

The monsters were quiet, but he knew they were still there.

He uncapped his ears and glanced at his little sister, asleep in the bed next to his. Quiet and undisturbed, she’d slept through it all. He envied her peaceful slumber. She always looked like an angel.

Then, there was another noise. Whispers. “She’s coming,” they said. “She’s coming. She’s coming.”

Kindle – FREE!
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00C0HZ7GI/

Smashwords – FREE!
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/299203

The Tangi Bridge
(flash fiction)
Historical Fiction
Now available!

A very short story!

This is the story of the night patrolman on the Tangi Bridge. It’s only about 850 words, but it has been lovingly crafted.

Fans of “The Lottery” and “The Lady and the Tiger” may enjoy this one as it raises questions about human nature and the merits of the individual versus those of society.

Comprehensive lesson plans are also available.

He didn’t always see them jump, but the sounds were unavoidable. Some screamed on the way down; some went in dignified silence. But their lives always ended the same – with a loud, sickening splash.

A few chose to go at it alone, but most were grateful for his presence in their final hours. Several talked at length of their lives, although many were content to simply sit quietly beside him until dawn. Then, after steadying their nerves, they launched themselves off the creaking, wooden bridge and into the water below.

He had been told never to watch, but he always did. How could he not? The least he could do, he felt, was to be with them in those final, fleeting moments so they knew that they hadn’t been alone, that someone would remember them.

Those who accepted the calling – really accepted it – went without fear. They were the fortunate ones, their calmness and serenity helping them recall what they had long been taught in school – how to hit the water at the ideal obliquity required for the fastest and least painful death.

The screamers were much harder to watch.

They frequently flailed on the way down, hitting the water, hard as stone, at an odd angle, crushing most of their structural bones. Survival instincts always kicked in, and they would splash around in a panic – helpless, thrashing sacks of broken limbs.

Whether they succumbed to the cold water or invisible injuries, eventually, they stilled, often floating in pools of dissipating wine as the impartial river swept their bodies out to sea.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BTHCEHU/ – FREE!

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/295404 – FREE!

Teacher Lingo: http://teacherlingo.com/resources/items/the-tangi-bridge-a-very-short-story.aspx – FREE!

Teachers Pay Teachers: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Tangi-Bridge-short-story – FREE!

The Executioner
Historical Fiction/Mystery/Horror
Coming Soon

A young journalist discovers more than he anticipated when he is sent to cover the county’s first electricide.

Soledad
Sci-Fi
Coming Soon
After a ship is damaged during its escape from Earth, only one of its passengers awakens from stasis…

The Mines
Young Adult/Sci-Fi/Horror
Coming Soon

A teenage girl, posing as a boy to avoid requisite sexual servitude, is sent to work in the most-feared of the five options offered to young men – The Mines, where a dark secret lurks in their depths.

Contests and Awards

The Angry Hourglass Round 130
14 March 2017
Winner – “Homecoming”
https://theangryhourglass.wordpress.com/2017/03/14/round-130-winners/

Micro Bookends 1.52
18 October 2015
Winner – “Miscalculation”
http://www.microbookends.com/2015/10/18/micro-bookends-1-52-results/

Micro Bookends 1.51
11 October 2015
Honourable Mention – “Help Wanted”
http://www.microbookends.com/2015/10/11/micro-bookends-1-51-results/

Micro Bookends 1.45
30 August 2015
Honourable Mention – “I, Tiger”
http://www.microbookends.com/2015/08/30/micro-bookends-1-45-results/

Micro Bookends 1.44
23 August 2015
4th Place – “What Would Freud Say?”
http://www.microbookends.com/2015/08/23/micro-bookends-1-44-results/

Micro Bookends 1.40
26 July 2015
Winner – “Stages of Love”
http://www.microbookends.com/2015/07/26/micro-bookends-1-40-results/

Micro Bookends 1.26
12 April 2015
Golden Ticket Winner – “One Year, Five Months, Thirteen Days, and Seven Hours”
http://www.microbookends.com/2015/04/12/micro-bookends-1-26-results/

Flash! Friday Volume 3-3
30 December 2014
Honorable Mention – “Trophies”
https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/flash-friday-vol-3-3-winners/

Flash! Friday Volume 2-51
1 December 2014
Second Runner Up – “Aftermath of Neptune”
https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/flash-friday-vol-2-51-winners/

Micro Bookends 1.06
16 November 2014
Winner – “Word of Dog”
http://www.microbookends.com/2014/11/16/micro-bookends-1-06-results/

Micro Bookends 1.04
30 October 2014
Winner – “Salvation”
http://www.microbookends.com/2014/11/02/micro-bookends-1-04-results/

2012 Writers Digest Shortest Short Story Contest
Winner
http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-winner-of-the-shortest-short-story-contest-ssstory

2012 BlueCat Screenplay Competition
Quarterfinalist – Crusade
http://www.bluecatscreenplay.com/2012-quarterfinalists/

2012 Filmmakers International Screenwriting Competition
Quarterfinalist – Crusade
http://screenplaycontest.net/index-10th.html#1stRoundQualifiers

2011 Writers on the Storm Screenplay Comptetion
Semifinalist – Crusade
http://www.coverageink.blogspot.com/2011/10/writers-on-storm-semifinalists.html

Three Lines or Less Logline Contest
Finalist – Crusade
July 2011
http://tlljournal.com/post/18764607012/drama

Excellence Under the Stars (College)
“Excellence in Screenwriting”
2009
Information not available online.

2005 WriteMovies.com Screenplay Competition
Semifinalst – The Chronicles of Seven
Information no longer online. 🙁

Resources

The Tangi Bridge

Reading Group Questions (coming soon)

Lesson Plan
Exceeds Common Core Standards for High School Literature – now FREE

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BTI48JQ
Barnes & Noble: http://www.bn.com/w/the-tangi-bridge-common-core-standards-lesson-plans-km-zafari/1114915879
Kobo (now includes Sony): http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/The-Tangi-Bridge-Common-Core/
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/295467
Teacher Lingo: http://teacherlingo.com/resources/items/the-tangi-bridge-common-core-standards-literature-reading-lesson-plan.aspx
Teachers Pay Teachers: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Tangi-Bridge-Common-Core-Standards-Literature-Reading-Lesson-Plan


“The Tangi Bridge”
The short story (about 845 words) – FREE

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BTHCEHU
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-tangi-bridge-km-zafari/1114972025
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/KM_Zafari_The_Tangi_Bridge_a_very_short_story?id=im1j1uxXhHUC
Kobo (now includes Sony): http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/The-Tangi-Bridge-very-short/book-spDegoRa60akGSaGVYHEaw/page1.html
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/295404
Teacher Lingo: http://teacherlingo.com/resources/items/the-tangi-bridge-a-very-short-story.aspx
Teachers Pay Teachers: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Tangi-Bridge-short-story-611151
Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/21836616-the-tangi-bridge-a-very-short-story

Don’t forget that “Tangi” was recently narrated by Mr. CreepyPasta, a resource you can also use for teaching in your classroom.
https://youtu.be/5teucjsA7YU

“The Cask of Amontillado”

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BUY7N0A
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-cask-of-amontillado-common-core-standards-reading-lesson-plan-km-zafari/1114970756
Kobo (now includes Sony): http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-cask-of-amontillado-common-core-standards-reading-lesson-plan
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/296110
Teacher Lingo: http://teacherlingo.com/resources/items/the-cask-of-amontillado-common-core-standards-reading-lesson-plan.aspx
Teachers Pay Teachers: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Cask-of-Amontillado-Common-Core-Standards-Reading-Lesson-Plan-613894

The Tears You’ll Never Cry

Poem "The Tears You'll Never Cry" over a background of clouds and balloons

Written for the victims of the Newtown, CT shooting and their families.

I’m the kind of person that has a delayed emotional reaction. Most times, it takes a while for things to sink in, which is great for emergencies. The problem is, once the sadness settles in, it takes much longer to leave.

Knowing this, I tried to avoid the news over the weekend and, for the most part, succeeded. But enough of it creeped in that it devastated me anyway.

I mourn for these children. I grieve for their families. I wrote this for them. It’s unlikely you can tell, but I cried the entire time I was writing it – for hours.

Could their ever be anything worse than a parent’s grief? I can’t imagine so. But unlike those who looked for an explanation or turn to religion for a sense of hope, I accept that we will never fully understand the why’s we insist on asking.

I had many well-crafted stanzas that ultimately found their way into the recycle bin. I wanted to convey the loss not only of the child but of their future. And it’s not just the happy times that have been stolen from them – they will miss out on every right of passage on their journey through life.

I’ve spent so much time with these words, I can no longer tell if I like them or not. I expect a lukewarm reception from the (US) public, who are so fickle about poetry.

But whether you like the poem or not, and whether I’ve succeeded, I wanted to honor everyone who loved those children, everyone who was robbed of their time with them. I salute those who fell trying to protect them and offer my heartfelt sympathies to everyone in pain.

I hope they didn’t understand what was happening so their last moments weren’t filled with fear. I hope they met Death quickly so they didn’t suffer any more than they had to. And I hope that, one day, the families, the town, the nation, will find a way to heal.

UPDATE:

I am working on a way to use the poem to raise donations for families affected by this tragedy. I am reviewing several options, but if there are any printers, crafters, or artisans that would like to collaborate, I would be happy to hear from you.

But I also strongly encourage making a direct donation to one of the funds that have been established.

The Newtown Memorial Fund
http://newtownmemorialfund.org/donate/

The Sandy Hook School Support Fund
Mail checks to:
Sandy Hook School Support Fund
c/o Newtown Savings Bank
39 Main Street, Newtown CT 06470

Checks may also be dropped off at any Newtown Savings Bank branch location – http://www.nsbonline.com/about-us/locations.aspx. Call 800-461-0672 with questions.

Or you can donate online with a credit card via the United Way of Western Connecticut.
https://newtown.uwwesternct.org/

The Emily Parker Fund
From the Emilie Parker Fund Facebook Page:

“Donation Options For the Emilie Parker Memorial:

America First Credit Union: Emilie Parker Memorial Account #5001359. For AFCU members transfer into Share Savings. For Non-AFCU members the routing number is 324377516

PAYPAL: Use the email – emilieparkermemorial@gmail.com

For US Post-Mail use:
Emilie Parker Memorial
PO Box 12751
Ogden, UT 84412-2751

To Donate to all the Sandy Hook Families Use the website:
newtown.uwwesternct.org

Thank you for your outpouring of love and support. This international concern is simply amazing. Thank you.”

Olivia Rose Engel
From the Friends of the Engel Family Fund Facebook Page:

“On December 14th, 2012, Olivia Rose Engel lost her life in tragic the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. Please click here to donate to the family: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=R9SZYL79ARREN

Noah Pozner
From the RIP Noah Pozner – Sandy Hook Massacre Victim Facebook Page:

“For those of you that are interested in donating to the Pozner family, here’s the link. Funds are being collected through eventbrite, and structured as tickets. Please donate any amount and please select today’s date as the day of event. Thank you so much for your generosity and may it be multiplied.

http://noahsarkofhopefund.eventbrite.com/

Sandy Hook Elementary School Victims Relief Fund
A CrowdRise Fundraising Project.

http://www.crowdrise.com/SHSRelief

Connecticut School Shooting Victims Fund Started by OneRepublic
On IndieGogo

http://www.indiegogo.com/onerepublicforsandyhook

Dawn Hochsprung
A memorial has been set up by the family of the brave principal who died trying to stop the gunman.

Donations:
Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung Memorial Fund
CT Teachers Credit Union
PO Box 2121
Waterbury, CT 06722

If you’re aware of any others, please let me know.

Nothing

A dark wind,
soft and gentle
against my cheek,
inviting – at first.

The cool breeze,
intoxicating,
as I stand,
watching the night.

A faux fall –
lingering summer,
the heat,
still oppressive.

Winter
is almost here,
and yet
I feel –

Ghosts in the Machine

We are but ghosts in the machine,
begat from nothingness,
our rise, our desire to be,
inexplicable.

We are no more than the whispered fall
of snow upon the mountains,
no more than the silent
smile of ice, pristine.

Our deaths are in the rainbows,
in the butterflies,
in the false promises of spring,
wordless and fleeting.

We cling to every moment,
our every thought espoused supreme.
But we are no more than
30 seconds of life.

When wind and water wash away
our footsteps from the sand,
no one will be weeping;
no one will even notice when we’ve gone.

Timeless

I could never, in a lifetime, devise
how to say more than the tears in my eyes.

And yet, they are inadequate still;
in silent song, they fall free, without will.

When first I saw you, I wept with surprise,
all of my heart pouring forth with your cries.

Then on the blanket of tears that I’d shed,
you laid your small, velvet feet, trusting head.

And with each fall of my breast, with each rise,
came your soft, subtle breath, silent sighs.

Filled with more love than I thought there could be,
I needed you, as much as you needed me.

And how the hourglass sands love defies! –
vast and endless as stars in the skies.

And what ever could there be more sublime
than a love undiminished by time?

For S & R
<3

Phoenix Comicon 2012

Exciting news for me!

I’ve been selected as one of the finalist judges for the first ever Phoenix Comicon Script Competition.

I’ve also been invited to be on a guest panel of screenwriters at the convention.

I’m so psyched!!!

The 2012 Phoenix Comicon is taking over a combined five floors of the Phoenix Convention Center and the Hyatt Regency hotel on May 24-27 (Memorial Day weekend). Register by May 23, and admission for the entire event is only $40! (Up to two children, 12 and under, get in free with a paid adult admission.)

Guests scheduled to appear include (I seriously can’t believe this!):

William Shatner
Patrict Stewart
Brent Spiner
Marinia Sirtis
Michael Dorn
Levar Burton
Phil Lamarr
Gigi Edgley
Jon Bernthal
Wow!!!