Saturday, March 12, 2016


John M. Daniel’s Blog
March 12, 2016

<photo: John teaching photo>

It should come as no surprise that one of the most useful elements of storytelling is surprise itself. I’m thinking mainly of fictional stories (for example, the unexpected turn of events, the revelation of secret information, the sudden change of a character’s nature…these are all staples for almost all mystery and suspense fiction), but surprise also enhances true accounts, and especially memoir pieces.

The main reason surprise is so important to a story, besides that entertaining gasp of the “aha!” moment, is that it almost invariably causes a change—to the plot, to the characters, to the relationship between characters. Change is essential for stories. Change provokes or contributes to the chain of consequences that drive the  plot.

This week I’m pleased to present nine 99-word stories written to the theme “It Hit Me Like a Tornado.” Not surprisingly, each of them contains at lest one surprise.

For those who don’t know, I feature 99-word stories on this blog during the second week of every month. You’re invited to participate by send me your stories. For details, see the rules below, as well as the prompt for April.

Speaking of surprises, please check out the promotion at the end of this post of Bradford Dillman’s new novel, Beneath the Third Waterfall. This startling novel is full of surprises!


It Hit Me Like a Tornado

by Jim Gallagher

As kids we played a game called telephone. It was fun seeing how a message could change, when passed from person to person.
During one such game, ten kids were seated side-by-side. The first kid whispered a message to the kid on his left, and each kid in succession did the same. The message wasn’t be revealed until it reached the tenth kid, who then said exactly what he had heard.
He stated, “I heard ‘The city likes a tomato.’”
We roared with laughter when the first kid revealed what he had said: “It hit me like a tornado.”


by Cathy Mayrides

Ages ago, I dedicated myself to becoming a high school dropout.
I knew what time to retrieve the “Notice of Absence” in our mailbox each afternoon. In the morning, I would walk to school but wind up at the bus stop with other reprobates. We would go to Greenwich Village and hang around the Washington Square fountain.
I was busted by the Dean of Girls. She shoved a paper toward me and said, “Sign out. You’re wasting our time here.”
It hit me like a tornado. “No, no,” I said. “I’m staying! I’m graduating!”
Reverse psychology at its best.


by Richard Loessing

According to the fine print, my new medication might cause nausea, insomnia, depression, impotence, voracious appetite, narcolepsy, mania, and monster libido. For starters.
Sounded like fun, so I swallowed a dozen tablets and waited to find out who the real me was, stripped of serenity and sanity.
The shitstorm hit me like a steam roller, a sledge hammer, a ton of bricks. I toured the howling, putrid afterlife, burning and freezing till I woke up strapped to this hospital bed.
Such a hangover!
I can’t wait to get discharged, go home, double the dose, and do it again.


by Carol Dray

“Carol Ann, come say hello to your Aunt Betty.”
I stepped away from my game of checkers, casting my brother the stink eye.
Aunt Betty embraced me, a familiar scent awakening something in me. “Ohhh, Carol Ann! I haven’t seen you since your mother took you back when you were six weeks old.”
I looked questioningly towards my mother, who nervously wiped her hands against her starched apron.
“Oh, well…yes. Aunt Betty took care of you for six weeks after you were born. Now run along.”
Later, inhaling my newborn, spellbound, I trembled.
Why did my mother abandon me?


by Jerry Giammatteo

 She sat nervously in the waiting room. He had become ill on the voyage across. Their fate was in the hands of anonymous doctors who were examining him now. She was hopeful, but frightened, a haunted look in her eyes. The children sensed her uneasiness and huddled close.
 At last the door opened and he emerged. He looked at her and as she held his gaze, he smiled. They were free to enter New York.
 The realization hit both like a tornado. They knew no one, and he needed to find work—quickly.
But they were in America to stay.


by Christine Viscuso

“It hit me like a tornado, sir, me seeing this.” Policeman Weatherly spoke, as Detective Harry Cane walked around the room. “Saw the open door, no lights. Looked in and saw her, Taffy Hovenstadt. Has a bullet between the eyes. Geez, looks like a funeral, with all the flower pieces. All from men.”
 “I see.” Detective Cane pulled a card from a dozen red roses, artfully arranged.
“Some florists sure had a profitable Valentine’s Day.”
“What about the hubby?”
“He sent his. These red roses right here. Has an alibi. Died last evening, sir.”
“Then who killed Taffy Hovenstadt?”


by Pat Shevlin

Brother Ben finally left; his surgery had kept him on Tricia’s couch for the past four nights. 
The phone rang at 8:40 p.m. Friend and fellow foodie Ann calling: “Oh good, you’re home! Can you drive me to the E.R.? I sliced my thumb. It won’t stop bleeding.” 
Two days later, the call was from her closest friend. “I have a huge favor to ask. Can you drive me tomorrow to have a spinal procedure done?” 
It hit Tricia like a Tornado; there was no cell connectivity at the beach.
Peace was a two-hour drive and cresting wave away. 


by Diane S. Morelli

Marianna sat by the only window that overlooked the street. For once, her eyes were not affixed to the sidewalk. She gazed upward.
She was mesmerized by the moonless expanse, a murky celestial ceiling tormented by contorting clouds.
“The sky is like my marriage,” she thought. Her relationship with Luke was stormy when he drank and scary when he beat her with harsh words and hateful hands.
Then it hit her like a tornado.
There was nothing to fear tonight. Luke’s key wouldn’t fit in the tumbler Marianna installed today. He, and his rage, would remain outside the door.


by Diane Hallett

Jane wanted coffee. Starbucks was 26 miles. I was a runner.
I avoided the elephant stampede by jumping off road; the ditch was quick sand. I grabbed a vine and swung myself out. The vine was a snake. I pulled my knife and slashed. The smell of blood attracted a cheetah. He couldn’t go the distance. I ran to the shop.
My wallet at home, I mopped the floor for trade.
Returning, I drank the coffee.
Jane eloped with Sinbad.
Exhausted, I leaped for my bed, missed, finding the jungle floor.
Sleep finally; it hit me like a tornado.



Calling all authors—
I feature a guest author the third Saturday (and week following) of each month. If you’re interested in posting an essay on my blog—it’s also a chance to promote a published book—email me directly at


Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories

The deadline for April’s 99-word story submissions is April 1. The stories will appear on my blog post for April 9 and the week following.

note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.

Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:

1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to:

THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR APRIL’S 99-WORD STORY: “Spring can really hang you up the most.”


And now a word from our sponsor:
Recently published by Daniel & Daniel, Publishers, Inc.

Beneath the Third Waterfall
a novel by Bradford Dillman

$14.95 Trade Paperback
ISBN 978-1-56474-581-1
Order from your local bookstore.
Also available from Amazon
and other online bookstores
and direct from the publisher:

San Franciscans gather for a weekend of competitive frolic

It’s the social event of the season, this summer weekend in 1938 at Waterfalls, the Santa Cruz summer estate of San Francisco millionaires Chester and Lily Moreland. The occasion is their daughter Abigail’s fortieth birthday. Family members and guests arrive, bringing along with them their sporting togs and formal wear, their desires and ambitions, and their fair share of shameful secrets. They play games: golf, cards, pool, horseshoes, and one-upmanship. They drink and they dance, they gossip and squabble, they indulge in sneaky love affairs. It’s all good fun among the upper set until long-hidden family secrets are revealed, and the dark past crashes the party.

Beneath the Third Waterfall is part bedroom farce, part novel of manners, part mystery, and all entertainment.

Bradford Dillman spent 40 years performing on stage, screen, and television. He won a Cannes Film Festival award for his role in “Compulsion,” and he appeared as a guest star in a record eight episodes of the television program “Murder, She Wrote.” According to the brief biography on IMDB, “Dark-haired, Ivy League-looking Bradford Dillman, whose white-collar career spanned nearly five decades, possessed charm and confident good looks… and [an] edgy countenance that often provoked suspicion.” In 1993 he retired from acting to devote himself to writing. Beneath the Third Waterfall is his sixth book. He lives in Santa Barbara, California.


Thank you for tuning in. Drop by often. And don't forget the Joy of Story!


  1. I agree, as always, great stories!

  2. Pat and Madeline, thank you both!

  3. Hey John, I love those 99 words greatness.

  4. It's no surprise that I enjoyed your blog and all the 99-words stories, John. Always a treat!