Human Accounting

This story was originally published on Magnificent Nose for their first Flash Fiction Week. Each story had to be 300 words and include 3 characters.

Russ grabbed his brother, spun him around and hugged him. Under his breath he said, “Thank God you’re okay.”

A reluctant breeze swayed the yellowed, ruffled kitchen curtains and cigarette smoke swirled around the dingy room.

Russ then pushed Jackson back and slugged him. Jackson flew back, knocking over the kitchen table. Mother’s crystal salt and pepper shakers skidded under the pie chest. (more…)


Free Online Logo Design – Product Reviews

(This post was first published at the Polaris Marketing and Business Solutions blog on 7/18/2012.)

One of the best ways to get a fresh start, or establish your name and presence in your industry is to update your corporate logo. It gives people an instantly identifiable image that people associate with you, your product, and your services.

Creating a logo, though, can run into the hundreds, and for many small businesses – especially start-ups – that’s just not a cost they can swallow. Even those among us who are not designers in any way will take to rudimentary paint programs, or even word processors to create their logo.

Thank goodness there are a few decent and affordable options available on the web right now. Here I review three of them,, and I’ll show you the existing logo for my company, Polaris Marketing and Business Solutions, and how I updated it using each program. I may even keep one! (We are in the process of re-designing the website, I will post information about the re-launch here!)

Here is my existing logo:
Polaris logo

When you first get to’s logo tool, you’re directed to choose an icon group. I chose “Consulting, Business”. Then, in trying to come close to my existing logo, I clicked on “Abstract Icons”, though you have the choice of “Symbol Based Icons” or “Letter Based Icons” as well.

Once you have an icon selected, the logo tool is very easy to use. There are a limited number of fonts, but most of them are serviceable. You can rotate, resize and change colors on your icon as well as any text you add. The big problem with Logomaker is that you apparently have to use larger fonts to make them useable on any website in low-res. Here is the preview I saw in’s tool:

Here is the logo link that I received from them. As you can see, the resolution is so low that thinner fonts are unusable, even on the web.


Here are their terms and conditions for logo use.

“Free Web-Ready Logo. Users understand that the Free Web-Ready Logo is for use on the internet and should not be used in printing or other channels. LogoMaker retains the rights to the logo and does not transfer the logo rights to the user until the logo is purchased by the user. Users must use the logo code as it is provided and should not alter the code in any way. User understands that the Free Web-Ready logo contains an embedded direct link to LogoMaker and/or one of its sister sites. This link is to remain embedded in the logo and should not be altered or removed.”

Price to buy the logo in hi-res and use for print: $49.

Conclusion: If you’re just playing around with ideas for your new logo, this is a good place to go. The icons are nice and professional, and the tool is easy to use.

The first thing I’ll recommend is that you create an account first on I didn’t, and after I’d already created my logo I’d lost my design when I tried to save it.

In’s tool, you start by picking an image category. As with the other tools, I selected “Abstract”, but there are options like “Household”, “Compass”, “Animal”. After looking through “Abstract” for a while, I came across the “Various” option, and I found a reasonable icon there.

The tool is much like other tools, except here you get to enter up to five lines of text, instead of the typical two. You have the ability to resize, rotate and color, but some of the fonts seemed like odd choices (to me) for a logo. Either way, there are a few straightforward fonts, so getting something for a professional service isn’t really a problem. When you’re done, they send you a link for download. There don’t seem to be any restrictions on how you use the logo, or any arguments over rights. Here’s the logo I created with

Conclusion: While some of the icons and fonts are a little goofy, you get a real 300 dpi, full-color logo for free with no restrictions.

As with, in’s tool, you start by selecting your industry. I selected “Marketing and Communications”. Here again I was given a choice between the marketing and communications icons, or I could also select “Letters” or “Abstract”. seems to have a bigger selection of abstract icons – 17 pages with 24 on each page. I found one that was useful, and probably the closest to my current logo than I’d found on any of the others. Once you go into their design tool, you’ll see that they, too, only give you two lines of text. However, there are options that aren’t available in the other tools like “Shine”, “Reflect” and “Shadow”. Also, you have the ability to stretch the original image, which I couldn’t do in the other programs. When I was done, I clicked on “Download”, and I had the low-res image. I didn’t see any use restrictions on the low-res image when I downloaded it.

When you download your logo, will immediately send you to a place where they generate a mock-up of a website and business cards, whether you want them or not. The first time I tried to download the logo, the delay to get to the next screen took so long that I decided to go back and re-submit my design. When I did, I lost the design. This might be another site where your best strategy is to create an account first before you do any logo design.

Here’s the logo I made with


Price to buy the hi-res logo: Regular $69, on sale now for $19.

Conclusion: has a robust logo design tool, and the free low-res logo, along with their current sale price and lack of use restrictions, makes this an attractive place to go. If they can get the links between their design tool and website sale page to work more reliably, I’d give this website five stars.

All in all, it’s nice to know that there’s finally a place for the solopreneur, or the cash-strapped company, to go for corporate re-branding on a budget. As always, a professional designer can give you a logo that more closely fits the identity that you want to portray. However, it might not be a bad idea to play around on one of these tools first before approaching a designer, so they’re not starting completely from scratch.

A Beach Escape

Myra Porter was lost in the mental clutter of everyday checklists as her husband and kids poured out of the family minivan into the chaotic beach parking lot. The kids, five and eight, had just now calmed to a merely excited level, down from frantic, and were buzzing around their father as he packed a large rolling cart. Myra secured the van with keys from a keychain that held a picture of her recently late father, and gathered her family for the trek to the beach.

“Matty, get back here!” Myra yelled to her older child. “Dana, stop playing with the gravel!” She shared a weary look with Don as both shook their heads. Then looking forward said, “I miss him. I’m not in the mood for this.”

“You’ll have fun.” Don smiled, knowing she wouldn’t.

Myra, the vanguard of the family entourage, hummed beginner’s singing exercises as she sallied on past tented and soggy families who’d arrived earlier, gotten a good spot, and were snugly nestled into the yielding sand. They found a place to set up camp; kids were undressed and sunblocked. They ran gleefully toward the water, carefully dodging frisbees and beach balls as they went. Don glanced at her, but knowing that she had used up all her personal energy for the day – as she did often and early since the funeral – followed them to make sure they didn’t wash away.

Myra watched them briefly as they left, smiling as much at the sight of them as at the fact that they were walking away. She crawled under their new beach shelter, popped a rolled-up towel under her head and picked up the paperback her new book club was reading. It was a mystery and she was on page 78.

She was just meeting the murder victim’s son when lifeguard whistles blew urgently. Three short, shrill blasts directed curious eyes to the lifeguard stand, where stood a diminutive boy.

“Anyone lose a kid?” the high-school lifeguards shouted. Myra eyed the boy. Small, nervous, almost apologetic for his presence. He stood there for a few minutes examining the crowd desperately before someone motioned for him to sit down.

Myra looked around, as though she would be able to pick the mother or father out of the crowd herself. An anxious feeling surprised her, something ancient and maternal, but was duly labeled and beaten back. She resolved that surely someone would be along soon enough, and commenced reading about the surviving relative.

Things were getting good on page 152, when she realized it was lunchtime. Children all over the beach were being called, and an army of wet children returned to their blankets to consume sandwiches with added sand. Juice boxes were administered, and consumed meals were rewarded with animal crackers and trips back to the water.

Ever the planner, Myra had a few extra sandwiches and a couple of cheese sticks, just in case. She walked over to the lifeguard stand and asked the teenager, a serious-looking athletic blonde in a red bathing suit, “Hasn’t anyone come for him yet?”

“No ma’am. Central dispatch is too busy to pick him up too, but he’ll be ok. We’ll watch him.” The teen winked at her, a habit which Myra found annoying.

Myra smiled at the boy warmly, and received a polite smile in return. “Do you like peanut butter and jelly?” He smiled and nodded. “How about apple juice?” Another nod. “Is it ok if I give him some food?” she asked the lifeguard. “It’s lunchtime.”

“Thanks! I didn’t even think of it.” said the girl, upset with herself for not having brought him something from her own lunch. “That’s really sweet.”

Walking away from her good deed done, she couldn’t help but theorize about the boy. Where were his parents? Surely they were frantic by now. Maybe something had happened to them. Her thoughts began to run toward the macabre, but she managed to stop herself, thinking that perhaps she’d had enough of that novel today. A few minutes later, the lifeguard dutifully blew her whistle a few times and shouted “Anyone lose a kid?”

Myra paused, looking around. She waited a few seconds, frowned, and then plopped herself back onto the blanket. Distracted, she set to the business of cleaning up the mess from lunch.

“Time to build a castle!” Matty jumped on the younger Dana, who yelled and attempted to remove her sibling in a grandiose flailing way that had great comic value. A fight over who would carry the pail from the ocean to the construction site ensued, until their father settled it by picking someone. Even though Myra was not reading, she sensed an extreme invasion of her peace, and something needed to be done. As she looked around for an escape, perhaps a familiar face or an oncoming tidal wave, she caught sight of the boy on the lifeguard stand. He had beautiful eyes, soulful and old. Also, he happened to be staring in her direction, with a glassy stare that looked both at and through the tumbling, sandy family.

She walked the few steps back over to the stand. “Can he play with my kids until they come get him? He looks bored.” The teenager looked warily at the woman but the boy looked at her with big eyes and said, “Please?”

“Ok, but just until the truck comes. It’s been a crazy day. A lady had a heart attack this morning and there’s a guy with heat stroke a few beaches away. They’lll be here when they get back from the ER.”

The lifeguard jumped off the stand and hauled the boy onto the beach. “Make sure I can see you, ok?” He nodded and took Myra’s hand as she walked.

“What’s your name?” asked Myra.

“Emett,” he responded.

“Emett, nice to meet you. I’m Myra. These are my kids Matty and Dana. Guys, this is Emett. Can he help you with your castle?”

Emett was immediately brought up to speed on building plans and various responsibilities. He excelled at digging trenches, and provided good voice when a superhero was required. He was also good at jumping across moats and could move deftly while not collapsing the gables. He fell in naturally with the family, like they had been friends for years.

Myra watched Emett, whose toy soldier and princess were perched at the main gate of the castle, deciding how to lead a charge. As he pondered, he began humming a tune very slightly. Myra recognized it as one that she’d been practicing in her voice class.

And so, as he hummed, she sang along. “I’m on the Top of the World lookin’ out on creation…” He turned and gave her a broad smile which she gave back. For an imperceptible moment, Myra felt totally at peace. It was a fleeting feeling, but palpable and also familiar.

It was 2pm when the truck showed up. The lifeguard hopped off her perch to happily greet him, and pointed in the direction of the Porter family. A man with a badge trudged over to them.

“Are you the little boy I’m looking for?” The man had a friendly but worn smile, official-looking tags and a radio that chatted quietly at his belt. Myra guessed that Emett would be playing with paperclips and tape from someone’s desk until they found out where he was supposed to be. She wondered where exactly that was, as she resisted an implusive urge to hug him.

“Say goodbye to Emett, guys. He has to go.”

“Ok, bye!” both kids called out in a chorus. Myra knelt down to Emett’s level and said, “Thanks for playing with us! We had fun.”

“Me too, Myra. Thanks for everything. Goodbye.”

Emett turned to leave, taking the man by the hand and chatting with him as they walked down the beach. He glanced over his shoulder once, and Myra made sure she was looking at him, in case he needed to be reassured. He caught her eye and she smiled and waved. He smiled, then went back to talking to the man with the badge.

Matty and Dana ran to their father. “Can we go down and get more water?”

“Yes, but we’re leaving in a little bit, too. About a half an hour.”

“Ok,” sighed disappointed voices in unison, and they took his hand and dragged him to the surf.

Myra watched as Emett was loaded into the truck. The official got into the driver’s side and drove slowly away. The truck turned right, off the beach and onto a service road. Myra stared at the spot where the truck had disappeared for a while before she began to clean up the blanket and get ready for home. She fished her keys out of her purse so they were ready for the van, and rubbed her thumb over her father’s keychain picture for a while, looking especially at his eyes.

“A Beach Escape” was submittted for a Writer’s Digest contest in the fall of 2011, and did not win. (Darn.)

A Venomous Plan

The air felt cold and wet, like a pile of fall leaves that had been raked up and left to sit overnight, decaying. The smell of burning fireplaces wandered into the streets, and the half-moon illuminated the gray streaky clouds from behind, turning them into silver yarn stretched thinly across the evening. The moon strained its brilliance to just barely mark the path to the headstone of a man who had died twenty-five years ago.

Juliet was already there, plaid blanket spread on top of the grave. She poured two glasses of red wine and lit candles. It was a celebration of sorts, an anniversary. She put poison in one glass, stirred it with a finger, wiped it on the blanket. She set the glass on the top of the headstone, smirking.

Kim had brought lilies in two small pots, and a spade. She placed them on the ground so she could hug her sister.

“Hi sweetie,” Juliet said warmly. “How’s life in marketing?”

“Ok, I suppose.” Kim folded her arms and looked around. The flickering candles on the headstone cast random shadows that outlined her tired eyes. “I’m not sure I’m drinking tonight. I’ve got a meeting tomorrow and a real chance to impress some people.”

“Your choice, I guess. We’ll just keep yours there in case.” Juliet gave her a smile that had just the right amount of empathy. Kim crouched down and began taking the plants from the bag, while Juliet ran her finger slowly around the top of her wine glass, idly staring at the swirling wine for a while. As her sister worked, Juliet asked “So, Why didn’t you introduce me to that VP last week at the restaurant?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I guess I just forgot. Hey, Let’s get these things in the ground before we kill them, too.” She looked up at Juliet, and the sisters shared a cold, silent stare.

“C’mon,” Kim repeated, resuming her work. “These things don’t plant themselves.” She grabbed the spade and began to hack at the ground.

“He deserved it, you know that.” Juliet whispered, and bent down to grab some weeds. “He thought he was so great. He thought he owned us.”

“Maybe. Whatever. I don’t think about it.” Rings on Kim’s fingers, now covered with wet dirt, barely reflected the scant moonlight; gold bracelets were coated with thin mud. She began to remove a lily from one pot, while Juliet grabbed the spade and started working on the other side of the headstone.

“And what he did to me…” Juliet tore at the ground with the spade, fresh anger from twenty-five years ago rushing to her hands. “He deserved to die.”

“I’m not getting back into this.” Kim dropped the plant into the fresh hole and began to cover the roots with dirt. “It’s over. We’re older. It’s done.”

“You don’t think we should’ve done it? You don’t think we should have erased this bastard from the face of the earth? You never take my side! You never do! Dammit!” Juliet was screaming now, her voice ricocheting off marble headstones everywhere. She threw the spade towards her sister, nearly hitting her. “Why didn’t you introduce me to that VP the other night? I need a job, he’s a contact. He works in my field. It would have been perfect. You never, ever take my side!” she stopped for a moment and looked around for help, only to notice a stone angel, perched on a nearby monument, glaring at her. “You’re embarrassed by me,” she said desperately. “Is that it?”

“I do take your side. Jesus, I killed a man with you. Isn’t that enough? Do I think we should have done it? No.”

“What?” Juliet shrieked. “He needed to die! We should have killed him twice!”

“Maybe you think so. I would’ve liked to see him rot. And you know what I would have done?” She leveled her gaze and looked into her sister’s eyes. ” I would have gone to his jail cell every day of my life and read to him about hell. I’d have told him that the devil was going to eat his soul. I’d have made him think about his blood boiling and his eyes being gouged out. Every day. Dying was too good for him.” And then she paused, looked down at her hands and began to rub off the dirt. “And you know why I didn’t introduce you to that VP?” she said in low voice. “Because I don’t know him. I was showing off. For you.” The statement hung in the air like a tattered flag.

Juliet was shocked at Kim’s vulnerability. She was considering the many things she might have misconstrued through the years, when Kim stood up and said, “Now I need a drink.” Juliet still holding the other lily and kneeling on the ground, was powerless to stop her sister from draining the glass that was on top of the headstone. She screamed, “NO!”, and the word was still echoing in the graveyard as Kim grabbed her chest and began to choke, a quizzical look on her face, which then ┬áturned to horrific, familiar realization as she fell to the ground.

Juliet threw down the plant, fell over her sister and cried. It was a while before she sat up, and began stroking Kim’s hair, and whispered in her ear that she was sorry and that she loved her. And it was a while after that when she felt the burning stare of the stone angel upon her. Judging her. Pitying her. Hating her. As it neared morning it was the angel who was the only witness, when Juliet poured another glass of wine, sprinkled on a bit of powder, stirred it with her finger, and licked it clean. She laughed out loud through tears as she finished the glass, and collapsed to the ground. Off in the distance, behind far tombstones, the sun was beginning to brighten the night sky.

This story was written by Ceil Kessler for the Ligonier Valley Writer’s ( Flash Fiction Contest, held every year for Halloween. The story had to be 1,003 words, including the words “twenty-five”, “anniversary” and “silver”. This story was awarded first place, and was read at free, local events┬áduring the 2011 Halloween season.