Uncategorized, writing technique

Raise Your Voice… uh, Voices!


I am not a sarcastic person. Sarcasm strikes me as mean — snarky condemnations passive-aggressively issued by arrogant people desperate to feel superior to those they ridicule. Those who are not the target may think it’s witty, but maybe they’re just relieved and smugly enjoying the fact it wasn’t aimed at them. After all, does anyone really deserve such ridicule? I’m inclined to give all* people the benefit of the doubt, and accept their occasionally foolish, irritating, mind-raspingly stupid behavior as an entitlement every human may claim. Even I could claim it if I were ever foolish, irritating, or stupid. None of which, of course, I ever am.

That’s the reason Romero Russo was such a revelation. More than two years ago, Romero started writing a book called Sarcasm Font. My first public view of him was on Inkshares during a marketing contest. After completing the first five chapters of his ambiguously fictional story, he started blogging. People found his writing funny and thoughtful:



Here’s the thing. I am him.


That’s right. Following an unexpected series of events leading to my brain slurring two words into a word you won’t find in the OED, a fit of whimsy took over. I began writing Sarcasm Font in a voice so unfamiliar to me that I couldn’t even claim author credit. Romero Russo was born. He had a life of his own. He didn’t speak to me; he spoke through me. No doubt other authors have had the same out-of-voice experience. I suspect they would agree: it’s freeing.

Version 2

The elusive Romero Russo (Photo credit: S.T. Ranscht)


Like many authors, I’ve written characters who say sarcastic things. Readers have commented that each of my characters has an individual, identifiable voice. But writing and living from inside a character whose voice differs drastically from your own is more like acting. If you allow that person to tell the whole story, the writing experience is more like watching the story than creating it.

When Romero went public on Inkshares, the circle who knew about the two of us was small: two of my sisters and my son. They were kind enough not to share Romero’s secret, but they weren’t shy about letting me know they thought it was kind of creepy that I talked about him as if he were real. He and I shared a Venn diagram overlap of followers, and we followed each other. Why wouldn’t we? We were marketing separate works by separate authors.

But when we started blogging, we were sharing our “selves” with strangers. That’s when it became a hoax. No one questioned it. Why would they? He said things I would never say. It was just so darn much fun to be Romero Russo.

After the 2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge, Romero went silent on WordPress. I was still working on Sarcasm Font, and planned to promote it under his name. I began to question the practicality of that when I wrote the short story behind one of his… um, life events, and entered it in a contest. Entry required a bio and a photo. I had those, no problem. But on the chance — however remote — that it won a cash prize, or was short-listed to be published in the anthology, wouldn’t I want the cash and/or credit to be mine? Yes. Yes I would. I submitted it under my name, and while it didn’t win any cash, it was published in the contest anthology. I got all the credit.

I also gave myself up. Someone — I leave the choice to acknowledge this to him — who follows both Romero and me procured a copy of the anthology and read my story, which I, appropriately though perhaps indiscreetly, called “Sarcasm Font”. He allowed that I might merely have appropriated Romero’s premise, but he also suspected that we might be one and the same, despite the difference in voices. When he asked me directly, I couldn’t bring myself to resort to “alternative facts”. I confessed.

My hope is that others may take some inspiration from this tale. If you haven’t yet written an out-of-voice story, I highly recommend it. It will open your mind to discover voices you didn’t know you had. Ideas that have never occurred to you before will flow. You might find your very own Romero Russo.




*(Except for one person to whom I gave a chance, but whose consistently reprehensible behavior has depleted my ability to tolerate. I might need Romero to speak for me for the next four years.)

fullsizeoutput_174 S.T. Ranscht lives in San Diego, California. She and Robert P. Beus co-authored ENHANCED, the first book in the young adult Second Earth Trilogy. She is currently submitting their baby to literary agents, determined to find the one who is their perfect match. Her short story, “Cat Artist Catharsis”, earned Honorable Mention in Curtis Bausse’s 2016 Book a Break Short Story Contest, and is available in its anthology, Cat Tales. “Sarcasm Font” appears in the 2016 To Hull and Back Short Story Anthology. Find her online: on WordPress at Space, Time, and Raspberries, Facebook, Twitter @STRanscht and Instagram @stranscht. You can follow ENHANCED on Facebook, Twitter @EnhancedYASyFy, and Instagram @secondearthtrilogy.


46 thoughts on “Raise Your Voice… uh, Voices!

  1. atthysgage says:

    Fascinating! Congratulations, Sue. I’m going to have to look into the Sarcasm Font (I wonder if I’ll see my own face reflected). Congratulations on all the positive responses. I admit, I have often wondered about doing a book under an assumed persona. I can see how it would be liberating. Of course, for building up an author brand (as people are always telling me I must), it is completely backasswards, but I’ve never let good business sense stop me from doing dumb stuff. I have the sales numbers to prove it.

    So glad you posted. I hope to see more.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hahaha! I am a big fan of defying convention, Atthys. Backasswards works for me! I believe all of us should be able to write whatever we choose and let the body of our work define us as authors. Fortunately, I am also free of any “author brand” at this point in my fledgling career. I may have the additional advantage of identifying as part of a team with my writing partner, AND as an individual free to explore other possibilities.

      Thanks for your encouragement. You know, you and Curtis are largely responsible for helping me see the possibility of rejection as almost unintimidating.

      Liked by 5 people

      • atthysgage says:

        Well, I’m glad to have been a part of that process. I still cringe at every less-than-glowing review, of course, but after the first fifty (or so) rejections, you learn to take them in stride. Either you quit, or you figure out that you aren’t really doing it for acceptance, no matter how much you might crave it.

        Liked by 5 people

        • Yes indeed, Atthys! “Cringe” is the right word. Though occasional red-spotted cheeks are a small price to pay for mastery of craft, eh? Ego must suffer that talent may grow. (Or one can simply follow the Isaac Asimov method of processing criticism (close paraphrase, responding to another writer): “Of course I read my reviews! And at the first hint of anything negative I tear the page out of the magazine or newspaper, crumple it up and get on with the writing.”)

          Liked by 5 people

        • So far, ENHANCED has received two rejections, one passive non-response and one form email. There are three more responses scheduled over the next couple of months, and then we start another round. We figure there will be many more rejections before the work connects with the right agent, but we’re committed to the process.

          In order to make it positive, I decided in advance to commemorate each rejection by making something beautiful. If you’re interested — and I’m not at all offended if you’re not — they’re posted here:


          and here:


          Liked by 2 people

    • Ah, Tiptree / Alli! I can understand her choice in the scifi community of the ’60s. It’s marginally more accepting now, I think, but it may be easier to hide behind initials. 😉

      Thanks, GD. I hope you enjoy Romero!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Well done, Sue! You definitely need to read (if you haven’t done so already) the bio/fiction of James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon). She, too, found it liberating to write under an assumed name, although later in her career (once she had been recognized by the spec fic community as one of their best) Sheldon confessed to being troubled and somewhat melancholic about the bind she’d put herself in: Her persona was not the entirety of who she was, but merely a selectively-prismed aspect thereof; therefore, any fulsome praise and/or confidences shared with her by her peers were always asterisked by the notation: communication betwixt an actual person and a fraud; between the real and the ersatz (howsoever brilliantly and convincingly realized); between–as T.S. Eliot might have put it–“. . . the idea and the reality/Between the motion and the act/Falls the shadow” [of depression, doubt, second-guessing, gamesmanship, false fronts, misdirection, etc.]

    All the above, of course, is not meant to conflate your acerbic false-flag funning [sic] with the gender-intensity gamesmanship of Tiptree/Sheldon, but merely a prelude to asking: Have you read her? If so, any thoughts/comments?

    PS. Now–how do we entice you into reading and commenting on our WIPs? For that matter, how about posting something that you’re currently working on? Are you desirous of feedback re: any current project(s) of your own? (Or how about giving us–now that you’ve aroused interest–a taste of “The Best Of Romero Russo” by posting some choice bits under WIPs on this site?)

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you, Carl. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I have read some Tiptree. I don’t know if it made any difference that I knew “he” was a woman when I started reading. I believe I would have thought the female characters showed unexpected depth if I thought they’d been written by a man. I’m a huge Le Guin fan, but compared to what I’ve read so far of Tiptree’s, I think Ursula’s style is far more restrained and cerebral than Sheldon’s, which has an almost frantic urgency. Tiptree flings me through the story, and I like it! I wonder if their acceptance and rise in adult scifi was at least partly fueled by their broad explorations of alternative genders and sexuality.

      I wonder if Sheldon’s readership would have suffered if her ruse had been discovered shortly after first achieving acclaim. Would she no longer have been able to say the things she wanted to say? Was that the fear that drove her to keep up the pretense for so long? I think it would be more fun to be Romero Russo than James Tiptree, Jr., but I don’t know if I’d sublimate my own identity for my entire life to do it.

      About the works in progress — I need no enticement to read and comment. There are times I step away from social media, and I’m just returning from one of those periods. I’m eager to jump in — you are certainly not out of line to ask in any arena.

      But “The Best of Romero Russo”? Lol! It may be premature to think he has a “Best of…” at this point in his young life. His blog has 26 brief-ish entries that expand the Inkshares excerpt from the original book. They begin here: (https://romerorusso.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/apologies/). There’s also one series of The 3-Day Quote Challenge. He went with a theme: Unfortunate Quotes that Outlive Us. They start here: (https://romerorusso.wordpress.com/2016/04/20/3-day-quote-challenge-day-1/).

      Of course, I think they’re all fun, but here are three of my favorites that can stand apart from the story.
      1. “Men vs. Gentlemen” (https://romerorusso.wordpress.com/2016/04/17/men-vs-gentlemen/#more-1007),
      2. “Pet Peeves” (https://romerorusso.wordpress.com/2016/04/20/pet-peeves/#more-1229), and
      3. “Sycophants and Skepticism” (https://romerorusso.wordpress.com/2016/04/24/sycophants-and-skepticism/#more-1425)

      I would love to hear your honest opinions.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Gonna check all those links out, Sue. Thanks! PS. Did you know that Le Guin was Tiptree/Sheldon’s most constant pen-pal?

        LATER: LOL! Trump/Depp contrasting pics, toadies-haunting-blogs, grammar pet peeves. 3-day-quote challenge w/ associated pics = ROFL! :::wince::: More, please . . . Heh!

        Liked by 2 people

        • I did not know that about Le Guin and Sheldon. I’d known about Tiptree’s correspondence with Joanna Russ, but after a little more research (don’t you just love the internet?), I have a clearer understanding of both Sheldon’s sense of humor and the burden of being James Tiptree, Jr. That she managed to maintain the alias through 4 or 5 years of correspondence with women who felt they had become friends — much less 10 years as an author — is astounding. I can understand the disconnect.

          Haha! You’re welcome for the laughs. I hope you’ll find a few more when I start adding to the WIP section. Until then, feel free to check out the rest of Romero’s blog. You might find some scattered along there, too.

          I’m looking forward to reading your WIP, and I will definitely comment. Never turn down an invitation to opine. 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

  3. mimispeike says:

    I am knocked out by this voice we haven’t seen before. I have to read Sarcasm Font – where is it? I looked for it on Amazon, no luck. You are so much fun! Why haven’t you shown us this side of yourself before now?

    You are giving us a master class in promotion. I am paying close attention. You are a role model. Your energy is absolutely marvelous.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. mimispeike says:

    I have read the sample on Inkshares. The voice is great.

    Now I start wondering, as I do with anything, why this? Why that? Maybe you answer my questions down the road. It would be easy enough to blow them off, like so:

    “I wonder too, why do I, a zombie, need to eat? I am dead, no? Hell, how should I know? All I know is, when I don’t eat, I drag all day. How do I enjoy what life is left in me, there must be some or I wouldn’t be flipping you the bird right now. If I can’t pull myself off the couch, pull myself together and enjoy what I can still feel of the warm sunshine, what good is it being some variety of still kicking?” (Or are zombies like vampires, only active at night? I don’t even have that very basic piece of information.)

    “The sex is a no-go, believe me, I’ve tried. My taste buds are shot, I get no kicks there. I can’t manage to get myself drunk, I’ve tried that, tried and tried and tried. I take what I can get. That would be the breeze in my face, and, unlike cable TV, that I can’t afford, free sunshine. Look, lady. Don’t you go giving me an argument about needing to eat until you’ve been a zombie. Then we’ll talk.”

    Now, I know vampires need to drink blood. I am not familiar with zombies. Maybe they do need to eat, maybe this is well-acknowledged info. I don’t think I’ve ever read a zombie thing. You may put me down as a nervy know-nothing, and you’d be pretty close to the truth.

    Excuse me for butting in. I am obsessive about answering any challenge to my own logic, as you will see in my story about a talking cat. I have a sick need to believe, absolutely. I drive many up the wall with my doubts. I hope you’re not one of them. I am not clear on this, is the book finished? If so, please ignore my rude, but well meant, remarks.

    This looks like it will be huge fun. This is a refreshing take on the genre.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Mimi, this is great! Thanks for reading the Inkshares sample.

      No, I’m not easily driven up any wall. I don’t want to leave you hanging, and I intend to fully address your questions and remarks, but give me a few hours to digest them. Food for thought, thought for food — it all takes time to make the most of the nourishing bits.

      Liked by 4 people

    • I’m with you, Mimi — I WANT to believe, and I’ll believe anything as long as it makes sense.

      Zombie conventions — no, not like ZombiCon — like commonly accepted tropes about zombies:
      1. They are neither living nor dead. They were once living people, then they died, now they are undead, and they have no memory of life. No one knows how they un-died. Some stories assume a virus was to blame. One story claims it was a combination of a tainted psychedelic drug and a specific energy drink. The earliest stories don’t try to explain it.
      2. They shamble.
      3. They are attracted by loud noises.
      4. They moan, groan, and make all manner of horrible sounds, but have no intelligible language. They don’t understand language.
      5. Their skin is in tatters.
      6. Their guts are known to hang out — no, not like teens at the mall.
      7. They eat human flesh and guts in the earliest stories. Later stories added brains to their diet. They need to eat or they will waste away to a pile of mummified skin and biting bones.
      8. The earliest zombies couldn’t be destroyed, even if beheaded or burned to a crisp. Later stories allowed a zombie would be re-dead if its brain was destroyed.
      9. If a zombie bites you, you will become a zombie after you die — usually that night in your sleep. Unless it eats your brain. One story also says if a zombie scratches you, you will become a zombie. Unless it eats your brain. “The Walking Dead” has it that everyone is infected and when you die, you will become a zombie whether or not you were bitten.

      Zombie stories are typically about the living people and their responses to the undead, not so much the undead themselves. How do you handle the Zombie Apocalypse? Of course, at least some of the protagonist’s friends have to turn into zombies. “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is a marvelous take on Elizabeth Bennet’s story during the Zombie Apocalypse reconstructed in Jane Austen’s style. Only one other story (iZombie) besides Sarcasm Font tells a story from a zombie’s point of view, but there are differences in their basic assumptions.

      Sarcasm Font defies many of the common conceptions about zombies. Romero has his own theories and experiences. He shares them in his blog post “Inquiring Minds”, here: https://romerorusso.wordpress.com/2016/04/11/inquiring-minds/

      I think one of the things that sets Romero apart is that his sarcasm is more eye-rolling than angry or disdainful. His situation perplexes him, but not beyond his ability to cope. He is a practical realist who finds himself dealing with an unreal unlife, but it has not made him unhuman. It has set his mind free.

      I hope Romero and I have answered your questions, but if you have more, I’m happy to entertain them.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. mimispeike says:

    Thanks for clearing that up for me. I should have done some research before I jumped in. Brains it is, then. These are more complex critters than I thought. I do enjoy your Holden-Caulfield-style zombie.

    That was a dumb thing to do, to criticize the behavior of your critter without knowing a thing about him. Well, I’m dumb like that sometimes. I’d better not judge vampires either, which I also do. I see that my scorn for the undead overlooks the abundant possibilities, with which you are doing a magnificent job.

    Liked by 2 people

    • No, Mimi, it wasn’t a dumb thing to do. It was eager, and I’m happy to have sparked your imagination and enthusiasm.

      I was never really into the zombie subculture until I discovered Romero. Then, as good friends do, I set out to learn as much as I could about his world. In addition to research, I started watching “The Walking Dead” because my friends insisted it was GREAT, then spent the first season and a half wondering how that show ever became popular. But by the end of Season 3, I could hardly wait for Season 4 to drop on Netflix. There are currently 6 seasons complete, and I re-binge the entire series before each new season.

      Sarcasm Font is the flip side of all that Zombie Apocalypse mayhem. Here, we can join the normal-looking zombies, just trying to get by and not get caught. I choose to believe they exist in all zombie apocalypse stories — but how would any non-zombie know?

      The more I think about Carl’s suggestion to put up a WIP, the better I like it. So as I rebuild the story in the WIP section, I trust each of you will share any and all of your honest feedback. How else will Romero and I grow?

      Liked by 2 people

  6. GD Deckard says:

    Zombie Max
    The name is already publicized for you. 🙂 Zombie Max might make a great peripheral character for Sarcasm Font? He could be a corporate/political insider (ala Dick Cheney) who shows up to hunt Zombies, invariably shooting off one of his own body parts in the process until, in the end, his bearers bring him hunting in a body bag with eye holes & a shooting port.

    Ooops, sorry Sue. I have a rule Never to tell another writer what to write. But… Sarcasm Font is creative and contagious as a Zombie bite.

    Please let me know when Sarcasm Font is published? (GD at Deckard dot Com) I’ll happily buy a copy and review it for you on Amazon.

    *[photo: Zombie Max, Certified Zombie Ammunition, Z-Shot 12 gauge 00 buckshot. Live ammo sold as a promotion by Hornady, “Just in case…”]

    Liked by 3 people

    • LOL! That is too good! I wonder how they tested it to certify it as “zombie ammunition”.

      Your Zombie Max character would be a memorable semi-regular, and it’s a fantastic zombie name — although the little “TM” might suggest it’s not intended for non-licensed use. 😉 I suppose it might be possible to claim I thought the Trademark applied to the entire “Zombie Just In Case… Max” when I receive the Cease and Desist Order from Hornady’s legal department, and avoid fines and/or litigation. But think of the publicity Romero could gain!

      I’ve always wanted to use the name Justin Case — maybe as a lawyer, doctor, plumber, or assassin, but I think someone else already has. How about Zombie Maxfield Perish [sic]?

      Liked by 1 person

      • GD Deckard says:

        Meh, the TM probably only applies to use of the name on firearms ammunition. A fictional character is hardly competition to Hornady.

        The Walking Dead has some great lines. My favorite is by Hershel: “I can’t profess to understand God’s plan, but when Christ promised a resurrection of the dead, I just thought he had something a little different in mind.”

        Liked by 2 people

        • Dear, wise Hershel. [moment of silence]

          Oh, and even though I have to wait for Season 7 to post on Netflix, the day after its premier, I found out who Negan killed. Near broke my heart.

          Ooo! How about Zombie Max Hornady? That way, they get a promotion, too?

          Liked by 1 person

  7. mimispeike says:

    GD says: I have a rule Never to tell another writer what to write.

    Good advice. I’ll try to follow it. I’m pretty erratic, and often unable to behave myself. But at least I’m not president.

    Now that I know something about zombies, more questions occur to me. But I guess I’d better keep my mouth shut and let you tell the story.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. mimispeike says:

    Well, I can’t help it. I’ve reread your sample on Inkshares, just to be sure I’ve got it right. I have what seems to me a hilarious idea, which would be a tangential detail and not affect the plot. Problem is, it might outrage a lot of people. It speaks to the question: how does a zombie get anyone to rent him an apartment?

    Sue, you’ve really fired up my imagination. Now you have to live with it. It’s your own fault, for writing such a wonderful thing.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Here’s an off-the-cuff kooky thought: What if your zombie alter-ego/blogger (& protagonist in his very own novel-length literary adventure?) never uses the words brain or brains in his writing? Since the trope of brain-eating is pretty well established (though all rules/genre conventions are meant to be broken) I wonder if it might add a bit of stifled-giggle sparkle to R.R.’s prose if he refers to brains as . . . strawberry jam. Or some-such. (Just throwing it out there.)

        Liked by 2 people

      • mimispeike says:

        You say his skin is in tatters. He can hide his guts falling out under a trenchcoat, but the shambling, the yukky skin, who would rent to this guy?

        I think he threatens to sue, the landlord is in violation of the discrimination against the disabled act, whatever it is called. I think, accused of discrimination, a lot of people would try to make nice with the fellow, maybe even take him to dinner, embarrassed by their all too obvious revulsion at a poor unfortunate. He can play that disabled card again and again. I even have a name for his condition. Well, I can’t remember it, but with a little digging I could find it.

        I had a debilitating pain in the right side of my face. I had attacks two or three times a year. It went on for twenty years. I went to doctor after doctor after doctor. Each specialist sent me to anther one: Nope, it’s not allergies. Try a sinus doctor. Nope, no sinus problem, see a dentist. Etc. Every time an attack would come on I went into hysterics. I thought about committing suicide.

        I finally got sent to a neurologist. He ran a dozen tests on me, sat me down, and said, I diagnose you with blah-blah-blah. It was long, it was Latin, I said to myself, that’s it. I have a terrible, rare disease, I’m a goner.

        Then he explained, that means, You have something wrong with you and we can’t figure out what it is. Your guy can trot that diagnosis out as his very legitimate-sounding disability. It sure scared the hell out of me.

        Well, I met and married a man who had been a healing practitioner (between other careers) back in Germany. He listened to my symptoms, said, that sounds like . . . (crap, I can’t think of the word right now) . . . he treated me with B-12 shots (or B-something, can’t remember that either, and I’m not going to wake him up to ask) and the condition went away.

        He said, that condition is well known in Germany. The cure is known as well, for a hundred years. What’s wrong with the doctors here?

        Liked by 3 people

        • You’d think doctors would consult the world of data at their fingertips to learn about symptoms they don’t recognize. Surely with a hundred year history, there must be references to them on the internet. Yeah, what’s wrong with doctors here? German sensibilities seem to embrace a meticulousness many other Western cultures apparently don’t have the patience for. I’m glad you met and married a man who could cure the condition that mystified so many specialists. And it’s a great story.

          Please do dig up the name of the zombie disability. It would work for S&S (slow and stupid) zombies. Tattered skin and hanging guts are two of the conventions I had to defy for Romero, who is one of the almost-normal-looking zombies. (” ‘OMG! You don’t look anything like the zombies on TV. You look normal.’ Which is true if you compare me to redheads and albinos. I’m kinda pale. But other than that, I’m a pretty average guy.”) It’s not essential that he keep his condition secret, but he’s just trying to blend and still get brains, so he’s not advertising it, either. He has a blog in his story, too, and he posts anonymously so he can talk about it freely.

          Thanks, Mimi. You presented a situation I hadn’t considered, so now I can consider it. I anticipate including conventional S&S zombies at some point. Perhaps it will work then. Let me think…

          Liked by 3 people

  9. Thank you, Sue, for posting this. I’m delighted to have prompted it in however small a way. And glad to see the reactions are enthusiastic – as is deserved. To me Romero was already a great writer and blogger before I ever suspected he might be you. And when you confirmed he was, my admiration soared. To the prowess of the zombie narrative was added the brio of the hoax. Brilliant!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. mimispeike says:

    Sue, I’ve googled Latin medical terms and have found nothing. I did get the impression it’s a standard term. I have a doctor appointment in two months, I’ll ask then. But, looking through the list of standard phrases, it wouldn’t be at all difficult to cobble something fun.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thanks for your efforts, Mimi. I’m interested to hear what you learn from the doctor.

    I confess to studying Latin for two years in high school. Seems only reasonable I should put them to use, doesn’t it? I’ll start cobbling.

    Liked by 2 people

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