Category Archives: Creative Writing

View the Review

A reader told me today that a bookseller had told her that the TV series Vikings was based on my novel West Oversea.

I hadn’t heard about this, but if I’ve got money coming, I hereby retract all my hard words and declare that Vikings is the greatest depiction of the Viking Age ever depicted. (I think the episode where the de-Pict Scotland is yet to be aired.)

Today my essay on Christian Fantasy, entitled The Christian Fantasy, appears at The Intercollegiate Review‘s web page. Thanks to Anthony Sacramone for the invitation.

I think that gives you enough to read this evening.

Family Reunion: Advent Ghosts 2012

“Not this again!” William growls.

The traditional roasted chicken and dressing, gravy, green beans, and corn sit steaming on the table while his wife glides about the room, bringing honeyed ham, broccoli casserole, rolls and muffins, tomato and squash soups—everything as overabundantly perfect as it had been every Christmas. Beautiful, but ethereal.

His sons and daughter, their bodies scorched from the fire three years ago, quietly urge him to eat “to forget this weary world.”

Eyes burning, he throws a coat over his pajamas and stumbles into the icy street. His wife follows with a cup of flaming cider.

(Index of all stories submitted to the Advent Ghosts Storytelling Fest)

100 Word Short: New Year’s Eve

Katelynn set down her bowl of noodles with a sigh that next year would be different, more productive, a little creative, and maybe romantic somehow. She’d lose weight and eat healthier meals. Her tree with tiny picture frames and thinning garland lingered by her apartment’s balcony door. A stack of unaddressed “Best Wishes” cards sat on the couch beneath an empty bag of chips. She stretched out her feet to rest on a laundry basket and began searching for cookbooks and cooking videos online.

And her coke fizzed like it always did. And her clock ticked like it always did.


I hope you have a good year, and in case you need a warm-up on tonight’s song, this is “Auld Lang Syne” as performed by Scottish folk group The Cast. And should you need a warm-up on your Christian theology, here’s an article by Tullian Tchividjian which has greatly blessed me this year. (link removed)

Flash Fiction: Katie J.

SMART KEYClouds bully the sun trying to rise over her head. Growling thunder leans heavy on the trees across the street. She walks to her car, ruminating on her mistakes until she doesn’t find her keys. Did she leave them in the car—on her desk? Did Jerry—take them? She’ll lose her job, if she loses her keys.

Like a black eye, the sun pierces through ugly clouds as she wilts.

“Dear Jesus—when does it end—what if I—help me. Help me.”

The keys lie in the grass behind her. She grabs them and stumbles to her car.

Flash Fiction: The First Time

He pitches another rock over the barley stalks.

“Is my work not vital? Of course. That’s not what he rejects. I am. What more could he…? Does he need blood?”

His brother calls from the hilltop. Cain lifts his face to him. “Blood I can get,” he mutters.

“Are you still angry?” Abel asks. “If you do well, he will accept you.”

“I know you’re right,” he replies. And favored. Cain feigns confession and waits for his brother to turn his back. The stone shatters against Abel’s skull. Cain strikes him again as thunder rolls above—what have you done?

Flash Fiction: Hard Work Night

2:28The bells do not toll but clatterknell from the nightstand, clanging into the dusk’s waning light with the chirigrate of hammering steel. His veined eyes, sunk deeply in his ashen face, crack open. Another graveyard shift ahead, settling dozens of overdue accounts—kill that racket!

He drops his feet to the floor. What if he doesn’t go in tonight? He could take vacation. Who would care? Would the world stop spinning?

The dog whimpers at the door.

No. Duty summons.

Death, the Grim Usher, stumbles out of bed, hoping the coffee maker isn’t burned out again, Cerberus licking his heels.

Lo, the Beggar Cometh

Six hamburgers, fries and cokes—Doug toddles to his car, fast food bags stuffed between his arms. Setting a drink tray on top of his minivan, he catches a beggar’s empty stare across the parking lot. He fumbles for his keys. The beggar shudders to his feet. Finally inside, Doug locks the doors, drops the keys, and starts the minivan.

“Stay calm,” he mutters. “Don’t know why he’s waving. Can’t see him.”

He drives away, watching the sad beggar in the side mirror. The red light comes up quick, and with his jerky stop, coke sloshes his windshield from above.

(100 Word Short Short or Flash Fiction)

The Night After Christmas: An Advent Ghost Story

Wayne’s car died downtown while a frizzy-headed kid watched. Three sickly children stopped playing under a large electric snowflake when he walked by, and a pale, stained baby, rolling on the sidewalk, began wailing. Now he runs past the shuttered tourist-shop windows, seeing shadows in doorways, twisted faces in car windows, and figures from the corners of his eyes. The rumor can’t be true–that children, murdered by Herod, haunt the streets tonight seeking abusers. Broken sidewalk catches his foot and cracks his knee like a walnut.

Then they come.

Pallid boys emerge from the cracks: grabbing, pulling, twisting, choking.

(Thanks for Loren Eaton for organizing this shared storytelling event. See his post for a list of other stories.)

Reunion: An Advent Ghost Story

Mary Beth hopped through the door spritely, like she’d always done, alighting on a chair. Her dark curls bounced as she glanced around, but he sat gaping. It had been three years since the funeral.

“Why don’t you throw out that sorry wreath I made? Christmas is about hope, grace, life–” She stopped herself with giggles.

His heart skittered. “But, honey, you–ain’t you dead?”

Her impish smile grew. “Darlin’, Death’s been beat.” She reached and lifted him like a newborn. He gasped, then laughed as dawn crashed in with trumpets, announcing a triumphant king’s return.

(Thanks for Loren Eaton for organizing this shared storytelling event. Here is his index post with links to other stories, and I have one more story to share a little later this morning. Merry Christmas.)

Windy Street Halloween Writing Prompt

Here’s a bit of creative writing fun we can have for the last half of October, the approach to Halloween. Look at this photo from Carlos Miguez Macho of someone walking in the street. (I don’t believe I would be permitted to display the image here.) Then write a few sentences, a momentary scene based on the photo.

I suppose I should start, but look at the photo before reading the submissions. Continue reading Windy Street Halloween Writing Prompt

Eagle Eye Pigeon: Secret Agent

This is story is part of Loren and B.’s Shared Storytelling: Six Birds.

Close-up of an information sign at an airport

Stokes awoke that morning, which meant he was alive—as far as he could tell. He still suspected the Cubans at Poco Burrito of being a front for Castro’s international revolutionary army, but now he knew they didn’t poison his bean dip last night. Perhaps they don’t suspect him, or perhaps they made a mistake and poisoned someone else. He could check the files for everyone he photographed using the micro-cameras in his ear studs.

“But there are bigger fish to batter,” he muttered.

“Water. Hot,” he said as he stepped into the shower. No water came until he turned the knobs by hand. One day, he thought, the bathroom will be fully automated.

Over his coffee and freezer waffles, the news feeds screamed of possible threats and leads. Spring break threatened by vigilante wildlife in Bull Moose, Maine. Japanese crime boss eludes Iraqi police by wearing a burka. Apple’s new iPork could inspire a wave of high tech breakfast food designed to spy on us.

Sigh. Continue reading Eagle Eye Pigeon: Secret Agent

Christmas Eve Ghost Story

An illuminated window on a dark night

Clock face is blinking. All is not calm, despite acceptable profits, contract bonuses—some unavoidable layoffs. Year end in the black as starless night, silent night, without bells or winds. On Christmas Eve, only sleepless, blinking red numbers.

But who’s on the lawn below? Hollow-eyed, ashen children are kicking cans, and are they singing? I throw up the sash. “Born to raise the sons of earth . . .” they rattle.

I start to yell, but a rag-wrapped child grabs my hand. “I would have been seven this Christmas.”

I jerk back, and they’re gone, leaving my hand chilled.

— — —

I wrote this in response to Loren Eaton’s group solicitation for 100-word advent ghost stories. Read more such stories by way of his blog, I Saw Lightning Fall.

Up from slush

I’ve made a careful survey, and I think I can say authoritatively that I’m now the only blogger in the world who’s never mentioned Susan Boyle.

Oops. Scratch that.

Over at Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, there’s this amusing article about the (vain and counterproductive) lengths some writers go to, to get a magazine editor’s attention. It’s a fun read, and there’s much wisdom there. (Tip: Loren Eaton at I Saw Lightning Fall.)

I enjoyed reading this article in particular because there are a number of quotes there from George Scithers and Darrell Schweitzer, who used to be my agents. Before they were my agents, they were my editors at Amazing Stories, which gives me a rare opportunity to feel smug, since I managed to please these discerning connoisseurs of slush, once upon a time.

I’ll tell you how I made my first sale to them, too, at no extra charge. Continue reading Up from slush