Category Archives: Creative Writing

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

When words are eyes, Part 2

OK. Last night I pretended to know something about movies, and talked about the kind of subtle acting you used to see in good films—particularly the kind of acting that’s done with the eyes. The thing about eye acting (if I can call it that) is that it’s a sort of visual subtext. It’s not like in a script, where the directions say, “Rufus goes to the window and looks out.” The eye acting is something the actor himself adds, and it probably hasn’t been explicitly written out in the script.

So how can I claim that there’s an equivalent in fiction writing? If you can’t write it in a script, you can’t write it in a story either, right?

Well, not exactly. Continue reading When words are eyes, Part 2

When words are eyes: Part 1

I watched Once Upon a Time in the West on DVD again yesterday. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m kind of in awe of that film.

I have two options when I watch a film on DVD. I can play it on my computer monitor, which has higher resolution, but the speakers aren’t so great. Or I can watch it on my regular TV, where I run the sound through my stereo. (I haven’t sprung for HDTV yet.) This gives me the choice of good visuals or good sound, but not both at once.

This time I watched it on the computer, paying attention to the shapes and colors and people. And I noticed something I thought I could cobble into a couple posts. Tonight I’ll talk about movies and acting, and tomorrow I’ll stretch the point, in the manner of the Inquisition and the rack, and try to apply the principle to storytelling. Continue reading When words are eyes: Part 1

A Christmas Crime Story by Andrew Klavan

Andrew Klavan has a short story on his blog, which can be obtained in print by ordering from the Mysterious Bookshop in New York. It begins:

A certain portion of my misspent youth was misspent in the profession of journalism. I’m not proud of it, but a man has to make a living and there it is. And, in fact, I learned a great many things working as a reporter. Most importantly, I learned how to be painstakingly honest and lie at the same time. That’s how the news business works. It’s not that anyone goes around making up facts or anything – not on a regular basis anyway. No, most of the time, newspeople simply learn how to pick and choose which facts to tell, which will heighten your sense that their gormless opinions are reality or at least delay your discovery that everything they believe is provably false. If ever you see a man put his fingers in his ears and whistle Dixie to keep from hearing the truth, you may assume he’s a fool, but if he puts his fingers in your ears and starts whistling, then you know you are dealing with a journalist.

To Say Goodbye, The Reason I Came

I’m going to stay away from the blog for the next several days, so be sure to tell all your online friends it will be safe to read Brandywine Books for a while. Start up a campaign, if you like. Send out the emails, saying, “Phil’s gone now, so go read his blog.” Of course, you can always say people should read Lars’ great blog, but now you have another reason to promote it.

Before I go, let me leave you with a snippet of fiction I wrote. I want to call it short short story, but it’s so brief it may not qualify even for that. Perhaps it’s a blog short. Anyway, have fun while I’m gone.

The Reason I Came

When they invited him to make himself at home, were they planning to treat him like the furniture? He wandered through rooms, receiving muttered acknowledgements from his hosts, who were busy paying bills, cleaning counters, and talking on phones. Maybe welcome was not their native tongue.

He found his nephew’s door ajar, inside the boy just waking up. He closed the door behind him and crossed the room to pick up a familiar book.

“Shall we read more about Robin Hood and his men?” he asked.

“Yeah,” the boy yawned, “I was just thinking about them.”

“That must be the reason I came,” he replied.