How We Write – Driving Me Crazy

Our prompts were: He was such a bad driver; not for all the tea in China; and what do you mean by no?

Looking at the prompts, it just seemed natural to Kyros that the person saying “no” was responding to having to ride with the bad driver, and that they wouldn’t ride with them “for all the tea in China.” This evoked the many field trips Orion took in the fifties with the other kids from her Methodist Church.

When you’re trying to write flash fiction like this, look for links between the words. Draw from your own experience. What does A have to do with B? Once you have even one link, you have the germ of a story. Let it grow from there.



“No?” Pastor Mike demanded. “What do you mean, no?”

“I won’t ride with him,” I shot back, shaking my head. “No way.”

The minister glared down his hawk’s nose. “C’mon, Alex, at least tell me why.”

“He’s dangerous.” I gestured over my shoulder where the youth pastor, Kurt, sat in his car. “I won’t ride with him. Not for all the tea in China!” (more…)

How We Write: A Saucer of Ice Cream

Our prompts for this story were: summer, pet, friend, you, ice cream. This time, they came from both of the writing groups Orion was in. The words summer, friend, and ice cream obviously inspired kids having a picnic of some kind.

But we couldn’t just write a simple story like that. We had to put our own spin on it. When Orion first heard what Kyros had planned, her eyes bugged out and she exclaimed, “You can’t do that!” But he convinced her, so here’s the sweet, twisted result.

Oh, and in case you’re curious about where the characters’ names come from, Pandor and Epimeth are shortened versions of Pandora and Epimetheus, the first humans created by Prometheus in Greek mythology.

A Saucer of Ice Cream

“I’ve never had this flavor of ice cream before, Pandor” the little boy squealed, spooning another large bite into his mouth. “It’s yummy!”

“I know, Epimeth” the little girl exclaimed. “My daddy picked up the stuff to make it on the way home the other day. Mommy made it up special ‘cause it’s been so hot this summer.”

They heard a crash from inside the house. Suddenly, the family pet burst through the door, careening across the yard directly at them. (more…)

How We Write – Islands of Sleep at the End of the Map

Our prompts were: Islands at the end of the map, drinking water.

This was the first short we wrote where we didn’t interpret the prompt literally. Our prompt, drinking water, became the name of a street, instead of just having someone drink water for no reason other than to use the words. Besides, we set the story in a pub! Who goes to a pub to drink water?

We also experimented with the form on this one. We wanted the reader to become part of the story. We hoped that by the end, the reader will feel like the narrator is speaking directly to them.

When we edited the story, we found the length was exactly 503 words. So we read back over it to see if we could find three words that were unnecessary to the plot to make it end up at exactly 500 words. And we succeeded!



Barkeep? Gimme another drink.

No, I have not had enough yet!

What’re you doing here in the middle of the day, pal?

Sally sent you? To bring me home?

That’s not going to work. I got business I need to handle.

This thing? It’s magical. Got it from Esmerelda. You know, the witch on Drinking Water Lane. (more…)

How We Write – Future Tense

The prompts for this story were grand, judgment, and stone hammer. The prompt, grand, reminded Kyros of the Grand Canal in Venice because he had just come back from a vacation there. The prompt, judgment, immediately made both Kyros and Orion think of tarot cards because they both use them occasionally. That left the stone hammer. Being fans of Viking culture, Orion and Kyros always liked Thor’s hammer necklaces. Kyros also remembered that the Eight of Pentacles in the Morgan-Greer Tarot deck has a stonemason using a hammer.

Our story of a woman on vacation getting a tarot card reading unspooled from there, as did the plot, a nice little romance.



“The first position indicates your past year.” The tarot reader tossed her hair back as she turned over the first of the five star-covered cards to reveal a medieval workman at his bench. “The Eight of Pentacles. Hmmm. It looks like you’ve been working too much, my dear.”

Oh, she has no idea, Elizabeth thought to herself. This last year’s been nothing but work! Well, maybe not all. A wry smile came to her lips. There’s always Jason. Though all we’ve done lately is fight… She let that thought trail off, giving her mind a shake. This business meeting in Venice was the perfect excuse to take him somewhere he’d never been before. Hopefully, this beautiful setting will help rekindle our romance. C’mon, what’s more romantic than the Grand Canal?


How We Write – Life Like the Movies

We had two sets of prompts for this story, the ones we normally get from Orion’s Writer’s Kickstart group (If you want time, The end of the bridge, Jinxed) and the ones from the writing group she started in her apartment building (Historian, Identifiable face in the clouds). While we don’t usually have this abundance of prompts, the combination dovetailed into a story quite nicely.

We also employed the stricture of making the story exactly 500 words. Many of our stories fall pretty close to that, though few come in exactly at 500 words. These days, it seems hard to get them under a thousand! Editing short stories to 500 words proved to be an excellent way to learn to edit your own writing and to learn to see what is and isn’t necessary for a good short story. It also teaches you to cheat on the total! For example, you can use contractions to take the word count down.

We set this story in Peru because Kyros has always had a love for the Incan culture and knows a bit of their history. That country provided lots of chasms, bridges, and mist-shrouded valleys to play with.


“C’mon, Carlton. I just need a couple of weeks off. My sources say that last earthquake in Peru uncovered new Inca ruins. If I leave right away, I can be the first person on site. Think of the prestige Stockwell College gets if I discovered something new.”

Dean Carlton Whitmore looked down his long aquiline nose at me. “Wash, finals are in three weeks. There’s no way you could get there, find anything interesting, and get back here before that. I’d have to find someone to sub for you for the rest of the term. Do you know how expensive that would be?” (more…)

How We Write – All Wet

The prompt for this piece was just the word Rain.

Orion tried to think of something funny to depict on this topic. Someone getting splashed by a passing car? Too easy! The end of the world in flood? It’s been done dozens of times. Hard rain? Perpetual rain? Well, Orion does live in the Pacific Northwest, so that’s a given, during the winter anyway. (It’s currently raining, in fact.)

Read on to see what direction Orion took.

This is one of the shortest short stories we’ve ever written!


I HATE getting wet!

Remember that snappy pop song, I Love A Rainy Night by Eddie Rabbitt? He didn’t know what the hell that guy was talking about. Rainy nights were the worst!

I swear, he thought, this rain is trying to smash me into the pavement. My hair’s plastered to me like a second skin. It’s coming down so hard I can barely see my path. (more…)

How We Write – Holmes At The Ready

The prompt for this story was to take a literary character and put them into a new situation. Orion immediately thought of Sherlock Holmes. He’s one of her favorite characters, whether on TV or in the movies.

When Orion sat down to write this story, she saw an ad for a speed dating event at her favorite local hangout. So, she put all those things in a blender and out popped this little story.

It’s quite nice to see someone get the better of Holmes for a change.

When Orion asked Kyros to help polish this story for the blog, he didn’t think Orion had made the female character enough of a match for Holmes, so he put his particular spin on her words to make her a better foil for Holmes.


Sherlock Holmes entered Tipsy’s Coffee Palace, lips in a wry twist as a bouncy teenager leaned forward, giving him a clear view of her ample cleavage. “Please sign in here.”

He wrote HOLMES in square black letters and slapped the nametag on. The atmosphere pressed in on him, equal parts tension and hormones, with a dollop of fear. (more…)

How We Write – Founding Father

The prompts for this story came from the writing group that Orion started in her building. They had the word bounty. Since Kyros hates just having one prompt, they grabbed, extra prompts from a cool little thing he found on Amazon called Storymatic. The prompts that came from there were: shouldn’t have touched it, nobody is watching, trespasser.

The way we got into this story was that we wondered “what was it that the person shouldn’t the person have touched.” Orion suggested a dragon egg. Kyros liked that idea and thought it would be funny to steal it from a museum. That’s why she hides out in a museum in the middle of the story. That’s where she stole it from in the first draft of the story. It wasn’t until we were writing the very end of the story that Kyros got the humorous idea about who the father of the baby dragon should be. That caused us to go back and re-write our protagonist stealing it from the White House instead of a museum.

Orion used to sell stone eggs as dragon eggs at medieval fairs. When children asked if they would really hatch a dragon, she told them, “Of course, in two hundred years or so. If the egg doesn’t hatch, they should bring it back to her for a refund.” Behind the children, their parents were usually trying not to laugh and spoil the fun.

Now she collects stone eggs for herself. They live in a woven basket on her countertop where visitors can handle them while she regales them with the origin story of each one. She hopes they don’t hatch anytime soon. Though maybe the cat would like a new playmate.

When she went looking on Google Images for a picture of a stone egg for this story, she found herself drooling over pix of eggs she didn’t have…yet! The picture she settled on is a dragon septarian stone egg from Madagascar and she wants one!


“Excuse me, miss,” the man in the ebony suit called to her. “We need to check your bag before you can leave the White House.”

Icy panic raced through her veins. Did they see me take it? I thought nobody was watching. Did they catch me on a camera? I shouldn’t have touched it, let alone taken it. But I had to have it. (more…)

How We Write – The Doctor Will See You Now

This is probably the shortest piece we’ve ever written! And from only one prompt, too: Spring. While the other writers in the group went with the season of spring, we went elsewhere. Just a sweet old lady going to the doctor…


“The doctor will see you now, Mrs. Tobor.”

“Thank you, dear.” Eyes twinkling, she smiled at the nurse. “You’re always so helpful when I come in with a little problem.”

“Please wait here in exam room three. Dr. Stein will be right with you.”


How We Write – A Ridge and a Rug

Orion doesn’t think there even were any prompts for this story. She says it just came to her after she tripped over a perpetual bump in the area rug in her living room. The story evolved from there. And yes, before you ask, she does indeed talk to and command obedience from inanimate objects. While they usually obey her, they don’t ordinarily talk back. Except for her cat, who isn’t an inanimate object, but has opinions about everything, and, of course, insists on sharing them with her.


I was tired and my feet were dragging when I got home tonight. Even with the streetlights filtering through the living room curtains, I could barely see my way. Feeling about for the light switch, I tripped, sprawling spread- eagle across the large Oriental rug.

Shaking my head, I climbed to my knees. I’d tripped, yet again, over the damned two-inch permanent wrinkle in the rug. A long day, combined with work problems and lack of supper overwhelmed me. Irritated, I ground out, “Now look, rug. I’ve had it with your constant ridge, right where I’m trying to walk.”