How We Write – Tea With Mary Jane

It’s said that you should never piss off a writer, or they will kill you off in their next book. But writing can be a good way to express other feelings too. In this story, I thinly disguise real people in my life and put them in a humorous situation.

The prompts we had to work with were: tea bag, blue moon, leap year, and pot. The connection between the tea bag and the pot was too obvious, so of course, Kyros had to put a spin on the word pot and interpret it as marijuana.

Orion based the characters, very thinly disguised, mind you, on her friends, who spend most afternoons huddled around the puzzle table. Without the pot, of course! After we had the characters and the marijuana, the story just fell into place. Let us know what you think in the comments. Enjoy!

Tea With Mary Jane

“You okay, June?” Karla asked as the white-haired woman came into the commons and approached their table. “You look a little green around the gills.”

Three sets of eyes swung up from the thousand piece puzzle in front of them. Even Karla’s cocker spaniel, Lady, raised her head, hoping no doubt for either food or a man’s attention. Food disappeared as if by magic, while any man would set her golden coat aquiver until she had been thoroughly petted.

June giggled. “Oh, yes. Perfectly fine.”

Olive gave her a concerned look before placing a seemingly random piece into the puzzle. Selma, sitting in a comfy chair observing the action, clapped her hands quietly, a smile on her face.


How We Write – Moving Down South

The prompts we had this time jogged one of Kyros’ memories, so that became the framework for this story. Our prompts were: The view out of my window, muddy shoes everywhere, and UPS truck (which we ended up interpreting as Universal Package Service because of the location). In another life, Kyros was the cable guy. One day he pulled up to a home in a new development area that had a sea of mud for a front yard because they hadn’t laid the sod yet. Shortly after he arrived, the homeowner’s kids barreled past him and into the house, leaving a trail of muddy footprints. The mother’s reaction was priceless and left an indelible mark in Kyros’ memory.

The decision to set the story on Mars came about because we had both recently seen the movie The Martian. So with Mars firmly in the forefront of our minds, figuring out what view was out the window was a snap. Olympus Mons is the largest mountain in the solar system. How tall? Would you believe that it is so broad and the slopes are so gradual that from the edge of the caldera, the base of the volcano would be beyond the horizon. It’s a volcano so big that it curves with the surface of the planet. Why wouldn’t you move someplace where that was your view?

Moving Down South

Half-buried amid towering stacks of boxes, Janet Parsons glanced up sharply as her kids thundered in the side door.

“Stop! Both of you!” she shrieked. “Look at your shoes!”

The two boys skidded to a halt and inspected their red-mud-covered sneakers. Ralph twisted around, his eyes following their crimson footprints back to the door.

His little brother, Cecil, gulped out, “We are sooo busted.”

“What did I say before you went outside?” she asked ominously.


How We Write – A Cold Winter’s Night

Our prompts here were: The red box, the blue-edged side of darkness, and the white moon of winter. To Orion, under the influence of reading Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series of fractured fairy tales, the prompts suggested a dark fairy tale. She started with the setting and let the character lead the way. This Little Red Riding Hood, though, doesn’t need a woodsman to save her.


The white moon of winter, its old man’s face sharply drawn, shone brightly on the dappled landscape. Sometimes it hid from the girl among the branches of the winter-bare trees. The snow underfoot squeaked with her every step. She longed for color, any color to prove she hadn’t fallen into a black-and-white illustration from one of her storybooks.

Stumbling over a tree root, she almost dropped the long narrow box she carried. Darkness painted it ebony, though she knew its stain was bright red, its carved lid inlaid with abalone shell that winked at her as she fumbled with it.


How We Write – Through The Mirror At Christmastide

The prompt for this story was: Nestled in the corner of the attic. Orion is fond of time travel stories, ignoring the logic, or lack of same, that Kyros usually finds in them. This little story unspooled itself from the idea of time-traveling through a mirror. The original story wasn’t quite as logical as it is now that Kyros has turned his hand to it.


“Terry, we have to save her,” James cried, making for the library door. I nearly lost him on the second set of stairs, barely glimpsing a door closing. My lungs burning, I flung it open, launching myself up yet another set of dusty stairs, this time into an attic.

A manor house this old had to have an attic, I thought, but who needed help to send Terry bolting up here? He’d just been holding a gold-framed photo as if it were the most precious thing in the world. Over his shoulder, I’d seen a pretty girl with long golden curls and dimples smiling sweetly from the back of a spotted pony. I’d never seen her before, but then, Eastland Manor was James’ home, not mine.

I caught up to him in a dim corner under the rafters, staring at a huge ancient mirror.

“What…are…you…doing?” I asked between panting breaths.


How We Write – Of Cook and Carrots

Continuing our examination of how we write flash fiction, next up is OF COOKS AND CARROTS. This short was written from a single prompt, carrots.

For us, contrary to what we have heard from other writers, working from a single prompt is much harder than from multiple prompts. When you have several prompts, you start to see connections between the words which creates the world and thus your story. With a single prompt, however, the possibilities are endless and we find we don’t know where to begin. With this story though, once the character of the wizard showed up, the story practically wrote itself. From the time we started until we finished was barely over an hour. Enjoy!


“Cook, have I not told you before?” the wizard asked, raising an elegant eyebrow. “I refuse to eat carrots.” He pointed one long finger at the steaming trencher with its orange intruders. “Take these things away. Now.”

The red-haired cook didn’t budge. Instead, he crossed his arms over his chest, a long wooden spoon held at the ready. He rocked on his heels, making his spotless white apron sway beneath his belly.

“Master, do you remember the omelet you raved about this morning?”

Puzzled, the wizard nodded. “Of course. It was splendid. What of it?”


How We Write – Now, Class

Here’s the next piece in our examination of the way we write short stories. The prompts we had this time were: Blue sleeves, farmers market, pawn shop, indispensable, thoughts of a crash test dummy, summer.

The first thing that jumped off the page and inspired us was the line about “thoughts of a crash test dummy.” What exactly would a crash test dummy think about? That led us to contemplate what kind of discrimination it would face from other robots. (Can you tell we read a lot of science fiction?) After all, crash test dummies are essentially made to be destroyed. That sparked the thought of early Star Trek TOS stories where they presented prejudice in a way that the audience could relate to without challenging their real-world prejudices. The rest of the prompts quickly fell into place once we had that germ of a story. What came out of that contemplation is the story that follows….

Now, Class

“Okay, you with the blue sleeves….” Professor Ian Carmody consulted his seating chart. Around him, the students in Finance 101 waved for recognition. “Ms. Trefell, where would you spend 100 credits?”

The young black woman stood. “At the farmers market! It’s even close to my dorm.” She thought for a moment. “I’d get some fresh veggies. Ooh, and that yummy honey the old lady sells. And I could really use a new scarf, my old one’s practically falling apart.” She smiled. “That would probably leave me just enough to grab one of Mr. Dewey’s fresh-made pizzas.”

“Tasty, I’m sure.” He laughed at her enthusiasm. “Next, um,” He glanced at the seating chart on his tablet computer. “Mr. Jackson.”


New short story collection coming soon!

We’ve been hard at work on a new anthology entitled The Other Realms Brewpub (ORB for short).

This anthology contains stories from our new Modern Magic Universe series about a place where magical creatures co-exist with the modern world.

The idea for this world came from a Facebook post where someone complained that they wanted a magical universe where you get a shot of confidence in your espresso before you go on a blind date. Kyros thought that would be a fun place to play and shared the idea with Orion and off we went.

There will be twelve stories in the first collection, all centered around a magical brewpub located in the middle of nowhere Kansas. We’ll introduce you to the pooka who owns the bar and is also the cook. The bartender who is a centuries-old banshee. Along the way, you’ll also meet leprechauns, fairies, witches, gods, and a multitude of other magical creatures. Oh, and it’s also a favorite hangout for the Prince of Darkness! Everyone has a hell of a good time!

How We Write – Weather The Storm

Our prompts for this story were persuasion, it was a close thing, Chinese food, and suddenly sunshine. We thought about a couple arguing about whether or not to have Chinese food. We both drew upon our early dating history to flesh out the disagreements between them. Then we wondered, what if one of them was a weather witch? This is the story that unspooled from there. 


“I’ve always wanted to see Celtic Thunder in concert. How did you manage to get tickets, Andrea?”

“My aunt dates one of the guys in the group.”

“Really? That’s cool.”

They heard a rumble reminiscent of the sound effects from the concert.

Andrea giggled and nudged him with her elbow. “Sounds like someone’s hungry.” (more…)

How We Write – Hog Wild

This story was written several years ago for the prompts: Barn, Bossy Team Leader, One More. When we edited the story before posting it, we found that our voice and timing had grown substantially. The changes in word count moved the story from flash fiction to short story in length (over 1000 words). Also, I think we made it funnier!

Hog Wild!

Jackson Stevens sidled into the conference room, juggling his laptop and morning espresso. He shoved the door with his elbow and headed for the only vacant chair at the table: right next to his bossy team leader.

Killian Porter, Director of Programming for their all-reality cable network, glared at him, pointing to the still half-open door.

“I know your show’s about farm animals, but were you born in a barn?”

“Oh, sorry, sir,” he said, hastily using his shoulder to close the door.

His boss was a large man who seemed to be stuffed into his suit. The man positively fumed while watching Jackson boot up his laptop. The rest of the room waited silently.

Once he’d finished fussing with the machine, Killian stabbed a finger at him. “That’s one more strike against you, Jackson.”

“Since you finally decided to join us,” he said with an exaggerated tone of politeness, “would you care to update us on the overnight figures for your show?”

“W…w…well, sir, the overnights are great for Hog Wild. Our new show seems to have hit the key demographics hard.” Jackson smiled at his boss. “Apparently, people love watching the crazy antics of people who race hogs professionally.”

Killian chuckled as he tilted back in his chair. (more…)

Where do we get ideas for our stories?

We’d like to give you a peek into how we create our short stories. Technically, most of our stories are flash fiction, loosely defined as 1000 words or less. Short stories usually run 1000 to 7500 words.

Orion belongs to a writing group that meets every two weeks and conspires to come up with three prompts to use in a piece for the next meeting.

Once we get the prompts, we spend a day or two mulling them over. Usually, we come up with a few ideas for stories that could include all of the prompts. After a bit of discussion, we sketch out a rough outline, mostly detailing the dialogue, with a few character actions. Once that is done, we dig into whatever research is needed.

Sigh! I should tell you that research is often a black hole from which most writers have great difficulty escaping. One topic leads to another, one website to twelve others, and on and on, falling down the internet rabbit hole!

The funny thing is, much of what we find isn’t even included in our story. This research helps us to understand the character or the setting or some other aspect of the story. For example, for the short story ARROWHEAD, we did extensive research on adopting a child from China. Our research resulted in maybe eight lines in the finished story. However, the knowledge we gained about the subject influenced how we wrote the entire story and the way the characters felt and acted.