How We Write – The Music and the Magic

Our prompt here was, Is that your banjo?

Suddenly, Orion found herself in a barn with musicians tuning up in front of a rustling audience. Having read the Bedlam Bards series by Mercedes Lackey, it was apparent to her that everyone was waiting for the magic to begin.

The challenge was to convey the theme without overusing the words ‘magic’ and ‘music’. Such a short story—the span of only one song—required a lot of back and forth between Kyros and Orion to produce a clean story that rang true.


 

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THE MUSIC AND THE MAGIC

 

The dim hall rustled and stirred with quiet chatter as the audience arrived and took their seats. I walked up to the stage, my battered black case thumping against my leg.

“Is that your banjo?” asked the frontman of the small ensemble settling in to play the first set of the evening.

“Sure is,” I said, pulling my instrument from its case. The metal glinted in the stage lights, its white face shining like a full moon.

“Care to join in and make some magic with us?” (more…)

How We Write – Perils of the Princess

Orion wrote this little story for the prompt: The boy beside the mailbox. When Kyros first read the story, he made a face, saying he needed a shot of insulin to counteract the sweetness overload!

It was an okay story, as written, but the editing made it much more fun and not quite so sweet. It’s sort of an extended joke. Kyros felt that the story gave away the ending way too soon, so he suggested some edits that helped conceal the surprise until the very end.

We hope you enjoy our little modern-day fairy tale.


Photo by Ricky Kulmann

 

PERILS OF THE PRINCESS

 

The boy beside the mailbox waved his arms at the fire truck. The first fireman out of the cab ran to him, kneeling to the boy’s level.

“You all right?”

“Yes, sir. You gotta hurry! Our dopey old doorman is trapped in daddy’s office by the front door.” He sniffed and wiped a tear from his soot-covered face. “And you gotta save my sweet princess!”

The fireman turned quickly to the other firemen. “There’s a man inside. Doc, Hap, find him!”

Turning back to the boy, he asked, “Is there anyone else in there?”

“No, just the three of us.”

“Good boy. Now tell me where to find your princess.” (more…)

How We Write – The Backyard

Orion wrote this a long time ago, for the prompt: Children live in the real world. Adults are acting out the fantasy. She says she started it not knowing how it would end, just waiting for the story to tell her. Even she was surprised at where it went.

Then, when we got to revising it together for the blog, Kyros upped the ante and turned a little slightly disturbing story into a little piece of horror!

And it’s a much better story for our collaboration. That’s one of the perks of having a writing partner. We highly recommend co-authoring, if you can find someone whose skills, ideas, and level of writing match yours.


Photo by Caroline Hernandez

 

THE BACKYARD

“What’s everyone doing, Sammy?” asked five-year-old Kelsey, peering around the flowery bush. Her older brother Sam, all of eight years old, shook his head.

Beyond their hiding place, their parents were working furiously on the backyard. They had planted a small tree and were rolling grass over the newly turned dirt. Their father stood up, stretching his back. He wiped sweat off his forehead and took a drink of the beer sitting beside him. Their mother, kneeling beside the tree, glared up at him and pointed at the ground with the small shovel in her hand.

“Maybe it has to do with Aunt Katie coming next week,” Sammy answered.

“Why?” Kelsey asked. “Is she going to sleep under the tree?” (more…)

How We Write – Food For Thought

Our prompts for this story were: Oh, God, I have no idea and I don’t know whether to pet it or eat it. The last one made Kyros think that there was some kind of magical chicanery going on, similar to what happened in one of our earlier stories, Magical Rapscallions. We both thought it was a good idea to base this story in the same world since we already had a time period and cast of characters to draw from.

You wanna know how much Kyros loves writing these stories? He actually wrote the outline for this one on his cell phone—while waiting in the theater on opening night of Avengers: Infinity War.


FOOD FOR THOUGHT

“Excellent work, Leonardo! You’ve gotten much better at transmogrification ever since your little, um…,” My master gave me a rueful smile. “mishap with the king’s onions this summer.”

“Thank you, sir,” I said, feeling my face heat up. “It was two weeks before everything stopped tasting like onions. I swore I’d never eat them again after that!”

The old man laughed. “All right, boy. Since you’ve mostly mastered transmogrification, I think we’ll move on to something a little more…interesting.” Donatello stood, straightening his robes. “After lunch.”

“Interesting?” I asked, my eyebrows rising. “What exactly do you consider interesting?” (more…)

How We Write – The Photo

This is probably the shortest, at 186 words, and the darkest story we’ve ever written.

Immediately, the combination of the prompts, photo and the dumpster, led to certain conclusions. Orion wrote the story a few years ago, then, says Kyros, traumatized him with it! However, he’s responsible for some of the chilling details at the end that were added during editing.

It’s said, with some truth, that Orion kills characters off, not Kyros! But once Orion puts it out there, Kyros’ diabolical brain comes up with some very, uh, innovative, shall we say, methods to accomplish that goal.

 


Photo by Talles Alves on Unsplash

 

THE PHOTO

My mom framed the photo. She keeps it right there on the mantelpiece in our small rambler.

“See?” she says to visitors. “My lovely daughter and my second husband Nick.” She sniffs. “He was a policeman, you know, and a good one, they said. Always so good with the survivors, the wives and parents and kids.

“My girl? She’s thirteen there. Such a good girl. Sports star, good grades.”

A tear slides down her wrinkled cheek. Then she shakes her head.

“I don’t know why my darling husband had to die.”

I do.

Because of that ‘special’ warmth he showed me from the day they were married.

Because of the nights he tucked me into bed.

Because of the baby I left in a dumpster behind the high school.

You better believe I know why he had to die.

Why I spent a year growing hemlock in the corner of the backyard.

Why, after the paralysis set in, we had a nice long talk about his sins before he died.

And why I’m now the youngest woman in history to be sentenced to life in prison.

 

How We Write – Last Call

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

 

The prompts for this story were: dark star safari, last call, a moment of yearning.

As usual, the three prompts already suggested a story: Someone is loading for a trip. Dark star safari suggested outer space. Who was yearning? The story unspooled from there.

Oddly enough, given that Orion doesn’t usually enjoy first-person stories, this one demanded to be told from that point of view.

As with other stories lately, we are finding that moving some of the exposition into the narrator’s thoughts strengthens the impact of the story. See, we’re still growing and learning our craft as writers just like everyone else.


Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

 

LAST CALL

As usual, Johnny was up earlier than I was. Logically, my little brother should have made breakfast, but most of the time, I’d find him drinking kaffo, reading a space story, or perusing travel brochures. Today, he sat at a dining room table covered with pamphlets and reference books. His Note-Tab was propped up by a thick book he favored: Dr. Drummond’s All Things Space. Coming up behind him, I saw an info page for ‘Dark Star Safari – Experience the very best the universe has to offer!’

I pointed at the screen. “What’s this? I haven’t heard of them before.”

He turned a shining face up toward me. “They’re new! Sit down. I’ll show you.” (more…)

How We Write – Hi, Honey, I’m Home

We had four prompts for this story. They were: Blue skies, Perfect weather, Top down, A wasted life. One reason it’s so easy for us to write a short story is that, given three or more prompts, we can already see a snapshot of the story we want to write. We hear other writers complain that trying to fit anything over one prompt into a story makes their head spin, but apparently there’s truth to the old adage that two heads are better than one. More space for the ideas to bounce around in! (Yeah, yeah, we know. That implies there’s a lot of empty room up there!)

Also, as a side note: Somewhere between originally writing this short and polishing it for the blog, we forgot what the prompts were. Thankfully, because we use Google Docs for all our writing, it was a simple matter to bring up the version history, click on the very first version and find the prompts sitting there, right at the top of the page, along with the very first rough outline of the story.


HI, HONEY, I’M HOME!

I needed this, I thought as I pulled out of the parking lot at work.

Hell, I deserved this.

Getting this convertible was a great idea! I don’t care what everyone says, I didn’t get it because I’m going through a ‘midlife crisis.’ (more…)

How We Write – Just Like An Old Time Movie

Picture thanks to http://valleysinthevinyl.com/

 

Our prompts this story were: bottled water, spiral, starting over, and rain. Taken together, they suggested a sad story of unrequited love. Of wishing things could be different but knowing they never can be.

When we first wrote it, the story was all in the first person, but, on editing, we found it needed to be more…personal…more immediate!

So, we pulled a lot of the original story into the narrator’s thoughts. We also added the movie the narrator was watching, with its attendant imagery.

We think the resulting story is much stronger. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

The title phrase kept bouncing around in Kyros’ mind until he remembered where it came from. By the way, in case you’re wondering, it’s from an old Gordon Lightfoot song If You Could Read My Mind.

Also, we have some observations after the story we’d like you to think about.



Picture thanks to http://valleysinthevinyl.com/

 

JUST LIKE AN OLD TIME MOVIE

 

It’s raining outside my window. Well, that’s the perfect backdrop for my thoughts today.

I took a long drink from my bottle of water and let my thoughts drift back over our interactions. Every moment of my life since I met her played across the movie screen in my mind.

It was winter that first time we met, everything slippery with ice. I stopped to help her pick up her books, scattered across the sidewalk where she’d fallen in the snow. (more…)

How We Write – On The Road Again

So, if you didn’t know already, Kyros and Orion have a short story collection out called Unidentified Love. It’s seven connected short stories about a human man and his alien husband. When we got the prompts, Gray, Outrunning 911, and Debating, Kyros immediately knew what the gray was: a gray alien. That put this story squarely in the Unidentified Love universe.

It’s unusual for either Kyros or Orion to write in the first person present tense, but this story pretty much demanded it. Most of our fiction is written in the third person past tense. First person point of view is a really good way to get to know a character and their thoughts.

Give it a try: pick a short story you’ve written or a piece of flash fiction or a scene from your WIP (work in progress). Rewrite it in first person and see if it turns into a stronger story. You might learn something new about your main character.

Let us know in the comments how it turns out for you.


Photo by Kaique Rocha from Pexels

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

(An Unidentified Love Universe story)

 

“Hey, Terry, how was your weekend?” Franklyn asked as he slid onto the bar stool next to me.

Putting my head on my crossed arms, I sighed heavily before answering him. “I spent most of it debating with Janet, my oh-so-annoying mother-in-law. She swore she was going to have me arrested.”

“Arrested? For what?” (more…)

How We Write – Merry Spacemen

Orion has long had a fascination with Robin Hood and the Middle Ages. In fact, she got her bachelor’s degree in English, specializing in Medieval and Renaissance literature. (Ask her how that worked out!)

Later in life, she discovered the Society for Creative Anachronism, an international group that spends its weekends recreating the Middle Ages complete with period garb and armor, but with toilets and without the Black Death. Concurrently, she was attending science fiction conventions! Things got confusing at times.

Presented with the prompt ‘between worlds’, Orion combined her two loves, outer space and Robin Hood, for a romp of a story.

Kyros created the picture that accompanies this story by photographing a model of the Liberator sitting on a starfield displayed on his iPad. (The Liberator is from the British TV show, Blake’s 7, from the 70s about a small band of outlaws fighting against the repressive, galaxy-wide Federation. Very like Robin Hood himself. Look it up. Though it featured cheesy sets and special effects similar to the original Star Trek, its ideas and values are worth your time.)

When we began editing this story for the blog, we found it required extensive work. It was originally written in 2013 and we’ve learned a lot about dialog and exposition, and show, don’t tell since then.

We think the story is much better now. Let us know what you think in the comments below.


MERRY SPACEMEN

 

“This is Alliance Frigate Notttingham.” The speakers crackled for a moment. “Lincoln Green, shut down your engines. Surrender and prepare to be boarded!”

Thumbing the comm button, I countered, “We do apologize, but that’s not going to be possible. Our engineer says we can’t shut down right now.”

“Now listen here…,” the Alliance Captain started. (more…)