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Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

How We Write – Damned Fire

Our prompts were: fire, stripes, and stuffed animal.

In the first draft of this story, it was all about the fireman. But once we realized what a special little girl Lucy was, she became the main character of her own short story collection (The Damned Kid anthology will be forthcoming at a later date). In editing this for the blog, we realized that we needed to make significant changes to still tell the fireman’s story, but make it fit as part of the larger story cycle belonging to Lucy. In the process, we chopped over 200 words from the story.

Photo by Michael Held on Unsplash




Our engine company arrived just in time to see the first house in the subdivision flare up like a torch.

I shivered.

The fire seemed to have a life of its own. I’ve never seen one move so fast before. Or at right angles to the wind.

Jack finished pulling the hose down off the engine then hooked it up to the hydrant.

This whole area has been blanketed in smoke for days. These poor people probably don’t even realize that the fire’s snuck up on the greenbelt behind their houses.

Chief Johnson grabbed me. “Let Avon and Blake take that hose.” Pointing at a large home on the corner, he ordered, “You get that house cleared. The rookie and I’ll take the next one.”

I ran up the curving walk and pounded on the door. I was about to break in when it swung open.

There was no one there. (more…)

How We Write – Hell To Pay

Our prompts were: lost and found, off limits.

This is just a little piece of Gothic Horror. And when the word count came in at 664, of course, we had to add two words so that the count would be 666, the Number of the Beast.

We both like Lucifer on TV, so whenever we write Satan into a story, we see and hear the actor Tom Ellis in the character. It was fun to imagine that tall, dark eminence as a cherubic child.



“He’s all yours!” The matron plopped the boy on the counter. “It’s the end of my shift and I’ve got a train to catch.” She adjusted her clothing, picked up her purse, and waddled off.

“Hey, wait. What am I supposed to with him?” I called after her.

“He’s lost. Someone found him. You work for Lost and Found, so he’s your problem.” (more…)

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.





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 – 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.


“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 – 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.



“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…)

How We Write – Newly Recurring Afterlife

Prompt: The wounds we cannot see

For the month of June, we’re going to showcase some of the political stories we’ve written, starting in June 2016 as we led up to the last election.

First up is Newly Recurring Afterlife, the most recent one we wrote.

Kyros woke up one morning, shortly after the school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, with this story racing through his head. He immediately dashed to his computer and started writing. Normally, when we write a story, we outline the basic idea, then go back over it, filling in details, embellishing here and there. That was not the case with this story. It poured out whole cloth. He messaged Orion to join him before the normal start of their day. He was only a couple paragraphs in at that point. They went to work and the entire story was written in just over an hour. For comparison, a normal short takes about one hour to outline, and about 2-3 hours more to write and edit. This story demanded to be told!

We both felt strongly about the reactions from sitting Congressmen who, rather than actually working to prevent another tragedy, only offered up the hollow phrase “You’re in our thoughts and prayers.” This is the same thing they’ve done since Sandy Hook in 2012! We decided that a bipartisan response was needed, so we wrote one.


“Physical injuries heal, but it’s the wounds we cannot see that do the most damage because the damage is to our psyche, not to our body.” -K. Starr


The Congressman woke up.

He tried to move.

He couldn’t.

Struggling, he found he was tied to a post.

“Help! Can anybody help me?” (more…)

How We Write – Magical Rapscallions

Our prompts were: Fish Food, Orange Juice, Onions

Orion used to spend her weekends pretending to live in the Middle Ages. (One year, she spent 26 of 52 weekends under canvas!) So, it’s no surprise that every once in a while a story lands there too. Also, we really like telling stories of people hoisted on their own petard. Couldn’t you tell?




“I can’t believe how lucky you are, Leo. The king really gave you time off from your regular chores to study with Donatello?”

“Yes. I was stunned. But, I’ve always wanted to be a magician.” A grin split his youthful face. “Donatello says that I’m a natural. He’s never had a student progress so quickly.” He puffed out his chest.

Angelo, the head cook, and Leo’s best friend, raised an eyebrow and looked down his long nose. “Not everyone is so fortunate as to have a patron like you do.”

Leonardo made a face. “Maybe so, but it means I have twice the work I did before.” (more…)

How We Write – Flashes to Ashes

Our prompts were: probable homicide, not for publication, works for me and moving right along.

We had way too much fun with this set of prompts! When Orion and Kyros saw ‘probable homicide’ we both remembered the plethora of cop shows that were on TV in the late 70s and early 80s and decided to pull random characters from those old shows to populate this story. And since we both watched the 1990s DC Comics’ TV shows, we threw in a few comic book characters for good measure as well.

Lt. Kojak from Kojak

Sgt. Wojciehowicz from Barney Miller

Officer Poncherello from CHiPs

Barry Allen from The Flash

Clark Kent from Lois and Clark, The New Adventures of Superman

Lois Lane from Lois and Clark, The New Adventures of Superman

And as for our villain, we’ll leave it up to you as to who that is. Leave your guesses in the comments below.


The unmarked police car with a lone bubble light flashing on its roof careened into the Dunkin Donuts parking lot, screeching to a halt just shy of the yellow crime scene tape. A stocky bald man in a dark suit stepped out of the car, pausing just long enough to unwrap a bright red lollipop and stick it in his mouth.

“What’s going on here?” he demanded, addressing the detective holding the tape up for him.

“It’s really bizarre, Lt. Kojak,” Sgt. Wojciehowicz said, grimacing. “All that’s left of this Barry Allen character is a pile of ashes and one arm with the middle finger extended.” The big man chuckled. “It looks like he at least got in the last word.” (more…)

How We Write – Horsing Around

The prompts for this one were unusual. Instead of several words to work with, we only had the word Moonglow and a newspaper photo of trotters in a race similar to the one below.

We did a lot of research on this one. First, we tried to place the story at an actual racetrack, which led us to research the history of harness racing. Then when we considered using the mobile starting gate, we fell down another rabbit hole looking into when they came into use, to make sure that we weren’t creating an anachronism. Finally, we gave up and created our own racetrack and stakes race because we couldn’t find enough information to be 100% sure. But it was fun researching all those details to make the story come to life. That’s way research goes sometimes. You spend hours trying to get all the details just right…then use none of it in the actual story. But in doing the research, you get a feel for the material that shows up in little things (for example, Kyros didn’t know that the buggies behind the horses were called sulkies).

Watch out for some Easter eggs we hid in the story, too.

Photo by Martin Damboldt from Pexels


Horsing Around

“Hey, you’re Simpson, right?”

The young man in the stall turned from grooming his horse. “Yeah. What can I do for you?” he called over the half-open dutch door.

The other man reached out to stroke the chestnut mare’s muzzle.

“Careful,” Simpson warned, “she bites if she doesn’t know you.”

The stranger snatched his arm back just as the horse lunged in his direction. Clutching his hand to his chest, the man glanced down to verify he still had all his fingers. (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…)