Tag Archives: fiction

Writing prompts

Over at the Arlington Writers Group last night, we had one of our “hybrid” meetups. This is where a portion of the meetup is spent on a critique, while another portion is spent on some kind of exercise. Last night, the exercise was writing prompts. We were given a bunch of prompts that came from the opening lines of various travel stories (it being summer and the season of travel) and we had a limited amount of time to write something based on the prompt. I floundered away my time with nothing coming to mind. In fact, it wasn’t until people started actually reading their stories out loud that I started to write mine. While I don’t ordinarily post fiction here, this one is so short, and I am so unlikely to use it for anything else, that I figured what the heck. So what follows is the story I wrote five minutes before I read it to the group last night. We were supposed to start the story using the prompt. I’ve italicized this part to make it clear what my prompt was.

You can find the story below the cut (or if you are reading this on a feed, immediately following this line). And keep in mind: this is not science fiction:

Continue reading Writing prompts

Free fiction: When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer

I’ve been asked a couple of times recently if any of my stories were freely available online. For a while they weren’t but as of today, my first published story, “When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer” is now freely available here on my website.

Several people suggested that I make the story available on the Kindle and I’m still considering doing that, but I still wanted at least a sample of my work available freely for anyone who wanted to read it. I like this story, which was first published back in 2007 in Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show.

If you like it, I’d urge you to go to the InterGalactic Medicine Show website and check out their most recent issue. And perhaps consider subscribing.

Boskone, day 1

Almost midnight and I’m back from my first day (well, evening really) as Boskone. It’s been a lot of fun. I attended two panels. The first was “Selling What You Write” and it was interesting, but I realized that it was probably not something that I needed to attend, having made one sale already. This was basic stuff, but it was still fun to listen to the questions that people asked. The second panel was called “Tracking History” and was centered on a discussion by authors of long series of books on how they keep the internal histories straight. David Weber was the big star on the panel and it was also an interesting discussion.

Later, I had a beer and then wandered over to the Con Suite. Now, I didn’t know what a Con Suite was, but it looked like a VIP suite. (Turns out it’s not.) However, I saw mabfan there (along with gnomi and so I went over to say hello. One thing led to another and we ended up talking for a couple of hours. Michael was great. He introduced me to a lot of people, telling them I was a new writing and where my story had been published. So, for example, he introduced me to Allen M. Steele, who talked about his first experience winning a Hugo Award, and who proceeded to give me advice on my acceptance speech, should the day ever come when I win one. I got to tell Allen how he once lost me a story sale.

Short version: Sheila Williams at ASIMOV’S really liked my story, “Wake Me When We Get There”, however, there was one fatal flaw to the story, which she pointed out, Allen Steele had handled much better in a similar story that he did.

He introduced me to Daniel Kimmel, a film critic in the Boston area, and the three of us stood around talking for quite a while. Daniel and Michael are very funny together.

He introduced me to author Sarah Beth Durst, who has been nominated for the Norton Award this year, and who stood around with us chatting for a while, too.

And he also introduced me to writer Bruce Coville who is the special guest at Boskone this year, and who stopped by to chat with us for a while as well. Michael and Bruce are also very funny together.

Naturally, I was overwhelmed by all of this. It’s such a cool feeling to talk face-to-face with these writers. I mean, I was chatting about Hugo Award speeches with Allen Steele, the guy who wrote “Hunting Wabbit”, which amused me so much when it appeared in SCIENCE FICTION AGE. There are nearly two full days left to the conference and now, I can’t wait for more! Thanks again, mabfan!

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Immitation of life

Last night, I caught Jarhead on HBO and afterward found myself thinking that I wanted to be a Marine. Don’t get me wrong, this is not unique to either the movie, or the subject of the film. I often find myself wishing I was whatever it was that I was just watching on some interesting show. I wonder, though, if this is a common phenomenon (at least one that people will admit to). Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • When I watch any of the Rocky movies, I find I want to be a boxer
  • When I watch The Office I tell myself I want to be just like Jim Halpert (especially when he thinks up the clever practical jokes
  • When I watch Smallville I want to be Superman
  • If I watch a movie about lawyers, I want to be a lawyer; if I watch a movie about astronomers, I want to be an astronomer
  • When I watch House, I want to be just like Gregory House
  • When I watch Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers I find myself wishing I was an E Company soldier fighting in World War II

I suppose that well written film and television are supposed to have this effect on people, but I never hear anyone talk about it. As far as I know, I am the only person in the world who has ever admitted to these feelings of imitation. Do other people think like this?

What’s more is that I find myself doing this with my writing as well. If I have been reading Harlan Ellison stories, what I write shortly thereafter will have an attempt at a Harlan Ellison edge to it. If I have been reading a Barry Malzberg story, I’ll try writing something that has a Malzberg feel to it. Same for Bradbury. Or Asimov.

It has made me wonder if I have any personality of my own, or if I am just jumble of imitations and impressions I get from my reading and TV watching and movie watching. Sometimes I am hyper-conscious of this and other times I am completely unaware of it. Regardless, the feelings are fleeting; they last for a little while and then they drift off, replaced by feelings of imitation for the latest show or movie.

So don’t worry, I didn’t run out and join the Marines after watching Jarhead last night. I did get a pretty short “military-style” haircut, though. No, instead of joining the Marines, I thought long and hard about joining some counter-terrorism unit and becoming a super-secret agent. Of course, I had just finished watching the latest episode of 24, but I’m sure that had nothing to do with it.

Retiring some stories

Every few years, I go through the stories that I’ve written and have failed to sell, and ultimately retire them. Since I’ve been doing this, I’ve gone through a few rounds of this, and each round represents a generation of my stories. Each round, also, I like to thing, represents a better and better set of stories.

This time, I figure why waste them. Therefore, I have put together a page where you can read the 6 stories that I am finally retiring. You can access the page here:


Four of the six stories have already been posted. I’m a little to tired to finish the other two tonight. I posted them on the blog so that people reading the stories could, if they wished, use the “Comments” feature to comment on the stories.

This batch of six stories includes my all-time personal favorite to-date: “The Last S.F. Writer”. But I warn you: only a seasoned s.f. reader will get all of the references, so I added a comment to the story to point out the references I made. The batch also includes “Wake Me When We Get There,” which from a sales point of view, is the one that I came closest with in this round. It is probably the most “marketable” story I have written to-date, although it’s not my favorite.

These stories accumulated a total of 24 rejection slips over a period spanning spring of 2002 through late 2005.

So, have at it, and let me know if you enjoy them, or if you don’t, what you don’t like about them. I’m always looking for ways to improve.

And there will be a new generation of stories. I am working hard on a novella, “Graveyard Shift,” which I’ve mentioned here from time-to-time. After that, I’ve got a few more stories to get out of me in short order.

Writer’s itch

And in addition to everything else I’ve got going on, I began this evening to have the first stirrings, the first twinges of desire to pull my novella, “Graveyard Shift” out of the desk drawer and set to work on completing it. It’s been in the drawer for months now and I think I’m ready to tackle it once again.

Domestic spying and Da Vinvi Code

I keep reading (and hearing) in the news that the government did nothing illegal when requesting phone records, and other sort of spying on Americans. That is probably true, and while I don’t have evidence for it, I’ll take that at face value. Because to me, that’s not the point. There are lots of things that are legal, but that does not make them ethical. Ethical people often do less than the maximum allowable, and more than minimally acceptable. It is, in my opinion, a breach of trust, and it is also disappointing that our representatives don’t have more faith in the American people.

I caught an “in depth” news segment on the Da Vinci Code this evening and there were several people interviewed, who angrily charged that the movie was spreading lies, innuendo, and completely ficticious nonsense. Some of these people were vitriolic! All I can say is: DUH!, People: IT’S FICTION! IT’S ALL MADE UP! What you think fiction is, except well-told lies? Should it make you think? Maybe. But fictions primary purpose, since mankind lived in caves and told stories around campfires is to ENTERTAIN. I, for one, am sick and tired of all of the complaining about the damage this movie is going to do to–who knows what? It’s fiction. Don’t go see the movie if you don’t like the theme. But please shut up already.

Bicentennial Man

One of perhaps a handful of stories that brings tears to my eyes when I read it is Isaac Asimov’s “The Bicentennial Man”. I have read it at least three times by actual count (most recently this evening) and it is one of the more remarkable, moving stories I have ever read. I wish I could write like that.