Very Short Story (VSS) Roundup 5/23/21-5/29/21

Here’s a collection of very short stories and poems (tweet-length) I did based on prompts from vss365today.com over this past week. I’ve found these prompts are a fun way to keep the creative juices flowing and also are seeds for potential future stories. The prompt is the word next to each date. I hope you enjoy!

5/23/21 Iris
Alone
A purple flower blooms
Beside a path
In the shadows

Beauty
Among the monotone
Shades of hope
A different light

Delight
An iris in the forest
My momentary love
Until winter’s breath

5/24/21 Ponytail
“What on earth?”
“This is so embarrassing.”
“I don’t even know… Jensen, your ponytail is stuck in the airlock. How’d it get caught without you being sucked out?”
“Okay, fine, it’s me. I’m the alien. Get me free and we’ll talk.”
“Yeah, no. You ate five of my friends.”

5/25/21 Quaint
“How quaint,” Roger said. It was the kindest thing he could think of at the moment.
Julia shook her head and rolled her eyes. His imagination was too small, she knew. The math worked. Yes, the model looked odd, but the building could be built. Escher would be proud.

5/26/21 Wine
From the Garden Hill
Flow streams of gladness
New wine for the soul
Flooding into valleys below
Joy and delight
Saturating the earth
Until new life flourishes
Sprouts of satisfaction
Bending toward the light
The Sun of Eternal Hope

5/27/21 Doppelganger
I saw him from a distance the first day, gawking. I assumed he was awed by how much we looked alike. My doppelganger, we even had the same chin scar. I know, because a week later, he gazed at me through the window. That’s when I had to break in and make him disappear.

5/28/21 Earlobe

There was no trace of victim or perpetrator, other than a single earlobe. With no matching DNA in the system, they assumed it belonged to the homeowner.

Harry stared at the fresh grave of the would-be thief. Ryan’s mistake was breaking into the home of a serial killer.

5/29/21 Valiant
Trembling, Valiant kneeled. “I failed, my lord,” his voice cracked. “I lost courage and ran. I am unworthy of this sword and my name.”

The King leaned forward and gazed at the boy, eyes filled with compassion. “I named you not as you are but as you will be. Rise. Go.”

Image cred: unsplash.com@totoy2001

Very Short Story (VSS) Roundup 5/2/21-5/8/21

Here’s a collection of very short stories and poems (tweet-length) I did based on prompts from vss365today.com over this past week. I’ve found these prompts are a fun way to keep the creative juices flowing and also are seeds for potential future stories. The prompt is the word next to each date. I hope you enjoy!

5/2/21 Warcry
The woman gazed into the distance before setting her narrow gray eyes on me. The breeze caught tufts of long gray hair. She brushed it from her eyes.

“It started when I was a girl,” she said. “It was the eagles that sounded the warcry.”

5/3/21 Brainwash
“Did the serum work?”
“I don’t know.” I set the box on the table. 
“What’s this?”
“When I asked Perry to brainwash our guest, he thought I literally meant wash his brain. There you go.”
Thad gaped. “I don’t want this.”
I turned to leave, muttering, “I need new help.”

5/4/21 Waxwork
No, no, no! This isn’t supposed to happen! Sigh. I spent 18 years collecting enough crayons. Charlotte, Bethany, & Charles were the perfect family. Always there, always supportive. No more.

I should have lived in Anchorage, not Albuquerque. Dang heat ruined the waxwork.

5/5/21 Storyteller
Chaos
Waves crash into dark seas
The Storyteller speaks
A spark
Chasing away the starless void
The rays of the conductor
Calling forth the symphony of birds
First breath
The child opens his eyes
Gazing across the garden plains
Paradise

5/6/21 Timewarp
Darn it. 

I messed up on my vss365. Since Twitter doesn’t have an edit feature, it’s a good thing I have the Machine in my basement.

I’ll create a timewarp, go back, and stop myself.

At least that’s the theory. The only time I tested it, the dog didn’t come back.

5/7/21 Everlasting
The flame burns
An Everlasting light
Guiding us to the mountain
And streams of melting snow
New life to weary wanderers
One hundred years behind us
Lifetimes ahead
Shedding ancient skin
Like a planted seed
Sprouting, growing
Reaching toward the eternal sun

5/9/21 Lockdown
The lockdown was over. They emerged from the bunker a year older and barely surviving. Their food had run out a week ago.  What kind of world would they find after the invasion?

The sun was bright. Birds sang. Children laughed and played.

They stared at each other. The warnings?–everything had been a lie.

Image cred: unsplash.com/@robbie36

Very Short Story (VSS) Roundup 4/18/21-4/24/21

Here’s a collection of very short stories and poems (tweet-length) I did based on prompts from vss365today.com over this past week. I’ve found these prompts are a fun way to keep the creative juices flowing and also are seeds for potential future stories. The prompt is the word next to each date. I hope you enjoy!

4/18/21 Blessing
It was the tradition of the elders to convey a blessing upon their children. Marcus, though, wasn’t sure what there was to offer.

For years, he watched the many-headed creatures emerge from the cave and devour the children.

It wasn’t time for blessing, but war.

4/19/21 Watch (1)
Jedidiah volunteered to take first watch. He had the sharpest eyes and keenest ears. He wasn’t as sure a shot as Ryan but could hold his own.

It didn’t matter. They’d all be dead by morning light. The creature swooped down from above. He didn’t have time to even scream.

Watch (2)
Setting sun
Orange, pink
Lingering light
Holds on
Breathe

Darkening sky
Light fades
Twinkling eyes
Stars emerge
Watch

4/20/21 Personal 
“It’s nothing personal.”

“Then what is it, Frank?”

“I kill. It’s what I do.”

“We’ve been neighbors ten years. Our boys are best friends. We coach together.”

“Sorry, Tom. I can’t stand your laugh. I’ve hated it since I met you.”

“I thought it wasn’t personal.”

“I lied.”

4/21/21 Only
If only for a moment
Facing the setting sun
Souls embrace
Hearts aflame
Whispering secret oaths
Raging in the dark of night
Fates conspire
Who can stand in lasting love
As war drums beat
Far away
Last breath
Star-crossed lives

4/22/21 Settle (1)
“What’s in the beyond, daddy?”

I stood beside my daughter and gazed across the prairie. Humans had ventured to the Great River, but none who crossed returned.

There were rumors of unimaginable beauties, but none certain.

“Adventure.” I grinned. And new land to settle.

Settle (2)
Steady gray eyes
Clouded in time
Gazing ahead
A mighty oak stands
Tall beside the Great River

Leaves turning
Falling
Seedlings grow
Carried by floods
A vision, a distant thought
Happy, sad
Tears for both

Longing
Dreaming
Her voice calls
Come, settle
The Elysian Plains

4/23/21 Thunder
The thunder rolled, a gentle rumble across the plains. The young men labored. Rain or shine, the cattle needed care.

The old cowboy gazed toward the hills at the rider on the horse. This was no ordinary storm. For five hundred years he’d escaped. But Death had finally found him.

4/24/21 Rings
Hollowness rings
Platitudes, promises
Lies told to win the masses
Red-faced talking heads
Twisting truths
Tossing knives into the cage
Eat your own
Destroy the other
Where is hope?
Where is love?
The quiet stillness far away
Hearts longing
Searching
For a better story

Image cred: unsplash.com/@noaa

Q&A: Where is the best place to write?

image cred: unsplash.com/@sebastian_unrau

When I was younger, I could write anywhere and could listen to any music in the background while I wrote. That’s less true the older I get. The best place for me to write now is someplace that I can have silence. Occasionally, I can still listen to certain songs while I write, but those moments and songs are rare.

A lot of times, I get writing done when others have gone to bed or kids are napping. My wife is supportive of my writing time, so there are times when we don’t have anything else going on that she helps me carve out time to myself. If the weather is nice, then I love being able to get some time to write outside, especially if I’m able to go to a park or someplace where I can be by myself.

So, there are several places that I consider best for me to write, but usually it involves quiet and alone time.

How about you? What if you write, draw, compose, or create in some way, what is the best environment for you to work? Also if you have any questions for a future Q&A, drop it in the comments below!

Very Short Story (VSS) Roundup 4/5/21-4/11/21

Here’s a collection of very short stories (tweet-length) I did based on prompts from vss365today.com over this past week. I’ve found these prompts are a fun way to keep the creative juices flowing and also are seeds for potential future stories. The prompt is the word next to each date. I hope you enjoy!

4/5/21 egg
The last egg stares at me from the plate. Maybe I shouldn’t have used the ones the kids hadn’t found, but we were out and grandma demands them.

Ugh. I don’t feel so well. Is that a tail? And horns? Shoot! I hope I’m hallucinating. I’m afraid, though, the eggs deviled me.

4/6/21 basket
“They’re monsters!”

“I’ve heard rumors. First, they take your ears, then your nose.”

“Charlie survived, but he was never the same.”

“Monsters!”

I leaned back, eyes closed, listening to their fears. It didn’t matter. Nothing stops a chocolate bunny’s time in the basket.

4/7/21 Whose
“Four, three, two, one.”

The portal opened, we expected the team back at any moment. When no one emerged, Shauna and I glanced at each other.

“Suit up.”

Ready, I stepped into the swirling lights. Once I could see, I cursed. A bloody hand lay on the ground. But whose?

4/8/21 Birds
There was no warning when the spaceships arrived, not even a radar blip. We weren’t prepared. They crippled our defenses and destroyed our cities before we launched a single missile.

I lived in the rubble. My world had gone silent. I missed the songs of birds most.

4/9/21 Picture
Sharon bought the strange-looking camera from a stranger-looking man in an alley. He promised she wouldn’t find a better one for the price.

When she snapped a picture of Earl, it emitted a beam of light. Her husband vanished, but it was the best photo she ever took.

4/10/21 Hippopotamus
The spaceship hovered over the zoo. A crowd gathered. Even scientists were slack-jawed.

First contact. A day so many look forward to.

The door opened. A creature emerged, strolled by the humans, and toward a hippopotamus, the most intelligent species on the planet.

4/11/21 Exile
Deborah set her gaze on the planet as the ship carried her away. She placed her hand on the window and whispered, “I’ll miss you, my love.”

It was the first day of exile.

Her heart ached for her husband, but leaving him stranded was the only way to keep the crew safe.

The Devil Went Back Down to Georgia (Writing Prompt Wednesday)

Today’s prompt is courtesy of: https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/
comments/mfmn0j/wp_the_devil_did_
go_down_to_georgia_and_there_he/

Here’s my story, enjoy!

Somewhere in Floyd County, Georgia

I watched from the bar as the short, slender man strolled through the door. He had yellow eyes, an oddity for sure, that gazed toward the stage. Thursday nights were Billy’s nights, and the young man, not even old enough to drink, stood and sawed away at his fiddle. Truth is, I never should have let Johnny in the door, and there sure shouldn’t be a cigarette hanging from his lips. My sister would kill me if she knew, but my nephew was just too darn good.

Billy’s playing was why half the men were buying whiskeys or placing more beers on their tab. The greasy blond-haired boy was good for business.

I’d never seen anyone’s fingers move so fast. Sweat flew in every direction, and Billy grinned as the crowd clapped and hollered. Then, without warning, he struck his final note and stomped the stage.

“Woo!”

My patrons erupted, except for the yellow-eyed man.

Billy wiped his brow, took a bow, and dropped the cigarette into the ashtray. “Takin’ a little intermission. Y’all sit tight.” My nephew smiled and carried his fiddle to the bar. He never let the instrument out of sight.

“Coke?” I asked as he eased onto a stool.

“Y’ain’t gonna let me have something stronger?” Billy asked with a grin. He knew the answer. “Just a water.”

I poured the glass and eyed the short man as he approached, carrying a case in his left hand. He sat beside Billy.

“What’s your poison?” I asked.

“Fireball,” the man replied. “Leave the bottle.”

Billy giggled. “A little on the nose, don’t ya’think?”

“Come now?” the man asked.

“With eyes like that, you obviously gotta be a demon or something.”

“William,” I said, as stern as I ever spoke to the boy.

“Oh, I’m not offended,” the man said. “But I’m no demon. The name’s Lucifer. I’m their prince.”

I set the shot on the bar and rolled my eyes. What a crazy thing to say, I thought, until he opened his case.

Billy’s eyes grew big. “Is that a golden fiddle?” Light shimmered off the instrument in all directions.

“The finest fiddle there is,” Lucifer said as he pulled it from the case and ran spindly fingers along its neck and strings. “Do you want to hold it?”

“Billy, don’t,” I said.

That boy never listens. He took the fiddle from who I now assumed was actually Satan.

“Whoa.”

“You’ll never find another like it. I’ll make you a deal…”

“Like in that song?”

The devil wryly smiled. “We don’t talk about that song.”

“How’d you get it back?”

“Johnny was… Just… Never mind. Do you want the opportunity for a golden fiddle or not? Try it.”

Billy plucked a few chords. I had never heard an instrument as well-tuned.

“You’re good,” Lucifer said. “But are you as good as me?”

“Lemme guess. We duel, and if I win, I get to keep your fiddle, and if you win, you get my soul.”

“Precisely.”

“Just like the song.” Billy grinned.

The devil furrowed his brow. “Just like the song,” he said through gritted teeth.

“You’re on.” Billy handed back the violin. “Hit the stage, let’s see whatcha got.” Before I could stop him, my nephew grabbed the shot of whiskey and tossed it against the back of his throat. “Woo!” He slammed the glass on the counter as his cheeks burned. “Pour the devil another!”

Lucifer grinned and sauntered to the stage.

I leaned toward my nephew. “This is not a good idea.”

“Trust me, Uncle James, I got this.”

“Pride goes before a fall.”

“Yeah, yeah. Mama tells me that all the time.”

I sighed. I wasn’t much of the praying sort, but I made an appeal to the Good Lord for Billy’s eternal soul. I stared at the stage with my arms folded across my chest. Billy drummed the bar with his fingers as he wore a big, goofy grin.

Lucifer plucked a few strings, smiled, and set his bow. His hands flew into a frenzy, faster than Billy’s ever had. My jaw dropped at the sound.

It wasn’t what I expected.

Billy clenched his jaw and scrunched his brow. I bit my lip and shook my head. This was bad. The men and women spread throughout the tables covered their ears.

“You suck!” someone shouted. Others booed.

The screeching ruckus threatened to drive away my patrons.

“This is awful,” Billy shouted at me over the racket.

I watched as those closest to the door stood.

“Hey!” I yelled as I jumped over the bar. The devil kept playing. “Hey!” I ran onto the stage and grabbed Lucifer’s hand.

His shoulders slumped with a sigh. “I might be a little out of practice.”

“Why don’t you come to the bar,” I whispered as the boos died down. “I’ll pour you another shot, on the house. Just stop playing, please.” I was an optimist at heart. I hated to see anyone dejected, even the dark lord of hell.

Lucifer again took a seat beside my nephew.

“That was awful,” Billy said.

“I know,” Lucifer replied. “I just need a little more practice to get back in the habit. Then I’ll take you on, Billy Hogan.”

My nephew smirked. “Oh, no, no. A deal’s a deal.”

The devil rolled his eyes and handed the fiddle to Billy. As the boy ran to the stage, Lucifer sipped his shot and shook his head. “I hate humans. You’re foul, vile creatures, especially your young ones.”

Billy jumped onto the stage and grabbed the mic. “This one’s for ol’ Lucy over there.” With a toothy grin, Billy set his bow to the strings and started in on The Devil Went Down to Georgia.

The devil growled and then yelled, “I hate this song!”

Image cred: unsplash.com/@mralireza06

Q&A: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?

image cred: unsplash.com/@tomhermans

Author Q&A: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?

There’s a lot of writing advice out there, and some of it is contradictory. You’ll hear some recommend to never use adverbs while other people think adverbs are our friends. Truth is, you can overdo and underdo almost anything. Good writing takes practice and you find your balance over time.

The best piece of advice that I’ve personally received is: Know your first draft isn’t great. Don’t edit as you go. Just get the words on paper and then go and edit when you’re finished.

I’ve had far too many stories end up going nowhere but the trash heap because I got bogged down in editing, didn’t make progress, and grew bored or rushed off to another idea. I still have a strong desire to edit as I go, there’s a perfectionist in me. However, I now force myself to hold off on editing until the end, unless it is a major plot point that needs changed, or an inconsistency that I notice.

This has allowed more stories to make their way to completion.

How about you? What is the best piece of writing advice that you’ve received? Also if you have any questions for a future Q&A, drop it in the comments below!

Q&A: Which of your stories did you enjoy writing most?

image cred: unsplash.com/@danielalvasd

Author Q&A: Which of your stories did you enjoy writing most?

This one is a little tough, because when you’re writing a story or a book, especially when the words are flowing well, each one is your favorite in the moment (at least that’s been my experience). If I don’t like writing a story, I don’t usually keep writing it. That said, thinking of everything I’ve written, my short story “Burn” (in my collection Of Stars and Space: And Other Stories) is my favorite.

That might seem odd in that it wasn’t the easiest story for me to write.

The idea for “Burn” came about after reading a lengthy article on Burning Man several years ago. That inspired me to write a story that was originally meant to be about a father and his two sons taking a trip to the festival and their experiences there. I stopped, started, scrapped, and rewrote for a year and could never make the story work the way I wanted.

Then, I shifted focus. I saw a show where a main character was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease and she had to face the reality that she was going to die young. (If you’re not sure what Huntington’s is, visit: https://hdsa.org/what-is-hd/overview-of-huntingtons-disease/. The short version is that it’s a genetic brain disease that causes physical, mental, and emotional breakdown during what is usually a person’s prime years, and leads to early death. There is no present cure.)

The story took on new life. It became the tale of a young man diagnosed with Huntington’s who decides to do all he can to “burn brightly” before the disease takes its toll. It’s an emotional roller coaster as he comes to terms with his mom’s death (also related to the disease), goes on adventures with his brothers, and marries the love of his life, all with the knowledge that his days will be cut short.

I love the story because it ultimately is about the meaning of life and making the most of each day, something we can take for granted when we think we have decades still before us.

Oh, and Burning Man still makes an appearance, but more of a background event. Jackson, the older brother of Chris (the main character), returns from a trip to Burning Man with college pals and tells Chris about the fun he had. With Chris still in high school, the two decide to put on a backyard version with their brother Tanner and Chris’ best friend, Alex. A flaming effigy finds a place at the story’s beginning and end, ultimately becoming a metaphor for Chris’ life.

Q&A: What is your favorite genre?

image cred: unsplash.com/@lazycreekimages

Author Q&A: What is your favorite genre?

Science fiction. I’ve loved stories, especially stories about space and other planets, most of my life. This true whether you are talking novels or cinema. Honestly, when I was younger (middle school / high school), I did judge a book by its cover. I would go to the library or the bookstore and often select a book if it had a spaceship on the cover.

As an adult, I do more research into the book and don’t concern myself with the cover as much. 🙂

I write a lot of science fiction (if you’re interested in my works, a great place to start is my novelette Of Stars and Space available exclusive on Kindle ($0.99) and Kindle Unlimited). I also read and write general fiction / literary fiction works. So, I’m not exclusive to SciFi, but it is my favorite and has been for a long time.

How about you? What genre do you love the most? Drop a comment below. Also, if you have a question for a future Q&A about writing or books, I would love to hear it.

Q&A: What authors are your favorite?

Author Q&A: Who have been your favorite authors as an adult?

Michael Crichton. When I was a teenager, Crichton was at the height of his popularity. I enjoyed reading many of his books, especially those with more of a SciFi flair. That carried into adulthood. Unfortunately, he passed away a few years ago but the books his estate has released since his death have been fun to read too.

CS Lewis. I didn’t read Narnia until I was in college, but I love the stories Lewis tells in that collection, as well as his Space Trilogy. Till We Have Faces is probably my favorite work among his fiction. I have also benefited greatly in my spiritual life from his non-fiction.

Ray Bradbury. I read Fahrenheit 451 as a high school assignment, and picked up Something Wicked This Way Comes on my own soon after. As an adult, though, I’ve come to enjoy his short story collections such as The Martian Chronicles (which inspired a work of my own called Of Stars and Space) and The Illustrated Man.

Fredrik Backman. I think Beartown may have been the first Backman book I read, then I went back and picked up some of his “older” writings like A Man Called Ove. There is something about his storytelling and style that resonates with me. He is on the short list of authors from whom I will purchase a new book without even reading the description.

How about you? Who have been some of your favorite authors? Drop a comment below. Also, if you have a question for a future Q&A about writing or books, I would love to hear it.