Tag Archives: short story


I apologize.

I admit it–I’ve been crushed by full-time work, overtime parenthood and the necessity of periodically digging out from the catastrophe du jour (most recently a twice-flooded basement). For fun, I sneak progress on my WIP at 4:00 am and feel guilty I’m not doing more. But you have never been far from my thoughts, dear reader.

Today, let’s talk about something fresh–something far from where I’m at right now. But maybe you’re there, at the jumping-off place.


tulips-sprouting-ground-23844638What is more filled with bottomless hope and yet more fraught with peril, than beginning? The beginning of anything: be it school, work, love… life. But what I’m thinking of today is the beginning of stories.

They start with words, simple words, composed of letters, curved and straight; spattered on a page like a promised rain, the sort that makes you look up at kitten clouds and wonder: will it pour?

The seed that grew into HitList wasn’t an idea or a concept, but rather a simple sentence, generated in a brainstorming session where I challenged myself and my fellow bloggers to come up with One Hundred Opening Lines.

In that exercise, I had one particular sentence that I couldn’t stop thinking about. What kind of story was attached to it? I plucked it out, tried to guess and when I did, a dam broke. 1,500 words later, I realized an entire book was attached.

The seed that is Kwan Factor was a “what if” that occurred to me on a walk. From there, it went to a workshop scribbled on a scrap, and grew into a universe that I still inhabit.


Beginnings are limitless and treacherous, filled with vast hopes and wild unknowns. They beckon, they implore, they promise. They are an invitation, a bridge to another world, a ticket for an epic journey or an open door to another life. Take them, be it read or write them.


The Atacolypse

It’s a snow day here and Noble Hamster (my eleven-year-old) and I are up to no good. We’ve been concocting some flash fiction which I can only attribute to a love of fart jokes and fast food:


The Atacolypse

I was outside, hanging with my buddy Stanley, when the first one streaked across the sky. It was shooting flames and smelling like nachos supreme.

“What was it? A meteor? An asteroid?” Stanley asked.

I watched the smoke fade and another zoom along the same path. “No. I think it was…a taco.” Just then, an explosion lit the western horizon, followed by more blinding streaks from left to right. A volley of hard-shells landed at the edge of the back yard.

“Crap! Incoming! We gotta get inside.” Stanley turned, started for the back door and was blindsided by an enormous burrito.

It was like I’d always heard it would be…

When they built the Comida Loca factory at the west edge of town, my dad said it’d end badly. I figured it was his dislike of Southwestern cuisine talking. But he’d predicted: someday escaping gas from the frijole vat would ignite when it came into contact with Papa Juan’s Atomic Hot Sauce.

The explosions were pelting me–and all the fine folks of Hopetown–with a flying taco bar of terror.

“Dude, get up!” I shouted to Stanley.

He moaned and wiped sour cream out of his eye. “I’m not gonna make it. You go on ahead.” He licked a finger. “The seven-layer burrito is awesome.”

“We don’t have time for you get lunch. Someone’s got to stop this.”

“What are we gonna do?”

People always made fun of my dad, like saying he was one fish taco short of a Fiesta Pack. But he’d said this would happen. He’d been prepping for this sort of disaster for years, laying in a stockpile of gas masks and super soakers. By now, he had enough mild salsa and Beano to sink a king-sized combo of Run-For-The-Border-Destruction.

Stanley followed me into the garage where we loaded our weapons with salsa and put on our gas masks. “You really think it’s gonna work?” he asked.

“It has to.”

Once we were packing spicy heat, we hopped on our bikes and rode in the opposite direction, making a grande lasso around Hopetown. The south side of the factory was wide open, just like Dad always said it would be. We walked in the open doors, our footsteps echoing in the empty corridors. Every now and then, we stepped over a glassy-eyed victim, overcome by the toxic fumes.

“Is there anything we can do for them?” Stanley asked.

“Once we can contain the frijole vat, the air will clear and they’ll be fine,” I said.

The smell inside was worse than anything I’d ever imagined–even with our gas masks on. Worse than the time my Uncle Neal stayed with us after ordering the black bean soup at Mariana’s.

Suddenly, I realized Stanley was gone. I turned back to find him lying in a heap–knocked unconscious by the noxious fumes. I ran back, lifted off his mask and checked for a pulse. “I’m okay,” he coughed. “It’s up to you dude. You’re going to have to save us all.”

I tossed his broken gas mask to the side, ripped off my own and sucked in one last breath. Strapping the mask to his head, I said, “Hang in there,” and headed into the mayhem.

What was happening on the factory floor was like nothing I’d ever seen. Shards of broken taco shells flew everywhere over a slippery carpet of hot sauce. I held the salsa blaster in one hand and a high-powered Beano launcher in the other, my eyes darting everywhere as I searched for the source of the explosions.

The vat gurgled and sputtered like a contestant on the final round of a chimichanga eating contest. I fired a long blast of mild salsa at the thing. It creaked and moaned and grew larger before my eyes. I realized then that it was only seconds away from blowing completely and covering all of Hopetown with a refried paste of tortilla-torture. With all I had, I launched a dozen Beano capsules at it. One sparked. I dipped and dodged as tacos and nacho cheese flew past on all sides.

Still straining to hold my breath, I dove for cover behind a palette of enchilada sauce containers and launched a double dose of Beano at the thing. The container shuddered and with a mighty belch it let out one last gasp of foul air. I could hold my breath no longer.

When I woke, I smelled the sweet scent of fresh-fried churros. Was this heaven?

“Thought we’d lost you,” Stanley said.

“No, no,” I said, pushing him away and getting up. “I’m okay, everything’s okay—now.”

“Darn tooting,” Stanley said. “And I’m starving. Wanna go to Taco Kidd?”

“You betcha. But do me one favor, will ya?”

“A course, what?”

“Hold the beans.”

The Next Morning, The Beast Was Still There

“I was thinking we could just call it good, I wrote your story,” I said. 1,100 words — a short story. It wasn’t bad… still it was a relief to have it done.

He made a gurgling, phlegmy sound which might have been a laugh. “We haven’t even gotten started, sweetheart,” he said.

I did not have to take this — this was my house, my mind, and I would write what I wanted to — I had to draw the line somewhere. “Look, I don’t write that kind of crap. I’m doing Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows. Get out of my house.”

“No,” he said and narrowed his eyes at me. “I’m not leaving until you write me.”

“But… no one is going to like me.”

“Not my problem. Your job is to write me. We’re wasting time.”

His feet were propped on the coffee table and as I tried to shove them off I saw the pile of glitter. Pink glitter. “What did you do to Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows?” I hadn’t seen my old book since the day he showed up.

“Haven’t seen her,” he said and patted his stomach.


This was ten days ago and The Beast has since grown to a timeline, a plot outline, pages and pages of character worksheets and 8,000 words of manuscript. I’m hoping if I do as he says, we can get this over with.