Tag Archives: Fear

Vivid dreaming last night

This doesn’t happen every night, but when it does it’s usually interesting. Here is the dream I woke up from last night. Oh, and the extra spacing at the beginning is on purpose. So is the last word.


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I stole this computer from an abandoned library. Dogs are howling down the street, so I don’t have much time.

Wind is from the west, but I can’t smell them yet. They must be east of me. I hope they’re east of me. I won’t let them get their tentacles on the baby again, I promise you that. Little Bit is fine, but she misses her mommy.

I’m going to head north, then veer west. We might make the safe zone in three days, two if we’re lucky. Whatever you do, stay in the safe zone.

The howling is getting louder. We’ve got to go. Love you.

PS: Hope they aren’t monitoring the library sy

2001 A Space Odyssey GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY


Filed under Short Stories & Vignettes

Still trying to learn

I managed two chapters of editing today. Things I want to learn kept calling to me like a Siren of old. I went to the footboard of our bed and knocked.

A slurping, gurgling sound crawled toward me from beneath the bed. A sickly yellow tentacle slithered out beside my leg.

“New style?” I asked.

“You know how it is. I wanted to try a new look. New look, new you they say.”

“I'm still trying to figure out this horror thing.”

“Unh unh. Remember my consulting fee?”

“Yeah, but I couldn't come up with all of it. I managed to find some mismatched socks in the laundry.”

“Laundry monster is kind of hot. A couple of these and it might be a good weekend for the old bed monster. What's on your mind?” The tentacle scooped up the socks and dragged them under the bed.

“Last night, I watched a movie on the Chiller channel–“

“That was your first mistake.”

“Yeah, the characters were all right out of central casting. They wound up stuck in the middle of a lake that was owned by a giant killer fish. They managed to attack it with the oars, which they promptly lost. It wasn't long before they started voting people off the boat to distract the fish.”

“Don't tell me any more.”

“I wound up cheering for the fish about halfway through.”

“Nothing scary about that.”

“Exactly. I'm no closer to figuring out how to write a scary monster. This morning I downloaded and read The Call of Cthulhu. It's a short story and I'm kind of into those right now.”

“That was a better move. Old C was big back in the day. Have you considered reading anything written in this century?”

“I liked the style, but it isn't really very commercial by today's standards. My problem is that saturation seems to have removed scary stuff from the modern world. What can a vampire or a zombie do that we haven't all seen a dozen times?”

“Not much, I'm afraid. That's the same problem I have these days. Kids see so much on video games the old bed monster pales in comparison. Maybe when you figure it out you can tell me.”

“Then I'll have to charge you a consulting fee. I don't even want to write horror. It's just that a tip or trick can enhance other kinds of stories.”

“That makes some sense. You might have better luck learning some romance tricks.”

“No way. No man understands that stuff.”

“Well the old bed monster is going to give it one hell of a shot tonight.”

“Alright man. Just don't get lint all over the place, and stay out of my wife's fabric softener.”


Time for me to get back to editing. Violence and brutality I can write.


Filed under Writing


Life has been crazy this month. I wrote this as notes to myself awhile ago. It wasn’t too hard to modify into a blog post, because I want to stay close to some kind of schedule.


I love suspense, and am trying to get better at including it in my stories. You should consider this in your own fiction. How do you include an element of suspense? I’ll tell you later. Okay, that was a bad old joke, but true.

Suspense directly relates to plants and payoffs, except it doesn’t payoff; at least at first. It’s hard to resist letting the reader know about the cool thing you have planned, but it’s a must to pull this off. First you have to make the plant. I’ll free write something:

Angela shuffled into the kitchen behind her walker. Her frail, old frame stooped from a lifetime of hard work. She scooped the coffee grounds into her drip maker and switched it on. The furnace made a skittering noise as she opened her paper and sat at the kitchen table.

The furnace noise increased and moved closer. She slid her walker over to her chair and painfully stood. The sound seemed to be coming from the heating vent. With one hand on the walker, she bent down and pulled the register from the duct.

A giant insect-like claw shot from the register and grabbed her around the upper torso. It jerked her to the floor with a hollow thump. It shot back up and jerked down again, this time snapping Angela’s neck back at an unnatural angle.

The claw forced out once more and wrenched back hard. Angela’s brittle collar bones gave way and she disappeared into the ductwork…

Your readers will remember this. The kitchen of Angela’s old house is now a major tension point and you can use it repeatedly throughout the story. Set up an estate sale and have people buy items from this very room. Nothing has to happen. Add all the flickering lights and nuance you like.

Let the Realtor show the house to a young family. One of the adorable children wanders into the kitchen alone to check out the freezer. Drag it out. Nothing has to happen.

Hold a children’s birthday party here. Place the birthday girl in a chair over the duct. Lots of laughing, singing Happy Birthday, and just as they reach the crescendo…Nothing happens.

The duct smells horrible. Mom pulls the register and sprays Febreeze down there. Maybe something skitters away. What are these stains around the register? Scrub, scrub, scrub. Nothing happens.

The parents go out and hire a babysitter. The babysitter always gets it, right? She hears a noise in the kitchen. She tip toes into the kitchen and gingerly approaches the register. The cat jumps from the cupboard and squalls. The babysitter picks up the cat and goes back to the living room. “You naughty kitty.”

Eventually you have to pay this off, but with no more explanation than the scene with Angela, you can milk this for several chapters. Every time someone goes in the kitchen, your readers will be on edge. It’s even better if they’re alone and it’s dark.

There has to be something interesting going on at all times. The whole story can’t be about a flibber from the planet Glorn. Maybe some kind of Scooby club finds a few clues. Maybe they catch the baby chewing on Angela’s old dentures. These same ten chapters need to develop plot and character, but suspense can be a big part of your story.

Resist the temptation of showing the flibber for a few chapters.

So the hero manages to skewer it, what next? “This is just a baby flibber. There could be a whole nest of them nearby. The parents are really nasty” She raised her head and looked out the window at the abandoned colonial on the corner. “How long has the Phelps place been empty?”

Then have the teenage daughter go through an initiation. She has to enter the old Phelps place alone, walk under the dark stairs and take a selfie. Aannndd…nothing happens, just a sound like rustling leaves. The girls run away screaming and laughing. You start the whole cycle over again.

This can’t be the whole story. You still need plot and characters, but it’s a darned good tool for your toolbox.


Filed under Short Stories & Vignettes, Writing

Writing about fear


It all started at the office. I’m usually the first one there. I crossed the parking lot, and a bum was sleeping under one of the trees. He wore a navy blue hoodie, and had some kind of tattoo on his neck. I hit the lock button on my key fob an extra time, unlocked the front door and went inside. I admit to looking outside once more, but the guy was gone.

Two days later, it was on the morning commute. An old brown car pulled up on the blind spot in the left lane. The paint was peeling off the top, and he just hung there for several blocks. I didn’t think much of it; just another day commuting. As we approached my office, he sped past. Same blue hoodie, what looked like an iron cross neck tattoo. I tried to see his face, but he had on one of those medical masks like germophobes wear. I admit to looking over my shoulder as I entered the office in the dark.

The time changed. I forgot all about it. When I came home one night, the garage door was open. I blamed my wife, and never really thought about it. The pit bull was happy to see me. It must be safe.

On the way to work the next morning, there was the brown car again. He was in a parking lot about five blocks from my house. It was in a dark spot, and I couldn’t make out the license plate. I nearly rear ended a woman in a minivan, because I was watching my stalker pull out behind me in my mirror.

The work week ended. We went and saw the new Thor movie. My wife went to work early Saturday. These mornings are my favorite writing time. I got up early and went through my morning routine. When I left the bedroom, there he was in the living room. He pointed a shotgun at me. I stumbled back into the wall.

I groped around in the dark feeling for something to hit him with. Probably a futile effort, but nothing was handy anyway. He raised the shotgun and asked, “Scared?”

“Fuck you,” I said. Probably lame, but he had me cold.

“That’s no way to talk to an old friend.” He lowered the gun and morphed into Lorelei. She wore the same hoodie, but her jeans morphed into tight fitting ones with the fancy stitching on the pockets.

“Bitch,” I said.

She grabbed my shirt and pulled me to my easy chair. She shoved me back and forced a cup of coffee into my hand.

“I’m an old guy, you could have killed me.”

“But were you scared?”


“You said you wanted to write a scene to scare the crap out of someone. To do that you need stakes. What was at stake?”

“My life, possibly my family and coworkers.”

“And isolation too. How far away was any help? Think about the mood. It was dark, if I could have arranged fog I would have.”

“There were plants and payoffs too. I’ve used that before. Set me up before you strike.”

“You’re getting it. High stakes, far from safety, plant some info early, and don’t forget to set the mood.” She sipped her coffee and asked, “Got any cookies or anything?”

“There’s a muffin in the kitchen.”

She retrieved her breakfast and brought me one. “Write about what scares you. You’ll do a better job, and if it scares you it will scare other people too.”

“You know, I’ve always wanted to write a really steamy sex scene.”

She leaned forward and smiled. “Nice try, slick. A Muse inspires. That’s where my shift ends.”


Filed under Muse, Uncategorized