Category Archives: Writing

Newsreelmancer PART 2

Continued from Newsreelmancer PART 1

Welcome to the year 2036. Technology has changed, but society’s ills have remained the same.

Our hero purchased a pair of smart lenses off the darknet, so he could slack off at work. Too bad the first thing he saw with them was a terrorist attack. Three planes crashed into the Freedom Tower at the exact moment our hero turned his lenses on. Coincidence, or is there something sinister about these so called Oracle Eyes?

Newsreelmancer PART 2

The night the One World Trade Center was attacked I lay in bed staring at the applications on the ceiling. I scanned through those rune stone icons, opening and closing them. Apart from the News app, none of them opened with a strange flurry of pictures.

There was one app that refused to open at all.

This rune had a keyhole etched into it. I squinted at it but it wouldn’t enlarge nor would it ignite. After thirty seconds of staring all that appeared were the words DET HEMMELIGE KAMMER. I ran them through a Norwegian to English dictionary. They translated to THE SECRET CHAMBER.

I’ve seen applications that pose as other things: documents, system apps, or folders. Things a suspicious spouse wouldn’t bat an eye at. Developers marketed these apps as little black books for swingers, photo libraries for sexts, and lock boxes for corporate secrets.

Those apps hid in plain sight. DET HEMMELIGE KAMMER had “Secret” in the title and an icon that demanded inspection.

I kept trying, but the application wouldn’t respond to squints, nor would it give me a field to enter a password in. Stranger still, it wasn’t present in any of the Oracle Eyes beta operating systems I found online. Either these lenses were pre-alpha prototypes or they’d been modded after the fact. Continue reading Newsreelmancer PART 2

Newsreelmancer PART 1

The world can’t seem to go a week without a soul shattering tragedy. The news is getting harder to take, while the methods for viewing it are only getting easier. Imagine a future where tragedies are worse and updates come as easily as thinking. Would you be able to resist filling your head with all the bad news?

Newsreelmancer

The words 1 SEARCH RESULT projected on the wall.

I flung my tablet on the pillow, threw my fists up in victory, and jumped on the bed. My cat, Loki, saw my excitement as a threat and fled the room.

The page loaded. The logo filled the wall from the ceiling to the dresser: the pyramid, the all seeing eye, and the finger applying the contact lens to it. The perfect emblem for the holy grail of wearable technologies.

I caught the tablet before it fell off the mattress. I’d filled several columns with letter combinations and put checkmarks next to the ones whose searches produced nothing. I was finally able to circle one: Fern_Rep_Coy_Release.

The price hovering above my cactus was one grand.

I craned my neck. “Alfred, open my wallet.”

A refined English accent boomed over the surround system. “Which card would you prefer sir?”

Projections of four credit cards spread out over my action figure collection, three glowed red. One glowed green. I pointed to the green one, “Let’s go with the MasterCard.”

“Very well, sir.”

The price tag for the Fern_Rep_Coy_Release flipped around to PURCHASED. Continue reading Newsreelmancer PART 1

Black Noise Podcast Episode 1: Red Flags

Welcome to the inaugural episode of my Podcast: Drew Chial’s Black Noise, where I premiere short stories in the spirit of the Twilight Zone. Unlike my previous audio shorts I plan on prefacing these recordings with informal thoughts on my writing process.

This first episode is largely unstructured. I’ve yet to develop any bits beyond the reading and an artist statement. So I winged it. Maybe next time I’ll have a checklist.

Feel free to share your ideas for future episodes in the comments.

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My audiobook Terms and Conditions is now free on Bandcamp. You can listen to it right here!

How to Swap the Light Bulbs of Inspiration

Robert A. Heinlein’s second rule of is writing: You must finish what you start.

Neil Gaiman would add: Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.

This article is about doing whatever you have to do, even when the spark from your first light bulb moment has gone dim.

What I do When My Inspiration is Incomplete

Ding. A light bulb appears over my head. It’s faint and it’s flickering, but I get the sense it’s one of many lamps leading down a larger path.

Most of my stories come to me like this.

Ding.

“What if depression acted like a movie producer invading the set of a man’s life and it gave him all these ‘notes’ that ruined his day?”

Ding.

“What if the corporation that runs reality starts putting features, like gravity, behind a paywall?”

Ding.

“What if a guy has a different personality disorder for every day of the week?”

These blinking bulbs line the entrance of a conceivable composition. These lamps rarely cast enough light to show a story’s structure. I can’t see the exit from the entrance, but I have a vague sense where the front door is leading. I see movement in the windows, but only catch silhouettes of the characters.

A lot of writers need to see the floor plan before venturing into the building. I’ve found if I keep pacing the block looking for the brightest concept I never go inside. I’m the kind that goes in blind and screws the bulbs in along the way in.

Those first few dings of inspiration might lead me to believe I’m walking into a plot driven mystery, but with a little more light I realize it’s an intimate character study. My skill for lighting depends on my ability to adjust my expectations of the building I’m working on.  Continue reading How to Swap the Light Bulbs of Inspiration

Tooth Fury: A Story About the Magic that Goes into Every Bar Fight

My people once lived in castles as white as pearls, with great ivory towers, and spires that drilled into the clouds. We rode lifts on floss cables over waterfalls of twinkling blue paste, and rivers of green antiseptic.

Every surface of our fortress had a healthy gleam. There were no stains, cracks, or cavities. We all did our part to keep it that way. Adults fitted their shoes with bristles and glided across milky walkways. Children rode mint sleds down streets paved with bone. Jolly chimney sweepers cleaned the plaque from the gutters.

We danced beneath the long sharp roots that lined our roofs without fear of them ever falling.

The kingdom was sturdy. The infrastructure was strong, because we had a steady supply of the mineral our society was built upon.

I was a human ivory dealer (or Tooth Fairy if you prefer). My job was to procure the precious commodity we needed to fortify our city, and leave a sufficient payment for those who supplied the materials.

Ours was a trade-dependent economy. Fairy folk paid for goods and services with smiles, hugs, and songs, but for some goofy reason humans wouldn’t accept positive sentiments as payment. We had to investment in their markets so that we could pay for what we needed. Continue reading Tooth Fury: A Story About the Magic that Goes into Every Bar Fight

Blog Status Update

Blog entries will always get more clicks than Short Stories, but if you’re an aspiring author you need to do one of these things more. “How to” articles will drive traffic to your site, but will they pique anyone’s interest in your fiction? What’s the overlap between your readers in each medium? Odds are your blogging voice and your narrative voice sound completely different.

If you share more blogs than fiction, you’ve only established one of your brands.

I’ve had success writing about online marketing, but I’m more interested in writing horror than I am being a social media mentor. Yes, I could get around Twitter’s link limiting algorithm by writing endless articles about it, but that’s not why I’m here in the first place.

I’ve decided that my site needs to take a hit in monthly clicks so I can pursue my niche. If that means rebuilding my audience from the ground up, so be it.

There’s no shortage of bloggers who blog about blogging for bloggers who do the same, writing empty self perpetuating content that dates itself upon publication. I’m going to exit that cycle for a while.

You may have noticed the change already. This last May I’ve posted 5 short stories. I don’t know if I can keep that level of creative output going all summer long (I also have a novel to edit), but I want share as much fiction as I do blogs on writing.

There are so many would-be authors building brands by giving advice on the craft of writing. That’s been my strategy for four years now.

I’ve found that the audience that enjoys my blogging voice doesn’t really know my creative writing voice yet. That needs to change. So brace yourself for more twisted fiction to come.

I Am Fire: A Story about a Game of Truth or Flare

It was the last semester of senior year and all the cool kids were boycotting prom in favor of something better.

Why rent a limousine when you could make an entrance in an art car shaped like a pumpkin? Why break the bank on a pastel dress when you could wear a piece designed by one of your friends? Why go to a twerk-a-thon in a hotel ballroom when you could go to a masquerade in the Hollywood hills?

Moira promised carriage rides around her estate, vaudevillian cabaret dancers, and a hard rock cello quartet. She promised sword swallowers, contortionists, and devils on stilts. She promised a magician with body modifications who did tricks with his magnetic hands, a pain proof man that hammered nails into his nostrils, and a death defying woman who escaped coffins buried underground.

She promised memories worth making, which was more than our school was offering.

Moira came from wealth and fame. She was the queen bee of our hedonistic hive. If she wanted to live out her Victorian carnival fantasy us drones had, to lace up our corsets, and come a-buzzing.

Tonight we were going to party like it was 1929. Continue reading I Am Fire: A Story about a Game of Truth or Flare

Silver Tongued Devil: A Portrait of a Terrible Person

I was in such a hurry that I parallel parked diagonally: one tire on the curb, the other out into the lane. I didn’t mean to box in the car behind me, but I was running late and its windshield was so shattered it was no longer roadworthy.

On my way toward the church I noticed the neighborhood was in state of transition. There were Christmas wreaths, Easter egg shards, and Halloween gargoyles on every other lawn, pink papers nailed to every other door, and the windows were a mix of bars and boards.

I zigzagged down the sidewalk to avoid the dog turds, condoms, and shell casings that lined the way.

A scarecrow of a man stepped into my path. He wore a football jersey with a starter jacket tied around his waist. His hair was a bundle of straw, with a halo of split ends bleached blond by the sun. His face looked like a topographical globe in a vice: the forehead was cracked, the eyes were sunken ravines, and the lips were little mountain ranges.

Before I could check his fingers for something shiny he opened his hand and extended to me. His palm felt like sandpaper. Continue reading Silver Tongued Devil: A Portrait of a Terrible Person

Shop Dropping: A Spooky Story about People Who Put Things on Retail Shelves

I worked in one of the last bookstores in town. Print wasn’t dead, but it was on life support. The neighboring restaurants drew in most of our business. The bulk of our sales were made while customers were waiting to be seated elsewhere.

Parents paged through new releases as their children collected all the trinkets we’d placed at eye level. Millennials turned all the political biographies around, teens stole glimpses at artful nudes, and couples bickered about Playboy’s newfound presence at the checkout counter.

The bad element snuck in with the dinner rush. They couldn’t look me in the eye on their way in, but they looked out for me the further they went. I’d catch them craning their necks over the shelves and ducking back down once I’d made them.

I’d walk by and they’d say, “Browsing.” before I got one word in.

It’s store policy not to accuse anyone of wrongdoing, but there was no such thing as too much costumer service when one of them was around. I made sure these people had a chance to meet everyone that was on staff at the time.

Troublemakers weren’t hard to spot hunched over in their cardigans with their hands in their pajama bottoms. They came from all walks of life, but they’d devolved into gaunt, pale faced ghouls, with cherry red eyes, and plum purple eyelids. Each one stinking of nicotine, body odor, and box wine.

I’d go back to the section they’d been “browsing” in, scan the shelves, and try to find what they’d done. There were always subtle signs. I’d find a stack of front facing hardcovers repositioned with their spines out, a title set atop the row, or a handful of books on the floor.

Troublemakers had to make room for their additions to our inventory. You see they weren’t shoplifting. They were shop dropping. Continue reading Shop Dropping: A Spooky Story about People Who Put Things on Retail Shelves

Death Hacks: Tricks to make Your Afterlife more Fun

Most of you ghosts will haunt the places where you died because you think you have unfinished business there. You’ll spend your days peering out the windows like puppies eager for their masters to return, lingering on the off chance that clairvoyant children will walk through your front doors.

You sentimental specters will extend attic steps, hoping to lure young paranormal investigators into the orgy of evidence you’ve prepared. If they take the bait you’ll tip over lamps to spotlight chests filled with photo albums and records from insane asylums. You’ll run your fingers through journals, pretending to be a gust of wind, until the pages land on the right passage.

You’ll spend your time around the living campaigning for your cause and wondering why your intentions get lost in translation. You’ll roll a tricycle to the site of your unmarked grave and wonder why no one is in a hurry to exhume the body. You’ll have the same epiphany every fledgling phantom has had before you: trying to get anything done by haunting the living is like herding cats.

You’ll get jaded trying to petition deaf ears to your cause. You’ll have telekinetic tantrums, throwing books, upending tables, and burning family photos. The next thing that will happen is you’ll turn on your new tenants. I did. Continue reading Death Hacks: Tricks to make Your Afterlife more Fun