Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Free story idea – Dragon sphere

I have a lot of ideas for stories.  Like, if I wrote a novel’s worth of them every month, I’d still most likely die before getting through them all.  I will admit that some of the ideas probably suck, but I think there are some that a good writer could make something of them.  I’ll just never get a chance to.  So, I give them to the world.  If you can make something of these, go right ahead.  And if these are the ideas I’m giving away, maybe check out the ones I keep.

This is the beginning of an idea.  I have it worked out to a point, but I have no idea where it goes from there, or what the point of it will be.  Also, I’m American so I know our history and landscape, so there are some factors you’d need to figure out if you set this in another country.

It is explained in later chapters, but around 1820 there’s a farm somewhere in Pennsylvania, or Ohio, or maybe New York owned by a guy I’ll call Smith.  His eldest son eventually inherits the farm.  His younger son buys the farm to the east.  His daughter marries a guy who buys the farm to the north.  Throughout the 1800s, all the farms in the immediate area are bought by branches of the Smith family.  They even build additional houses so that four or five families can live on what was one farm.  They’re not inbred, they do go out and find someone, but they always move back to be near the original farm.  Some may live in towns ten or so miles away, but they are always welcome back to the Smith Farms, or commune, or whatever they call it.

The story itself starts with a prologue set around the 1980’s, the exact year depends on when you set the main story.  On the original farm, Smith built a barn around 1820.  The original barn burned down, and has been replaced a few times.  But it is mainly used just to store equipment.  While all the kids from the extended family are allowed to play wherever, the adults always tell them not to play in the old barn.  We are introduced to someone I’ll call John.  John grew up on one of the original farms and it is his sixteenth birthday.  His plans are to join the Navy and see the world, and only return for holidays.  His dad tells him about a family tradition whenever people turn sixteen, and takes him to the old barn, where he shows John a secret door that leads into a cellar.  In the cellar is an old chest, which his dad opens.

The main story is probably set in the present and follows Sue, John’s granddaughter.  John joined the Navy, saw the world, got married, and came back to the Farms.  He and his wife had a son, who eventually gets married and has Sue.  But the son and his wife die in a car accident, maybe a few months after Sue is born.  And John’s wife dies of cancer or something.

So on Sue’s sixteenth birthday, it is John who tells her of this family tradition out in the old barn.  I imagine Sue just texting and not really caring.  John takes her down into the secret cellar and opens the chest.  Sue looks in, and doesn’t see what the big deal is.  This confuses John.  They start arguing, and Sue asks what’s so important about a silver ball.  John is about to say something, but goes, “Wait, what?” He asks her what she sees in the chest and she says, “A silver ball.” John asks her to take a picture of it, but for some reason it comes out blurry.  John closes the chests and hurries back to the main house.

Many of her aunts and uncles are there to welcome her into the family secret, but John says that everyone needs to be there, now.  He won’t explain anything to anyone, saying everyone needs to hear it.  So the word goes out, and in half an hour there’s fifty family members.  More are on their way, but people can’t wait any longer.

John has Sue describe what she saw in the chest.  When she says she only saw a silver ball, everyone is shocked.  This really annoys Sue, who demands an explanation.  So John starts the story.  One night, back in 1820, or whatever, Farmer Smith hears a crack of thunder, but there isn’t a cloud in the sky.  The next morning he and his sons find a crater in a field.  At the bottom, is a small, sleeping dragon.  While he could have made some money showing off a dragon, there is a mild compulsion to protect it.  So he and his sons built a chest, and then they dug the dirt out under the dragon and slid the chest under it, since they can’t bring themselves to touch it.  They then built a barn over top of it to hide it.

Sue doesn’t believe this, but all the adults tell her it is true.  In the chest is a small, sleeping dragon.  All attempts to photograph it end up blurry, but several family members over the decades have drawn or painted it, and they show several of these to Sue.

And that’s about as far as I worked it out.  Where it goes from there, I don’t know.  Here are a few bits that might make it into the story.

Over the centuries, the Family has come up with several theories.  One seemingly now proved is that it isn’t really a dragon, but some probably alien device that just projects the image of a dragon.  The question now is why is Sue able to see through that?  Have humans in general evolved to see through the deception, or is the evolution limited to the Family, or is Sue the Chosen in some non-genetic meaning?  Is the silver ball just another layer to the deception?  In ten generation will someone see something else?  Will Sue still have the same compulsion to protect it, or will she have a new compulsion?

Perhaps an aunt who has spent a lot of time thinking about the dragon wonders out loud if Sue’s kids will see the dragon or the ball.  This upsets Sue who says something like, “Yesterday I was too young for sex, now you want me knocked up for an experiment.” I think an element to whatever story someone writes of this, is that you have all these people who have lived their adult lives with a mystery, possibly finally getting some answers through this one person who doesn’t want any part of this.  There is plenty of possibility of drama there.

One little aspect I had thought of, is that this compulsion to keep the secret means that you need to be certain before bringing someone into the family.  For example, I imagine that there have been a couple of times in the past where some guy took his girlfriend to the old barn and showed her the dragon, and then proposed because, well, she knows the secret now so she can’t leave.  I imagine at some point they made a rule that you have to be married for a year before showing them the dragon. 

And that’s all I have.  My feeling is that it would be too cliché if Sue is the Chosen One, or if the “dragon” is finally waking up.  On the other hand, introducing a new aspect to an old mystery, but then not answering anything seems like something that would annoy readers unless done uniquely well.  Which is why I’m giving this idea away.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Voter registration drive and book sale

It seems every other year here in the US we face an election that WILL DETERMINE THE VERY SURVIVAL OF THE NATION.  And after going through this for the last five or six never-ending election cycles, there is a strong desire to just listen to music and play video games.  But to be a buzzkill, elections are important in that they will determine the intensity of the dumpster fire we end up in.  So I’ve come up with a deal: if you take a few minutes to register to vote, or confirm your voter registration, you can grab any – or all – of these six ebooks on Kindle for free.  Admittedly, there’s no way for me to know if you register or not, so we’re just working on the honor system.

How do you register to vote or check your registration?  You can either do it through your state’s website, or on a site like Vote411.  I don’t know how long it takes to actually register to vote since it’s something I haven’t dealt with since the last time I moved over ten years ago.  But checking your registration only takes a couple minutes.  The reason you should check your registration is that the lists of voters needs constant updating as people register, move, and die.  And even without nefarious voter purges, it’s possible for mistakes to happen.  If a mistake is caught early, it can be fixed early, and things can go smoother on Election Day.  You don’t want to find out you’re not registered after waiting in line for eight hours. 

If you’re reading this but don’t live in the US, then you can still grab my ebooks for free, I’ll just ask that you do whatever is necessary for you to participate in your political system.  If you live in a dictatorship where you can’t participate in your political system, I won’t ask how you managed to get online.

The following six ebooks will be free from Monday February 21st, through Friday February 25th.  But you can register to vote or check your registration anytime.

Political Pies

Everybody complains about politics, but does anyone do anything about it? Stephen L. Thompson’s attempt to do something about it is to collect forty of his short stories with a political element into his Political Pies anthology. His stories are either politically neutral or equally condemning of the national parties. Instead of trying to sway you to one ideology or another, his goal is to just get people thinking about politics in the hopes a rose might grow out of all the political manure.


For reasons of safety and avoiding paradoxes, Time Travel Incorporated assigns a Guardian to all its travelers. So when there is an accident during political historian Roj Hasol’s trip back to 1968, it’s his Guardian Susan who sets out on the arduous task of cleaning up the mess.

A Man of Few Words

A Man of Few Words is a collection of fifty flash fiction stories by Stephen L. Thompson. What would really happen if a “T-Rex on steroids” attacked a city? Why do science fiction writers make the best lovers? How does a company get to Second Base with VIPs? These questions and more are explored by Stephen using less than 1000 words and in various genres from humor to horror and general fiction to science fiction.

The majority of the stories were previously published (most by Stephen himself on his website) but all were revised for this collection. In addition, each piece is accompanied by some background information on the origin of the story or a funny tale about the writing of it to give a fuller experience.

Brain for Rent and other stories

Brain for Rent and other stories is a collection of five of my short scifi stories to give a sampling of my writing. The collection includes: “Brain for Rent” about a ne’re-do-well failed writer with a conceptual implant who discusses his work with a young woman thinking of getting an implant herself. “The Demonstration” is about a different young woman wanting to show off her latest body modification. “Self Imprisonment” offers one solution of safe keeping the backup copy of yourself. “The Best Job Ever” is about a necessary – yet unpleasant – human/alien interaction. And the collection ends with “Why Stay?” which explains why, after years of fighting the humans, the robots just deactivate.

An Ounce of Prevention

Like most people, Jason Fisher wanted to make the world a better place, but he doubted he would ever have the chance to make much of a mark. Then a “woman” came to him, asking his help to save humanity by threatening it.

The Most Powerful Man in the World and other stories

The Most Powerful Man in the World and other stories is a collection of five, short, scifi stories to provide a sample of my writing.

A being from the distant future with almost unlimited powers comes back to help Ian Steele make the world a better place in “The Most Powerful Man in the World.” One bookstore customer has an entirely different reason for wanting books in “Black Market Books.” “Motherhood” tells the story of Thomas Gillespie, the surrogate mother for a baby AI. “Storyteller” is about an author thinking his book into existence. And “Deadworld” is about the alien world humans are reborn on – in alien bodies – after we die.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Random Writing Tips – Broken incentives


Many years ago, in an effort to increase my writing output, I set myself a goal of writing a certain number of words each day.  It’s a great idea, but I was rather hit-or-miss on meeting my goal.  So one day I decided to give myself a bit of an incentive.  I bought a bag of mixed little candy bars, and told myself I’d get one whenever I met my goal.  If I wrote twice my goal, I’d get two, and so on.  This worked for a couple of … days.  Then one night I was hungry for something sweet but didn’t have any cookies or anything.  I was looking at this almost full bag of little candy bars, and figured I could eat some now and just owe having to write those words.

Once that precedent was set, things kind of snowballed.  I quickly finished off that first bag, and a second, and a third.  It wasn’t long before I had a little container of balled up candy wrappers.  Foil ones, not clear ones, and only from little candies, not full sized candy bars.  That would have been weird.  Whenever I hit my goal, I throw one away.  Whenever I eat a little, foil wrapped candy, I ball up the wrapper and put it in the container.  As things stand now, I need to write a novel, or three, to pay off my candy debt. 

On one hand, this is silly.  It wasn’t long before I expanded on what counted as paying off the debt, such as submitting a story or, for the last couple of years I’ve tracked how much time I’ve spent on writing and writing related activities, and this year I’ve started counting an hour a week of writing as worth one candy.  Even with that, I’m still a novel or three behind.  And yet I stick to it.  I’d hate to die with a candy debt.  I need to write more, and/or eat less candy.  I just haven’t figured out an incentive program that would let me, ideally, do both.


Image from Pixabay.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Why I’ve never written a trans character

I am a white, heterosexual, cis male who has been writing stories for twenty-fiveish years.  Back when I started, most of my characters were more-or-less versions of me because that’s what I knew.  When you’re just starting out writing, it’s a lot easier to stick to what you know.  But it wasn’t long before I started writing female characters.  The way I did this was instead of calling my character Dave, I called them Diane.  The reason this worked was that the majority of the stories I wrote back then were only a few hundred words long.  A typical story of mine back then was the main character walks around a corner and bumps into an alien, what’s their immediate reaction.  In these types of stories, there wasn’t need to explore the character’s genitals.

Along the way I also started writing non-white characters.  Although, again this was usually just done with a name, and often usually Asian.  For example, I’d have a thousand or so word story about a multicultural spaceship crew under Captain [Chinese name] coming across an alien spaceship and show their immediate reaction. 

I rarely have stories where I come right out and physically describe the characters, even for skin color.  And there are four reasons for this.  The first is that, I don’t have the numbers for this, but I’d guess that about 80% of the stories I’ve written are under a thousand words.  And probably another 10% are under three thousand words.  There isn’t much space to go into detailed descriptions.  The second reason is the idea that as long as my descriptions are vague enough, the reader will be able to put themselves into the story.  The third reason is that years ago I read a book where every time a new character showed up the author dumped a paragraph of description: height, weight, hair and eye color, shape of nose, their fashion sense, etc.  And I found it annoying, clunking, and generally pointless.

But probably the main reason I don’t give descriptions of characters is that I am terrible with faces.  I’m not face blind, I do recognize people, it’s just I can’t describe them.  When I think of people I don’t see a photo of them in my head, instead I get this ball of memories.  I can remember conversations I’ve had months, even years ago with someone, but I could turn my back to them and if you asked me what color their hair was I’d likely draw a blank.  Details like that just don’t register for me.  So if I describe a character at all, it’s usually just to point out something unique, like an eyepatch or tattoo, or something that is necessary for the story.  Other than that my characters are usually just “Person” you can picture however you want.

Probably about fifteen years ago, when gay marriage was a big issue, I decided to do my small part to help.  The way I did this was to have some gay characters in my stories, and the way I showed them to be gay was to have them in a same sex relationship.  Basically, that multicultural spaceship I mentioned before would consist of Captain [Chinese name], who would probably be a woman, with engineer Jeff with his husband Doug the botanist.  And any interaction between this gay couple would probably be the playful banter one would likely see in any sitcom married couple. 

Recently, as trans rights has become an issue, I figured I should include a trans character in a story.  And that’s when I hit a wall.  Most of my stories are short and only cover maybe an hour, so I can’t really have Chapter 1 Frank become Chapter 21 Francine.  And I’m not just going to have some character introduce someone as, “Oh, this is Mike.  He’s trans,” because that’s – at best – clunky exposition.  Also, my stories don’t really have deep, character introspection, beside the trans experience is not something I really know anything about.  I could make a character be an asshole to someone who is trans, but I don’t do that for any of my gay characters.  The reason being that most of my stories are set in the future where – one can hope – people are better and someone’s sexual preference is as important as their eye color. 

I went through all of that to explain that the reason I haven’t written any openly trans characters is because it’s too complex an issue for my simplistic writing style.  Most of my stories occur over a short time period, don’t involve characters doing soul searching, and are usually set in a world where sexual and gender identity isn’t an issue.  I have yet to figure out how to have a trans character in such a story without them just being a shoehorned-in token character.  I mean, my best idea so far is to have my main character meet someone wearing a T-shirt with a progress bar from Jane to James about two-thirds filled in.  The main character sees that, chuckles, then walks with James around the corner where they bump into an alien.


As a final note, in the off chance that – probably after my death – some of my stories get popular and movies are made of them and a trans actor is cast and some asswipe comes out of the woodwork with, “The author never wrote this character as trans,” well, there’s a high probability that I never explicitly wrote them as cis either.