Day Two; Around 11:09 pm CDT (I Know What You’re Thinking)
Magnum P.I. playing on TV again and I am deep into writing this story and live blogging about it. (Same as yesterday/this morning.) Been at it about forty-five minutes and have about 3425 words now, that’s about 418 words typed-up in the past hour.
Spent a lot of the time typing up and revising an original handwritten page from months ago. I had changed the plot enough that it had to be re-written. Oh, well.
I studied some of Norbert Davis’ stories for his style and humor. Hopefully I can approximate his light touch.
Check back here: I will be typing for a few more hours.
——Jeff Baker, October 27, 2021 CDT.
It’s about twelve-thirty am, October 28, 2021. I wrote about 263 words, sections from various parts of the story. Tying it together and writing more is going to be the challenge, but I’ll see if I can get the first draft done by Halloween. (This coming Sunday.)
So, I’m going to look through some Norbert Davis and maybe work on this later on.
My friend Jerome Stueart is a writer and artist, and he has been doing livestream videos of creating some of his artworks. (I have one, he’s good.) I wanted to do something like that, except that my livestream capabilities are nil and while an artist creating an artwork is visually stimulating a writer typing is just boring (even with dramatic pauses for bathroom breaks.
So, I’m live blogging this tonight and I’ll add updates to this as I go along.
First some background. I have a deadline for an anthology, October 31st (of this year) and I decided to write a story on the theme. I had plenty of time, I found out in May and wrote out a few paragraphs.
And then I got stuck. I haven’t done anything on this since June. But yesterday (October 25th) I thought I may as well try. And I hit on a solution to a major plot point, which I didn’t have before. So, now I’m going to go for it. I have about five days to finish this with a wordcount of three-thousand words or more, but my heroes are some of the pulp writers, so the tight deadline fits. If I finish about three pages a day I will have the amount. Hopefully more.
I started writing tonight about an hour ago (well about nine-thirty P.M.) and to my amazement the story started to cook. So, I’m making progress.
Speaking of pulp writers, I’ve been reading Norbert Davis (1909-1949) who also used humor in his hard-boiled stories, and as I like a story with a few smiles I’m emulating him.
Not that my tough, shady, tarnished knight of a private eye isn’t going to find danger, bullets and death amid the laughter.
So far, I have about 800 words. It’s ten forty-nine. Give me a few minutes and I’ll be off and running down the dangerous streets of this story again.
Check back in an hour or two. I will be updating.
——— Jeff Baker, Oct. 26. 10: 51 p.m. CDT
The Tarnished Knight Stalks Dark Streets (So to speak.)
Okay, it’s five minutes after midnight, October 27, 2021 and I have made some progress. Between about eleven-fifteen p.m. and Midnight I wrote about 700 words. The wordcount total is now at 1520 words. Some writers write to background music playing. My background has been a couple of episodes of the original “Magnum P. I.” playing on TV. My private eye is the opposite of the moral, sometimes exuberant Magnum. I am working the second chapter of this story first, I have the last part of it finished. I need to finish the first part; my P. I.’s conversation with another character. That character is about to meet a very messy death.
Speaking of messy, I have probably about 250-500 words already written out in a notebook. Typing that up is progress too but I have a feeling this is going to be longer than the deadline-meeting 3000 words. Plus, I have to check the submission guidelines. And use the bathroom. (I drink a lot of tea/water while writing.)
———–October 27, 2021. 12:11 a.m. CDT.
Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head 1:37 a.m., October 27, 2021.
It’s pouring outside, storm passing through Kansas wit thunder, ect. And I’m cooking with gas on the story. Wrote 662 words since the last update. Also wrote a few notes and drank a bottle of water and used the loo again. (Ironically, one of the scenes in the story involves a bathroom, with some discussion of a toilet tank!) The wordcount is at 2188 words now.
I need to go over this story when I’m going because it’s way more serious than I had planned for a Norbert Davis homage. But I will have time to do it. I checked the submission guidelines online (I had written them down) and they have been moved. Previously it was October 31st. Now, it is December 31st, 2021.
Still, I’m holding on Halloween as the deadline to finish this first draft, pulp writer style. After reading through some Norbert Davis.
Okay. It’s 1:50 a.m., October 27, 2021. Going to do a couple of things and then hit the story again. Pulp typing begin!
————–Jeff Baker 1:51 a.m. CDT October 27, 2021.
Had I But Known—-2:51 a.m. CDT. October 27, 2021
Lots of progress. Shutting down for the evening/morning.
As of 2:51 this morning I have written a total of 3006 words. About 818 words since 1:55 am. Added another character, re-wrote a bit of it. Realized that I’m probably going to have another 3000 words to his done by Halloween (my personal deadline for the first draft, even though the story isn’t due until New Year’s Eve—thank you, revised deadline!)
I also have to read some Norbert Davis and snuggle with the most wonderful husband ever.
And I have managed to kick the writing into high gear, something I haven’t done a lot of lately.
So, to those of you following as I live blogged this, thanks. I hope you enjoyed the trip! A wild ride that isn’t over by any means.
I just joined Rainbow Snippets! I’m not sure exactly how this works or when the regular schedule is, but I’m supposed to post six sentences from either an LGBT WIP or another LGBT work of fiction.
This is from a story I posted a few years ago that got some nice reaction, called “Shine On Harvest Moon.” One of my series of sci-fi tall tales told in a Gay bar…
The next week, the last of the resort season, it stormed so I couldn’t get to the beach and by the next summer I was in the army. When I finally made it back to the beach, years later, the rocky area had been torn down. They were putting up a bridge from there to one of the islands. I had no way of knowing where the mermen had gone, and no real way of finding them. I certainly couldn’t put an ad in the local paper asking if anyone knew the whereabouts of a group of singing gay mermen, could I? Not even in the supposedly liberated 1960’s.”
I’ve done this before and (hopefully) I won’t be repeating myself from earlier years. This is a list of a few scary (okay mildly spooky) short-stories for Halloween.
“The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe.
Have to start with Poe. This is really a crime story but it certainly is frightening and a damn good read. Not all stories written almost two hundred years ago can make that claim. I’m trying to limit myself to one story by an author, but I might have included “The Masque of the Red Death” as well. Oh, I have a spoiler at the end of this article about this story.
“The Haunter of the Dark” by H. P. Lovecraft.
One of Lovecraft’s last stories and the first one I think I read. Spooky atmosphere, and a nice wink at the young author we meet in the next story on the list.
“Floral Tribute” by Robert Bloch.
Here I’ll say I could (and do!) recommend any story by Bloch, but this one was read to my class by a substitute teacher when I was in fifth grade and made a huge impression on me. It may be a variation on his first published story “Lillies,” and may have inspired a story on TV.’s “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”
“John Charrington’s Wedding” by E. Nesbit.
Edith Nesbit is well-known for her kids books but she wrote some seriously good frighteners. This one ties with “Man-Sized in Marble” as a genuine, nightmare-inducing classic.
“Vampire” by Richard Christian Matheson.
The successful screenwriter has penned a lot of short-short stories, including this one with every line of the story being one word long. Besides, it was liked by his father, Richard Matheson. I can’t top that!
“Old Clothes” by Ramsey Campbell.
Another master whose short works I recommend, I first read this story in Campbell’s collection “Waking Nightmares.”
“Footsteps Invisible” by Robert Arthur.
I’ve gushed before about my affection for pulp writer Arthur and his sometimes scary, sometimes funny stories. This is one of the best.
And I’ll list a novel I have mentioned here before, Roger Zelazny’s “A Night In the Lonesome October,” which has one chapter for every day in the month. Not too late to start reading this! The title, of course, is from Poe. Happy reading!
SPOILER ABOUT CASK OF AMONTILLADO: .emirc eht htiw yawa steg rotarran eht ezilaer t’ndid I dna 1791tuoba yrots siht daer tsrif d’I
I turned fifteen years old the week before Halloween, Nineteen-Seventy-Five. I felt like an adult. I wasn’t, but you couldn’t tell fifteen-year old me anything. Trick-or-treating was for little kids, I had done it seemingly decades ago, so when Terry next door said his Mom wanted him to take his little sisters out for Halloween and asked if I wanted to come along I shrugged and said yeah.
Annie was seven, Debbie was five. Since we were going with them, Terry’s Mom had said we could take the youngest out after dark.
I showed up at Terry’s right after dinner. It was down in the fifties, so I had on my Dad’s old Army fatigue jacket, which was kind of a costume, I guessed.
“Hi, Scott!” Terry’s Mom said when Terry let me in. She’d told me once to go ahead and come in without knocking. I never felt comfortable with that, best friend’s house or no.
Seven year old Annie rushed up to me with a big smile. She had a black outfit, a peaked black hat and a green painted face.
“Scooter!” Annie said. I grimaced.
“Don’t call me Scooter,” I said.
“I heard your Grandma call you Scooter,” Annie said with a defiant smile.
“Yeah, but you call me Scott,” I said bending down in her face and baring my teeth.
“Scooter!” Annie said with a big seven-year-old smile.
“Call me Scooter again and I’ll take away your candy!” I snarled through barred teeth in mock anger, reaching for her gaudy trick-or-treat bag, decorated with orange pumpkins and black cats.
“No!” Annie said, yanking the bag away and laughing.
“Scott! Go trick or treating.”
That voice was Debbie, Terry’s younger sister. Five years old and dressed in a pink fairy princess outfit. I grinned and waved.
“Soon as Terry gets his, I mean, gets out here,” I said.
“Terry!!” his Mom called.
I heard Terry’s muffled voice coming from the bathroom. He probably was looking forward to this less than I was. I tried not to think of a few glimpses I’d gotten of Terry’s bare behind. I thought about that a lot but I never told him.
In a couple of minutes he walked out, tall and skinny with shaggy blond hair. His Mom reminded him to put on his jacket and he obliged her with a windbreaker. She was struggling to get Debbie to put a jacket on over her costume, Debbie was protesting that all the candy was going to be gone. Annie was standing there looking like a short, impatient Margaret Hamilton.
The four of us wandered down the street, walking through front yards and I have to admit I was feeling a little funny remembering the days when I was out on my own in the night with my bag foraging for candy. We stopped at every house that had lights on or a lit jack o’lantern on the porch and the kids rushed up and banged on the door, shrilling “Trick or Treat,” sometimes with a crowd of other little gremlins in costumes. Terry and I would hold back and watch and sometimes chat with the other adults if they were there.
While the girls were marching along hoarding candy, Terry and I were shooting the breeze about school, girls (I faked that) and Saturday Night Live.
I was glad I had the jacket, it was cold and clouds were drifting across the sky. Now and then I could see a patch of deep blue sky and stars. I looked at my watch. It was still early.
We walked up and down both sides of our street, past where they would build the new high school just off Thirteenth Street in two years and had gone around the next block when Terry thumbed at the next street.
“Wanna try down there?” Terry said.
“I dunno,” I said loudly. “I bet the girls are too tired to go for more candy.”
The girls protested and so we went down the next street. Terry was probably trying to get to the little convenience store (did we call them that back then?) to get a couple of cans of soda and talk to the girl behind the counter. The first few houses on the street had their lights off. Terry looked around and pointed at a big space of open lots between the dark houses and a lit street on the other side.
“Take our hands,” he said. “Let’s go over there.”
I grabbed Debbie’s hand, Terry Grabbed Annie’s and we ran across the lots, Annie protesting about holding her brother’s hand. In the middle of the lot the wind whipped up and Debbie started crying. She’d dropped her pink wand with the star on the end. We were standing there wishing we’d brought a flashlight as I stared at the ground looking for a glint of light on glittery wand. I glanced up. Something was wrong. I looked all around.
I couldn’t see any of the lit houses or the street we had been heading for. There was a sudden roar of wind, and a loud, shrill noise; I hadn’t heard the word keening yet but that’s what it was. Terry grabbed my shoulder, he damn near pulled my arm out of the socket. His mouth was open and he pointed up. I looked up. We all did.
There was a big, tinted, full Moon above us. A black shape was slowly drifting across its face, too solid to be a cloud. It fluttered like it was wrapped in something and beneath it clearly was the outline of a broom. It turned and seemed to be heading down towards us.
I scooped up Debbie, Terry pulled Annie and the three of us ran back the way we came. Terry probably wouldn’t have cared if I’d held his hand as we ran. In a few moments, we came back to where we’d been when Terry had suggested going down the street. I looked up. Starry sky. No Moon. We were out of breath. I set Debbie down. She was crying and clutching her bag.
To calm Debbie down we had to promise to go back towards their house and hit one of the side streets we hadn’t been on. Debbie got more candy. Terry and I talked about what we’d seen, trying to convince Annie and ourselves that it had been a torn trash bag blowing in front of a lit cloud or something. When we got the girls back to Terry’s house, we helped ourselves to some of the candy, sat on the front porch and talked about everything but what we’d seen.
It’s been almost fifty years since that Halloween in Kansas. But even today when the weather chills and the leaves turn orange for Fall I see that orange Moon and the eerie fluttering thing passing between it and us. I wake up and pull closer to the husband I met in college and I tell myself again that it was just something blowing in the Kansas wind that October night.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’ve taken liberties with the weather on Halloween 1975 (I don’t remember what it was actually, but there was no Moon) but I did go around the block with my best friend and his younger sisters on at least one Halloween. For those of us who remember the 60s and 70s, this is what it was like.
The Moon was a pretty good place to hold a concert, no sound outside the auditorium, so they could play as loud as they wanted.
I grinned at Duke seated right next to me. He loved this old music as much as I did.
The concert was a great idea, but the scheduling had been done months earlier. Ordinarily the only thing that went on in this hall was an instructional session, and sometimes stacking overflow crates.
Duke and I had been working double shifts unloading and loading shipments either on their way to Earth or on their way out from Earth. That gave us time to talk, but not much time for anything else. This was our first evening out, even if it was technically early morning on our section of the Moon.
At a lull in the music, Duke nudged me and pointed up at the high domed window.
“Hey, Brandon, look.”
I glanced up. I could just see the telltale shape of one of the freighters angling towards wherever it was heading. Our docks and ports were quite a few kilometers away from this auditorium.
“Wonder where it’s going?” Duke said.
“As long as I’m not working, I don’t care,” I said.
The next song started blaring loud.
“Glad they got the Gravity Wheel going under here,” I said, yelling into Duke’s ear.
“As long as they don’t throw any of their guitars in the air, they should be okay!” Duke yelled back.
Just then, there was an even louder guitar noise from the stage, as the lead guitarist got on one knee and started imitating that guitarist from about two hundred years ago I’d seen on old videos. He let out a yell and tossed the guitar into the air. It hung there, several feet over his head, descending very slowly.
“You know, if that was one of the ancient electrics it would have a cord attached to it he could pull down,” Duke said.
As the cow trundled across the unused cornfield, Nick marked of a spot on the map.
“Your Dad’s old fountain pen still working?” Alex said.
“Best it can jostling around on a cow.” Nick said, shaking the pen.
“Crazy!” Alex said.
“No crazier than heading off with the man you love on a cow?”
“We should at least get married on a motorcycle.” Alex said.
“You realize if we get married, you’d be Alex Rodriguiz?” Nick said playfully, kissing the back of Alex’s neck.
“Shuuut up!” Alex said, looking back with a big grin.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Somehow the first of the month and the monthly Flash Fiction Draw Challenge just blew right past me and I only found out today! 🙂 So, I decided to do something very short; a “Drabble.” That’s a story 100 words, no more no less. (I’m counting the title, not my byline.) Oh, and the draws for what goes into the story were (thanks Jeff Ricker!) a Farm field, a fountain pen and a romance. Hope you enjoyed this story! ——jsb, Oct. 11, 2021.
Years afterward I went and looked for the tree. It was early October and the leaves had hit that point where they changed overnight. In this case, the tree had fanned out into a bright yellow and orange, like a ginger peacock.
The neighborhood had changed in the decades since. Still no sidewalks. Somehow I remembered sidewalks. A few of the trees were gone, some of the brick-shoebox-shaped-cookie-cutter houses had been enlarged with garages or a second story.
But the tree was still there. After all these years.
We’d hid in its branches, my friends and I played in there when the green leaves hid us from view in the summer. I read books in the tree and one night I tried to sleep in the tree when I tried to run away from home when I was about seven. Yes, I sat under the tree one weekend and read “A Separate Peace,” when it was assigned to us in high school.
And one cold winter night when I was sixteen, my friends and I had gotten some beer and ran around the tree in our basketball shorts and then my folks had unexpectedly came back home.
I stood in the yard and stared. My head came up to where the branches started, nearly six feet off the ground. I remembered scrambling up the trunk when I was a little kid. Jumping to grab a branch when I was in high school, one of the few times I climbed a tree when I was past grade school.
I was a lot older, I thought. Not much, I suddenly realized. This tree was in pictures my Mom and Dad had from when they bought the house about five years before I was born, three years before my sister and brother were born. It looked the same.
I looked around the neighborhood. There were a couple of families that still lived in the same houses from years ago, but there had been another family in this house, my old house, for years.
I looked around again, Nobody around. Nobody in my old house right now.
I reached up and hoisted myself into the golden-orange leaves of the tree.
I just finished reading a short-story, a science-fantasy story by Henry Kuttner titled “The Uncanny Power of Edwin Cobalt.” I stumbled across a mention of the basic plot somewhere and it sounded very familiar, so I sought the story out in Volume Two of the fine Haffner Press series The Early Kuttner,” titled “The Watcher at the Door.”
I read the story in about a half-hour. It’s Kuttner at the top of his form, he may or may not have been collaborating with Catherine Moore (C. L. Moore) who he married in 1940. The story breezes by, a fun read with a Twilight Zone vibe. And it did sound familiar, probably because I’d read a similar story when I was about twelve years old back in 1973.
I am not suggesting plagiarism, just two prolific authors came up with the same basic idea and treated it in two different ways. The story I read in 1973 was “Obstinate Uncle Otis,” by Robert Arthur. Arthur’s story appeared in Argosy in July 1941. Kuttner’s story appeared in Fantastic Adventures in October 1940, so it’s just possible that Arthur was writing and sending off his story as Kuttner’s was being readied for publication. There are similarities, but also some important differences.
“The Uncanny Power of Edwin Cobalt” is told in the first person by Cobalt himself, who works in an office in New York City. He has suddenly developed the power to make things vanish, IF he doubts the existence of the thing. It goes away and Cobalt is the only one who remembers the vanished items. His wife is suddenly preparing to go out for dinner with Cobalt and doesn’t remember preparing the vanished steak but does see the vegetables and potatoes on the stove.
“Obstinate Uncle Otis” is set in a small Vermont town and is narrated by Arthur’s recurring character Murchison Morks. Morks has come to town after his stubborn uncle, Otis Morks has been hit by lightning. Uncle Otis is all right, except for two differences. One: the lightning strike has returned the amnesia he had a decade or so ago after he fell off a tractor and believed for a week he was a salesman from out of town, and Two: Somehow his “Vermont stubbornness” has been amplified to the extent that if he disbelieves in something it vanishes.
Both stories invoke a state’s attitude: the “Show Me” of Missouri and the classic “Vermont stubbornness.”
The difference in Uncle Otis’s power from Edwin Cobalt’s is that everyone remembers the things that Otis disbelieves into oblivion: the town statue, a mouse, a pesky mosquito. And nephew Murchison is kept on edge preventing his stubborn uncle from disbelieving something else out of existence, like the stars or Franklin D. Roosevelt.
There are harrowing moments in both stories, but the Arthur story has more humor. Mainly from the characters of Uncle Otis and his near panicky nephew. Despite the potential for tragedy implied in the powers in both stories, sadness only enters in the Kuttner story, where Edwin Cobalt has a few drinks and disbelieves his wife could really love him the way she does. Cobalt then goes home to find her in the arms of another man.
Not that there is no humor in “Edwin Cobalt.” And there’s plenty of fun in his recounting of old, New York landmarks that nobody remembers but him, like the liner Titania in the harbor, or “the Metropolitan Bridge across the Hudson, at 72nd Street, built in 1934.”
Having read Arthur’s story I could see the ending of “Edwin Cobalt” coming, as possibly an inevitable ending but both stories handle it differently.
Maybe it’s because I have known the Arthur story longer but it seems to be the better story of the two, or the more appealing. Maybe because of the humor that leavens the incredible, harrowing possibilities inherent in the story. But both stories are well-worth a read. Arthur’s has been reprinted several times. In “Alfred Hitchcock’s Ghostly Gallery” (which Arthur, uh, ghost-edited) and has been reprinted, and in Arthur’s own collection “Ghosts and More Ghosts.”
Henry Kuttner and Robert Arthur wrote in a similar style and both were masters of horror and humor. Both were prolific (Arthur more so in radio writing) and both died too soon. And both of these stories about vanishments are excellent.
I wouldn’t disbelieve either of them out of existence!