Category Archives: Challenges

The Arachnopocalypse Redux

Hey ya’ll, remember that flash fiction challenge I issued a while back that required the entrants to imagine an apocalypse caused by spiders? Well, it’s back again, only different, but also the same.

The same because, it’s still about the arachnopocalypse. Different because there’s an actual cash money prize to be won this time around. (Well okay, maybe not actual cash, because this is the future and we have fancy digital currency transfer mechanisms, and speaking of which where is my flying car anyway?)

Here’s the deal. Me and Tony Southcotte host The Human Echoes Podcast, and we’re looking to expand our horizons from rambling about movies, life, and bull testicles, into producing the occasional bit of audio fiction. We started out close to home with me reading my story “Of Teeth and Claus“, but now we need your help.

Send in your story of the the spider-infested end of the world in one thousand words or less, and you’ll have the opportunity to a.) Win ten whole American dollars b.) Have your work released in audio form on the podcast. (Don’t worry it won’t be me reading it this time. We’ll get someone who sounds halfway decent.)

The deadline for entry is noon o’clock Central Time on February 8; that gives you a little over a week. The winner will be announced on the podcast two weeks after. Send your entries in to If by chance you had written a story for the previous Arachnopocalypse challenge you’re welcome to resubmit that.

Good luck and happy writing!

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Arachnopocalypse

Aren’t spiders wonderful? I mean, when you think about it, they’re fantastically beneficial to the insect ecosystem, keeping other the populations of bugs like mosquitoes and hornets in check. Wouldn’t you like to show a spider your gratitude? Can’t you imagine how nice it would feel to have his eight little legs skitter across your face and up into your hair?

Aaaad the odds are good that some of you are squirming at the thought. Because spiders are creepy. They look creepy, they walk creepy, they build creepy webs…just…eww.

Which is why I think they’d make great fodder for flash fiction.

But we’re not stopping with just spiders. Oh no my friends, we’re taking it to the next level. Take a look at this will you?

That’s. Not. Snow.

No my friends, that is a picture of the morning light glinting off of millions of spiders webs. Millions.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. The zombie apocalypse is getting to be old hat. Not that there still aren’t great stories that can be centered around it, but maybe it’s time to begin looking for a new end of the world. An end with eight legs and fangs.

Spider Armageddon. The Arachnopocalypse.

I’m stealing this idea from my friend Tony Southcotte who wrote a story on this theme that I had the great pleasure of editing recently. What does the arachnopocolypse look like? Well that’s up to you. Maybe the threat comes from millions of regular-sized spiders that are impervious to all conventional insecticides, and can kill a man with a single bite. Maybe we’re talking giant mutant spiders that catch men in their webs. Or maybe it’s something else entirely.

You’ve got a thousand words to tell your tale. Post your story at your blog or other online space and link to it from the comments.

But wait, there’s more! To the first ten people to finish the challenge I’m giving away a free digital copy of my novella The Mulch Pile. (This is assuming you don’t already have a copy. If you do we’ll work something else out.)

So get cracking ya’ll! Submit your spider story and win what I feel confident saying is at least the second-best story to feature a killer compost heap ever.

Flash Fiction February FAQ

1. So what’s this all about then, eh?

Exactly what is says on the tin. February is coming up and I’ve thought for a while it would be interesting to write a new flash fiction story every day for an entire month. But then I figured, why should I have all the fun? (Well, besides the obvious fact that I’m completely awesome I mean.) So I’m inviting you along for the ride.

2. Okay, but what exactly is flash fiction?

Flash fiction is a form of short story with the specific limitation that the story must be told in less than one thousand words.

3. Sounds like fun! So what are the rules?

Well, rules sounds a bit harsh. Lets call them guidelines. The general idea is that you write one story for every day of the month.

You don’t have to write a story on every day of the month. You can skip a day and write two stories the next day. You can hammer out twenty-nine stories in a row on one glorious unhampered day of writing if that’s your style.

4. What happens if I fail?

Nothing. Well, maybe not nothing. I mean it’s possible you won’t be able to live with yourself as a human being, forever haunted by the knowledge you couldn’t do it, and that with your dying breath you will be filled with one singular burning regret: that you didn’t finish Flash Fiction February. But probably…nothing.

This is about challenging yourself. If you fail the challenge you have only yourself to answer to.

5. Why February?

Because I’m fundamentally lazy and February has fewer days than the rest of the months in the year.

6. Come on, admit it, you’re just into the alliteration aren’t you?

Okay fine, you caught me. But can you blame me? Does Flash Fiction October really have the same ring to it? No. No it does not.

7. Is there a minimum story length?

Nope. If you want to tell a story in a hundred words or in three sentences or by painting pictograms of your own design that is totally okay. I reiterate, this is a personal challenge. No prizes for completion, no penalties for failure. You set your own standards. No one is going to hunt you down and scream at you for doing it wrong. Probably.

8. What do I do with my stories when I’ve written them?

Again, this is all up to you. If you want you can post them to your blog as you write you can do that. Or you can them or keep them all to yourself. Personally I plan to post maybe one per week (assuming I have at least one per week that’s any good), because much more than that would overload my blog feed and I don’t want to turn away readers. But that’s just me.

9. This sounds like fun! How can I help?

By spreading the joy. If you blog, a short post explaining the concept of Flash Fiction February would spread the word far beyond the limited reach I can achieve as a single voice. Also, if you post updates on your progress or want to talk about the project on twitter use the #flashfictionfebruary hashtag.

Beyond that, just have fun: expand your horizons, fiddle with genre, push the limits of fiction without fear. Because if it doesn’t work out today, you can start all over again tommorow.

Good luck. And happy writing.

Flash Fiction Challenge: Teeth

I have always been of the mind that we write the best fiction about things that truly affect us. I think that’s why my default fiction mode is horror; because there really is that part of me that’s always looking for that spark of unexplained motion out of the corner of my eye, or inflating the scratching of branches on a metal roof into the sound of unearthly claws tearing at the very fabric of reality.

Which is why, when people went nuts about how creepy they found this photo, a little light went on in my head.

Right underneath my left earlobe to be precise. It’s very distracting when I’m trying to sleep.

But regardless of that, I’m here to challenge you writer types out there: you say that picture creeps you out? Great! Now write about it.

In less than a thousand words. No time limits.

Clear as blood? Good.

Then off you go, and dazzle me with your words.

Micro Fiction Challenge: The Straight Jacket

Sometime last week, I ended one of my blog posts with this deliciously unnerving photo of a straight jacket:

Many of you reported being creeped out by this thing, and if there’s anything I know that’s fodder for a good story it’s stuff that creeps you out.

So here’s the challenge: write a story in 100 words or less inspired by this photo. I does not need to involve an actual straight jacket. It could touch on such themes as insanity or being constricted in some way. Or maybe you don’t care about the straight jacket at all, but you’re really getting a good vibe from that hanger its on. I don’t care. Go crazy.

You can post your entry in your own blog and link to it in the comments section, or, since 100 words isn’t too terribly long, you can just post the whole story in the comments if you’d prefer.

Micro-fiction is a great way to exercise those poetic mind-muscles, so let yourself explore the possibilities of where your words can take you.

I’m looking forward to seeing what you guys come up with.