Advent Ghosts

When drafting potential stories for this year’s Advent Ghosts post, I came up with two which I liked for rather entirely different reasons. I’ve normally archived the runner-ups, but I thought I might post both this time. I hope you don’t mind.

As with previous years, these are 100-word stories with at least a slight nod to the tradition of telling a scary story or two on Christmas Eve.

They Don’t Keep Christmas

The Drakonid starcruiser exited hyperspace at the broadcast’s origin, weapons bristling, sensor gain up full, ready for anything. A thousand battlewhelps lay poised in swarmpods, ready to cut the foe from the skies.

A full minute later, the shipguide declared the humans already gone. Mission failure. No appeasing the Overdrake today.

“Sirs, we have something,” Commander Gor said.

The admiralty turned as one, saw the radar return pulse on the viewscreen. Scan suggested an inert panel, creased cellulose. Or a trap. A reluctant drone drew close to scan an image.

The declaration of war took only two words.

Merry Christmas.



My phone buzzes. Marketing strategy by morning. More suckers clicking on ads. Easy.

Pavlov’s dog: Deterministic, rational.

I pull my scarf tight, rejoin the hustle. Cross Eighth, regretting the heels. Should have gone pumps. Don’t need style, Tim’s been gone for years now. Simplified things, that.

Playground’s empty. Should be, in the cold.

Phone buzzes. Spam.

Just business: Rational.


Nativity scene outside the church. The irony stops me. Homeless baby in New York. Needed a better marketing team.

I continue, then stop.

Ahead, the expected.

Behind… I step back.


Not rational: Transcendent.


I climb the steps, terrified.

For more 100-word drabbles with a bit of a yuletide horror lean, please check out Loren Eaton’s collation of stories from bloggers over at I Saw Lightning Fall, and may your Christmas be one of peace and joy.

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Rewriting, Avoiding Software Development, Teaching, and Advent Ghosts

2023 has been a year of rewriting. And it still is; after working through the more glaring issues in my novel project, the most obvious problems warranted a page one rewrite. This sort of thing would have been game breaking in the past: Given the difficulty of overcoming inertia and creating the first draft, the thought of doing it all again was always a very bitter pill to swallow. Perhaps it’s also a test of whether it’s simply a story I want to tell, or a story that needs to be told? Now, some months into the rewrite, it’s encouraging to see the project come alive in new and very satisfying ways. Most recently that’s been getting the first 40% of the story out to a first reader, while I continue writing and editing the last half of the book, something that is likely to take me most all of 2024.

It’s also been a year of avoiding software development, which depending on your perspective may not sound like much, but was a big deal for me. I was a software developer for decades, largely because programming ticked a lot of boxes for me: Solving problems elegantly required creativity, analytical problem solving lent itself to clear and unambiguous criteria for success irrespective of opinion or interpretation, and as a fan of science and engineering there was a great deal of satisfaction in the art form that is well crafted code. Being able to make a living doing something I’d taught myself was not a bad outcome too. Despite all this though, software development’s not the only occupation that, for me, ticks those same boxes. Focusing on my writing has resulted in a very strong desire not to divide my attention, and so while I’ve provided a little advice here and there this year, it’s actually been a relief to take off the coder hat for the time being.

Doggy approval
Wherever I go, whatever I do, Hunter’s got his eye on me.

I spent a few hours every week this year volunteering in a community ESL class. Facilitating a path to improvement for engaged students is always rewarding, and seeing people who otherwise may be disconnected from their local community come in and come alive as they connect with one another and exercise practical skills has been a gift. I’ll be taking a break from this in the first half of 2024 while I make room for another upcoming opportunity, but this was a lot of fun.

In other things we’ll be taking a break from this year, after teaching my boys to play brass instruments a few years ago, we have spent the last while as members of the Melville Airforce Association Brass Band (now being rolled into RAAFA). This has also been a lot of fun, and over the years there I’ve played cornet, soprano cornet, tenor horn, euphonium, and this year, trombone. Playing in a group that affords this sort of flexibility and performs regularly has been a great privilege. As an early riser, I’m looking forward to freeing up the weekly late night rehearsal for at least the first few months of next year, but I’ll miss the music. Maybe we’ll be back playing at community Christmas Carols events again next year.

Finally, this will be another year I’ll be posting a 100-word Christmas-themed story and linking it over on Loren Eaton’s Advent Ghosts shared story telling event. If you’d like to read a variety of ultra-short yuletide fiction, with maybe the odd riff on the Dickensian ghost story thrown in, be sure to keep an eye out on Loren’s blog for updates!