Dec 27, 2014

Start Your Novel: The Blog Ends Here, But this Is Not Goodbye

I started this blog in 2011. I wasn’t sure what for.

But I wanted my words to come out of hiding, and a blog seemed like an ideal instrument. Yet it became so much more than that.

Blogging has saved me from personal and creative stagnation, and I heartily recommend it to everyone.This blog has served its purpose multiple times: I made friends, joined profound conversations, turned my life around. Miracles happened. Yes, miracles.

Autumn Tryst, or, The Architect's Daydream
by John Magnet Bell

So why am I winding it up after hundreds of thousands of views, appreciative emails and people coming to me over and over again to show me how my story prompts had inspired them?

Let me offer you a simple reason.

As my life entered a new chapter, I found myself wanting to move a lot of things forward. It’s time I began developing some of my ideas for fiction instead of giving them all away as story premises. And after a long dry spell my interest in photography, drawing and painting reemerged with far greater strength and vigor than ever before. Art calls. I must answer.

That's me like 50 years from now, having answered the call.

Also, I am not leaving social media; no final curtain here. I will be

This blog is not going away, but will remain as an archive. (The hundreds of writing prompts on offer are copyright-free forever.) Note that after January 7, 2015, the site URL will revert to

When I look back and consider what I’ve done with this blog I feel proud. I have created a good thing that has brought joy, laughter, wonder and inspiration to a great many people.

Sunset at the Lighthouse
by Ian Mitchell

Now, I will not sign off without a final story prompt:

The Plaid Vampire Brotherhood of Vampires

It was lunchtime for the normals on the Pacific Northwest. The Pacific churned under a leaden cloud that was mostly water, dirt and airborne bacteria. Somewhere between two ghost towns built for incurable sleepers, Jack and Jane sat up in their respective coffins playing checkers in the dark. Jack and Jane were former human beings who had at one point become vampires through no fault of their own.

Carlyle the Christmas Vampire
by Hector Mansilla

“I’m tired of this cabin,” said Jane.
Jack didn’t say anything.
“I want to move to a mausoleum,” said Jane.
Jack remained silent.
“Raccoon blood just doesn’t cut it anymore,” said Jane. “I need variety. I’m bored,” she said.
“I have a possum,” said Jack, fishing a young possum from a hole in his chest.

See you around. Rock on.

Dog, Running
by John Magnet Bell

Dec 19, 2014

A Musical About the Consequences of Colonialism

A certain Danish astronomer went to sleep in Copenhagen and woke up in Istanbul. It was still called Constantinople at the time, or possibly not.

A certain Turkish potter went to sleep in Istanbul and woke up in Copenhagen.

Wives and relatives were sorely vexed.

Photo by Isabelle Wenzel

The Danish astronomer I had in mind as I wrote "A certain Danish astronomer" is, obviously, Ejnar Hertzsprung. He came up with a classification system for stars that we still use today -- dividing them by spectral type, developmental stage and luminosity.

To the best of my knowledge, Hertzsprung never teleported anywhere, let alone trade places with a Turkish potter.

Ejnar Hertzsprung was born in 1873. Istanbul still thrived under the Ottomans, but the empire itself would fall in a few decades. 

Dec 18, 2014

Bad Apples from the Tree of Learning

Tom’s most prominent facial feature was his hat. Tom never went anywhere with his hat. Tom was a spy.

Tom was an industrial spy. Industrial spies seldom wear hats. Tom worked for several shadow conglomerates and never met his clients face to face. Tom felt inordinately happy about that.

I don't know who took this picture. Also, this is not Tom. I believe this picture was taken in 1918.

Industrial espionage goes back a long way. (I may or may not have written about this before. I cannot confirm or deny.)

Prosopagnosia, also known as face blindness, is a cognitive impairment where people cannot recognize familiar faces. The ability to tell faces apart just goes out the window. Milla Jovovich plays a person diagnosed with face blindness in a mildly interesting movie, her character being told at one point that sleeping with her boyfriend is like "getting to be with a different guy every night."

I'm not sure that's how it works, or how it makes it more pleasurable to have sex with someone whose face you should recognize but don't.

A hat, Wikipedia tells me, is a head covering. Did you know that St. Clement is the patron saint of felt hat makers? I didn't.

Dec 12, 2014

A Brief Conversation on Crime at The Merry Cockroach

So these two thieves meet up, right? These cutthroats, these purse-slashers, these takers of candy from babies, shame to grandmothers, mothers and priests everywhere, and they haven’t spoken in a while.

“Thy recent misdeeds have greatly enhanced thy reputation,” says thief number one to thief number two. Thief number one is called Lucifuge.
“And you still sound like a pompous ass,” says thief number two. His name is Terbias because his mother couldn’t pronounce the letter O in Tobias without sticking an R in there, so the registrar who took down the name thought she meant “Terbias,” and it stuck.
“Pompous ass,” says Lucifuge. “At least I speak with wit and verve, and mingle with the cream, whereas thou… bah.” He waves his long, thin hand dismissively.

Guardian of the Way
by Thomas Rude

“So, you have something for me?” asks Terbias.
“Aye. An abduction. The object is the only son of a wealthy family in Merriweather Trough. Art thou interested?”
“Will I have to dress up like last time?” Terbias says. “You’ll never catch me in a chicken suit again, not after what that mad hamster did to me.”

Horrified by the Sun
by John Magnet Bell

Dec 11, 2014

16 Bars, Pubs and Stores You Would Want to Avoid (Maybe)

These are all fictional, that I know of. Go ahead and use them for anything you like.

1. The Merry Cockroach

2. Surplus Detritus

3. Fangs Fangs Fangs

4. Your Little Corner Nightmare

5. Leather & Blood

6. Pizza-Flavored Wines

7. Chupacabra Central

8. The Saint with a Wobbly ****

Art Snacks: the Hot Dog
by Marija Tiurina

9. The King’s Last Breath

10. Lettuce on a Stick

11. Merlot’s Emporium of Iced Lingerie

12. Spaghetti on a Stick

13. House of Human Sweat

14. Affordable Yak Armpit Sebum

15. Vodka on a Stick

16. Armageddon Lounge & Biomass Plant

See you later!

by Oliver Lake

Dec 10, 2014

The Boy Who Fought with a Comet to Earn His Real Name

or, To Believe in the Future You Must Know the Past

I followed Oma to the edge of the red forest — also the edge of my patience, because I don’t like your wait-and-sees.

We looked upon a clay hill and she said, “After many tomorrows, another you will be born.” She pointed at a rock. “Your parents’ house will stand there.”

Journey of a Thousand Miles
by Budi Satria Kwan
Looks great on a t-shirt -- click here to check it out

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To wrap this up, I bring you music for time travelers and truth-seekers.

See you soon!

Dec 3, 2014

The Underworld: It Is Electric

Lily’s phone was haunted by two ex-boyfriends who had died on the same day.

No, hear me out. The phone was haunted. Somehow the two dead boys rode a current that carried them to Lily’s most faithful companion.

They found a home there, and they would fight for it.

by Amy Hamilton

In other news, and because I fortunately do NOT have to contend with a haunted phone, Society6 is offering a $6 discount on all throw pillows, Plus free shipping. But the discount applies today and today only

Below are a few of my designs. Click or tap here to see them all.

pillows by John Magnet Bell

And finally, because it's Wednesday, here's a mellow tune from the legendary Jacques Brel.