Hildi Schreiber is just a normal sixteen-year-old trying to survive high school in Colorado while adding to her patent portfolio. One patent too many, as it turns out. Decapitated by a minor demon, she returns as a ghost to stop al-Qaeda from using the demon–or vice versa–to destroy the world. The first decision she makes as a ghost is to give herself a wicked new nickname. Some would find this strange. Those who know her do not.
- Published in the Bardic Tales and Sage Advice, Volume VI anthology, Bards and Sages Publishing, August 2014.
- The anthology also features eight other great stories from award-winning writers.
- Available on Kindle and paperback via Amazon
Gho was my first. The very first piece of creative writing I embarked on, at least since high school (and you don’t want to know who was president then). Originally novel length, it’s safe to say in hindsight that I made every mistake save one that a beginning writer could make. I used a dozen points of view, I head hoped, a painted my prose purple, I binged on adverbs and adjectives. After vainly attempting to sell it for a year, and letting it sit in a shoe box for nigh two more years while I honed my writing skills on short stories, I did avoid one mistake–I never gave up on it.
Long about 2012 I opened the proverbially shoe box and reread what I had written. After have a good long laugh I concluded that while I’d never have a great novel, there were bits and pieces that might could form the core of a good novella.
So I cut. And cut and trimmed and cut and rewrote and cut and tightened. The valkyrie–gone. The lumberjack (what was I thinking?)–likewise gone. Nuked the Chinese spy and the other ghosts and even the alien… I also had to cut some characters I did like–Mardan the sangoma and Hildi’s scientist father. I kept both Nishi and Ice as contrasting protagonists with alternating POV chapters, but relegated the feisty Hildi to just an opening and closing chapter for her POV to shine.
I did get to add a few select characters, (mild spoiler alert), Arch the demon and Ernesto, the manga loving fall guy. And a Tesla (my dream car), and an old fart named Jimbo on a roof with a rifle. But mostly I trimmed and replaced and used those years of writing really short short stories to pack a heap of storytelling into 25,000 words.
The leaning of Gho also had some terrific side effects. The discarded valkyrie led to my whole string of mythica pieces, from “Preschool War Games” (published in Cicada) to my novel in progress, Ragnarök Willie. The original denouement was beautiful but superfluous, so it became a short story, “Believe,” that made my editor cry. And Granny, Nishi and Ice all found their own stories in “The Confederate Cavalryman’s Saber,” “Walking with Great Uncle,” and “Along Sand Creek” respectively.
Chapter 1: Puppy
The note arrived during AP Physics. “Hildi,” the teacher said with a smirk, “your father is here to pick you up. In his limousine.” He stretched out the final syllables, payback no doubt for that fire in the lab last term.
Hildi Schreiber, whose father drove a ten-year-old Saab, took her time in shutting down her laptop. She had been trying to hack JPL’s website, which had proven to be tougher than Colorado State’s. “Hope it’s the stretch. What’s the emergency?”
“Apparently your puppy is sick.” Another smirk.
Laptop under one arm, backpack under the other, jacket in her teeth, Hildi sprinted out the door. She cut hard around the corner like the tailback she wasn’t, careened into the endless row of lockers, and took the steps three at a time up to the main floor.
A text arrived on her smartphone, which she fished out of her jeans with two fingers. Meet me at NextTehc. Puppy gone wild. N
Hildi ran faster.
A large man in a dark suit and striped tie stood in the doorway beside a black Hummer limo. “Hiya Daddy-O,” she said, panting, as she tossed her gear inside. “Nice ride.”
“I’m not your father,” the man said as he climbed into the driver’s seat.
“Duh. Either you’re some bigwig with NextTehc Industries or I made one helluva mistake getting into your car.”
“The former, more or less. I’m Frank Evans, head of security at NextTehc. Chet Talbot has personally requested your assistance. Our scientists are dealing with some issues regarding your invention.” Frank left rubber on the asphalt. She would have normally applauded, but she was furiously typing into her smartphone.
“Puppy’s diags have red lined. What did you pea brains do to him?”
“How did you break into our secure network?”
“Back door telemetry. For a mil contractor you guys use freaking weak encryption. What did you do to Puppy? He’s burning up.”
“That would be the issue, yes,” he said as he weaved through Altona’s modest downtown like it was Le Mans.