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It wasn’t easy waiting all day to find out the Round 2 assignments for the Short Story Challenge. But finally, at 9 o’clock on the dot, when it was striking midnight in New York, my phone chirped to let me know I’d received the email announcing the new heats and new challenges.

The playing field has been drastically reduced. It’s gone from 1,440 to just 240 of us…48 heats to just 8 total. This time I’m in heat 1 and here is my next assignment:

Genre: Horror
Subject: An accidental baby swap
Character: A car salesman

I’m not going to lie…my heart sank just as much as it did when I got the first assignment. Because like political satire, horror is another genre I don’t write…despite my affinity for ghost stories. And like the last time, the subject and character are not what typically inspire me. But that’s why this is a challenge…and as I’ve stated before, boundaries and limitations can inspire great creativity. That’s part of why I’m here doing this this.

But before I settle into my bed to read some classic horror stories, let’s say a final farewell to political satire.

George Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm, has been with me in spirit the last couple of days…perhaps to help me celebrate my first round success. Last night, I happened to encounter him in the Introduction of Lucy Worsley’s new book, The Art of the English Murder. She quoted from his satirical essay, “The Decline of the English Murder,” first published in 1946.

It is Sunday afternoon, preferably before the war. The wife is already asleep in the armchair, and the children have been sent out for a nice long walk. You put your feet up on the sofa, settle your spectacles on your nose, and open the News of the World. Roast beef and Yorkshire, or roast pork and apple sauce, followed up by suet pudding and driven home, as it were, by a cup of mahogany-brown tea, have put you in just the right mood. Your pipe is drawing sweetly, the sofa cushions are soft underneath you, the fire is well alight, the air is warm and stagnant. In these blissful circumstances, what is it that you want to read about?

Naturally, about a murder.

I love this quote because, truth be told, whenever I’m feeling emotionally fragile or down on my luck or not up to facing the big world, I always turn to a murder to comfort and cheer me. Murder…comforting and cheerful? Yes, indeed! And as Orwell recognized, I’m not the only one who feels this way! (Read Lucy’s book to better understand why.)

Then today, I encountered George Orwell again in a quote posted by The Writer’s Circle on Facebook.


Again, Orwell has perfectly captured the reason I keep writing…the reason why now, when I should snuggle into my blankets and get a good night’s sleep for my well-paying job, I will instead lose sleep filling my head with horror and story ideas. I’m about to be driven by a demon, quite literally.