The Hardest Part Isn’t Waiting for Word

It’s the waiting that follows after you receive word.

Currently I have five short stories hanging out in limbo. A couple are on their first submission, while others have been steadily making the rounds to this magazine or that anthology. One of the recently written ones I’m particularly anxious about, as I think it’s a good fit for the anthology I submitted it to. But, I’m sure it’s up against others that are equally good, if not better. So, we shall see.

It’s easy to get something written, fire it off, and then just sit on your laurels, twiddling your thumbs and waiting for word when you really should be working on the next story to submit, and then the next. Yet, in the past I’ve fallen into that trap of getting so caught up with the act of submitting something that I don’t do anything else. I focus on my day job, I piddle away my writing time with reading or brainstorming, but no actual outlining or writing. No real forward momentum at all.

I thought I had broken that habit a few years ago, and then I wrote a piece and submitted it to a big publisher for an anthology. A few months after that I received word that the publisher was very interested in the story and they were holding it for consideration. I thought, “Oh, wow, this is it!” And even though they said it would be some time before they would get back to me, I settled in and decided to wait.

And wait. And wait.

After a few months I realized it was going to be a bit longer than I had originally anticipated, so I arose from my stupor and stumbled back to the writer’s desk, but that eagerness still clung to me like a limpet mine from a VUX Intruder in Star Control 2. I spent more time brainstorming sequel ideas for an as-yet homeless story, and a way to expand that short story into a full length novel, or at least an episode in a greater work. And none of those are bad things in and of themselves, but I let it… if not paralyze me, then at least slow me down and keep me from doing the things that really mattered. Namely, writing new stories.

Maybe you don’t have this problem. Maybe you get something written, polish it up a little bit, then fire it off and get on to the next work. That’s the better way to be. That’s the way I strive for daily. It’s very easy for me to get dragged down by whatever is going on during a given day, and waiting with bated breath for word on a story I have out there is one such temptation. I’ve gotten better about letting the anticipation spur me on to write more, but it’s still a struggle.

(Oh, if anyone is interested in Star Control 2, there are two ways to go about getting it: from or the freeware remake The Ur-Quan Masters. Of the two, I’d recommend the second, and not because it’s free (The game is definitely worth the low price of $5.99 for admission, if you’re into space exploration, an epic good-vs-evil-vs-eviller battle, and you love a lot of humor). The freeware remake includes the voice-over that came with the game’s 3DO release back in the day, and for the most part it’s quite good. It helps with the immersion. But, I’ve played it multiples times either way, so you can’t go wrong no matter which you pick.)

Audiobook Review: The Queen’s Poisoner by Jeff Wheeler

A tale of intrigue and murder from the perspective of an 8-year old hostage. 4.75/5.0

(Tiny disclaimer: any Amazon links on this site go through my affiliate account, to pay for the maintenance of this site and to help me read and review more books.)

A word of warning, fair traveler: by reading Jeff Wheeler’s “The Queen’s Poisoner,” you are embarking on an adventure spanning six main novels and even a tie-in or two. That said, they’re totally worth it. Over the next several weeks I’ll review all of them, but it makes sense to start with the first.

Set in a world where the source of magical and divine power – the Fountain – resides among and amidst its many peoples, young Owen Kiskaddon finds himself at the center of a power struggle in the kingdom. During a battle in the opening chapter, Owen’s father, Duke Kiskaddon, fails to protect his liege, King Severn, at a critical moment. The Duke thought the King would fall, but the King did not. As a result, Owen’s oldest brother was killed and he was taken as a hostage back to the court at Kingfountain, to insure Duke Kiskaddon’s continued loyalty. The story follows Owen’s adventures and misadventures while at the King’s court, and of attempts to pull him deeper into a conspiracy involving many influential members of the land.

The story flows very well, and we’re introduced to many different characters in the process. There was a time in the very beginning that I was worried Owen was going to be some sort of a Mary Sue, with the way everyone but the King and one of his attendants seemed to be glomming on to him, but looking back it made a sort of sense why certain characters fell for him the way they did. A young, scared boy all alone, and the characters who attached themselves to him were all parents. And Owen definitely has his faults that land him in a lot of trouble. His arc is well developed throughout, and the pacing is such that I had a hard time turning it off.

If you enjoy exploring fantasy universes and don’t mind a younger protagonist, you can’t go wrong with “The Queen’s Poisoner.”  Oh, and spoiler alert: Owen does get older as the books progress. He’s only eight in the first one. The second one is more coming-of-age, and the third… Well, I’ll leave that for future reviews. Or you could pick it up and find out!

I realize with my last review I forgot to mention anything about the narrator, so I’m making doubly sure to do that here.

Kate Rudd narrates all of the Kingfountain books, and her performance is exceptional. I don’t know how she manages a different voice for every character the way she does, but I never had a problem telling who was who, either because she spoke with a different accent or pitch to her voice, or because she changed up the cadence in such a way that it brought the character to life. I was first introduced to her in Melissa F. Olson’s “Boundary Crossed,” and I’ve got a bunch of Kate’s narrations singled out for future listens. If I indie-publish anything and there’s demand for an audio version, she’s one of the ones I want to call.

All in all, loved it! I plan to listen to it again, maybe with my wife. I think she’d enjoy the series, especially a couple of the characters who get added a bit later.



New Month, New Work Routine

All right, so we’re a few days into the month already, but today’s the beginning of a brand new work routine. My day job has officially gone full-time, and while this may sound like it could put a damper on writing, it could actually help. My schedule will be a steady 40-hour week from here on, and that little bit of rigidity will allow for a better writing routine. 7:00 AM – 3:00 PM, then writing until close to bed time. Before I would have some weeks that were 30 hours of work with a lot of time for writing followed by other weeks that would be 60+ with little to no time for writing.

The goals for the next few months are set, and all that’s left is to get to it. I’m not sure if any of you struggle with setting – and then following through on – goals, but for me those first couple weeks are the worst. If I can stay on task, then the routine will become a habit, and once a habit’s established… Well, it’ll be a lot harder to break.

For any who are wondering, the goal for February is to write the rough draft of the first Necrolopolis book. It’s a tall order, but I’ve got most of the critical scenes planned out, as well as the main and supporting cast. Some of the minor scenes and characters are hazy, but that could prove to make things a bit more fun and allow for a little bit of discovery in the drafting process. Again, as long as the core plot points are maintained and hit, I can be flexible with some of the in-between stuff.

And for those wishing to do better with their own goal planning, an article I just came across today is timely, to say the least: “Effective Goal Setting: Practical advice for setting, measuring, and hitting your goals.” One of the main keys is focusing on smaller goals. This allows you to see more immediate results, even if the overall goal is a long-haul one. For my particular goal this month, that’ll be mostly word count goals. Each day, write X-amount of words. It seems like common sense, but for me it really does help. So, set some goals, and keep at it!

Blade Runner 2049: Where are the Flame Towers?

Seriously, where’d they go? Throughout this sprawling, 160 minute epic we get shot after shot of the near-future LA skyline, and none of the flame-spitting spires from the original film are anywhere to be seen. I don’t even know what those things were for, but they were everywhere in 2019. What changed? Maybe the locals learned they were just there for atmosphere and decided to quit wasting money on them.

Well, aside from that gross oversight, the movie was great. We seem to be living through a time of sequel fatigue with Hollywood audiences, but this one was a worthy follow-up to the original Blade Runner. LA is still gritty and full of crazies, the Replicants are still trying to find their own place in society, and the movie ends up leaving plenty of unanswered questions while answering the ones that matter to the here-and-now.

Fans of the original should love this film. If you’re looking for a straight-up action sci-fi, this probably isn’t for you. The fight scenes are intense, but are few and far between. The main focus is Officer K (Ryan Gossling) trying to solve a mystery after he “retires” a rogue Replicant at the beginning of the film.

There are a pair of badass heroes, a pair of badass villains, and a whole lot of CG that doesn’t overshadow the rest of the film. It’s all blended in nicely, and has the look and feel of the original film. About the only thing missing from an atmospheric standpoint was the creepy vocal track that would play throughout the first film. I just rewatched the original Blade Runner a couple days ago in preparation for this film, and now I know where Ghost in the Shell gets it from.

Overall, a 4.5/5.0 from me. I had to deduct something due to the whole flame tower thing. It’s iconic, man!

“A Salt on the Rise” is Published

“A Salt on the Rise” has now been published, as part of’s 30th Issue. It is the Guest piece, and the tag line the editors came up with for it is a “speculative story about a problem-solving bureaucrat in a particularly complex afterlife.”

I should probably introduce this world a little bit, as it is where most of the stories I’m currently writing take place in, as well as the book I’m going to have finished by the end of the year.

“A Salt on the Rise” takes place on a secondary world similar to our own, but one where magic and fantasy races abound. In this world, one of two things happens to people when they die:

1. Their souls leave their bodies, enter the River Styx, and make the journey straight to the afterlife.
2. Their souls linger, either in their bodies or in some physical object they’re attached to (Rings, swords, etc) and they become part of the undead.

The undead are cursed to wander the earth until they either resolve whatever is keeping them on this side of the veil, or they are exorcised and their suffering souls are utterly vanquished. To keep the undead from becoming a menace on the living and to protect them from the fate of non-existence, the God of Death created a city that sits at the point where the River Styx crosses over to the other side. This is Necrolopolis, a sprawling city of some four million restless souls of various types: ghouls, skeletons, ashlings, mummies, free-floating spirits, even two distinct groups of vampires. All are waiting for their chance to meet with the God of Death to determine what is keeping them here so that they can resolve it and cross over.

But, the wait time is long, and the undead are quite restless. To keep the peace, the God of Death depends on two people: his half-human daughter Grimina, and her full-human assistant Adelvell, a necromancer with a knack for getting caught up in other people’s messes. He may have poor luck (And an even poorer disposition), but this dead-end job in this dead-end town is all Adelvell’s got, and he’s got bills to pay.

This is the first published Necrolopolis story, but it is not the first published Adelvell story. If you enjoyed “A Salt on the Rise” and would like to get a glimpse of our hero prior to his tenure as Grimina’s assistant, check out “Lost in the Mail” in Third Flatiron Publishing’s anthology Astronomical Odds. Also be on the lookout for other announcements. I had several short stories making the submission rounds, and if/when any stick I will let you know the where and when.

A Whirlwind of Stories – 09/30/17

Man, yesterday was a crazy day. I had to finish my touch-up edits on two new short stories, and then go back over a couple of older tales. All four had to be sent off by the end of September 30th, and with company over both in the morning and in the afternoon, that made for a tight schedule. My fault for letting the month slip away from me (My earlier post about PUBG is pretty damning, I know), but I think it all worked out in the end.

The first tale is “Necromotion” and in it a necromancer boards a root train in order to bring an undead client out of hostile elven lands. What is a root train, you ask? Well, it could be a glorified turnip truck, or it could be something completely different. I submitted that to the Fantastic Trains anthology, so if it makes it there you will find out! Well, regardless of where it lands, it will eventually be published. Either out there, or here. This story is part of a larger group of tales, some of which have already found publication. It is part humor, part mystery, part action, and all snark from the first person protagonist.

The second is “Divine Rescue” and it is set in the Ruma: Dawn of an Empire pen-and-paper game universe. Ruma is an alternate, fantasy version of Roman times where the Greek and Roman gods walk the earth and magic reigns supreme across the land. In my tale, a group of heroes enter a blasted wasteland in order to rescue someone left behind at the fall of Mount Olympus. This is a straight-up action tale, as heroism is the name of the game in this world.

The third is “The Sky has Fallen!” and it is a Cthulhu Mythos take on the old Chicken Licken/Little story featuring Foxy Loxy as the unfortunate protagonist. I wrote it years back and have recently gone through it again now that I have a slightly better idea on story structure and pacing, so I hope it has new legs and wings. Kathy Steinemann’s The Writer’s Lexicon really helped out with this one, and the other one.

The final one I will not name, as the place I’ve submitted it to prefers to keep things anonymous so as to facilitate blind judging. I will say it is a resubmission to the same place. The first was bounced back – I think – because of formatting errors due to my switching between OpenOffice and Microsoft Office. The original file got screwed up somehow and I had to end up dumping the story into a plain text file, then copy it back over into Microsoft Office and go back through to format paragraphs and other things in order to get it all right again. I also altered the beginning a bit in order to get into the action a little quicker, so I hope it will do well. Once again, the Writer’s Lexicon helped immensely with this tale. I will be writing a review of that pretty soon.


The first tale is a Necrolopolis short story titled “Necromotion” and in it

The more I work at this whole self-employed thing, the more I realize you need to be a master of your schedule. Without discipline, things can fall apart quickly. At the least, they can get tossed by the wayside and then you scramble to catch up.

Story Acceptance: On the Premises Guest Position

Last month I submitted a short story to’s 30th themed contest. The particular theme had to revolve around the word or concept of “Community.” I spent some time trying to see if there was a way I could twist the word around in some unique way, but then I decided on a more traditional plot, if in an outlandish setting: a clash of communities within a city, and how the city responds to it.

That’s where we get “A Salt on the Rise.” It is a fantasy story about a necromancer who has to resolve a dispute between the mummies and the ashlings before they tear apart the city of the restless dead. The story did well, but didn’t quite make it into the final ten submissions that go on to compete for the top three slots. But, editors Tarl Kudrick and Bethany Granger enjoyed it enough to want to feature it as a guest piece, after helping me to clean it up a bit first.

I’ve taken them up on the offer, and look forward to receiving their edits. Their criticism has already been invaluable: back in the spring I wrote a story tied to this same world and characters, and it placed close to the top 20 or 30 of 200 or so entries. It was a lot closer than I’d ever gotten in an entry for On the Premises, so I paid the $15 for constructive feedback. They wrote back with a two page breakdown of what wrong with the story, and also what went right. This allowed me to go back and evaluate that particular story, but it also helped me better nail down this particular setting, the characters, and my narrative voice.

I will post about the editing process with Tarl and Bethany either later this month, or after the story is released close to October 15th.


WIPika Fridays: What Draft Is This Again?

Another week, another bit of productivity.

First on the block is the editing for “The Lone Blue Strand” for Fictionvale. I received the edits on Sunday night, and have spent an hour or so every day this week working on it. There’s still a little bit left to do tomorrow, but for all intents and purposes it’s finished. I’ll send it off tomorrow morning and wait for the second round of edits to come back my way.

Second accomplishment has been the short story codenamed “Evaporated Ocean.” It’s actually a rewrite of a short story I wrote back in 2012 that didn’t go anywhere with publishers. Looking back on it, I understand why: it’s unreadable! There are aspects of it that are neat (Such as the setting), but the characterization and plot were blah. Not coherent in any way, shape, or form. The core setting is largely the same, but the characters and plot have been changed almost completely. I’ve completed three outlines of it, and have started on what could be the second/third draft of it. I plan to finish that tomorrow, and then Sunday work on heavy edits for it.

First line from it:

Jisan paced along the dry ocean floor.

The name of the story will have nothing to do with evaporated anything, so I hope the idea of the ocean floor being anything other than wet will stand out to readers and make them want to continue on. I try to start my stories either with a conflict, or with a strange premise that grabs them. Don’t know that I succeed at it, but I know I’m a lot better than I used to be.

That’s something I should post up one day. A list of story first lines, from my earliest works to now. Should be amusing for somebody, at least.

The novel outlining has had its ups and downs this week. I’ve completed more than I probably would have had I not been on any sort of schedule, but I’ve officially gotten behind. I don’t know that I’ll be able to make up any time Saturday, but Sunday I will have to put my nose to the grindstone and get caught up. Even if it takes all afternoon and evening, it’ll have to get done! Fortunately we have leftover pizza that we made last week, so dinner’s sorted.

Where reading’s concerned, I’m also behind. I had hoped to finish with Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson before the weekend, but that’s just not happening. Same goes with Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman. I want to take my time with them and really read them, so it’s taking longer than expected. Alas.

Still, not bad for the second full week of adjusting to a new writing schedule. I need to hold onto this level of productivity, and ratchet it up. As long as I don’t slide backward, it’s all good from here.

Fictionvale Episode Five is Out

Fictionvale5Fictionvale Episode 5: Of Magic and Mayhem comes out today. My short story “Harmonious Bedlam” is featured in there along with nine other tales of fantasy, mystery, or something in-between.

“Harmonious Bedlam” follows the life of a soldier-turned-baker who must turn herself into a soldier again if she is to protect the life she has built in a new land. For a sneak peak at the story itself, check back here on Wednesday. “Harmonious Bedlam” will be the focus of this week’s “Drafty Wednesdays” post. I haven’t decided yet if we’ll look at just the first scene, or if we will dive a bit into scene two, as well. It won’t be more than a couple of pages, though, but I hope you will enjoy the breakdown of it. Further, I hope it will be enough to entice you to pick up a copy of Fictionvale! For those of you who write, please consider contributing to the magazine. I have worked with editor Venessa Giunta on two stories now (Soon to be three), and the experience has been both enlightening and fun. I’ve come out of both editing phases a better writer, and I hope the same will occur with this third time.

Fictionvale Episode 5 can be found both at and at Amazon.

Introducing “WIPika(*) Fridays” and “Write 1 Sub 1”

On November 28th, while mass riots break out to see who will limp home with that 50″ TV that’s on sale for $99.95, I will start posting up weekly reports on how my writing is going. This will be a little different from the Writing in Public posts, which will begin again December 1st. In those posts I am just giving a basic update on the day’s activities and writing, but with WIPika Fridays I will post up brief excerpts of what I am doing. It will be done in the form of a few sentences or paragraphs of a piece to be submitted, or I will go through some of the things I’ve been brainstorming and how that works for me, or I may show a bit of the outlining process. Or, maybe I will do all three! It depends on the week, and what I think is the most interesting accomplishment for that week.

W1S1 2014 - Weekly ChallengeThis will go hand-in-hand with the Bradbury Challenge  (Also known as Write 1, Sub 1) that I am also starting Thanksgiving Week. My plan with that is to be a little bit more ambitious and actually Write 2, Sub 2. I want to write a flash fiction story each week, and a full-length short story each week. Will I be able to handle that? Well, we shall see. I am starting this during the holiday season for a reason (And not just so I could rhyme back there). Between November 24th and December 31st there are 38 days, or 5.5 weeks. Let’s be ambitious and say that’s six full weeks. Going by Write 2, Sub 2, that means I should have written and submitted 6 flash fiction stories and 6 short stories. I also want to write a novella-length work and get it out to Writers of the Future. That’s 13 stories in six weeks. If I can manage to do that during the general craziness of the holiday season, then maintaining that pace through 2015 should be a lot easier, barring any family emergencies or illness.

Will it happen? Maybe, maybe not. I know it won’t happen unless I attempt it and maintain a positive attitude while doing it. At the very least I will get more written in the next few weeks than I would have had I not pushed myself.

(*) The name of this section was inspired by 2:30 from the following Sequelitis Video by Egoraptor. Warning: profanity, hilarity, and the tearing down of an iconic video game will ensue!