NaNoWriMo After-Action Report

Well, by the grace of God and with the help of a stalwart wife unafraid to lock me in the basement, I’ve managed to “beat” the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge for the first time, at least from a wordcount perspective. The goal for the month-long challenge is to complete the first draft of a novel, or 50,000 words minimum. It had been my goal to go beyond that minimum by at least double, clocking in at 100,000 words and completing the rough draft of a novel set in the Four Horsemen Universe. In the end, I managed 70,279 words, and much of that was in the 8 days following Thanksgiving. It’s been quite a journey, to say the least!

However, when November 1st rolled around, I was still in the midst of outlining. I’ve gotten much better over the years at planning out critical plot points and twists, but the journey between those points is often a nebulous area for me, prone to much head-scratching and hours spent doing anything but putting in keystrokes or penstrokes. So, November 1st became November 2nd, and 3rd, and before I knew it, we were four days into the month and still nothing written other than what was in the outline. At that point, I decided I had to just get to it and continue the outline while drafting.

Then life interfered, as it always does. And while I was getting words down, it was a trickle of what I knew I was capable of. 1,500 words one day, 400 the next, 3,300 the following, and so on. By the time Thanksgiving got here, my wordcount was sitting at 8,527. Just barely past the opening scenes of Jackie Warren’s novel adventure, and nowhere near the inciting incident. That made for a very frustrating experience, especially as I was hearing about the successes going on with the people in both of my writers’ groups. I wasn’t envious of them. I was kicking myself for not living up to that potential, for letting them down. This, I think, is one of the best parts of being in a group of writers with just as much drive as you. Their accomplishments spur you on. At least, that’s the case for me.

Thanksgiving happened, and it was then I decided to just pull back from the writing for a day, to rest and be thankful for all God’s blessed me with, from my family and friends and colleagues to the desire to write and the opportunities that have been set before me. I also took time to reflect on those who are nowhere near as blessed as I am, who suffer many more afflictions or life stresses and go on to produce so much.

And then on Black Friday, while many were out killing each other over factory-second TVs and game consoles, I went down to the basement, set up a writing spot, and got to work. In that one day, I wrote 9,183 words, more than I’d produced the entire month. I’ve done 10k days in the past, but they were rare. And I’m tired of them being rare, so the push was on! And from Black Friday to Friday the 30th, a total of 61,752 words were produced. They’re rough words, but they’re words on digital paper, waiting to be torn apart, reassembled, and polished up in the editing phase, which will begin shortly.

The point of this post is to show that it is certainly possible to produce a fair amount in a relatively short amount of time. Now, I wish I’d been more consistent with this throughout the month. The words produced would probably be of a higher quality if I’d spread this out over the entire month rather than the last week of the challenge, and I’d have reached my goal of having the entire novel done by the end of the month if I’d been putting in, say, 4,000 per day rather than 7,500 a day in a frantic final push. But, I know now what I’m capable of doing when I have five solid hours of writing to do per day, and a basement with nothing else to do other than write.

So, yes, once more: I am very thankful for the people in both my writing groups for giving me the encouragement needed to push on through with the draft, not just during November but in the weeks before and the weeks to come. And since this particular manuscript is set in the Four Horsemen Universe, special thanks to Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey for creating such a badass place to house a group of characters I hope people find cool and fun to follow.

I have no idea on the ultimate fate of this novel, as I sort of decided to put the cart before the horse and whip up this draft before the story was even looked at or approved. But, hey, it’s too cool a universe to not want to write in it. I haven’t been this excited about a shared world experience since back when I was writing Star Wars and Warhammer 40K fanfiction, so I couldn’t help but dive right in.

In any event, back to the basement dungeon I go, to finish the draft, figure out what needs to be done with the editing, and then get a proposal written up. As mentioned earlier, this novel features the character Jackie Warren and her Justin Timers from the short story “Return to Sender” in the Tales From the Lyon’s Den anthology published back in October. If you enjoyed the story and characters and have something you’d like to know more about or see more of, now’s the time to let me know! The carcass of a rough draft has yet to be opened up in an editing autopsy, so many things could change.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A holiday such as today warrants a post, and it’s a great excuse to kick myself in the butt and get this blog going again. Preferably I’d like to have some sort of posting schedule, but for now it’s enough to get back to posting at all.

I have much to be thankful for this year, from physical health to new work responsibilities to new writing opportunities. As I don’t want this post to drag on and on and on (And neither do you, I’m sure), I’ll just list them:

  • First and foremost, I am thankful for Jesus Christ, for the sacrifice He made on behalf of all who would believe in Him, and for the blessed assurance that comes from that faith.
  • I am thankful for my wife and immediate family, and the support they show me in all things, but especially in writing. I couldn’t do this without you!
  • A big thanks also goes out to those in the two writing groups I’m honored to be a part of. Scott, Rachel, Jessi, Will, let’s keep it up! Together we can win this thing.
  • I am thankful for the new position in the company I’ve worked at for the last several years. It provides steady, fulfilling employment, and as long as they need me, I’m there.
  • I am thankful for the editors and publishers who have taken a chance on my writing this year, most notably Chris Kennedy, Mark Wandrey, Mike Hanson, and Ed McKeown. Thank you all for enjoying my stories and publishing them in Tales from the Lyon’s Den and Sha’Daa: Toys. I look forward to working with all of you again in the future!
  • I am thankful to the editors at Baen for deeming one of my Necropolis short stories to be worthy of a finalist position in the Baen Fantasy Adventure Award for 2018. That was a huge shock to me when I got back from LibertyCon.
  • Likewise, I am grateful to the judges of the Writers of the Future competition for finding one of my stories worthy of an honorable mention in the 4th Quarter of the contest this year. That’s a first, and a great step in the right direction!

Everyone, have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Save travels, good food, good fellowship, and always be grateful to the God who blesses us in all things.

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 GOG.com 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.)

“A Salt on the Rise” is Published

“A Salt on the Rise” has now been published, as part of OnThePremises.com’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.

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 Fictionvale.com 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!

 

 

“Once Upon an Apocalypse” Now Available

Once Upon an ApocalypseIt’s been a long time coming, but the Once Upon an Apocalypse anthology that my short story “The Little Red Survivalist” is in has finally been released! The book came out in ebook format some time ago, but the paperback came out more recently. Both can be found at Amazon.

The book is basically a retelling of fairy tales with zombies included! The second volume of this series will feature similar fairy tales but with Lovecraftian-style settings and monsters.

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

 

 

Fairy tales are fantastical tales in which anything absolutely anything can happen. Most fairy tales don t involve fairies. Some have morals, some don t. Some are for kids, some aren t. The oldest were told by adults to adults.

Fairy tales are populated by the weird and the bizarre. Elves and dragons, bridge trolls and deep-sea mermaids, sprites and goblins, talking animals and talking trees and sometimes, even fairies. There are no limits to what can be used in a fairy tale, or to what a fairy tale can be about. Once Upon an Apocalypse contains fairy tales about zombies. Or, in some cases, zombie stories with fairies, or even fairy tales in which zombies also appear.

If you ve never read real fairy tales then you might ask: Wait, aren t fairy tales cute stories about talking bunnies and Disney characters? The answer is yes and no.

Not the old ones. If you never read the Brothers Grimm are you in for a shock! The ‘fairy tale ending’ we ve come to know is a far cry from what Jacob and Wilhelm were writing back in early nineteenth century. Things tend to end very, very badly for the characters even the good guys.

Not all of the stories in Once Upon an Apocalypse are scary. Some are hilarious, some are tragic, and some are disturbing. However each contains a spark of real magic that special element separating these stories from others of the horror genre.

In fairy tales absolutely anything can happen. There are no rules and there are few happy endings. These are fairy stories, and they re zombie stories, and they are absolutely magical.

And we mean that in the least-comforting way possible.

Table of Contents:

  • Forward by Jonathan Maberry
  • Wednesday’s Goats by Justin Short
  • Ali Baba and the Forty Zombies by Suzanne Robb
  • Steadfast in the face of Zombies by Trisha Wooldridge
  • The Oven by Sean Eads
  • The Seven Ravens by Celeste Hall
  • The Undead Rose by Christopher Peruzzi
  • Undead and the Shoemaker by T. Fox Dunham
  • And the Beast by Rachel Kenley
  • Alice’s Undead Adventures by Amber Keller
  • Mary Had a Little Limb by Wendy Dabrowski
  • Cinders by Katherine Marciniak
  • Thumbelina’s Bloodbath by Herb Shallcross
  • The Zombie Bridegroom by Sheri White
  • Matches by Randy Lindsay
  • Pin by John Boden
  • Seven by K. H. Vaughan
  • Giuseppe Cavaletta and His Aunts by Jeffrey C. Pettengill
  • Foxy and Wolf by Brian M. Sammons
  • The Pied Piper of Cottageville by Tracy L. Carbone
  • Metzger of the Acres by Sean Logan
  • Little Red Survivalist by Benjamin T. Smith
  • Four and Twenty by Stephen D. Rogers
  • More Than Watchmen Wait for the Dawn by Joe McKinney

I am still awaiting my contributor copy, but once it comes in I will dive on in! I’ve heard good things about “The Undead Rose” by Christopher Peruzzi.

If you like horror and fairy tales, I hope you will like them both combined! Pick up a copy at Amazon today.

 

“The Lone Blue Strand” Accepted by Fictionvale!

I’m happy to announce that my steampunk ode to Robocop has been accepted by Fictionvale! I received the news earlier today from Venessa Giunta, the editor-in-chief over at the magazine. “The Lone Blue Strand” will appear in Episode 6, a mashup of steampunk, cyberpunk, dieselpunk, and likely some piratepunk stories and appropriately titled “Pick Your Punk!” It will be the third story of mine to be accepted for the magazine, and the second that could be classified as steampunk, though I suppose the argument could be made that “Mechanicis Solis” (In Episode 4) is of the gaslamp fantasy genre.

Once I get the all-clear from Miss Giunta, I will dedicate one of the upcoming “Drafty Wednesday” postings to the opening scene to this story. As I recall it went through several iterations before it wound up in its final, submitted form. And, if “Mechanicis Solis” and “Harmonious Bedlam” are any indicator, it will go through a whole lot more when the professional editing phase begins!