Tuesday, December 30, 2014


I've been focusing on my novel for the past two months to the exclusion of everything else. Feeling a bit burned out which shows in my struggles to write the past month. Today, I took a break and followed a path down a different road. I'm drawing on a lot of different sources in this bit of world building. One of the small press is rumored of having a call about dragons in the future and this could be leveraged into a short story or three. Pardon any spelling, rambles, etc... this is alpha draft material.


In the beginning there was only the Ur-Dragon. It waited and watched in the void. For what, it knew not, but did so all the same. Then came the soft ones, springing from the primal mass, oddly bent and not of the world. They fled to the far realms, finding comfort in remote places.

And still the Ur-Dragon waited and watched.

Then came the broken ones. Crawling and capering and writhing across the myriad dimensions. They called and cried and screamed as they tore and fought with one another. Tiring with the same sport, they fled to the darker spots, hiding away from the far realms and those strange denizens.

And still the Ur-Dragon waited and watched.

From the motes of light came the small gods, testing their strength and wits against the endless sea of nothing. They grew larger and took on forms both new and old. Newer gods came as the older ones faded or died, each generation different. Then they created the world.

And the Ur-Dragon stirred with interest for this was something new.

Upon this world they Gods sought to bring about smaller life, but lacked something to anchor it to the void. They fretted and cried and quarreled, while the Ur-Dragon gazed upon their work and saw the flaw.

“Little gods,” it spoke, “I will help you with your world, but I request a favor.”

His words caused the gods to quake for they knew not the source and stood in awe at the ancient being. “How can you help?”

“I will give you my body to build your world and it shall make it complete. All I request is that you allow my children to live upon the world without care.”

“If you can do this, then we agree,” they said after a great discussion.

“So it is agreed, so it shall be.” And the Ur-Dragon tore his body in two. From his blood and entrails sprang Tiamat and Baphomat. The Primal Dragons. They carried a fraction of their progenitors knowledge, knowing only the bargain and that the world came forth at its sacrifice. Thus, the gods claimed the land and air and water for their own and honored the Ur-Dragon's children.

The siblings traveled across the land and space, finding new things and celebrating life. Children sprang forth from, taking to whatever and wherever they felt. Many ignored the gods, considering them unimportant as they carved domains along side the mortal creations.

Wars broke out across creation as the Gods quarreled with each other, the Broken Ones, and the Soft Ones. Amid this, the dragons carried on, for their mandate came from an older power and none could gainsay them. In time, others sought their aid, turning to the Eldest for support. Good and evil sent emissaries to tip the balance in their favor.

Thus came the Sundering and the Plague of Dragons.

Walks-Brightly-In-The-Stars curried favor with Baphomat, enticing the male with stories of glory and being the first amid equals. Tekcgreljw'Gtkeial'tkeann or The Clever One spent centuries negotiating the favors of the dark realms and kept company with Tiamat, wooing her with words and wits and wiles. Neither could be convinced without support of the other, thus the emissaries were traded.

For all his goodness, Walks-Brightly considered the male form superior and looked down upon the female Eldest. His audience consisted of lectures and words that bordered just on the side of insulting. During one of the debates, Tiamat pointed out the angel was not male, nor female, thus his logic did not follow. To his credit, Walks-Brightly did what no one else had ever done before or since. He slapped the female Eldest.

Religious scholars all agree that Walks-Brightly didn't survive Tiamat's fury, nor did his entourage save a single, lowly Archon that prostrated itself on the floor and begged forgiveness for his master's stupidity. They also agree that Tiamat took off the demi-god's head with a single swipe and devoured it, consigning the immortal to a humiliating demise. What they don't agree upon is the assertion that the Eldest “shat down his neck and threw the body at the feet of demi-god's master.” This question is never asked of dragons, who find the topic amusing and infuriating.

The Clever One took audience with Baphomat engaging in debate and banter to show that not all glory is won by combat. That the brain held more power than any muscle. Thus a series of tricks and japes, culminating in a miscalculation by the demon. It gave the male Eldest a torc of silver, saying that it would enlighten him. Thinking that it was a symbol, Baphomat gave it to a favored servant who donned it. The electrical charge turned the mortal to dust in a flash, while barely tickling the now furious Eldest.

Visitors to the Platinum Citadel walk before a crystal column that encases The Clever One. Still alive after many thousands of years. First time visitors are kept in this room for an hour listening to the weeping of the insane demon as it begs for the occupants to ask the male Eldest for its freedom. An escort will explain the demon's crimes and should he/she be asked. The smart ignore the whispers and focus solely on their business. Those who plead the demon's case find themselves and their companions ejected from the realm with a warning never to come back. In some cases, the corpses are all that are dumped at the borders. Ambassadorial staff run a large betting pool on the chances of survival of first time visitors.

The confrontation between the two in the aftermath rocked the world. The siblings quarreled and bickered and finally fought. Many have sought the domain they shared, but do date none have found it or its ruins. Their conflict left nothing recognizable and even the Gods hid as the pair flattened mountains, diverted rivers, and quite literally remade the world. Too evenly matched, they would've fought to the death except for a congress of dragons asked them to stop. Twelve of the youngest, the newest litter, wept at the sight of their fight and plead for peace.

In that moment, the Eldest paused and looked upon the youngest and the ruins around them. Without another word, the siblings vanished to their private domains where they dwell to this day. Baphomat works on the side of good to bring order to the world, while Taimat supports chaos through the machinations of evil. Thus balance is restored to the world.

Thus ends the saga of the dragons...

But not quite...

The most learned of sages whisper that this is merely a ruse. That, over the millennium, the Eldest reconciled and reforged their bond thanks to the Youngest. Once a century, the pair conceives and births thirteen eggs. Twelve pearlescent globes and a solitary black one are laid in a nest, spending a decade in the care of the Youngest. In time, the twelve are given to other dragons to raise as their own, as the magic of the Eldest makes it so. In the ravings of Esdaur the White is the single passage that reads such:

“A black egg sits in the hollow of the earth, tended by nexus of elements. A century of incubation to birth forth the Primal. The child of the Eldest, not mortal or god or dragon. The dragons will claim the world to restore the promise while heaven and hell burn.”

Dragons scoff at these rumors and openly mock those who demand answers. Persistent inquiries end with a personal visit by a dragon or a flight should it require. More than one powerful priest or mage has found themselves besieged by demonic armies and hosts of angels seeking to silence them before they attract much more dire attention.

These are only musings and even the most learned of sage will deny knowing anything of such rumors.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Fire and Frost Q&A

A look inside the minds of urban fantasy authors of "Under An Enchanted Skyline". We did a round robin on questions and here's the results. A reminder that there's only a week left before the collection disappears. It's a bargain for less then a buck. I'll be following up with links to other questions as they come in.

Some Urban Fantasy stories feature a divide between the people and creatures who use and know magic and the normal everyday humans. Do you think this affects how some characters respond to emergencies?

Doug Blakeslee: In Fire & Frost those that can use magic aren't afraid to rely on it in an emergency, provided there's no witnesses. Fae magic loves illusions, trickery, and subtle misdirection to avoid calling attention to itself. In the case of my protagonist, his usual response is very showy and not at all subtle. He uses it only when there's no witnesses or when someone else has used it first, such as in the climax of the story. That's something comes up when I'm working on stories, just what would normal people do when confronted by magic or something that's decidedly inhuman. Setting up those situations gives a more “realistic” feel to the story.

Jennifer Brozek: People with different skills respond to emergencies in different ways. An EMT will respond with the skills they have while a general office worker with no experience may panic. Those with magic or other supernatural abilities will use them when they are confronted with a crisis. The fun comes out when they must do something out of the ordinary to save a normal person, thus revealing themselves.

Erik Scott de Bie: Lady Vengeance is a little unexpected for someone whose powers are magic-based. You’d think she’d rely on her powers to solve all her problems, but the virtue of nearly thirty years as a superhero is experience with various other techniques, be they computers, diplomacy, or good ol’ bare-knuckled brawling (or frying pan-fu). Her opposite—Stardust—is a technical genius and big science nerd who absolutely hates magic, mostly because he can’t anticipate or grok it. He solves all his problems with science, and magical solutions don’t even occur to him. (That’s cheating!) The tensions and contrasts between my two principals is an important part of the story.
Phoebe Matthew: Weak magic runs through the Mudflat families and results in them covering for each other. The paranormal sunspinners would love to have a little magic. It would make their lives so much easier. Instead all they have is a normal everyday human to cover for them and yes, it affects their behavior. They have added more security devices to their home than ADT ever dreamed of.

Django Wexler: In John Golden, this divide doesn’t really exist – everyone knows about magic, at least a little. It operates on the same level that detailed technical knowledge does in the real world: most people know computers exist, and can use them, but when something goes badly wrong they have to call an expert. In the John Golden world, things going wrong can be a little bit more alarming, but the principle is basically the same.

Janine A. Southard: Everything that we are is reflected in what we do. Imagine a small emergency. For instance, they’re out of your mother’s favorite brand of orange juice when you go to the store for her. Are you the kind of person who calls her (because you know she doesn’t like texting) for other options? Or the kind who just grabs what’s on sale (because you know better than to disturb her)? Perhaps you text your sister, or tweet a request for advice, or skip the orange juice altogether.
With magic at your disposal in this scenario, you’d have a lot more options, and you’d probably be tempted to pick one. Why not transform the Florida’s Natural into Tropicana with your alchemical skills, or teleport to the grocery store on the other side of town? No problem. These sound much better than all of the above.

Cedar Blake: Well, that line’s pretty blurry in Dream Along the Edge. Rachel Cooper, my heroine, has a degree of paranormal ability, although whether that’s an innate part of who she is or whether it comes from her intimate association with her shapeshifting lover Heaven remains deliberately ambiguous. Her roommate Chalice, and the boy-toy Luke, obviously lack such abilities, and their jealousy plays a definite role in the tension between them all. As for emergencies, I think the ghost-net episode reveals just how much Rachel and Heaven have in common. Their abilities allow them to do what they do, and that “emergency” bonds them in ways no other situation could have done.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

National Novel Writing Month

    October came and went with a bang. Started a new job with that all important health insurance plus a steady paycheck. Not a glamorous job, but one that’s also not soul sucking. Moved into a more permanent place for the time being and managed to get most of my crap out of the storage. Working full time with the commute does make writing full-time at my leisure not a viable solution. October started out pretty rough and it took some effort to get past the bumps.

    In terms of writing, it’s was a mixed bag of promise, disappointment, and things in between. My novella, Fire & Frost will appear in a collection of urban fantasy stories. E-book only format for the time being, so expect that I’ll be pimping that hard when the time comes. Most of my energy went towards writing my novel, not at the pace I wanted, but I did hit my goals for the most part. 29 out of 31 days involved writing in some manner and I found a good routine in the morning and evening. Submitted two short stories, one of which has been rejected already. Disappointing, but there’s other opportunities that I’m investigating.

    November is National Novel Writing Month. I’m getting back on the horse for the ninth time and shooting for a seventh win. I have a lot of motivation to complete the novel and since it’s more than the 50k word count, I could even get into the books two of the series. I have found myself going back and adding scenes to chapters one and two, while working on chapter three. I've blocked out scenes in chapters four and five that have come to mind in the process. Chapter six is still a blank slate but that will change once I get a feel for how chapter five resolves itself.

    Other than the novel, I've got two short stories in process plus the edits on my Fossil Lake II story. I’m going deep instead of wide for the next few months but expect a few side projects along the way. Feeling good about hitting goals and keeping ahead of the curve in terms of writing this month. Full steam ahead and no looking back.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Counting Stories

    In talking with a friend, I decided to do a quick count on what I've sold in the past 2 years. There's a definite progression which I chalk up to not working and having people push me to do stuff.

    The last half of 2012 saw 2 short story sales ["Madame" & "Perfection"]. Both stories features Henri and his axe, Madame. I've got another story written, but it didn't fit the current assassins call, so it's just waiting for a chance. This year [2014] saw some world building around Henri as I tried to envision his world. Nothing too crazy or serious yet, but I've got a good grip on his setting and that opens up even more stories.

    2013 showed a spike with 6 sales ["Broken Horn", "GRONK!", "The Flowering Princess of Dreams", "The Tamer of Beasts", "The Dank", and "Knife's Edge"] and the birth of my urban fantasy world. Five of the six stories can be tied to this theme. I have many plans for this, some of which have come to fruition in 2014. I'm not racking in the $$'s, but my name's out there and showing a small amount of dividends.

    2014 exploded with 8 confirmed sales. There's a couple of sequels [Attack of the GRONKlings!, Bride of GRONK!, MegaGRONK!], some urban fantasy [The Crew, A Measure of Air, The Handmaiden's Touch], and a few new ones [The Last Hero, Granny's Hood]. I'm really happy about how this year is progressing and I've got six out for calls and three more short stories in process. No rest for the wicked.

    I've been setting goals for myself each month and working to hit them. Last month was to write 500 words a day, every day. That didn't happen, as I failed to write anything on 13 of those days, though my average ended up at 623 words/day. Not terrible, but not every day. That's the key, write every day. This month is down four days due to a pinched nerve in my foot and moving, but the average is up. It's getting that habit down. Every single day. Write.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

September, Do you remember?

    A song by Earth, Wind, & Fire from the 70's. It shows up on my Pandora feed from time to time and makes me pause to enjoy the music for a moment. That's my old man moment for the month. This is going to be a short post as I've got things brewing that I can't announce quite yet, but hopefully in the next week or two.

    Last month was a busy one and I came out okay but not fantastic. The last week of the month involved an inflamed tendon that messed with my getting around and made it hard to write. Ended with just over 19k words over 11 stories, about half being started projects that didn't get finished up until September.

    This month saw me finish up "The Handmaiden's Touch", "Oakai", and "Frozen in Stone" for calls leaving two short stories in process. "Broodlings" & a yet unnamed one about Scarecrows. The later is stalled out as I'm not 100% sure where to go with it. Still got six weeks to finish it up, so there's time left.

    I've managed ~14,200 words and I suspect that will swell to close to 30k by the end of the month.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Anniversary Month

    August marks a milestone in my writing “career”. Back in 2011 I sent off my first submission to a call for a superhero novella, “Fire & Frost.” My first rejection followed shortly afterward. Looking back at it, there were some big flaws in the prose, narration, content, and other things that make it unsuitable for acceptance. After a change of premise, reworking characters, adding a sub-plot, and an additional 15k words, it's shaped up to be a nice story. I haven't found a home for it yet, but in time someone will want to publish it. Have to keep telling myself that so it doesn't feel like I'm slamming my head against a wall so much. :)

    The other milestone is the publication of my first sale, “Madame” in the anthology “Uncommon Assassins.” Not a long or involved story, just the first one and so there's a lot of fondness for the characters. I'd planned on submitting a sequel story for the current assassins anthology call, but Henri and Madame aren't the subtle or insidious types. “Riot” will have to wait until another call to see the light of day. Were I to do it over, there's a few things I'd change about the story and add more to flush out Henri, Uncle Andre, Aunt Giselle, and Madame.

    The last three years have been a trip with high and low points. By all rights, I shouldn't be as successful with selling short stories. Not making pro rate yet, but there's some promise that if I keep at it, I just might see a full length novel in print. In the meantime, baby steps. Keep pitching “Fire & Frost” to publishers while I keep on writing short stories and shape one of my projects into a full length novel.

    This last week, I hit a wall where I couldn't get anything done, other than stare at a page and wonder where the words had buggered off to. This led to a conversation with a friend about motivation and how to keep the momentum going. My habit is to sit at a coffee shop [Starbucks] and write. The laptop [a freakin' antique 9 year old HP] lacks a functional network card and I carry a low-end tablet [HP] for research & keeping tabs on email. It keeps me from being tempted to surf, chat via IM, and play games. My word count per hour is not all that great compared to some people I know, but it's steady and there's progress.

When I can't go out, for whatever reason, I need to step away from the PC, take the laptop into the dining room, and write. No internet. No games. No chat programs. Me, a word processor, and coffee. This month, I've started tracking my word count. By my current tally, I'm at 15,259 words for the month with a goal 15,500, an average of 500 words a day. Looking at my daily record, I see that 9 days have a giant goose egg in the word count column. Nine. Meh. That's not acceptable. Yes, I know it's an unrealistic expectation, but really, I want to be [more] successful. If I don't write, I don't have that chance to sell. Opportunities are missed. Unacceptable.

Bottom line - Butt in seat and write. Good day. Bad day. Whatever day. Butt in chair and write. These stories aren't going to tell themselves.

Thanks for listening and go buy the anthologies with my stories. Not just for mine, but to read all the other great authors that I have the privilege to share the table of contents. :)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Three Things I Write and Three Things I Don't Write

Three Things I Write and Three Things I Don't Write

    A fellow writer, Rhonda Parrish, asked for volunteers to write a blog post in the future. I said 'yes' not quite knowing what I was being asked, so took it as a challenge to come up with something when the time comes. And here we are. Things I write and things I don't write. Rather then a neat list for each, I'll go back and forth.

Things I Write #1
    Urban Fantasy. Not something I started out to write, but I've come to find it endlessly fascinating. There's a challenge to writing magic in a modern setting without having it become an easy crutch to fix everything. You'll not find werewolves or vampires in these stories, but plenty of homages to fairy tales. My longest piece of writing is an urban fantasy novella that I hope to sell some day. At some point it may become a full fledged novel as I expand upon it after each rejection.

Things I Don't Write #1
    Poetry. Not a line or verse. My forays into writing poetry have turned out sub-par product. There's a knack to it that I can't wrap my head around. Part of it is that poetry itself doesn't capture my interest as something I'm inclined to read on a regular basis. Anything that can put me to sleep that easy isn't going on my reading list.

Things I Write #2
    Fan Fic. I played a computer games called City Of Heroes, which closed down in late 2012. For the last 3 years or so I ran with a group from a forum called RPGnet. As you might guess, we did a lot of RP and I wrote a lot of fiction based on my characters. We had a nice group and created a small library of stories. Still in contact with some of them and we still occasionally write about them or dig up old stories. There's some good memories in those words.

Things I Don't Write #2
    Straight up fantasy with dragons, wizards, and a medieval setting. I love reading the genre, but writing hasn't hooked me like I thought it might. My “plan” when I started this was to write sci-fi, fantasy, and post-apocalypse fiction. Two of the three have happened, but the fantasy? Not so much. Mine has guns, cars, and electricity. As a note, I count my fairy tales as they all tie back to my larger urban fantasy universe.

Things I Write #3
    Monsters. I'm a sucker for all those 50's and 60's monster movies with SCIENCE! Shambling things from outer space, giant spiders tearing up the west, and radioactive creatures spawned from atomic bombs. Love the genre. This year's been a great one for those stories and I've had quite a fun time in writing them. I've hit a theme with my “GRONK!” series, though I've only sold one, submitted two others, and need to write a fourth by the end of August. So much potential for good, cheesy fun. I'm not going to spoil the monster reveal, you'll just have to go read it yourself. :)

Things I Don't Write #3
    Violence against children. Call it my line in the sand, but none of that. My list of taboo subjects is pretty short, but they're non-negotiable. I might threaten them, but they'll never come to harm physically. Mental scarring, well that might happen, like when your mom dies in a fire when bullies set fire to your house.

    That's my list of three things that I write and I don't write. As Rhonda noted, it's hard to think of things you don't write against what you do or plan on it. My first sale was a suspense story about a boy and his axe, not a sci-fi, so I've learned to keep my options open. And horror. Never figured that I'd be dabbling in that field, but it's just so much fun. Please feel free to leave a comment or ping me on Facebook or Twitter.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Monsters, monsters, and giant monsters.

    I'm a Godzilla fan. It's a fact. I have a copy of every movie on DVD, even the terrible one that features little kids and baby Godzilla. My star of the collection is a copy of the original movie that Classic Media did back in 2006 along with Godzilla Raids Again [the first sequel]. The only movie missing is the 1984 Godzilla film that you can't get legitimately in the US or Canada. I'd pay many bucks for a copy of the original Japanese version with subtitles and not the terrible American release. My understanding there's rights issues and no one's talking. Bastards.

    Why do I mention this? This summer saw the debut of a new Godzilla movie, which aside from a few plot holes and moments of "WTF?", came away as enjoyable. Giant monsters stomping around and destroying cities? Check and mate in my book. In my book, having more monster screen time is a bonus and I'd watch two hours of Godzilla fighting monsters in a tag team match. That my collection is in storage at the moment makes me sad.

    I've also noticed an upswing of monster related calls, revolving around b-movie, giant, and swarms of monsters. Not saying there's a relationship, but I'm liking what I see. My first giant monster story, "GRONK!", appeared in "ATTACK! of the B-Movie Monsters: Night of the Gigantis" and has since spawned a sequel [Bride of GRONK!] which is out to a call. On top of that, there's three more calls out there that just cry out for me to make additional stories [Attack of the GRONKlings, MegaGRONK, and one as yet untitled]. In the past week, I've struggled with an unrelated call and fell short in a few ways. Today, I put that one aside and worked on Attack, pumping out 3k words in the afternoon whereas I did barely 500 the other day. Just sat down and went at it. I think I found my groove, at least for this month of writing. Tomorrow's goal is to finish up Attack and start the edit process.

    I joked with my friend that these stories would be awesome fodder for a terrible SyFy movie. As she noted there's worse things than being known as the [OMG SPOILER] weird platypus guy. I think I could live with that.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Story Games - Microscope

    A divergence from the normal topic of writing and delving into a bit of gaming.

    I got a chance to play a story-telling game called Microscope on Sunday. I've heard about it and read the rules, so I had an idea what I was getting into and had a blast. The basic premise is that 2-4 players are exploring a period of history that they've created. It can be modern, fantasy, sci-fi, or whatever you happen to feel like. You make the "bookends" of the timeline and then each person makes either a period or event. The only restriction is that events have to go under a period and the bookends are valid periods. All you need are some note cards [3x5 work well], a writing instrument, and a table to lay everything out on.

    Play is pretty simple. Each person will take turns making periods, events, and scenes in the game. Periods are place in the timeline, events are placed under a period, and scenes go under an event. I should note that each period/event/scene is light or dark, indicating the general tone. You may have a dark themed period, but have light events and scenes underneath or vice-versa. The first person in the round is called the lens and sets the focus or topic that will be explored during the round. They also have an option to place two items on the boards such as a period + event or an event + scene. They may just make a scene and leave it at that. Play continues clockwise with the other players placing one period/event/scene. At the end, the lens get the option to go again with the same choices as the start. After the lens is done, the person on the right makes a legacy, which is a theme about the previous round of play, then makes an event or scene about it. The lens then shifts to the left and play continues.

    While this is a story telling game, there's a role-play mechanic in terms of the scenes. Be default, the person creating the scene creates a question that needs to be answered during it. Such as - Does King Rodrick escape the assassin? The player designates mandatory roles [The king, the assassin], plus any other ones that are deemed important. He may also restrict roles if they aren't appropriate. Starting on the right, players choose either a mandatory character or makes one up that's in the scene and have an investment on what's happening. The cavaet is that the mandatory characters must be played, so those spots must be taken by the last players as needed. Play then commences until the question is answered. This may leave other things unresolved, but that's an opportunity for more scenes.

    The beauty of the system is that you can jump back and forth along the timeline to explore whatever interest you as long as you stick to whatever the focus of the round is. You cannot contradict what's been established already, so if the town's been destroyed in a period, you can't visit it in a future period. But you can go back to before the destruction and explore events or scenes in the town.

    This is a cooperative game and there's some mechanics for trying to change how a scene happens and players are encouraged to ask questions to clarify events or periods. Outcomes are rarely dictated and everything is fair game. An example is the death of the warlord which was the starting period of the timeline in the game we played. One player setup a situation surrounding the the death of the king and his heir. Another player added a scene about it which took it in a different direction that the 1st player didn't expect or plan. Not to say that it's bad, but there's no "ownership" once something is on the board. You may create the great city of the Gods and another player may nuke it from orbit. Someone could be a jerk and spoil another player's fun, but hopefully that's not the case.

    One of the players pointed out this is a good way to create a history for an RPG if you were so inclined or a shared world for writing between friends. I'm looking forward to playing it again. As a note, we had 4 players and while the first round drug a bit, once we got familiar with the game, things sped up. In the four hours of play, we managed to get three rounds done. I have the cards and, if time permits, post the timeline in its full glory. The author of Microscope has put out another game called Kingdom. This one focuses on a single community or group. I've not played it, but hope to do so in the near future.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

World Horror Con - The Review [Part 2]

Continuing review of World Horror Con

    Late start due to excessive fun the day before, but got rolling in time for the first panels. This was a big one for me - Pitch Workshop / Editor Meet & Greet. I didn't have a pitch for them, but I wanted to get some idea on what's being looked for and get a few tricks. Also relevant was the moderator had done a bit of work on my novella and given me a metric ton of good feedback. Still working on getting that incorporated and ready to pitch to folks in the next few months. The editors on this panel were awesome and inviting, stressing they weren't gatekeepers or meanies that were keeping authors back. It's [almost] never personal and could just be a matter of timing. This is something I've heard quite often in the past. Collected a few cards and contact information before running off to the next panel on "Research in Horror".

    If anyone ever looked at my research history, pretty sure they would wonder WTF is this guy doing on these sites? A common thing among writers is that we read everything we can and if there's a question, we're off to find out the answer. With the advent of the internet, sources are easier to find and a good basis, but never forget the library or books that fill out the details. One of the panelist commented about using their vacation as a research and a tax deduction, because it was "work". They were joking, but you could see the lights go on in the other panelists. Another point made is that in the age of information & fact checking, you get it wrong and people will tell you. Often rudely. Snagged a quick lunch and then circled back to the next panel.

    Thought about this one and I have to say it disappointed me. In the Pitch panel, the editors were supportive. Not so much in this one. Pretty much the message was "If you're not famous, piss off, we're not interested. Also, if you aren't getting paid pro rates, you're an idiot for giving it away". These were big name editors and they basically had "their roster" and that was it. Invite only and "exclusive club" mentality. Vastly disappointing and honestly, made me angry. This dovetailed into the next panel "Advice to New Writers" which could be summed up as "Don't". Don't start unless you're willing to bust your ass to get noticed. Don't start unless you have thick skin. Don't start if you think you're going to make Steven King money. They were brutally honest. Writing as a job is close to impossible. The market isn't there like there was 20-30 years ago. Not great news, but as they said - "Writing is about passion. If you don't have the passion, go back to the cube".

    Fuck the cube. Not unless I'm desperate and even then, I'm tempted to get a job slinging burgers first.

    Last panel of the evening was "Finding You Voice". It's not a technical thing, but encompasses everything. If you read Steven King, he has a voice. George RR Martin has a voice. JRR Tolkein has a voice. It's the feel of the words, the execution of text, and fullness of story. And that's all about practice and the best stuff could be 20 years down the road as you refine your writing and get better. A good note to end the day.  Afterwards, met a friend for dinner, drank beer, and had a fun time socializing with him until the next event. Not a panel, but a show being put on by Deadite Press - "The Bedlam Sisters Sideshow". Holy crap was that a fun time. the stage wasn't the best, but the performers more than made up for those shortcomings. Think of a carnival sideshow and you've got the acts - fire dancer [only no fire, but lights]; a burlesque show based on the prom scene from Carrie; broken glass manipulator; bed nails [3 performers, the top one using a hula hoop]; and straight jacket escape. I'm bummed that it was only an hour and the next time I'm in Portland, I'll have to track down their performances.

    The final event of the evening was quite simply the most amusing bit. The Gross Out contest. 10 people get 5 minutes to tell the most revolting tale possible in front of 5 judges and a live audience. Last one was one by a guy grinding his teeth and talking about a dental procedure. This year's the subjects included ones including cannibalism, a horse act, doctors, pregnancy, food, and mother's day to name a few. Horror writers have some seriously messed up psyches when they put their mind to it. I'm not going into detail, since it's a "you had to be there" situation. Well worth it and as long as you weren't easily offended, enjoyable. And with that, I retired for the evening.

    Got up early to have breakfast with a buddy at a place called Waffle Window. Got a Belgian waffle with ham, bacon, and a jalapeno sauce. Very tasty, but sugary. Got back in time to listen to my friend, Christine Morgan, read a passage from "Sven Bloodhair" from the "Someone Wicked" anthology. She channeled her viking voice, adding a fun note to the reading. Being Sunday morning, there was only me and one other person [who won 3rd place in the previous evenings gross-out contest]. I read the story previously, but live readings are so much better.  Last panel of the day covered the topic of "Smut & Gore in Horror". The name of the panel really tells you all you need to know, except one thing - the writers aren't the people you think. One of the panel members looks like he'd be your kindly old uncle or grandfather. Yet he wrote some rather disturbing stuff. Well written, but rather off the wall. Another panelist worked in a warehouse and wouldn't stand out in a crowd. An interesting discussion and surprisingly clean.

    Afterwards I hit up a couple of folks to chat and make a few inroads into being a "professional". A positive and enlightening experience and one I look forward to repeating. Next year is in Atlanta and the year after in Provo. Not sure I'm up for those locations, but it's a temptation.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

World Horror Con - The Review [Part 1]

World Horror Con
    This last weekend was World Horror Con and that first time I've gone to a professional convention vs. a fan convention. Much smaller, less programming, and a lot more drinking/socializing. Had a great time, listened to lots of other authors, made a few contacts, drank [the bar is the natural habit of writers], bought a books, and focused some ideas for future projects. That's the high level view.

    Programming didn't start until late Thursday evening, so most of the day was spent setting up the exhibit booth, eating at Big Ass Sandwich [totally a meal in and of itself], and making introductions. My friend, Christine, took me along and began the long series of meeting folks. These are people I've heard of, read, and otherwise gotten to know via the internet. Now in person and quite amusing. Did I mention the hotel bar? They had one guy running the bar. I dunno if the Doubletree had ever hosted a convention of writers, but they needed another bartender.
    Panels started late, the first one at 8, with two more following. Unlike the fan convention, the panels were pretty highly focused and not plentiful. Radcon by contrast is a fan convention and has upwards of dozen things going on at once. You have to choose panels and often miss one or two that interest you. The "What Editors Want" panel turned out to be the most interesting, as editors gave advice on what they look for. Some advice was pretty basic [don't send fantasy to a horror call] or got really specific [Deadite Press goes for high concept writing, not normal or mainstream in any way]. It did congeal an idea, which needs to be written up, and then pitched at the next BizarroCon in November. The "Writing Characters" panel didn't add much and I'd been better off at the bar, stalking other writers for advice.
    Last panel was "Horror from the Page to the Silver Screen" and included F. Paul Wilson. He wrote a story called "The Keep" which was made into a film in the mid-80's. A terrible, terrible film. Recently, he had another story, "Pelts", turned into a film and had nothing by glowing praise for the director on that one. Found out that movies are strictly the domains of directors and that writers are treated like crap. Bad movie? You're seeing the directors "take" or "vision" on the script. Script could be a work of art, but in the hands of a director? Good luck. On the other hand, writers rule TV programming. The director is their bitch and needs to follow what they've put down. I must look into this TV business more, but only if I don't have to move to California.

    And now we get busy. Many panels, author signings, and socializing [aka parties]. Did I mention drinking? I keep coming back to this, because a] writers start early and b] many of those drinks were being taken out of the bar and into the panels. Would have thought the hotel might raise up objections, but didn't even blink an eye. Sadly the bar's tap list was pretty pedestrian, but we're in Portland and there's no end of good beer just a stone's throw away.
    "The Short Form" panel covered horror and how well a short story can convey it more effectively. Get that punch in and convey the emotional impact. The panelists pointed out that you got a better payoff in a shorter amount of time. Next panel talked about HP Lovecraft and his influence on Modern Horror. Lots of good historical information and how there's something of a renaissance of his writing. In the next year, there's 3 or 4 complete sets of his works by different publishers coming out, including one that will have original drafts and corrections. From personal experience, I've seen calls for many, many Lovecraftian themed anthologies lately and they've been doing exceptionally well.
    'F'd Up and In Love" had 4 writer couples talking about their relationships and how they approach their craft. A fun panel and shows that things can work out, just takes a lot of communication and understanding. "Coming Together" covered the topic of writing for yourself and your audience. Do you write just to please yourself, the audience, or both? The panels had diverse opinions on the subject, comparing it to masturbation [naturally] or performance art. I liked the idea that you're writing for yourself and knowing that somewhere [hopefully] there's an audience for it. If you aren't writing for yourself, you won't be happy and then it just becomes a chore.
    "Hardcore F'ing Horror" covered just what you think it would. The violent, extreme end of the genre. What is and isn't taboo. Turns out that many subjects are okay if done correctly. The exception seems to be the Holocaust and 9-11. A few of the authors pointed out that they've had hard times writing some of their stories as they push their limits. One of the things that I took away from this is that authors are normal people, we just happen to write our nightmares from time to time. Also, someone brought their kid to the panel and left about 20 minutes in. The moderator was like WTF? Who brings an 8-9 year old kid to a panel about shock horror? Really?
    Next came the Grandmaster award ceremony to Brain Keene. He made a great little speech and then posed for pictures. After meeting up with a buddy and dinner, went back and attended the Deadite Press party, chatted with folks, met more editors, and drank beer. Finally turned in around midnight cause I'm old.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

World Horror Con

    World Horror Con starts tomorrow in Portland and I have to admit to being a bit nervous. This is a con with some moderately big name attending and while I'm not going as a professional, I'm definitely going to network and learn. These are people I've read and followed and heard about for the past couple of years, but meeting them in the flesh is whole different situation. Am I going to be too big a fanboy or say something stupid or any number of things that might alienate them. Nerves. More than when I toss out a story for a call or review.

    Nerves aside, I'll get to meet Brian Keene and his wife. The crew of Deadite Press [Jeff Burk, Shane McKenzie, Carlton Mellick III, and more] and hang out at their press party.  I'll freely admit that I can't write bizarro horror, but I've read enough to make me admire those folks that can and make it entertaining. Some professional editors will be attendance and I get to thank one personally for looking at my novella. There's panels to attend, a live body piercing show, the gross-out contest, and lets not forget food. Portland is famous for all the foodcarts and there's many to be sampled.

    April produced only a single story and could not be considered a fruitful or productive month. It did spawn a new character and some ideas how to use her in future projects, including a call that surfaced a couple of day ago. On top of that, the Fossil Lake anthology got a reprint and the dead tree editions should be here today in time to take to World Horror Con.

    I'll do a debrief once I get back and gush about people more then.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Of Dragons, Elves, and Freedom

    This struck me as I sat pondering things and watching Top Gear. Not sure if I'd use it for a novel, short stories, or an RPG campaign. But it's out of my head, on paper, and ready to be revisited in the future.

Of Dragons, Elves, and Freedom

    It began with the elves and the dragons. Two races of immortals fighting for dominance in a world populated by mortals and the short-lived. A millennium of stalemate that saw minor changes of territory at the expense of the short-lived. No winners, only those who suffered and died. By chance and fate, a boy escaped elven servitude and returned with a story. The elves kept a great weapon, one of terrible power that they dared not use against the dragons. It would, he said, surely destroy their ancient foes but only at the cost of their immortality. Mutual annihilation, an unthinkable option for a race that had existed since the first days of the world.

    But the short-lived acted. A great army formed and marched upon the Elven kingdom, intent on bringing down their oppressors and freeing themselves from the yolk of tyranny. This so amused the dragons, that they helped a small group to infiltrate the great sky-city where the weapon lay dormant. Beyond all expectations, this small group succeeded, as the elves distracted themselves by annihilating the approaching army. Even the dragons, no longer thinking it a grand jest, warned the elves. Too little, too late.

    The last of the intruders gave her life to activate the great weapon, devastating the seat of the all draconic power and sole nursery of the race. Less than a handful of eggs survived the strike, while the great dragon stone cracked and shattered. In an instant, the dragons fell from the sky, unable to resist the sudden absence of power that they held their life-force. Those that remained, the youngest, fled to the wastelands, no longer protected against the arrows and swords of the short-lived.

    For the elves, their demise came slower, making the death of the dragons a mercy. Time took its revenge, aging the former immortals. Each day, they aged a year. In a rage, they attacked the short-lived only to find they too were susceptible to the sword and the axe and the arrow. Elven magic failed, drawn into the great weapon for fuel. The elves withdrew to their sky-cities to preserve their race and find a way to halt the march of time. In a year, they watched half the population die to the short-lived, accident, or suicide. At the end of the second year, less that a quarter of those remained, fleeing the failing cities and disappearing into the wild. None were seen again.

    The short-lived races returned to their lands and sought to rebuild. Peace lasted for a time, until memory faded and old grudges resurfaced. Common ties frayed and armies once again marched. War and expansion became the norm. A few tried to keep the peace, only to fall to the sword or ignored. The brave and curious sought out the lost dragon lair and the fallen cities of the elves. Few returned with tales of danger and terrors that guarded treasure and lore beyond imagination. Magic returned to the short-lived races, a fraction of power wielded by dragons or elves, but a power to be reckoned with.

    Rumors persist of elves and dragons in the deep and dark places of the world. But those are tales of fools and bards. Thus you know the tales of the elves dragons, as it was told to me by my grandsire, from his grandsire, from his grandsire. Someday, you'll tell it to your grandchild, young one. Now go and remember.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Unseelie & Seelie Goodness

Here's the latest anthology that includes one of my stories. In the beginning, the anthology would be a flip book with Seelie & Unseelie stories. The response led them to split into separate books. Mine, "The Tamer of Beasts", is in the Unseelie anthology, while my friend, Christine Morgan, has a story in the Seelie book. Pick them up in the format of your choice. You won't be disappointed.

A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court
Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Chimerical-World-Tales-Seelie-Court-ebook/dp/B00IAHTMAO

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-chimerical-world-scott-m-sandridge/1118591415?ean=2940148285519

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/a-chimerical-world-tales-of-the-seelie-court

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/chimerical-world-tales-seelie/id816136026?mt=11

Print: http://www.amazon.com/Chimerical-World-Tales-Seelie-Court/dp/1937929477

A Chimerical World: Tales of the Unseelie Court
Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Chimerical-World-Tales-Unseelie-Court-ebook/dp/B00IAHTVSC

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-chimerical-world-scott-m-sandridge/1118591426?ean=2940148285526

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/a-chimerical-world-tales-of-the-unseelie-court

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/chimerical-world-tales-unseelie/id816133789?mt=11

Print: http://www.amazon.com/Chimerical-World-Tales-Unseelie-Court/dp/1937929493

Monday, February 17, 2014

Fitting the character

More of an idle thought as I was tossing and turning last night. My current list of calls is 16, two are due at the end of March and a novella synopsis to submit for a linked trilogy. A future call was announced and that got some ideas stirring. Looking at my current "cast" I can easily fit characters into these calls and all of them have been supporting characters in the past. Except the novella. That's all Theo.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Beauty, Beast, and a Rose

Today's post is inspired by a Facebook group I belong to and the current thread about blogs and a reference to fairy tales. Thanks Liz!

     Of late, I've been writing a lot of urban fantasy and dark fairy tales. For some reason, it's struck a cord with me and the words have come easier than other projects. Another reason is that I love the various characters that I've come up with during the process and want to explore them further. During the last NaNo, I wrote a side story using three of those characters for the fourth time. This morning as I was being bothered by one of the cats demanding pets, the thought hit me on how ideas come to me based on a someone's throwaway line or idle comment. One such occasion brought to life those three characters.

     In the "old days", fairy tales weren't not all brightness, sunshine, and happy endings. Many were dark, brooding, and violent. In a conversation with a friend, we talked about reading them as kids and the sort of inspiration that we pulled from them and how tales are being retold from different POV's or with a twist on the setting. Beauty and the Beast came up and how the POV is one of them for most of the time. My friend mentioned that it would be interesting to see the POV of the rose. That's the comment that sent the wheels in motion.

     What about the rose? What did it feel? How did it "see" the events? Did it lure the father to pluck it, knowing the consequences? What if it was holding Beauty and Beast captive, toying with them at a whim? I loved the notion that the rose was the antagonist of the story and what if? That's was the genesis of The Flowering Princess of Dreams, The Tamer of Beasts, and Justin [aka Beast]. To date, the stories "The Flowering Princess of Dreams" and "The Tamer of Beasts" have been sold and published. Tamer was written first, but FPoD got the glory of seeing print first. The other two stories are hanging around, waiting for calls or revisions. Not a conscious effort, but I've noticed that my fairy tale stories get titles referring to characters and it seems to work so far.

    In the process of spinning stories, I've come up with a nice dynamic on how they interact with each other and what I hope is a different spin on a familiar fairy tale. The stories in question are in "Someone Wicked" by Smart Rhino Publications and "A Chimerical World: Tales of the Unseelie Court." by Seventh Star Press.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Looking Ahead in 2014

This is going to be a bit of ramble.

     We're a month and change into 2014 and I finally have a chance to breath. Last two months have been busy with another project and my chances to writing has suffered. I don't regret it, as I was helping someone with their dream and that makes things okay. Now it's time to get back to writing and taking stock of what I've got pending.

     NaNo left me with three finished short stories, a hefty partially-complete novella, and a smattering of ideas that need to be expanded upon. I just finished taking two of the short stories and pulling them out of Scrivner and into a file for submission. They were destined for calls, but those have passed, so now I'm working on finding them a new home. Each needs a complete edit pass on them and then shipped them off to beta readers for review. More of my urban fantasy faerie tales, including Tamer, Beast, and The Princess from previously published stories.

     The past two months has seen five short stories go into print, either dead tree or e-book. That brings the total to eight since I started this back in February 2012. Two years. It's been an interesting haul, but I want more. "Fire and Frost" went to a professional for editing and review. I got a lot of good praise and a dose of good advice. Now I've got to take it all, revise the story, add more words, and then send it out. I can do this. I can get it published. That's the next milestone for me and time to get serious about it. That also leaves my 2013 NaNo effort, Oath of Fire, which needs at least another 10-15k words to complete. I've got the ending written for once, even if it's not a whole story.

     Another bit that's spurring me on is all the stuff in my head. It wants to be told. All the characters are asking for screen time to tell their tales and the queue gets longer each week. "Oath of Fire" is the origin story for my main character, who features prominently in "Fire and Frost", which is eleven years in the future and there's a handful of tales that have been published that fit between those points of time [Broken Horn, The Dank, Knife's Edge]. Add to that is the Tamer/Beast/Princess stories [The Flowering Princess of Dreams, The Tamer of Beasts] which are nominally set in the same "universe". Yes, there's a chance of a cross-over, but its not joined in queue yet just loitering in the background. Then there's "The Crew", which got rejected on one hand, yet possibly accepted on the other hand to a different, yet related, publication. I sent out a query again to see if the offer is still open. If so, that means a reformatting of the story, but no major edits, just tweaks.

     So, here's the list of current stories in publication which can be found on Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Nobles. Theses are in no particular order. A special mention to Weldon Burge of Smart Rhino for taking a gamble on an unknown author with a story about a boy and his ax. Thanks for the acceptance.

"The Dank" in Fossil Lake, An Anthology of the Aberrant [Daverana Enterprises]
"GRONK!" in ATTACK! of the B-Movie Monsters [Grinning Skull Press]
"The Tamer of Beasts" in A Chimerical World: Tales of the Unseelie Court [Seventh Star Press]
"The Flowering Princess of Dreams" in Someone Wicked [Smart Rhino Publications]
"Broken Hron" in Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac [Alchemy Press]
"Knife's Edge" in 66 Sex Club [Scarlet Petals Press] [NSFW]
"Perfection" in Zippered Flesh 2 [Smart Rhino Publications]
"Madame" in Uncommon Assassins [Smart Rhino Publications]