Posts Tagged ‘writing’

So this is awkward.

I wrote a novella. I decided to self-publish it. But it really does feel like I told very few people about it, and, let’s face it – the greatest book in the world isn’t going to get much traction if you don’t actually tell me that it is out there.

This started off as a NaNoWriMo project a couple of years back that didn’t quite make it to the full 50k. But I was okay with that. The story ended up being as long as the story needed to me, and that worked for me. What I ended up with was a nitro boosted urban fantasy tale with a heart and soul of pulp action (no surprise there, really). Anyway, the working title was “That Old Black Magic” which I was never sold on for a title, and those people (un)lucky enough to read early drafts liked the story well enough… just not the title. Anyway, titles were never my strong suit anyway (with possibly the exception of BROADSWORDS and BLASTERS), so I went with two things that featured prominently in this particular story.


BULLETS AND BLACK MAGIC features a thief-for-hire, Blake, who has more than a little magicial mojo backing up his plays. He steals a book for a client, the client ends up dead… and well, the plot doesn’t let up from there. It also features cultists, vampires, a blind tattooist, and Angelic magic. I more or less stuffed it all into a blender and hit puree. Interested yet? You should be. You can grab a copy of it here:

Captain Gaveston sat in his cabin, slumped forward in his chair, his bloodshot eyes fixed on the chart spread across the stained and scarred table. His right hand was planted on a rune inscribed skull, his left on crystal globe, the interior swirling with a purple cloud. His greying black locks fell to his shoulders, and his eyes had the wide manic stare of the fanatic. He couldn’t remember the last time he slept or the last time he’d set foot on land that wasn’t surrounded by water.

Artwork created using Wombo.

The cabin door crashed open and First Mate Ningle lurched into the cabin, dragging the wreck of his leg behind him.

“Captain, we’ve nearly caught them.”

He slurred his words, the result of the right side of his face being a melted ruin, the eye clouded over and unseeing. His left leg was nothing more than bone and a few dangling scraps of sinew. How long ago had he died? How long since Gaveston had bound his departing soul to the remains of his corpse? He felt like if he could remember he could solve the puzzle to his own continued existence. Ningle had been the first he had dragged back beyond the Black Veil. He had not been the last.

“Caught who, Ningle?”

Ningle dragged one ragged finger against his cheek. A bit of rotting flesh hit the floor with a wet slap. “Our… prey, Captain. The one you set us on the trail of.”

“Did I?” Gaveston stared down at the chart, stared at the small ships moving across it, the storm bank approaching from the east. If they put all the sails out, if they had a bit of luck, they’d catch their pursuers as the storm hit. Gaveston frowned. Something about that should bother him more than it did, a memory gnawing away like a mouse in the hardtack. “Yes. I did.” He felt a pull, like a steady hand on the rudder of his soul.

“More sail, Ningle. We’ll need to fly like the dead to catch them but catch them we shall.”

“Do I tell the crew to beat to quarters?”

“No need yet,” Gaveston replied. He looked up and stared at Ningle. He could see moonlight streaming through the hole in his chest where his heart should have been. “Wait until we’re within sight of the ship.”

How long had they pursued this particular vessel? How many days and months and years? Wind whipped through the cracked and warped planks of the vessel, as dead as the men that crewed her and as seemingly oblivious to the fact, still slicing through waves and weathering storms, still bending to the will of its master.

He stared down at the chart, watched as the gap between the ships grew ever closer. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but he could hear the crack of thunder echoing across the water when Ningle opened the door to the cabin once more.

“We’re in sight of them Captain.”

“Beat to arms, Ningle. Ready the guns.”

“Are we taking prisoners?”

Gaveston locked his feverish gaze on Ningle’s one good eye. “Bring me the captain. I don’t care about the rest.”

“Aye Captain.”

Gaveston stared down at the map, heard the thunder grow closer, heard the calls for sails to be furled. The long guns boomed. The other ship returned fire, one shot crashing through the rotted wood of his cabin and revealing the storm-tossed sky outside. Gaveston kept both hands fixed on skull and globe, his will holding ship and crew steady. The wall knit itself back together, an ugly scar running along the hull, another scar to mark their damned passage.

There was a sudden crash as the ships came together, and he could hear the shouts from the crew they pursued. His own band of cutthroats didn’t utter a sound. No need to talk when you were dead. He wasn’t sure how Ningle communicated to the rest of the crew, and he realized that such a triviality didn’t interest him. The sound of steel clashing on steel rang out, muffled only by the sound of thunder and the piteous groaning of the ship’s timber.

Then all fell silent.  

Ningle reentered the cabin, pushing the enemy captain in front of him. The captain’s coat was torn, and he bled from a gash in his forehead.

“Casualties, Mr. Ningle?” Gaveston asked.

“Six of ours are no longer fit to fight sir, but we were able to take sixteen of theirs in turn. Figure half will be fit to fight again, Captain. The others will suit as supplies.”

“Good,” Gaveston replied, though he made the word sound anything but.

“Gaveston?” the enemy captain looked up, his eyes having trouble focusing. “Captain Gaveston? I know you… it’s me, Bentinck. We served together six years on The Scourge. Don’t you remember me? What happened to you?”

“Bentinck?” Gaveston blinked at the man before him, something vaguely familiar about the shape of his face, the sound of his voice, but he couldn’t quite place it. A baleful green light shone in Ningle’s ruined eye. “I… I don’t remember.”

“We thought you dead, lost at sea five years ago. Is this… is this The Golden Storm?”

Ningle cuffed Bentinck across the back of the head, sending him sprawling to the floor. “This isn’t The Golden Storm, it’s The Blood Abandoned. You understand?”

“Mr. Ningle.”

“Apologies, Captain,” Ningle replied, tipping an imaginary cap. “I overstepped my bounds.”

“Yes, well, make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“What do you want done with him, sir?”

Gaveston looked down at Bentinck, but all he saw was a pile of squirming, bleeding meat. And there was other prey to catch.

“Dispose of it,” he replied. Staring down at the chart, his eyes fixed on another small moving dot. Another ship. He felt his soul called to pursue.

“Cut ties to the other ship, Mr. Ningle. We have prey to catch.”

(A bit of flash fiction I drafted for an open call. Unfortunately, it didn’t make the cut, so I decided to put it here instead for you to enjoy. Artwork created via where you feed an AI words and it generates art.- MXG)

So Broadswords and Blasters is dead. At least for the foreseeable future. Why? A lot of reasons, but the amount of time and money Cameron and I were pouring into it, and the relative lack of return we were seeing on it was draining. From most objective standards, our experiment to launch a New Pulp magazine was a glorious failure. Even with our shoestring budget, we didn’t quite break even. We didn’t win any awards[1]. Hell, we weren’t even nominated for any to the best of my knowledge.

And yet.

This past month, with the announcement of our closing, showed that what we did mattered to a number of people. We were the first paid publication (hey, you could buy a burrito at least) for a number of writers. For others, we gave them a confidence boost when they needed it. I’m sure a few people stuck around for our social media feeds (okay, by that I mean Twitter, because I ignored Facebook for the most part), including our allegedly legendary Follow Fridays where I tried to highlight our contributing writers, fellow publications, and friends of the mag. We worked hard to be apolitical in a time where everything is political (how much we upheld the status quo is probably up for debate, but it isn’t one we’re all that interested in having).

We did succeed in one aspect. Our goal, from day one, was to publish action-adventure stories. We weren’t interested in avant-garde structures or allegories or Big Idea stories. We still managed to get stories featuring morally complex characters, plots that tended toward shades of gray as opposed to black and white, and damn if we didn’t get some stories that made us laugh and others that brought a tear to the eye. If there was one big failing, it was that we didn’t get enough readers exposed to the great writing going on in the indie scene and that will be my biggest regret.

So what’s next? For me, at least, it is chipping away at a fantasy novel featuring Liam the Black (a short story featuring Liam is set to be published some time this year by Kzine). I’ve already got stories in upcoming issues of The Dark City Crime & Mystery Magazine, Econoclash Review[2], and Cirsova.

It’s working on more short stories for more markets. It’s reading more. Reviewing more. It’s submitting more places than I did the year before. I should also finish this[3].

Anyway, that’s my year set out now that we’re one half of one twelfth through the year.

None of us getting younger, you know?

[1] We did come in 3rd place among Fiction Magazines in the Critter Poll of 2019.

[2] Now an imprint of Down & Out Books

[3] Seriously, me? 2017? I know at least one person was enjoying it.

Yeah, yeah, so this is going to be one of those posts that is writing about writing. Unlike some of the other ones I’ve done, this is way less about craft and more about content and the fundamental underpinnings of character. So if you are here only for the short fic, might want to give this a pass. Also, I am not writing this to call any author out, except for maybe myself. (more…)

A quick note: I fenced for a number of years. Foil primarily, but I’ve also picked up some different rapier techniques as well as some “heavy” sword work (two-hander, sword and shield, single-handed broadsword along with some very limited small unit tactics). My lens is primarily through Western martial arts, and there are some great additional resources out there (The Association for Renaissance Martial Arts for instance) that I definitely recommend checking out.


  1. Shut up it’s not too early to talk about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Yes, officially it starts in November, but I guarantee you the best way to successfully complete the requisite 50,000 words in the 30 days given is to start thinking about your story now.
  2. Start thinking about characters. That means description, backstory, motivation. What’re their buttons? What sets them apart? This is more than just the protagonist. Think about your antagonist. Think about satellite characters. What’s motivating them? What’s making them do what they do?
  3. What’s the setting? Rural Alabama is different from Elfy Forestland is different from Noir Cyberpunk where it rains all the time. How does the setting help to frame the story?
  4. Related to the above: do your worldbuilding now. November is for writing the story, not the setting. I guarantee if you let yourself get bogged down in the worldbuilding, if you need to spend time figuring your shit out in November, you aren’t going to get far with the actual writing.
  5. What are the stakes of the story? What happens if your protagonist falls flat on their face? Is it the end of the world? The end of a relationship? End of employment? What if they succeed? The status quo should change by the end of the story.
  6. Do not let your character be a leaf on the wind. They need to be a jet plane. In other words- give the character(s) agency. Have them make decisions. Have them make choices. These can even be bad choices, but make them act in the world you create.
  7. Work out now how you are going to tell the story. First person present? Third person limited past? Now’s the time to make those decisions, not at 12:01 am in November 1.
  8. Think about your beats. Road map out your story. NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words. That’s 10k words an act for five acts. You know who worked the five act model? Shakespeare. Be like Shakespeare.
  9. Allow yourself to suck. NaNoWriMo is designed to get writers to get words on page. They don’t have to be the perfect words. That’s what editing is for.
  10. Don’t give a fuck about genre. You want to write steampunk airship pirates battling Martians? Shapeshifter mutant erotica? Weird West meets Weird Science? You do you.
  11. Look at your schedule. 30 days for 50k words is 1,666.67 words per day. November contains things like Thanksgiving. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Having to go to work. Plan out what days might end up being blacked out for writing. Plan accordingly.
  12. There are certain things that drive word count. Action. Dialogue (especially asking questions). Do those things.
  13. Certain parts are going to bog you down. Writing long descriptions. Writing exposition.
  14. Getting stuck on a scene? Put in a place holder. Something like [Exposition on the nature the lamia/sphinx war goes here]. Move on to the next scene. Put that bracket in red, set it off from the rest of the scene. Come back to it later when you are ready to tackle it.
  15. Find your writing groove now. Music or no music? What kind of music? Caffeine? Alcohol? Other? If booze makes you sleepy, you might want to scale back when writing. You won’t get nearly as much done as you might think. Haven’t written anything in a while? Maybe write a couple of short pieces before hand. Take those characters out for a test drive. Writing is a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.

Further reading:

How to Write a Novel in 3 Days (The Michael Moorcock Way)

The official NaNoWriMo website.

Yes, I am considering participating in NaNoWriMo this year. I did it years ago. 2001 I think? And I finished. And if I do participate I’ll be posting the word slurry here, one day at a time.

This week, pick a title and go! I’ve used Blake before in a bit of flash (“Nothing Like Getting Rained On“) though if I’m being honest this is more vignette than flash. Ah well, and so it goes. I think I’ll come back and flesh this out, give it a proper plot.


I just finished writing the main segment of Burned Lands, a twelve part serial story for Dark Futures.

The idea was simple enough: write three chapters of around 2.5k words each. Each chapter would be told from a first person point of view, but after three chapters the viewpoint would change to a different character. Then, after all is said and done, compile the whole shebang and put it out there for sale.

What could be easier? (more…)

I have a certain style of character that I tend to write.  That type can be described as male, heteronormative, and nominally white. They also tend toward liking knives, cigarettes, and having a drink or three. (more…)

“Ooh, ooh, I know. I’ll write about an evil twin!”

“Yawn. Boring.  Done. Very 19th Century.”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“Ever heard of doppelgangers?”

“I thought that was a D&D monster.”

“Buzzz. Wrong. Try again.”

“Okay, how about a dream sequence? And there’ll be cats! Lots of cats. Only, this time they’ll be good.”

“H.P. Lovecraft called. He wants his story back.”

“Fuck you. Uhm. Okay. How about this. A barbarian, only he’s not all Noble Savage and wants nice things. And, like instead of a loincloth he wears armor.”

“Done and done by Crom! Have you never read any Howard?”

“A master thief who also knows some magic?”


“A sickly prince of a decadent civilization?”


“An aged fighter, come back for one more fight?”

“You mean ‘Legend’ by David Gemmel?”

“Fine, fine. What do you think I should write?”

“No idea. But it’s fun to shoot your’s down.”