Category: Uncategorized (Page 2 of 282)

New Release: Water Faeries (A Procession of Faeries Series)

A Procession of Faeries #4: Water Faeries

Universal Buy Link | Goodreads (reviews)

On a rock by the shore sits a mermaid fair 
Dreaming of her lost lover as she combs her hair 

Kelpies, and selkies, and the great snakes of the sea 
All stop and listen as she sings of a love never to be 

For the sailor she saved from those dark, storm-tossed waves 
Got back on his ship, and sailed away 

Now the mermaid’s alone, with broken-hearted dreams 
And far, far away the sailor stares out at the sea 

Fifteen stories about mermaids, kelpies, and other magical water creatures.

What if the Loch Ness monster is more than a myth?

Where did the Lady of the Lake go after leaving Avalon?

Can a mermaid ever truly leave the sea, and follow her lover to land?

This collection includes fifteen tales about sirens, kelpies, mermaids, sea monsters, naiads, and other enchanted creatures of the water.

Enjoy the magic and wonder of these watery tales of Faerie!

New Release: Temper & Temperance

Universal Buy Link | Goodreads

Once upon a time…

Napoléon Buonoparte did not ally himself with the armies of France during the French Revolution, but sought power instead in Britain, where his subtlety and planning was met with reticience and phlegmatism.  The British feared Napoléon’s infamous Corsican temper, and worried that it would lead him to vendetta–and not capable leadership.  Would he betray them to France unintentionally?

Although he had proved himself capable in various matters, Napoléon knew that he would be once again tested before the British would commit.

His plans hung upon the outcome of a single ball:  a man who could not organize a pleasant country ball surely could not be relied upon to lead an army.

His plans were in place, his resources martialed…

…and then he met a bookish young woman named Jane Austen.

This short, sweet romance is an alternate history of what might have happened, if Napoléon had not met his Josephine and gone to France, but allied himself elsewhere.  

Napoléon Buonaparte, of Casa Buonaparte, in Ajaccio, Corsica, was a man of such seriousness of character that, once he had decided that Corsica did not belong to the French, he could not rest until he had himself taken possession of it.

The inhabitants of Corsica are well known for their tempers, which sometimes erupt into that particular Mediterranean code of honor known as the vendetta.  It is widely agreed that if only the inhabitants of that island could agree to end their disputes, they are of such a particularly assured and inflexible character as to be able to conquer the world.  But, as the people of Corsica like to say, no-one can hate a Corsican like another Corsican, and the feuds that might have conquered Europe are instead a source of grief for the mothers, wives, and families of those noble souls over-afflicted by their own honor.

Therefore Buonaparte, not having a disciplined army of Corsicans with which to expel the French, turned to the British in order to obtain one.  The British had already put off answering the Corsican Question, as it was called, during the French invasion in 1769 (which also happened to be the year of Buonaparte’s birth), and found themselves similarly unable to resolve it when first Buonaparte began to ask it again during the years of 1789 to 1792.

For if the character of a Corsican is marked by his temper, then the character of the Briton shall be known by his reluctance to have one, and to remain untouched by questions of justice and injustice, until such a time as it must be answered upon his own soil, whether in Britain or her colonies.

The British, as led by Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, almost began to think of taking it upon themselves to answer the Corsican Question in 1792 after the Battle of Valmy, in which the Prussians narrowly defeated the French.  But we had soon once again resolved not to be too hasty, having only had twenty-three years in which to debate whether or not to assist the Corsicans in throwing off their French masters.

The French, in honor of their narrow defeat in Valmy, began to reverse or at least reconsider some of the changes wrought by their Revolution.  Many of the worst excesses of the Ancien Regime had been ameliorated and the Third Estate had taken control of the government, and so Louis Capet, much like a badger that has dug itself under the foundations of a house, was left at Montmédy, well-watched by the dogs, that is, the regular French army.

Meanwhile we Britons, shocked by the intemperate treatment of the French royalty by the French, finally began to wonder if the French Question should be addressed, and rather sooner than later.  Mr. Pitt’s government resoundingly vowed to hedge their bets and undermine the most radical and violent elements of the French Revolution by supporting those who would resist them, at least in sending them whatever aid should be determined to be as clandestine and as cheap as possible.  Of course, by the time the funds were applied, the main concern was no longer the French and their cries of Liberté, égalité, fraternité! but the Prussians and their push to annex all of Europe and parts of Russia as “traditional provinces of the Holy Roman Empire,” while denying Rome and unifying the Protestant churches in the lands so taken.

Once again, Napoléon began to press for an answer to the Corsican Question, this time promising to send such Corsicans who had proven themselves skilled at the vendetta into lands controlled by the Prussians to cause trouble there.

Thus it was in September 1795 that Mr. Pitt asked his cousin Lord Grenville, the Foreign Secretary, to have a word with Mr. William Wickham, a commissioner of the bankrupts, to place a certain suggestion into the ear of Buonaparte, that if he were to present himself on a certain date in December of 1795 in the town of Basingstoke, Hampshire, at the home of Edmund Fry, a type-founder to the Prince of Wales, then he should be almost certainly assured of the practical details of his plans reaching the ear of the Prime Minister, sooner or later.

In order to prevent any suspicion of collusion between the Corsicans and the British, Mr. Buonaparte, who was the son of a well-off family in Corsica, took a house in Basingstoke in order to see whether he liked the area and the shooting.  He firmly denied any intentions of finding an English wife, which meant it quickly became established fact that he intended to take one.

The inhabitants of Hampshire, being firmly convinced of the superiority of the views, the comfort of the house that Mr. Buonaparte had taken, and the fine appearance and temperament of their daughters, accepted Mr. Buonaparte into the community under the unspoken condition that he choose from among them a sensible and pretty young wife.

To read more, click here!

For Writers: The Grain of Salt

So if, as a writer, you’re supposed to take feedback from readers, critique groups, reviewers, etc., with a grain of salt, what is that grain of salt?

My thought is this:

“Would the suggested change help satisfy my readers?”

I think that’s it.

Next time you get a comment you’re on the fence about, ask the commenter (unless it’s a review; just leave that shit alone),

“How will this help satisfy my readers?”

If they can’t explain, or if the answer is, “But that’s how you do it” (or “But that’s what’s grammatically correct”), then ignore it.  If it points back to some kind of arbitrary rule or system, but not back to a reader, then it’s ego and bureaucracy talking, not inspiration.

The world is madness which can only be combatted with sly nonsense.  Read the latest at the Wonderland Press-Heraldhere!


New Release: Silver Linings, an Uncollected Anthology Issue!

Uncollected Anthology: Silver Linings

Universal Book Link | Goodreads (reviews)

Discover how to negotiate with demons and survive a night on the street. Sniff out a pesky ghost or hunt down a creature at night. Attend a fairy ball, overcome inner darkness or speak with the wind.  7 stories about the one thing in the dark that pulls you onward: hope!

Featuring my story, “The Coffee Shop Ghost”!

Pink-haired goth Tiff Cordero isn’t a witch.  She’s a clairaliant, someone who smells spirits. And she’s been hired to sniff out a ghost who has recently started to give migraines to the patrons of a local coffee shop.

Only problem:  nobody’s died anywhere near the building recently, no one has cursed the place, and the only odor Tiff can pick up is the smell of burnt plastic.

If she can’t solve the case, all the cool patrons will ditch the coffee shop—and it’s already in a neighborhood getting updated and plasticized out of existence.

Have all the stories already been told?

In other words, how important is originality in fiction?

Should you be trying to write something original?

First:  what makes you think you would recognize originality if you saw it? 

When I was reading slush for several online magazines, I would run across the same idea over and over again, written by people who clearly had no idea that anyone else had written that idea before.  Because I mostly read darker stories, I liked to joke about the “Oh no my ex was murdered by a monster and I could do nothing–nothing–to save them!” stories.

Which I saw a lot.

There’s even a particular type of story that seems to be written by people who think they’re being original.  I call it “the asshole’s downfall,” and it mirrors the hero’s journey described by Joseph Campbell and others:

  • A guy with no life, either a mediocre job or no job at all
  • Dreams of better things
  • Including being abusive to women, usually
  • While slipping back and forth between dreams and reality
  • Until finally he dies, or goes back to his mediocre job, or his bar or whatever
  • The End.

Tropic of CancerRequiem for a Dream, pretty much everything by Bukowski, The Woman in the Dunes, the list goes on. Rabbit, Run.

Both the author and the people who like that kind of thing seem to think each new iteration is fresh and original–and, compared to the endless iterations of the hero’s journey that we’ve been getting lately, it is.  Some”asshole’s downfall” books are very good, even.

The point is not that they’re bad.  The point is that the story gives the illusion of freshness and originality, but doesn’t actually provide it.

In other words, there’s a difference between originality and the appearance or feeling of it.

Second, if you did write something truly original, who would want to read it?

When people read books, they read to satisfy some need within themselves.  They want to feel smarter.  They want to escape their lives.  They want their beliefs to feel completely justified.  They want to see things happen (like revenge) that they know wouldn’t fly in real life.  They want to see the underdog win against overwhelming odds.  They want to see true love.  They want to see people that they identify with doing something fantastic and unusual.  They want the people they don’t like to suffer, and the people they do like to succeed.

A truly original book is only going to succeed with an audience if it supplies an original need.  Otherwise, it’s a curiosity at most.

So, if not originality, then what?

I suggest being specific instead.

The way you see the world will never be exactly replicated.  The place, the time, your point of view and opinions, the context of the audience you’re trying to reach–those things can never be replicated.

Kafka wrote some strange works, but they resonated with his German-speaking Jewish audience in Prague, who often laughed their way through the dark worlds he created.

American Psycho was published in the aftermath of the 1980s, by a New York writer running on empty.

Even something really unusual like If on a Winter’s Night A Traveler comes from, and contributes to, a group of metafictional writers and semioticians who are exploring what meaning itself means.

Don’t be original.  Be specific.

The world is madness which can only be combatted with sly nonsense.  Read the latest at the Wonderland Press-Heraldhere!


Which is more important, a good idea or good craft?

A question came up on Twitter that I’d like to address:

Is it more important to have good ideas or good craft as a writer?

A professional writer had told the questioner that good ideas were more important than good craft; that agents and editors needed something unique to sell and they could edit it better later but they can’t add ideas.

In my opinion, this sort of dichotomy misses the point entirely, and, on top of that I feel that the professional writer’s answer (whoever they were, I don’t know) was biased by their status as a professional writer.

To a professional writer who has already achieved a certain level of craft, the level of craft is no longer a factor.  To a professional writer with a sufficient level of craft, they no longer have to worry about craft.

They should, because you can always get better.  But it may appear to a writer at a certain level of craft as though it’s the ideas that are the issue, not the craft, if they get accepted or turned down on a proposal or submission.

In my opinion, here’s the actual answer.

  • You have to have a certain level of craft before you’re worth editing.
  • That level of craft appears to involve the intermediate-level skills I’ve been talking about on this blog:  pacing, structure (not plot), control of sensory details, character voice, and information flow.
  • Once you have that level of craft, readers who are not mostly like you can enjoy reading your work, and you have a wide enough appeal.
  • Craft is a factor but not the factor.
  • Ideas are a dime a dozen; without craft, they’re worth nothing.
  • A good, hooky idea is worth something, but cannot on its own guarantee success.
  • An “original” idea probably isn’t.
  • People enjoy remakes, retellings, and tropes more than originality in every art form imaginable; truly original work can take years to appreciate.
  • For example, it always takes me 2-4 years to appreciate a new Bjork album.  And I like her stuff.
  • Ideas are a factor in the success of a story but not the factor either.

What is it, then?  What is the secret key to success as a writer?

Make the reader feel something.

No one element of writing arouses feeling in a reader.  Each element of writing exists because it contributes to, and controls, the arousal of feeling–but it is all of those elements working in concert that causes the arousal.

Including, and especially, the reader.

(In other words, please don’t take it personally if people don’t like your stuff.)

The world is madness which can only be combatted with sly nonsense.  Read the latest at the Wonderland Press-Heraldhere!


Short Stories for Novel Writers, and Vice Versa

If you are a short story writer, then it is likely that you struggle with writing novels; if you are a novel writer, then it is likely that you struggle with writing short stories.

And yet people do write short stories, and they do write novels, so it must not be impossible.  Just…difficult to translate.


A short story has four basic pieces.

  • Setup (a character in a setting with a problem).
  • The character tries to do something.
  • The attempt either succeeds or fails.
  • Wrapup (where the characters end up, whether the setting changes, and how the problem is resolved).

I’m going to guesstimate and say that a setup takes about 400 words, a wrapup about the same or less, and each try takes 400 words.

You can have several tries, but each will require 400ish words, with an extra 200 words of transition or setup, and another 200 words or so if you change settings.  I highly recommend that multiple tries in the same story be aimed at the exact same goal.  As the character fails at one tactic, they shift to another, but it’s still the same goal.

Some notes:

  • For flash fiction, generally, the charactor and/or setting are implied, and the problem gets the biggest description.
  • If you’re reading a short story and can’t spot the setup or wrapup, it’s because it happens elsewhere in the story, shh, almost like a secret.  Mostly don’t do this, but if your heart guides you there, it can be done.  Generally the story has to be pretty short to get away with this.
  • Don’t try to cut words on the setup.  Just write at your normal novelist pace.  You won’t have too much to set up, so it probably won’t end up as long anyhow.
  • I would stick to like 3 tries to do something.  Otherwise you’re going to start going, “Time for a plot twist!” and turn it into a novel.
  • To a novelist, a novelette is a laboriously long short story, like “The Metamorphosis” or “The Old Man and the Sea.”  The novelette is mostly about one main thing, and you don’t really need a novel’s plot points.


A novel is a fractal short story.

  • The novel as a whole has a setup, a big push to do something (the main point of the story), and a wrapup, just like a short story.
  • However, every element has fractal setups, fractal tries in which the character attempts to do something, and fractal wrapups.
  • The difference is that you can’t resolve anything until the climax, or the overall main push of the story.
  • Thus, every attempt by the protagonist to do something must fail until they hit the climax.

The difference between a series of interconnected short stories and a novel is that the interconnected short stories have mini resolutions at the end of each short story.  A novel has zero resolutions until you hit the climax.  The wrapup resolves everything not already covered in the climax.

Some notes:

  • If it looks like something is going well in a novel, there must be something truly awful happening right afterward.  Two characters reconcile?  Soon, one of them will be dead.
  • A chapter as a whole has a one main “try.”  Each scene has its own “try.”  Inside each scene, there are a number of different “tries.”  Every time a character tries a new tactic, it’s a new “try.”
  • Each try will have a setup, a try, a failure of some kind, and a wrapup.  The setup and wrapup might be implied, or super short.
  • Transitional material between tries doesn’t itself have to be a try.  It’s more of an extended setup.  No worries.
  • Generally, the entire novel is split into like four main tries.  Low level tries (first 25%), well that was interesting tries (second 25%), HOLY SHIT THINGS GOT SERIOUS tries (third 25%), and We Are Putting This to Bed (last 25%).
  • There is usually some Big Stinking Deal at the 50% mark that makes everything 10 times more serious.
  • The last section is weird, and usually ends up with 75-85% being getting ready for the climax, 85-95% being the climax, and the last 5% being the wrapup.
  • These percentage things are weirdly consistent; I’ve been checking on my Kindle.
  • A novella is a short novel, like Heart of Darkness or The Turn of the Screw, where a lot of stuff is going on on a fractal level, but you’re in and out, BOOM, no subplots.
  • Subplots often have either exactly the same plot as the main plot, or exactly reversed.  Subplots tend to look like minor short stories “stitched” into the main plot in a dotted line, where most of that plot is hidden by the fabric but pops up occasionally to show off the thread.


Oh GOD.  You literally do have to tell readers everything in a short story and in a novel.  You have to tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then remind them about what you just told them.  Literally 80% of what you write is explaining, and re-explaining, what the fuck is going on.  This is no different in a mystery.  You hide nothing.  It’s appalling how little fiction readers actually notice what’s going on, but it pays better.  The more you explain, as long as you explain in character, the more readers will like it.

Also, fiction writers tend to screw up the details and dialogue.  They get wrapped up in plot and forget about making it feel, and sound, real.  Put in good sense details and dialogue, and the readers will be all over it, even if you can’t plot for shit.

The world is madness which can only be combatted with sly nonsense.  Read the latest at the Wonderland Press-Heraldhere!

The New Thing

Once upon a time, a person had an ambition to do something new.  This new thing, it didn’t seem like a big deal.  “Aha!” said the person.  “I’ll just tuck that into the corners of what I’m already doing.  It will be fine.”

But it was not fine.

The new thing kept getting pushed back on the schedule.  There were always a million things that needed to be done, and the new thing, being new, was last on the list.  It involved a bit of a stretch, you see, so the person couldn’t just start work on the new thing.  There were other moving parts that had to be handled before the new thing could really get rolling.  A learning curve was involved.

Because the new thing hadn’t seemed like a big deal, and still didn’t, really, the person had promised to do something with the new thing that had a deadline involved.

And that deadline was fast approaching.

“All right,” said the person, “time to do the new thing.  For real this time.”

The person decided that all that was lacking was a little resolve.  Everything would still be fine.

Unfortunately, it was not fine.  The deadline was blown, people were disappointed.  The person may even have suffered a series of illnesses and minor emergencies during this time.  The new thing could all still be patched together, but it wasn’t actually fine anymore.  It was too late for that.

This time, the person really did dig in and start on the new thing. They didn’t want to fail at something so small.  So not a big deal.  But as the new thing drained more and more of their time and energy, they realized something:  they kind of hated the new thing now, and the only thing keeping them moving forward was just the idea of failing.

In the end, they finished the new thing.  Never again, they swore.  Or at least, never that foolishly again.  The new thing, now that they’d worked out most of the bugs, wasn’t so new.  If they just gave themselves a little extra time…

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.  I must have done this a hundred times since I started freelancing.  I’ll come up with an idea for a project, and it will sound like the easiest thing in the world.  Then I’ll try to start working on it.

And even before I can run into actual setbacks, I’ll put everything off.  Something about starting doesn’t feel quite right.  So I don’t.  Until it’s almost too late.

It usually turns out that I’m fighting myself.  I’m scared of what I might accomplish if I succeed.  I’m scared of people I might piss off if I write the wrong thing.  I’m terrified I’ll end up with a hundred one-star reviews, or a book full of typos, or a blog post that someone sneers at in front of me, or a badly-created book cover.  There is no end to the nightmare scenarios I can come up with.

I’m not alone, though.  I see other people doing this to themselves, too, especially writers who procrastinate to the point of self-sabotage.

I think a lot of writers have big problems with scaling the learning curve on anything that isn’t writing.  We spend a lot of time learning how to write.  Trying to master another skill is like adding insult to injury, as if being a successful writer means you not only have to learn how to be a brain surgeon, but also a used car salesman.  “I just want to write!” is something you hear a lot from writers.

Other people, too, but because I mostly know writers…it seems like we’re the worst.

Everyone resists growth at least a little.  It’s hard.  But writers seem to be especially good at resisting—possibly because actual growth as a writer almost always involves either heartbreak or hundreds of hours of work, and usually both.

I don’t mean to lecture you as people, readers, or even as writers, saying that you just need to push a little harder, get started a little sooner, and fear success a little less.  That’s too exhausting to even think about.  Ugh, we’re already good at beating ourselves up.  Just no.

My only real point is:

When this happens to you, just remember, it’s completely normal.

My advice is to laugh at yourself a little as you get back up again, apologize to anyone you pissed off, and move on to the next no-big-deal-next-to-impossible project.

Trust me, you won’t be able to resist.

This post originally ran in the Wonderland Press Newsletter.  Interested?  Sign up here.

New Release: Alice’s Adventures in Underland: The Knight of Shattered Dreams

Release day!!!

Universal Link | Goodreads (reviews)

One thing was certain, that the zombies had everything to do with it…

Almost nine years have passed since that golden afternoon when gentleman zombie Charles Dodgson told Alice Liddell and her two sisters the story of Alice’s Adventures in Underland, the story of how Alice goes to the land of the zombies and what she finds there–and how she escapes.

The real Alice is no longer a little girl, but a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, troubled by the restricted life ahead of her as an upper-class woman in Victorian Britain.  Soon she will have to look for a husband…whom she hopes to find in a younger son of Queen Victoria, her old friend and playmate, Prince Leopold.

Queen Victoria has other ideas.

Then another, more virulent outbreak of the zombie virus spreads across Britain, leaving nowhere untouched…with Alice’s only hope being, once again, Mr. Dodgson and one of his wonderful stories, this time on the other side of a looking glass…


The Knight of Shattered Dreams finishes the story from book 1, Alice’s Adventures in Underland: The Queen of Stilled Hearts.  For older teens and up.  Some gore and violence–not recommended for younger readers.

Fantasy Indie Book Giveaway

Available through June 10 here.  Includes my book, Alice’s Adventures in Underland: The Queen of Stilled Hearts.  (Book 2, The Knight of Shattered Dreams, will be released May 31!)

“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice; “I’ve become one of the undead!”

A horrible plague has spread across Britain, infecting some of its citizens with zombieism. The British, however, have not given themselves over to upset, but have discovered a method for controlling the plague: a serum that halts the infection in the living, and restores self-control (most of the time) to the undead.

On one golden afternoon, gentleman zombie Charles Dodgson tells Alice Liddell and her two sisters a story, the tale of how dear little Alice (who is rather a troublemaker) comes to the mythical homeland of the zombies, Underland, and her adventures there.

Will she escape?

Or will Mr. Dodgson, as the story progresses, consume them all?

The Queen of Stilled Hearts begins the story of Alice’s Adventures in Underland. It is continued in the second book, The Knight of Shattered Dreams, in which a tale is told of a certain looking-glass…

For older teens and up. Some gore and violence–not recommended for younger readers.



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