Friday, December 31, 2021

Writing Newsletter Fourth Quarter 2021


In the past three months I’ve republished 3 of my stories.  They are: “Rest in Peace,” “In the Victor’s Footsteps,” and “Memories.”

I also published the short story A Christmas Miracle?

Things are a bit less hectic, and I have managed to do some more writing.  Not as much as I want, but more is better.

I think the only news item is that yesterday I posted my writing goals for 2022.


Image from Pixabay.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

My writing goals for 2022


Well, I didn’t meet any of my writing goals for 2021.  I think the main reason being I had too many other things taking up my time, from work to helping my parents around the house and farm.  Will 2022 be different?  We’ll just have to wait and see.

My main goal for 2021 was to finish The Uncapped Pen: a collection of fifty stories covering various aspects of writing from author’s arguing with their muse to the antics at writing group meetings.  While I did finish several stories for it and polish up several more, I still have a ways to go to finish it.  I’m giving myself the deadline of July to finish it up and publish it.  Stay tuned for that.

I also wanted to finish some stories to submit to various magazines.  And I do have one that I’m almost ready to send out.  Hopefully I can finish up a few more.

I wanted to work on The Pathfinder Saga: Volume 1, which is the start of this massive fantasy story, but I don’t think I’ve done anything with that since about March.  Instead of trying to do too many things at once, I think I’ll hold off on it until I finish The Uncapped Pen.

Hopefully, 2022 will be better than 2021, but you’ll have to come back next year to see how I did.


Image from Pixabay.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Free story idea – Four quick ideas for TV series

I have a lot of ideas for stories.  Like, if I wrote a novel’s worth of them every month, I’d still most likely die before getting through them all.  I will admit that some of the ideas probably suck, but I think there are some that a good writer could make something of them.  I’ll just never get a chance to.  So, I give them to the world.  If you can make something of these, go right ahead.  And if these are the ideas I’m giving away, maybe check out the ones I keep.

These are just some quick ideas that could be turned into TV shows.

First Idea – Fantasy cop show

I believe I was watching a not so great movie when this cliché scene happened.  Basically, the bad guy killed the good cop’s wife, or kid, I can’t remember, and the good cop catches up to them and starts beating the crap out of them.  Then his partner shows up and stops them saying something along the lines of, “Killing them won’t bring her back.” But then I thought, what if it could?

The idea is that in a present day world with magic, if someone is murdered they don’t bury the body right away.  They put some special two-part bracelet, or something, on the body and then store it.  If they catch the murderer, they put one of the bracelet parts on them and then execute them with a special spell.  The murderer dies, but their lifeforce resurrects their victim.  And in a world with such magic, they also have truth serum, so they know for certain who all this person murdered and they can bring all their victims back.  If the murderer dies before they can be found, the bracelets disintegrate and they bury the body like normal.

The story begins with them executing someone – who confessed with truth serum – but instead of resurrecting the victim the victim’s body explodes because they executed the wrong person.  This causes concern.  In the original version, the magic world was secret and separate from the real world, and a magic detective gets the help of a regular detective to find out how to get around all the magic.  And along the way they discover some dark plot, and probably have a romance. 

But that seemed too … normal.  So the revised version is that the world is all magic, but the cop goes to a “fantasy” writer – which in this world would be someone who wrote stories about worlds where magic doesn’t exist – to help solve the case.

Second Idea – Superhero comedy

This started with a post on Facebook asking how you would explain to the insurance agency if the Hulk smashed your car.  After hammering some ideas out, I came up with this comedy.  In this world, there are two big cities each with their own batches of superheroes and supervillains.  They are a hundred or so miles apart, and practically in-between them is this small town of maybe a hundred people: Main Street is basically just one block.  On this block there is a small law office, an insurance agency, a hair salon, a pizza joint, and a couple other things.  The stories would be about these regular people living in such a strange world, like the roof of the hair salon was damaged by some villains battle drone, but the insurance company is being a pain about getting it fixed.

Every time one of the supervillains tries to expand their territory to the next city, they basically go through, over, or under this town.  And then all the superheroes follow.  Maybe the speedster in this world has an understanding with the pizza joint to keep a pizza on a certain shelf in the refrigerator for them.  When the speedster has to run to the other city – maybe once a week or so – they make a quick stop to grab the pizza and leave a $20.  They then use their “friction power” or whatever to reheat it.

I was thinking one of the storylines would be this “crazy” guy who blames everything on supervillains.  He gets a flat tire and goes into the insurance agency with some outlandish story to try to collect from the fund set up to pay for all the damage done by supervillains.  The twist would be that while 99% of his claims are just delusions, he’s actually right about some. 

Another possible storyline would be a very minor villain would be sent to work undercover at the pizza shop.  Meanwhile, a very minor hero would be sent to work undercover at the law office, or wherever.  The two start dating, not knowing they’re working against each other.  And maybe to do something different, the hero joins the dark side for love.

Third Idea – Fantasy show

The show would begin with a ten year old kid getting out of a city school with his friends.  They start walking along, but then he gets an odd feeling and looks across the street.  There he sees a woman who smiles at him, but then turns and leaves. 

Fifteen or so years later, he’s in a bar when the same woman walks up to him.  But this time he’s too drunk to get any odd feelings.  She asks if he wants to go outside, and he agrees.  They step into an alley and he starts to undo his belt, but she stabs him.  

He dies, but then gets back up, instantly sober.  He asks what the hell, and she starts to explain that he’s an immortal.  Immortals can sense one another, but they are very few.  In olden days, it was likely an immortal would “die” long before they met another.  But nowadays, it’s really easy for an immortal to go around standing before schools to see if any of the kids are immortals.  That’s the woman’s job.  She found him, and just waited until he was an adult to “kill” him.  This stops him from aging, as well as being a very effective way of showing that he is an immortal.

Immortals can really die, but it takes something like being drawn and quartered.  Which was actually a method used by immortals to execute some of their members in the past, but then normal humans found out about it and thought it really cool. 

With the current population, there’s maybe an immortal born every year.  This has led to some issues in the immortal community.  Most immortals are content to amass some wealth and then live comfortably in the shadows, which has worked for centuries.  But as there are more immortals in the world, and it’s becoming harder to live in the shadows, a second faction has emerged that think they should rule over normal humans.  That leader may have been someone who was repeatedly burned at the stake, so they have a dim view of normal humans.  The two groups are more like political parties than warring factions.  The idea would be that neither side is fully correct, but that each have their pros and cons.

The woman works for the first group, and the story would be her bringing the guy into their world.  Part of her job is finding new immortals, but she also works to try to bring immortals from the other side over.  So it’s a world full of spies and secret agents.   

Fourth Idea – A companion show to the third idea

Basically, this show would cover the same time period and many of the same events, but from the POV of the other group of immortals.  Each show would be self-contained, and show their side as the right ones, but you’d get a clearer picture if you watched both. 

The idea I had would be the main character of this show would be an agent who keeps tabs on the woman immortal in the other show.  Like, he was on the roof of the building across the street watching her stab the newbie in the alley.  Maybe they were a couple two hundred years ago, but it didn’t end well. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Random Writing Tips – Know your limitations


If you have difficulty writing rousing speeches – which is a skill few have – it’s probably best to not write a story that requires one.  I watched something recently – I won’t say what – but there was a point where the bad guys were winning and the good guys needed a big, motivating speech.  So the hero stepped up and, said some words.  The good guys got fired up and went on to win the day, but in the real world I sat there going, “What?” because after five seconds I had forgotten what they said.  This ultra-pivotal speech sounded like something a student would say at a high school graduation.  Not to dismiss outright the difficulties faced by youths, but hearing some eighteen year old talking about life’s hardships doesn’t resonate with someone who wakes up each morning wondering which random part of them will hurt today for an unknown reason. 

This big hero speech seemed like they wrote an outline of what they wanted the speech to be about, and they just never got around to writing it so they just read the outline.  And the characters in universe acted like it was a “We shall never surrender,” type of thing.  Which broke whatever immersion I had in the story.


Image from Pixabay.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Year end clean up

As the year draws to a close, it’s as good a time as any to do some cleaning.  Do you have twenty blog posts you started but never finished?  Go through them and see if there are any you can salvage for next year.  Did you start to organize your writing notebooks?  Why not finish doing that.  Did you start to follow everyone on Twitter who follows your favorite author?  That’s probably more of a long term project that’s outside the scope of what I’m talking about.

A lot people focus on putting words on pages when they talk about writing.  While that is important, there are a thousand minor things related to writing that are often overlooked.  And these overlooked minor details can often be used as an excuse for not writing.  So if you do them now, you’ll have to find new excuses. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Free story idea – In the Victor’s Footsteps

I have a lot of ideas for stories.  Like, if I wrote a novel’s worth of them every month, I’d still most likely die before getting through them all.  I will admit that some of the ideas probably suck, but I think there are some that a good writer could make something of them.  I’ll just never get a chance to.  So, I give them to the world.  If you can make something of these, go right ahead.  And if these are the ideas I’m giving away, maybe check out the ones I keep.

Several years ago, I had an image of a guy walking through a castle carrying a severed head.  (Like, your story process is “normal.”)  So I wrote a short, little story about it that ended hinting there was more to the story.  I recently reposted this little story, but if you don’t want to read it, the basics are that Nallog the Third, after generations of fighting has finally conquered the planet by taking the castle of the last holdout.  While toasting his victory – with the severed head of his enemy – his son comes in to complain that the troops are running rampant and burning all the books.  Nallog the Third says that his son could just write more, but the prince says they need the knowledge in those books to continue.  When Nallog the Third asks where they can continue to since they’ve conquered the planet, the prince just looks to the stars starting to come out in the twilight. 

This was to be the prologue to a massive story.  It eventually grew to seven trilogies.  When I say idea, I mean I had some outline for the first book, and then a few sentences on what the following trilogies would be about.  So here goes.

The background of the series, slowly pieced together, is that thousands of years ago people on Earth discovered some type of faster than light (FTL) travel, in the sense that it might take you an hour or two to go a lightyear.  Which was great, but a downside was you needed very accurate and up to date gravity maps.  So you couldn’t just go out a hundred lightyears right away.  You had to go out maybe one lightyear at a time and map everything.  Once that was done, then you could make the hundred lightyear jumps.  What developed were a few travel lanes between Earth and the few Earth like planets out there located thousands of lightyears (months of travel time) away.  Colonies were started on these planets, but the initial focus was on things like food and basic goods.  Do they want to ruin the pristine landscapes to build the factories to make the things, that make the things, that make the FTLs, or just import them from Earth that already has everything set up?  Everything was going great, until the ships from Earth stopped showing up.  And the ships sent to investigate, didn’t come back.  What happened?  That’s the story for the sixth trilogy.  On this world, things collapsed as the super high tech stuff either wore out or was hidden away and society fell to a medieval level.  Then the first three Nallogs set out and conquered the planet.

Chapter 1 of the first book of the first trilogy begins with Nallog the Seventh taking a shuttle up to a space station.  By reverse engineering the few FTL ships hidden away and spending decades industrializing, they’ve managed to get to the point where they’re going to the surrounding star systems.  They do have the files on how to plot a course to Earth, but they are millennia out of date and utterly useless.  If they want to go back to Earth, they basically have to find it.  But they knew there was another colony relatively nearby them – only a hundred lightyears or so – and they found it on the last mission.  The current scouting mission was to gather intel on them, but it is late returning.

The Nallog’s are military authoritarians, but Nallog the Seventh is … not entirely terrible.  Like if you screw up, you’ll be demoted.  You really have to screw up for him to have you summarily executed.  He’s worried that maybe the scout was attacked, and hostile forces may be on the way there.  They do have some fighter ships, but most of them are out on mapping missions.  The scout finally returns and the pilot apologizes for being late.  They were supposed to stay in a high orbit to avoid detection, but the pilot realized that the planet was far less advanced.  So they went low to get some really good images, and it appears that colony also collapsed but hasn’t gotten out of the medieval stage yet. 

This changes things.  Nallog the Seventh was planning to invade that planet, but not for many years.  He needed time to get more intel on them, but also to build ships.  As it is, he only has one transport ship capable of carrying a hundred or so soldiers.  A second ship is just a frame.  But if it’s a primitive planet, then he might be able to take it with only a hundred soldiers. 

They put the hull on the second transport ship, and load it full of equipment and a skeleton crew.  The plan is it will also go the planet, but it would stay in orbit with his “reserve troops” in case Nallog the Seventh would need them.  The crew would use the flight time to try to install all the life support equipment in case something happens to the first ship and they need to evacuate. 

So they get all the ships and soldiers ready and they go to the other colony.  They land outside the largest castle, and a guy with a sword comes out and Nallog the Seventh shoots him with a plasma pistol.  He maybe does this a few more times at other castles, but the word spreads and the planet is soon his.

The book would deal more with the problems of taking over this world.  Like most of them thought that they had always been on this planet, and the idea that they had come from somewhere else is heresy.  Also, Nallog the Seventh assumed that once he took over the planet, the people would become the obedient followers like back home, but not so much.  You could probably also through in some love interest to spice things up.

The rest of the first trilogy would deal with the Nallog’s spreading their empire out thousands of lightyears.  They discover some other primitive colonies, some abandoned colony worlds, and maybe some new worlds.  All the while dealing with various problems, like putting down revolts and everything that would happen if you took a medieval peasant from a field and tried to put them to work building a starship.  The trilogy ends with a scout for Nallog the Ninth arriving at a planet only to find that it’s not a primitive colony, but part of an equal power.

The second trilogy would deal with this other power, showing their time from a collapsed colony to a growing power.  The third trilogy would do the same for a third power.  The power structure for each is TBD.  Maybe all three are some shade of military authoritarian, or maybe one is democratic while another is communist.  If you ever write this, you can figure it out.

So the first three trilogies give the backstories of these three growing empires.  The fourth trilogy is them going to war.  There is a lot of fighting, and a lot of people die, but in the end they are more or less back to where they started. 

The fifth trilogy is basically a Cold War where spies are sent out to try to destabilize planets and whatnot.  It ends with whatever happened on Earth coming back.

The sixth trilogy is the prequel that goes back to Earth pre-collapse and shows what actually happened.

The seventh trilogy is the three powers having to join forces to not suffer Earth’s fate.

That’s basically what I had.  Now there are two big questions that need answered: what about aliens and what actually happened on Earth.  My feeling is that there are primitive aliens out there, but they probably don’t show up much in the stories.  Like, the cliché thing would be for these empires to use them as slave labor, but what would be so precious that they would risk a most likely toxic atmosphere to force the equivalent of cavemen to mine?  Once they relearn the technology, they can just have robots mine asteroids.  Maybe there are some 1940-equivalent aliens out there one of the empires is debating how to make contact with, but for the majority of the time, aliens don’t matter.

As to what happened to Earth, an obvious answer is some super advanced aliens thought Earth was becoming a threat, so they wiped it out and figured the colonies would just die out.  But such a power should easily handle three smaller powers and the seventh trilogy would be really short.  The same would be true if instead of aliens, it was an AI.  Also, why would an AI not take over the colonies?  Or was there some growing threat, and Earth just sent out all these colonies, but didn’t tell them what was happening and didn’t record where they were sent to try to hide them?  Or is Earth just fine, and they kicked the baby birds out of the nest to see if they would fly?

Writing about vast space empires can be fun, but I think for this monster series to actually work, you’d need to have a fantastic conclusion which can only happen if you have a well thought out explanation of what happened on Earth.  It would probably be better to figure that out first, that way you can drop hints in the setup trilogies so it doesn’t all come out of the blue.

Thanksgiving Sale!

So it’s Thanksgiving, if you live in the US.  Which means you only have a few weeks left to spend your hard earned money on mostly useless crap.  I know things have been crazy for the last couple of years, so as an early holiday gift, here are five of my ebooks you can download for free.  And the best thing is, you can get them instantly: you don’t have to wait for them to sail across the ocean and get through a crowded port. 

You can get this all for the price of a click from Wednesday November 24th, through Sunday November 28th.  I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season, and I hope you enjoy anything of mine you read.

A Man of Few Words is a collection of fifty of my flash fiction stories. What would really happen if a “T-Rex on steroids” attacked a city? Why do science fiction writers make the best lovers? How does a company get to Second Base with VIPs? I explore these questions and more using less than 1000 words and in various genres from humor to horror and general fiction to science fiction.

The majority of the stories were previously published (most on my website) but all were revised for this collection. In addition, each piece is accompanied by some background information on the origin of the story or a funny tale about the writing of it to give a fuller experience.

Over the last few years a lot of people have caught Mars fever. It seems a week doesn’t go by without a report of some new group wanting to send people to Mars, or some big name in the industry talking about why we have to go to Mars, or articles talking about the glorious future humanity will have on Mars. All of this worries me. In my opinion, a Mars base is currently not sustainable because there’s no way for it to make money. A few missions may fly doing extraordinary science, but if it’s then cancelled for cost the whole Mars Project may just be seen as an expensive stunt.

Fortunately, there are other places in the solar system besides Mars. While bases on the moon and amongst the asteroids won’t be as “inspirational” as one on Mars, they will have opportunities for businesses to make goods and services as well as profits, meaning less chance of them being outright cancelled. This will make life better on Earth and secure a firm foothold in space for humanity. The essays in The Moon Before Mars: Why returning to the moon makes more sense than rushing off to Mars allow me to describe my ideas on what can be accomplished on the moon and with the asteroids, and why Mars isn’t the destiny of humanity its cheerleaders make it out to be.

Partway to a new colony world, board member Geoffrey Ames is woken from hibernation by the caretaking crew of the Lucian. They require him to look into the matter of their fellow crewman Morgan Heller. Morgan’s claims – such as being over 1500 years old – would normally land him in the psychiatric ward, except he can back up some of his other claims.

Brain for Rent and other stories is a collection of five of my short scifi stories to give a sampling of my writing. The collection includes: “Brain for Rent” about a ne’re-do-well failed writer with a conceptual implant who discusses his work with a young woman thinking of getting an implant herself. “The Demonstration” is about a different young woman wanting to show off her latest body modification. “Self Imprisonment” offers one solution of safe keeping the backup copy of yourself. “The Best Job Ever” is about a necessary – yet unpleasant – human/alien interaction. And the collection ends with “Why Stay?” which explains why, after years of fighting the humans, the robots just deactivate.

Like most people, Jason Fisher wanted to make the world a better place, but he doubted he would ever have the chance to make much of a mark. Then a “woman” came to him, asking his help to save humanity by threatening it.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Short story – “In the Victor’s Footsteps”

In the Victor’s Footsteps

Nallog the Third strode into the cavernous entrance of Saerons Hall.  The walls and ceiling were covered in too many paintings to count, but Nallog did not look at them. 

His armor – which had gleamed in the morning sun – was now dulled with the blood of countless men.  In his right hand he held Rienol, the sword his father had taken thirty years earlier from the dead hand of Raite the Sixth, the former ruler of the Southern Continent.  It had served father and son well for many years, but today the tip had broken off around noon.  He continued to use it because the battle was so fierce that he could not send for another.  He would not use the inferior swords used by the Tirseari, neither would he take a sword from one of his men.

In his left hand he held a severed head still dripping blood.  He raised it by the hair until he was looking into the dead eyes.  “Come Tember, take me on a tour of your palace.” Laughing at his joke, Nallog walked into the hall, leaving bloody footprints in his wake.

An hour later he sat on a balcony overlooking the Great Ocean with his feet propped up on the railing.  In the distance he could see his navy celebrating.  “Did you come here often?” he asked Tember’s head, resting on a small stool beside him.  “Probably not lately, didn’t want to be depressed at the sight of my navy.” Chuckling, Nallog pulled a bottle of wine from a case he had found in a cellar and drank half of it in a toast to his ships at sea.  The first three bottles from the case he had poured over himself in an attempt to wash off some of the blood.  It had only partially succeeded.

Nallog held the bottle to Tember’s lips, “Care for a drink?”

“Enjoying your company?”

Nallog dropped the bottle, which did not shatter but rolled away leaving a trail of wine, and glared at his son.  “I wished not to be disturbed.”

The Prince smiled.  “I dislike your presence as much as you dislike mine, but your soldiers are running rampant.”

“My soldiers have fought for decades, so you can read all your books and never have to lift a sword.” Realizing he should have been holding a sword as he said that, Nallog picked his off the floor and pointed the broken tip at his son.

The Prince slowly advanced.  “What books will be left if your soldiers burn them all?”

Dropping his sword and grabbing another bottle, Nallog answered, “You can always write more.”

“But we need the books that exist now in order to continue.”

“Continue?” Nallog stood and shouted, “My grandfather, father, and I have conquered the world!  What else is there to continue to?”

In reply, the Prince raised his eyes to the stars just beginning to show in the twilight.


This story began with the image of a guy walking through a castle with a severed head.  I wrote it out figuring it could be the intro to something else.  I ended up thinking of that something else, but it turned into this huge project of twenty some novels, which I’ll never get around to writing.  But I did have a short little story I posted on a site that’s more or less defunct.  So I decided to repost it here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Random Writing Tips – Love is weird


I’m in the process of revising a story about a guy whose fiancée dies.  The story covers from when he learns of her death to the funeral.  The writing group I’m in critiqued the first draft, and one of them commented that they wanted to know more about the relationship.  And I had realized that was something I had glossed over.  I think I just had one scene of him remembering how they met.  So I started looking at spots where I could add in additional details, and I realized that writing about love is weird. 

Part of it is that “love” seems to have been so overused that it’s losing its meaning.  Just saying you love someone now is just Step One.  Step Two is having to expand on that by explaining how much you love them.  Sure I could have my main character give a long, impassioned speech about how his love for her would be as eternal as the stars, and while that might have been something a couple of centuries ago, now it feels more like a ninth grader copying something off Wikipedia for their report due the next day.  Besides, real love – at least as I imagine it – is composed of ten thousand little details that by themselves are insignificant, but as a whole is something wonderful.  For example, someone could be having a bad day and a friend/coworker/stranger tells a bad joke that makes them laugh and five years later they’re married.  If you’re writing a story about this, you can’t just have, “I laughed at their bad joke five years ago, and now we’re married.” The reader would realize that a great deal was missing.  But on the other hand, just listing these ten thousand minor details that build up to love would be unimaginably boring. 

If this was an action movie love story, then having one character saying, “Our love grew after they saved me from time traveling ninjas,” would make sense.  But I wanted my story to be more grounded.  In the end, I’m just having him remember a half-dozen or so of these minor details and hoping the reader will understand that’s just the tip of the iceberg as to the reasons he loved her. 


Image from Pixabay.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Critiquing everything

I seem to have a knack at finding plot holes and inconsistencies.  That can be good if I’m reading someone’s story and I point them out so they can fix it before submitting it somewhere.  But it kind of sucks when I’m reading a bestseller or watching a blockbuster. 

There is this one book series that I love and have read at least five times.  It wasn’t until the second or third time that I noticed the huge continuity error in the last book.  Basically, Character A is talking to Character B who is over a hundred miles away.  Then there are a couple of chapters with Characters C and D, and when we get back to A – from story events it’s not even five minutes from when we last saw him – he goes outside and finds B standing there.  I know writing a series is complicated, but the last few times I’ve read it, whenever I get to that part, I’m grinding my teeth wondering why didn’t anyone catch this before it was published?

Or, there was this really big movie a few years ago that I’ve seen five or six times.  And there’s a part where the good guys – with long range weaponry – have to fight these creatures.  Logically, they should shoot them at a distance, but it’s more cinematic to have the good guys charge these creatures and … punch them.  The first time I watched it, I went with it because I was hyped on the story.  But every time since then, I want to armchair general and point out how they could have been more realistic in how they fought these monsters.

Now you can argue where the line is between critiquing and nitpicking, but I think it would be nice if I could turn off whichever I’m doing.  Of course, I have a lot of story ideas that began with me noticing an issue in a book or movie and wanting to do a “better” job.  I guess it’s sort of a damned if I do, damned if I don’t situation.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Free Pies!

Here in the US, we’ll be having an election on November 2.  It’s not a Presidential Election, and for most people you’ll only be voting for local elections or issues, but voting is important.  So if you’re an American citizen over 18, I hope you’re registered and will be voting.

Every election I try to have a sale for Political Pies, my collection of forty short stories of a political nature.  And this election will be no different.  So, from Friday, October 29 through Tuesday, November 2, you’ll be able to grab the Kindle version of Political Pies for free.  If you get it early, you can have something to read while you wait in line.  And if you’re not an American, well, you can still get it, and I hope you are peacefully involved in your own nation’s politics.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Free story idea – Over the Edge

I have a lot of ideas for stories.  Like, if I wrote a novel’s worth of them every month, I’d still most likely die before getting through them all.  I will admit that some of the ideas probably suck, but I think there are some that a good writer could make something of them.  I’ll just never get a chance to.  So, I give them to the world.  If you can make something of these, go right ahead.  And if these are the ideas I’m giving away, maybe check out the ones I keep.

Over the Edge

In an episode of Disenchantment, Bean goes to the Edge of the World and starts to climb down it.  As I watched that, I thought someone climbing over the edge of a flat world could make for an interesting story.  After some thought, I came up with an idea, but it ran into a problem.  So I reworked it, but that version also ran into some problems.  But the third version, has some potential.  And problems.

Version 1

In this reality, Earth is flat.  The sun rises in the east, the whole world has daylight, and it sets in the west and the whole world has night.  There is an ocean around the Edge and water flows over it.  Any ship – this is set in the age of sailing vessels – that gets too close to the Edge are caught up and go over, never to be heard from again.  About five miles from the Edge there is a small island.  Enter this world’s version of the great, Victorian explorer.  I’ll call him Guy.  Guy goes to the island with five miles of rope.  He ties one end to a small rowboat and loads it with rocks and lets it drift towards the Edge.  He is able to pull it back, so takes the place of the rocks.  Guy discovers that the seafloor steadily rises the last mile to the Edge, until the water is only a few inches deep going over.  But, it’s going so fast that it stings your fingers if you reach into it.  Guy goes right to the Edge and looks over, but there is mist and doesn’t see anything.

He tries to send a rowboat over the Edge and pull it back, but it tips and sinks.  So he decides he’ll need a barrel.  He gets one, fills it with rocks, and sends it over the Edge and pulls it back just fine.  So he gets into it, and goes over the Edge.  Then the rope breaks.

A few years later, Guy’s son … um, Dude, decides to go over the Edge, but this time he’ll use chains.  But you can’t really haul five miles of chains with a rowboat, so he builds a series of barges about a mile apart that are each chained back to the island as well as to each other.  The last barge is a hundred yards or so from the Edge.  He does several tests with the barrel filled with lead, so it’s three or four times heavier than Dude.  All come back without issue.  So Dude gets in, and goes over the Edge.

And that’s when we come to the problem.  Because what is under the Earth has to be mind-blowing.  It either has to be so grand that it would make angels weep, or so terrifying it would give Cthulhu nightmares.  Anything less – elephants on a turtle – would be anticlimactic.  And I’m not that good of a writer.

Version 2

Version 2 goes back to Guy, but this time he builds the barges and chains.  But he doesn’t want to be the one that goes over, he has a family to think about.  So he figures the best thing would be to use a convicted prisoner.  Guy sails back to his home in Country A, which has just finished their latest war with their great rival, Country B.  In this war, there was a Captain, um, Bro.  There was a situation where Bro was ordered to charge some fort.  But he knew it was pointless, and would only kill his men.  So he refused.  He was stripped of command and the leaders of A thought about executing him, but then they noticed that a large portion of the men who they had just given weapons and training to liked him because he didn’t waste their lives.  Did they really want to make a martyr of Bro?  So they just threw him in prison. 

When Guy shows up asking for a condemned man he could chuck over the Edge of the world to see if he dies, the leaders of A said they had the perfect candidate.  At first Guy was hesitant, but then he realizes that Bro is literate, meaning he’ll be able to take notes while he’s dangling over the Edge.  So they head back to the island.

I figured the story would start with Bro chained up in the bottom of a ship.  But some of the sailors like him for what he did, so they sneak him food and news, such as their eminent arrival at the island. 

Guy takes Bro out to the last barge, gives him a notebook, shoves him into the barrel, and locks it shut.  Bro goes over the Edge, and there’s a momentary odd sensation, but then it just feels like he’s floating in the normal ocean.  Gravity has just tilted ninety degrees.  The chain lowers him down a hundred or so yards, and he looks around.  Right around him, it just looks like the normal ocean.  A hundred or so yards back the way of the chain – stretching as far as he can see in both directions – is a band of mist marking the Edge.  But about a mile or so in the other direction, there’s another band of mist.

Guy is ecstatic.  There were several camps concerning what was over the Edge, and he had been in the “silly” underworld camp.  The way this would work is that instead of the upper and underworlds being like the faces of a coin, they are more like shields.  That way the Edge is only a mile thick, but a hundred miles from the Edge it could be twenty miles thick.  That’s why canyons or mines don’t break on through to the other side.  I suppose if you wanted to be crazy, you could even make the world spherical, just with this one mile thick Edge right in the middle.  But the two shields idea is probably better.

So Bro goes over again with a mile of chain, and doesn’t quite reach the mist.  So they put a mile-and-a-half of chain and send him over.  Bro reaches the second band of mist, and again feels the odd sensation, and ends up in normal looking ocean, just with water rushing up over the Edge.  A mile or so from this Edge, there are some islands.  So Bro starts writing about them.  But he also takes a rock out of his pocket.  He reaches out and breaks the lock and he gets out.  He starts writing about these monstrous creatures that are swimming towards him and how they start attacking the barrel.  He quickly scribbles their version of God Save the King, and stashes the notebook.  Outside the barrel, he bashes it with the rock and manages to cut his hand so he smears some blood around.  He then swims towards the nearest island.

Bro has become sick of people, and sees this as a chance to get away from all of them.  His hope is that by the time they work up the courage to try again to come to the underworld, he’ll have built a boat and sailed far away in this new world, never to be found again. 

Unfortunately, for him, there are people on the island.  They are the decedents of all the shipwrecked crews from the last few centuries.  Some still feel themselves to be citizens of Country A, or B, or C, while others feel they belong to no country.  They all have their own little kingdoms, and they still go to war.  Although they are stuck just using knives and spears. 

This is where Version 2 started having problems.  Because it didn’t seem like the right fit for a story about an underworld.  You could just have an antisocial prisoner somehow manage to be the only survivor of a shipwreck who ends up on some uncharted island with earlier survivors who have formed some twisted society and he learns some lesson.  You could do that without leaving our world.  I needed something … more.

Version 3

Version 3 starts by combining the first two.  Guy goes over in a barrel with a rope, but it breaks.  Dude builds barges and goes over in a barrel with chains, only to discover the underworld.  Dude goes back to the upperworld, and builds a bigger barrel so he can carry about a mile of rope.  Back in the underworld, he lets the current carry the rope towards the island.  The current is still strong near the Edge where the barrel is, and he didn’t think he could swim against it.  He goes down the rope, and at the end the current is more manageable.  He swims to the island and looks around.  Dude eventually finds a camp.  Guy survived his barrel crashing on the island, and he had explored some of it, but then he broke his leg or something and he died.  Dude only finds a skeleton.

Dude swims back to the rope and manages to fight the current and climb back to the barrel.  There had been some pre-arranged time and they haul the barrel back to the upperworld.

There is excitement over this discovery, and expeditions are sent over to look for riches.  They do find some shipwreck survivors.  But the big discovery is some plant.  My idea was that rubber trees are only found in the underworld.  And quickly industrializing Country A could really use this rubber stuff.

But the people of County B – expecting a Great War to start between them and Country A any day now – would like this rubber stuff as well, but if they can’t have it they’ll settle for Country A not getting it.  So they sail as close to the upper Edge as they can, and they throw some barrels of saboteurs and equipment overboard, letting them wash up on the islands in the underworld. 

While this isn’t perfect, I do like the idea that for the saboteurs it’s basically a one-way trip: the only way back to the upperworld is the ferry like service that Dude starts.  And since this rubber stuff is militarily important, the island has been fortified against attacks from both the upper and underworld. 

So that’s the setup.  The actual details of a story I’ll leave to others.  But I will leave you with some of the random ideas I had.  There is an idea to dig a tunnel from the upperworld island to one of the underworld islands.  They may think about it, but are worried that if their calculations are off they could miss and open a tunnel into the ocean and flood the tunnel.  Or, whatever bedrock this world is made of is too tough to tunnel through.  Also, Dude with his ferry service for this precious material will probably become rather rich.  So maybe Dude Jr. has the money to play around with these newfangled aeroplanes.  He could be the first person to fly from the upperworld to the underworld and back again.  This could have a major disruption to the rubber industry.  Maybe Country B has an island that’s a hundred miles from the Edge, so they could never build a barge system, but they could fly that far.  Perhaps all this aeroplane development comes about because of a Great War and control of the Edge is a small, but important front in that war.  Or maybe there is plentiful food in the underworld and the shipwrecked crews quickly put aside their differences and the underworld society grows into a power rivaling the upperworld ones. 

I think this world with an Edge leads to unique situations that could lead to unique problems with interesting solutions.  If nothing else, anyone who wrote stories of such a world would annoy both physicists and flat Earthers.  That has to be worth something.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Random Writing Tips – Social experiments


Every now and then, I’ll come across a writer saying that they’re looking for an agent.  But instead of looking for quality writing, the agent is more interested in how many followers the writer has.  Because how many people you can spam with messages to buy your book is, apparently, an important factor in modern publishing.  I understand that it is a publishing business and businesses need to make money and they will try everything they can to get a slight edge.  I understand that, but it sucks for people like me who aren’t much for engagement.  I don’t have a panic attack if someone comments on a tweet of mine, but I will spend several minutes overthinking if I should reply and if I do, what should I reply.

Anyway, for the last few years, I’ve tried to engage more on social media.  Which is easier said than done.  Especially for someone like me who only has so much social energy and can’t just spend it willy-nilly.  For example, a couple years ago, I noticed that I sent out the majority of my tweets in the afternoon.  While that probably worked fine to find readers here in the eastern US, it was probably harder for potential readers in the UK and Australia.  So I started trying to spread my tweets out throughout the day.  Has this helped?  I don’t know.  Mostly because what usually happens is I’ll be sending out tweets about Book A, and someone will buy Book B, and I don’t know how they found out about Book B.  And even if they do buy Book A, unless they actually send a message, I have no idea if my tweets was what led them to it.  So I’ve had little success in judging how my tweeting strategy has led to book sales.

Earlier this year, I started a little experiment where I can actually get some results that may help me narrow down my strategy.  Each Monday I post a question, and I record how many comments, retweets, etc. it gets.  But each week I post it at a different time.  The hope is that a pattern will emerge of when my tweets get the most attention: maybe they’ll do really well in the mornings and I should refocus my tweets then. 

Even if you have tons of social energy and are constantly tweeting or Instagramming or whatever, it may be beneficial to do your own social experiment to see when the best time for you to post stuff is.  If you’re selling your books, then it is a business and you want the most bang for your buck.  And even if you just write as a hobby, would you rather have two readers, or ten?


Image from Pixabay.