Sunday, December 31, 2023

Writing Newsletter Fourth Quarter 2023

 

Well, I finally finished and published The Uncapped Pen, my collection of fifty stories dealing with writing, in some way.  To try to bring some awareness to The Uncapped Pen, I reposted three stories that were in the “Maybe Pile” for the collection: “The Honeymoon’s Over,” “It’s Harder than it Looks,” and “It’s a Fine Line.” I also posted “Procrastination,” the idea for which I came up with in the months between when I “finished” the collection and when I finally published it.

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I finished writing a story a month on my website with “That’s … a Plan,” “Sweet Dreams,” and “He Knows.” I do plan to continue this in 2024.

I’ve also decided to try to post, or repost, a story each month to my Ko-fi account, to try to do something with it.  I started in November with “Close Enough,” and continued in December with “Beware Upgrades.” I think I’m going to try to do a new story, then repost an old story, because I worry if I tried to do all new stories I’d burn out and get frustrated.  For the monthly stories on my website, I’m trying to write them that month, whereas for Ko-fi, I’m hoping to write them months in advance and just hold on to them.

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I also posted the story “Conditions,” and reposted “Autopilot.”

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On my Mastodon account, I’ve started trying to post a microfiction story one week, and a haiku the next week.  I managed to post microfiction stories on: 10/17, 10/24, 11/6, and 12/18.  I managed to post haiku on:10/30, 11/13, 11/27, 12/11, and 12/25.

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In my last newsletter I wrote how I had been sick which threw off some of my projects, such as my Free Story Ideas.  This quarter I only managed one, Two spooky ideas which I had for Halloween.  Free Story Ideas is a project I’d like to continue, it just seems other stuff keeps coming up.  I’ll have to think about it, but instead of one a month, I may try for just one a quarter.  We’ll have to see.

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And speaking of my plans for 2024, I should have a blog about that up in a few days.

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Image from Pixabay.


Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Random Writing Tips – Try new things

 

About a week ago, I was driving to work and I wasn’t in a good mood.  I hadn’t slept that well, I had a bit of a toothache, and I’d done something to my elbow.  Not to mention I was thinking about all the writing stuff I needed to do.  I needed to write up some blogs, I needed to come up with an idea for my Monthly Stories, I needed stories for the various collections I’m working on, I needed to critique stories from the writing group I’m in, I needed a story to share for the group, and I needed someway to boost my nearly non-existent ebook sales.  And then, as I pulled into work, I found out I had an issue with my power steering.  So the next few hours I was rather miserable.

Then I remembered an idea for a story I had while I was in bed wishing I would fall back asleep.  The idea behind my Monthly Stories is to come up with an idea and finish it before the end of the month.  Often, these stories deal with something about that month, but that rule isn’t carved in stone.  But, this idea I had did fit in with a news story I’d seen, so I had my story for the month.  And this story also would fit in my next story collection. 

As my shift went on, I thought more and more about how to better market my books.  Basically, all the things you’d probably say to do to market my books are things I struggle with.  There are some things I’ve tried to do that are … marketing adjacent, but I haven’t had much luck sticking to them.  But I started thinking that instead of trying to do what I originally wanted to do, I could try variations.

That’s when I started feeling better.  Well, except for my toothache and having to deal with my car.  Whenever you hit a dead end, with a plot, marketing strategy, whatever, you can always try something new.

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Image from Pixabay.


Thursday, November 16, 2023

Short story – “Conditions”

“Conditions”

With a mug of his favorite coffee, John went into the storage room/his office and locked the door so the cat wouldn’t get in.  He set the mug on his desk, then walked over to the stereo set on a metal shelf and put on a Vivaldi CD.  The music started and he adjusted the volume until it was a soft background.  Returning to his desk he sat down and turned on his laptop.  The twins had birthday money burning holes in their pockets, so his wife Melanie had taken them out for a day of shopping, giving him an afternoon of peace and quiet to work on his novel.

He opened the file and read over the last few paragraphs.  After a sip of coffee, he put his fingers on the keys … but nothing came. 

Sipping his coffee, he read over the last couple of pages he had written.  When he got to the end, he put his fingers back on the keys, but they just rested there.  He knew where his novel needed to go, he just didn’t know how to get it there.

With a sigh, he sat back.  For the first time in months, he had hours where he wasn’t at work, or sleeping, or dealing with two rambunctious six-year-olds.  It was everything he’d been wishing for.  Looking at the ceiling, he gave a mirthless chuckle.  “How could I be expected to write under these conditions?”

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Fool’s stories

This started a couple weeks ago when I had a dream.  In this dream, a giant dog was destroying cities.  By giant, I mean this dog could have easily chewed up Godzilla.  All of our guns and bombs were useless against it.  But then, this old guy from a retirement home stepped up and wrestled it into submission, or maybe killed it.  This turned out to be an immortal Gilgamesh, who had just been laying low for the last few thousand years.

I woke up, and in my semi-wakeful grogginess, I thought it would make a perfect story.  I did notice the issue that Gilgamesh didn’t become immortal in his Epic, but figured he just didn’t want to have to deal with everyone bugging him on how to be immortal, so the version of the story he told was that he didn’t become immortal.  I then tried to go back to sleep.

Later, after I had gotten up, I remembered this idea for a story.  But being fully awake, I started finding flaws in the idea.  Like, where did this enormous dog come from?  Even if Gilgamesh was immortal, how did he have the strength to wrestle this million-ton dog?  And how could someone like Gilgamesh just lay low for thousands of years?

This kind of thing happens to me a couple of times a month.  I’ll wake from a weird dream thinking it’ll make a great story, only to realize once I’ve woken up that it doesn’t even make sense as a dream.  And I wondered if there was a term for this … situation.  After some thought, I came up with Fool’s Stories, as in things that look like stories, only to realize they’re not.  Like how Pyrite is sometimes called Fool’s Gold.  Or, should they be called PyWrites?


Anyway, does this ever happen to you, and if so, what do you call it?

Thursday, November 2, 2023

2023 Election ebook sale!

I know that a lot of people are tired of being told that every election for the past decade is THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION EVER!  But it’s true.  The fastest way for the anti-democratic forces to seize power is if The People can’t be bothered to vote.  And they have too much power as it is.  To keep our democracy, we need to vote, in this election and every election. 

The tiniest part that I’m doing is having a sale of five of my ebooks.  All I ask – and there’s no way for me to know – is that if you’re an adult American you vote in this Election.  Here’s a site to help you find your polling location.  And you don’t have to wait until after you vote, if you grab my books now, you can have something to read while you wait in line. 

If you’re an American under 18, you can still get my books.  All I ask is that once you turn 18 you register to vote.  Information on how to do that should be on your state’s website.  You can also grab my books if you’re not an American.  I just ask that you participate in your country’s political system, because the anti-democratic forces are not limited to the US.

The following five ebooks will be free to download from Friday, November 3, through Tuesday, November 7.  The title links take you to the US site for the book.

 


Political Pies

Everybody complains about politics, but does anyone do anything about it? My attempt to do something about it is to collect forty of my short stories with a political element into my Political Pies anthology. The stories are either politically neutral or equally condemning of the national parties. Instead of trying to sway you to one ideology or another, my goal is to just get people thinking about politics in the hopes a rose might grow out of all the political manure.

 


The Most Powerful Man in the World and other stories

The Most Powerful Man in the World and other stories is a collection of five, short, scifi stories to provide a sample of my writing.

A being from the distant future with almost unlimited powers comes back to help Ian Steele make the world a better place in “The Most Powerful Man in the World.” One bookstore customer has an entirely different reason for wanting books in “Black Market Books.” “Motherhood” tells the story of Thomas Gillespie, the surrogate mother for a baby AI. “Storyteller” is about an author thinking his book into existence. And “Deadworld” is about the alien world humans are reborn on – in alien bodies – after we die.

 


A Man of Few Words

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 1,000 words and in various genres from humor to horror and general fiction to science fiction.

 


Duty

For reasons of safety and avoiding paradoxes, Time Travel Incorporated assigns a Guardian to all its travelers. So when there is an accident during political historian Roj Hasol’s trip back to 1968, it’s his Guardian Susan who sets out on the arduous task of cleaning up the mess.

 


The Future is Coming


As a science fiction writer, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how technology will change the way we live. I’ve come up with these ten short essays about science fictional elements that will – almost certainly – one day become science fact as a way for people to start coming to terms with them. Because I’ve spent time thinking about clones and AIs, I feel I’ll be okay when they do finally show up whereas most people will probably freak out. I hope these essays will get people to start thinking about the future because, no matter what we do, the future is coming.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Free story idea – Two spooky ideas

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.

For this spooky month, I have two ideas: one for a movie – maybe a series of movies – and one for a … are they still TV shows if people stream them on a computer?

Horror Movie Idea

Whether this is an October or January horror movie will depend on the budget, acting, script, etc. 

A group of white college kids from, let’s say California, go camping somewhere in the southwest.  Something happens and some monster comes after them.  It tells them it is named Bugee, or something, and it will kill them off one by one each day.  Once they finish panicking, they do a search for Bugee, and find that it’s a Navajo boogey man that can only be defeated by the sound of a rattlesnake rattling.  So they go off to find a snake, one of them gets bit, but they have one when Bugee comes back.  One guy holds the snake up to rattle, but Bugee just laughs and kills the guy.

The group takes the bit one to a hospital, where the doctor turns out to be Navajo.  They ask why the rattlesnake didn’t work on Bugee, and the doctor has no clue what they are talking about.  They show them the webpage on Bugee, and the doctor reads it and goes, “This is bullshit, it has nothing to do with our culture.”

Turns out, the entity currently going by Bugee is just some demon that likes fucking with people.  Centuries ago it was terrorizing people as a giant wolf, but then someone shot it with a silver bullet, and it pretended that killed it, just so for centuries it could laugh as people tried to kill it with silver bullets which do nothing.  As to the rattlesnake, long ago it was attacking some of the first white people in the area, and there just happened to be a rattlesnake nearby, and it pretended that the sound of the rattle drove it off.  The survivors tell the tale, and after a few rounds of racist telephone, it gets written down and many years later ends up on the internet. 

All of this can either be shown in flashback, or maybe Bugee tells the last surviving woman that if she, I don’t know, has sex with her dead friend, it will explain how it can be stopped.  She, reluctantly has sex, to be scarred for the rest of her life, and Bugee explains that nothing humans can do can stop it.  It then laughs and leaves.  The End.

And this could be a franchise.  All you have to do is get a new group of people, and find fun ways for Bugee to fuck with them.  You could even have prequels of Bugee fucking with Huns, or Romans, or hell, Neanderthals.  You have to admit, that would be a fucking weird movie.  Probably the only thing to keep in mind, is there shouldn’t be any continuing characters.  Or if that last woman does run into Bugee decades later, it just kills her without hesitation. 

Horror Series Idea?

For historical reasons, I see this series set in France.  I’m sure it could easily be set in other parts of the world, but I know European history better than other parts of the world.

The first episode starts with a guy in say, 1830, riding a horse across France.  He’s trying to get to some place, but makes a wrong turn.  As the sun is about to set, he comes across a small village.  He stops at the first house to ask where he is and if he could stay the night.  A man opens the door, and starts yelling.  The wife and kids also start screaming, and then the man grabs a fire poker or something and beats the Traveler to death.

Cut to the Traveler waking up, in a crypt.  He freaks out a bit, but crawls out.  There are several other people there, including one who looks like the guy who beat him to death, only several decades older.  Some of the people greet each other like old friends, and then one asks the Traveler his name.  The guy gives it, and then wants to know what is going on.  One, maybe the Mayor, says it’s a long story, and to come with them.  They go outside, and there’s this weird, metal carriage that doesn’t need a horse. 

The Mayor takes the Traveler through the village which has several damaged and burned houses to a less damaged house, and after some food, he explains the history of the village.  Long ago, there was a Witch, who as she was being burned, cursed the village to always have the same population at sundown.  Meaning, if someone shows up right before sundown, then somebody at random in the village would have just fallen over dead.  It might be the Traveler, the wife of the house he stopped at, the two-year-old next door, all had an equal chance of just dying.  Which means, there are no guests in the village.  And if a child is born, they’ll have already worked out who will leave the village, usually to live in the smaller village just outside of the cursed area.

But the curse also works the other way.  If somebody dies, and it’s early enough in the day, they’ll bring someone from the smaller village back.  But if somebody falls down the stairs and breaks their neck just before sunset, then someone in the graveyard will come back to life, healed of whatever killed them.  At first, people would be resurrected only to die trying to dig out of their coffins, so they started just putting people in an easy to access crypt.  The reason so many came back today, is that it’s the middle of WWII, and a stray bomb killed ten members of an extended family.  Although, once the sun sets, one of them comes back.  This is Lady.

There’s a lot of stuff that can be done with this.  Like, maybe the Mayor’s “grandmother” is actually his so many times great-grandmother.  Maybe, she died back in 1720, but was resurrected in 1845 and lived another thirty years, only to die and be resurrected a second time.  The cancer or whatever killed her has been cured, but she’s still someone with a 120 year-old-body. 

What the town is really waiting for is some specific person to be resurrected because they’re the one who buried the Witch – outside the village – but never told anyone where.  The villagers assume the only way to break the curse is to find her body, hope she is resurrected, and then lift the curse. 

The Traveler is very confused by all of this, meaning we the audience can follow along as he slowly comes to grips with everything.  Like maybe the next day some Nazi soldiers show up to check out the bomb damage, and the Traveler has to be hidden because he doesn’t have any papers, and all the villagers know to keep the secret, but can they trust this outsider? 

If they don’t trust him, then why did they bury him in the village to be resurrected?  Well, maybe there was some disagreement about it at the time, but the guy who killed him felt bad.  And since they were both resurrected, he and the Traveler build an odd friendship.  Like, maybe the Traveler was a poet, and the guy found his book of poems and really enjoyed them, and started writing poetry himself.  So they end up with stuff to talk about.

Another storyline could be the slow building of a relationship between the Traveler and Lady.  Maybe the Mayor is putting her and Traveler up in his house since so many houses have been damaged.  And she’s teaching him all that’s happened in the past century.  At first, he’s put off by this “modern” woman, but he slowly comes around.  Hopefully, whoever ends up writing this doesn’t do some cliched bullshit of “she looks just like the woman he was going to marry back in 1830.” One … I don’t know if it’s an issue, but it’s a thing, about Lady is that she’s secretly happy her husband and his family are dead, because he abused her and they treated her like shit.  Death parted them, and she might not see any of them in her new, second life. 

As I see it, there are basically three ways the series could go.  The first is it just keeps going.  Once you get all the weird stuff out of the way, it just becomes what happens in a small French village for the last few years of WWII.  And on occasion someone dead comes back to life.  The second would have the one who buried the Witch finally resurrect, like that’s how they end the first season.  And season two is trying to find where he buried her.  Like, “I buried her under that really big tree,” doesn’t mean much after three or four hundred years.  And then the third season would be they find the Witch, and cart all the bodies out of the crypt and someone stands outside the village, so she has to be the one who resurrects.  And then they try to convince her to lift the curse. 

The second way would be okay, except that’s a pretty standard way to do such a series.  The first way could be fine, except we know network executives would want to add more, like, what if there are now werewolves, or something.  They’d take an interesting idea, but so much crap would be added to it to keep it going, it would become mostly crap.  So my preference would be a third way, which is basically just two, maybe three seasons of exploring the weirdness of this situation, and then ending.  Nothing is resolved, but we’re left knowing the weirdness just continues.  Maybe, it could end with the Traveler and Lady getting married, so there’s a bit of a happy note.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Short story – “Procrastination”

I just published The Uncapped Pen, a collection of fifty short stories dealing with writing in some way.  I got the idea for this story about a month ago, long after I had the fifty stories selected for the collection.  So I’m just posting it here as a bonus.

“Procrastination”

With a fresh cup of coffee, John sat down at his desk and opened his laptop.  He put the cursor over the file for his novel, but hesitated.  “I think I’ll play some solitaire first.”

He was quickly at Solitaire Universe, a site where one could play hundreds of versions of solitaire.  His current favorite version to play was Lady of Devoke, where you had to organize three decks of cards out of a random pile.  One hand usually took about fifteen minutes to play, with only a 10% chance of winning.  But something about using simple, basic rules to turn chaos into order just appealed to John’s sense of the world. 

Starting a new game, he said, “I’ll play until I win a hand, then I’ll work on my novel.”

For the first five minutes or so, the outcome of the game didn’t look good.  But then came a lucky break, and as each new card was revealed, it just came more and more likely that he’d win.  And he did.

As the cards started their animated victory dance, John said, “I guess even the universe is telling me to write.”


But like most people, John didn’t like being told what to do.  And while he’d promised to write after winning a game, he decided it wouldn’t hurt to play one more.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Short story – “It’s a Fine Line”

I just published The Uncapped Pen, a collection of fifty short stories dealing with writing in some way.  Most were previously published – on my website or blog – but the rest are brand new stories.  This previously published story was in my “If I need it pile,” but in the end I didn’t need it.  So I’m just posting it here as a bonus.

“It’s a Fine Line”

Joan returned home from work on Monday to see her husband Ben sitting on the couch watching a movie.  She walked over to him and asked, “Are you rewarding yourself for finishing your novel?”

Pausing the movie, Ben said, “I didn’t actually get any writing done today.”

“But weren’t you going to spend all day writing?”

“Oh, that had been the plan.” After a moment he added, “But didn’t I tell you I decided to take it easy this week?”

Joan frowned.  “How is that different from what you did last week?”

Ben shrugged.  “Last week I was just being lazy.”

After a few moments of silence, Joan asked, “The difference being ….”

Ben thought for a bit.  “This week I’m at least trying to make it sound like I’m not just being lazy.” He then gave a weak smile.

Joan stood looking at him for several long seconds.  She then turned and went up the stairs.

After he heard their bedroom door slam shut, Ben unpaused the movie.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Short story – “It’s Harder than it Looks”

I just published The Uncapped Pen, a collection of fifty short stories dealing with writing in some way.  Most were previously published – on my website or blog – but the rest are brand new stories.  This previously published story was in my “If I need it pile,” but in the end I didn’t need it.  So I’m just posting it here as a bonus.

“It’s Harder than it Looks”

As Renee juggled the schedule to make sure the store would be fully staffed all of next week, someone knocked on her open door.  She looked up to see “The new” Dave standing in the doorway.  “There’s a … problem in Scifi/Fantasy,” he said.

“What sort of problem?”

“Ah … the kind you need to see,” he said with a weak smile.

Renee began to reply, but then realization hit her.  “Dammit.” She stood and rushed out her office, through the staff room, and into the store. 

The Scifi/Fantasy section was only a few yards from the staff room, so it didn’t take long for Renee to see the problem.  Dozens of books littered the floor.  One shelf of books had been knocked to the floor, and a few were missing from a second.  “Not again,” Renee groaned.

“This has happened before?” Dave asked from behind her.

Before Renee could answer, another book floated off the shelf.  It hung in midair for a moment, then sped to the floor as if someone had thrown it down.  Dave took a step forward, pointing at where the book had hung.  “Did you … did you see that?”

Renee stepped around him and muttered, “Yes.” She then looked to the empty aisle and with a firm voice asked, “Harold, how many times have I told you, you can’t do that?” After a few seconds she added, “If you put them back, I won’t make an issue of it, but this has to be the last time.”

For several heartbeats nothing happened.  Then, one by one, the books floated up off the floor and returned to the shelves.

Renee nodded.  “That’s better.” She turned around and began pushing Dave back towards the staff room.

“What the hell was that?”

“Just go to my office and I’ll explain.”

Dave glanced between the books levitating off the floor and Renee a few times, then turned and walked into her office.  Renee followed and closed the door behind her.  Before she could say anything, Dave said, “That was a ghost.”

“I believe if a ghost can move physical objects, then they’re called a poltergeist, but yes.  That was the spirit of Harold Bute.  He was a local retiree who was a huge scifi fan.”

Renee walked around her desk and sat down.  Setting her palms on the desktop, she continued, “A former employee used to run a Scifi/Fantasy book group, and Harold was one of the regulars.  He was very critical and would show up to each meeting with page after page of reasons why the book they had read sucked.  It became very aggravating and annoying to the other group members.  At one point the group leader said, ‘If you think everything we read sucks, why don’t you write a good novel for us to read?’

“I don’t know if he had ever thought of writing a novel or not, but apparently he wouldn’t back down from the challenge.  For months he would show up early in the morning and sit in the cafĂ© all day with his coffee and write in a notebook.  Then one day about a year ago, he went to the Scifi/Fantasy section and started ripping the books off the shelves screaming, ‘How is this crap published?’ He then clutched his chest and died of a heart attack.”

“Really?” Dave asked.

“Oh yes, I was there.” Renee gave the slightest of shivers, before continuing, “Anyway, a few weeks later, his niece – his closest kin – came in to talk to us.  They hadn’t been close, but his death had shocked her and she needed to see where he died and talk to the people that were there.  In the course of talking with her, I asked what had happened with his novel.  She said she found his notebooks and had looked through them.  The first few were full of his neat, precise handwriting discussing various plots and what books had used them and how they had screwed them up.  But with each notebook the handwriting became more and more frantic until the last was just filled with rambling gibberish.  She asked what it was all for, and I told her about the book group leader challenging him to write a novel.  I was afraid she would sue us for causing his death, but she seemed happy to just finally understand what his notebooks were about.

“So things were going back to normal, when about a month after his death they came in one morning to see all the scifi books on the floor.  Gwen, the manager at the time, already believed in ghosts, so instead of calling the police, she checked the security tapes and saw the books floating off the shelves and dropping to the floor.  She had them cleaned up and went on as if nothing had happened.  Then a week later it happened again.

“I was closing that night, and I was about ready to leave when I heard something.  I went to the section and saw a couple of books on the floor.  I picked them up and returned them when another book floated off.  I had heard about the previous incident, but that still scared the crap out of me.”

“What did you do?”

Renee shrugged.  “I ran to the Cookbook Section.”

Dave snorted a laugh.

Renee ignored him and continued, “I stopped myself and went back.  I watched for a minute or so, then I … stepped forward and talked to Harold.  Or what’s left of him.  It’s my guess his spirit is stuck here because he couldn’t come to grips with the fact that all these – what he considered crappy – authors can get published while he couldn’t write anything.  He shows up every now and then and rips the books off the shelves.  If you yell at him, he puts them back.  Usually.”

Dave shook his head.  “And you don’t tell new employees this happens on a regular basis?”

“I have enough trouble keeping the store staffed without telling everyone it’s haunted.  And it’s been three months since the last time he was here.  I had hoped he had ‘crossed over’ or whatever.”

Renee stopped and took a deep breath.  “Anyway, you’re now an official member of the Harold Club.  To steal a line, the first rule of the Harold Club is, you do not talk about the Harold Club.  And if you think you can use this to blackmail me into a weekend off, just remember, you’ll be the one claiming there’s a ghost in the store while I will have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Dave stared at her for a moment, but before he could say anything, Renee said, “Now go make sure he put everything back.”

Monday, October 9, 2023

Short story – “The Honeymoon’s Over”

I just published The Uncapped Pen, a collection of fifty short stories dealing with writing in some way.  Most were previously published – on my website or blog – but the rest are brand new stories.  This previously published story was in my “If I need it pile,” but in the end I didn’t need it.  So I’m just posting it here as a bonus.

“The Honeymoon’s Over”

“What do you think you’re doing?”

Joe shrugged.  “I’m watching a movie.”

His muse tried to grab the remote from his hand, but Joe kept it out of her reach.  “You should be writing,” she said.

“I’ll write tomorrow.”

With her hands on her hips, she replied, “I’ve heard that one before.”

Joe sighed.  “Hey, I’ve had a long day, I just want to relax.  And I’ve been wanting to see this movie for months, but you haven’t let me.”

“Well excuse me.  Do you think the Great American Novel will just fall into your lap without you having to work for it?”

“Of course not.  But do you think my novel will be finished if I blow my brains out because I’m so stressed out?”

The two glared at each other for several moments.  Then Joe said, “I’m watching a movie.  Either join me, or leave.”

Without waiting for her answer, he started the movie.

After looking at Joe, the TV, and the door several times, his muse sighed and sat on the couch next to him.  Joe held the bowl of popcorn out to her.  She glanced at it, and without taking any said, “I hate you.”

Taking the bowl back, Joe replied, “The feelings mutual.  Now shut up.”

***

This story reminds me a bit of these two Oglaf comics, The Blank Page and Muse.  Warning, they contain profanity, cartoon nudity, and violence. 

Friday, October 6, 2023

The Uncapped Pen, at last!

 

Over a decade ago, I had the idea of putting together a collection of stories dealing with writing: authors arguing with their muse, or struggling with having too many ideas, or too few, or whatever.  But for reasons, I set it aside, until a few years ago when I figured I’d finish it.  Well, it took longer than expected, and just as I was about to put the final polish on, there was a writer’s strike.  While I’m not a member of the Writers Guild of America, it felt wrong to publish a book about writing during their strike.  But since the strike is over, I’ve now published The Uncapped Pen.  You can find it on Kindle for $3.99, or equivalent.


Saturday, September 30, 2023

Writing Newsletter Third Quarter 2023


In my last newsletter, I explained how I was going to polish up my collection of stories about writing, The Uncapped Pen, to have it ready for when the writer’s strike ended.  Well, I polished it up, and figured all I’d need would be a final read through.  Well, when the strike ended I was trying to do six other things, and since the strike had gone on for so long, after a final read through there needs to be a final, final read through.  But my plan now is to finally publish it sometime in the first week in October.  So you have that to look forward to.

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I continued my Monthly Stories this quarter with “It’s Too Hot,” “The Struggle is Real,” and “Forbidding Knowledge.”

This quarter I also published two haiku, one for the Fourth and a another one in July.  I also published the stories “We All Scream” and “Dust to Dust.”

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I was ill during July – nothing serious, just I didn’t feel up to doing anything for a couple of weeks – which really threw off a lot of my writing projects, such as my Free Story Ideas.  I have a spooky one I need to do for October, but I think I might wind down my blogging for this year and start next year with a big boost.  We’ll have to see how that goes.

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Image from Pixabay.


Friday, June 30, 2023

Fourth of July Sale and voter registration drive

I think for every Fourth of July since I published Political Pies – my collection of short stories of a political nature – I’ve had a free sale for it.  On one hand, it’s hard to make money if you give your books away for free, but on the other hand the point of Political Pies is to get people to start thinking about politics in the hope we could start working on some of the problems we face to make a better world.  I’ll sacrifice a few sales for that.

And over the last few years, I’ve also had voter registration drive … sales.  Basically, if you’re an American citizen over 18, all I ask is after you download the free copies of my books, you register to vote or check your voter registration to make sure it’s up to date.  Democracy only works if the people participate, and the first step to participating is to register to vote.  And the sooner you register, or fix any problems with your registration, the easier it will be come Election Day.  To register or check your registration, you can go to your state’s website, which should have the necessary information.

If you’re not an American citizen, you can still download my books for free.  All I ask is you participate in your nation’s politics. 

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The following three ebooks will be free to download from Saturday July 1st, through Wednesday July 5th.  I hope you enjoy, and I hope you vote in the next election.

 


The Only Certainty

On The Day, for reasons unknown, people began changing. They went to sleep as their old selves and woke in their beds in different bodies: bodies that had belonged to other people. And each time they fall asleep, they wake in a new body. Set months later, “The Only Certainty” follows Derrick Gorton on an average day in this new world as he deals with food shortages, the semi-collapse of society, and how to finish his latest novel.

Political Pies

Everybody complains about politics, but does anyone do anything about it? My attempt to do something about it is to collect forty of my short stories with a political element into my Political Pies anthology. The stories are either politically neutral or equally condemning of the national parties. Instead of trying to sway you to one ideology or another, my goal is to just get people thinking about politics in the hopes a rose might grow out of all the political manure.

Duty


For reasons of safety and avoiding paradoxes, Time Travel Incorporated assigns a Guardian to all its travelers. So when there is an accident during political historian Roj Hasol’s trip back to 1968, it’s his Guardian Susan who sets out on the arduous task of cleaning up the mess.

Writing Newsletter Second Quarter 2023

 

In my last newsletter, I wrote that I hoped to have my next collection, The Uncapped Pen, out sometime in May.  Well, polishing it up is taking longer than I had hoped.  In the beginning of May, I set June 1st as my goal to finish it.  And the next day the Writers Guild of America went on strike.  I am not a member of the WGA, but it didn’t seem like a good idea to release a collection of stories about writing during a writer’s strike.  So my plan right now is to finish polishing it up – I’m like 98% done – and then wait until the strike is over.  Then I’ll give it another read through, and publish it a few days later. 

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I continued my Monthly Stories this quarter with “Inevitable?” “Two Futures,” and “In a Privileged World.” I also republished the short story “Fighting Dirty.”

I also published two haikus, one in April and one in June.

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This quarter I only managed to write up one Free Story Idea, which was for A Star Wars Story.  I also only did one #RandomStoryIdea.

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Recently, I’ve tried posting more microfiction on my Mastodon Account.  I keep track of all the stories I publish, but do microfiction stories count?  At some point, I decided that if it had a title, it was a story that I would count and link to on my website.  Untitled microfiction stories were just left to be lost on the internet, until I made a site for them.

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Image from Pixabay.


Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Random Writing Tips – Chill on the weird words

 

I know, you don’t want the epic heroes in your fantasy story just drinking mead and eating roast boar.  You want to show the reader that this isn’t just people at a Renaissance Faire, so they drink regilum, the drink of the gods, while eating roasted glarthen.  Of course, the servants bring the roast glarthen out on a large silver platter, that they set on the table before the heroes who have spent the day swinging swords from horseback.

Years ago, I started a novel that was set a century or so after a nuclear war plunged the world into a nuclear winter.  And I figured that in that time, the language would change.  Survival was more important than spelling, after all.  One of the things I came up with, was that “parka” became “paka.” I thought I was pretty smart.  The critique group I showed this to kept marking it as a typo, or left comments like, “Are we supposed to know what this is?”

I was reminded of all this recently when I watched a show that, in like the first five minutes had introduced six random weird words.  It was based on a book series and I’m sure all these words and their meanings were worked into the story, but for someone who had never heard of the books and was just checking out this show, those first few minutes were rather confusing.  Which can be very bad.  Instead of focusing on who the characters were and how they interacted, I’m just wondering, What are they even talking about?  Fortunately, for this show those six were basically the only weird words of the series.  And for some reason, they decided to introduce them all right at the beginning.

Now, I’m not against weird words.  I remember one time a writing group was going over one of my short stories, and this lady – who didn’t read science fiction – was confused by my use of the term “blaster,” and when it was explained to her it was like, a “ray gun,” asked, “Couldn’t you just call it a gun?”

Weird words in fantasy or science fiction show the reader that the story isn’t set in the world we live in.  That can be a powerful element in a story.  But like all powerful elements, if you overuse, or misuse them, they can blow up your story.

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Image from Pixabay.


Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Free story idea – A Star Wars Story

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.

About a week after I post this, will be May the Fourth.  So I figured now would be as good a time as any to tell the idea I had for a Star Wars series.

I don’t know if this would work as just a ten-episode miniseries, or a regular show with two or maybe three seasons.  Three seasons would probably be pushing it.  You could do more, shoehorning in other stuff from the movies and shows, but I think this show works best focused on this one town over the course of a year or two at most.

So where’s this town?  I figure it’s on a planet that looks a lot like the American Southwest.  Cacti would probably be too distinctive, so someplace with some indeterminate scrub, so it’s not just a straight up desert with sand.  Why is this town here?  There’s a mine.  What’s mined?  Some material used in some blaster component.  Like, this is the fifth largest mine in the quadrant for this mineral or crystal or whatever.  Important for the Empire, but not overly critical.

The population of this town is mostly human, but there are plenty of other races there.  The mining is probably done by criminals, with the safer processing done by locals.  There is a Stormtrooper garrison to watch over everything.  And there are the townspeople who do other things, like supply food to the mine and garrison, run bars, etc.  And in the town there is a small Rebel cell wanting to either disrupt the supplies or steal them for the Cause, as well as various criminal organizations who would like to steal stuff for themselves.

The first episode would introduce most of the main cast.  There would be Joe Stormtrooper who isn’t disillusioned with the Empire, yet, but can’t wait to leave.  Part of it is because his boss is a real asshole who screwed up somehow and was sent someplace where he wouldn’t be a problem but is determined to find some way back into the Emperor’s good graces.  Another reason Joe is getting tired of his job is because he has a girlfriend, uh, Jane, who’s a town local.  She might run one of the bars that is popular with off duty Stormtroopers.  Jane is sympathetic towards the Rebellion, but she likes Joe.  Her brother, Bob, unknown to her, is actually part of the Rebellion.  He runs a small freighter ship taking supplies to this other planet in the solar system, and he’s started smuggling some supplies or agents for the Rebellion.  The main Rebellion Cell in town, run by Lady, is only about 80% certain of his loyalties, and so is still testing him with some small missions to make sure he’s really on their side.  And Lady’s job right now is tough, because they had made plans for this operation that would destroy a large supply of this mineral, but then word came from higher up that they should steal it.  Which not only is an entirely different type of mission, but it also puts them up against some of the criminal gangs.

So the first episode shows Joe walking his beat, maybe stopping in at the bar and sharing a discreet word with Jane, before going back to the barracks to hear the latest rant/scheme from his boss.  And then we see Lady dealing with one of her lieutenants who just hates the Empire and wants to blow everything up, regardless of their orders, and then she goes to a meeting with a criminal gang who will help stealing this shipment if the Rebellion looks the other way as they make moves into the mine itself.  All kinds of stuff is going on, but the episode ends with word arriving that the Emperor has been killed when the Second Death Star was destroyed.

What does this mean for this town?  Well, I always assumed that the chain of command went from the Emperor to Darth Vader to a vast gap to various admirals or whatever, and that after the Emperor and Vader died, the Empire fractured as all these admirals decided that they should be the new one in charge.  So you end up with like a twenty-sided civil war.  What’s important in a civil war?  Blasters.  And the fifth largest mine in the quadrant for this mineral has become the largest supply of it in Admiral Dude’s area, so it is of vital importance that he secures it at all cost.

Episode two starts with everyone not sure what to do.  Maybe Joe sees someone with a Rebellion flag, and he just shrugs and walks away because does it mean anything anymore.  He might even be planning on just leaving and going to be with Jane, when Admiral Dude’s forces show up.  Joe’s boss is livid that this admiral is overstepping his bounds and will certainly face the wrath of the Emperor, but Dude says the boss is unfit to command and has him executed.  He may even have some of the Stormtroopers that left rounded up and either executed or put to work in the mines.  So it was lucky for Joe that he hesitated.

At first, Lady and the other Rebellion people are overjoyed that they’ve toppled the Emperor, and they expect the townspeople to cheer them.  But then another thousand Stormtroopers show up with a new tyrant wanting to use their town as the source of the weapons to build his new Empire.  So the townspeople are pissed off at the Rebellion for making their lives worse.


And that’s pretty much all I had figured out.  There would be no Jedi, and only mentions of great space battles.  The show would focus on the turbulent time after the death of the Emperor.  Which, there is plenty of material there for some high-quality drama.