My Favorite piece.

When I first stared writing, my most recent published work was always my favorite thing I had written. Probably because it was new and exciting to me. As the years have passed, and I’ve gotten more and more things out there in the wild, I find myself looking back on things that I’ve published, and even unpublished in some cases, to find the one story that I am most proud of. I’ve even had other people ask the question about my writing; What’s your favorite thing you’ve written, and why?

At the moment, that is a really easy question to answer, and has been for a few years now. Without a doubt, my favorite piece is Carolina, that was published in Corrugated Sky’s first horror anthology, Tales of the Black Dog. There is just something about the piece that I really love. It took me no time to write and from the very first word it seemed to flow onto the paper. (Yes, I handwrite a lot of first drafts. A glutton for punishment, I guess.)

When I sat down to write Carolina, I had a germ of an idea, but little else. I knew Carolina was a 100 year old black woman who lived in a swamp, but I had little else to go on. Once that pen touched paper though, it seemed to flow out of me unbidden. I still find it incredible that I managed to write from the perspective of a geriatric black woman. Maybe that was a past life?

Carolina is about a witch woman who lives in the swamps of Louisiana, and who has a special connection to a spectral black dog that has given her the secret of longevity, for a price. Of course, nothing comes for free. The price the dog asks in return for her life is the soul of another. As a witch woman, Carolina had an easy time offering up the souls of those she treated who were terminally ill. She could ease the suffering of those in pain, and give her more time to help those that needed it. For Carolina, it was an easy decision. Until the black dog asked for a very specific soul…

Millicent’s Beginning

This week we get a brief look at Millicent’s birth, and the bizarre circumstances that took place.

Emily Stroad screamed and squeezed her husband’s hand even tighter.
“Are you sure you don’t want any drugs,” he asked.
Emily nodded, determined to have this child naturally.
The doctor said it was too late for the drugs anyway, the baby’s head was crowning now. It wouldn’t be long at all.
Emily bore down when the doctor told her to. A few more pushes and Emily felt the last of the baby leave her. It was a surreal feeling for her after so long with the child inside her.
Then everything was silent. No doctor telling her what it was. No nurses chattering at how cute the baby was. But, even more importantly, no baby crying.
Emily tried to sit up to see what was happening. Her husband looked worriedly over into the corner where everyone huddled.
“What? What’s wrong with the baby?”
One of the nurses moved slightly, and that’s when she saw it. A black mass wiggled on the table, vaguely baby shaped. One nurse clutched a set of rosary beads as the doctor worked to pull the black material away from the baby.
As she watched, the black shroud surrounding the baby evaporated, leaving no trace of its existence. Leaving nothing at all but a pink, healthy looking baby.
“It’s a girl,” the doctor said as if everything were fine. “Do you have a name for her yet?”
Emily looked at the baby again and blinked. She had the vague sense that something had been wrong, horribly wrong, but now she couldn’t think of what it was. The nurses and the doctor seemed happy with the outcome, so everything must be OK.
After they completed the checks, one nurse brought the child over and placed her across Emily’s chest, commenting on what a good girl she would be.
Emily looked at the baby who hadn’t cried and smiled at her. “Millicent, her name is Millicent.”
And it would be many years before Millicent cried.

Next week we have a bit of a time jump. I told you I was gonna go back and forth, right?

Flash Fiction Friday – Malochi I

This week, I introduce a character who will be pivotal in Millicent’s life. He is not a nice man as we shall see as we go along. So without further ado, let’s meet Malochi Evil.

The old man, Malochi Evil, by name and by nature, stood on the muddy bank moving his hands in slow concentric circles in front of him. He chanted low in his throat, the words barely escaping his lips. The harsh Latin evocation faded with the light breeze that stirred the stench of the brackish water around him.. His dusky hair, long and wispy, stood on end as it gathered an electrical charge from the air.
The first of the fireflies appeared then, blinking low, close to the water. Their flashing abdomens lightly brushed the water, causing tiny ripples before they pulled away. They were soon joined by tens, and then hundreds more lightning bugs until the surface of the water virtually glowed with light. The insects drew closer and closer together into a tight night.
Malochi changed his hand motions to mimic pulling something from the ground and the fireflies soon copied the motion. They dove to the water then darted back up. The water churned from the actions of the myriad insects. Some bugs became mired in the mucky water, yet continued their incessant flashing. Malochi’s chanting grew louder, though the pace remained the same. Slow and steady.
The bugs flew into the water more rapidly now, some actually diving into the water. The once random flashing slowly coalesced into a more uniform pattern; off when they dove, on when they rose. The air hummed with magic. A bubble rose to the surface in the middle of the pulsating throng. It absorbed the firefly light, reflecting back nothing.
The bubble burst free of the surface and became the blackest of shadows. Fireflies swarmed around the shadow, as if pulling it free. Each insect that touched the shadowy orb was consumed, adding its mass to the shadow. The shadow consumed soon nearly all of the fireflies as it floated formlessly above the water.
Malochi rested his hands at his sides and fell silent. The shadow drifted over and hovered in front of Malochi. A fetid stench rose from the shadow and assailed the man’s nostrils. He leaned forward as if to engage the shadow in some foul kiss.
“You are the first,” Malochi whispered. “Soon you will lead an army.”
Malochi Evil smiled and walked away, leaving the shadow to its own devices
Across town, being pulled from her own dark hole, Millicent Stroad is born, with a connection to something she may not live long enough to understand.

Next week we get to see Millicent’s unusual birth. Stay tuned!

Flash Fiction Friday

I’ve decided to do a fiction Friday thing. I’ve seen other writers do a short story each week and post it and thought it was a neat idea. Figured I would do the same thing, but I’m gonna make it easy on myself, mostly because I’m lazy. So welcome to Flash Fiction Friday! But wait, what is flash fiction? Well, simply put, flash fiction is a story that is generally no more than a few hundreds words in its entirety.
To make things a bit more interesting I’m gonna make all of them connected. I’m going to follow the life of the main character Millicent Stroad, from birth to death. Not really gonna go in chronological order or anything, just as I write them. I might compile them in a list in order for those that don’t like the disjointed feel of it all. But that will come after I’ve written a few more. Anyway, here is the first installment of the flash fiction series Millicent.

Millicent hated this section of road, especially at night. During the day it was bad enough; a winding road through dark trees that stretched for miles and miles with no signs of life. But at night it is a different world. Night is when the demons come out. Millicent tried to focus on the road ahead but her eyes kept finding their way back to the edges, to where they lurked.
She thought she saw… no, nothing there, just a trick of the light. She turns her eyes back to the road. Concentrate Milly, she thought. Don’t give in to them.
She could feel their eyes on her. A quick glance to the side. Yes, there they are, just as she knew they would be. Her gaze stuck to the side of the road, just at the edge of the car’s lights. The demons in the shadows.
Their claws bit into the trees as they skittered just ahead of the car’s lights. Amorphous bodies melted from tree to tree. She couldn’t see their eyes, but she could feel them, cold black orbs to match their nature. The demons danced at the edges of the light, taunting her. She knew if she could just see one creature, get it into the light, then maybe she could give it a name and it wouldn’t be as terrifying.
Her father had once told her it was nothing but a trick of the light, just harmless shadows. Millicent knew different. She knew the truth. And she knew it was one more reason the world was a scary place when you are seven years old.

Tune in next week for the next episode of Millicent!

It’s Nano Time!

It’s Nano time! OK. I’m a little late announcing it. Only three days. That’s not too bad, right?

So what is Nano? What, have you been under a rock all this time? Nanowrimo, or more formally the National Novel Writing Month, is the time when thousands of insane writers take the month of November to pump out a 50,000 word novel. I know, it sounds made up, but it’s really a thing. Trust me.

This will be my 15 year doing the Nano challenge. I love it, and it helped me figure out how I liked to write. Fast, furious, and without Vin Diesel. OK. I don’t know if that last part is true or not. I’ve never written with Vin Diesel. He might be a very inspirational person. Who knows. What was I saying. Oh yes, Nano. This is why it’s best for me to write fast. I get distracted way too easily. Oh, Squirrel!

This month I am rewriting last years Nano novel that just hasn’t come together for me yet. It’s the story about a psychic detective who discovers a plot involving a serial killer and a big tech company. Along the way he discovers that his phone is haunted and his dead wife is really pissed at him. Trust me, it all fits in. 🙂

I’m putting a counter in the little sidebar over there so you can keep track of my progress. At this point I am ahead of the game. I like to get a bit of cushion the first week when everything is going really well because the 2nd week usually sucks for me. Dunno why, that’s just the way it is.

I’m also working as hard as I can on getting Demon Seed ready for publication. No time-frame on getting it out, but I think late January might be doable. I will let ya’ll know later on if anything changes.

OK, I think I have rambled enough for now. Babble at you later.

Steampunk Anthology

When the powers that be at Corrugated Sky Publishing decided to do a steampunk anthology. I said sure. I would love to do a steampunk story to include in it. There was one little thing I forgot about.

I had never written any steampunk. Shoot, I had barely read any. This presented a bit of a problem. For the story, I at least had a direction to go in though. The theme of the stories should encompass travel somehow, either through a race, or a journey or… well, you get the idea.

I rushed to Amazon for a few e-books that someone assured me would encapsulate the realm of steampunk and gave them a read. I was in for a shock. The stories were all fantastic, and imaginative in ways that I had never considered before. But they were also very different from each other. How can books from the same genre feel so very different?

I read a few more and pulled out some elements of each and realized steampunk isn’t really something easily defined in black and white terms.

Steampunk, I found, is more about the feel of the stories. Sure, they all had similar elements: Victorian clothing, technology more often than not based on steam powered engines, big guns and even bigger ego’s. I felt I had at least a good basis in steampunk to be able to start a story. And given the theme of travel, the ideas started flowing. But i didn’t want to do a typical dirigible story, or some steamship breaking ocean crossing records, or even a mechanical man that spouted steam as he ran down some criminal. No, I wanted to do something different. To my mind anyway.

I knew my experience in steampunk was limited. Still, I gave it a shot and came up with mechanical wings a person could wear to ride the area’s volcanic thermals. Don’t ask me were it originally came from. I’ve wracked my brain and the kernel seems to have embedded itself a bit too deep in my brain to suss out where the idea came from.

The story itself, Wings Over Staria, turned out better than I had hoped it would and got published in the Smoke & Steam Anthology in November of 2017. Check it out on Amazon if you haven’t already.

I’ve done a bit of searching since Corrugated Sky published the story, but I really haven’t found anything quite like it. And I think that’s what makes steampunk so unique among other genres. It’s ability to encompass a whole universe of ideas and bring them together while still maintaining their uniqueness.

The Blank Page

There is one thing I fear as a writer, and that is staring at the blank page at the beginning of a new project. I think most writers feel this way; some even admit it. Have I chosen the right story? Have I researched enough to make the story sound at least a little plausible? Is the story idea even good enough to warrant the time I’m going to spend writing it? This is where pre-writing comes in.

At some point you just have to suck it up and start writing, but how do you go from that blank page of fear all the way to putting actual words on it? In

Facing a blank page…

the many years I’ve been writing, I’ve gone from being a Pantser (just starting a story with a very vague idea in mind), to being an all out planner. I know before I start writing what is going to happen in each chapter, and sometimes even in each scene as well. The process of pre-writing fascinates me. And it’s that prewriting that now helps to keep me from fearing the blank page as much as I used to.

I’m not saying you Pantsers out there have the wrong end of the stick. Going into a story with little to nothing in the way of planning can be a liberating experience that can lead to some beautiful, spontaneous writing. On that same hand, however, it can also lead to chapter after chapter of rambling nonsense that ultimately needs to be rewritten or cut. I avoid a lot of that with prewriting because I absolutely hate editing. I wrote it once; it should be perfect, right? Of course it should. Maybe not. With pre-writing, i can cut down on the editing phase quite a bit.

I’ve worked to hone my pre-writing process to the point that I basically have a series of worksheets I use to plan out my new stories. In roughly ten hours I can have my entire plot worked out with characters, inciting incidents and whatever else it takes so I can begin writing, knowing exactly what I want to do and where to start. And once I start, there is no stopping until I get to the end of it.