Authorguy's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘short stories

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I haven’t yet managed to come up with a decent synopsis for Ghostkiller. I haven’t come up with one for Unbinding the Stone either, and I wrote that 13 years ago. I was fortunate enough to receive a very nice review comment from no less than Tanya Huff, in which she described Stone as being ‘remarkably complex and often very funny’. The complexity wasn’t intentional then, and isn’t now. It’s just a function of how I write.

What should come as a surprise is that I’ve actually been considering self-publishing Ghostkiller, a prospect that fills me with very little pleasure. One thing that did give me some amount of pleasure was the act of designing the cover art for it, and even some of my other unpublished stories.

Anine2five4_large friend of mine at my job, before she moved on to a new company, told me about a graphics program called GIMP, which I promptly downloaded and found very confusing. But I wanted to create a cover for my Chuck fanfic called ‘Nine2five‘, so I pushed on, using trial-and-error to make the damn thing do what I wanted. I don’t think I did anything right, but still I managed to come up with this image, which has been the cover art for all three seasons of the story (over 600K words, equivalent to seven novels, written over four years). I really should have separate images for each, but I forgot how I did it, and trying to recreate this image was a daunting task. I might try it again, now.


The idea for the Ghostkiller cover was pretty nebulous at first. I remember years ago talking to my publisher about it, when the story was little more than the first chapter. Ghostkiller is a story of more than a little strangeness and complexity, one of the reasons I’ll have to self-publish if I ever want it to be published. (Most publishers, most ‘entertainment industry’ types in general, especially the big ones, shy away from words like ‘complex’, and anything that hasn’t been tried and tested.) It started out as a story about ‘a man who kills ghosts for a living’, but it didn’t stay that way for long. The technique for killing ghosts was the focus of that first chapter, since ghostkilling was a unique idea, as psychic talents go. I had to show  it in action, which  involved swords and coffins. (Really the thing in the coffin.) My original idea for the cover was very complicated, and unworkable, at least by me. It also wouldn’t have been especially eye-catching, and that’s what covers are supposed to be, right?


Undermind is a short story I wrote a long time ago, for a contest. The idea was to write a story of a certain length that employed a specified phrase in some way. The first time I entered the contest it was for the phrase ‘hard port’. I used it five different ways, but didn’t win. (The story was eventually released as ‘Boys Will Be Boys’, which I have just discovered is no longer available. Something else to think about releasing on my own.) This time around the phrase was ‘dark glass’, which gave me lots of ideas, most of which I’m still trying to write. In this case the dark glass was a mirror, to reveal one’s inner and darker nature. My problem  with the cover is simply that mirrors as cover images are pretty trite. The story is much more original than that, but the originality isn’t really visually striking, so I swallowed my pride to come up with something that was.

Hopefully I can use these. There’s more to the game of cover art design than simply making interesting images, which is one of the things that makes me reluctant to jump into the self-publishing biz. This is the way I’d go if I had to do it all over again, so I have that at least. I find myself wondering if creating a cover first would help clarify the story, or make it harder to develop.



Yeah, I know, but I go to South Carolina for the Book Festival they have in Columbia, and I don’t go to Alabama at all.

Speaking of the Book Festival, I just got back from there on Monday after spending four marvelous days in weather that wasn’t rainy and was warm. This time around they decided to hold the festival in May instead of February, and I was lucky that my local festival, Duck Pond Day, wasn’t the same weekend. Actually it was my publisher who was lucky since I wouldn’t have traveled 800 miles for the privilege of losing money if an event literally down the hill from my house was waiting for me. Duck Pond Day is next Sunday, so life is good.

It was also the weekend my new book came out. Yes, St. Martin’s Moon is officially released, although at this moment it only appears on and the sister site All Romance Ebooks.  I also got a fabulous Triple Espresso review.

At I-Con last month I got to use my new handmade wooden bookshelf on wheels. At SC I was able to use both of them, although I think I’ll have to get some new wheels, the big ones I have don’t fit right and the shelves tilt. We had no room for anything else, there were lots of other authors sharing the space and space was at a premium. Having a lot of shelves was very handy. I even sold a few electronic copies of some of my short stories, that’s never happened before.

The other authors were Sam Morton and Connie Hullander, both of whom apparently live in Columbia or thereabouts. Everyone else had to travel a bit, Sean Hayden and his son Connor came up from Florida, Kieryn Nicolas came down from PA, Marlis Day came out East again and Gale Borger traveled the furthest of all. Even better, almost every one of them had a new book out, and this festival was where it was going to debut (at least the paper version)! I picked just so many new titles to read! And I have to read them, of course, otherwise how could I promote them to all the lucky patrons of my other bookselling events?

One thing we had no room for was a place to sit. I spent every hour of both days on my feet and moving around. You can imagine how stiff I was when I finally got a chance to sit down. If you’re lucky you can’t.

The trip home was less fortunate, in several respects. I left SC on Sunday night after the event ended, making it about halfway through North Carolina before stopping at a motel. After getting lost twice. The motel, a Best Western, was a little pricier than I would have liked but I wasn’t really motivate to try the non-name brands down the road. At least they had a decent complimentary breakfast, and a busload of friendly tourists who were no doubt occupying all the cheaper rooms. And Julia, my daughter who was doing the event with me, got to use the pool. Yay. Well, at least she was happy.

The next day I was supposed to stop in at my publisher’s warehouse and pick up my books, every copy of A Warrior Made I could find. I’m pretty sure most of them were buried, I never saw so many boxes of books in my life! People, you gotta get out there and start buying Echelon books. I mean, seriously.

Anyway, for the last part of the trip I had a thousand pounds more weight than I was used to, and of course that was when a serious accident on the NJ Turnpike closed the road and forced us to make a detour onto Rte. 1, at rush hour. I don’t think we made much better time than the parking lot we left behind. When we finally got back to LI we had to deal with the crappy paving job that I felt every pothole and crack of, thanks to the aforementioned extra thousand pounds. And I was too late to catch the season finale of Chuck. Thank God for VCRs, except of course something went wrong. Thank God for!

Next month, Chicago!

See you there?

Today is Thanksgiving Day, and so, in the spirit of writers everywhere, as they ponder all the myriad blessings of their lives this past year, I am not going to do a Thanksgiving post.

Anyone can do a Thanksgiving post. True originality comes from not doing a Thanksgiving post.

So instead of reflecting on the deep gratitude I owe to my publisher, Echelon Press, for taking yet more chances on me and my work (6 this year, I think, one novel and five short stories), I’m going to watch the next episode of Witchblade.  Or maybe re-watch the last episode of Chuck, with Sarah conquering half of Thailand single-handed, or whine in frustrated impatience for the next episode, the Thanksgiving episo–No, no Thanksgiving.

We’re talking about, um, all my friends, on Twitter and Facebook and WordPress.  The people who read my tweets and blogs, who visit my website and hopefully buy my books, even if only to fill in their Christmas shopping list with a book they can rest assured no one has ever heard of before.  It’s not easy being a new author, even if I have been at it for over a decade.  Let me tell you, though, if you tell me what you’re recipient likes, I can tell you which Echelon book to get for him her that person.  I’ve read them all.  Go on, tough guy, push me. I dare you.  Don’t expect me to ramble on and on about the joy and happiness your friendship brings me considering I’ve only been active on the social networking thing for a few months, because I’m not going to.

My wife, of course, knew better than to push me to displays of saccharine sentiment, instead challenging me to come up with a blog post filled with holiday buzz words that didn’t actually talk about any of them. Just look at that tag cloud!  Was there ever a more perfect spouse?

Fortunately, the pies my wonderful children made last night are out of my direct view, and the turkey in the oven, with its real handmade sage stuffing, has not yet begun to perfume the air with the aroma of its baking, which leaves me free to think about my next story, Ghostkiller, or maybe my last story, Steampunk Santa, and how I hope it will receive an audience when it comes out pre-Christmas.  There, you see how I didn’t even mention Thanksgi–

Ha! Better luck next year!

I’ve got two, count ’em two, holiday stories for you. (You didn’t really think I was going to do some post about the Christmas season, did you?)  Both times my publisher made the mistake of asking for stories at around the Christmas season, with a seasonal slant, of course.  We all know how that turns out.

My take on a ‘seasonal slant’ is about as slanted as it can be and still be seasonal.

A couple of years back she asked for a story to be used for an anthology to raise money for charity.  “Make it about fire,” she says.  She asked this in, like, November, looking to get the book out just before Christmas. Surprisingly, she made it, all 20 of the authors she asked got something done, in a mere 2 weeks, because we’re all nice people like that.

I had a story idea in mind for Christmas, which I discussed at length over on another blog, so I won’t repeat myself here. You should go over there and read those posts, because they’re all about some really good stories, some of which were even written by me. The funny thing is, she also requested stories for a special Christmas project, and I didn’t send one in for that.  Some of the stories that were submitted are still up, though. She’s been transferring them to her new Amazon store.

This year, she asked on Twitter for Steampunk stories, or holiday stories.  I asked her if she wanted steampunk holiday stories, and she’s like, “It’s all good.” Well, needless to say, in about 6 hours I had a brilliant idea for a steampunk holiday story.  I love it when that happens. A few years back I was given some biographical data for a lady who won a contest, and the prize was to be written into a story. I may have gone overboard, since I not only wrote her into the story, she was the star, with the whole story crafted around her likes and dislikes. I had the same cascade of ideas for the story then that I did for Steampunk Santa, only worse.  Not that Steampunk Santa stayed where I put it, no sir.  It almost immediately took a sharp turn and headed off its own way, dragging me along behind it.  Which is a good thing, by the way.

For some reason my Christmas stories seem to have a touch of Halloween included, not sure why.  ‘Bite Deep‘ is a vampires at Christmas story that has more to with evil, sacrifice, and redemption than it does about trees and presents.  There are plenty of religions in the world that connect those things with the shortest day of the year, and it’s not really my fault that Christmas got piggy-backed onto one of them.

Steampunk Santa is a bit different. I deliberately fashioned it on the model of the Rankin-Bass specials, with the nice narrator and squeaky-voiced elves. As I was writing I read the lines in the proper voice just to stay in character.  Unfortunately I don’t do a good Fred Astaire impression, but the squeaky-voiced elves came out just fine.

When you read holiday stories, are you looking for the tried and true, or something a bit off from the beaten path, and if so, how far off? If the latter, I know a place where you can get some good ones.

Wow, that’s even uglier than NaNoWriMo.  But I like it better.

Why? Because it’s something I made up, first of all. Next of all, it’s a contest (at least, if it were a contest it would be a contest) that I might actually play and might even win.  Well, let’s not get silly here, I’d likely not win, because I don’t write that fast.

I should think it obvious that this hideous appellation stands for National Short Story Writing Month.  Even though I am a writer, and even an author, I don’t participate in NaNoWriMo.  I am insanely competitive, as all who know me can attest, and I don’t like to lose, so often times I prefer not to play.  If I did play, I’d take it too seriously to have any fun, which is why I play solitaire type games, or games with no clear ending, or games where the goal is to get a faster time, or games where chance is a strong element so it’s not my fault.  Since I am such a slow writer I would never get a novel done in a month, except by dropping every other element of my life and shrieking at everyone to leave me alone so I could concentrate.

Not a good way to keep your day job.

And I wouldn’t think of it as “Oh gee, well, at least I got X thousand words written.” It’s not a novel. It’s not complete.  So it doesn’t count.  (See?  Competitive.) With NaShoStoWriMo the issue wouldn’t be can I get a short story done in time, it would be how many.  I can do a short story in less than  a month.  I did Chasing His Own Tale in, like, 2 weeks.  One week to agonize over how I could never write such a thing, and another week to have a brilliant idea and write it.  Let’s not forget Bite Deep, the story I did for the Heat of the Moment anthology, which just received new life as an independent release.  I had a mere 2 weeks to get that done and I did.  Yay, me.  I wrote Off the Map in three weeks, I think, but I was unemployed at the time. I got Noisemaker done very quickly (for the PARSEC contest), and Steampunk Santa thing not only was a lot of fun, it had a deadline.  I like deadlines.  Something to beat.

Do you like a good deadline?

Unbinding the Stone

A Warrior Made

A Warrior Made

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St. Martin’s Moon

St. Martin's Moon

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Chasing His Own Tale

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Struck By Inspiration

Struck By Inspiration

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Steampunk Santa

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Bite Deep

Christmas among the vampires!

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Cyber-pirates. Sort of.

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Off the Map

Reality TV...without the Reality!

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