Speed Writing #16 – The Dragon at the Party

“Zoua!” I heard my name shouted over the din of music and too many voices talking.  “Zoua, there’s a dragon at the door!”

I poked my head out of the kitchen and looked into the living room, crowded with friends and acquaintances.  My sister was across the room at the door, encouraging someone to come in.  Grabbing my beer bottle, I carefully moved around the group aggressively playing Boggle at the coffee table to the front door.

“No,” I heard her whine a little.  “You have to come in.  She’s going to love it.”

A young man in an amazing dragon costume stood in the doorway, clearly conflicted about something.  He looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t quite place him.

Continue reading Speed Writing #16 – The Dragon at the Party

Deputy Death

This is also posted at Curious Fictions, if that’s a preferable viewing platform for longer work.


A tingle started in the middle of Liz’s head, spreading down into her teeth. It was an odd sensation, but not unpleasant. She thought of it as her death sense, because when it kicked in, she was sure to find the body of some dead animal. The bizarre ability had yet to prove remotely useful, though it put her social life in critical condition. She looked up from her six-page, AP English paper, due tomorrow. Her eyes went to the window just as the sunshine-yellow Pontiac Aztek slowed, then stopped across the street. It was a weird looking car, not the sort of thing that belonged in this neighborhood with its green carpet lawns, evenly manicured hedges, and sport utility vehicles in the fashionable colors of hunter and maple. Each house was painted one of three approved shades of beige. Fortunately spring was far enough along that the landscape wasn’t completely bland, despite the developers’ best efforts.

It was sheer luck that she’d felt something dead in time to see this outsider, though she’d have to find whatever had died nearby before continuing to work on her paper. She could only ignore the tingling for so long before it became too distracting.

The driver’s side door swung open, and a tall thin man stepped out. He was pale, with light brown hair, and there wasn’t so much as a hint of khaki about him. He wore a shiny metallic blue, long sleeved shirt, tucked into snug black jeans. Liz briefly wondered if he might be gay, what with all the color, but decided he was probably just from the city. She’d heard urban people were flamboyant, and only the usual percentage of them were gay. He looked sort of like the people in her German textbook, foreign, so maybe that was his deal.

Continue reading Deputy Death

Tulgey Wood

This is also posted on Curious Fictions, if you prefer that interface for reading stories.


“Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe; all mimsey were the borogoves, and the mome raths outgrabe…”

“Is that all she says?”

“Yes. Over and over. Same thing.”

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch!”

“What sort of rubbish is that? It doesn’t even sound like English.”

“Well it is, and it isn’t. It’s Jabberwocky. You know. The poem by Lewis Carroll?”

“That the guy who wrote about the magical wardrobe?”

“Not even close. What the hell kind of childhood did you have anyway? Didn’t you ever read Through the Looking Glass?”

“Irrelevant. Does she say anything else? Anything at all.”

“Well… not really.”

“You hesitated there. What is it?”

“Sometimes it’s as if she’s gotten stuck. She’ll repeat the same word over and over like she can’t remember the next line.”

“And then?”

“After a while she just kicks back in as if she’d never hit a glitch.”

“And what is this Jabberwocky…”

They think I can’t hear them, they think I don’t see what’s two feet away. Catatonic, they say. But I’m just ignoring them. They don’t know anything, and they’ll leave the room eventually. They always do.

Continue reading Tulgey Wood

The Beach

The west end of the beach was a picture of chaos framed by the orange of the sinking sun.

Donna watched, curiously detached, ignoring the sand that was creeping into her shorts.

The wind blew her hair into her face, and she reached for the purse she’d never wanted. Mothers’ purses were full of scraps of paper, crayons and trash. She dug through the folds of the imitation leather bag, pushing aside the comb. Her hair would only re-tangle in this wind. She was too much like her own mother, she thought, as she shoved the empty wrapper from a stick of gum into a corner. There it was. A tattered green ribbon lay twisted around a McDonald’s straw in the bottom of her purse. One never knew when they might need a straw. The ribbon was short, but it would hold her hair back for now.

She scooped up a handful of sand, plucking out the quartzite pebbles and precariously piling them on her knees. Once her collection was complete she wiggled her leg, dropping the carefully gathered stones to the sand. She felt stronger for destroying something she’d made.

The rescuers were still hard at work, their chains clanking together like so many little bells. With the sun as a backdrop, they were featureless profiles. The cry of triumph was quickly followed by one of dismay. Someone in the rescue boat held aloft a dripping empty baby stroller with seaweed dangling from the wheels.


This dark flash fiction (exactly 250 words) was written as a challenge to include one or more of the following: pebbles, ribbon, gum wrapper, baby stroller, seaweed, straw, comb. As a smartass, I used all seven.

Virtual RoberCon – Day 2

I am attending RoberCon this weekend. Saturday went really well and I had an excellent time with the workshops. Today’s events were all panel format, so instead of the presenter and audience having a discussion, it was more like a webinar.

The first panel of the day was Writing For Middle Grade / YA Readers: They’re Not Just Small Adults. It’s actually the panel that brought me to RoberCon as a participant. Our moderator was Paul Smith, an indie middle grade science fiction writer and author of the The Jason and the Draconauts Series. Panelists included: Kathryn Sullivan, an award-winning, small press, middle grade fantasy writer and author of The Crystal Throne; J.R.H. Lawless, a small press adult science fiction humor and middle grade writer, and author of The General Buzz series; and me (indie author). We had an excellent conversation about how writing for younger people differs from writing for adults and how that has changed over time.

My next panel was Engage!: Captain Picard Blazes New Trail in ‘Star Trek’ Universe, and I was in the audience. There was a nice variety of perspectives on this show. Overall the feelings were pretty positive and the discussion ranged over the entire Star Trek universe, looking at the strengths and weaknesses. I enjoyed Picard, but felt some elements were rushed in a way that didn’t work, and that the writers were incredibly wasteful with their characters.

Next panel was Excellent!: ‘Bill & Ted’ Return for One More Encore, which started with a delightful Dr. Pants song in honor of Bill & Ted (alas, it does not yet appear available on the site, but we can hope). The panelists covered historical behind-the-scenes elements I wasn’t familiar with (the time machine was originally the Wyld Stallyns van, but that was scrapped due to Back to the Future; and the original film was nearly dumped to cable when the production company went bankrupt shortly after principal shooting completed). The changes in the music landscape in the 80s and 90s were discussed in great detail, looking at the move from metal to alternative. In general everyone was pretty pleased with the characterization of Billie and Thea.

There were two other panels I’d initially planned to attend, but I was a bit fried by this point and elected to go on a 12 mile bike ride since the weather was allowing it. All in all, I had a great RoberCon experience. People were inclusive and engaging. I would be willing to attend again, though if it’s in person next year, we’ll have to see if we have the finances for travel.

Virtual RoberCon – Day 1

I am attending RoberCon this weekend.

It’s my first virtual convention and my first time attending this event that supports the Roberson Museum and Science Center’s education and outreach programs. For the most part I stick to conventions in the Midwest because I can afford the trip (and can often minimize hotel use. So I guess this is a bright side of the pandemic. I’m Schrödinger’s author, both at home and attending a convention in Binghamton, New York at the same time.

I attended three events Saturday, all of them were more workshop than panel. The first two were on characters and character development and the last was on writing a novel in a short time frame. As a character writer, a lot of the character motivation and goal elements were not new to me, but it would have been useful to someone who struggles with this side of writing. There’s always more to learn and improvements to make, and talking with other writers or hearing about their process can improve your own.

The first workshop, Painless Novel Writing: Set Goals for Your Characters, was hosted by Jennifer D. Bokal, and we looked a lot at character motivation and goals. She wrapped up with an excellent tip about how we, as writers, should view our completed pieces. Our stories are consumable products, not offspring. Think of them as orange juice, not your babies. It makes the rejections and negative reviews less harsh.

The second workshop, Who Are These People?: Putting Character in Your Characters, was hosted by Paul Smith. We explored the use of role playing character sheets, specifically the Fate Core System, for creating a quick look at a character. This method was pretty quick and resulted in a succinct summary of your character, but didn’t include much on back story and motivation. This model could be used to quickly build a world. For people who will spend hours constructing a character before starting to write, the restricted nature of this may be very helpful. Combining these two models may work well for quickly assembling characters while ensuring the primary characters have enough depth.

My final workshop, Sprint to the Finish: Completing a Novel in a Short Time Frame, was hosted by Valerie Valdes. She covered all the big picture life stuff you need to prepare, how to work through the trouble that inevitably crops up, and tips for using writing sprints to charge through a novel at rapid pace. Most of what I write these days is done during timed sprints, and both A Familiar Story books were produced this way. My approach was a bit haphazard, especially on the second book, so it was helpful to get her “clean the house and tell your friends and family, see ya!” advice.

Workshops and panels are running 45 minutes, with follow up discussion in Discord, which is working very smoothly. I’m getting all the word nerd elements of being at a convention without having to travel or spend stupid amounts money on slow mediocre hotel food. While I’m not really getting to know folks they way I would with in person networking and socializing, this is definitely a good way to manage the experience during a pandemic.

Speed Writing #17 – Fandom Mashup

“Gryffindor,” Mikhail said firmly.  “Neville Longbottom level.”

“Airbender,” Evie countered, a smug smile on her lips.

“What?” Mikhail asked, an eyebrow raised in confusion.  “Did you just jump fandoms on me?”

“Ashitaka is clearly an airbender,” she replied.  He was one of the few people she could have this type of argument with.  “He’s all about peace and freedom.  He’s practically a reincarnation of Aang.”  She paused for a moment, her eyes going to the ceiling.  “Though I’m not sure how that would work, since Aang’s already a reincarnation.  So maybe we could call him alternate reality Aang.”

Continue reading Speed Writing #17 – Fandom Mashup

A Peek Into the Indie Writer World – Part VI: Big Picture Advice and Pitfalls

Indie writers come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are old school traditionally published writers who’ve decided to try something new, while others are newer at their craft and have eschewed the traditional model in favor of something they have some control over. Since our paths may be different, the tiny details of how to accomplish our goals may vary, but there are basic recommendations that apply to all of us.

Big Picture

Learn the Business

Your indie writer gig is effectively a business, whether it’s a part-time side job or your primary source of income. It’s in your best interest to have a grasp of the basics of both running a business (how do taxes work where you live, what do you need to be documenting?) and how publishing works in general.

You don’t need a business degree and you don’t need to take hundreds of dollars in courses on the publishing industry. But you do need a foundation to launch from.

Have a Plan

Without a plan, it’s hard to figure out where to start and what you’re even aiming for. Define what your goals as an indie writer are and map out a plan to achieve those goals. Your plan can change to fit what you have going on in your life. I review my plan every three months because I have a tendency to make overly ambitious plans that need revision along the way.

Know Your Limits

When you’re running a creative venture it’s critical that you use your self-awareness to accurately identify your limits. If you lack good self-awareness, find a friend or two who you trust to be honest in helping identify what tasks you really can do, and what should you outsource. Knowing your limits applies to everything. Deadlines, timelines, editing, design, cover, business filing (ISBN and LCCN), and public relations are all impacted by skills and natural knack. There’s no shame in getting someone with the skills to ensure your work gets the presentation and publicity it deserves.

Pitfalls for Everyone

Like advice, the places where you’re likely to go misstep will be very different from someone else. These are the ones that are the most universal.

Writer Beware Issues

For every creative dream, there is a skeezy jerk with a too-good-to-be-true scam. Unfortunately a lot of predatory companies have learned to cut back on the shiny so they look reliable and legit.

As an indie writer, there are a lot of things you may choose to outsource, and before you pick anyone to distribute your work or package it for you, take a close look. Influencer commentary and reviews shouldn’t be your end point of research, since both of these are pretty easy to fabricate or buy. Check for complaints with the better business bureau, and talk to other writers (this is where a network can be handy).

Separate Your Business and Personal Finances

If you aren’t going to go all in and become a small company, the least you should do is have separate bank accounts. In the United States, it’s a really good idea to become a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). This protects your personal finances should something go horribly wrong and your writing business gets sued. Different countries have different tax and litigation regulations, so be sure you’re doing what’s best for where you live.

Don’t get Impatient

A lot of writers get impatient especially near the end, but rushing the publishing can result in a book full of typos, plot holes the size of Australia, and off-putting covers. Save your project from an unprofessional end product; resist the temptation to rush. You put so much time and effort into writing the book. Don’t throw that all away at the end.

Get a Unique ISBN for Each Edition

A lot of writers miss this detail on their first go round (or even longer). To ensure you get the best benefit of the ISBN process, make sure each type of output has its own number. If your book is coming out as an ebook, trade paperback and audio book, you’ll need three ISBNs.


This advice is just the start. Once you know you’re going indie, find resources and articles that apply to your specific situation and current knowledge to help you navigate your first release or two without making mistakes. There’s always more to learn, so be careful researching the process doesn’t become a procrastination tactic. If it helps, you can think of your first indie project as on the job training, a place where you will make a few mistakes and come out better for it.



For the first article in this series, check out Part I. Or if you’ve just missed the previous article, check out Part V.

For more articles on writing, check out Reflections From the Sol.