Original Flash Fiction – with Jakob Merrick

June 28, 2013 at 6:14 am (writing) (, , )

Chuck Wendig has regular flash fiction challenges on Fridays. I decided to participate in this one. This is an original work written this week for the challenge.

I rolled:
Grimdark fantasy
Occult detective
A hidden compartment
A pool of blood

Now I think I flopped on the grimdark, but using the character I did, I expected that. Words were coming though. A few people may recognize the characters from another WIP. I only hit 785 words out of the possible 1000. This is being posted unedited as the deadline is while I’m at work.

The day was not fit for man nor beast, yet we were both out in it. Doren, my St. Bernard of a bloodhound, and I were deep into trouble, but that was nothing new.

Around us lay a heavy fog that smelled of fire and ash, and old blood. Old blood that was somehow fresher than the pool that had been seeping from the secret compartment in my study. A compartment that turned out to hold the now desiccated body of the mayor’s wife. Needless to say, there’s a price on my head and as she was my last client and the mayor was in the room when the blood started seeping out… I’m on the run with no chance to examine the evidence to clear my name.

I’ve seen what’s in the papers: beautiful jewel of the town found murdered by local detective, her life drained by his forbidden magic. Forbidden. Ha! The chief of police just paid me to use my “forbidden magic” last week. Of course, there’s not really anyone left in town who is willing to defend me in public. Not when the mayor is involved. They value their heads, and their souls, and I can’t say I blame them one bit.

I think that’s enough of a trip down memory lane. Doren smells something up ahead and his raised hackles tell me he doesn’t like it. Which means I probably won’t either.

“Detective Merrick, so glad to see you made it.”

The voice felt familiar but I didn’t recognize it. It was coming from the ashen fog ahead. I could feel Doren’s chest rumble as he growled quietly. Another voice came, “Jakob?”

“Susan?” I replied. /Wait, who the hell is Susan?/

“Detective Merrick, if you please, continue up the road just a bit and meet us. It has taken a lot of work to get you out of that little town of yours. It’s amazing the protective power such a safe haven creates.” The voice still felt familiar. /Who the hell?/ I shook my head and started walking. Doren leaned against my legs. I scratched between his floppy ears. “It’s alright boy.”

“Ah, there we are.”

I could see them now. Susan was in a nightdress, stained with blood. Her head lolled to the side, barely held on to her neck by a visible and partially severed spine. Her eyes were still beautiful pools of ocean blue though, filled with a mix of fear and regret.

Beside her stood … Something. It made my head hurt to look at it. A mess of shifting colours and a strong smell of decay in a vaguely human shape.

“I’ve been waiting for you Detective Merrick. A very long time. You see, you took something that was meant for me when we first met, and I want it back.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

A sound not unlike a sigh came from the thing. “You didn’t remember the last time we did this either. That’s why I brought Susan along. I thought she might refresh the memories, so to speak.” It gestured to the girl and she started to slide forward. Doren stepped in front of me and snarled. Her movement stopped.

The thing looked (felt?) frustrated. “And how is it you always have that beast? That wasn’t part of the spell. Immortality was just supposed to be for me, and there you go, living over and over, with that beast at your side while I rot!”

“Look,” I began, slowly walking forward with my hands in front, ” I really don’t know what this is about.” Doren slunk along beside me, keeping pace. The old boy knew when I was up to something. The weight of my gun in the small of my back felt heavier, as it always did when I thought of using it. The weight of centuries. /Centuries? What the hell am I thinking?/

I saw Susan move out of the corner of my eye. Doren kept himself positioned between us. I kept my eyes on the thing. We were close enough now that I could make out more of its shape.

“Damn you Merrick, stop playing dumb. This will be less satisfying if you don’t remember. Should I kill Susan again? Would that help? The school teacher, Anna? Little Alice? Or maybe your good friend Matthew? I still have all their souls.”

Susan ran. Doren started to lunge but he realized her trajectory. The thing collapsed as she landed on it, thrashing. I pulled out my gun, but hesitated. I didn’t want to hit Susan.

“I’m already dead, Jakob,” she screamed, ” just shoot it!”

I did as she said. Right in the head. And it was over. Again.

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The Hole Behind Midnight by Clinton Boomer

June 18, 2013 at 5:18 pm (Book Review) (, )

Reposting (was on my blog before transition, originally posted in January 2012)

Spoiler Free!

I’ll start by saying thank you to Scott Gable for a review copy, because let’s face it, my hatred of anything that has the faintest scent of time travel/alteration would have turned me away from this book, much to my loss. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to the next one.

The idea of an extra hour (or more) hidden away behind midnight is a fascinating one. To think of all the things you could accomplish, if you felt like it. Maybe even cure cancer! Most people don’t use this time in a way that is beneficial to others though, and that is the harsh reality that keeps dragging our narrator into very messy situations, often literally. Being party to the secrets of the 25th hour can grant quite a deal of power to abuse.

The prologue gives a really strong glimpse into the main character, and the first chapter drops you right into the action. If it weren’t for Bad Things happening around the narrator, he seems like the kind of guy I would want to hang out with. He’s an asshole, no one argues with that, but it’s for the right reasons. As the story is written in first person, we ate privy to these reasons more than any other characters.

The chapters are quite short and it’s easy to say "I’ve got time for one more chapter" until an hour or two later the search party stumbles across you huddled in the corner with just the pale light of the screen for company. The action moves fast and you just want to see what happens next. While we know the narrator makes it out alive, we have no idea if he’ll be in one piece til the very end.

The Hole Behind Midnight is available on iTunes and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/The-Hole-behind-Mi…) published by Broken Eye Books ( http://www.brokeneyebooks.com/).

I’ll leave off with my favourite lines that don’t give anything away:

"It looked like [he] had been involved with a busy, shitty day.
Well, at least it had ended with getting murdered. If you’re gonna do bad day, I mean, you might as well do it right."

(Also posted at Goodreads. )

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Writing with Others

June 12, 2013 at 7:23 am (writing) ()

Writing, for the most part, is a solitary activity. Sure, there’s Twitter and writing groups, but at the end of the day it’s usually just you, alone with your imagination. There are times though, that we write with others. Co-writing can be incredibly rewarding and insanely frustrating. Like everything with writing, there is no one way to do it.

Growing up, in my early days on the Interwebs, I belonged to several written RPG sites. One of the things you learn from that type of interaction is how to passably write someone else’s character. If you can’t manage that skill, you’re either faced with incredibly short posts where you’re constantly waiting for the other person to respond, or backlash from using their character in a way they do not like. One way to develop that ability was to start with those super short posts. Another is to work things out “in person” before the post with another player. A friend and I would meet on ICQ (wow, that was ages ago) and go back and forth to figure out what was going to happen. Then one of us would copy everything out and embellish before posting. This resulted in some very long posts, and a good sense of how the other person’s character would respond to a given situation.

When it came to writing with this person later, we did much the same. We sat down and discussed the characters and walked through bits of the story, one of us taking notes to type up later. Other times, one of us would start the story and when we got stuck, would pass it to the next person (for an example of this “pass the stick” type story telling, check out the Once Upon a Time episode of the Tabletop show on YouTube). As drafts progressed we would each read over what the other had written and make changes before we picked up. Sometimes you work on a chapter by chapter basis, passing it to the other person when you hit that stopping point.

Other times, each of you makes a character to focus on, and write the parts where that character is key, or their perspective is being followed. This can add some disconnect between the two characters, and if that different feel is not what you’re looking for, you should definitely have both writers go through each other’s section to help being the sections together. One of the big challenges is making it feel like one work at the end and not two separate stories.

With a recent project, the other writer and I are slowly hashing out the details and making an outline. We settled on a basic premise, then sorted out characters and places (because talking back and forth about “character A” can get confusing, and names are easy enough to change later). We’ll decide where to go from there, but probably whoever is feeling most inspired will start.

So what kind of problems can you run into when writing with another person? Well, really any of the problems that come up in any relationship on top of the typical writing problems. There will be times you disagree; sometimes about small things and sometimes about major plot points you can’t progress past until you agree. There will be deadline clashes as you learn that you write at different speeds and when someone loses steam to dreaded “writer’s block” or life throwing complications. When it comes time to edit, you will both have different darlings you won’t want to kill. There will be times you’re tempted to bargain, “leave my bit here in and we won’t cut that bit there of yours” but you must focus on what is best for the story. It is a good plan to know ahead of time what your plans are for the story as well. Is it just for fun? Are you submitting it somewhere with guidelines to follow? Are you self-publishing it and how are you handling that? If you’re creating a new world, are you allowed to use it later in your own works? Sorting this out ahead of time can save on heartache later.

So why write with someone else? For one, it can be really fun exploring ideas together. You’ll be able to see things from another perspective and grow for your own writing. Perhaps you have trouble with one aspect, such as dialogue, but thrive at another, and your partner has the opposite problem. There is always more to learn. There is a great deal of joy in sharing the process with someone, and in seeing that final creation that you made together. It can make for a very strong, multi-faceted story.

What are your experiences in writing with others? Is it something you want to try, but haven’t yet? What’s stopping you?

Cross posted to Samurai Scribes

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The Clockwork Bluebird by Ravven

June 7, 2013 at 7:37 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

My friend Ravven Kitsune (cover artist extraordinaire and writer) has self-published her Clockwork novel. This link (http://www.ravven.com/blog/2013/06/the-clockwork-bluebird/) is to her blog post where she talks about the inspiration behind it and has links to purchase. It is currently in Amazon KDP (long time followers know how much I dislike Amazon, so you know I care about this book) but once the exclusivity runs out it will go up on Smashwords (her profile is at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Ravven) and I will post when that happens.

I did have the privilege of reading and giving editing feedback on this in the past, but I haven’t yet read the released version. Once I do, the review will be up on my blog (but I promised the month of June to Writing).

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The Janus Affair by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

June 3, 2013 at 6:51 am (Book Review) (, , , )

Spoiler Free, as always.

This book has the honour of being the first book I’ve ever bought on release day. Sadly, it took nearly a year to find the time to read it. Definitely worth squeezing into my day.

This book is the sequel to Phoenix Rising, the first book of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. I quite liked the previous book and was excited to see what happened next for our brave protagonists.

Having listened to the Tales from the Archives podcast, I could clearly hear Pip and Tee as Eliza and Wellington. Both characters have unique and well defined voices that suit them.

The book was an exciting romp, with tears and amusement, and a final chapter that brought much satisfaction. I was glad Eliza made the choices she did. It was nice to see some of the office staff in action as well. Every person has more to them than we know. And the gadgets! Love a good gadget, I do.

If you like Phoenix Rising, you’ll definitely want to continue the story here. If you haven’t read that, then what are you waiting for?

The next book is expected to be out early next year, but is with a different publisher.

(Sorry for the shortness of this review, but a nice steampunk adventure has my mind off writing my own. I think that’s a compliment.)

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The Ministry Initiative

May 26, 2013 at 2:19 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

The creators of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, of which I am a fan, is running a kickstarter to release more fiction and a Fate based RPG.

As part of that, author Karina Cooper is running a contest to win some of her books. You can enter here, and view my comment with details about a character I’ll be writing about in June.

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City of the Lost by Stephen Blackmoore

May 16, 2013 at 6:06 pm (Book Review) (, )

SPOILER FREE
I hate reading reviews with spoilers, so I strive to avoid them in my writing. There are plenty of other reviews out there that will outline the entire book if that’s what you’re looking for.

Things go to hell fast for Joe Sunday and there’s a landslide following him down. Everyone has an angle, everyone wants something, and he knows it. The question is, who will screw him the least?

Note: if you gross out/get offended by cursing easily, you should probably skip this one. While I think the back cover outlines pretty well what style to expect, some reviewers obviously weren’t paying attention.

Joe is a thug, and he shows it in thought, word and deed. Written in first person narrative, you really get to know him in the short time you have together. At 224 pages, this is a pretty quick read, and the action keeps it going like a steamroller on a downhill slope.

I quite liked this book. There are a number of people Joe has to deal with, and they all feel like characters and not just obstacles. It’s difficult to discuss the book without spoiling anything as events progress very quickly. There is no filler or wasted padding in this book. I will say Darius was a favourite character of mine and I hope he shows up again somewhere. The mythology of the world is very interesting. Magic is real, and I like the way it works. I want to know more about how playing cards work as security as that was fascinating to me. Joe is a bit too busy to pry into details of that though. His goal is very clear to him. Unfortunately not many people want him to accomplish it.

I am very thankful to have won a copy of this book in a blog contest, as the price ($13.99 CDN) for the ebook would have definitely steered me off. I would have been sad to have missed out on this. I’ll be picking up the follow up (same world, different protagonist) Dead Things once I find one in print (cheaper than ebook sadly, but not commonly stocked in my area).

Also posted on Goodreads

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