Archive for the ‘Original Fiction’ Category

I received word last week that a story that I had submitted is going to be included in an anthology! This will be my first paid writing project.

I’ll share details about the anthology as soon as it is clear that I should. What I can share is the process, as several people have asked me about it.

My assumption has always been that we should write the stories that we want, and then find a way to get those stories to our audiences. That simple description is based on the probably flawed assumption that we only have one story to tell (at a time).

The Cloudless Admiral

My first attempt to get a story published was by sending a story to Broken Eye Books, for their Ghost in the Cogs anthology of steampunk ghost stories. This was a bit out of my realm of experience, as it was the first short story that I ever tried to sell to someone, and I’m not a steampunk reader. That is, there are probably underlying conventions to the steampunk genre that I am simply unaware of.

In that case, I envisioned a story that literally matched the call, that is a ghost story that involved an airship. I invented some intriguing characters and placed them at the scene, and then did terrible things to them. In the background, I tried to weave tidbits suggesting an alt. history backstory. I had to cut the story short to fit with in the parameters of the call for submissions, and eliminated an entire character.

Lastly, I had my wife and two of our friends edit the manuscript, and then made the suggested edits. After formatting the story to match the formatting guidelines of the publisher, I sent it off. Alas, they did not choose to accept the story, and referred me to another publication that was looking for similar stories.

What I Learned

Writing can be fun. A hard part about the empty page is that there are too many choices. Each choice seems dire, in that, right now, maybe I have only one story that could succeed critically, and if I deviate from the mysterious path, I’ll wander from the road to readers. But that is hogwash, reading the above should be as clear to you as to me while writing it.

When writing to match specified criteria, you have guidelines. It has to be a tale that can reasonably be described as fitting in the steampunk genre, and it has to have ghosts or similar supernatural elements.

The page then focusses down to a manageable size. Ideas come spilling forth, the skeletons of potential characters dance in your mind’s eye. Like a potter, you begin to shape the clay into a mold, turning the story into the vague form required. The rest is the art and is unchanged from writing ‘what you want to write’.

Round 2

The second submittal was a similar process. This time I knew more about the genre and could write freely without worrying that I was missing important genre conventions. The anthology has a comedic element, and I knew that I was on the right track because I giggled throughout the writing process. I then let is sit for a few weeks and edited it, my wife providing valuable feedback as my beta reader on the last day that submissions were to be accepted. Once again, I followed the publishers guidelines for how they wanted submissions formatted, and sent it off.

This second story was significantly less work than the first. Partly is that it was half the length of the first, but partly because I was ‘write what you know’-ing.

A few months later, I got an email stating that my story had survived the initial culling, and then last week, work came in that my story had been chosen. A contract was included, which I reviewed, signed and returned. Voila!

Random Plot Generator

There are such things, Google it. And then write a story with that plot. Okay, random sometimes ends up looking nonsensical, but the challenge is intriguing. A story that you can hold in your mind, start to finish, without planning, may end up being obvious to the reader, or rather, predictable’s unpopular cousin, boring. That may be what drives pantsers, people who prefer to write where the story goes rather than preplanning the outcome; the fear that plotting will eliminate the magic. If anything about the process of submitting short stories has taught me, is that I am much more comfortable knowing what I need to write, rather than trying to figure out what I should write. The story will attend to itself.

I have more years than this one planned, so I needed worry about writing my one and only novel the first time.


The following is a short story inspired by a flash fiction challenge at Chuck Wendig’s blog. This one is a mashup of Robocop and Pulp Fiction.

“That’s the most racist bullshit that I’ve ever heard!”

Dallas smiled inanely at Chester’s outburst, before continuing. “Look, it’s like 18 feet of material wrapped around your head. You could stash your wallet up there, spare keys, clips for your S&W. It’s perfectly balanced over your spine, the weight distribution is immaculate.”

“I’m not talking about physics or or biology or some bullshit, I’m talking about a significant cultural and religious practice that you want to capitalize on.” Chester glared at Dallas for a few seconds, letting his disapproval weigh in. “Why would you want to desecrate a cherished, er, headgear. So you can make a few bucks? That’s racist, it’s expropriation, and it’s fucking ignorant.”

The two of them walked through an automatic door, its greasy windows barely splishing open in time as they approached. Inside, the fluorescent lights flickered, emitting just enough light to reveal the long hallway through the mall. Several stores were open, but just as many were closed, including a Terry’s Big & Tall menswear. Apparently the destitute living in Old Detroit weren’t big & tall enough to keep Terry in the manner to which he expected.

“You’ll see,” Dallas murmured, his eyes tracking a small platoon of naked mannequins piled in the corner of an abandoned Stop-Wash laundromat. One of the mannequins had its head and one arm inside an open dryer, as if trying to escape the clutches of the plastic horde. “I’ve got some designers lined up. Once I get some,” he said, rubbing his fingers together, “working capital, I’ll go statewide. Maybe even get some distribution contracts in Canada – they’re always trying to please the towelheads.”

Chester stopped and full-faced Dallas. “That right there proves that you are a contemptible man. Towelheads? That’s racist bullshit and you are denigrating the struggles of a noble people. If I started waving cheese-fries around, or whatever your ignorant culture-destroying, religion-bashing, tree-burning people worship, saying that I could make a buck off your belief structure, you’d have a conniption fit. You would start holding committee meetings, and petition the newspapers, acting all affronted by the indignity. Fucking fuck-head fuckers.”

Walking in silence the rest of the way, they came to another automatic door, but this one had given up any pretense at function.  Dallas and Chester each grabbed a side and hauled it open, stepping through together.

“Yeah, but cheese fries are good,” murmured Dallas. Chester stopped and three-quarter turned, glaring at him for a few moments.

“You know, I can’t tell if you’re fucking with me, or if you’re a serious motherfucking retard.” Dallas shook his head, and then turned back, and they entered the alley. Turning to the left, they approached an unmarked steel door.

Chester straightened his leather jacket, unzipping it slightly. The hilt of his Smith & Wesson revolver was just visible. Taking the cue, Dallas patted the holdout in his combat boot, adjusted the Bowie in his belt, and removed the Desert Eagle from the back of his pants. He ejected and checked the clip, replaced the ammo, and then worked the slide and replaced it under the back of his studded leather jacket. Chester slid a pair of DG sunglasses over his eyes, and nodded at his companion. Dallas ran his hand through his shaggy hair and nodded back.

The door crashed open beneath Chester’s hard-soled boot. Dallas slid in and immediately grabbed the sole occupant of the room, a ratty greaseball, by the lapels. “Where’s the package,” he said mildly. Chester also walked in, his hands loose and ready.

The greaseball stumbled backwards in Dallas’ grasp.  His unwashed hair fell over the shoulders of his bowling shirt, half covering the logo of the Stevenson Mill Stevedores, which seemed to be an I-beam pushing a black ball. His hands pushed deep into his tattered and stained blue jeans, and he grasped something.

“Dog!” exclaimed Chester, “what the hell is that…” as alarms began ringing like it was a firehall in the 1950s, drowning out his question. The room had a counter along one end, and a stack of ruddy, cardboard boxes in the corner. At the back of the room was a short flight of stairs with a metal railing leading to another metal door. The word “Exit” was emblazoned in strangely crisp, black lettering. Behind the door, they could hear someone yell, a crash, and then boots running up corrugated metal stairs.

Dallas pulled out his Desert Eagle and clocked the greaseball in the temple. He spun to face the door as the bowling enthusiast slid bonelessly to the floor. Chester took a few steps to the right and behind a stack of boxes, hiding his silhouette from the incoming mob.

The door burst open and a large, fat man filled the doorway. An explosion like a rocket launcher erupted from Dallas’ hand cannon, and the fat man stumbled backwards, arms flailing. A mohawked woman behind him tried to hold up the falling fat man, but they both tumbled to the floor. Behind them, two men in surplus military jackets, one a GI and the other apparently an air force colonel, were aiming their own clunky, eastern European looking semi-automatics. Chester’s revolver fired twice and both men tumbled backwards over the railing and fell out of sight.

With a yell, Dallas ran forward and punted the mohawked woman’s head with his combat boots, a spray of blood and skin arcing up into the service bay beyond. The fluorescent lighting, also flickering, illuminated a tumbling ear in seeming stop motion as it sailed end over end and stuck to the empty rack of an absent fire extinguisher with a meaty slurp.

Below him, about two dozen men cocked shotguns, hunting rifles, handguns, revolvers, and at least two submachine guns and lifted them in his direction.

“Shit-cock-motherfucker!” yelled Dallas, as he dove to the side. The area erupted in fire and sparks as a volcano of lead erupted from below. Chester hid behind the metal door frame and waited it out. When a pause erupted, he heard Dallas say “shoot the tanks” from far off to the left. As Chester stepped into the doorway, he heard Dallas run haltingly along the walkway firing his gun up in the air at the sprinkler heads. The sea of guns was swiveling to Chester’s right towards the distraction and he spotted the propane tanks behind a table filled with chemical paraphernalia. He fired once.

Chester found himself lying on his back amongst crumpled cardboard boxes, looking upward through billowing smoke and hellish firelight. Unsure what happened or where he was, he looked around. A familiar looking greaseball was lying on his side in front of a counter, blood leaking from the side of his head. Behind him, underneath a shelf, was a steel-blue box, the icon of OCP stenciled in yellow lettering on the side. “Hey, the package!”

He stood up, and looked at the doorway where Dallas was stepping in. He had one finger in his ear, and his Desert Eagle was hanging from his left hand by the trigger guard. His left leg looked damp, but it was raining in the inferno in the service bay.

“Did you say package?” Dallas murmured.

Chester stood up and retrieved the steel box. “How long was I out?”

“I don’t know man, I just came to.”

The door to the alley crashed open. An armored cop stop there. Literally armored. Titantium alloy covered his arms, legs, and torso like a sort of robotic second skin. His face was partially covered by an integrated helmet, leaving only his human looking lower jaw visible.

His right leg opened and a huge handgun was ejected into his hand, which he aimed at Chester. “Your move, creep,” the cyborg said. Chester looked at Dallas, who returned his glance. Dallas raised his gun, spinning it around the trigger guard and into his fist. The sound of an industrial zipper erupted from the cops gun and Dallas’s hand vanished in a cloud of blood.

“Dead or alive, you motherfuckers are coming with me.”  Chester dropped his revolver, and with a slight pause, the OCP box. Huh, he thought, maybe this thing is cursed.