Tag Archives: pirates

Not really an oracle

You have to admit, life has been strange for a while now. I’ve been fighting with technology, old and new. Working from home, and all the learning curve that entails. I wish I really were an oracle, maybe I could make some kind of plans for the future. Here are a couple of interesting things that have happened across the last year. I’m not ready to pick lottery numbers or dive into the stock market, but they’re kind of crazy.

Back in September, on Friday the 13th, I released Viral Blues. This is a story featuring Lizzie and The Hat, and deals with tampering of the nation’s vaccine supply. Not quite the same thing as COVID-19, but maybe it’s just circumstantial. There is localized quarantine in the story. This is dark humor, so I’m not sure anyone is ready for that right now.

I released Grinders on February 18, 2020. This one is a cyberpunk tale that projects what I was seeing at the time into the future. It has cyber-shut-ins in the story. These are people who never leave home. They work from home. Play and gather online. Even take advantage of deliveries for every personal need. I had no idea we’d be living this mere weeks after I published it. It’s kind of starting to creep me out.

Recently I’ve been drafting HMS Lanternfish. This is the second book of a series about pirates in a fantasy environment. A gunpowder fantasy if you like that term. I don’t have a link for this one yet, but here is one for Voyage of the Lanternfish, book one in the trilogy.

A big part of the story is the environment they live in. This leads to what gamers call random monsters on occasion. The first book had a creature called Buwaya. This is like a mashup of a crocodile and a dinosaur. She walks upright on land. She never appeared in the story other than via some vocalizations and stories.

Part of her story is that one day her mate just swam away. Aptly named, Buwaya’s mate, appears in HMS Lanternfish and is a bit more active than she was. (Naming kind of reminds me of Grendel and Grendel’s Mother.) Here is the weird part. Scientists have just discovered a fossilized trackway in present day South Korea. It provides conclusive evidence of crocodiles who walked upright on land. I swear, I didn’t miracle this into existence somehow. It provides some of that reality I try to bring to my speculative fiction. I’ll take it.

Maybe they were in shallow water, and the article didn’t address that. I’ve seen photos of crocodilians standing up in the water with only their nostrils above the surface, but this doesn’t sound like what they discovered. There were no tail-drag marks like you would expect.

Maybe something like this? Maybe not?

If you’re interested, you can check the article here https://tinyurl.com/y7xxu96c

I wish I were an oracle, and these were more than blind-assed luck. I’d find a way to sell a few more copies of these books, and to end this infernal lockdown without making everyone sick again.

The only draft I have going is The Ballad of Mrs. Molony. This is a new book for Lizzie and The Hat. After that, my focus will move to publication and promotion for the new stories. I’m going to take a break from drafting new material to work on some storyboards.

With my recent string of luck, maybe we’d all be safer if I avoid anything too futuristic for a while. I have one historical piece I could move on next. Or there is the post apocalyptic tale I have roughed out, but it includes autonomous zones and some things you might not want me poking with a stick.

I’d appreciate it if you’d check out the links above. I think these are all good stories, and you might find something that appeals to you. You can also read about the scientific discovery and that might spark you to try out Lanternfish.

What weird circumstances have you stumbled across lately?

33 Comments

Filed under Writing

Poking my head above ground

It’s about 10:00 a.m. as I start this post. I just finished the draft of HMS Lanternfish. It’s one hell-of-a-lot bigger than I wanted it to be, but it’s all good stuff.

This is where I start contemplating the old phrase, “Kill your darlings.” It’s an important concept in fiction. Today isn’t the day for that. Today is the day to savor the moment and not dive into something I’m not ready for.

One of the things that occurs to me right now is that every stop the ship made in this adventure involves something important. Every stop does something to advance the story in one way or another. If I start eliminating chapters, characters, or scenes, the story will lose something. If I eliminate some of the monsters and such, it will change the world Lanternfish is set in.

Honestly, in science fiction or fantasy, 120K word volumes are common enough. I didn’t hit that watermark, but I’m not far off.

Only a few of you will know what I’m talking about here, but you can get it from context. If I eliminate Fēngbào, the bringer of storms, or the Omcrom, the story will lose something. Besides, I have a cool Lisa Burton poster on order that involves Lisa vs the Omcrom.

The critique and editing phases always tend to reduce words to a degree, so the count will go down in a small way.

I might eliminate some characters, but who? There are some that were barely used in this volume, but will have a bigger role to play in the final book.

This is why I’m not doing it today. If I send a chapter per week to my crit group, it will take weeks for them to see the end. I have some specific work to do after that, then I always read from start to finish one more time. At this pace, I’ll be lucky to have it out by August.

Somewhere in there, I need to finish The Ballad of Mrs. Molony, too. That ought to clear my head for the Lanternfish read. My hope now is to have Lanternfish out in time that it doesn’t interfere with releasing Mrs. Molony for the Halloween season.

I need to be content today. Show a bit of patience, then turn my attention to the critiques I received over the weekend. I also have a submission to mark up for a partner. Back to the regular grind, tomorrow.

35 Comments

Filed under Writing

The weekend warrior

I work during the week, so I have to get my word count on my days off. I’m blessed to have a flex schedule that provides me with an extra day off each week, but it moves around. Sometimes my word counts seem high when I write about them, but if you spread it over a whole week they aren’t any more extraordinary than anyone else.

Today was a slow start for me. I slept in, spent some time for social media, and wasn’t generally feeling it. I also wanted to enjoy my coffee and Old What’s Her Face is off today. I decided to wait until she took the dogs for her coffee, then play ball with them.

It was about 9:00 before I got started. This is the middle volume of a trilogy, so my ending needs to have a complete disaster, while preserving that glimmer of hope they can deal with in the final volume. Yeah, it’s kind of formulaic and I own that. If it works, it works.

My writing turned out to be about a chapter and a half of solid action, and I slightly “told” small bits of it to keep the burner on high for the whole thing. If you think about a city being invaded by an enemy, you need to skip some of the running and hiding and stay with the action. I also included multiple points of view, because it’s a geographically large event.

Even after all that, I still haven’t finished the story. I need to write what is called a sequel to deal with all the things that happened. Staci Troilo is writing an excellent series about that process over at Story Empire.

The crew is in another new location right now. A bit of world building fits in with the flavor of the story. If I’m good, I’ll have one of those inspirational speeches that can lead us into the final volume. I know what remains to include in the story, and where it winds up, but I’m still trying to get there. I’m relatively certain I’ll finish it before I go back to work on Tuesday.

My short story critiques are all back, so I have to deal with those, too. This story needs some work, but it exists and that’s the hard part. Tweaks and repairs aren’t so difficult, and it is a short story.

I’m pretty happy with this Lanternfish tale, but Sundays are hard to get much done. I have other things I regularly do on Sundays. That might be the best day to deal with my short story. Monday will provide a great opportunity to wrap up HMS Lanternfish.

31 Comments

Filed under Writing

Missed it by thiiiis much

I hit it hard this weekend. I was so close to finishing H.M.S. Lanternfish I could taste it. Needless to say from the title, I never made it. I blame Rusty, but let’s concentrate on the positives.

I just received critiques back on one chapter, but have about three more written. I also received cover art, and followed this up with ordering the first Lisa Burton promotional poster.

My short story is in the can, but I need to pass over it one more time, then get some other eyes to check it out. I already checked with them, and they’re on board. I’ll probably send it out PDQ. I still need to figure out a title.

Inside Lanternfish, I have a lot going on in these closing chapters. There’s a bit of intrigue and some crazy things, too. I’m going to end it with a lot of daring do, and kind of a disaster at the same time. This is going to be a challenge to pull off, and maybe it’s good that I ran out of time. It might be best to tackle this when I’m fresh so the balance comes out well.

Remember when I said the middle volume of a trilogy is usually the shortest one? Yeah, I was wrong. This one is going to be every bit as long as the first, and may exceed it to a small degree.

All combined, I hit about 9700 words over the four days. That’s nothing to cry about. I’m down to counting weeks before I can send it to my formatter and think about publishing. Honestly, I’m probably about six or seven weeks out. That’s mid-July sometime.

That timetable will depend on me, my mentors and helpers, and Sean Harrington with the promotional posters. It may seem absurd, but I’m already concerned about my ability to have The Ballad of Mrs. Molony available for the Halloween season.

I think I’ll make it all work, and while Lanternfish is aging, I can add words to Mrs. Molony. I need to avoid taking on any more projects and it should be fine.

It’s fun to lament the completion of the draft, but honestly I couldn’t be happier. Even though I lost some time on Saturday and Sunday, I wouldn’t trade a visit with my daughter for a few more words.

Hope all of you had a great weekend whatever you were doing.

36 Comments

Filed under Writing

A glorious writing day

This had to be the longest work week in history. It added to my back problems, because I had to spend the entire day yesterday in an uncomfortable chair to attend a Zoom meeting.

I doubted my ability to even get out of bed this morning, but I made it around 7:00. I think the Woodford Reserve helped last night, because I slept like a baby.

Frankie was a little shit most of the morning. She’s really smart and calculates things. She wanted Otto to play outside with her, but he’s figured out her nonsense. She spots an imaginary squirrel, then paws the door with urgency. She runs out all excited, but he watches from the doorway.

Now she’s added me to her game. It was cold, but I’d let her out enough times that I left the door open so she could come and go. She started coming to me in a lather. She stomps her front feet back and forth, makes a Chewbacca noise, then runs to the door… but the door is open.

I decided that maybe someone threw a ball over the fence or something and she wanted me to see it, so I stepped outside and played right into her evil plan. Otto always goes outside if I do. As soon as he stepped onto the patio, she jumped him. I was just a device to get Otto to go outside. I really wanted to write, but you’ve gotta stop and laugh at that.

The Lanternfish crew was in the wake of a large sea battle that introduced some new elements into the story. Today was about what’s known as a sequel. If you haven’t been reading Staci Troilo’s excellent series over at Story Empire, you’re missing out. Here’s a link to the first one.

Stories have a kind of ebb and flow that I’ve always thought of as waves. The crest of the wave is all cannons, fire, and action. The valley between waves is about recovery, regrouping, then forging ahead to the next crest. They’re more properly called Scenes and Sequels. I think the naming is unfortunate, and prefer my wave analogy.

The crew completed their primary mission as privateers. They delivered their goods to the Admiralty. From this point on, everything changes. It’s more dangerous, riskier, and I hope I can pull it off.

One of the weird things I love is an outfit upgrade, and I wrote two into this chapter. One involves passing Yoshiko off as a princess to Western minds. She is a princess, but it isn’t that big of a deal in the East. The hope is the Westerners will fall all over her.

The other involves General Serang. You guys remember Serang. She’s come a long way since her origin story, and her appearance in Voyage of the Lanternfish. Just to refresh your memory, here is Lisa Burton posing as Serang.

Lisa Burton

I really like her makeover, and as she steps to the dock ahead of her army, everything is different. The only things she kept are her weapon, and that rockin’ hat. Sadly, she just marched out of this story. At nearly 96,000 words, the final chapters are all about James and the Lanternfish crew. She has a big role to play in the final book of the trilogy.

Makeovers are a great way to announce a change has happened. There’s something new here. If you like superhero movies you’ll see them used all the time. Two characters, two visions, one of grace and loveliness, the other of power and strength.

Anyway, I’m pretty happy with it, but it may need some fine tuning. Today’s word count comes to about 3200. A very good kickoff to my four day weekend.

If you’d like to check out Serang, you can find her origin story or Voyage of the Lanternfish on my Amazon Page.

41 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

A long weekend

I took Friday as a vacation day, and Monday was my flex day. This was just what I needed, to be honest. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t productive, but I didn’t hit it full speed either.

Start with Friday. Old What’s Her Face had to work, so this was my writing day. I tried to hit it hard, because I didn’t expect a better opportunity. I wound up adding 4100 new words to Lanternfish.

I’ve been setting the stage for some of this for a few chapters now. I started to reveal the con job my crew is going to have to pull once they arrive in the war zone. I also have some seeds that haven’t sprouted yet and look forward to those chapters.

Then I sent Lanternfish into a hot welcome in the form of two Hollish warships. With their little fleet, only Lanternfish is capable of defending herself, unless there is an even older battle tactic that might still have some life in it.

I also finally introduced my ghost into the story. This is an old Japanese legend, and honestly, Japanese ghosts are scary as hell. This involves haunted items. I did a ton of research on them, then made my own up to fit the framework. The result was bloody and gruesome, and I’m well pleased with it.

A root monster earned a name (kind of), and they made a mistake involving a golden phallus. Have to keep some of the humor going here.

My wife was off Saturday and Sunday. We’re doing our best to stay home, and did small things around the house. I pruned my Asian pear a bit, and have more to go. I continued with thinning its fruit. I should have sprayed it for coddling moth, but haven’t done that yet.

We turned on Disney+ and watched the new Star Wars movie. We went to it in the theater, but now that it’s that simple we decided to watch it again.

I dabbled with other writing projects, adding a few words to my short story, and a few more to Lanternfish. I’m debating parking Lizzie and the Hat now, until one of those gets finished. This is always a possibility, and it feels like time.

I had one goal for today, and that was to send a chapter of Lanternfish to my critique group. My iPad seems to have a haunting of its own today. When I selected the chapter, it froze up and wouldn’t let me do anything. I closed the app, and that will sometimes break the strangle hold. Not this time. It decided to arbitrarily delete the last two chapters I’d written.

Rather than throwing the stupid thing against the wall. I put it down and made a pot of coffee. About once a year, Old What’s Her Face buys me a can of chickory as a treat, and I used it. This gave me time to think. Apple just had an update and that could be part of my problem. Doesn’t solve anything, but it came to me in the kitchen.

Pages gives me options upon selection of a part of my work, copy/cut/ delete. Maybe it cut the section and was still on the clipboard. I could simply paste it back… Big nope. It had been deleted.

As a last feeble effort I tried the undo button. It restored everything that I’d lost, and I was able to copy and paste it for my critique group. It’s a miracle that I didn’t reboot the whole thing, which would have cleared the undo button.

Today was a possible writing day, too. I continued, but after my adventure, didn’t accomplish much. If you add on the dabbling with the short story and today, my whole weekend probably landed at about 5000 words. Good progress any way you slice it.

Tomorrow is working from home, and Wednesday I get my turn in the office. I have enough work for one day, but really need to go in for more files and such.

32 Comments

Filed under Writing

Life in the modern era

Things have been slow around here, but I don’t want you guys to forget about me. I wasn’t designed to work from home, but I’m doing it anyway.

There have been a lot of connectivity issues and delays, but I’m getting things done somehow. I was supposed to be in Savanna this week, but that got canceled. The conference went virtual, so I’ve been attending Zoom meetings like everyone else. It works, but doesn’t encourage a lot of interaction. Today is my flex day, but there was one meeting I wanted to sit in on late morning. This seems to be how it’s done right now.

I always get up early, so I had some writing time before I had to log in. I’ve been on a roll with Lanternfish, but I have samples out for critique. That made it easy enough to eliminate for today.

Nothing I do has a deadline, but I usually have a plan I want to stick with. I hope to get Lanternfish out this summer. You know I hate summer releases, but as book two of a trilogy, I don’t expect much from it until book three is released.

Then we have Lizzie and The Hat. Their current story is called The Ballad of Mrs. Molony. Again, no deadline, but I’d like to have it out for the Halloween season. These are short novels on purpose, and I already have 21K words. No pressure there.

That leaves the anthology story, featuring Jason Fogg. I managed a good 1500 words of it before I had to check in at the office. It’s a bit light for a flex day, but I feel good about it.

I’m writing this one without a storyboard, but at least I have a broad concept and some familiarity with the character. I even dreamed up a new way to take him out. I haven’t written it yet, but it seems there are a few ways to take Jason out. I froze him in his cloud form in an earlier story.

I was told to make this story 10K to 15K words and I’m off to a good start. I think they want it by mid-summer sometime, and if I chip away at it, I should make it.

After my Zoom meeting, I decided to thin Asian pears. This is easiest when they’re BB sized. I use a pair of scissors and go to town. I managed about 2/3 of the tree until my back said no more. I’ll probably prune it a bit, too. I don’t have to thin the branches I’m removing.

I don’t have a new picture, and hated to retire the cool frozen pond background, but it’s time. Winter is over. I’m recycling some bulldog brindle as a background for now. It makes a cool enough graphic.

As I type this, I’m in the process of acquiring some Hattori Hanzo steel in preparation of killing Bill. But first it’s time to get even with Lucy Liu. I think I’ll just bum out for the rest of the day

42 Comments

Filed under Writing

Back to the writing cabin

I got a decent start this morning, and didn’t take time to look at any social media. There is a particular section of the book I wanted to complete.

Lisa met me in the kitchen in her pirate garb, then followed me to the office. “Are you going to include the adventure with Waltus, or not?”

I’ve been toying with this section for a long time. It goes in, it gets cut, it goes back in, etc. The main issue boils down to a lot of making ready, setting sail, and traveling. The arctic is a fascinating place, but the interesting bits are few and far between. I know, I’ve been there.

I didn’t want it to be unrealistic, but have to keep the modern fiction reader in mind. I decided to include a bit of crush/romance because people on a ship are still people. Then I added Waltus back into the story.

People seem to love the root monsters, and their tales kind of reflect the truth, but aren’t documentaries either. Instead of living through the adventure, I had James come across the aftermath and ask what the hell happened. Flattop isn’t maybe as animated as the other monsters, but he did a good job filling his captain in about the attack by Waltus on the ships.

This all played out against a stark icy landscape that posed an obstacle to getting the ships where they need to go. I included some wandering around on the sea ice, and eventually found a laborious way to move all three ships. I stopped after moving the first one, but I have two more to go. I’ll likely shorten those parts up, because readers will have already seen that action.

It was 12:30 when I looked up. “Okay, Waltus is back in. I should probably work on my next Story Empire post.”

“I want to read it,” Lisa said.

“You’ll have to wait until I leave. I need to start researching my next post.”

“Killjoy.” The WiFi went down.

“What happened? I need to look up some data about the Guardian Archetype.”

“I turned it off.”

“Don’t be a brat. You can read Lanternfish after I leave. I need the Internet so I can get my next post ready.”

“Nope, I’m the Threshold Guardian. You can’t complete your task without appeasing me.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me! I can’t believe you… oh. I get it. Now turn the WiFi back on so I can rough out this post.”

Lisa smirked, then spun on her heels and left. The WiFi came back on, and I managed to rough out my post, and even found a decent graphic for it.

Old What’s Her Face and I have a combined errand trip this afternoon, and I might even get the post scheduled before the evening is over. It came to well over 3000 words of new fiction, but I didn’t keep an exact count again.

24 Comments

Filed under Muse, Writing

Ahhhh!

I spent yesterday clearing my plate of busy work associated with promoting Grinders. This worked out well, and other than a few tweets, I don’t have much to do on that front.

I also addressed the critiques for both stories, so that left me free to write. I opened the HMS Lanternfish manuscript and read my last chapter. After that it was off to the races.

I answered some questions about a ghostly encounter Mule and a couple of the other officers had. Since this is pseudo Asia, there are some awesome ghost stories to pirate from. I also set Mule up to have another one at a later time. I don’t know if it will happen in this book or in the next one, but this book seems more appropriate. It would be pretty easy to do either way.

A lot of research went into the world of Giapon. Not only ghost stories, but something cool called a turtle boat, too. James and friends are stuck with three ships now, which prevents his ability to leap magically ahead. He’s stuck sailing the old fashioned way. Obviously, I’ll free him to maneuver later on, but for now, this suits the story.

Perhaps the most fun part was putting Serang in charge of the turtle boat and all it’s inhabitants. These aren’t people who are glad to see her, but I like the way she handled herself. She also promoted herself, and General Serang is going to have some interesting adventures ahead of her.

I still need to iron out some details, then they’re going to be leaving Giapon. Other details can be worked out at sea. I had to stop because the general needs to assess her army and appoint officers. This is going to require me to do some research into names, and come up with a bunch of new characters. (As if Lanternfish needed more characters.)

I need to do a flashback to Serang’s past, but I can manage that at sea as they head north.

All this will be worth it when they get back to the actual war, and even the land war. I also need to come up with some fantasy ideas for arctic exploration, because that’s where they’re headed next. I’m trying to include some fantasy elements at every stop. I have the weird creatures on the floating island, the ghosts of Giapon, and I want to keep that coming.

I still need to work in a little surprise I have planned for James, the captain. This is going to be a fun plant that I can do many things with later.

I actually checked my numbers, because it felt pretty good. Today it came to 3800 new words. That’s a pretty great day by my standards. Yeah it probably needs some work, but it exists to be fixed now.

33 Comments

Filed under Writing

Got some things accomplished

Not having WiFi sucks, but now that I have a hotspot available, I decided to get busy.

I skipped out on most of my social media lap this morning, opting instead to address my work in progress.

My writing days always start by reading the last section I wrote, and this really helps when I’ve been away from it for a few days. The Lanternfish crew arrived in Giapon and got into a bind with the political upheaval in that country.

I picked it up from there, and approached this problem with more of a diplomatic approach. At 1.5 books in, they’ve blasted their way out of plenty of issues, so I felt like something else was in order.

Of course, this poses even more problems when it comes to reaching the ultimate war in Prelonia. They now have a third ship, and only Lanternfish can jump ahead and speed up the travel time. At this point, what’s one more when you have to sail the old fashioned way.

However, this new ship is full of disgraced soldiers, criminals, and even soldiers from the opposing side of their own local conflict. This is not going to be an easy group to manage.

It also poses the problem of not having enough veteran sailors. James has spread the Lanternfish crew thin by trying to man the two ships he has already. There is a small hope that some of these new people will have some sailing skills, but getting them to embrace the mission could be a deal killer.

In his mind, he’s acting as a privateer. The job is to provide war materials to his queen. They still have most of their captured gold. Add in two new ships, and possibly some soldiers, and it may be a successful voyage. Even if the soldiers serve as nothing more than cannon fodder, it could buy some time for the Prelonian forces he’s supposed to be supporting.

Oh, and I also wove in a ghostly encounter. It wasn’t much, but it turned out pretty cool. Every stop in this series has provided some kind of fantasy element, so why not Giapon. I’m still thinking about revisiting it for a bit more fun. I ought to be able to milk it just a bit more.

I didn’t do a strict word count, so I’m estimating here. I know where my last critique submission ended. I know about where I stopped writing after that. It isn’t perfect math, but it comes to around 2500 words today.

That’s a pretty good day by my standards. It’s going to need another 500 to 1000 words before I’m ready to submit the next section to my group, but it’s more than I had yesterday. Then, of course, I need to comb through it and try to fix all the stupid mistakes before I ask them to do all that work.

My “shift” ended with a short tour through blog land. I didn’t get to all of them, and many of you got a like and a tweet. I’m working without WiFi here, so I hope you’ll forgive me. I ought to be back online once the regular work week resumes.

Back to the paycheck job tomorrow. If I do manage to get WiFi back, my first priority has to be publishing Grinders. I had it earmarked for this weekend, but it wasn’t meant to be. Don’t give up on me here. Grinders is a fun cyberpunk story, and I think many of you would enjoy it.

35 Comments

Filed under Writing