Posts Tagged ‘fantasy stories’

I was just pondering what to write about today, when a terrific story came through my e-mail. Daily Science Fiction is the publication. Every weekday, they e-mail a genre short story. It’s really easy to subscribe, and the donation they ask for is ridiculously small.

Someday, I hope to get a story in with them, but not yet.

Anyhow, I loved the way the author used dialog to reveal the plot retroactively, and how funny and smart his characters are. That said, if you aren’t comfortable with teen romances and some gayness, you might want to give this one a pass.

The story is “The After Party,” by Max Christopher. Check it out here.

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or CounterSocial.

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As previously mentioned, I’ve resolved to push myself and submit my short stories to more places before giving up on them. You know what that means, right? Rejections are coming in.

Rejections are part of a writer’s life, and I usually try not to dwell on them. When one comes in, I just look for the next market to submit to. My goal is to submit to 5 places. That may not sound like much, but with markets quickly coming and going, it should be attainable.

With one of my stories, that’s going to be harder. It has a juvenile voice, but at 2,300 words, it’s too long for the juvenile magazine markets. So far it’s been at 3 places. I’m casting about for any more markets to try. If anyone has a suggestion, I’d love to hear it.

The other is more clearly for adults, so I have a lot more potential markets there. The first one I tried sent a generic “didn’t work for us” but then added they’d like to see more from me. I’m trying to focus on that, instead of the didn’t-work part.

One thing I’m observing already is that the responses are coming faster. Instead of mailing physical manuscripts back and forth, most publications now take electronic submissions. They are able to get through submissions in a couple of weeks, or even a day or three, where previously you would wait 3 months or longer to hear back.

Would be nice to get some acceptances, though!

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or CounterSocial.

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I’m glad (and maybe a bit relieved) to say that I finished the fifth draft of “Hag.” There still needs to be one more pass to look for typos and tweak my word choices, but it’s really almost ready. In a few more days, I’ll begin submitting to publications.

Everybody has their own way of deciding where to submit, and in what order. Should you submit first to the high-class markets? To the ones that pay best? Should you take a chance on lesser markets, or look for anthologies? Someone could run seminars on the subject. (And they probably do, honestly.)

My approach to this has changed over the past few years. It used to be that I was really chasing the traditional publishing route. I would spend hours combing through market listings, comparing the word rates and what kind of work they were looking for and how long the stories could be. At the end of it, I would put together a list and when I had a short story to submit I would go down in order, rejection after rejection.

The unfortunate thing is that I don’t write that much short fiction, so my list always seems to be out of date when I actually go to use it. Markets might have theme lists, or limited submissions windows, or they try to do a rights grab just because you submitted to them.

So these days, my submission process is a lot less formal. First, I look to see if the market is even open to submissions. Next, I check their guidelines to see whether my story would be a good fit for their approach. No point submitting to markets that don’t publish fantasy. Finally, I see what their word count is. I’m constantly finding that my work is too long for their needs.

Here’s where I confess that, like a lot of writers, I under-sell myself. Knowing how tough the competition will be, I skip the top markets and try first for the medium and lesser magazines. I also tend to give up after one or two rejections. Those are bad habits. I really should be pushing myself harder if I want to get any recognition.

With “Hag,” especially, the story is a little more substantial than my usual. When I’m ready, I’m going to aim for the top — as long as they are open to submissions, that is. I’m going to keep trying longer than a couple of weeks before I give up.

What do you mean, August is too late for making resolutions??

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or CounterSocial.

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Yep, just like a video game, I leveled up! That is, I completed the third draft of my short story, “Hag.” I had to abandon the second draft, which is something I hate to do, but the POV change just wasn’t working. This story was always meant to be seen through the eyes of the sarcastic old hag who keeps having to chase human intruders out of her swamp. I cut a subplot that was tangling things up, and got the hag daughter to say a bit more. Turns out she’s just as snarky as her hag mother. The poor young wizard who gets caught between them just hardly knows what to say.

The story still has a lot more work to be done. Basically, I’ve got the skeleton of the plot to connect and move properly. My next draft will make sure a couple of critical lines didn’t get cut in the transition, and then I can really start to flesh things out. In particular, I’ve been vague about what my hags are wearing. They swim a lot, so it has to be something that won’t drag in the water. I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

By the way, I have also been giving status notes on “Hag” on Twitter. One person there has been asking for a snippet. An unknown writer like myself doesn’t get many requests like that, so I put up a couple of paragraphs in a thread. Check it out, if you’re interested.

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or CounterSocial.

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Okay, it was a tiny sale. To a tiny market. And it’s more of a re-sale, since I sold two stories to this tiny market and they had to go on hiatus before publishing.

But the market is run by a friend of mine, and I want to support her. Plus, I want to see my work in print lots of places, not just in my self-published e-books. Sometime in January, I should be able to publish a link to my stories!

If you might be interested in submitting to a tiny market, it’s The Lorelei Signal and their guidelines are up.

Anyway, I’m calling this a win!

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or CounterSocial.

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As planned, I read my short story, “Transformation,” at Fall Folk Festival, along with a couple of selections from Aunt Ursula’s Atlas. The crowd was tiny, but we had a great discussion about “Transformation.”

When I began work on this story, I was riffing on the idea that a witch’s spells would start randomly coming apart. But as it developed, there was a really interesting dynamic between the witch, Madame Cariyu, and the village of Yoreville.

You have that sort of traditional hostility from the village priest, while at the same time it seemed that many of the residents were turning to Cariyu for help on a regular basis. It might seem like they exploited her magic, threatening to expose her “evil ways,” yet Cariyu may have been threatening them, as well. She did the favors they asked of her, knowing that she had a long list of clients she could expose as having consorted with a witch.

How important was the witch to her village? For one thing, her name is pronounced like “carry you.” That might be a hint. Plus, there’s that demon statue up on the hill. In any case, I hope you all enjoyed the story.

Coming up, I have a sort of blog tour in support of Dancer in the Grove of Ghosts. It starts Saturday, November 16, on the blog of David Lee Summers. Then on Wednesday, November 20th, I’m visiting Charles Yallowitz on his blog, Legends of Windemere. Next up is the Loveshade Family Blog on Saturday, November 23rd. I’m also planning a stint on C. S. Boyack’s Lisa Burton Radio, but that one isn’t scheduled yet.

Did you know I have an author newsletter? You can get it! I’ll even give you a free e-book for signing up. Just click here.

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Recently I mentioned that I seldom get story ideas from dreams. We authors are often asked this question. So here are some of the most common ways I actually do get story ideas.

First, let me revisit the dream/idea connection. I have gotten great story ideas from dreams. My middle grade novel Masters of Air & Fire and my novelette The Gellboar both were conceived in dreams. However, as mentioned, the dream story is often difficult to translate into a story that makes sense when you’re awake. Air & Fire started with the image of two dragons fighting and went through three completely different versions before one worked. The final book ended up being significantly different from the dream that sparked it.

Writing flows more easily when it’s based on something I hear or see. I once had a neighbor whose dog barked constantly. My son was little then, and he was scared that the dog would get out of its fenced yard. I ended up writing a children’s short story called “Moose,” where a kid had to get past a stray dog. Boys’ Life published it as “Moose on the Loose” in 2007.

Other books I read, movies I watch, and games I play can also inspire stories. I once read a Lovecraftian short story where evil trees drive people insane. (Wish I could remember the title and author, so I could credit them.) The story was totally creepy! But in the back of my mind, I was thinking, “One match would solve this whole problem.” And I ended up writing “Bonewood Forest,” which was published in Andromeda Spaceways around 2011.

My current novellas-in-progress sprang from the question, “What if Corypheus won?” (That’s a villain in a video game.) The setting immediately came to life as a dystopian fantasy where might makes right and evil mages trample the little people underfoot.

Here’s where I give you my call to action! If you’re a writer, where do you get your story ideas? Please share in the comments.

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Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my forthcoming fantasy novella, The Tower in the Mist. It introduces one of the most unique dragons I have ever written: the drakanox!

While writing this blog for almost seven years, I’ve learned about many dragons with different powers and traditions. One of the most interesting facets has been that some ancient dragons relied on poison rather than fiery breath. Fafnir, in particular, was so poisonous that he created an invisible cloud of lingering poison that killed everything within miles of his lair. In creating the drakanox, I pushed that concept even farther.

For your reference, Zathi and her squad of hunter-guards serve the evil mage, Dar-Gothull. They have captured a renegade mage, Ar-Keilos, and are marching him toward a fatal confrontation with their master. They have encountered a few obstacles…

Zathi didn’t like how the vegetation glistened with moisture all around them. This heavy mist had too much texture and it carried a faint, bitter odor. Jaxynne had asked if they should turn back. Zathi wanted that more than she cared to admit, but she held strong.

“No. We keep going.”

They needed the second ox, had to follow it no matter how far. That, or the day was wasted and everyone pushed the wagon. Between her legs, Spark was calm. He would have been acting up if he smelled something amiss. Zathi held to that for reassurance.

Still, the fog bothered her enough that a call from the back of the line was almost welcome.


Of course, it would have to be the mage. She turned Spark to see Ar-Keilos brushing past Keerin on Ember. Thersa stormed up behind him.

“Hey!” The guardswoman grabbed for his elbow. He deftly avoided her.

“I’m not running off.” Concern tightened his features. “Zathi —”

“I’ve told you not to call me by name.”

His shoulders sagged momentarily. “What, then? I’m not under your command.” Then he waved vigorously, as if shooing a fly. “Ugh, it doesn’t matter. We have to get out of here.”

“You’ll call me sergeant, and why should I listen to you?”

“Because it isn’t fog. Watch this.”

Ar-Keilos snatched a stick from the ground and poked at a cluster of needles on a low-hanging branch. Accumulating moisture weighted the branch down. As they watched, liquid rolled loose, but it didn’t spatter. Instead, it dribbled along the stick in viscous strands, almost like mucus from a runny nose.

“What the,” Razzet muttered from the rear, and Giniver said, “That’s not normal.”

The mage tossed the stick and waited, forcing Zathi to ask the question. “What is it, then?”

“We’re inside a drakanox.” His lack of smugness was almost more alarming than a smirk would have been.

“Bullshit. That’s just a story,” Zathi snapped. Her guardswomen were listening, gauging her reaction. The mage shook his head slowly.

“It’s real. Dar-Gothull used it to bring down Seofan Holl. I know you’re heard of the battle there. You might not have heard that the drakanox got away from him afterward.”

“Nothing gets away from Dar-Gotholl,” Thersa answered stiffly.

“It can turn into mist,” he answered patiently. “How would anybody cage it?”

There was a brief silence. The mage went on, “We minstrels heard that the drakanox is so poisonous that even when it turns to mist, the mist is deadly. At Seofan Holl their arms corroded and the buildings crumbled. It killed every living thing in the Seofan Valley and when it was sated, it turned into a river of fog and went into the Hornwood. They say it wanted to sleep. Or maybe to spawn.”

“Spawn?” Giniver wrinkled her nose with disgust.

“Dar-Gothull wouldn’t let go of a weapon like that,” Keerin objected.

“It was his. He created it,” Jaxynne added.

Zathi nodded. This was part of Dar-Gothull’s legend, a measure of his power and cunning that he brought such a monster into being. Vanquishing Seofan Holl had all but cemented his conquest of Aerde.

“He didn’t actually create it,” the mage rebutted gently. “There were tales of the drakanox long before his rise to power. Dar-Gothull simply made a bargain with the drakanox to fight on his side. Also, he wasn’t at Seofan during the battle or he would have been killed, too.”

“A bargain? You know nothing of Dar-Gothull,” Thersa hissed.

“All the tales agree, Dar-Gothull was in Dakadoz when the drakanox attacked Seofan,” the mage said. “He wasn’t there to stop it leaving, or extend their bargain, or whatever you believe the relationship was.” Again he waved his hand to dismiss the unimportant. “The fact remains, we’re inside the drakanox. We shouldn’t linger.”

The cold weight of decision settled onto Zathi’s shoulders. Ar-Keilos appeared sincere in his concern. Not surprising, since he would share whatever fate they encountered. Yet she didn’t want to take advice from a mage. Despite the appearance, he could be manipulating them.

Still, it seemed she had been right to bring him along. Being right… was a curse.

Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.



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And cymbals crash as the door flies open. Ta-da! Aunt Ursula’s Atlas is here.

So I’m super-excited, in my stoic way. After years of searching out markets for my retro fantasy short stories, I’ve taken the leap to self-publish a collection. It’s a little bit scary, but mostly fun, to bring out a book on my own initiative.



Cover illustration by Margaret Organ-Kean.

On a high shelf, in a hidden library,
There is a book of unknown wonders.

Open its pages. Explore mysterious lands.
See for yourself what lies within
Aunt Ursula’s Atlas.

So what’s inside?

Dragons, of course! And a unicorn. Some witches. A dryad. A dwarf. Thrilling adventures and hard lessons to learn. All this for $3.99.

Eleven short stories for middle grades — that is, grades 4 to 6. Half are in the fairy tale style you might remember from my podcast, The Dragon King. The others are an assortment of fantasy styles.

Where can you get this wondrous-ness?

Right now, it’s available only as an e-book. Trade paperback is in the works. It’s in Apple, Kindle and Epub formats, through a variety of outlets. I hope you’ll follow your favorite link and give it a try.

General purchase hub (links to Apple, Nook, Kobo, 24 Symbols, Inktera). Others soon to be available include Page Foundry, Scribd and Tolino.

And, of course, Amazon.

Not exactly a purchase link, but here’s Goodreads as well.

One last thing

Reviews! If you do buy the book, I sure could use some reviews. I’ll be contacting a few friends about specific publicity, but any one of you could add it to wish lists, mark it to-be-read, and otherwise help spread the joy.

Thanks for being so awesome!

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Another common way to name dragon characters is simply to string together some interesting sounds or bits of words. Truth be told, that isn’t much different than naming any other fantasy character or place.

Because dragons often are fierce, you might incorporate some of the harsher or sharper sounds. X, S, C and K come to mind. One of my friends pointed out last time that the more intelligent dragons will be naming themselves, and dragon speech might have a hissing quality that would call for SH, TH and CH sounds. Z and J give a more guttural effect. For a very large creature, rumbling sounds like R, M and N might occur.

Of course, there are the Pern novels, where every dragon’s name ends in TH. You can immediately tell if characters are human or dragon just from that.

One of my favorite techniques is to build off a piece of a word with some particular meaning. In the movie Dragonslayer, the dragon’s name starts with “verm,” a form of wyrm, which of course means a dragon. The second half, “thrax,” includes both TH and X sounds, and is a sound-alike for thrash, in the beating-things-up sense. You end up with Vermithrax, one of the coolest and most theatrical dragon names ever.

Of my own dragon characters, Carnisha contains “carn,” which is like the Spanish word for meat. Lythiskar includes “lithe” plus a sound-alike for scar. Cazarluun is a spirit dragon with a ghostly glow, so I worked in “luna,” a common name for the Moon.

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