Every Single One Of My Titles

Swooper or Basher? – Quote (77)


This is a VERY interesting quote, because it runs counter to popular creative writing wisdom. In conventional wisdom, there are no bashers; we are told we cannot bash and we must, as writers, always swoop.

I, personally, would be inclined to think of it as a scale, with a range between swoop and bash. Like a Kinsey Scale, rate it 5 at either extreme and 0 for those who do both equally. I’m a 3, maybe a 4, on the basher side. When I edit, I rarely do more than fix phraseology and grammar, and I only rarely cut and rework. If anything, I add elements for clarity and to underline connections between earlier story elements and later events.

I feel awkward when I try to swoop. I feel like I’m not writing my story, that I’m only making a big mess that will be a headache to unmess.

I would rather put a story aside than swoop ahead, and I often do, letting them sit for days or weeks or even months before the right continuation occurs to me.

I’m a basher, and if the ‘common sense’ of the creative writing community mostly doesn’t think I should exist, it’s a great comfort to know a writer of Vonnegut’s caliber recognized that writers like me do exist.

Originally posted on Mark Anthony Books:


“Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one.  When they’re done, they’re done.” — Kurt Vonnegut

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Why I Like To Write Dream Sequences


The unused first cover draft of Isolation and Other Stories. Isolation features a nicely creepy dream sequence, a scene from which is depicted here by artist and loving stepson Erik Elliott.

I really enjoy putting a good dream in a story. In a sense, of course, every piece of fiction is a dream, a vision the author has transmitted into the mind of the reader via the written page. That’s not the sense of it that I’m talking about here, though. I’m talking about showing the reader the dream of a character.

Dream sequences in fiction do not have a particularly good reputation. In television and films as well as writing, they are often seen as either being a corny, tired, old trope, or as being cop-outs in which action happens and then the audience discovers that none of that action really mattered. And the audience, generally, is not amused.

That in mind, I do not write dream sequences casually, nor do I use them often. They have to fit in the story logically; given their reputation, you can’t just cram one in there and expect not to be heckled for it. When I contemplate including one, I think hard about it. I second-guess myself. And when I return to the story to edit, I give the dream sequence a very critical eye.

And yet, I’ve included them in Isolation, as I noted above. There’s one in The Tomatoes Bloom in Winter, which also appears collected in Hunger. There’s one in Flayed, which I will likely be publishing in the next few weeks. I’m working on a story now, working title Empty Plastic Father, which opens with one. I’m probably forgetting one or two right now, too.

I’ve produced dozens of stories, and I can think of only five times I’ve written a dream sequence that stayed in the story after editing (I’m 99% sure the one in Empty Plastic Father is staying). So, caution is the word in writing dreams into a story. Why bother, if they’re so dicey to include, if they’re such tired old tropes?

Well, they’re great for adding personality to a character. What says more about you than your dreams? Carl Jung, I think, would approve of the dream sequence for revealing what a character is all about.

Dreams are great for foreshadowing and explaining a character gaining insight into a situation. Due to the way the human mind works, we often know more about things than we can hold and analyze in our conscious minds. We put puzzles together in our dreams, make connections that elude us when we’re awake. How many great discoveries in history have been made in dreams? And now that I’m writing about it, how many times have I been stumped on how to continue or conclude a story, slept on it, and awakened with my answer?

Dreams are also an opportunity to step outside the frame of the story for a moment. I don’t mean in a fourth-wall-breaking sort of way, though you could certainly do that if you were writing a fourth-wall-breaking sort of story. I mean that things can happen in a dream sequence that would not be credible in the frame of your story. For example, Isolation is a story set in a near-future world without any supernatural elements, and it reads like one. In the dream sequence, wildly unlikely and surreal things happen. At first they’re small things, and they grow larger and stranger as the dream advances. I couldn’t include them and the in-story insights they point to without breaking the readers’ suspension of disbelief, because in a reality-based near-future story like this one very little suspension of belief is required. And that leads me to a final caveat about the dream sequence.

I don’t think readers like it when a dream sequence gives no clue within itself that it’s a dream sequence; I touched briefly on this point at the start, and I’ll end with it because, as a writer, I think it’s a very important thing for a writer to remember. If you don’t drop some clues to your readers that they’re reading a dream sequence, then they read the whole thing as if it’s the main story, and then you throw their perception of the story into a cocked hat and they feel totally derailed. And probably half of them will throw your book into the corner with a muffled dammit and never pick it up again. They’ll wince the next time they see your name.

So my caution on using a dream sequence: give your readers a clue that they’re reading a dream sequence along the way. I recommend dropping some small hints near the beginning, make it a little plainer in the middle, and make it really clear as the dream comes to an end. That way, you accomplish several things: your reader doesn’t feel deceived and betrayed. Your reader has the satisfaction of figuring out for themselves that they’re reading a dream before you tell them. And your reader can appreciate the content and clues in the dream sequence because they haven’t thrown the book into the corner and cursed your dreaming name.

By The Fire — 100 Word Short-Short. No Ghouls Or Such, Still Creepily Suitable For Halloween.


At first, Suárez mistook the orange hair and beard among the shrubs for a reflection of his fire.

“Señor?” Suárez said. “Are you lost? I am.”

“Nice suit,” the rough stranger said, emerging into the light.

“I have money at home,” Suárez said. “Guide me.”

“I dreamt I’d scalp an Indian for a bounty tonight. But your Spanish hair will do as well.” His knife shone in the firelight, and he was upon Suárez.

The knife pierced Suárez, but he rolled into the fire. His hair burned orange in the night and he laughed.

When publishing goes wrong…Starring Undead Press


Stories like this one give me the willies when I’m submitting my own work to various markets… especially ones I’m not immediately familiar with.

This is a story that says, “browse your potential but unfamiliar market’s website (and Google them as well) for a bit, pick up their vibe… do they seem on the level and professional? Is anyone else talking about their experience with this market?” I have to say, I clicked through to Undead Press and wasn’t too impressed with what was presented there. On the other hand, I had just read this horror story…

Originally posted on :

You all know I’ve been ranting about my first ever publication coming out for the last little while… “She makes me smile” was picked up by Undead Press (Anthony Giangregorio) to be published in their anthology called Cavalcade of Terror and the book was released May 1st 2012.

I waited… and waited… I was SO excited to see my story and name in print.

One of my friends even went as far as to pay 40$ to Expresspost me a copy of Cavalcade, I waited around two days for the delivery. (Apparently I’m dealing with a buzzer issue here at the house.)

It finally came in and believe me, I didn’t waste any time ripping into the package…

FLIP, FLIP, FLIP… Find the Table of Contents.
Scan down…

…and my heart sank.

Wtf? :( There’s a spelling mistake in the title of my story. *(Not from my submission however… They…

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Six Word Story, Climate Change Edition


The beaches of his youth drowned.

A Baconless Dystopia –OR– I Find Your Lack of Bacon Disturbing


Looking back on my decades of science fiction reading, I realized a terrible thing: there’s not very much bacon in the future we, as science fiction writers, collectively imagine.

A few authors have baconed the future, but not many. It’s as if there’s an assumption that lousy for you fat-laden foods like bacon will simply vanish as we gain in wisdom and/or technological prowess.

Personally, I have a feeling that before too long we will have resident medical nanobot swarms dedicated to squeegie-ing the cholesterol off the insides of our arteries and flushing out the excess fat we humans put on in the course of devouring future (potentially vat-grown and cruelty-free) bacon.

There IS a place for bacon among the stars. Stop pretending there’s not, fellow science fiction writers!

Science Fiction & Fantasy Classics As Clickbait Headlines


First, the clickbait titles themselves. On page 2 (the link to page 2 is allllllll the way at the bottom of this page, under the related post thumbnails), I will post the title plus the book the title refers to.

That way, you can enjoy guessing which books the clickbait titles are ‘advertising’ before going to the next page to see if you guessed right.

The clickbait:

You Won’t Believe Why One Old Hobbit Walked Halfway Across The World

One Weird Trick To Becoming The Religious Icon of An Entire People (Hint: Kwisatz Haderach!)

You’ll Be Shocked When You Realize You Love This Genocide-Committing Murderer

The Most Embarrassing Reactions When Winter Is Coming

This Weird Old Trick Will Help You Defy The Book Burning Hordes

This Story Will Put You Off Pork Chops Forever

You’ll Be Shocked When You Find Out How Dangerous Lifehacks Really Are

This Zoned-Out Martian Hippie Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity

You Might Think Nothing Is Worse Than Ebola — But You’re Wrong

The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Read And Not Understand

How Bad Will Your Kids Screw Things Up? The Answer Is Worse Than You Think

One Grandpa Goes Green — You’ll Never Believe What Happens Next!

You’ll Never See America The Same Way Again After You Learn What One Convicted Felon Learned

Click over to page two below, and see the headlines matched up with their classic SFF titles!

Garbage Music: a Story About Listening, Understanding, and Things Beyond Words. Also, Australia.


A short story, about 5000 words.

Young Jacinta Jaara likes to sit by the old landfill mine and listen to the music ancient Neyerneyemeet plays. The music speaks of her of the old days, when the people of Australia were divided, before the war that changed everything. Soon, Jacinta’s curiosity will lead her to an even more profound change, a change of growth, learning, and understanding.

And there’s the blurb. You can preview the first thirty percent and decide if you’d like to shell out a paltry 99 cents for the whole thing on Smashwords — and I hope you’ll look. If you don’t look, how can I persuade you that you want to see the rest of the story?  :-)

Telling an Unlikely Story


One criticism of stories we see is something in the vein of, “this is too unlikely.” The reader finds the story ridiculous, outlandish, contrived, unrealistic, impossible, or other things the thesaurus might suggest that mean that the reader doesn’t think such events could occur.

It’s very easy for a writer to find themselves in the position of writing about things that seem less likely than hitting the Powerball grand prize every week for a month. Setting traditional genre divisions aside, writing about unusual events is a major genre and we’ve all read those stories. A hobbit just happens to stumble upon an ancient ring of power in a dark cave, that sort of thing. It’s a valid storytelling choice; you’re not wrong as a writer if you write about an event that really would be about as likely as being run down by a rampaging zebra in the middle of Siberia.

The trick is, of course, suspension of disbelief. If you’re going to write about stuff like that, you need to do it in a way that invites the reader to look away from the unlikely place because they enjoy the story more than they’d enjoy pointing and saying, “look at how silly this really is!” Consider that Bilbo finding the ring in that dark cave was as unlikely as that zebra showing up in Siberia right when and where you are. Consider that people have pointed out how unlikely that was. And consider how few people really give a damn even as they acknowledge that yes, it really was a ridiculously huge coincidence if you think about it. Saying ‘the ring is a powerful magical artifact and wanted to be found’ is an awfully thin veil for it, especially if you consider that it was already as mobile as it wanted to be with Gollum, if it had such wanting-to-be-found influence.

But we, as readers, don’t really care. Because it’s a damn good story. Tell a damn good story and you can get away with making it an unlikely one… as long as you don’t overdo it. Even Tolkien couldn’t have gotten away with putting a coincidence like the one we’re talking about in every chapter.

Swallowing Lies – a Flash Friday story


A fine fantasy flash — it wouldn’t have surprised me to see it in the virtual pages of Daily Science Fiction or the like.

Originally posted on Andrew Knighton writes:

‘Lying is an art,’ Falling Leaf said, pouring from the small earthenware teapot. ‘I do not go to such lengths for those I despise.’

Aoandon’s clawed blue fingers reached across the low table and closed around her teacup. Her lips parted, revealing a flash of teeth as sharp as her horns. Falling Leaf shuddered and fought down the instinct to flee. After all the pains and preparations to reach this point, she could not give up now.

‘Lying is as much my realm as any other story,’ Aoandon said. ‘It would help you little today.’

Falling Leaf straightened the folds of her second best kimono.

‘Is something wrong with the tea?’ she asked, noticing that the oni had not yet taken a drink.

‘Lying is one thing,’ Aoandon said. ‘Poisoning another. A matriarch will do much to rid her village of a menace.’

Falling Leaf inclined her head.

‘You are…

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