Tag Archives: writing

The Modern Dilemma

March 13, 2014 11:54 am by MRM in Writing

Once upon a time, I dreamed of a shelf address in Barnes & Noble. BN was a place I spent a lot of time growing up. When I started writing, I used to walk through the Sci Fi & Fantasy section and stare at my spot on the shelf. Considering the thickness the Mc part of the phone book (which was a thing when I was a kid), I was always surprised by how few Mc-authors there were. I’d look at where I would fit in alphabetically, and imagine my paperback there. I’d do it every time I went in a bookstore, and most of the time that was at Barnes & Noble.

That dream was far away back then. It required the right amount of talent, determination, and just plain luck to get noticed. Almost every successful mainstream author has tales of how many times they sent in manuscripts and got rejections, how many years they languished, and how that one lucky break was what got them in the door. The publishing industry was ruthless, massive, and monolithic. A few score people in New York decided the fate of pretty much everyone. Then the internet happened. I like the internet. In fact, I work there.

There’s a lot of talk in my industry about “disruptive technologies.” We love the term and the technology both. In Silicon Valley, everybody yearns to be the disruptor. Kindle is a disruptive technology. Last year, ebook sales beat physical book sales for the first time (at least on Amazon), and it’s unlikely to ever go back. More than that, it’s a wonderful disruptive technology. I love it. I read a lot, and I move a lot. Moving books suuuuuucks. Every time we moved, my wife would ask me “When are you ever going to read [insert book here] again?” When she asks about the 500 or so books on my shelf, it’s hard to explain. Of course I’m not going to read all of them again. In fact, I’ll probably only reread a select few. But… but… you just don’t get it. Kindle solved that problem for me. I take all my books everywhere I go. I even get the paper, and I don’t have a massively piling up stack of ads that weighs down my recycling.

Even more than that, the Kindle has disrupted the publishing industry, because having a monopoly on printing presses no longer means anything. The good and the bad news is that anyone can become a publisher at any time. Plenty of people have beat the drum about the proliferation of published books hardly worthy of the name, but I still hold fast to the belief that the democratization of publishing will ultimately be a good thing for the world.

But it all comes back to that first dream for me—that spot on the shelf in Barnes & Noble. It’s both closer and farther away than it ever has been. Closer because I’m a much more talented writer than I once was, closer because I have several books that have been in polish mode for a while now, closer because I’ve had agent interest quite a few times, but more than that, closer in that I can send anything out whenever I want. There is no more need to wait for that bolt-of-lightning strike. At the same time, it’s farther away because that shelf, that pretty little five-walled box of plywood and paperboard, means so much less than it once did. You still need the big publishers to get there, but their model is dying. It has been disrupted. And no matter how much that dream still tugs at my heartstrings, I don’t feel like waiting on a dinosaur.

I’ve read plenty of missives by writers I love about how their work went through rejection after rejection, and only after years of persistence did they finally get their big breaks. They were patient and persistent and honed their crafts until that one agent, that one publisher, finally took a chance on them. And now we have the Dresden Files, or the Otherworld Series, or The Name of the Wind. I’ve played that game as well, even while publishing Those Who Die Young.

It’s not the rejection that gets to me. I’m okay with being judged, and even with people passing on my work. It hurts, sure, but that’s part of the game. I’ve had more luck than most, and come agonizingly close to getting two of my books out there for real. No, rejection isn’t what I hate most about the Old Way. It’s the time. You send, you wait, and while you’re waiting, you don’t send anywhere else. Sometimes you check to see what they think, and they tell you just one more month…. The Old Way is too slow for the world today, and I’m tired of waiting while the world passes me by. If writing was my only profession, I’d have a ton of freelance work to keep me company and to put my name or byline out there. I’d glad-hand with people in the industry and eventually have that chance meeting that changes my life. I’d go to conventions and I’d pitch and pitch until I whispered my blurb in my sleep.

But that’s not my life. I’m not looking down on any of those things, and they’re probably all great advice for getting your work out there in front of the Guardians of the Old Way. I’ve tried to play the online version of that game in the form of innumerable blog-hopping contests and tours. Some of my closest calls to publication came from those. Still, I simply can’t spend all of my time doing those things. I have to actually write, and when I spend my working hours on a different job I love, something gets left out in the mix. When I was pitching, that thing was writing. It took me a long time to realize how wrong that prioritization scheme was. I’m not saying I’ll never do another contest or never go to a convention, but that’s not my way any more. The Old Way got disrupted, and I’m not going to pin my hopes and dreams on boarding that sputtering train.

I’ll miss the dream. I’ll miss that spot on the shelf, near Syne Mitchell and a few other early-M writers that I wanted to “sit” beside. But the truth is, I haven’t been in an Barnes & Noble in years. I don’t even know where the closest one is. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to read the paper on my Kindle.

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Blog Changes and a Brand New Year

January 4, 2013 9:55 pm by MRM in Code, Projects, Writing

A belated happy new year to one and all. It’s been a slow few months on the blog, so I’ll start by catching you up to speed on what’s been going on, writing-wise.

  1. Blackout is still under review by a small publisher. I should be hearing back in about a month, so I’m eagerly counting the days until the awesome/heartbreaking conclusion of that escapade.
  2. City of Magi – Volume 1 is soon to be entered into another pitch contest (Pitch Wars), this time with the help of the lovely and talented Rebecca Ann Weston, who is my mentor for the contest. She was kind enough to select CoM from the pile to be one of her alternates for the PW contest, so I’ve been editing the manuscript like mad to get things ready for CoM’s big debut.
  3. You may have noticed that I said Volume 1 in that last item. I have (very sadly) broken down and allowed City of Magi to be chopped in two. I still think it works better as one book, but I also really want to get published. Until I have dozens of books out there from professional publishers, there’s no chance of a first book being published at 250k words.
  4. TWDY 5 is ready and being edited. It’s actually been complete for months now, but time to edit has been scarce due to the holidays, a job change, and working on other projects.
  5. One of those projects taking time away from TWDY was Nightlives, my NaNoWriMo project (A winner! I even have the badge to prove it!) that turned out to be a lot of fun and definitely worth polishing to publish.

I mentioned some non-writing things that were exciting news too. In particular, I left my old job at Boeing and am now an Android Developer for ReverbNation in Durham, NC. They’re a really cool music industry tech firm that makes tools to help artists, promoters, venues, and everyone involved in the music industry. Their site is a great way to discover new music and find out about bands and shows near you. You can also embed songs on your own site, like this:



It’s a pretty cool place to work. We actually had a band (Delta Rae, very much worth checking out) in the office just the other week. All in all, it’s a pretty sweet gig. Changing from working at home to being a regular commuter (45 minutes… sigh) has drained a lot of time from my day that used to be spent writing, so I’ve had to get creative as to how to find time to keep moving with my projects. Not sure how I would have done NaNoWriMo if I hadn’t worked from home.

Outside of going blog-crazy for contests, though, I’ve been neglecting this site. Quite often I’ll think of things I want to sit down and write about, but it doesn’t seem all that related to writing, so I’ll avoid putting it on here. And that’s what’s going to change. I simply don’t spend enough of my bandwidth thinking exclusively about writing these days to maintain a blog solely devoted to my literary work. I do, however, spend a lot of time thinking about consumer electronics and software. I also do a lot of writing about politics, but for the time being I’ll avoid putting that here, as it has nothing to do with my books and has a higher likelihood of offending the occasional reader than does a rant about bad UI design. So, expect a fair number of posts in the coming months about techy things, along with more posts about stories and character development.

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A different pitch

September 20, 2012 8:56 am by MRM in Projects, Writing

Things didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped in the #GUTGAA agent pitch contest, and while I’m a little disappointed, I’m not too upset about it. There were a lot of great entries, and mine wasn’t the only one I liked that didn’t get picked. I’m also happy with the transformation in my pitch that occurred because of the pitch polish week.

Sadly, the agents were very busy with all the pitches—too much to give feedback except in the cases where they were voting. I’d love to know what turned them away from CITY OF MAGI… though… I have my suspicions. The other entries were very heavy on chick lit and romance (I was in the “adult” section), and the judges were very fond of the genre.

I was particularly perplexed by a type of comment I saw rather often (paraphrasing here): “The pitch really could be tightened up, and I was confused as to whom you were talking about at [some part], but the idea intrigues me and the first 150 don’t have the same problems, so you’ve got my vote.” It certainly isn’t the case that only romances and chick lit went forward, but… the existence of a plucky female lead frustrated by a rough-and-tumble lawman who is on her side but sort of isn’t at first… that certainly didn’t hurt your chances. I could have played up the romance between Grayson Kearney and Zia Locke in CITY OF MAGI, but I feel like that would be getting away from the true heart of the book, which is the fantasy and intrigue.

This sort of sounds like grumbling or sour grapes, but I certainly don’t intend it that way. I’m very thankful for the opportunity and wish the winners the best as they go forward. The GUTGAA pitch contest was the first time anything about CITY OF MAGI was read by agents, and this has been fantastically instructive for me. The biggest lesson that I can take out of this when I continue sending out CITY OF MAGI is to read up on the agents to whom you submit. Proud chick lit lovers aren’t going to instantly warm up to epic industrial fantasy. Urban fantasy was big in this contest too. I would actually love to know if it was the subject, the writing, or just the length that turned the judges off. I’m leaning more towards splitting the story in two when next I query it. It’ll break my heart, but perhaps it’s for the best. It also means the inevitable trilogy is two thirds done instead of only one third.

The contest has also given me a theory about agent submissions. They care a lot more about the idea and the story sample than the pitch. Agents are the ones who do the real pitches. If they have a really cool story idea and the writing is good in the book, it doesn’t matter if an author can’t pitch to save his life. The agent will write a killer pitch to her contacts at various publishers. She’s the one selling it. A pitch to an agent, then, is only important in that it manages to pique her interest, not that it could get your book published. Of course, piquing an agent’s interest takes a well-written query… sometimes.

Sometimes you’re in luck and the agent feels like reading a sample anyway because they’ve never read a book where dragons are Indian-cow-style holy creatures that are also sort of a nuisance and are endangered by habitat encroachment, but the government doesn’t want to limit settlements, so it’s up to Caitlyn, who never wanted to be anything but a dragon biologist and wishes she could get out of the shadow of her famous, late, father, and is on the run from Agent Aidan Michaels, a gruff FBI field agent assigned to corral the dragon hippies but who just can’t take his eyes off of Caitlyn… okay… you get it. Also, I’m not writing a book about dragon hippies. Maybe a short story. But God help me if I ever name a main character Aidan. I’m pretty sure that name only exists in romance books. Hmm… this makes me want to do a quick check.

Names I have used for major characters:

Male – Grayson, Malcolm, Lear, Malloy, Alak, Remy, Ian

Female – Zia, Sundari, Pae, Erica, Mede, Quinta, Cindy, Srii, Susan

I don’t think there are any romance character cliché names in there. Maybe Remy.

In any case, #GUTGAA is far from over, and a week from Monday they’ll be starting a different pitch contest, this time for small press rather than agents. I’m going to take a cue from the above and pitch a different book this time. I’m going to go with BLACKOUT. It’s not as polished a manuscript as CITY OF MAGI, but it’s complete and is a much different story. It is urban fantasy, has religious overtones (another thing I noticed was popular), and is much, much shorter.

Without further ado, here is the first draft of my pitch for BLACKOUT.

Title: Blackout

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Word Count: 98,477


They say God doesn’t ask more from you than you can handle. Well, they never got drafted into a millennia-long battle because the angel of death needed a new body for his foot soldier. Malcolm Anders is a teacher and a part-time gymnast, at least when he isn’t covering up evidence at the site of a body he woke up over. He clings to threads of the life he crafted for himself, every day getting closer to having it destroyed by a spirit, Saraqael, who never asked permission to wage his holy war in Malcolm’s body. Saraqael costs Malcolm his stability, his plans for the future, and the woman he thought he’d be with forever. He seeks the help of a priest to get his life back, but what they discover only draws Malcolm deeper.

The demon Andras, Saraqael’s eternal foil, has chosen Philadelphia for this century’s uprising. His infernal legions possess the weak, the angry, and the criminals. With an army of demon-possessed soldiers, Andras plots to disrupt the divine plan and begin Armageddon before the world is ready. Using Malcolm, Saraqael hunts down Andras’s legionnaires one by one, as he has over the centuries. When the demons discover Malcolm’s identity, though, they bring the fight to him and kidnap his friend and wannabe lover, Pae, inspiring Malcolm to change the rules and bring Saraqael into his waking mind. Together they fight to save Pae, Philadelphia, and the world in a city that doesn’t even know it’s under siege.

First 150:

I snapped out of it Thursday morning with a pain in my jaw. Someone had punched me in the face. The adrenaline coursing through my veins was all too familiar. Damn it. Again? The man underneath me moved. Wait, he wasn’t dead yet? I don’t usually come to until it’s all over. My victim clawed and scraped at the ground, desperately reaching for… oh shit, a gun. So much for trying to stop. My hands were bloody already. I hit him hard in the back of the head. It was frighteningly exhilarating. Despite my history, violence is kind of a new thing for me. Blood splattered out beneath him. Something snapped. He screamed.

Why? Why can’t I just go out to a movie like a normal person—a normal person who goes right the hell home after the show ends? I hit him again. I’d like to be merciful, but chances were that he didn’t have much left anyway and it’s not like I could just get up and apologize.


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Gearing up to get an agent

September 3, 2012 12:10 pm by MRM in Writing

Hello and welcome to all fellow #GUTGAA participants and my regulars. It’s been something of a tumultuous year for me, both writing-wise and life-wise, but I’m getting back into the social side of writing and getting query letters ready for my manuscript to finally send it out and make a push for publication. In between finishing the polishing of my book and now, I simply couldn’t help myself from writing a completely different book, several issues of my web serial, Those Who Die Young, and toying with ideas for a third full novel. It occurred to me that I had to take a step back from writing new stuff to put out the books that I’ve finished, so here I am. I also bought my first house, ran three marathons, and went through a handful of other changes in how things go day-to-day.

To get back into the blogging habit, I joined another blogfest, which worked great to get me a-blogging the first time around (see all my old posts tagged REN3, which I loved). This one is called Gearing Up To Get An Agent, giving rise to the awkward acronym of GUTGAA. It’s actually the perfect blogfest for me, as that’s my main goal in writing right now and something I’m doing anyway. Thanks to Deana Barnhart for hosting!

Today is just the meet & greet, for which we’re supposed to post a brief bio and answer a few questions. Without further ado, questions first:

  • Where do you write?

I write in my living room, legs extended on the couch, laptop in proper lap position. I have an espresso lungo at my side and a corgi curled up at my feet. There could be lots of distractions, but in the morning I have everything off and the house to myself.

  • Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?

To my left is a picture my wife bought of Pioneer Square in Seattle taken in 1905. It’s always interesting to look back into the past like that. It’s been a few years since we’ve been to Pioneer square today, but it’s a different world now.

  • Favorite time to write?

In the morning before work. Writing for an hour is part of what I do to get my head in the right place before I walk over to my office.

  • Drink of choice while writing?

Espresso lungo. I usually have one or two while writing for an hour in the morning.

  • When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?

I’ll often play some music, either Chinese symphony or Medeski, Martin, and Wood. I can write with noise, but not if the television is on.

  • What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?

My latest manuscript (not the one I’ll be talking about in the pitch part of this blogfest, because it’s not polished yet) was inspired by a writing dare to myself. I’ve never written in first person POV before, so I wanted to try that. When I sat down to write a scene, I was thinking of cliches. One of the most cliche things you can do is start a story right after a murder (unless you’re writing a murder mystery, in which case this is forgiven). It’s also incredibly cliche to start a story with someone waking up. I decided to one-up this level of cliche-dom by having a scene that starts with a character waking up during a murder, just to see if I could make it work. Obviously, if he was the person getting murdered this would be a short and morbid story, but I thought it would be more fun if he was the killer. And I also thought it would be more fun (and less cliche) if, instead of being surprised or horrified, his reaction was "Damn it, not again." I loved the scene so much I made a book out of it.

  • What is your most valuable writing tip?

Write the scene you know. I never would have finished the manuscript for my best novel if I had given in to my impulses to stop when I didn’t know what happened next in the story. I might not have known what happened in the next scene, but I knew what happened several chapters later, and I went ahead and wrote that. It’s easier to connect two disparate points in time when you know what happens at either endpoint than it is to push forward not knowing where you’re going.

That’s all for the questions. As for my biography? I’m a thirty-one-year-old software engineer from North Carolina who loves reading and writing science fiction and fantasy when I’m not reading and writing in code. I’ve been writing for a little over a decade now, and only last year completed my first manuscript. This year I completed another. I’m also the author of an ongoing ebook serial, Those Who Die Young, which is currently for sale wherever fine ebooks are sold.

My interest in writing started back in college when I was editor of a student publication, though there I did more news and opinion writing than fiction. As I drifted into graduate school, collecting a handful of accidental degrees before settling on computer science, I started really believing I could be a writer and putting more effort into polishing my craft. I’m married to a  wonderful woman who is a fantastic critic when she has the time, and I have a Pembroke Welsh corgi who does everything in his power to stop me from writing if he hasn’t been exercised enough before I start. Jerky sticks can distract him, but only sprinting in circles for fifteen minutes can truly satisfy him.

I’m excited to meet all of the other GUTGAA participants out there, and I want to give a special thanks to one of them, Meredith Mansfield, without who’s heads up I never would have known about this.

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No, I have not retired from blogging (and other news)

So… yeah, it’s been a while. Over a month, actually, which is impressive and disappointing, given that I started this blog with the intent of posting at least twice a month. If you look at the archive, I was pretty good about that. What happened? Well, November happened. November was the heart of my marathon season, during which I ran two half marathons and one full, so that took up a good bit of time. Also, November was holiday-tastic, with an extra family-related unexpected vacation to spare. It was also “Holy crap I wanted to get Trial and Error out on December first and there is so much editing to do” month. TNE took its time getting ready, but I’m really happy with the way it turned out. Issue 4, Bloody Mess, will hopefully be out in January, with Issue 5 in March. This comprises the last of what I’m calling “Volume 1” of Those Who Die Young, and while it by no means is the end of the story, it will mark the conclusion of a major story arc. I think of it as my season finale.

Curious things happened with my pricing in the month of November as well. In a run-up to the December release of Trial and Error, Shelter From the Storm and Bearers of Bad News were both dropped to $0.99, from their $2.99 height. I have previously addressed my decision to move to the $2.99 price point. It wasn’t one I made lightly, as I felt forced into making that particular choice by the bizarre cutoff value for a 70% revenue split as opposed to 35%. The latter is all you can select if you price your book outside of Amazon (and other booksellers’) predefined sweet zone of $2.99 – $9.99. I always thought the “natural” price of an issue was $1.99. Two bucks felt right for one episode of TWDY, much as it feels like a good price to pay for an hour-long serial television show to me. The problem was that, at $1.99, I get approximately $0.70 per sale, even on Smashwords. At $2.99, I get $2.00. The craziness is self-evident: by raising the price a dollar, I make more than a dollar more. I really hate that. I want to price it based on what I feel it ought to be worth, not a gimmicky formula agreed upon by the great brain-trust of all eBook sellers.

While I was thinking about that, it occurred to me that I’m not trying to do this to make money.  I really like writing, and I really want people to buy my stories. Why should price be a barrier? Hence, damn the formulae, I set Trial and Error to be $1.99. And I left the first two issues at $0.99. If you bought a copy at the higher price, feel free to email me—I absolutely will give you a code to get a free copy of the next or any future issue of your choice. I’m not trying to play the market or put higher numbers on early sales. As I said from the very beginning, writing TWDY is a tremendous joy, but it is also a tremendous experiment. Serial fiction is a strange thing to be toying with.

I did make one other change to my listings on Smashwords. I changed my settings for Shelter From the Storm and Bearers of Bad News to no longer say they have “adult” content. I’m not a big fan of the way that Smashwords filters it’s adult content, largely because they don’t have a sliding scale. It’s adult or it’s not. And although a hardened killer in Shelter does use the F-word when enraged, I don’t have graphic sex in the stories (I don’t actually have any sex in them yet, but I reserve the right for my characters to get laid). The criteria you’re supposed to use is whether or not it has material inappropriate for those under 18. Well… some parents wouldn’t want their kids to read a story that had even one curse word in it, and there is certainly violence in all three issues. TWDY isn’t appropriate for the Harry Potter target audience. However, if you go to Smashwords and turn off your adult filter, well, here are a few of the first things that pop up for me right now if I do so (without typing in any search words) : “Ms. Chanton’s Castle: Threesome in the Study,” “Locker Room Gangbang Quickie Series,” and “On The Floor: A Tish Adams Erotic Short Story – Episode #2.”

Actually, going there today had considerably less porn than usual. In any case, TWDY does not need to be cordoned off into the same section of the store as straight up sex stories (with all due respect to the authors of LRGQS, Tish Adams, and Ms. Chanton’s Castle"). No more “adult” setting for me. I wish they had a movie-style rating scale, so I could say that my books are somewhere near the PG-13/R border, depending on your sensitivities. Alas, it’s a binary scale, and I’m no longer rating myself as a 1.

In other news, I finally sent out the prequel short story to City of Magi to a short fiction magazine, so I’m quite excited about that. The book itself is still in revision, but I’m keeping a counter on how many chapters I have left to retouch. Right now I have 30 ready-to-query chapters and 33 left to go. Yes, it’s a really long book (250k words). I’m doing less slash-and-burn than I expected in the editing process. Of course I’m cutting out the unneeded parts, but I’m not axing entire chapters or characters like I feared I would have to do. I was careful on the characters I added and the scenes I wrote, and it’s something I can really stand behind.

There is one other minor commitment that has been keeping me from my blog, though that’s going to slough off as the days go on. Sadly, I was taken by the great geek apocalypse that is Skyrim. It is, hands down, the most addictive and enjoyable game that has ever been made, and it is a technical masterpiece to behold. I’m even more impressed that they created such an expansive game in this day and age and made it run well on low-powered machines like mine. My gaming/coding laptop didn’t used to be low-powered, but that was two years ago when I bought it. I’m hoping it has enough life left in it to comfortably play Mass Effect 3, and then it might be time for me to retire the old girl.

It’s a happy holiday season, and things are exciting in the writing world. I’ll keep you posted more often as things move along. During my holiday break, lots of stuff usually gets finished (City of Magi was completed in it last year).

Pick up Trial and Error on Kindle or Smashwords if you get a chance! It’s my favorite issue of TWDY so far, and it will only get better in February with Bloody Mess.

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Announcements, Radio Silence, and Projects

November 7, 2011 3:49 pm by MRM in Projects

I’ve been radio silent on the internets for a bit now. Funny things happen when you try to pay attention to the world. I’ve been involved with the #REN3 blogfest pretty heavily, and now that the contest has wound down a bit (there is still voting for the best overall story happening as of this post), I’ve gotten a chance to step back and reorganize my efforts.

First things first—publishing schedule. TWDY is progressing. And Issue 3, Trial and Error, will be coming out on December 1st, as planned (no delays so far and it’s been in edit mode for weeks now). In more unexpected news, I’m going to be making a price change to the first two issues of TWDY, with Issue 1 and Issue 2 dropping to $0.99 in promotion of the release for the rest of November .

After December starts, I will re-raise Issue 2 to its standard price of $2.99 (see my earlier post on pricing). Obviously, the goal is to get people hooked on the series as easily as possible. One notice about the price change. When it goes into effect will vary depending on where you purchase it. That’s because the e-publishing machines have different speeds. I presently publish in precisely two locations, Smashwords and Kindle. You can purchase via the iBookstore or the NookStore because Smashwords distributes there. Updates to the distribution channels only happen every week or so, though, and I can’t directly manipulate the price on Nook like I can on Kindle.

I’ve also been running a little bit recently, having finished the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco a few weeks ago and the City of Oaks Half-Marathon just yesterday. For NWM, I was just running for fun with my wife and sister-in-law, so we didn’t really press the time, but I did manage a PR in the City of Oaks, finishing in 2:04. I was aiming to break two hours, so I’m a little disappointed, but I should be able to break that mark on an easier course this spring. CoO is notoriously hilly, and the Tobacco Road half is precisely the opposite. Next week I’ll be running the Outer Banks full marathon, and the week after that I’ll be doing the Skinny Turkey half on Thanksgiving day (my excuse to eat whatever I feel like later that day).

All that running has taken some toll on my writing, and what’s fallen most behind is revision of City of Magi and final preparations on my short story (that I’ve been kicking myself to get out the door for months now). I’ll keep you posted on the progress of both here.

One last announcement: Though I’ve had the cover up for quite some time, the first issue of Joyriders is going to be delayed. I’ve just had too many things on my plate to also edit that first issue, and I’m committed to producing TWDY at a regular pace while keeping up my other current projects. It’ll likely end up a delay of a few months, as I get most of the editing for City of Magi complete and ship my short story.


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Secrets of Renaissance—Finale

October 26, 2011 12:01 am by MRM in Campaign, Flash Fiction, Writing

The end of the #REN3 blogfest is upon us, dear readers, and I’m sad to see it go. More than anything else, I learned that I can put a story into just 600 little words. I felt the limit this time more than any other, because I needed to conclude the action and get to the true meanings of the Oracle’s readings. I’m sad to see the Ren-faire stories end, but I’ve really enjoyed being a part of it.

Thanks to Damyanti, J.C. Martin, Lisa Vooght, and Stuart Nager for hosting such a fun story festival. If you haven’t checked out their entries and fantastic blogs yet, you should.There are a ton of other writers participating, and if you’re wondering where you can find them, have I got the link for you: Damyanti has a copy of the master list in a post on her blog.

Once again, I took the word count right to the limit (remember to omit the title and the #-scene-splitter if you paste it into Word to check the count). Wish I could go on longer, but like the Oracle says, I don’t make the rules.

Rule of 3 Logo

Word count: 600

The Prompts for Week Three (chosen ones in bold/italics/underlined):

    1. The misfortune is resolved/accepted.
    2. Relationships mend/are torn asunder.
    3. The final event becomes another secret for generations to come.
    4. There is a new arrival in town.

  1. You can catch the first three parts of my story on my blog:
  2. Part 1
  3. Part 2
  4. Part 3

The Oracle

Three horses were tied to the makeshift hitch by the old cypress tree when Dant got to the Espadon overlook. Three was a bad number. Dant leapt off of his tired horse and fell. Gunshots spooked the horses before he could get up. He held his breath as he raced into the familiar, secluded nook ahead.

Dant felt another shot ripple through the air. He could see Remi crying out, but his ears told him nothing. A crumpled body lay in Remi’s bloody arms. Jana’s fiancé, Tegan, stood before them both, pistol in hand. Dant didn’t have to think hard.

Tegan had just enough time to look Dant in the eyes before Dant slammed into him. Tegan staggered and windmilled his arms as Dant fell to the ground. The muzzle of the gun flashed twice more before Tegan hit the edge. The Espadon overlook was as deadly a drop as it was scenic.

The last seconds of Tegan’s scream echoed faintly in his ears. Apparently the deafness was temporary. He crawled over to his best friend and the woman they both loved. The sight of Jana’s lifeless eyes made the nightmare real.

“Said… I’d be with her ‘til the end…” Remi murmured. He leaned forward and kissed Jana.

Dant couldn’t feel anything as he spoke. “We have to bring her back home.”

Remi looked up at him. “Not we.”

Blood coursed down Remi’s chest and soaked his torn, dirty shirt. A dark crimson patch stood out on his chest. He cradled Jana’s body and leaned over.


People stared when Dant hitched his three horses outside the Oracle’s sanctum. Could have been because he was past hours. That, or the bodies strapped to the horses. He didn’t care. He hadn’t even looked for the horse that ran away.

The door wasn’t locked. He found the Oracle in her reading room, looking at a row of cards.

“You lied,” he said.

“I cannot.”

“You said I would be the most important man in her life.”

She sighed. “You’re the reason she died so young. Who’s more important than that?”

“What? I didn’t—”

“Shoot her? No, but you convinced her to get a reading all those years ago. She didn’t want to. Remember?”

Dant stood speechless.

“Her cards said that any man who loved her would be the death of her. That’s why she broke it off with Remi and tried to marry a man that wouldn’t love her.”


“Had she never been read, she never would have left him, and Remi’s reading, that he would be with her until the end, would have had a very different meaning.”

Dant’s arm twitched. His vision blurred with tears. “You made me…”

“That’s bull. You had a choice. You could have pushed them together for good and been important in that way, but instead you sent her to me. Did you think I’d tell her she was destined for you? Sorry, Dant Dranall, but it wasn’t in the cards.”

Dant fell against her bookshelf. His fingers came to rest over a sliver of cold, sharp steel.

“I read my cards once, and they foretold the coming of the three. I watched you. Wish I could have told you more, but I don’t make the rules.” She smiled at Dant, the wrinkles on her face curling back. “‘Three lives, intertwined, will come between this world and thine.’ They always sang to me, even for my own reading.”

The Oracle closed her eyes. “It’s been so very long coming, Dant. Do what you came here to do.”

Dant’s gripped the dagger’s hilt and stood.

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Secrets of Renaissance – Part 3


For the past few weeks, I’ve been participating in the Rule of Three Blogfest, a month-long, shared world, short fiction festival. My continuing story follows three friends dealing with their intertwined fates as told to them by the town’s oracle. You can find the first part of the story here, and the second part here. Each week has a different prompt, but they are all limited to 600 words. Once again, I’ve hit the exact limit (though in this case MS Word is counting the scene breaks as words, so I’m technically two shy). You can always keep up with the latest entries in the blogfest by checking out Stuart Nager’s online paper.


Word count: 600

The Prompts for Week Three (chosen ones in bold/italics):

  1. The impending misfortune foreshadowed in the 1st prompt comes to pass, but one or more characters laugh at it.
  2. Betrayal is in the air.
  3. Relationships unravel or strengthen.
  4. A long-kept secret is revealed.




Remi threw a rock off the overlook, trying to hit the Espadon. It landed a half-mile short, as always. The noonday sun bore down on the secluded nook behind the red, wind-carved rocks. It was the same nook where he’d spent dozens of nights with Jana. He held the note she’d left him in his hands and tried not to hope.

I’m going to the Espadon overlook today for old times’ sake.

It had to be good news. The oracle had foretold it, after all. They would be together ‘til the end. She wasn’t supposed to end up with some butcher. Simple enough words from an old, wrinkled woman’s mouth as she’d read his cards. Some people griped about only being allowed one reading in their lifetimes, but not him. The oracle had promised him Jana. What else did he need?

The Espadon twisted through the valley beneath him. She would come. The oracle had promised.


Dant had just gotten the stench of Remi’s mess out of the back bar’s floor when he heard someone calling from the front. He groaned and checked the clock. Ten in the morning. Way too early. It was illegal for him to serve anything now.

He stomped out to the front, prepared to fend off someone chasing the hair of the dog. He found Miri Willam instead, the redhead that worked with Jana at the flower shop.

“Mr. Dranall?”

“Yes, Miri?”

Her brows pinched as she spoke. “Have you seen Jana today?”

“This morning before she went to work. Why?”

Miri looked at the ground and folded her hands. “She never came in. Her fiancé was looking for her. I told him she might be here.”

“Tegan hasn’t been here today.”

She looked up with tears in her eyes. “He said that he was sad she wasn’t at work, but not surprised. Then he left. I’ve never seen him look so cold, Mr. Dranall, and he’s not a warm man.”

Dant tried to swallow, but there was no moisture in his mouth. His hand shook as he poured himself a glass from the tap.

“Thank you Miri. I think you should go back to the flower shop now.”

“But… but what should I—”

Dant closed his eyes and drained the glass. “Nothing, Miri. Please go.”

Jana hadn’t. She wouldn’t have. She said she wasn’t going to go. He checked the clock again. Just past ten in the morning. If he borrowed a good horse he might be able to head them off.


Jana laid her hand against the wind-carved rock that led into the nook. So many nights were back there. So many very, very, good nights. The rock was warm this morning. Inviting. Her horse gnawed at grass with Remi’s, tied to the makeshift hitch by the old cypress tree. It was far too late to worry about how stupid this was. Time to find out why she was here.

She watched Remi pitch a rock off the edge of the cliff.

“You’re never going to hit it, Rem.”

His jaw slacked for a heartbeat when he saw her. Its corner peeled back into that same half-grin that melted her heart every time he aimed it at her.

“There’s something I have to say,” she said. “I should’ve told you before. I owed you better.”

“You never owed me anything, Jan,” he said.

“It was the oracle. She told me that any man who loved me—”

The click of a pistol cocking cut her off. “I wish you hadn’t come, Jana. It would have been easier.”

It was Tegan.

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Welcome Back to Renaissance, Where Everybody has a Secret

Today marks part 2 of the #REN3 blogfest, in which I continue the tale of Dant, Remi, and Jana. For those who didn’t catch my first installment, check it out here. The Rule of Three Blogfest is a shared setting collective storytelling experience, hosted by Damyanti, J.C. Martin, Lisa Vooght, and Stuart Nager, and you can see some of the latest news and entries by checking Stuart’s online paper.


There are a different set of prompts every week and a 600-word limit (not counting the title). Because I have to push it as much as possible, this entry (like my last one) is exactly 600 words. The prompt I chose was: A relationship becomes complicated. The exact way this prompt applies won’t be fully apparent until later installments, but I assure you that I’ve used it (in triplicate, actually). As requested, I’ll mention the word count and the prompt at the bottom as well.

Old Times’ Sake

Jana found an envelope wedged in her door when she opened it in the morning. It fell to the ground face-up. A sketched picture of a tulip stared up at her. She sighed. Tulips were her favorite. Three men would remember that, but only one wouldn’t simply buy a picture of a tulip and paste it on there. Remi. She eyed the trashcan by the door.

What was Remi thinking? What if Tegan had come by this morning and seen it? She slipped Remi’s note in her pocket and hurried out. Now she’d have to make a stop before the flower shop. There was only one person who could talk sense into Remi. Hopefully he was awake.

Jana hustled down Faraday Street, giving up on trying not to jog when she passed Metley. She was sweating by the time she saw the familiar sign: Heriot’s Pass, home of Dant’s famous Renaissance Brown. The windows were still shuttered.

She knocked. “Dant?”

The door to Heriot’s swung open, protesting with a squeak that Dant never got around to fixing. He always said it gave the place character. She edged her way in. The bar smelled like soap. It always did before customers came in.

The voice of a man swearing echoed from the back. Jana smiled. Dant was in the back bar. It was never a good thing when he had to clean up back there. She made her way through the connecting hallway, wondering what sort of crazy private party had been held last night.

When she got to the back bar, she found Dant scrubbing under a bench on his hands and knees. He wore a mask over his nose.


Dant jerked up and banged his head on a table. He rolled to the ground.

“What the fu—” Dant’s eyes locked on her face and widened. He rethought his exclamation. “Jana? What are you doing here?”

She fished out Remi’s letter and tossed it to him. “An employee of yours left that in my door this morning.”

Dant pushed himself up. “Remi? How’d he wake up early enough to get that to you?”

“What am I supposed to do?” Jana asked. “If Tegan had seen that he’d have flipped. Can you talk some sense into Remi?”

“Of course,” Dant said. He tore the envelope open.

“Don’t—” Jana protested.

Dant pulled out the note and held it up to the light. “Congrats for everything, Jana. I wish you all the best. I’m headed to the Espadon overlook today for old times’ sake. Meet me if you want. Love, Remi.”

It was sweeter than she had expected. No pleading. It hardly sounded like Remi. “I can’t just run off to the river to meet an old boyfriend. I have work. I have a fiancé,” she said.

Dant nodded. He laid Remi’s note on a table and sat down. “I know. Didn’t sound like him, though. Maybe Remi went and grew up while we weren’t looking.”

“Too little, too late,” Jana said. She watched Dant stare at the floor. “You actually think I should meet him?”

Dant shrugged. “It’s the first time I’ve heard him act like a grown-up. Maybe he just needs to end it clean, hear it from your own lips.”

“Then he’ll have to hear it another time,” Jana said. “Please tell Remi not to leave letters in my door anymore.” She spun around and left. She exited Heriot’s and headed west. The flower shop was east. Her heart beat like a jackhammer. Damn it all, Remi! And damn Dant too.

She was headed to the Espadon.

Prompt: A relationship gets complicated. Word Count (according to MS Word 2010, excluding the title): 600.

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to check out the dozens of other fantastic writers participating in the #REN3 blogfest. The easiest way to find them is just to read Stuart’s online paper (and as a bonus, you get to see how cool paper.li is).

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Multithreaded Writing

October 10, 2011 12:59 pm by MRM in epublishing, serial, Writing

Ever since I published Bearers of Bad News, I’ve been trying to push myself into a multithreaded writing mode. What’s multithreading? It’s how we should think of multitasking. At least, it’s how computers think of them. Each processing core, that is. Multicore machines can do true multitasking, but old-school machines can’t, and it’s debatable whether or not humans can. We certainly can’t write more than one thing at a time, thanks to the two-handed nature of typing and our regrettable lack of a second pair of hands and eyes. For the most part, your computer can’t really do more than one thing at a time (even if it’s multicore – most programmers don’t take advantage of that). If you’re playing a game and something is animating while the game is deciding on something logical (like, did you hit that target?), then you’re seeing multithreading. What’s really happening is that the machine is quickly switching back and forth between drawing that animation and making that hit calculation. If you could read the processor’s mind, it would go something like this:

Paint the screen, paint the screen, paint the screen. Divide bullet speed by time. Add to distance. Paint the screen. Paint the screen. Is distance to target less than hit distance? Paint the screen. Yes. Check probability for hit. Paint the screen. Probability is 35%. Paint the screen. Get pseudorandom number. Paint the screen. Paint the screen. Number is 54. Paint the screen. Bullet missed. Paint the screen…

It’s never painting and calculating at the same time, but it looks like it to you because it switches back and forth so quickly. That’s the only thing computers are actually good at—doing simple things extremely quickly.

The relevance to writing is more the one-thing-at-a-time issue, when I really want to be doing multiple things at once. I want to blog. I want to tweet. I want to edit issue 3 of Those Who Die Young. I want to write Issue 4 of TWDY. I want to finalize my short story for submission to a couple of markets. More than all of these, I want to get moving on edits to City of Magi to ready it for queries.

There is absolutely no chance I can do all of these at the same time. I’ve determined that I can do minor edits even when I’m not in full writing mode, so I can banish that to evenings and lunchtimes and still make some progress on it. The biggest conflict here, though, is between TWDY and City of Magi. I love TWDY. It’s by far the most fun thing I’ve ever done in writing, and I love that people are actually buying the first two issues. I feel a duty to my readers to further the story.

That being said, City of Magi is my dream book. It’s a powerful story that is something I want out there in front of the masses, published in for-realsies paperback form and sitting on the shelves at your local Barnes and Noble. And it’s not going anywhere if I spend all my time on TWDY.

Hence, multithreading. I can’t write both at once, but perhaps they can develop in tandem. So I’m going to try something. Monday and Tuesday are for TWDY. Lear, Erica, Mede, Quinta, and Roland will plow forward in their quest to keep the peace and re-enable Lear’s entry to the Infinitum. On Wednesday and Thursday, I’m in for City of Magi. The Grey Ghost lives. Friday’s a toss-up. Whatever needs development gets attention. It may also have to do with my mood after my Friday workout, or how close to my self-imposed deadline for TWDY releases I am.

We’ll see how it goes. Hopefully it’ll look like I’m successfully writing two things at once. At worst, it’ll be an experiment I do away with and I’ll go to single-mindedly prepping City of Magi for a month or so before switching to TWDY-mode for a similar amount of time. It’s all in good fun.


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