Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Supervisor of Accountants and the Great Gray Wolf

This story is now out at Cast of Wonders Episode 372. Sometimes the unlikeliest people are called to be heroes. But what sort of heroism can one expect of a lowly administrator?

I was asked today where I got the idea from. As I always tell people, ideas are easy, it's the execution that's hard. I keep a list of ideas to write stories from. They come from all over. When I read a story or book or see a movie or television show, and wonder, "Why didn't the characters do this instead?" (This doesn't mean I rewrite the story with that change--it means I write a story where characters face a similar problem and try my solution.) When I have a philosophical, political, or religious idea, and I think it would be interesting to explore it in a story. When there's some technology that might have interesting implications. When I see something happen in real life or hear about it on the news and think that it may have story resonance. When I dream something. Sometimes just when I come up with a really good punchline. All of these get written down to be mulled over, to build into a robust system and then broken in the story that tells how they fail.

But sometimes I look over that list, and find that I'm just not ready to write any of those stories. It's too ambitious, or the idea's not fully formed, or maybe it wasn't such a great idea anyway. In that case, I start brainstorming. This is when worlds I've created and novels I've written but never published come in. I start thinking about other stories I can tell in those worlds, bits of backstory I can fill in for those characters, sequels and prequels to unpublished, sometimes even unwritten, stories.

And when that doesn't work, I try something crazy. In this case, I decided to come up with a wildly original title, and after that, the story would practically write itself. But it turns out that wildly original titles are hard to write too. I realized my best bet was to avoid cliché or common words, so I went to, and started working my way backwards through its words of the day, trying to figure out if any of the words, or better yet, combination of words, sparked something. I discarded puissant (actually sort of cliché in fantasy), selenotropism, metanoia, and complaisant. But two words stuck out at me, especially when I put them together: "doughty" and "panjandrum". And thus "The Doughty Panjandrum" became the working title of my story, and figuring out what such a person would be like gave me the story's voice.

So it turns out looking up random uncommon words and combining them into a title does work as a method to come up with a great story idea. Who knew?

Friday, August 16, 2019

More upcoming stories

So no sooner had ink dried (digital pixels set?) on the last contract than I had two more stories come through. One I sold two years ago, and one I sold last year. Neither of which have come out yet, but I'm bumping both stories to "probably coming soon."

The Lightning Generator

Back in 2017, I signed the contract to publish "The Lightning Generator" with a certain magazine. And then the fiction editor left and the magazine went on hiatus for a couple of years, and I pretty much assumed that the story would never see the light of day. The contract had a 3 year reversion of rights clause, though--that's the part of the contract that says if they haven't published it in that time, you're free to do what you want with the story--so I couldn't send the story anywhere else until that ended. Now the magazine's a print magazine, and a fairly long reversion of rights clause is standard for those. It takes a long time to go from story acquisition to print. But, man, when you're almost sure the magazine is dead, that's a long time for a story to languish. For the record, Mysterion's reversion of rights clause is 1 year, but we're a online magazine, so things move quicker in that world.

Anyway, I finally heard from the magazine this past week, and it turns out that not only are they not dead, they're publishing again, and they're definitely planning to publish my story. Not in the next issue, but in the issue after that. And as they haven't announced the story yet, I still won't name the magazine. Which may be for the best, considering what I said above. . .

But as to the story itself, here's my description:

When Professor Garson invents a device that can generate lightning and power a city, Morgan Dunworth's job security as an aether engineer looks a lot less certain. And when someone kills the professor for his invention, Morgan is unfortunately the primary suspect.

The Chamber of Winds

I first submitted this story to another magazine I'm not naming back in February of 2018. This is one of the few stories I submitted on invitation (more of a general invitation to people who'd gone to a specific writing workshop, not someone looking for a story just from me). In October, the editor said that they would publish the story. And finally, this week, I received the contract. I'll still hold off on announcing the magazine until it's made public, but here's a little about the story:
Raxtus makes a good living smuggling goods through the Hub, where his Domini masters have portals to all over the world. But it looks like he and his fellow workers will soon be replaced by automatons, and he needs to make sure he's settled all his debts before he's out on the streets.

So that's two stories about people concerned about losing their jobs due to a paradigm shift in technology. Hmm. Maybe that says something about my own fears, or maybe it's just coincidence that these two stories (which are connected, though I'll stay silent on how) happen to be reaching publication at around the same time. That's not all I write about, honest!

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Upcoming story: "The Supervisor of Accountants and the Great Gray Wolf" at Cast of Wonders

Now that the contract's signed, I can announce that I have a story coming out in Cast of Wonders, the Escape Artists podcast of young adult speculative fiction. The story is called "The Supervisor of Accounts and the Great Gray Wolf."

When the king tells the Supervisor of Accounts to the Second Under-Treasurer to jump, he jumps. And when the king tells said supervisor to hunt the Great Gray Wolf that all the knights and huntsmen seem to be avoiding, then he polishes his brass buttons, brushes off his good hat, and blackens his  outdoor boots, all before setting out into the Old Wood.

I'm not sure which episode the story will appear in, but I'm looking forward to seeing it soon.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Mysterion's July submission period is coming to a close

If you've been following Mysterion at all, then you know that we're in our July submission period. Well, or submission period is coming to an end tomorrow, when the month of July ends (Boston time). We're paying 8 cents per word for science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories up to 9,000 words long that engage with Christianity. If you have a story you'd like to submit, the submission guidelines are here.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Domus Lemurum

My story, "Domus Lemurum"--Latin for House of Lemures, is now out in Intergalactic Medicine Show. It's a ghost story set in ancient Rome. Roman patrician Septimus runs a profitable business buying haunted houses at bargain prices, and re-selling them once the troublesome spirits have been banished. But some evil runs too deep to be cast out so easily...

The story's behind a paywall, so only those with a subscription to Intergalactic Medicine Show can read the whole thing, but it will be out from behind it later this year. You can also read the story behind the story, wherein I wrestle with accurately portraying rather dismaying Roman attitudes, but that does contain spoilers for the story.

If you want to read more fiction by me, you can visit my writings page. If you want to read fiction that Kristin and I publish, visit the Mysterion website, and definitely visit our Patreon, where you can support our endeavors. We're desperately trying to reach $200/month, which will allow us to keep up with SFWA's increased pay rate.