Writing Acts of War II – Week 5 Update

Five weeks have come and gone, and I’m past the halfway point in the first draft of Acts of War II. Before we get started, though, I’m pleased to announce the book now has an official title, Acts of War: Aftershock.

Here’s the skinny on week five:

Progress: I wrote 10,149 words and ended in the middle of chapter twenty-one. I’ve passed the midpoint in the book, and though it’s not exactly downhill from here, it’s a good milestone, and I feel like I’m right where I need to be.

The Best Part: Secret stuff. One of the best parts of writing these books is that I work closely with Privateer Press Chief Creative Officer Matthew D. Wilson and Jason Soles, lead developer for WARMACHINE. I can’t say anything yet, but damn there is some exciting stuff in this book for WARMACHINE players, the kind of thing I want to talk about so bad I can taste it. But, you know, NDAs and all that. Anyway, I will get to reveal some of this cool stuff as the updates go on, so make sure you stay tuned (or even subscribe to the blog).

The Hard Part: Fantasy weapons. I’m a weapons nerd, and I’ve been doing stuff like SCA and HEMA for a long time. In other words, I generally know what a functional sword or axe or whatever is a) supposed to look like and b) how it should be used. With any fantasy setting, realism in melee weapons is not a huge priority, looking really goddamn cool trumps it every time. Don’t get me wrong; I love the style of the weapons in WARMACHINE, but sometimes, when I’m writing a battle scene and I need to describe how a certain weapon works, it can be challenging from the perspective of historically accurate(ish) combat. There’s always a way to write it believably, but some weapons take a bit more inventiveness on my part. Yeah, I’m lookin’ at you, Storm Lances. On the flip side, I just love Ashlynn d’Elyse’s weapon Nemesis. It’s got all the things that make Iron Kingdoms weapons cool and it’s a totally realistic and useable sword design. No fudging required.

Mini Excerpt: This week’s mini excerpt features both a new character and a familiar face for Khador fans, Kommander Oleg Strakhov. Today’s awesome art comes from former Privateer Press concept artist Chris Walton.

strakhov



Four men and three women entered the cell, two Assault Commandos behind them, carbines at the ready. The prisoners wore little more than rags, and it was clear they had been guests of the Khadoran Empire nearly as long as he. Lucas didn’t recognize any of them until he got to the last woman in the group. His breath caught in his throat, and both fear and joy seized hold of him. Alyce. No. He had believed his wife had escaped the attack on the Resistance stronghold in Laedry where he’d been captured. Knowing she was safe was the only thing bolstering his failing sanity. It seemed even that was to be taken from him.

His captor had said nothing about Alyce in all the time Lucas had been imprisoned. Was it possible Strakhov did not know who she was? He clung to this scant hope.

“Line them up,” Strakhov said, and his commandos faced the prisoners against the far wall of the cell.

“Please don’t do this,” Lucas said, knowing what was coming. “These people aren’t involved.” He needed Strakhov to believe he had no personal stake and that he simply wanted to avoid further bloodshed.

Strakhov put his hand on the hilt of the trench sword he wore on his left hip. Lucas had seen the brutal weapon in action. It was twenty four inches of mechanika-driven steel, stout enough to puncture warjack armor. Flesh and bone would offer no resistance. “I don’t want to do this,” the warcaster said. “Tell me what I need to know and I won’t have to do this.”



What is Strakhov trying to find out? Who is Lucas and why is he in a cell? All will be revealed; I promise. In the meantime, keep checking these updates for more info on Acts of War: Aftershock.

If you have a question or a comment about the book or my writing process, ask away in the comments section below. If you’ve missed the progress reports for the previous weeks, you can find them right here:

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Remember to check out the first book in this series, Acts of War: Flashpoint, at a 25% discount from the Skull Island eXpeditions website by entering the code ACTSOFWAR1 at check out.

4 Reasons for the Same-Day Rejection

Here’s the scenario. You fire off a short story submission, fully prepared to wait the two weeks or one month or however long it takes for them to read your story and make a decision.  You check your email a couple hours later and BAM! They’ve already sent you a form rejection. Yep, it didn’t take months, weeks, or even days for the editors to decide your story wasn’t a good fit. It took mere hours.

Cue the alarm bells.

Was your story that bad? Are you a terrible writer whose work is such monumental garbage the reek of it nearly caused the editor to blow chunks all over his or her computer after reading a single sentence? Well, probably not to both questions, but let’s unpack this a bit.

Normally, I don’t like to spend a lot of time on form letters because they just don’t tell you much other than the publisher isn’t going to publish your story. The same-day rejection, however, can be jarring because, hey, you kind of expect a mulling-over process with your submission and not instantaneous rejection. So let’s talk about four possible reasons for the same-day rejection based on my own experiences. Remember, this isn’t absolute fact, it’s hypothesizing based on anecdotal evidence; in other words, we’re gonna rejectomance this motherfucker.

  1. You didn’t follow the submission guidelines. Pretty self-explanatory, right? This is the only reason on the list that isn’t rejectomancy; it’s cold, hard fact. If they asked for your manuscript in Courier New and you sent them Times New Roman, you’re gonna get rejected, and fast. If they asked you to put your story in the body of the email and you sent it as an attachment, you might get a rejection in minutes instead of hours. In other words, and say it with me, kids: ALWAYS FOLLOW THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES.
  2. They’re just that fast. Yep, there are a couple of spec-fic markets that are well known for same-day rejections. If you routinely submit horror, sci-fi, or fantasy, then you likely know the ones I’m talking about. But how are they so fast? The possible answers to that question could fill their own blog post, but the two most likely reasons are they have a sizeable staff of first readers who read submissions the instant they come in, and/or they can tell from the first few paragraphs that a story is not for them. I can’t say for sure those are the reason these markets respond so quickly, but they make the most sense to me. To sum up, if you get a same-day rejection from one of these markets, don’t worry about it. For them, it’s just SOP.
  3. First in line. Sometimes when you send in a story right when a market opens the flood gates on their submission period you get lucky and end up at the front of the line. It’s just luck of the draw that your story happened to be one of the first the editors read, and if it’s not for them, then a same-day rejection could be the result. One thing to keep in mind is that for many markets the reason it takes weeks or months for them to get back to you is there are dozens even hundreds of submissions to read before yours. It really doesn’t take an editor too long to read and make a decision on a short story, so if you get read first, your chances of a lightning-fast rejection are pretty high.
  4. They like your stuff. One thing I’ve noticed is that markets that have previously published my work generally get back to me quicker with subsequent submissions. Sometimes they even get back to me in the same day. This could be because they recognize my name, remember they liked and published something I wrote, and move my submission to the front of the line. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re more likely to publish what I’ve sent them, but it might mean they’re more likely to read it first. And if they read it first, well, then my chances of a fast or even same-day rejection increase dramatically. I’ve received form rejections and personal rejections in the same day under this scenario.

So, as alarming as a same-day rejection can be, you probably shouldn’t view the the speed of the response as a measure of the quality of your work. As with any rejection, there are lots of things happening behind the scenes you’ll never know, and few of them have anything to do with the how good or bad your story might be. Take a deep breath, and send that story out again.

Do you have any experience with the same-day rejection? Tell me about it in the comments.

Real-Time Rejection II: The 6th Rejection of “Story X1”

Six rejections down, four more shots at fame and glory. Yep, the 6th rejection of “Story X1” has arrived. If you’d like to see the previous rejections, go here.

I’m a little late with this one–it actually came in on 1/6/17–but some computer mishaps made it impossible to post right away. Here it is in all its form-tastic glory:

Thank you so much for thinking of XXX. Unfortunately “Story X1” is not quite what we’re looking for at the moment. Best of luck placing it elsewhere.

The only thing that stands out about this form rejection is that I received it the same day I sent the story. That’s not unusual, though, and this isn’t the first time I’ve received a same-day rejection from this market. A word of advice, don’t apply too much rejectomancy to same-day rejections. Like any other form rejection, you should focus on what the letter says (we’re not publishing your story) and not what you think the editor or the speed of the rejection means (who knows?). The former gets the story out again right away, and the latter? Well, that way lies madness, my friends. You will never, ever, ever know what an editor thinks about your story unless he or she a) publishes it or b) tells you in a personal rejection. If neither of those two things occur, move on.

“Story X1” is still under consideration at one more market, and they’re pretty quick, so I expect to hear something in the next week or so. Stay tuned for more of the thrilling saga of “Story X1.”

How are your adventures in submission land going? Tell me about your latest rejection or acceptance in the comments.

Writing Acts of War II – Week 4 Update

I’ve completed week four of the first draft of Acts of War II, and I’m well beyond the one-third mark. Here’s the details on week number four.

Progress: I wrote 11,185 words, completed act one, and ended in the middle of chapter seventeen. I’m pleased with this number, though it should have been closer to 15,000. I was hobbled a bit by my primary computer going down, which cost me about a day of work. Fortunately, I’m very diligent about backing up my work and no progress was lost in the melt down. Despite a bit of adversity, I’m still ahead of schedule and moving right along.

The Best Part: Fish out of water. This week I had the chance to take one of the main characters and put him in a situation where he was out of his element and stripped of what he relies on to achieve success. It gave me the opportunity to make this character think outside the box and draw upon skills he hadn’t used in quite some time. This led to some scenes that were a lot of fun to write and showed this particular character in a different light.

The Hard Part: Pacing. Always an issue in an action novel, and something the writer needs to be aware of from outline to final draft. In a book like Acts of War II, it’s important the story move swiftly and nimbly from one scene to the next and maintain a sense of urgency that is vital to the plot. This week had me examining several previous scenes to see if they were bogging down the story, and I marked a couple for possible revision and even removal in the next draft. That kind of thing will continue as I write the first draft and will absolutely be part of the editorial process when I hand it over to Privateer Press.

Mini Excerpt: This week’s mini excerpt features one of Cygnar’s antagonists from the story, Khadoran warcaster Kommander Andrei Malakov. WARMACHINE players will likely recognize one of Malakov’s signature moves in the excerpt. This week’s concept art comes from the exceptionally talented Andrea Uderzo.

malakov-color


Stryker leveled Quicksilver and fired a blast of voltaic energy, shunting his will into the bolt to increase its lethality.

His attack should have struck Malakov, but the warcaster reacted with almost precognitive speed and pulled a nearby Winter Guard rifleman in front of him, practically yanking the man off his feet. Stryker’s blast hit the unlucky soldier, reducing his head and most of his upper torso to ash. Behind what remained of Malakov’s human shield, the Khadoran warcaster was untouched.

Despite what Stryker knew about the man, he was stunned by Malakov’s callous disregard for his own soldiers. In his mind, death was preferable to living with such an act of cowardice.


I think it would be fair to say Malakov’s leadership style isn’t always a great morale booster for his soldiers.

If you have a question or a comment about the book or my writing process, I’d be happy to answer it in the comments section below. And if you’ve missed the progress reports for the previous weeks, you can find them right here:

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You can still get the first book in this series, Acts of War: Flashpoint, at a 25% discount from the Skull Island eXpeditions website by entering the code ACTSOFWAR1 at check out.

Real-Time Rejection II: The 5th Rejection of “Story X1”

Well, we’ve hit the half-way point, and “Story X1” has received its 5th rejection. If you’d like to see the previous rejections, go here.

Without further ado, here’s rejection number five:

Thank you for submitting “Story X1” to XXX. We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, we don’t feel it is a good fit for us and we’re going to have to pass on it at this time.

Thanks again. Best of luck with this.

This is a standard form rejection from a pro market, one that’s in my top-ten list of publications to crack before the end of the decade. The closest I’ve gotten with this particular publisher is a further consideration letter followed by a form rejection. There’s not much you can learn from a rejection like this. The only information here is a) they read the story, and b) they aren’t going to publish it. You’ll never know why, so let these rejections bounce off that ever-thickening rejectomancer hide you’ve been growing and send that story out again.

The good news is that many of the publications I regularly submit to, both pro and semi-pro, have opened up for submissions again in the new year. As such, I’ve sim-subbed “Story X1” out to a couple of my usual suspects, so you’ll either see “Story X1” achieve glorious acceptance, or you’ll get blog posts titled “The 6th/7th Rejection of “Story X1.” Place your bets. 🙂

How are your writing endeavors going in the new year? I’d love to hear about your latest rejection or acceptance in the comments.

Writing Acts of War II – Week 3 Update

Week three has come and gone, and the first draft of Acts of War II has passed the 30,000-word mark. Below is my progress report for the week.

Progress: I wrote 10,022 words for week three and made it to the end of chapter eleven and very nearly to the end of act three (one more chapter to go). That’s less raw words than the previous weeks, but with the holidays and another large project intruding on my writing time, I’m more than happy with this number. I’m still well on track to finish ahead of my deadline.

The Best Part: Big battle scenes. This week included the first big set-piece battle in the book, and I always have a lot of fun writing those. One of my favorite things about these scenes is that I can really pull out all the stops and show my main characters, most of which are warcasters (that’s a kind of sorcerer who combines magic with steam-powered technology), doing what they were made to do. That means spells, feats, and all the other fun little bits WARMACHINE players see on their stat cards.

The Hard Part: Game to narrative. When you’re a media tie-in author for a company that produces tabletop miniatures games or RPGs, one of the challenges you will invariably face is turning abstract game language into narrative fiction. I mean, you have to take a rule like “automatically hits and gains an additional die on the damage roll” and turn it into something that makes some sense in the real world. That said, these are fun challenges, and I typically get a kick out of coming up with new ways to translate game to fiction.

Mini Excerpt: This week’s mini excerpt features warcaster versus warjack, and once again, we’ve got some awesome concept art for one of the main characters in the book, Asheth Magnus.

epic-magnus-concept


Magnus charged, the weight of his armor and the nagging pains of old wounds sliding away in a surge of adrenaline. The Sentinels parted before him, and the Spriggan loomed, its war lance swiveling in his direction. He spun away from the first thrust, which would have impaled him–armor, power field, and all–and hit the Khadoran warjack holding Foecleaver like a lance of his own. Magnus focused his will into the strike, and the mechanikal blade ripped through the Spriggan’s hull below its head, showering him in sparks and the black spray of hydraulic fluid. The Spriggan swung its assault shield at him as he wrenched Foecleaver free and tried to leap away. He wasn’t quick enough to avoid a glancing blow, and his power field blazed, absorbing some of the impact, but the attack still had enough momentum to smash him off his feet and stave in the right side of his breastplate.


Man, I hope Magnus did some serious damage to that Spriggan, or our favorite ex-mercenary antihero might be in serious trouble. 😉

Got a question or a comment about the book or my writing process? Ask away in the comments section below.

And if you’ve missed the progress reports for the previous weeks, you can find them right here:

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Remember, you can still get the first book in this series, Acts of War: Flashpoint, at a 25% discount from the Skull Island eXpeditions website by entering the code ACTSOFWAR1 at check out.

2016: A Writing Rearview Review

And that’s a wrap on 2016, some might say mercifully so. As for how 2016 treated me and my writing career, I would rate the year as “not too shabby.”

Let us now turn to a whole bunch of stats because they are the super-duperest, most fun thing ever. Full disclosure: I love stats. It’s a personal failing, I know.

Fantasy/Horror/Sci-Fi Submissions

Total Submissions Sent: 54*

Better than last year but not nearly as many as I would have liked. The biggest reason I didn’t get as many short story submission out there is pretty easy to figure. I was writing novels for a lot of the year, the first of which was published in 2016. That ate a lot of writing time with, uh, more writing. Anyway, not too bad.

Acceptances: 9

Okay, this is a better number, and it’s almost double what I did last year. I also increased my acceptance ration from 13% to 17%, a number I hope to raise even further in 2017.

Form Rejections: 29

I actually received more form rejection than last year, but since I primarily submitted to top-tier markets in 2016, that’s not too bad. In addition, I received a number of higher-tier form rejections from this publications, which tells me I’m getting closer to an acceptance (I hope).

Personal Rejections: 10

About the same number of these as last year. A number of these were for stories for which I received a further consideration letter but the publisher ultimately decided to pass. Disappointing, but still a step in the right direction.

Never Responded/Withdrawn: 1

Just one of these in 2016, and it was because the publication went out of business. Disappointing because the story was short-listed. Oh, well; it’s a tough ol’ market out there for small genre zines.

*I still have five submission pending, so percentages are based on the submissions that have received a response.

Privateer Press

I still write a bunch for Privateer Press, and here’s what I did in 2016.

Novels: 1.3

I finished one novel in 2016 for Privateer Press, Acts of War: Flashpoint, which was published in July. I’m currently writing another one, Acts of War II, and I’m blogging my progress as I go along. You can see those blog posts right here.

Novellas: 1

I wrote one novella for Privateer Press that I can’t talk about yet because it’s still going through revisions. I’ll have more info on that soon.

Short Stories: 4

I wrote four short stories for Privateer Press in 2016, one of which was published in No Quarter magazine, and three others that were part of an introductory product for Privateer’s primary game lines WARMACHINE and HORDES.

Articles: 4

I also penned four articles for No Quarter Magazine, which is about par for the course. All of these were about the Iron Kingdoms setting.

Rejectomancy

Lastly, there’s this blog itself, and 2016 was my first full year of blogging. I couldn’t quite keep up with three posts per week like I had initially set out to dao, but I was routinely able to put out two posts. I learned a lot this year about the kinds of things folks like to read and the kinds of things they’re unlikely to read. One thing that will change in 2017 is the amount of self-promotional posts on the blog. I won’t go crazy, but I’ve got some big projects this year I want to talk about in addition to the usual rejectomancy stuff.

Here are the raw stats for the blog.

  • Total Posts: 88
  • Total Visitors: 7,816
  • Total Likes: 646
  • Total Comments: 470

I didn’t write that many more posts than I did in 2016, and I think I likely should have done a few more. Again, the novels ate into my writing time, but that’s not a great excuse. This year, I’d like to get those numbers up and hit at least 10k visitors.

Summary

Here’s what my total output for 2016 looked like in hard numbers. It’s less than last year for a number of reasons, but I’m not too unhappy. Like last year, I’m only counting stuff I wrote that was either published or is slated for publication.

  • Words Written: 194,250
  • Articles/Stories/Novels Published: 19

2017 Goals

I’m not going to go into too much detail here because my goals basically amount to write and publish more stuff. Here’s a couple of things, though.

  • Write more stories, submit more stories, and get more stories accepted.
  • Write three novels: two novels for Privateer Press and one novel for my agent to shop (my own IP).
  • Blog more. More promotional posts and more rejectomancy/writing posts.

2016 Free-to-Read Published Stuff 

If you’d like to have a look at some of the things I published this year, here are some links to short stories you can read (or listen to) for free.


And that, friends and colleagues, was my 2016 in the wild world of freelance writing. How was your year? Tell me about it in the comments.