“The Rarest Cut” – My Latest Publication

I talk a lot about rejection on this here blog, but I do get the occasional acceptance. Here’s one of them, a flash fiction story called “The Rarest Cut” published today at Evil Girlfriend Media. It’s gross and quirky, and I had a lot of fun writing it. Check it out right HERE.

If you dig this one, you can read more of my flash fiction at The Molotov Cocktail. Here’s a bunch of links:

Rose Blackthorn – “Worthy Vessel” Interview

I recently spoke with kickass horror writer Rose Blackthorn about her latest release “Worthy Vessel,” a novelette published by Skull Island eXpeditions/Privateer Press and set in their Iron Kingdoms universe. This was Rose’s first whack at writing media tie-in, so I asked her about the process of writing “Worthy Vessel” and how it differed from the other fiction she’s written.


Full disclosure: This was one of the last projects I spearheaded during my tenure at Privateer Press, and I specifically targeted Rose to write it. She’s one of the best horror authors I know, and I figured the Nightmare Empire of Cryx, with its oodles of undead, soul-sucking sorcery, and general nastiness would be right up her alley.

Here’s what Rose had to say about “Worthy Vessel.”

1) Give us the details on your new novelette “Worthy Vessel.” What’s it about? Why is it awesome?

Set in the Iron Kingdoms, a world of steam-powered sorcery, “Worthy Vessel” is about Darragh Wrathe, who starts out as a pirate and sorcerer before becoming a commander and necromancer serving under Lich Lord Terminus in Cryx. This novelette explores his decision to leave pirating behind and make the journey–physically and mentally–from his old life to the possibility of a new one. This isn’t an easy trip, on any level, and he has to prove himself worthy of becoming more than just a man.

I think it’s awesome because it provides a glimpse into the inner workings of a character who might be perceived as rather two dimensional. Darragh isn’t just a weapon used by the Lich Lords; he is a person who has his own fears and doubts, and follows a progression to overcome them and reach his goal. In many ways, although he is kind of a ‘bad guy’ like most of those in Cryx, he has his own honor and is willing to devote himself to the things he believes in.

2) What was your experience with media tie-in fiction before writing “Worthy Vessel?” Had you read any WARMACHINE fiction?

I have read quite a bit, including books set in the Star Wars, Alien, and Darkover universes. I have read some WARMACHINE fiction including Into the Storm by Larry Correia, “On a Black Tide” by Aeryn Rudel, and a handful of short stories. From what I have seen, there is a huge range of fantasy available in the Iron Kingdoms: swashbuckling adventures, mercenary warriors, magic, both dark and light, many races of beings from humans to dragons, and anything in between. I think any fan of fantasy literature could find at least one section of this world they would love to visit. Being (mostly) a horror writer, I was drawn to Cryx.

3) I know this is your first foray into writing media tie-in, so what did you expect from the process? What were the surprises?

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. Considering that for the most part I’m a “pantser”, meaning I usually fly by the seat of my pants and rarely plan out the plot. Even just writing up an outline to submit with my pitch was a brand new thing for me!

Part of the challenge was I wasn’t very knowledgeable about the Iron Kingdoms. The timeline alone is staggering (and somewhat terrifying, depending on what you’re trying to encompass). I was very happy to be given the opportunity to write in Cryx, though. It’s interesting, and somewhat gratifying to take a character generally viewed as a villain and explore his internal processes. I don’t think anyone ever thinks they’re the bad guy, and it was actually quite enlightening to crawl into Darragh’s psyche.

4) The Iron Kingdoms, a world that encompasses the award-winning games of WARMACHINE and HORDES, is massive, with tons of existing characters, a history spanning millennia, and so on. How did you tackle all of that in your story? How much did you feel was necessary to learn?

It was a bit daunting. Seriously, the timeline and noted history in Caen is many times our own in the real world. When it became clear I would be writing about Darragh before he became the necromancer and commander he is now, I was able to zero in on a specific time and place in this world. I tried to bring in enough of what would be “current history” to make it feel grounded. I spent a lot of time just reading about Cryx and its history before I started writing. Toruk the Dragonfather is so ancient and so much larger than life, he seems like a dark cloud hanging over this island kingdom. But the history of his coming, and the way he changed and elevated the Lich Lords is fascinating. I’d like to read stories and books about all of them, and how they came to where they are in the present timeline. I personally have interest in ancient history in our world, and reading about the history of the Iron Kingdoms holds the same power over me. That being said, I probably did more research than was strictly necessary for what I wrote. Not wasted time, however. I hope that everything I assimilated just adds to the complexity and background of the story.

5) You’re an accomplished horror writer, and “Worthy Vessel” definitely deals with horrific subject matter, so how did you infuse your style into the Iron Kingdoms?

I guess I can only write as me. I am generally character driven, and so I got to know Darragh as well as I could. But there were other characters who I liked and enjoyed writing as much as the main character. Kutzov, the insane necrotech, just kind of skittered out of my mind whole, already fully realized and with his own history. I was completely taken with the Satyxis haruspex, Elsevin Hemeshka. She could have absconded with the whole story if I had let her!

The most difficult part of this process, in my opinion, is not having the freedom to just run with a plot line. Most of these characters, with the exception of Kutzov, were already described, named, and given a backstory. So I had to make sure to stay within the lines of what would be allowed for the larger world in which they are confined.

6) What advice would you give to writers who might want to try their hand at writing media tie-in?

If there is a world or universe that you love to read about, make an effort to see if you can add to it. If you have the opportunity to write in a world that maybe you’re not so knowledgeable about, don’t let that hold you back. This was a great experience for me. It was a way for me to stretch as a writer, to get to know and really come to love some characters I might never have met otherwise, and to explore a vast and many-faceted world like nothing else I’ve written.


“Worthy Vessel” can be purchased as an e-book from the following retailers:

Rose Blackthorn lives in the high mountain desert with her boyfriend and two dogs, Boo and Shadow. She spends her free time writing, reading, being crafty, and photographing the surrounding wilderness. She is a member of the HWA and her short fiction and poetry has appeared online and in print with a varied list of anthologies and magazines. Her first poetry collection Thorns, Hearts and Thistles was published in February 2015. Follow rose on Facebook, Twitter, her blog, or her author pages at Amazon and Goodreads.

The Quotable King: Ten Pages a Day

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, especially this one, then you know I’m a big fan of word count goals. I like watching the words add up in my spreadsheet, and I find having that kind of concrete, tangible goal keeps me motivated, and, most importantly, keeps me writing.

My goal is 2,000 words a day when I’m writing a first draft, and I use that goal for a number of reasons, one of them being it works for one of the most prolific and successful authors on the planet. Here’s what he has to say about it.

“I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words. That’s 180,000 words over a three-month span, a goodish length for a book — something in which the reader can get happily lost, if the tale is done well and stays fresh.”

—Stephen King

King is talking about writing on one project every day, and I tend to write something other than my current big project on the weekends. That said, the concept still applies. Case in point, I’ve been working on the WIP for just over two months, and I have 90,000 words as of today. Yeah, I know, King would have 120,000 words, but I still feel pretty damn good about writing that much over such a short span of time.

Look, I completely understand not everyone has the luxury of writing full time, but again, King’s method still works. So you can’t write 2,000 words a day; how about 1,000? Hell, maybe 500 is all you can do. It doesn’t really matter. The point is to find a number you can reliably write every day, and then—and this is the most crucial part—actually do it.

Just for shits and giggles, let’s look at the two months I’ve been working on the WIP, apply some different word count goals, and see where we end up. I’ve had roughly 45 work days to get my 90,000 words, so I’ve been pretty consistent with my 2,000-words-a-day goal. But let’s say you can only do 1,000 words a day; that’s still 45,000 words in two months, which is halfway or more to a hefty novel. And what if you can only manage 500 words? Well, shit, that’s still 22,500 words in sixty days, which means you’ve got a novel-length first draft in eight months or less. That ain’t bad.

To sum up, King’s method of 2,000 words a day obviously works for him, and, so far, it’s working for me too. But the primary lesson to take away from his quote, I think, is consistency and stick-to-itiveness. Find something you can do every day, even if it’s only 500 words. If you stick with it, if you are consistent, those words will add up a hell of a lot faster than you think.

A List of Links: Starry Wisdom & Worthy Vessels

Here’s another collection of potentially useful/interesting stuff from around the interwebs.

1) My friend and former colleague at Privateer Press, Simon Berman, has an awesome Kickstarter campaign going for a deluxe tome of stories and essays about H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. It’s called The Book of Starry Wisdom: Apocrypha of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu, and it’s pretty fucking rad, if I do so say so myself. I interviewed Simon about the project earlier this week, you can find that here, along with more info about The Book of Starry Wisdom.

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2) Veteran fantasy author Richard Lee Byers, whom I’ve had the pleasure to work with on a number of occasions, was recently interviewed by Dirge Magazine about writing media tie-in fiction, something Richard know a lot about. It’s an interesting read. And if you’re looking for more sage advice from Mr. Byers, I heartily recommend his Ranks of the Rejected interview, which you can find right here on this blog.

3) Christine Dalcher posted a great opinion piece on her blog called A Reader’s Rubric. She breaks down the elements of good fiction into five broad categories and provides story examples for each. Good stuff.

4) My writer pal Rose Blackthorn recently released her first piece of media tie-in fiction for Privateer Press. It’s a novelette called “Worthy Vessel” set in the WARMACHINE universe. This is Rose’s first foray into shared-world fiction, and she fucking knocked it out of the park. “Worthy Vessel” is a downright creepy and disturbing piece that will appeal to both fans of WARMACHINE and folks who just like a good horror story.


5) Recently, I’ve been on the hunt for good reprint markets, and some of the best  I’ve found for reprints are the three Escape Artist podcasts Escape Pod (sci-fi), PodCastle (fantasy) and Pseudopod (horror). They produce high quality audio versions of short stories, pay pro rates, and, even better, here’s what they have to say on the subject of reprints from the Pseudopod guidelines:

We do not discriminate between previously published and unpublished works. We’re an audio market, and we buy nonexclusive rights, so it doesn’t hurt us if a story has previously appeared in another market. If the text of the work is currently available online for free, that’s great! Let us know in your cover letter so we can link to it in the web post if we publish your story.

They’re definitely worth a try if you’re looking to submit reprints.

The Book of Starry Wisdom

If you have a look at the “about me” page, you’ll see I promised to use this blog as a shameless promotional vehicle. Of course, I meant for it to be a shameless promotional vehicle for me, but as it so happens, I have a lot friends and colleagues who are doing all kinds of awesome things I really want to talk about. So, I’m spreading the shameless promotion around, starting with Simon Berman, my friend and a former colleague at Privateer Press, who is doing something super fucking rad. He’s taking his unnatural love for all things H.P. Lovecraft and turning it into a tangible artifact of lunatic obsession via the occult magic of Kickstarter. The project is called The Book of Starry Wisdom, and I recently spoke with Simon about how this must-have book for fans of Howard Phillips Lovecraft came to be.

Starry Wisdom Product

1) So I hear you got yourself a Kickstarter campaign. Tell us all about it.

My entire life is being consumed by the eldritch forces of social media summoned in support of my project, The Book of Starry Wisdom. I’m a tremendous fan of H.P. Lovecraft’s work, and this book is a direct result of that obsession. When I first encountered Lovecraft’s stories as a teenager, I was captivated by his description of hoary tomes of forbidden knowledge. I was always a little disappointed that the only way to read his stories was in the form of cheap paperbacks. This was the early 90s, and while I loved those old Del Rey editions with Michael Whelan’s fantastic cover art, I always wanted something more substantial.

The Book of Starry Wisdom is my pet project, a way to collect Lovecraft’s specifically Cthulhu-related stories in the kind of portentous book they deserve. The heart of the book are those three stories, “Dagon,” “The Call of Cthulhu,” and “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” I’ve arranged to have the stories fully illustrated and bound in a faux-leather, hardcover edition accompanied by essays that relate to the original stories. I want this to be a book that looks awesome on your bookshelf, whether it’s in your living room or your ancient and forbidden library.

2) What’s the significance of the title The Book of Starry Wisdom?

It’s a reference from Lovecraft’s story “The Haunter of the Dark.” While the original reference is to a cult worshiping Nyarlathotep, I felt it was evocative of one of the pillars of the Cthulhu Mythos, namely that of the Stars Coming Right. I wanted this collection to have a title that felt immersive, like something that might be used by a real cult. This sort of gentle breaking of the fourth wall is a major theme of the entire project.

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3) There are some really talented writers involved on this project, including Orrin Grey, whom I’ve interviewed on this very blog. Tell us a bit about the writers and what they’re contributing.

I selected my writers with great care. All of them are talented authors or game writers of note. Frankly, I was spoiled for choice given how many stellar and often award-winning writers I’m lucky enough to call colleagues. One thing I wanted to ensure was a diversity of perspective. In addition to seasoned horror writers like Orrin Grey—who has submitted a brilliant and twisted essay exploring Cartesian philosophy, Lovecraft, and the films of John Carpenter—but also people like the poet Bryan Thao Worra, a Laotian poet of note and a huge fan of Lovecraft. All of the essayists were instructed to examine some aspect of the three Cthulhu stories and then shed light on them in some new way. As well, I requested they not write anything like literary criticism. I want the volume to be totally immersive, so all of the essays treat the stories as if they are non-fiction, or, at least, not entirely fictional in origin. My deepest hope is that a copy ends up in a Salvation Army used books bin in twenty years and scares the living shit out of some teenager who happens to buy it on a whim.

4) You’re also working with a very talented artist, Valerie Heron. Tell us about her contributions to The Book of Starry Wisdom.

I originally became acquainted with Herron’s work about a year ago. She had illustrated t-shirts for Pacific NorthWEIRD and Rifftrax, and through the small world of the internet I realized we had a number of people in common. I was starting to plan The Book of Starry Wisdom in earnest this past spring, even though it had been kicking around in my head for a couple of years. Having looked at Valerie’s deific artwork in the pagan community, I knew she’d be an excellent choice for this project. Aside from her obvious skill as a fine artist, I recognized that she also had an understanding of occult principals and symbolism that would lend itself well to the immersive qualities I wanted in my book. Herron is producing thirteen interior illustrations as well as other prints exclusive to the Kickstarter. I’m incredibly excited at what she’s been drawing, I think it’s going to be a fantastic-looking book.


5) I know this isn’t your first go-around running a Kickstarter campaign. What experience do you have with crowdfunding?

That’s correct. About two years ago I was one of the principal architects and managers for the WARMACHINE: Tactics Kickstarter. It was highly successful, and I learned many lessons that I think are scaling down well to my current project. I’ve also run some smaller crowdfunding projects for local artist Tom Dewar and his Supercharger Press Kickstarter, as well as managing the ongoing Patreon for artist Eiza Gauger’s Problem Glyphs project.

6) Who are the people who fucking need to run over to Kickstarter and back The Book of Starry Wisdom right this very second? (I mean, besides aggressively nerdy, oft-rejected writer types like myself.)

Those who have heard the Call. Those who wish to be blinded by the revelations of the new dark age. The mad, the dead, and the Damned. Ia! Ia!

Simon Berman is a writer and the social marketing manager at Privateer Press where he has contributed to the award-winning games WARMACHINE, HORDES, and the Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy Roleplaying Game. He lives in Seattle and in his spare time attends to the whims of his fat and bitter cat, Chud.

The Molotov Cocktail: Prize Winners Anthology

The Molotov Cocktail has just released a print anthology with stories collected from their quarterly flash contests. I’ve got a couple of pieces in the mix, and you can read my stories “Shadow Can” and “Night Walk” in real, honest-to-god dead tree format by clicking on the big fat image below. There’s a whole bunch of stories by super talented authors in this thing, so if you like horror and flash fiction, go forth noble consumer and get yourself a copy.

Flash Anthology

Ranks of the Rejected: Robert J. Schwalb

This time around on Ranks of the Rejected, I spoke with writer, game designer, and game developer Robert J. Schwalb. I was pretty stoked when Rob agreed to a Ranks of the Rejected interview, not only because he’s a great writer and a fellow death metal fan, but he also brings a slightly different perspective to the ol’ rejection runaround as a pro game designer. Apparently, they get rejected too.

Although I’ve never personally worked with Rob, I’m very familiar with his work. Years ago, when I started getting serious about writing in the gaming industry, I would look at the names on the covers of my Dungeons & Dragons books and think, “Man, it would be super fuckin’ rad to be one of those people.” Many times, the name on the cover was Robert J. Schwalb, and years later, after establishing my own career in the gaming industry, I still have a growing collection of Rob’s books on my shelf.

Now, normally, it would be right about here I would assign a rejectomancer level to the interviewee. I’m not gonna do that for Rob. Mostly because I’m fucking terrified he’d check my work. It’s also because, in my opinion, he’s one of the best game designer’s in the biz, nigh on legendary, in fact. It’d be like trying to stat up Cthulhu or something. Sure, you can do it, but there’s always the chance you’ll displease the great old one and his minions, and then you’re really screwed. I’ll just play it safe and say Rob’s rejectomancer level is super epic and beyond the ken of mortal man.

Here’s a bit more about Rob:

  • Robert J. Schwalb is a writer, game designer, and game developer best known for his contributions to Dungeons & Dragons, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Robert launched his own imprint in 2014, Schwalb Entertainment. Shadow of the Demon Lord, his first game from his new company, is available now as a PDF at Schwalb Entertainment, DriveThruRPG, RPGNow, and d20PFSRD.org.

1) As a game designer and developer, how is rejection part of your professional life? Do you (or did you) get rejection letters?

Sure, it’s a big part of my professional life and one that has had the potential to undermine my creative energy whenever I encounter it. In the early days of my career, rejection was a giant looming shadow lurking just out of sight, watching, waiting to jump on my back and caress my neck with its tender kisses. Hitting convention after convention, roaming the aisles armed with business cards and desperation, I shook every hand I could, eager to take on any job to kick open the door to my career. I came to know the false smile, the blow-off, and the distracted affect as the heralds of rejection, and those early days haunted me for years, even after became a developer for Green Ronin Publishing. I can still slip back into that well of negativity when I’m not paying attention. I managed to nurse those bad encounters until they took root as a seed of hatred in my cold, black heart, and from which I draw the drive I need to succeed.

2) In your opinion, what can writers learn from rejection? What have you learned?

Of all the learning experiences one can have in striving to become a writer, designer, or something else in the creative field, rejection, for me, was the most important. It gives you a chance to rethink ideas, it helps you identify the good folks in the business and the not-so-good, and it has the chance to make you see things from different perspectives. When you create something or have an idea for something you want to create, it lives inside your little attic, a crudely formed thing that slowly takes shape as you refine it. When you are ready to bring it out of your head and reveal it to the cold light of day, rejection can force you to develop that thing in a different direction, reveal the weakness of the thing, or prepare you for the criticism you will get when you proceed with the project anyway.

3) Got a favorite rejection? Memorable, funny, mean, just straight-up weird?

I remember pitching a book to one company that focused on NPC classes and using them to tell a different kind of D&D story, one in which the characters weren’t superheroes, but were ordinary folk going up against the horrors stalking D&D land. I probably didn’t pitch it that way, and that was probably why the company sent over the rejection letter, saying something to the effect that no one wants to play experts and commoners, so why make a book no one wants?

4) What’s the toughest part of rejection for you? Pro tips for dealing with it?

Interpreting rejection as failure was a cancer to my soul. Here’s the thing: It’s not failure. You fail when you get accepted and don’t deliver, deliver late, or deliver crap. You fail when the product doesn’t sell, when the critics take up their knives to dissect your genius and find it lacking. You fail when no one talks about your creation, dismissing it to rot on the mountain of bad ideas. Rejection is a warning, a signal that maybe you should just let the thing in the attic grow and take a different shape before letting it loose in the world. Rejection can be surprising, humbling, and maybe humiliating, but it’s also the best way to avoid releasing crap to which your name becomes attached forever.

5) Okay, Rob, this one is really, really important. Think about your answer carefully. Here it is: Which metal band most exemplifies the bitter pain of rejection? (Bonus points if you give us a specific song. More bonus points if it’s a band I like.)

I’m going to go with “Chopped in Half” by Obituary from the 1990 Cause of Death album. The runner up is “Excoriate” by diSEMBOWELMENT off their 1993 album Transcendence into the Peripheral. [Rob gets all the bonus points for these two excellent choices.]

6) Plug away. Tells us about your latest project and why we should run out and buy it.

Shadow of the Demon Lord

Shadow of the Demon Lord has swallowed my life. It’s the THING I DO, the monster set free to prey on the hordes of gamers itching for dark, horrific fantasy gaming set in a world drowning in the destruction loosed by the Devourer of Worlds, The Darkness between the Stars, the Ender of All Things, the Demon Lord. The 272-page PDF spilled out of my brain womb and into the tubes of the Internet where it has been making converts, one gamer at a time. The print book arrives at the warehouse late November and should be in gaming stores worldwide soon after. Why should you buy this book and the kickass adventures and supplements by some of the finest designers in the business, including Shane Hensley, Steve Kenson, T.S. Luikart, Chris Pramas, Steve Winter, and more? My cats need to eat. Oh, and I think you’ll have a ton of fun with it too.