Writing Acts of War II – Week 7 Update

Seven weeks on the board, and the first draft of Acts of War: Aftershock is in the home stretch.

Here’s how week seven breaks down:

Progress: I wrote 12,040 words and ended on chapter 29. My total word count is near 80,000 words, and I feel pretty confident the first draft is going to be somewhere between 90,000 and 95,000. So, with a good push, I should complete the first draft by the end of this week. That’s about a month ahead of schedule, which will give me plenty of time to go back through the draft and clean it up before I hand it over to Privateer Press.

The Best Part: Four warcasters at once! As WARMACHINE players know, warcasters are the most potent pieces on the battlefield. In the game, it’s rare to field more than one, and this is supported in the narrative in that warcasters are usually found leading large numbers of troops or even entire armies. This week, I had the chance to write a bunch of scenes with four warcasters working as a small unit. That means overlapping spells, feats, and abilities and heretofore unseen combinations of epic badassery.

The Hard Part: Four warcasters at once? Yep, another two-for this week. As fun as it is to write about a small unit of warcasters taking it to the bad guys, I had to do a fair amount of bookkeeping to make sure the spells and abilities I was describing in the narrative would actually work together on the tabletop. Sure, some creative license is okay, but you gotta try and avoid direct rules violations. For example, if Ashlynn and Magnus use their feats at the same time, there are lots of ways I can describe that and not break any rules. On the other hand, I cannot have Ashlynn hit her Mule heavy warjack with a Quicken spell and then have Magnus layer Bullet Dodger on top of that (cuz they’re both friendly upkeep spells). I gave you that last example because I wrote a scene with that exact mechanical mistake and had to go back and rewrite it. For a while, though, I was having some fun with +4 DEF, +2 SPD, and Dodge on the same warjack. That Mule was practically dancing across the battlefield.

Mini Excerpt: One of the things I most enjoy about writing in the Iron Kingdoms are warjacks. Sure, what’s not to love about multi-ton steam-powered metal monsters that can wreck buildings and flatten enemy troops by the dozen? But the really cool part about warjacks is that they are not just machines. A warjack’s cortex, its mechanikal brain, allows it to develop a personality and even rudimentary emotions as it gets older. So, in essence, warjacks are characters too, and one of the most famous character warjacks in Lord General Coleman Stryker’s personal heavy, the cantankerous Ironclad known as Ol’ Rowdy. Today’s mini-excerpt and concept art focus on the cranky old warjack and his penchant for doing whatever the hell he wants.

ol-rowdy



Stryker saw the cause of Rowdy’s alarm. The Storm Lances he’d set to guard Sergeant Harcourt had been flanked and shot down by a unit of Winter Guard riflemen. Harcourt had dismounted–or, likely, had fallen from his saddle–and was crouched down behind his horse. His ‘jack wrench was in hand, but it was obvious combat was the furthest thing from his mind. The Winter Guard were closing on him, and two of them had drawn axes to finish off the cowering mechanik.

He felt Rowdy wanting to pull away, to go and help Sergeant Harcourt, to crush those who threatened the field mechanik. Again, he was perplexed by the emotional response from the warjack. Rowdy wanted to protect Harcourt more than he wanted to follow Stryker’s orders.

I’ll help him, Stryker thought to Rowdy. You deal with that Destroyer. Mollified, Rowdy stopped fighting him and focused his attention on the Khadoran warjack. Stryker kept his promise and raced toward Harcourt, blasting one of the Winter Guard off his feet with a bolt from Quicksilver and drawing the attention of the others.



Aw, looks like Ol’ Rowdy made a new friend. Stryker’s gonna be so jealous. 😉

If you have a question or 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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Check out the first book in this series, Acts of War: Flashpoint, if you haven’t already. You can get the e-book at 25% off from the Skull Island eXpeditions website by entering the code ACTSOFWAR1 at checkout.

Writing Acts of War II – Week 6 Update

Six weeks down, and I’m starting the third act of Acts of War: Aftershock. The epic conclusion is in sight, and, well, they don’t call it “WAR” MACHINE for nothin’.

Progress: I wrote 11,062 words and ended on chapter 24. Some of these chapters got a little long, so they might get broken into multiple chapters in revision. My total word count is just over 66,000 words, and we’re targeting between 90,000 and 100,000 for the book. In other words, the end is in sight, and a finished first draft is starting to become a tangible reality.

The Best Part: More secret stuff. I know, I’m kind of rubbing it in now, but I got the go ahead from Privateer Press to do some things in this book that will be pretty exciting for WARMACHINE fans. In the third act, I’ll be dealing almost exclusively with the shiny new coolness Privateer has put at the mercy of my grubby little keystrokes. Again, I will be revealing some of this stuff as we get nearer the novel’s release.

The Hard Part: So. Many. Characters. There’s no avoiding it with a novel that features actual armies of people doing big, exciting things. You’re gonna have a lot of secondary and minor characters in addition to your main POV characters. It can be easy to lose track of all those names. So, I keep a little spreadsheet of minor characters (names, where they appeared, and so on), so I don’t have to go hunting back though the manuscript when I want to use that Storm Lance lieutenant in chapter thirty-five that I created way back in chapter four.

Mini Excerpt: This week’s mini excerpt features two of our main characters, Asheth Magnus and Lord General Coleman Stryker forced into a situation where they have to work closely together. If you’ve read the first book in the series, you know these two have a bit of a checkered past. We also get a glimpse of a villain (and there’s no gray area with this guy) from Flashpoint returning to torment our heroes. This weeks concept art showcases some early designs for Magnus and Stryker from Matthew D. Wilson.

cmdr-stryker-pose_mw magnus-concept


More bullets slammed into the crates, kicking up splinters. It wouldn’t take long for Harrow’s men to reduce their cover to kindling. “We can either make for the door and get shot to pieces or make for Harrow and get shot to pieces,” Magnus said.

“Unless I can give them something to think about from here,” Stryker said, glancing around the ruined warehouse. “This place is already falling apart, so maybe I give it a little nudge.

“I think I know what you have in mind,” Magnus said, shaking his head. “Didn’t you just have a building fall on you?”


The threat of imminent death can heal all wounds. Well, a few of them. It was more than a little fun to write a scene where Magnus and Stryker work together. They actually make a pretty badass team. I just can’t decide which one is Riggs and which one is Murtaugh. I guess Magnus is kind of getting too old for this shit.

Got a question or a comment about the book or my writing process? Fire 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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Check out the first book in this series, Acts of War: Flashpoint, if you haven’t already. You can get the e-book at 25% off from the Skull Island eXpeditions website by entering the code ACTSOFWAR1 at checkout.

Flash Doom & The Molotov 10

Let me start this post by announcing my first acceptance and publication in 2017. My story “An Incident on Dover Street” received an honorable mention (7th) in The Molotov Cocktail’s Flash Doom contest. You can read it right now along with a nine other great stories in the Flash Doom mega-issue.

This publication also marks a fairly momentous occasion, as it is my tenth (10) publication with The Molotov Cocktail. Most of those publications have come in their various flash fiction contests. The themes for these contests always seem to be right up my alley, and, hey, they apparently dig my style enough to publish me in double digits. To celebrate this double-digit day, I thought I’d share all ten stories I’ve published with The Molotov Cocktail. You can read them all, for free, just by clicking one of the links below. So, in order of publication, here’s my Molotov 10.

  1. At the Seams” – A little story about falling apart, literally.
  2. “Shadow Can”A tale of a shadow gone rogue.
  3. “Night Walk”This one puts a non-zombie horror spin on the post-apocalyptic story.
  4. “Side Effects” – A piece about drugs and spiders, mostly spiders.
  5. “Beyond the Block” A head without a body, a body without a head–will they ever find one another?
  6. “A Man of Many Hats”A weird one about, uh, hats.
  7. “The Sitting Room” –  An art connoisseur with very specific tastes.
  8. “The Father of Terror” Dead cats and Egyptian god-demons for the win.
  9. “Masks”Children’s Halloween masks and ancient demons. A winning combo!
  10. “An Incident on Dover Street” – A story about dinosaurs. With feathers! (Screw you, Jurassic World.)

Got an opinion about any of the pieces above? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

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.