Read “Cowtown” at The Arcanist

My story “Cowtown,” a flash piece (1,000 words) that mixes comedy, horror, and a dash of sci-fi, was recently published over at The Arcanist. The story is free to read on The Arcanist’s website; just click the cow below to check it out.

Read “Cowtown” 

A little more about the publisher. The Arcanist is a new market that publishes sci-fi and fantasy, but their definitions of those two genres are broad enough to include a bit of horror, as evidenced by my story. They’ve really put their best foot forward, with a good-looking website, a solid team of editors, clear submission guidelines, and a pay-rate of $50.00 a story, which works out to .05/word or more for flash fiction. That all adds up to a market you should check out if you write speculative flash fiction. Here’s the submission guidelines.

So, a little about “Cowtown.” This is another story that began life as part of a one-hour flash fiction challenge. I’ve participated in a bunch of these, first at the Shock Totem forums and now with a private Facebook writing group. The idea is pretty simple: someone posts a prompt, usually a photo, and then you have one-hour to write a flash piece of no more than 1,000 words. The authors then vote on the stories, and the winner gets to post the prompt on the next go-around. Anyway, these contests have been very good for me, and I’ve published eighteen stories that began life in a one-hour writing blitz. A number of those stories I later expanded, sometimes considerably, but many I simply cleaned up and sent out in more-or-less in their original form. “Cowtown” is one of the latter, and I’m glad the editors over at The Arcanist dug it enough to publish it. 

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.

It Came From My Hard Drive Part 4 – “A Pointed Education”

Here’s another little vignette I wrote for a Dungeons & Dragon supplement that never made it into print. This one would have been the introduction to a character build focused on throwing weapons. It’s one of those pieces that’s always left me wondering what happened to the characters, and maybe there’s a longer story in here somewhere. Anyway, it’s called “A Pointed Education,” and like the rest of these, it’s high fantasy, dwarves and elves kind of stuff.


A Pointed Education

“Master, would it not be better to take up our axes and blades and face the enemy in honorable battle?” Arimus asked. The dwarven youth’s lips were turned up in a smirk as he balanced a practice javelin in one thick-fingered hand. “My father always said that missile weapons were for elves and cowards not true warriors.”

The other students had been pulling their own practice javelins from a row of vaguely anthropomorphic straw targets, and all turned to look at the insolent Arimus, as he prepared to match wits and wills with Master Iocretian again. A hush settled over the small practice range – anything that broke the monotony of daily drill was highly regarded.

Iocretian, the aging dragonborn master peltast, continued to pull his javelins – real ones with barbed heads – out of one of the straw targets. Once he had gathered his six missiles, each of which had struck the center of the target from nearly sixty paces away, he turned to regard his most difficult student with a toothy grin.

“Well, Arimus, your father may have a point there,” Iocretian said, scratching the spines at the base of his chin as if considering the dwarf’s words. “However, I seem to remember it was an orc javelin and not a battleaxe that pierced your father’s skull during the battle of Gulgur’s Canyon. Pity that orc wasn’t versed in the ways of ‘honorable combat’ like your poor sire.”

Arimus’ face turned bright red, his cheeks flaming through the fuzz of his first beard. It was a brutal riposte by the master peltast, and the other students shrank away from the awful truth of Iocretian’s words.

“My father was a hero!” The young dwarf shouted, tears filling his eyes. “He killed fifty orcs that day in Gulgur’s Canyon, and I’ll fight anyone who says different!”

Iocretian’s face softened, and his scales seemed to sag more than usual. He knelt down to the fuming Arimus and put one clawed hand on the young dwarf’s shoulder. “Arimus,” he said. “No one is claiming your father is a coward. Only a fool would name Utren Stoneaxe so. But you must understand your uncle sent you to me so you don’t suffer a similar fate as your father.”

“To die in battle?” Arimus said, his eyes now filled with stubborn pride. “There is no greater glory.”

“No, you young fool,” Iocretian said and cupped the dwarf’s bearded face. “Your uncle didn’t want you to die young like your father because he couldn’t be flexible in battle.”

“I don’t understand,” Arimus said, hurt and anger still staining his words. “My father was a skilled warrior.”

“Yes, your father was as skilled warrior, but he knew axe and shield and straight-into-the-teeth-of-the-enemy and not much else. Think, boy! If you’re father could have thrown a hammer or a javelin with the same skill he wielded his axe, it would be him teaching you the ways of a dwarven warrior and not your uncle and me.”

Arimus opened his mouth to reply, then shut it, his eyes wary but intrigued.

“Yes, now you understand,” Iocretian said with another toothy grin. “Flexibility, boy. Adaptation. These are the traits that will ultimately lead you to victory in battle not just a ‘glorious death’ in your first skirmish. Learn the way of the axe, learn the way of the shield, but let me show you a trick or two as well.”

“i’m . . . I’m sorry, master,” Arimus said softly, and then found something very interesting to look at between his feet.

“Keep your apologies, boy,” Iocretian said. “I’d rather have you hit that target more than three out of six casts.”

Arimus smiled. He had been the only student to hit his target three times, and the backhanded acknowledgement of that feat was not lost on him. “Yes, master, four at least on my next try. I promise.”

“Then let’s see it . . . young warrior.”

It Came from My Hard Drive! Part 3 – A Red Night

Once again I’ve delved deep into the digital ruins of my hard drive and unearthed a tidbit of ancient fiction. Well, seven years ancient, but it’s never been read by anyone. (You’ll have to decide if it should have stayed that way.) This is yet another piece from when I was an RPG designer/writer/editor for Goodman Games (posted with their kind permission). Like the others in this series, “The High Road” and “The Challenge,” this is from an unpublished manuscript for a player-oriented 4E Dungeons & Dragons supplement. Also, like the others, this is a vignette meant to introduce a gaming concept through the narrative, in this case a wresting/boxing-type option for the the fighter class. (I know, grappling; what was I thinking?)

As I was reading this thing for the first time in seven years, I realized it’s a Robert E. Howard (Conan) pastiche (sincere apologies to REH fans). I can’t remember if that was on purpose or not, but there you have it. Anyway, this one is called “A Red Night,” and it comes with the usual warnings for this series. It’s basically a first draft, high fantasy world, blah, blah, blah.


A Red Night

Narl studied his target from across the crowded tavern, barely noticing the noise and stink of the Wastrel’s patrons. A full tankard sat untouched on the stained table in front of the half-orc assassin, but he was not drinking. This was a red night, and he needed to keep his wits sharp to complete his contract, for this was no ordinary target. This was no fat priest or slovenly merchant with muscles of sodden dough and fighting skills that would shame a child. This target was dangerous.

His name was Bjorngar the Great, an infamous pirate captain whose moniker Narl had found ridiculous until he’d seen the northerner in the flesh. Narl was hardly small, but Bjorngar dwarfed him. The massive human was well over seven feet tall and had to be three hundred and fifty pounds at least, most of it iron muscle by the look of him. To make matters worse, the red-haired pirate was armed with a long-hafted executioner’s axe, a weapon far too massive for anyone without Bjorngar’s strength and size to wield properly. If his sources were correct, and they usually were, his target could swing that axe with a skill that bordered on supernatural.

Despite his target’s physical advantages, Narl was not overly concerned. Bjorngar lacked the training of a Black Throat assassin, training that had turned Narl’s body into a living weapon more than a match for the best armed and armored warrior. Plus, he had another advantage: Bjorngar had been drinking steadily for the better part of the night. Most of his crew had either retired or lay in a drunken coma around their humongous captain, who sat behind a graveyard of empty flagons.

The giant northerner suddenly lurched to his feet, lurched around the heaped and snoring bodies of his crew, and then staggered toward the tavern’s front door. It was what Narl had been waiting for, and when Bjorngar walked out into the night, the assassin counted to thirty then followed.

The Wastrel was one of the more popular taverns in the port district, and this late at night, it was one of the few businesses still open. When Narl stepped outside, Bjorngar was nowhere in sight, but he soon heard the sound of piss splashing against brick in the alley next to the Wastrel. He crept into the concealing shadows of the narrow corridor of trash-strewn dirt that connected Eel Shadow Road and the Way of the Mermaid. Business and personal dwellings crowded in on either side, blocking the silver glow of the moon and creating a stretch of blackness that was nearly complete. Narl’s orcish blood allowed him to see in the gloom, and he spied his mark a short way down the alley, leaning against the wall and voiding enough steaming urine to fill a horse trough. The great oaf had left his weapon in the tavern.

Narl smiled. At no time was a man more vulnerable than when he had his most prized possession in hand. The half-orc glided toward his target, his massive hands outstretched to seize Bjorngar from behind. From there he would lock his arms around the big northerner’s bull neck, and not even Bjorngar the Great’s great strength would save him from being throttled to death. He was within a few feet of Bjorngar, who was still doing his best to piss a hole in the stone wall of the Wastrel, when the northerner whirled around, spraying Narl with a shower of warm urine. The disgusting assault caused him to recoil for an instant, long enough for his foe to reach out with one apishly long arm and grab him by the throat.

Bjorngar’s grip was like a steel vice, and Narl realized his target was not as drunk as he should be. He twisted like an eel, momentarily slipping free, but again, the northerner’s absurdly long reach allowed him to lock his fingers around Narl’s shoulder and pull him back and off-balance. He became alarmingly aware his opponent was not only far larger and stronger than he, but he was also no stranger to unarmed fighting. With a twist of his hips and feet, Bjorngar spun Narl around and pulled him into a bear hug, locking both gargantuan arms around the half-orc’s back. Narl squirmed and fought, slamming his fists into Bjorngar’s head and shoulders, but the pirate’s strength was unrelenting.

“I’ve always wanted to try my strength against one of you Black Throat killers,” Bjorngar said, blowing ale-sodden breath into Narl’s face, and grinning. “I’ll be very disappointed if you’re the best they have.” The northerner’s grip tightened, crushing the breath from Narl’s lung’s and turning his shout for help into a weak, rattling gasp. He slipped into darkness to Bjorngar’s booming laughter and the sound of his vertebrae snapping like rotten twigs.

August 2016 Submission Statement

Well, August was certainly better than July, where I did pretty much nothin’ in terms of submissions. I managed to get a few stories out last month, and I even snagged an acceptance and a publication.

August Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 3
  • Rejections: 1
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Other: 0
  • Publications: 1

Rejections

Here’s the lone August rejection.

Rejection 1: 8/14/16

Thank you for submitting work to our Flash Icon contest. There were some incredibly high-quality entries submitted this time around. 

Unfortunately, “XXX” didn’t make it into our Top 10. However, we encourage contest participants to submit these stories for consideration in our regular issues (free to submit) if you’d like to do so. 

Thanks so much for your participation. We couldn’t do these contests without you. 

This is another entry into one of The Molotov Cocktail’s flash fiction contest. This one was called Flash Icon and challenged writers to include an iconic person, place, or thing. I went kind of far afield on this one and chose an obscure monster from Greek mythology as my “iconic” thing. I don’t know why I thought a hecatonchire, even a named one, would be even remotely iconic, but there you go. I’m not saying that’s why this story didn’t place, but I’m guessing it didn’t help.

Acceptances

One acceptance, and, yep, it’s from the same place as the one rejection for the month

Acceptance 1: 8/14/16

Once again you’ve dazzled us with some strange and compelling flash fiction. “The Father of Terror” has won 2nd place in Flash Icon. Dead cats and slumbering Egyptian demons are right up our alley.

By now, you know the drill. This piece will be included in the mega-issue by mid-week and it will be in the Prize Winners Anthology due out this fall. 

A very nice acceptance letter, and I always love working with the folks over at The Molotov Cocktail. My story “The Father of Terror” took second place in the Flash Icon contest. My iconic thing in this one was the Sphinx, and I’m not saying my choice of an ancient, immediately recognizable structure was the key to my story placing, but it’s a damn sight better than a Greek monster no one has heard of.

Anyway, always nice to get another one on the board, and the fact that it’s with one of my favorite publications is just icing on the cake.

Publications

Yep, it’s a three-for. The one publication is at, you guessed it, The Molotov Cocktail.

“The Father of Terror” was published in their Flash Icon mega-issue, which you can read right here. As usual, this contest collection is chocked full of great stories, and if you dig horror and flash fiction, it’s  a must-read.

flashiconcoverfinal1

The other thing I’d like to call your attention to is not a publication but a flash fiction contest out at Red Sun Magazine. You might remember they published my story “Paper Cut,” and they’ve been kind enough to base this contest around my novel Flashpoint and to offer the book as part of the prize packages. Anyway, if you write flash fiction, head over to Red Sun for the official rules.

Red-Sun-cover


That was my August. Tell me about yours.

“Flashpoint” Fiction Contest at Red Sun Magazine

As I’m sure many of you gathered, my little spat with the folks over at Red Sun Magazine was just a bit of fun. Its primary purpose, besides engaging in some entertaining kayfabe, was to drum up some interest in a flash fiction contest to be held by Red Sun. Well, that contest has been announced, and I’m one of the judges. Contest winners will receive real cash money, some cool prizes, and the first place winner will be published by Red Sun Magazine on their website and in their newsletter.

Here are the basic rules for the contest:

  • Theme: An event that triggers a war in a fictional/fantasy/sci-fi setting.
  • Word Count: Submissions must be no longer than 1,000 words.
  • Deadline: 09/23/2016, midnight, Pacific Time

Head over to the Red Sun Magazine site for the full contest rules and info on how to submit a story.

One quick note: though the contest is themed around my Iron Kingdoms novel Flashpoint, this is NOT a contest for Iron Kingdoms fiction. So come up with something cool and original, impress me and the other judges, and take home that first place prize!

Oh, and if you’re looking for general tips on writing flash fiction, I offer a few pointers in this post.

My Latest Publication: “The Father of Terror.”

My story “The Father of Terror” took second place in the The Molotov Cocktail’s Flash Icon contest. You can read it (for free) right now and all the other excellent stories by the top ten finalists in the Flash Icon mega-issue. And, if you’re of the writerly persuasion, don’t miss The Molotov Cocktail’s next flash fiction contest, Flash Fear, for your own shot at cash and glory. Details and deadlines to be announced on the Molotov website soon.

flashiconcoverfinal1