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shatterstripes July 30 2014, 06:38


glunge-shuffleA friend pointed me to some glitching tools created by a Mysterious Net Art Collective. I may be using these for an upcoming page, to obscure some crucial information that’ll be in the gloss overlay in the printed volume…


Originally published at Egypt Urnash. You can comment here or there.

cathschaffstump July 28 2014, 22:26

And That’s a Wrap…

Tomorrow I return to work. My summer vacation is over, as is my time as a full time writer.

I did manage to get a rough draft of my novel done, and I have started draft 2, which for me is usually where things get very detailed. Currently I have one novel, one novella, and five short stories making the rounds. We've done all right this summer.


You will hear more often from me now that I'm back at work.


So, before the end of the week, I'll get started on that RAINN auction regarding Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon. Hey, if you have a friend named Catherine who doesn't mind what MZB did to her kids, this will be a perfect opportunity for you or that friend to make a donation to RAINN and get a personalized autograph. Or maybe your friend will want to bury the book. Whatever.


Thank you, summer. You were very, very good to me. Especially Convergence, the Ren Fest, and Detcon. Very good. I'll miss you.

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

jennifer_brozek July 28 2014, 20:37

Tell Me - Kenneth Mark Hoover

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

I have to admit, I have a soft spot for the Haxan world by Kenneth Mark Hoover. I love a good weird west tale and Haxan is it. Someday, the worlds of Mowry, AZ and Haxan, AZ will collide and it will be epic.



I fell into writing westerns, and dark fantasy westerns, entirely by accident.

About five years ago I started listening to the Old Time Radio Gunsmoke series. These were created and written by John Meston, a writer who wanted to bring adult sensibilities to the western. He hated what Hollywood had done to the Old West, relying on crude mythology and cliches. He wanted to write adult stories about the men and women of that time in a responsible way, leaving behind more cartoonish aspects which had taken root in the collective mind.

The OTR portrayal of Matt Dillon is very different from the television version. John Meston created Matt Dillon as a man as violent as the men he has goes up against. In fact, in the radio series, Matt Dillon is almost a psychopath who beats men within an inch of their life. Kitty, in the radio series, is a worn-out prostitute, and Doc Adams is a gibbering ghoul intent on collecting autopsy fees.

While listening to these episodes it wasn’t long before I knew I wanted to do something along the same lines. I had no intention before then of writing westerns or using a western setting as a backdrop in my fiction. John Meston, and his work, set the hook in my mind. I feel I owe him a lot.

Around the same time I finished reading the entire comic book run of Jonah Hex. I liked the hard-bitten edge of the character as written by John Albano, and the art of Tony DeZuniga has never been matched, in my opinion.

One afternoon I went outside to sit in the sun and I started making notes. I first had the town as Hex, New Mexico, probably a result of the comic influence. But I quickly changed that to Haxan, which is a Swedish word for “witches” and is the name of an excellent silent horror film from 1922. Just like that I had the entire plot of “Haxan” in my mind.

I started doing research, and to make things a little different leavened dark fantasy in the story. Not a lot. I didn’t want the fantasy to overwhelm the historical aspect at all. I had seen this in other “weird westerns” and frankly, never thought much of it. I didn’t want the West to be another generic (and replaceable) backdrop to my story. I wanted “Haxan” to be about the West, and any dark fantasy present would be included to illuminate that singular aspect.

I must say I have never thought I wrote “weird westerns” although the Haxan stories, and the novel published by CZP, are categorized that way. Being pigeonholed is a crux every writer must bear, and I don’t let it bother me too much. But, to me, your typical weird western is just another cliched story with vampires, werewolves, and the occasional Cthulhu-type monster in a walk-on role. I am a big reader of history and philosophy. I know the most frightening monsters have always been human. So that’s what I set out to write.

I’ve said many times Haxan is my own little dark corner of the universe where I get to play with matches. The setting and the characters lend themselves to many different story styles and genres. But I am always careful to make the West, and its culture, and the men and women of all races who struggled everyday to survive, my central focus. This came home to me in a big way when Jennifer Brozek remarked I should start writing stories about the other people in Haxan rather than concentrate on Marwood. I immediately saw what she was getting at. The whole mythos of Haxan needed to be told, rather than one slice from an individual viewpoint.

I haven’t looked back since. I’ve published about 20 Haxan short stories and more are coming. The novel Haxan was published by CZP earlier this year, and they’ve scheduled the next one, Quaternity, for May 2015. I will begin work on the third Haxan novel, Seven Devils, this fall.

So far I’ve enjoyed writing in the world of Haxan very much. People tell me they like the stories and the characters a lot. But I haven’t done it entirely by myself. I have some very good writers and friends I bounce ideas off to gauge their reaction whether a story idea is worth pursuing.

No writer writes a story entirely by himself. But as of today I am a citizen of Haxan, New Mexico, circa 1874, and I think I am going to stay there for a while.


Kenneth Mark Hoover has sold over fifty short stories and articles. His first novel, Fevreblau, was published by Five Star Press in 2005. His work has appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons and the anthology Destination: Future. He is a member of SFWA and HWA and currently lives near Dallas, TX. Mr. Hoover can be reached through his website kennethmarkhoover.com where extra content, including character biographies and photographs, can be found regarding the world of Haxan.

jbknowles July 28 2014, 10:45

Changing magic to power, inspired by Holly Black

Hello Teachers!!!! Today I'm going to cheat a tiny bit and share with you a post I wrote back on July 19, 2010, which I wrote after attending a lecture by Holly Black. Yes, the Holly Black. It was a lucky day! And since that day, I have been using what I learned to help my own students understand world building and why it's important no matter what your genre. I hope you'll give the exercise a try! :-) And THANK YOU, Holly, for inspiring me yet again. <3

Using world building techniques in realistic fiction via Holly Black
Original link: http://jbknowles.livejournal.com/382006.html

This Saturday I attended the Vermont College of Fine Arts Special Day on fantasy. Holly Black (blackholly) was the first speaker and I believe had everyone in that room aching to go home the minute she finished to tackle our projects and answer the insightful questions she proposed when creating a magic system.

Hold up.

Magic system?

I know. The theme was fantasy after all. And no, I'm not writing one.

But as I sat there listening to how Holly builds her brilliant plots, I realized all the questions she asks of magic can be directly asked about the underlying theme running through the microcosm each of our characters lives in (home, school, community).

Here's one example. Change the word "magic" to "power" when thinking about realistic fiction. (You can use another word, too, this is just the first example that came to me.)

1. Who has the magic?
2. What does it do?
3. How do you make it happen?
4. How is the user affected?
5. How is the world affected?
6. How are magic users grouped and perceived?

Let's try it, with some tweaks/notes:

1. Who has the power? (parent, relative, friend, teacher, bully—or the "who" could be a "thing" such as a disability, disease, economic situation, etc., which gives the illusion of having power)
2. What is it? (money, influence, abuse, manipulation, a secret, pain, threat of death, etc.)
3. How is it used? (physically, psychologically, emotionally, as a threat, etc.)
4. Why does the person use it? (to gain power, feel superior, survival, etc.)
5. How is the world/victim affected? (weakened, hurt, victimized, drawn inward, scared, etc.)
6. How are those in power (the bad guy/thing) grouped and perceived? The victims (our hero/main protagonist)?

Well, this is rough but you see what I mean. And you can see how having a clear understanding of the ins and outs are essential in developing plot and character no matter what you're writing. Even if they may seem obvious to you on the surface, going deeper you may discover a lot more. In fact I'm sure you will.

Holly went on to discuss in depth how to look closely to really understand the world you've created, and how important it is to understand all the costs of magic (to those who have it and don't), to understand the limits, and what the rules of the magic say about the world. And again, all of her points made me think deeply about the real worlds I've created for my own characters, grounded in the contemporary landscape we know, and what those say about the world, too.

Holly said, "How we set up our magic system reflects how we feel about the world... In writing fantasy, you're telling us what you think about the world." And aren't we doing that in everything we write? Fantastical or not? I love that. And I would add that it's not only what we feel, but what we believe we know. (I say believe, because sometimes, we end up being wrong. But part of that journey from saying things with such conviction, to opening your mind to other possibilities, to seeing the light in a place you once condemned to darkness, is how we make sure the world keeps changing.)

Finally, Holly noted well that when we write, we are in conversation with every book we've read. Every time we write we add to that conversation. She said it far more profoundly, but I love that notion. It's how we get better.

Well, I think I probably got this a bit jumbled but I loved the way Holly posed these questions and how they got me thinking more closely about the how's and why's of the dynamics within my own character's household, group of friends, etc., and what they mean more globally. Because there are different rules within each setting, and you do have to understand where they come from and why they stick in order to fully understand your character's motives, flaws, desires—and what they say about your character's world, as well as the one you—all of us—live in.

Don't you think?


Monday Morning Warm-Up:

Answer the questions above in relation to your own current work-in-progress.
jongibbs July 26 2014, 15:18

What have you got lined up in the coming weeks and months?

Where is Jon - compressed

I had a great time at the Kateri Day Camp in Morganville, NJ, earlier this month. I did two creative writing sessions. The first was for a group of 9-yr-old girls, in which we worked together to make up a rather fun sequel idea for Disney's Frozen.

The following week, I did a similar workshop for the boys, most of whom were twelve or older. They had a hard time agreeing on which movie sequel to work on (we ended up doing a zombie apocalypse set in a big city), but we managed to put something together.

I'm popping back there on Monday to pick up the entries for a story contest I set up. I've already read a couple of them. They're very good.

As for upcoming events, I've a few things booked and several more in the pipeline, but what with one thing and another, I've eased back a lot this year:

2014 AUGUST 9th (Sat) MONMOUTH WRITERS 10am-noon
Critique group, run by my friend Rick Kelsten

2014 SEPTEMBER 20th (Sat) MEET THE AUTHORS 4pm-6pm
Barnes & Noble, 2134 Highway 35, Holmdel, NJ 07733

2014 OCTOBER 15th (Weds) NOVEL WRITING: The First Draft 6:30pm-8:30pm
Ocean County Library (Tom's River)101 Washington St, Toms River, NJ 08753

How about you?

What have you got lined up in the coming weeks and months?
jongibbs July 25 2014, 17:33

Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e July 25th, 2014

Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last week:

A Better Way to Open Your Novel (Larry Brooks)

The Art of Microfiction (Gayle Towell)

Prologue and Epilogue (Diana Hurwitz)

Warning: Green Shore Publishing (Victoria Strauss)

Why I Left My Mighty Agency and New York Publishers (for now) (Claire Cook)

11 Grammar Mistakes That Label You “Amateur” (Janet Kobobel Grant)

One Way to Connect DIRECTLY To Your Fans? *Yawn* Email. Boring Old Email. (Dan Blank)

Watch out for writing ruts (Rachel Kent)

Resources for Writers—Industry News (Elizabeth Spann Craig)

If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2013, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.
cathschaffstump July 23 2014, 22:56


Oh Wiscon, how could you? You were the darling of my convention season, with your feminist emphasis, your stout writer's track, your concern for multiple viewpoints, and your thoughtful programming. Have we just been living a lie?

I don't understand what's happening with your decision regarding Jim Frenkel. Because it seems so unlike you to put the needs of one harasser against the constituents of the convention.

Listen, I'm not going to go over my arguments again. Instead, I'm just going to link to the same post I put up for Readercon a couple of years back. Just change the appropriate personage titles and con titles, and we're good to go.

The issue, dearest Wiscon, is that you must protect your constituency. You're opening yourself up for legal action, should Frenkel harass someone on your watch. You are not equipped to evaluate psychological reform. AND, unlike the case of Readercon's harasser Walling, Frenkel was fired from his job for harassment. If anything, your case is less ambiguous than the Readercon case, yet they took the stronger action.

You know I can't come to the con now, right? I can't come because of where I come from, and what I stand for. I can't back your decision to say that's it's okay for a known harasser to come back based on arbitrary decisions you are not equipped to make professionally. You're letting us down, Wiscon.

What's sad is that you're going to take a membership hit. Wiscon, you are supposed to provide the safe spaces. I shouldn't have to be talking to you as a collective body about the issue of harassment. It's a no brainer at a feminist convention. Right? Right?

Dammit. Wrong.

Give me some reason to come back next year, Wiscon. Grow a spine. Be what you pretend you are.

Otherwise, I will be writing you for a refund of my membership and my dessert salon ticket. Because you're no longer a con I want to attend.

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

shatterstripes July 23 2014, 19:41

Some story fragments. Mostly Batman.


I was going through the pile of sketchbooks on the coffee table, deciding which ones to keep out and which ones to put into the closet. As part of this process, I looked through them and photographed some stuff to get it into Evernote. Here’s some of it.

A few ideas on where that Batman story I started a while back might go. I think Nick came up with this DUMB-ASS JOKER PLOT? I’m not sure. Looking at it now I think, yeah, it’s at pretty much the right level of MALIGN STUPIDITY for a Joker plot. And I really like Harley’s line about “…and I think there were like twenty-three more HAs?” when she’s describing it.Evernote Snapshot 20140723 104820Evernote Snapshot 20140723 104820Evernote Snapshot 20140723 104820


Also here is something I will probably never do anything with. I like the idea but I’m not sure it’s the right one for me; if it sings to you then feel free to swipe it.

Evernote Snapshot 20140723 104821There were also a bunch of roughs for a story about Oscar and Dana, some bits for that demon sex story I’ve been slowly working on, and some bits of Rita. Some of which are for my eyes only, some of which I’ll be throwing into a process post on the comic’s blog…


Originally published at Egypt Urnash. You can comment here or there.

shatterstripes July 23 2014, 02:56

Twenty years of poking at an idea

I was writing a post on a comics-making board about how Some Ideas Take Time when I realized something.

I usually tag 1995 as when I started coming up with “The Drowning City”.
I’m planning to finally start drawing it next year, after finishing Rita. Which will be in 2015.

Twenty years. It took me twenty fucking years for that thing to gestate. For me to take all the tragedies of my life and use them as raw material for this fucking story that bubbled out of my homesickness and just wouldn’t go away. Ever.

All I can say is that I hope it turns out to be worth it.

And if it isn’t? If it turns out to be a bunch of overwrought, maudlin crap that I abandon halfway through? Well, at least I’ll have finally got it out of my system.

Originally published at Egypt Urnash. You can comment here or there.

jennifer_brozek July 22 2014, 21:39

The Writing Life

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

My life is boring from the outside. All I can talk about is what I've edited or written. I'm in a groove of work and not much more right now. A number of projects are falling in my lap all at once.

I just finished the final edits of my Shadowrun novella, Doc Wagon 19. It's been officially accepted and all that. I also just turned in Never Let Me Sleep (Permuted Press), the first book of the Melissa Allen series, my YA SF-thriller where I kill a whole state in the first chapter. Today, I'm working on the page proofs of Shattered Shields and I know page proofs for Chicks Dig Gaming are on their way.

Now, I'm shifting to writing-writing-writing. I'm working on Chimera incarnate (Apocalypse Ink Productions), the final book in the Karen Wilson Chronicles. Then I will be all about Never Let Me Leave, which is Melissa Allen #2. I also have 3 short stories due by the end of the year. So, my days will be marked by word counts, revisions, and page proofs. It's boring from the outside but awesome for me. I'm busy but I'm happy.

Still to be released in 2014

  • August, Doc Wagon 19 (Catalyst Game Labs)

  • October, "Dreams of a Thousand Young," Jazz Age Cthulhu (Innsmouth Free Press)

  • November, Shattered Shields  (Baen Books)

  • November, Chicks Dig Gaming  (Mad Norwegian Press)

  • December, "Written in the Wind," No True Way and Other Tales of Valdemar (DAW)

  • December, Apocalypse Girl Dreaming (Evil Girlfriend Media) - Though, this may move to early 2015


jbknowles July 21 2014, 13:05

Maybe I was wrong...

Hello and welcome to Week #3 of Teachers Write! I hope you're all having a wonderful time writing and creating and thinking and learning. I know I have!

Today I want to talk about moments of clarity. Moments of realization. In real life, these can come like a slap to the forehead, or sometimes more deeply, like a fist to the heart. I'm going to give an example.

Last week, my son and I spent five days volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. We got up early, met with an incredibly inspiring group of people, received our goals for the day, and got to work. By the end of the day we'd be tired and sweaty, and extremely grimy. My job for most of the week was putting up vinyl siding which had been stored in a wet spot of ground that received little sun. Each strip was covered in mud, leaves, pine needles and a fair amount of slugs which I continuously stuck my fingers in. We'd sweep the siding off (there was no electricity or running water for a hose) cut it with what we lovingly called "snips" which had my hands bruised by the end of the week, and cross our fingers that we'd measured correctly and hung them true. Most of the time, our fearless leader would come around the corner, inspect our work, and have us start over. It was difficult, and frustrating, but we kept our sense of humor.

As you can imagine, coming home to electricity, water, soap and (honestly) a toilet, was pretty nice. On one day, I went out to check our blueberry bushes and discovered several were ripe and ready to eat! Plus, they were HUGE. Beautiful, plump and oh so sweet. I took a photo of one and posted it on Facebook. Then, since I'd been away from electronics all day, I started to read headlines from the BBC, and catch up with friends' posts. And I realized that while I was off feeling so good about building this home and then celebrating the glory of a blueberry, horrifying events were happening. In that moment, I thought of that stupid blueberry photo and how insensitive and lost in my world I'd been. It was my punch to the heart moment.

Here's what I wrote on my Facebook wall:

"After I posted my blueberry photo, I realized how crazy and selfish it is to post a photo of an especially large blueberry when there is so much horrific violence going on around the world. And close to home, learning of the tragic death of a woman who babysat for us when we were kids. I am thinking about all the people who are touched by grief every day. Every day there are horrors and tragedies. And every day there are things like the wonder of a blueberry you picked from a bush you've been nurturing for ten and a half years. And every day there are cats doing cute things. And baby photos posted by a proud new grandparent. Every day there is sadness. And every day there is joy. And every day there is love. And who gets what every day seems to be a cruel crapshoot. And I don't know what to do about that except try to remember it. And try to be more kind. So I am sorry about the blueberry. But I am also grateful for it. Maybe more so because it grows despite the sorrow."

After that initial punch of guilt over the blueberry I realized that the world continues to spin no matter what happens on it. I have had my share of grief and I know what it feels like to not understand how this is so. There have been days in deep sorrow when I couldn't understand how people could keep going on with their daily lives, oblivious to the pain next door. But they do. We all do, eventually. And this, too, is another type of moment of clarity, or realization: That when faced with despair, we have a choice. We can feel the despair, and carry on trying to make the world a better place, or we can feel the despair and let it win.

The day after the blueberry incident, after feeling that despair and anger over all that senseless killing, I was filled with more determination than ever. I wasn't changing the world, but small acts of good work add up, and they do make the world a little better. I really believe that. I went back to that frustrating siding with a vengeance. I was determined to work harder. To make that house more beautiful. Liveable. Loveable. It fueled me. On the last day, we nailed the final piece of siding up. But the walls were still dirty-looking and it was hard to feel 100% proud. So another woman and I (she is a teacher!) filled a bucket with water from a nearby stream, got some rags, and washed every last strip until it looked new. We had to refill that darn bucket over and over because the water got muddy so fast. I fell in the stream up to my knee and had to spend half the day with one wet foot. It was gross and stinky but I didn't care. Because in the end, the siding did look just like new.

So what does all of this have to do with fiction? I would argue that this is how stories work. The protagonist makes a big realization, usually early on in the story, and it's what sets the story in motion. It's how quests begin. They hinge on a choice: give up or carry on and try to fix the problem. Fixing the problem, solving the mystery, trying to survive, whatever the situation, that's your story. And whatever it is that fuels your character to try, that's your characterization.

So what, specifically, is your character's big realization and what fuels him or her to try to make things better, or survive?

I started this entry talking about my work with that gross siding. And it seemed like kind of a drawn out story to get to my point. But I told it because of all the parallels I see in writing, and in particular revision. We almost never get it right the first time. We think we've measured correctly, or at least well enough, but when we step back and look, we can see it's a little off balance. So we take things down. We get help. We get feedback. we remeasure. We try again. We get dirty. We get frustrated. (Luckily there are no slugs!) But something in us doesn't let us give up. Something fuels us to keep going. And eventually, we get it right. Then we clean it up. And hopefully we feel good about it. Hopefully we feel proud. :-)

Today, I want you to think about your story, your protagonist, and what he or she is facing. Why is his or her story important to you? Why is this story worth telling? Try filling in the blanks:

This is a story about a _________________ who realizes/learns that _____________________________________________________ . So, he/she __________________
_____________________________________________________________________________________ .

This story is important to me because ______________________________________________ .


If you aren't working on a particular story, try writing to the prompt, "Maybe I was wrong..."

I hope you'll share what you come up with!

And as always, have fun. :-)


My son and I, working for Habitat for Humanity
shatterstripes July 19 2014, 16:13

the dream of trafficking in dragons

I dreamed I came into the possession of several very large crates full of unhappy, enslaved dragons. I had to keep up the pretense while trying to find a way to free them. I did not manage to do this before waking up.

(I don't know when, I just found this in the iPad blog client when I opened it up to do something else.)

Originally published at Egypt Urnash. You can comment here or there.

subtleassphinx July 19 2014, 07:26


it's not fair. i had to grow up and out of the self-pity parties i used to throw myself. but im surrounded by those who do and i cant say a thing. i want to help to make them feel better so that i can feel better yknow? </3
shatterstripes July 19 2014, 03:32

social day

Stuff I did today:

0. Turned off ads on Rita because the Patreon campaign passed $55/page!

1. Handed off my Genesis to Fluffy. I’d bought one along with a copy of Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles to use as photo-ref for a Further Confusion ad last year, and finally got sick of having it kicking around the living room floor yesterday. I offered it on Twitter and they were the taker; we hung out chatting for a while too.

2. Visited with Liz Meinert, an old friend from New Orleans. She’d been stuck half-dead for the past twenty years due to Mysterious Unspecified Problems, that finally turned out to be heart issues. She had surgery recently, and is bouncing back with a vengeance – something I can really sympathize with, given how I kinda completely shut down for most of twenty years after my father died, and am now running wild doing things like pole dancing! It was pretty great to hang out and talk about nerdy nerdy stuff.

3. Tweaked the Javascript scrolling for Rita. Or rather for Bayeux, the theme I abstracted out of Rita’s style. I improved that a little more in a few other ways; I may try to package it up for submitting to the WordPress theme archive before I go to bed tonight. It works fine for me on Safari and Firefox; I should probably test on Chrome but whatever, and IE? Whatevs. Also I switched Rita over to using Bayeux.

edit. submitted it, here’s the ticket for it. I r open source.

Originally published at Egypt Urnash. You can comment here or there.

jakobdrud July 18 2014, 21:06

Short Film News (and it's Great!)

'Monsters Big and Small' was a flash story that originally appeared in Daily Science Fiction. Last year I was contacted by director Alex Grybauskas, who wanted to make it into a short film. Giving permission was one of the easiest things I've ever done.
Alex has been working on it over the past year, and I got to read the script and comment on it, an entirely new experience for me. After shooting and editing it's now ready for the big screen.
Even better, Alex just mailed me to say that it was named an official selection to the HollyShorts film festival, where it will make its world premiere at the famous Grauman's Chinese Theater in L.A.

I just watched it with my wife, and I thought it was great, especially the acting. I also think they did an outstanding job turning a story that has a lot of internal dialogue into a visual experience. The movie won't be online for some time, but there's a teaser trailer here.

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