Tag Archives: short story

Tales of the Rose Knights: Smooth Angel

Smooth Angel

Smooth Angel, courtesy of Sue Brown (c)

A new Tale of the Rose Knights that I wrote with Jay Lake went up on Daily Science Fiction today, “Smooth Angel.” Here a short teaser:

Smooth Angel came out of the uttermost east, across the great Sea of Grass into the lands of the Roses. She traversed the farthest kingdoms, crossed the Ivory Mountains by hidden passes, and descended through Hy Rugosa, already arrayed as a knight with her pale banners the color of the first orange of sunrise. Her armor was lacquered in the manner of the Sallow Men of the Sea of Grass, and her horse had stripes never before seen by the breeders in the West. It was as if she had ridden across the world.
She met the Sun’s Viceroy on the road outside Fenixtown. He rode fast, without his courtly array, just a hard-eyed company of soldiers and three lesser Rose Knights, bannermen of the knight Snowfire. They were dressed and geared for rough travel.
The Sun’s Viceroy pulled his mount to and raised a hand to stop Smooth Angel. Stop she did, for politeness and curiosity.
“Greetings, knight. I do not recall your banner.” The Viceroy spoke with the iron courtesy that only a man of absolute power can summon, his voice smooth, though he failed to introduce himself or his party. “Do you follow the Sun or the Moon?”
Smooth Angel rested her right hand lightly on the hilt of her longer sword. “Neither. My banner shines equally in starshadow and daylight. Who are you to ask?”

Read the rest on DSF.

And if you do, I hope you enjoy the story. 🙂

Announcing a new anthology with one of my stories – and a reminder of free ebooks

I just got the news this week that an anthology I sold a story to some time ago has finally come out in ebook, with print to follow:

The theme of the book, Times of Trouble, is the much-maligned genre of time travel. A lot of people say it’s been done to death, and maybe they’re right, but reading A Wrinkle in Time when I was a kid was a mind-blowing revelation, and I’ve had a fondness for time travel ever since. Here’s the description of the book:


It’s funny how second chances usually wind up being just another opportunity to make the same mistakes, though.

The authors represented in the collection you now hold were tasked to create grim and gritty tales of time travel gone horribly wrong.

They have done so, in some wildly varied ways.

There are stories of rare and exceptional beauty; stories of dark, otherworldly horror; stories of white-knuckle thrills and even some that will make you laugh out loud.

In fact, if you pay close attention, in at least one of these adventures, you’ll realize that no time travel at all ever takes place.

All of them will take you places–and times–you’ve yet to be, and make you think about the experience.

I also want to remind everyone that two of my ebooks are free today, Beyond the Waters of the World and “Misty and the Magic Pumpkin Knife.” In addition, Shadow of Stone will be on sale this weekend for 2.99.

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Book in a Week, or rather two (or more) — and finding the WOW

This is my attempt to recreate the blog post I lost a couple of days back, with updates and some tentative conclusions, a few more days into the experiment. And this time, I am not writing the original post directly in WordPress. 🙂 Luckily — since I wrote it Sunday evening, and while I was working on it, our Internet connection gave up the ghost!

After my Fast Draft fail a while back, I still hadn’t given up on finding a way to write faster more consistently. I once had a 5,000 word day, many years back. That was towards the end of Yseult. I’d been working on the novel off and on for years, but had finally committed to finishing it. I don’t want to give away too much plot-wise for those reading this who might not have read the novel, but it was a very emotion and action-packed scene, and in many ways it surprised me, not the least of which was the way it seemed to write itself.

When I transferred the text from my little Jornada to my desktop at the end of the day and did a word count, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Over 5,000 words. I’ve been chasing that elusive ideal writing day ever since.

I’ve had plenty of friends who are more prolific than I give me brilliant advice like “just write!” or “open a vein” or “how many words can you type in an hour?” None of that was very helpful. While I still have not recreated that 5,000 word day, I am mildly hopeful that April Kihlstrom’s “Book in a Week” class might show me the way to hit that benchmark again someday. (You can sign up for her list where she announces upcoming classes here.) And even though I hit a wall a couple of days ago, and I had two days of my old average of 500 words, followed by a day that was so full of life stuff that I didn’t get any writing done, I’ve managed to do over 9,000 words for the week on A Wasted Land.

I think the important thing about April’s class compared to others is her emphasis on fun and experimentation. Here a short excerpt from her lesson on THE WOW (one of my favorites):

I want you to look at these two writing weeks as a chance to discover amazing things about yourself and your writing and the world in which you go through your day. This is NOT just an exercise in trying to write quickly. It’s an exercise in discovering what happens when you step outside your comfort zone and try new things, take chances, risk making mistakes and try something wonderful and amazing.

I want you to look at the whole experience as a chance to play with all your assumptions about what you can and cannot do—and throw out the ones that no longer serve you.

I hope you rub your hands together with glee every time you sit down to look over a class lesson or an assignment and–from now on–every time you sit down to write.

April is amazingly supportive. Rather than telling participants, THERE ARE NO EXCUSES!, she tells us we’re doing great, and the main thing is to learn the way each one of us can be more productive.

After I hit the wall, where I realized I hadn’t done enough research in the brainstorming phase — mistakenly thinking I knew everything, since I’d already written two books in this world — I took a step back, and tried to figure out what I needed. I realized soon enough that I’d killed off too many characters in Shadow of Stone to be able to pull off the big picture background without some extra work. These books are set in the Dark Ages, which is both a blessing and a curse: on the one hand, I can’t just look things up in history books, but on the other, I have the freedom to pick and choose from legendary and semi-historical figures. But then there’s my own Ph.D.-trained-self getting in the way, who wants to come as close to sixth century reality as possible.

So I just have to go for the WOW. And for former professor, research-addicted me, the WOW just happens to do with all kinds of nifty potential connections between Dark Age figures that I could try to explain fictionally. Ok, as a result of my weakness, I stalled out for a couple of days, but Sunday, after a couple more hours of research, I hit the point where I could take off, and I wrote 1300 words.

I know 1300 words would make a lot of writers only go pphth!, but I’ve reached the point where I realize the only writer I should compare myself to is myself. Yes, I want to increase my daily word count, but the surest way for me to want to jump off a cliff is for me to compare my 500 words a day to someone else’s 10,000. So I will celebrate my 1300, play around with my plot and my characters, and continue to try and find a way to create more using the WOW factor — and my own perfectionist research tendencies. 🙂

Before I forget again, (which I have been doing all year now!) my story “The Shadow Artist” is available on Abyss & Apex. It’s another story in the Tales From Far Beyond North series.

Luck and skill to all!

Moving forward on City of Glass, some thoughts on story length, and a new cover

Not too much to report this week. I’m enjoying writing the new version of “City of Glass” a lot, exploring avenues in the story world I couldn’t when I thought I had to keep it at short story length. When selling a specfic short story to traditional markets, the best chances of making a sale are for stories under 5,000 words. Some markets won’t even consider stories longer than 4,000 words. Since most online and print mags pay per word, it makes a lot of practical sense. For print mags, the shorter the stories, the “more” they have to offer their readers in each issue — one novella can take up half a magazine. For online mags, which often operate on a very low budget, it makes even more sense — the shorter the story, the less they have to pay the author.

In this brave new world of epublishing, the situation is diametrically opposite. Readers are used to getting complete novels for 99 cents, and if all they get is a short story, they feel cheated. I do my best on my covers and in my descriptions to make it completely clear that the product they are considering is a short story (officially defined by the Science Fiction Writers of of America as a piece of fiction under 7500 words), I list the word count and the number of pages, and yet I still get reviews from readers who were apparently expecting novels. I’m not the only one — it’s a common complaint on the Kindle Boards.

Anyway, “City of Glass” was originally 4500 words when I was trying to market it to traditional short story markets. It is now at 10,000 words, about half complete. The new first draft should come in at close to 20,000, after which I will have to fill in the blanks I left and add more sensory detail (window-dressing). It looks like it won’t be any problem to turn my reverse-Cinderella story about a glass-maker on Murano into a novella (officially defined by SFWA as over 17,500 words *g*).

This project has me thinking that I could do the same thing with some of my other short stories, like “Dragon Time.” (Not that I need any new projects …)

Speaking of short stories, I’m putting together a new mini-collection, a 99c jobbie like Never Ever After, Story Hunger. Here’s the first version of the cover:

What do you guys think? Any and all comments welcome!