Closing 2015 and Into 2016

December saw several good things happening. First I released, Seven Deadly Sins Tales on Amazon! People liked “Crazy Moon,” and the following stories have Lou, Moe, and Sheila again tempting people into Faustian bargains based on the seven deadly sins. Nathan James Norman, a pastor and podcaster, read the second of the set, “Sixes Wild” on The Untold Podcast. “Sixes Wild” involves a set of four friends trying to get something for nothing. Nathan contacted me the other day to say that many people have sent fan mail about the story and how it makes them think about what’s truly important. “Crime of Passion” in Seven Deadly Tales is a direct sequel to the events with those four men.

Second I closed out the year with an average of 8,000 words written per month. Pretty good. That’s just under 100,000 words for the year. Naturally, I skip around, not only within the story that I’m working on but between different stories.

Now, like any writer, it’s on to the next idea. At this time, I have several story ideas I could work on next. I’d like to ask my readers what they are most interested in reading.

Complete Joshua’s Pawn Shop – Like Seven Deadly Sins Tales, there are seven stories in this collection. Instead of the seven deadly sins, each story exemplifies one of the cardinal virtues or heavenly graces. I have three of the seven stories done, and the fourth one about three quarters complete. The first of the set, “The Buick Eight” set the stage for a whimsical series of twists and turns like Twilight Zone, but these stories took a turn for the wild side when a Lutheran computer programmer became a demon hunter in “Fun and Games.” Several of my original story nuggets have been tossed. Trust the muse to change things up! Instead of being complete stand alones, four of the seven stories work together when we find the Joshua has a branch store in Arkham, Massachusetts. “Fun and Games” is the first of that set.

Complete Weavings (Sequel to Rebirths) – Rebirths is three, linked novellas/novelettes. My plans for Weavings involve a similar setup of three stories with a vignette introducing each of them. Each vignette will feature a time in Derke’s past, and the following story will show how those events impacted the present of Derke, Syantere’, and Father Phaeus. The prophet, priest, and royal are joined by new characters in their progression. The stakes before were the world’s oldest vampire trying to awaken an ancient horror intent on destroying the world. In Weavings, the world will not be destroyed if they fail, but people will wish it had been.

Complete Old Testament Appreciation – This work of nonfiction started as a series of midweek teachings for church. I am expanding each lesson to be about double its original length. Aimed at the lay person but beneficial for ministers also, the book explores the Old Testament not just as individual books but for the themes that weave throughout them. Themes such as Torah, wisdom, worship, prophets, and others.

Write the second story about the Irish Catholic family of clairvoyants. Their story can be found in Supernatural Colorado, “The Other Cemetery.” Colleen has already found the haunted cemetery in her new hometown. What other adventure awaits in old west Colorado for them? Just like “The Other Cemetery” featured the haunted cemetery of Silver Creek, the plan is for each story to involve an actual ghost story from America’s Old West. That includes a haunted train, a ghost rider, and more.

Something else entirely. Please explain in a comment.

Please vote in the non-binding poll and leave a comment explaining why. The muse may move me differently, but I want to gauge the interest of my readers. The poll will run for one week.

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Seven Deadly Tales

Seven Deadly TalesIn celebration of my release of Seven Deadly Tales, “Crazy Moon” is going to be free for five days beginning the seventeenth! Grab it! Read it! Enjoy it! Then read the rest of the stories.

This week, I released my collection of Faustian bargains. I’ve always enjoyed stories about making a deal with the Devil. In literature class, my favorite stories were “The Devil and Tom Walker” and “The Devil and Daniel Webster.” The symbolism and deepness of the stories is something you simply can’t find in most modern stories. When I would read supernatural anthologies, a deal with the Devil story was certain to make me smile.

In the 90s, I would dig around in libraries, looking for the stories. Ghost story collections and suspense collections had a good chance of having exactly one Faustian bargain story. I always wanted a book of nothing but stories featuring deals with the Devil. I never found one.

About two years ago, I had the idea for Joshua’s Pawn Shop. Almost immediately after I finished the first one (“The Buick Eight,” which I only released recently), I had the idea for a set of companion stories: Lou’s Bar & Grill. This would be the collection of Faustian bargains I had always wanted to read. Like Joshua stories taking place in the store, these would all revolve around a locale, Lou’s restaurant. I first imagined five stories in the collection and set out to write the first.

“Crazy Moon” almost wrote itself. Once I had a clear picture of the Laney, things fell together (come to think of it, once I had a clear picture of the main character, all of them fell together nicely). Shortly after finishing it, I started “Sixes Wild.” At the completion, I noticed how the two stories each exemplified one of the seven deadly sins. Laney had embraced wrath while the four players in “Sixes Wild” were slothful. “Why stop at five stories?” I thought, “Go for seven.”

Story ideas for the other five came quickly. As I finished up “Snake Oil Man,” “Keeping Up Appearances” leapt into my mind almost fully formed. Then “Crime of Passion” and “The Sore Loser.” “Changing Ways” was the last idea to come to me and the last one written.

While writing the later stories, I shopped the first ones around. Several places like “Sixes Wild” but one of them really liked it! Nathan James Norman’s Untold Podcast accepted the story to perform as a dramatic reading. It came out on their special, double-length episode where Nathan first interviews a third pastor/writer about Christian art. Give a listen. I’ve heard almost everything on the Untold Podcast.

So there’s two of the seven stories that you can get for free (at this time of writing). I hope you enjoy them.

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The Civilized Man and Dirty War

“By the Pale Moonlight” is one of my favorite Star Trek episodes ever, really. I can tell you why in one sentence: “Pacifism is great, as long as the people trying to kill you are also pacifists.” The ideals of the Federation are portrayed as wonderful and fantastic, but the Dominion held to none of them. I understand some people think “I’d rather lose than violate my principles and win.” Really? When loss means you die, your family dies, and your country is put under the heel of tyrants? I understand that some people think that way; I do not understand why they think that.

And no, stooping to their level doesn’t make Sisko the same monster as the Dominion. Outside of war, Sisko sought peace. The Dominion sought only the next war. The Dominion was an empire but not civilized. You see, civilization regards those outside its borders as real people and seeks to live in peace with them. The Dominion does not. They see anyone outside the Dominion as a threat, and with all the zeal they can muster, seek to put that threat under the boot heel of tyranny. Peace, to them, means not that their flag flies highest, but that no other flag flies at all. They have no rules of warfare. In their ruthlessness, assassinations, and deceptions they showed that the ends of a subjugated Alpha Quadrant justified any means needed to get there. Solids aren’t true sapient creatures. They’re a threat to Changlings. As soon as the Cardassian military turned against them, the Dominion started killing Cardassian civilians-an entire city was razed from a distance to teach a lesson. And then the order came to kill all Cardassians. Can you, with a straight face, tell me that the Founders would not have turned on the Romulans as soon as they showed the slightest threat to the Dominion? The first hint of rebellion, which would undoubtedly come if I know my Romulans, meant millions of noncombatants killed.

Sisko and the Alpha Alliance fought to keep civilization. Centuries of tension and fueds were put aside against this greater threat. The old wisdom of being civilized to your enemy in this war because he might be your ally in the next was shown to be true. Those allied civilizations fought back because no other solution brought true peace, and the Romulans finally saw what the Klingons and Federation had known all along. It took lies and murder for them to see it, but some in the Romulan Senate must have already suspected the Dominion would betray them eventually. Look how quickly they took the fight to them! I’ve always imagined that Sisko and Garek were right and the Dominion was preparing to attack on the Romulan front as soon as the alliance was neutered.

Sisko knew that slavery was not freedom. He knew that a dirty war was better than a false peace. And he knew that without the Romulans, the alliance would fail. He did Section 31’s work for them. The Federation needs men like Bashir who can sleep at night. It only gets there with men like Sloan and Sisko who will get their hands dirty when needed. As Sisko said, his conscience was a small price to pay for victory over the ruthless Dominion. It didn’t bring immediate victory, but without the Romulans, the war was lost.

(I’ve often thought that the only thing that would have made the final push to Cardassia better would have been a fleet of Ferengi Maruaders arriving. Sisko would say, “Why are you here?” The Ferengi fleet commander would reply, “There is no profit in being slaves.” Sisko would give a feral smile and tell them to take their place with Beta Squadron.)

Sisko knew that winning by means of deception and murder was better than losing his freedom and life. This wasn’t cheating. Cheating in sports is frowned upon because it’s just a game. It doesn’t end someone’s life to lose. The Dominion War wasn’t a game where the two teams would play again later in the season after more practice. It was a war where one side wanted to eliminate the other completely. Sportsmanship applies only in sporting competitions, not warfare. Sisko gave the Dominion every chance to live in peace with them on both sides of the wormhole. Remember, it was the Founders who destroyed New Bajor first. The Founders made it clear they would stop at nothing until all were under the jackboots of the Jem Hadar. Sisko did not seek war, but when war found him, he picked up his phaser and loaded the torpedoes.

Sisko offered peace to the Founders. When it was rejected and the Founders showed they were barbarians, he fought, as any should against barbarians, with any and all weapons at his disposal, by any means fair or foul. He showed no mercy to the Founders because they offered him none. And he knew that if the Founders had asked for mercy it was only so they could lick their wounds and prepare for the next war. That’s why the Alliance pressed on into Cardassian space in those final episodes. Letting the Dominion rebuild their war machine was the worst thing they could have done.

It is a simple rule that Sisko fought by. When his foes were civilized, he fought as a civilized man with rules of conduct against his foe (such as during the short Klingon War). Once the Founders showed they were not civilized, Sisko considered uncivilized ways to win. When he saw it was necessary, he did the unthinkable.

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Writing Velocity and Rebirths on Sale

My first book released, Rebirths, is on Kindle Countdown through the 9th. This book had some of my best velocity in writing.  I didn’t track how long it took to write “New Life,” but I know that “This Body of Death” took 4 and a half months. “This Body of Death” was 18.5K words long. That qualifies as a novella. The final novella, “Once Called,” took only 9 weeks to write, and it was 20K words long.

Yes, the longer portion took the least amount of time. When the story is right, it just falls together. I know that some people say you have to sweat and strain over every word, and you should take years to write a single book. Really. I’ve read people that say that.

I take the other view of writing. I believe that when the story is right, the words just flow from fingers to keyboard. My method is somewhere between the pantsers and the outliners. I’ve tried both ways and found my happy spot. I need a goal when I’m writing. When I start writing, I have the beginning and an endpoint in mind. I know where the story is starting, and where it will end. I don’t write the ending yet, but I know what it is. I then write towards that point.

I also write out of order. The first scene I write is typically the first in the story. The next is usually the climax. It might not always be. Sometimes, I’m moved to write a different scene.

But writing velocity is important. Just because you take 10 years to write a novel doesn’t mean it’s 10 times better than one written in one year. If the story is right, you don’t have to sweat blood over every single word. Your creative side knows how to tell a story. Don’t worry about working in themes and literary merit. Just write the story as fast as you can. Let the story flow. I guarantee you’ll be surprised at how good it is.

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