Monday Blues: Inspiring Music

(“Monday” Blues: On every first Monday of the month, I’ll recommend a new world – a book, a game, a podcast, etc – to escape into. Or at least to look forward to after a hard day’s work.)

I’m going to do something a bit different for today’s Monday Blues. Instead of focusing on storytelling media, how about music that offers the perfect backdrop when working on your own stories and creative projects?


Wherepostrockdwells

Post-rock is such a beautiful genre. It’s atmospheric and ambient, yet evocative. It’s subtle but intense. It’s sometimes sad, but in that warm, melancholy way that highlights  wonder in the world. When I feel drained, simply listening to the right post-rock song often brings me back to a content, inspired place. It’s amazing what a difference music can make.

If you’re new the genre, check out Hammock (especially the Everything and Nothing album), God is an Astronaut, Distant Dream, and If These Trees Could Talk (if you like your rock heavy). With streams dedicated to different albums, the Wherepostrockdwells channel mimics the experience of walking into a music store to sample and select the perfect CD. Unlike the other channels in this list, Wherepostrockdwells usually uses album covers instead of aesthetic images for its videos, but post-rock album covers often make for interesting, surrealistic works of art in their own right.

An odd observation: While YouTube comments are normally dreck, the comments left on post-rock videos are often wonderfully creative and emotional, and can provide inspiration in their own right. Post-rock music is indeed a haven.

ChilloutDeer

In terms of less heavy ambient music, Chillout Deer is my go-to channel. It provides wonderfully designed mixes featuring a variety of relaxing, atmospheric songs in various genres collected around themes. Unlike those from similar channels, I find that Chillout Deer’s mixes actually evoke their themes with an eerie efficiency: listening to “Journey” feels like departing on a long adventure, listening to “Daydream” stirs the sensation of “sehnsucht,” and “Utopia” brings wonder and contentment. Because these mixes are so tightly themed, it’s easy to find the perfect creative soundtrack for any project. The channel also uses lovely visuals in its videos to further tempt the muse.

Odysseus

If electronic genres like synthwave and trance are more your style, Odysseus also offers a variety of themed mixes. The collections are atmospheric without being distracting, and paint both futuristic and retro soundscapes. It’s perfect for anyone delving into a sci-fi project, or for some aural escapism while working on less exciting tasks like updating your website or writing marketing copy. As a writer who tends toward the post-apocalyptic, “Dystopia” is one of my favorite mixes. The visual aesthetic used by the channel is also immersive and inspiring in its own right.


I hope you enjoy these channels like I do; outside of stories, music is one of my passions. Do you have any favorite You-Tube go-tos for evoking a creative mood?

Introducing All Worlds Wayfarer Literary Magazine

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Submit your story for a chance at publication!

Launching today, All Worlds Wayfarer is a new literary magazine for speculative fiction focused on strong characters and themes. We pay writers and promote each published story. This magazine is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and I’m excited that my co-editor and I have finally made it happen! I hope you all will enjoy taking tours through the fantastic once our first issue launches this summer.

In the meantime, if you write fantasy, sci-fi, horror, or otherwise speculative short stories of any sort, I would love to read your work and consider it for inclusion.

Submission Guidelines

If you’re interested in reading our upcoming issues when they’re ready to share with the world, or if you’d rather submit to a later submissions call (we publish quarterly on every equinox and solstice), then sign up for the All Worlds Wayfarer newsletter and I’ll keep you updated.

Find Out More

Happy travels through whatever fictional destinations you choose to create or explore. 📚 ✨

Monthly Updates: March 2019 – Serial Stories

New Patreon Page and Serial Story

TAC_PatreonCover(Small).jpgI’m excited to announce that I’ve launched a Patreon profile! At Patreon, you can support independent creators by donating a small amount per month in exchange for supporter rewards. I would be super grateful to anyone who contributes. Even a dollar makes a difference.

In terms of rewards, I’m serializing a novel by posting its chapters as they go through final edits. The Atlantean Crown is an LGBTQIA+ science-fantasy featuring merfolk, mad science, and the tension between responsibility and freedom. If you’re curious about the story, the first chapter is available for free reading.

Certain tiers include free short critiques/copyedits, along with paperbacks of future releases.

 

Thank you to anyone who checks out the page.

New Serial on Channillo

ChannilloCoverV1Additionally, I’ve launched a second serial on Channillo! This one will be long-running, spanning an eventual three book trilogy. It’s based on an entirely rewritten version of my first ever novel-length work, finished back when I was a teen. It’s interesting to return to such an old story and polish it up using everything I’ve learned since then.

Apocryphal is an eerie YA urban fantasy featuring shapeshifters and supernatural civil wars, which one commenter likened to “Lovecraft meets X-Men.” It’s also got an all LGBTQIA+ main cast, and explores the importance of claiming your place in a world that doesn’t always understand you – that sometimes even fears you.

Channillo publishes a variety of entertaining serials (if you try out Channillo, make sure to also check out the Heir of Rot and Ruin serial by Rebecca Fisher and the Fragments of Fear serial by Michael Kelso). I’ve had a ton of fun reading and commenting on other authors’ stories there. It is a paid subscription site, but it has a month-long free trial if you’re curious about its hidden gems.

New Novel Coming Soon – The Woods at the End of the World

If all goes well, I’m hoping to publish my next full-length novel on April 30th. The Woods at the End of the World is a paranormal, post-apocalyptic horror novel. I’ll post updates if the release date changes.

The world ended before Sun was born, but her world ended just under a year ago, when her sister, Moon, disappeared. According to Mama, the Woods shield Haven farm from the decay left behind by the End, but now she hates them for swallowing up her sister. Her curious, starry-eyed sister who dreamed too much for her own good, while Sun responsibly wrote her Archive, chronically their lives as the last human beings on Earth.

Sun dismissed her sister’s bizarre behavior leading up to her disappearance as madness, but when she finds Moon’s diary and strange visitors come in the night, she begins to understand far more than she wishes she could. Where her sister found dreams, she sees nightmares. Questions that Mama can’t, or won’t, answer escape her errant tongue.

The truth she seeks waits for her within the Woods.


I hope you’re all having a great April so far!

Glass Preview

Normally, I’d post a poem this second Monday of the month, but March 11th happens to be the protagonist’s birthday in one of my novel/game projects, Glass. It never fails that I end up thinking about this particular story on this particular day, so here’s an excerpt from the novel version:


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Entry 1: Lost Boy

10/04/00

If Heaven is a real place, can I go there?

-Ervay

Cold. Why was it so cold?

I couldn’t tell. I opened my eyes – or were they already open? – and saw nothing but black. There was no sky. There was no soil. I stretched out my arms. I felt nothing. Nothing but a chill that tingled along the outline of my body. My fingers trembled. My legs shook. A shiver raced up my spine and pounded at the top of my scalp.

Wait. There was something. I noticed the roaring of the river for the first time. Why hadn’t I heard it before? Had it been my mind or my ears lagging behind? I still don’t know. Maybe the blackness outside was seeping inside. Maybe it was coming in through my ears. Maybe it was traveling over my tongue. Maybe it was bleeding in beneath my eyes, crawling into my veins, and painting over the white of my skull. Maybe it was clogging up my thoughts as well as my senses.

I looked around again at nothing. I needed to get away. If I was asleep, I needed to wake up.

The water was loud. Close. But no matter how much I searched, it wasn’t there. My hands couldn’t touch it. My eyes couldn’t find it. I could breathe, so I wasn’t beneath it.

Perhaps it was just an illusion, after all. Perhaps it wasn’t even there.

Or perhaps it was me who wasn’t there at all.

“Er…vay!”

My head jerked in the direction of the noise. My pulse crashed against my ribs. That single word pierced the black. My name.

Should I have recognized that voice? For a fleeting second, I almost believed I had, but then that faint tint of familiarity was gone. It passed right through my hazy head, lingering only on the edge that emptiness failed to permeate.

Whoever it belonged to, they were frightened. Terribly frightened. I’d never heard so much dread before.

“D…o…n’t… Go…!”

Don’t go? But I had to go. I certainly couldn’t stay!

“Don’t go!” the voice begged, as if it were arguing with my thoughts. It was a scream. The type of wail that cuts off as a heart stops beating forever.

I didn’t move.

“Ervay…!”

They were calling for help. They were calling me for help.

My throat condensed with a heavy swallow. “Where are you?”

No answer. The nothing ate my noise. Could the stranger hear me at all? That thought sucked the voice right out of me.

“Ervay!”

My stomach tightened. I needed to save them. I wanted to save them.

But somehow, I knew that I couldn’t.

My own dread drummed in my heart and drowned out the river’s rumbles. “Hey, who – ”

[Read more…]

Monday Blues: Sunless Skies

(“Monday” Blues: On every first Monday of the month, I’ll recommend a new world – a book, a game, a podcast, etc – to escape into. Or at least to look forward to after a hard day’s work.)

Sunless Skies

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A Game by Failbetter Games

What It Is: A gothic fantasy RPG that mixes rogue-like exploration with interactive fiction.

Why You Should Play It: Sunless Skies combines two seemingly disparate genres – survival-focused exploration and prose-based interactive fiction – into a cohesive whole. Much of the game is spent piloting a flying train through the stars, making careful use of resources to avoid starving to death or running out of fuel. There are locations to find with only vague directions, hostile rivals to shoot down, and crew members to manage. The rest of the game is spent navigating branching stories through a slick menu interface. In doing so, you make choices about how to make money, where your allegiances lie, and what just what sort of captain – and person – you are. The way these two separate modes affect each other ties them together.

The atmosphere accomplishes a similar aim, communicated equally well through the different elements: the narrative with its sparkling prose and strenuous choices; the aesthetics through the stars shining below and the lonely, #wonderdark soundtrack; the mechanics through the struggle to stay alive among the solitude and silence of space.

As someone who loves both story-driven games and those with complex, challenging mechanics, I’ve enjoyed sinking my teeth into this deep virtual world. I’d recommend it highly to others who love gothic, immerse games, or who love stories combined with strategy.

Monthly Updates: February 2019 – Speculative Soul Story Editing Services

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Speculative Soul Story Editing Services is Live!

Wow, February flew by! For my fellow authors, I’m excited to announce the launch of my new editing services website. If you find yourself stuck in the revision process, or in need of a second set of eyes, feel free to get in touch. I offer services ranging from developmental editing to copyediting to critiquing. I know firsthand how tight an author’s budget can be, so I strive to keep services as affordable as possible. We can negotiate prices and service options, too. Editing has always been one of my favorite phases of the storytelling process, so I’m eager to bring this passion into the spotlight.

Check it Out!

 

New Book Giveaways and Deals

My own books are still baking in the editing oven, but like usual, here are some new giveaways across the speculative fiction spectrum if you’re on the hunt for more to read without breaking the bank:

Giveaways

Happy reading!

I hope you enjoy what remains of winter (of your current season) with warm beverages of choice and a bevy of good books.

Favorite Story Features

For this month’s story craft post, I’m going to go highly subjective. Out of curiosity, I spent a couple of hours last week breaking down my own favorite stories (my favorite books, games, movies, etc) and looking for the common threads that ran through all of them. I certainly found a few consistent factors, including several which I didn’t necessarily expect. Your mileage may vary, but here’s what makes me personally fall in love with a story:

  1. An accessible surface; a deep, complex, nuanced core.
    1. Most of my favorite stories have made themselves appear accessible on the surface – a standard sci-fi game, a standard shounen anime, a standard small-town murder mystery, etc – but with a deeper, and usually darker, core. They intentionally foster approachable first impressions to draw people in. They don’t necessarily lie about what they are, but they keep their secrets close until you get to know them better. This gradual unfolding is immersive, surprising, and ends up becoming addictive – what will happen next? As expectations fall away, so do “rules” and predictability.
    2. This deeper core usually revolves around themes that comprise the soul of the work.
  2. Memorable, “rule of cool” characters with realistic psychology.
    1. My favorite characters bring in elements from the most exaggerated genre fiction – unique vibes, tragic backstories, odd features, immense talents, unusual names, exaggerated speaking styles, amazing powers, etc – alongside grounded psychological elements from literary fiction – motives, needs, wants, fears, hopes, complex relationships, inner conflicts, strengths, flaws, contradictions, etc. Combining the fantastical and realistic creates characters who transcend mundane humanity – becoming memorable and iconic – while remaining so achingly human.
    2. These characters have psychologically realistic growth arcs that tie into the story’s themes. Each character often has their own sub-theme, as well.
  3. A distaste for expectation.
    1. This doesn’t mean being satire (far from it), but it does mean flipping tropes around to different angles, combining or using them in unconventional ways, or eschewing common genre tropes entirely.
    2. My favorite stories have some element of surprise – twists, gimmicks, “gasp” moments. Many of them end with a “clincher” – a final twist or shocking moment – instead of a clean resolution arc.
    3. This also applies to concepts like, and especially of, gender. None of my favorite stories have ever entirely accepted gender as a flat, unexplored binary. Some have actually veered into borderline problematic territory, while others handled these themes deftly, but none have blindly accepted the notion of the binary and its roles. When the binary is questioned, even a little, characters instantly become more free and alive.
  4. Sweet, soft moments contrasted by wrenching disasters.
    1. My favorite stories aren’t afraid to toe the line of melodrama, without ever quite crossing over it. Stories should be cathartic – felt in the body, mind, and soul – and they embrace this. In doing so, they include unflinchingly sweet moments between characters and showcase the beauty of their people and worlds. They invite readers (and players, viewers, etc) to sink in and fall in love. They also include moments of brutality, sorrow, shock. They aren’t afraid of diving into the strange and horrific. They are less concerned with being realistic than they are with evoking an emotional reaction. The contrast between joy and horror creates “flashbulb memories” that stick with audiences and keep them coming back for closure.
    2. These stories aim for satisfaction. They don’t time-skip over the most dramatic or impactful moments, even if they take place in resolutions.
    3. “Flashbulb” moments should incorporate – and tie together – the plot, characters, world, and themes. The best of them even take advantage of language in a literary sense.
    4. My favorite stories tend to use tenderness and introspection during “relief” moments, rather than humor.
    5. Often, their endings are bittersweet.
  5. Moments of wonder.
    1. My favorite stories, if even for a moment, invoke wonder. This can be done through character, setting, plot, or even literary language, but most often, comes when one or more of these elements combine with theme. If they all combine with theme, the resonance is stronger still.
    2. To evoke wonder, the story must not be afraid to address the unknown – and often, to leave aspects of the unknown just as unknown at the end of the story. They embrace curiosity, uncertainty, awe, fear, joy, sorrow, life, death, the human, and the divine. They seek to transcend the story world’s own mundanity.
    3. Such stories reach for the sublime. Even if they can’t quite stare it down, they glimpse it. Even if they can’t quite hold on to it, they touch it. They find the magic in the mundane – either literally or metaphorically.
    4. There is often a haunting tone to these stories at their core, both during and after their ending. They carry a certain bittersweet taste. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t also show the simple joy of existence.
  6. Mixed genre classifications.
    1. Most of my favorite stories don’t fit entirely into just one genre – after all, neither does life. My favorites use genres as tools, not limitations.
    2. These stories also often mix elements from the genre fiction and literary fiction umbrellas (as seen in the contrasts present in the other points).

What common threads have you caught running through your own favorite stories? Do any of my factors resonate with you?

Earth’s Emotion (Poem)

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Earth’s Emotion

Rain taps the roof
with desperate little fingers.
A chorus of tears
sent from the weeping winter sky.

Wind whistles by
Singing a song too sad to tell.
It sighs, sobs, screams
shaking the world to its core.

The snow falls so soft and slow,
shards of the gray endless above
reaching down to touch our cheeks –
beautiful yet cold.

The hail pounds our havens –
hundreds of furious fists
without forgiveness,
eager to kill.

The ice paints mirrors over familiar sights –
reminding us of our unwelcome,
yet shimmering
with stars in the night.

Chills seep in,
casting shadows on skin.
What a selfish thing –
this season.

Still I’m safe,
watching wonderland through my window.
Candlelight flickers and wanes –
always stronger than the darkness.

I’m not afraid of winter –
of Earth’s dark emotions that swarm outside.
Is it not true,
that the most bittersweet plays are the most moving too?

Monday Blues: Creepy Little Bedtime Stories

(“Monday” Blues: On the first Monday of the month, I’ll recommend a new world – a book, a game, a podcast, etc – to escape into. Or at least to look forward to after a hard day’s work.)

Creepy Little Bedtime Stories

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A Series of Short Stories by William F. Aicher

What It Is: A series of stand-alone short horror stories, each taking on a unique horror sub-genre and voice.

Why You Should Read It: As part of my recent horror binge, I came across this series of shorts and greatly enjoyed each of them. Each entry in the Creepy Little Bedtime Stories series offers an injection of fast-paced, bite-sized fear. What also makes them fun is that reading through the series will essentially take you on a tour through horror sub-genres, ranging from dark fairy tales to crime horror to body horror. Each entry also has a distinct voice and style – from the tight, clean suspense of Pretty When You Sleep to the abstract, lyrical eeriness of Roommates – showing an impressive range from one author. Like the best horror stories do, each entry explores deeper thematic material under their spooky surfaces. Plus, they’re short enough to read in one sitting, right before your own bedtime.


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If you’re looking for even more books to read during the long, gray winter, you can download my apocalyptic vampire novel, Night Plague, for free from my email list.

There’s also free short fiction, including some spooky stories,  available from my website.

Monthly Updates: January 2019

Well, there goes the first month of 2019.

My 2019 Goals

I wrote more about my goals for this year in an earlier post – for this month’s update, I’ll just say that they’ve been keeping me busy. I’ve also been working on a new venture I’m not quite ready to announce yet 😉

If you’re curious about the upcoming novels, feel free to check out their synopses in the meantime. I’d love to hear any feedback or thoughts you have. You can also find a preview of my main project – an epic-length dark fantasy that’s been in the works for several years – in my recent interview with WriterWriter.

New Giveaways

Have you made any reading resolutions this year? I’m going for 52 books – one per week. If you’d like to get your hands on more books without straining your wallet, here’s a new round of giveaways from Prolific Works:

I hope you have a fantastic February!