All Worlds Wayfarer: Issue II

boy looking the meteor in the colorful sky

Hey all! Normally I’d post a flash fiction or short story on the 4th monday of the month, but since the second issue of All Worlds Wayfarer launched today with 12 free-to-read short stories and flash fictions, why not check out these talented authors and fantastic stories, instead:

All Worlds Wayfarer: Issue II (Autumnal Equinox 2019)

All Worlds Wayfarer specializes in character-driven and theme-focused speculative fiction. My co-editor and I search for stories that not only whisk you away on adventure, but also stir your emotions and spark new ideas. We hope you enjoy them!

Writing Habits: Set a ‘Trigger’

According to countless articles all over the web, habits are supposed to be automatic. Once you start and execute a new part of your routine for a month or two, it becomes easier to continue than to quit, so they say. If you’re anything like me, this hasn’t necessarily proved true for you. I’ve never reached a stage where a habit, even ones I’ve pushed through for over a year, started running on autopilot.

So I was skeptical when I came across a slightly different approach to the “write every day” refrain: instead of scheduling a certain time for writing, set up another action to use as a ‘trigger’ before starting. The idea is that it will help shift your brain into the right mindset for writing once you teach it this new pattern of cause and effect. As this great article on the neuroscience of writer’s block explains it: “If you light an orange-blossom candle or brew a pot of Café Verona prior to each writing session, and never at other times, neuroscience suggests that within three weeks, the scent of orange blossoms or taste of coffee will trigger the urge to write.”

I decided to give it a go. I bought a candle and committed to lighting it just before I started drafting, in hopes that my brain would come to associate that act, and eventually the scent of the candle, with writing. Other ideas for ‘triggers’ might be playing a certain song, wearing a certain hat, or signing yourself in using a Clock In app.

The shocker: it works! After just a few sessions, I noticed that it was easier to get into the flow of writing after performing the ‘trigger.’ My theory is that it works well for me due to my specific flavor of writer’s blockthat is, emotional regulation issues and OCD. The physical ritual of lighting the candle helps me let go of whatever thoughts or emotions are tossing around in my head at that time and give myself permission to move into a different mindset. Similarly, blowing out the candle after the session helps me let go of whatever emotions came up during the drafting process, itself. Overall, this new habit smoothes out the transitions, which for me, are perhaps the hardest part of being a writer.

If you’re habit-resistant, I’d suggest experimenting from this angle and trying to find a ‘trigger’ or ritual that works for you. The more you can uncover the underlying issues and fears holding you back, the more you can find unique ways of getting your brain to cooperate with itself.

Yellow Lines (Poem)

jake-blucker-sicsrP2EMgY-unsplash

Yellow Lines

Honey-sunset sky
reflects on stained cold tar
while cars shake the anxious Earth,
with headlights like a thousand falling stars.

Life roars by too fast,
in lines ordained by human hands
and faded yellow paint.

All chipped at the edges

and ready to crash.

The Woods at the End of the World, Out Now!

Hey all! Sorry that it’s been quiet here; June and July continue to be intense months as far as deadlines and target dates go. But I’m excited to announce that one of those goals has been met and The Woods at the End of the World is available now!


A Post-Apocalyptic Ghost Story

Ghost woman in foggy forest,3d Mixed media for book illustration or book cover

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, chronicling 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.

Find out More


Writing this novel was an interesting experience. It’s somewhat personal in the way it deals with certain emotions, but it’s also a blend of themes from many other projects I’ve worked on. It’s a bit out there, but I hope you enjoy this weird little book!

Squinting Shadows (Poem)

eidy-bambang-sunaryo-517370-unsplashSquinting Shadows

We clench our lights in closed palms,
afraid to show our colors—
afraid we’ll shine too bright—
so we cling so tight,
to our gray cloaks—
our first birthday gifts.

The world wants to mold—
not teach—
drawing you into the dark
where only your shadow
—your simplified silhouette—
remains:
conform, it says,
play your part, it says,
your role was cast by
norms
before you were born.

So let out your light—
show your flames
and wash the shadows away
from the others like you
—and cast the world in color.

Make the shade-sowers
shield their eyes.

If we all shine bright,
if you shine bright,
if I shine bright

perhaps they’ll go blind.

The Woods at the End of the World: Sneak Peek

WoodsCover.jpg

The Woods at the End of the World will be my second full-length novel. It explores the importance of owning your identity, platonic bonds, and finding meaning. It’s also about recognizing, but pushing through, anxiety. “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” —George Addair

It’s tentatively scheduled for a June 19th release date.

In the meantime, you can read the opening right now:


The Archive: Year 17, Day 141

To the girl who dreamed herself to death,

I know you aren’t coming back. I’ve known for a while, I think. I wonder if you miss me as much as I miss you. Maybe that’s just my own dream. Maybe there’s nothing left of you but a body decaying deep in the Woods. I don’t believe in other worlds—in this life or after—the way you did. Your mind, with all of those hopes and stories and songs is just gone. That mind that—I used to believe, at least—loved me. All of that is so incredibly sad. So sad that sometimes I think I might crumble into myself until I disappear, just like you. Other times I think it’s only my heart that will shatter—that one day I’ll wake up and never be able to feel anything again. I’d like that.

Since you’ll never actually read this, I’ll be honest: I hate you. I hate you for leaving me and Mama. When you rambled on about wanting to see the world beyond the Woods, I thought you were only making up stories. When you made up stories, I thought you were only trying to escape from Haven in your own safe way. When you stared past the fence, I thought you were only daydreaming. Even when you screamed…I told you it was only nightmares.

I’m sorry. I should have stopped you. The world that mattered was the world we shared together, not one that had long since ended. You were so much of my world once.

You ended that world, too.

I hate you, I really do. I can’t believe how much we lived through only so you could throw it all away on a fantasy. I don’t know that I’ll ever forgive you. I do hope you’ll forgive me for not saving you. Or rather, I wish there was still a you to forgive me. I wish you’d let me know how much you’d needed saving. Most of all, I wish you’d saved yourself.

I’d like to think there is a chance that you made it through the Woods. That a better world really did wait for you. That you’re alive and happy. That you made your dreams come true.

But then I’m the one dreaming. And if there’s one thing you taught me, dear sister, it’s the danger in dreaming.

Goodbye, Moon.

With love and hatred too,

Sun

Note to the Archive’s eventual readers: forgive me for this display of emotion. I couldn’t tell my sister what I wanted to say, so I had to tell someone. I will return the Archive to its regular format with the next entry.

 

Prologue: Sisters

I’ve never heard my sister scream like this. I wasn’t even sure it was her at first—some poor animal, perhaps, torn apart by a predator in the Woods. But I’ve heard Moon’s voice every day of my life. I know the way her voice cracks on the high notes, the way her low notes ring like bells. I recognize the quiver in that cry—amplified by thunderous magnitudes in the stillness of Haven house tonight.

I fly through the hallway, past Mama’s locked door and the attic’s ladder and the empty closets. It all seems so different in the late night dark—too long, as if I’ll never reach her. My heart hammers as fast and loud as my footfalls. I wish she and I still shared a room—that she hadn’t moved to the old study on the far end of the second story, filled with books and dust and big windows that overlook the Woods at the end of the world. I swear I can hear the branches creaking outside even through the moans of the house and the pounding in my skull, as if Moon’s cries disturb them as much as they frighten me. Why did she—not want to stay with me?—have to pick the room the farthest away from mine?

“Moon!” I let out a cry of my own as I throw open her door.

[Read more…]

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:


12/22/10

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…]

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?