science fiction

The Silent Serpent by J.A. Dowsett – Part 4

If you missed Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3, follow the links. Otherwise, read on! (This is a sci-fi short story by J.A. Dowsett that you don’t want to miss!) 

***

The Silent Serpent surged out of the Jump Gate into regular space and slowed immediately, though still moving far faster than the well-worn ship could have managed under its own power. Nell was back in the pilot’s chair and Xendri stood behind her, eager to see another new region of space. However, no sooner had Nell caught sight of what awaited them in this sector did her gold-flecked black fur stand on end. Whipping her tail around, she used the metal tip to tap the button that allowed her access to the ship-wide communications system, setting it to high-alert, while every other part of her remained focused on the ship’s controls.

“Xendri,” Nell said, tension making her voice clipped, “get the Captain. We have a problem.”

Before Xendri could so much as turn around, Nell knocked the controls forward and the old cargo vessel lurched, nose pointed downwards. Weapons fire was visible in the cockpit’s narrow window, but it made no sound until it grazed the side of the vessel, where it sounded like metal grinding against metal and sparks.

Xendri’s breath caught in her throat, but she didn’t let the stop her. “Captain!” she yelled into the rest of the ship as she exited the cockpit, clinging to any handholds she could find on the ship’s metal interior.

Captain James Claw stumbled into view just as Nell was righting the ship once more, sending the Terian shoulder-first into a metal wall. “What’s the prob-” He stopped mid-sentence, cleary able to see the issue for himself.

Xendri turned around to see what he was looking at and she finally was able to understand fully what Nell had grasped in those first few seconds out of the gate. It wasn’t just one ship firing at another or some sort of defense system they were on the wrong side of. They’d entered into an active warzone.

Ships of all shapes, sizes, and descriptions flew this way and that, defending the gate and the nearby space station from the largest ship in the area, which looked less like a ship and more like a floating platform atop which sat a silent, technologically advanced city. It was massive, as large as the space station itself and oddly square in shape, not like most of the vessels that flew around it. It was also…lifeless-looking. There were a few minor lights here or there, mostly near the guns, but otherwise the vessel was dark and unornamented as it drifted slowly through space.

“Delkrit,” Captain Claw whispered as he pushed absent-mindedly past Xendri.

Even being from one of the more remote corners of the galaxy, Xendri recognized the word. Everyone had heard of the Delkrit, though it was rare for anyone to have seen one, let alone survived to tell about it. They were the modern-day boogeyman. Tales that were told about the horrors that lurked out in the black of space to keep pilots and captains from venturing too far out into the uncharted parts of the galaxy. Not exactly a race, or even alive in the traditional sense, the Delkrit were machines with an AI hive mind programmed for one thing: to destroy all organic life. They were said to be the scourge of the galaxy.

Despite herself, Xendri followed the Captain back into the cockpit and squeezed herself beneath the wall and his arm so she could see what was going on. Nell had brought the ship around to join with the multitude of ships that were arrayed in a semi-organized fashion in their united goal to keep the Delkrit from destroying the gate. No matter which race this sector belonged to, the Delkrit were everybody’s enemy, and if the gate fell anyone within it would be stranded somewhere between here and the gate they left from, with no way to know how far they’d been tossed off course. And that was if they survived the gate’s collapse at all. It wasn’t lost on Xendri that had they not exited the gate when they did, that could easily have been their fate. As a spacefaring vessel, they owed it to whomever might be travelling through that gate to do what they could to ensure it didn’t shut down unexpectedly.

“Captain?” Nell questioned.

“You have any skill with guns?” Claw asked her and she nodded without taking her eyes off the task ahead of her. “Then use your best judgement,” he told her.

Xendri held her breath as Nell brought the Silent Serpent within firing range and strafed to the left, using the ship’s lasers for all they were worth. She left a few small explosions in her wake and managed to avoid being shot out of the sky. Xendri allowed herself to breathe again only when they were again skirting away from the horrifying cold and impersonal-looking Delkrit city, which fired at them only because its sensors detected their proximity, not because it ‘felt threatened’ or even felt anything at all. Xendri shuddered.

Just then, a team of Enbi ships swooped past them, so close their sudden appearance took Xendri’s breath right back out of her and Captain Claw swore audibly. Tiny one-man vessels, the Enbi fighter-ships were like a swarm of bees compared to the Delkrit city and just as angry, but as Xendri learned a moment later, they weren’t what had Nell or the Captain’s attention.  

“Shit, is that a Terran dreadnought?”

Between one breath and the next, by far the largest ship Xendri had ever seen popped into the sector, blocking out her view of this system’s sun. It was easily the width of the Delkrit vessel, if not wider, and it towered upwards as well, like a giant ark without sails. The words, ‘The Olympus’ were painted on the side, each letter easily the size of their own meager cargo ship.

“Wait, that gives me an idea,” Claw declared. “Nell, open up a communication to that Terran vessel.”

Nell’s eyes went wide at the command, but she followed it and hailed the Terran ship, even as she kept them moving, so as to make a difficult target for Delkrit guns.

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The Silent Serpent by J.A. Dowsett – Part 1

It’s time for another short story! This one’s not a pre-quel, or attached to any book at all, it’s a stand-alone sci-fi adventure following a group of characters that have been bouncing around in my head for a while. Please, enjoy! For more about me, just look around, or check our authors page here. 

***

The Silent Serpent hurtled through space at a speed only made possible by Jump technology. The old cargo hauler shuddered in protest at the velocity, but the pilot, Nell, paid the vessel no mind. Instead, her golden-green cat eyes were narrowed lazily over the cards in her hand as she deliberated her next play, her metal-tipped tail twitching idly.

Xendri watched her carefully, but the black and gold tortoiseshell cat, or Pentaurii as her race was called, gave nothing away by her expression; she was good at this game. Nell played the Queen of Spades, placing it on the foldout tray between them in the cockpit. Xendri frowned, looking between the cards at play and the ones in her hand before realizing all of a sudden that she’d been outmaneuvered. There was no way she could win now.

Xendri clicked her tongue in displeasure, speaking a few less-than-polite words in her native language before standing. “I’m going to check on the cargo.”  

“Cargo?” Nell questioned. “We’re mid-jump. It’s not going anywhere.”

“Yeah, but I haven’t seen it yet.”

Nell rolled her eyes. “Suit yourself.” Yawning, she put her hand of cards down as she turned to inspect the ship’s controls, absently going through the motions her job as thes ship’s secondary pilot required.

Xendri left her there and swung out into the main body of the ship, nimbly making her way to the ladder that led down into the detachable cargo bay.   

“Hey, Kiddo,” a deep male voice rumbled, catching her off guard. “Where you goin’?”

Looking up, Xendri found one of the loaders, a human man named nicknamed Quattro, looking at her curiously. He was much taller than her, six feet to her four, well-muscled, and he wore a impressive-looking pistol on his belt. Despite all that, there was no malice in his expression or in his glowing purple eyes, so she decided to let the ‘nickname’ he’d chosen for her slide, for now.

“Looking around,” she answered briefly. “Stretching my legs.”

Quattro nodded. “Yeah, gets a little boring in Jump-space, doesn’t it? Alright, go on then. Can’t hurt nuthin’.”

But Xendri wasn’t listening to him any longer; her eyes had fixated on the other device his belt contained. “Hey, can I borrow that?” she asked, gesturing with her chin.

Quattro looked down, confused. “You mean the scanner?” He unhooked it and tossed it to her. “Sure thing, Kiddo, knock yourself out.”

Xendri nodded, catching and pocketing the device before scurrying down the ladder, dismissing the burly loader from her thoughts. She took the ladder rungs two at a time and jumped the rest of the way to the floor of the cargo bay, landing gracefully on all fours before standing and making sure she was alone. The cargo bay was quiet; the only sound the occasionally creak to remind her that they were still moving very very fast, even if the floor beneath her feet felt stationary. She tapped the metal-plated floor with her foot as if to test the artificial gravity, but it felt the same as standing on any other surface. Space travel was weird that way, the universe had no up and down, but people made their own. Xendri wasn’t sure she’d ever really get used to it. She shrugged and pulled the scanner device out of her pocket, fiddling with the dials and buttons until she got the display to show what she wanted.

Walking slowly between the long cargo containers that filled the bay, Xendri let the scanner device do its thing, even going so far as to climb on top of one of the massive containers to scan closer to the middle.

“That’s odd,” Xendri muttered after some time spent in contemplation of what the hand-held device was telling her.

Eyes still on her findings, Xendri climbed back down off the crate, then back up the ladder to the rest of the ship. There was no sign of Quattro, but she wasn’t looking for him anyways; she went straight for the Captain’s quarters.

To be continued… 

Introducing… Karen McCreedy and Unreachable Skies!

Our family is growing again!

Last week, we announced HL Carpenter and their upcoming middle grade paranormal adventure, The Ghost in the Gardens. Before that we told you all about the upcoming third installment in J.A. Dowsett and M. Damodred’s Mirror World Series, Mirror’s Deceit and of course, Sandra Unerman’s quasi-sequel to Spellhaven, Ghost and Exiles. And we can’t forget Nate Friedman’s The Last Hockey Fight (which you can pre-order here.)

This week, it’s all about another new addition: Karen McCreedy!

Karen McCreedyBrought up in Staffordshire, England, Karen McCreedy now lives in West Sussex where she works at the University of Chichester.

She has written articles on films and British history for a number of British magazines including ‘Yours’, ‘Classic Television’, and ‘Best of British’. In 2009, her essay on ‘British Propaganda Films of the Second World War’ was published in ‘Under Fire: A Century of War Movies’ (Ian Allen Publishing).

She has also written a number of online articles and reviews for The Geek Girl Project (www.geekgirlproject.com), as their British correspondent.

Karen has had short stories published in anthologies by Fiction Brigade (2012, e-book), Zharmae Publishing (‘RealLies’, 2013), Audio Arcadia (‘On Another Plane’, 2015), Luna Station Publishing (‘Luna Station Quarterly’ December 2015), Horrified Press (‘Killer Tracks’ and ‘Waiting’, both 2015; and ‘Crossroads’, 2016), and Reflex Fiction (‘Voicemail’, published online 2017). She also won second prize in Writers’ News magazine’s ‘Comeuppance’ competition in 2014 with her short story ‘Hero’.

Unreachable Skies’ is her first novel. And we’re pleased to be the ones to publish it!

Unreachable Skies will be the first in a planned trilogy about Zarda, an apprentice Fate-seer on a planet where it is normal to fly. In this first novel, Zarda finds she is ill-equipped to deal with the consequences of a plague that has resulted in wingless hatchlings. Efforts to fight prejudice and superstition lead to death for some and exile for others; while Zarda’s own journey to understanding her role in events may lead her to abandon all tradition in order to protect her peoples’ future.

Unreachable Skies is an adult speculative fiction novel. Not full fantasy or science-fiction, it lies on the cusp. We were blown away by it while reading submissions and we know you will be too! Subscribe to this blog or our newsletter to be kept up to date on our progress with this new release and all the others!

The Moment you’ve been waiting for… Submissions open November 1st, 2017.

It’s that time of year again! We’re pleased to announce that our submissions will open again for a brief window starting November 1st, 2017. How brief of a window, you may ask? Well, that depends how quickly we find what we’re looking for! But submissions will be open at least through the month of November, if not until the end of the year. However, if you’re considering submitting to us this year, I feel I must warn you that we expect the competition will be fierce. See, the thing is, we’ve almost got a full line-up picked out for 2018, so at most we’ll be looking to pick one, possibly two more books and that’s it.

wg1If you want to see what kind of books we publish to see if yours fits in, please have a look at our store. You can try one of our books for free with the discount code: MWFREETRIAL

And if you want to see what new books we have coming up, take a look at our new releases page here. 

We’re looking for Escapism Fiction. Children’s, Middle Grade, Young Adult, or Adult, any target age will do, but please inform us in your query letter who the target audience is. We’ll also want to know the genre, either fantasy, romance, science fiction, adventure, mystery, paranormal, speculative, or some combination of those I just listed. Your manuscript’s word count is also important to include, because it tells us at a glance the length of the project we’re looking at. Is it a novel, a novella, or something else? Are you writing a series? If so, tell us. Tell us how many books we are to expect to receive from you if we take you on.

If you submit to us, we expect to see a query letter filled with the information mentionedSpellhaven cover above as well as a quick description of your book. We’d also like a 1 page synopsis that includes the ending of your story so we can see if you can craft a satisfactory ending. Send both of those things along with a 3 chapter (or equivalent) sample – Please do not send the full manuscript if it is longer than 25 pages.

When we receive your submission, we’re going to be looking very closely at your opening. We’re looking for stories within our theme and preferred genres that have strong engaging openings. In order for us to request your entire manuscript you will have to catch our attention and prove your writing is interesting, relatively error-free, and engaging in the first scene. If your writing compels us to read the whole sample and want to read more, you’re on the right track.

Regardless of whether we accept your manuscript for publication or not we PROMISE to send you our thoughts with advice for how to improve your manuscript or which direction to try next. Because crafting personal responses takes time, we ask that you allow us six to eight weeks to respond. We WILL respond to all queries we receive, so there’s no need to follow up with us. 418obP8qfdL._SL500_AC_SS350_

So get your submission packages ready! And remember, if you need help, to check out our YouTube Channel and this blog for writing and publishing advice!

For details on how to submit and what we are and aren’t looking for, please see our Submissions Page. Thank you!

Eye of the Storm – Part 3

“Nice to meet you, Summer,” Victor echoed my words from earlier, then turned back toward the bar. “Hey, Howe!” He called out, raising his head and his glass in search of the bartender. “Can I get another one of these?”

Curiously, ‘Howe’ was nowhere to be seen. I shrugged, about to use this opportunity to escape my new ‘friend’ and head back to where Debbie and Paul stood to either side of the jukebox trying to choose the next song, when the power went out. Without lighting or sound, the dilapidated old bar was just that. It was pitch black thanks to the shitty weather and the fact that the streetlamp outside the front window had also gone dark. Guess this isn’t just Howe blowing a fuse.

I could hear voices and shuffling even if I couldn’t make anyone out. It wasn’t crowded by any means, this being a Tuesday night, but it wasn’t a big place. Somebody must have bumped into Debbie because she squealed, “Paul, that better have been you!”

“Uhh…” I heard Paul reply.

“Power’s out across the street too,” somebody called, presumably looking out a window, “but it seems to have stopped raining, so there’s that.”

But my attention wasn’t on the bar patrons, it was on Victor. From the sounds of his stool scraping back, he’d stood and if the darker shadow over the bar was any indication, he seemed to be trying to clamber over it. “Howe?” He called out again from somewhere ahead and above me.

I heard a thunk as Victor landed heavily behind the bar, followed by rustling noises. In the background someone said, “Hey, a power outage doesn’t have to ruin the night, I brought my guitar!”

Despite my better judgement, I started forward, feeling for Victor’s stool. I found it with little trouble. It was still warm. Without thinking too hard about what I was about to do, I put my drink down, hoisted myself up onto the still-warm leather seat of the stool, and stood, stepping onto the bar. My foot hit what I presumed to be Victor’s drink. I made a point to avoid it as I let myself down the other side.

“Aha!” Victor proclaimed seconds before a match flared to life in his hands and our eyes met for the briefest of seconds in the sudden illumination. He seemed surprised to see me there. I was simply glad the ruddy light of the single flickering match didn’t allow Victor to make out the embarrassed flush of my cheeks.

“Here,” he shoved the pack of matches in my hands before grabbing another and starting past me. By the time I got a match of my own lit, he was halfway around the inside corner of the L-shaped bar and moving quickly. I hurried to follow.

A door I hadn’t noticed before now was open slightly. Pulling it wider, Victor disappeared into the opening, his body cutting off all view of the match in his hands. Rounding the corner myself, I almost bumped into him where he had stopped on a set of stairs headed downwards. In retrospect, wearing black was a poor choice, Victor, I silently admonished him.

I became aware of a strange sound coming from the darkness below. Halfway between a hum and a rumbly growl, I couldn’t identify it, but the sound unsettled me in way I couldn’t explain. “Howe?” Victor called again, more tentatively this time, I thought.

Silence greeted his call. I mean real silence; whatever that grumbly sound was, it stopped the moment Victor spoke. Against my better judgement, Victor started forward again, lighting a fresh match and raising it high above his head. I made it two steps before my own match burned my fingers, forcing me to shake my hand forcefully to put the fire out. I stuck my fingers in my mouth and looked down, less than eager to face the prospect of burning myself on another match.

My fingers in my mouth were the only thing that kept me from screaming. There on the ground, in a pool of his own blood mingling with the juice from a smashed jar of pickles was the bartender, Howe. His pale green shirt was bloodied and torn, and the gut I’d noticed earlier was missing entirely, having been replaced by a gaping maw, resembling nothing more than a fleshy crater. From that crater rose a field of spikes, like an over-sized porcupine had taken up residence inside the portly man.

“Holy shit!” Victor cursed and flailed wildly, causing his match to go out.

I fought the urge to vomit as he quickly struck another. The initial flare of light glinted off large yellow eyes and as the light settled to its dim brightness I became aware of what I was staring at. Well, not what it was, exactly, only that I was staring at it.

It, was the source of that strange rumbling growl from before and now the sound returned. A warning, low and guttural, it informed me on an instinctual level that I was in danger. Even with shock numbing my mental faculties, I didn’t need the warning. I fled, Victor’s heavy footfalls on the stairs proclaiming that he was trailing after me. Only two steps were needed to take me out of the basement, but they felt like twenty. I cleared the threshold of the door and quickly realized I was trapped by the L-shaped bar I didn’t know my way around.

Victor however, did. He made straight past me for the exit. I started after him, but a blur of motion crossing my vision stopped me.

The creature’s leap was silent. It’s landing wasn’t. Bottles crashed and the wood of the bar groaned as the massive cat-like thing landed on it. Soft guitar music was replaced by a cacophony of screams and curses from the bar patrons as the thing swung its head around, sniffing the air.

I felt a hand grab mine, warm in the darkness. I gasped, but it was only Victor, pulling me away from the scene and toward the back door of the bar. I stumbled along after him and we broke out into the cool, wet night air.

The rain had stopped, but the sky still looked dangerous.

*** Missed Part One, find it here. Part Two is here. If you’d like to read more of this serial, like this post, subscribe and/or leave me a comment!***

 

Eye of the Storm – Part 2

I pushed away from them, trying not to look like I was fleeing, and soon found myself at the opposite end of the L-shaped bar. “What can I get you?” The bartender, a pudgy bearded man with an obvious beer-belly, questioned.    

“Uh, rum and coke,” I said the first drink combination my mind could supply and the man busied himself with the bottles in front of him.  

“It’s on me,” a new voice said to my left and I whipped my head around. “You look like you could use it.”

The man before me was hunched over the bar, his own drink, a straight shot of whiskey over ice by the looks of it sitting on the bar between his elbows. I narrowed my eyes at him, taking in his deliberately mussed mahogany-coloured hair and his matching dark five-o’clock shadow. His black collared shirt, slightly rumpled from wear, gave me the instant impression that he figured himself a ladies man, but was currently a little down on his luck in that regard. Great, so he’s slumming it…

“I can get my own drink, thanks,” I told him, not kindly.

My rum and coke arrived and a blue five dollar bill changed hands. My blue five dollar bill.

“Victor,” he said, before I could walk away.

“Sorry?” I asked, turning back to look at him, not sure I heard him right.

“My name is Victor,” he repeated. “You look like the kind of girl who wouldn’t accept a drink from a stranger. Now you know my name, so we’re no longer strangers.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, noncommittally, lifting my drink to him in salute. “Nice to meet you, Victor.”

Having dealt with the ‘local colour’, I was ready to return to Debbie and Paul, and face the music, but ‘Victor’ felt the need to stop me again. “You never gave me yours.”

I whirled again, more confused than ever. “Gave you my what?”

He smiled, revealing perfectly straight, white teeth. So he’s not just dressing well, he’s got money. Or at least, his parents had enough to buy him braces as a kid. I snickered at the thought. “Your name,” he said, smiling wider now, thinking because I was laughing too that we must be sharing some kind of moment or something.

“Summer,” I told him. Certainly telling him my name can’t hurt anything, can it?

********** If you would like me to keep posting more of this story, please leave a comment below. If people keep commenting, I’ll keep writing! Thank you. Also, you can find part 1 here.************

Eye of the Storm, Part 1

Remember that opening I shared as an example of how openings are hard to write? (You can read about that here.) Well, with two books currently in the works, I have no plans to do anything about the sci-fi novella I started, so… I thought I would share it with you. If you like this opening bit, let me know in the comments below and I’ll keep posting every week or two so you can see where this story goes (and keep me motivated in writing it at the same time!)

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Chapter 1 – The Rain

The change came without warning, unless you count the rain. It pounded on the window of my battered Oldsmobile, demanding to be let in. I sighed, frustrated. So much for the Weather Network. Wrenching the rusted driver’s side door open, I was drenched in seconds. I scurried across the city parking lot, doing my damndest to avoid the worst of the puddles, though it hardly mattered now. The damage was done.

Inside the bar, the lighting was dim and yellow. Even so, it took a moment for my eyes to adjust.

“Summer!” Debbie ambushed me before I could so much as shake myself off like a dog after a swim. Her dry hair smelled like strawberries and stranded me somewhere between envious and nauseated. “You came!”

“Of course,” I mumbled. “You said it was important.”

Nodding, Debbie pulled back. “Come on. There’s someone I want you to meet.”

This is it, I realized, I’m finally going to meet the new boyfriend Debbie has been going on and on about. Despite this guy being the subject matter of all our conversations over the past few weeks, I really knew very little about him. I think she said his name was Paul…

“Well, if it isn’t Summer Green!”

Wait… Paul? As in Paul Sheffield? It was him, in the flesh. The very, very attractive flesh. Oh, god, what am I thinking. He’s Debbie’s boyfriend now… Not my highschool fantasy crush.

“Paul!” I didn’t manage much more than awkwardly saying his name before my nerves shut down my vocal cords. Leaning on a barstool, his elbow up on the bar, Paul was as drool-worthy as he’d ever been. Maybe more so. It had been years since I last saw him, but I remembered the day clearly. It had played in my mind over and over again to remind me of just how pathetic I was. Our last of of high school, Paul had left his group of much cooler friends to come over and give me a goodbye hug and I was so shocked I’d garbled any useful words that could have come out of my mouth in that instant. He’d walked away, a confused and sympathetic expression on his face and I just waved awkwardly and let him leave, instead of being suave and asking him to hang out over the summer like I’d planned.

In my fantasy, that summer would have led to a fabulous romance. In reality, I spent that summer working in a greasy 50’s themed diner, which was where I’d met Debbie. We were as opposite as people get, but somewhere along the line we became inseparable.

Speaking of Debbie, she’d managed to fit herself under Paul’s muscular right arm, her thin frame fitting far better there than my plumper one could have managed. She was looking up into his clear blue eyes, her own green ones twinkling. My slight envy from earlier came back with the same ferocity as the storm raging outside the building, developing into full blown jealousy.

“Paul and I are getting married!” Debbie exclaimed, looking to me for my reaction.

My eyes widened and my breathing became laboured. Face with them both and their sickening perfection, I suddenly became very much aware of my bedraggled and water-logged appearance. The nice white top I’d chosen for a night out with Debbie had been soaked through and was likely showing off my breasts, not to advantage like I’d planned, but more in an indecent sort of way. And my jeans, once form-fitting in a comfortable sort of way now just stuck to me in places where I’d rather they didn’t. I took a subconscious step back from the scene before me, wanting to be anywhere but here, but was stopped by a combination of the squashing sound my sneakers made and Debbie’s sudden frown as she began to realize I didn’t share her elation.

“That’s…great…” I tried to save face and failed.

Debbie pouted. “I know it seems unexpected and sudden,” she allowed, “but it makes sense when you think about it. Paul’s a dual citizen and is living and working in Michigan. If I want to be able to move in with him, we’ve got to get married. It’s just part of the immigration process.”

Whoa, immigrating? ‘Just part of the process…?’ I know Debbie moves fast, but holy hell.

I kept my thoughts to myself. “No, I’m sorry, I’m happy for you. I was just caught off guard, that’s all.”

Debbie beamed, assuaged. Paul smiled, that oh-so-cute lopsided smile of his that used to make me weak in the knees. Now it just made my stomach do uncomfortable flip-flops. “I get it,” he said. “You’re Debbie’s best friend, so it would stand to reason that you’d want to get to know the man she’s going to marry. Lucky for us, you and I go way back.”

“Yeah, lucky…” I mumbled. “If you’ll both excuse me, I’m going to go get myself a drink.”

***

Let me know in the comments below if you’d like me to continue sharing this story and if I get enough comments, I’ll put part two up on Thursday, next week! Thanks for reading.

My Writing Goals: 2017

I see a lot of people announcing their goals for 2017. I’m not sure I’m wired that way, but I do have several projects on the go (at all times) and even while super-busy with everything Mirror World, I always make time for writing projects and this year will be no exception.

You may remember that last year, Murandy and I participated in the #85K Writing Challenge with our upcoming release, Uncharted.. What is the #85K Writing Challenge? Well, you can find everything you need to know on the website 85K90.com, but essentially the goal is to write 85,000 words over 90 days. Last year, it took us from Jan 1st to mid-April to finish Uncharted, which came in at about 96,000 words.

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This year, things are a little different. Murandy is a new mom and has gone back to school to switch careers. We’re still writing together, but I know Murandy can’t dedicate as much time as before, so I’m participating in the #85K alone, but counting the words written across all the projects I’m currently working on.

So what are those projects? I’m glad you asked.

  1. While Uncharted is being edited by Robert Dowsett and the cover designed by the fabulous Sara Biddle, Murandy and I are going back to the Mirror World. Those of you who have read our Mirror World Series are no doubt eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series and we will not disappoint.
    Starting with Mirror’s Hope, and continuing with Mirror’s Heart, the next book in this dark fantasy romance series is as yet unnamed, but we’re hard at work. So for those of you who have questions unanswered from the first two books, like, who the heck is Abraxas?! And what’s the deal with Caralain? Just wait… it will all be made clear.ncbook
  2. The second book I’m working on concurrently is another eagerly awaited sequel, this one a young adult sci-fi/romance. I wasn’t sure I was ever going to write a sequel or revisit this world, but the fans have demanded it! (You know who you are.) That’s right, Neo Central 2: The Guild Wars is in the works. No promises yet on if or when it will be completed, but Murandy Damodred and another friend of ours (who is still working on her pen name) are having a blast with it and look forward to being able to share it with you. There are three of us co-writing this one, in the same way the original Neo Central was written all those years ago (2008, if you’re wondering)
  3. And in case I wasn’t busy enough with those two, I’ve got a smaller project of my own on the go. I’m constantly trying to master the short story or novella as I find it a challenge to write anything other than a novel (I know, I’m weird.) In this case, I’m working on a shorter story that will be a follow up to Uncharted. It’s called Unfinished, and takes place immediately after the novel. Murandy and I have plans to one day go back to these characters and write a sequel, but for now, this will have to tide me (and you) over.

And that’s it… for now, anyways! What are you working on? What are your goals? Do you think I’ll have any trouble with the #85K? Please leave your thoughts below and thanks for reading! 

The Many Worlds of Mirror World Publishing

As you may or may not be aware, we offer a membership program. For just $19.95 a year, members get unlimited access to our ever growing collection of ebooks, early access to new releases, a discount on paperbacks ordered from our store, and SO MUCH MORE…

Not sure yet if you want to join? Well, we also offer FREE SAMPLES of our books in each age category. Order a free sampler through our store and we’ll send you an ebook that contains the first chapter of each of the books listed in a given category AND we’ve thrown a bonus short story into each one! Here’re the links:

 Kids                                           Young Adult                                          Adult

At Mirror World, we’re all about the setting, so here’s a glimpse into a few of the worlds you can visit within our books:disenchanted-2 copy

  1. Historic Wethersfield, CT

The small tourist town of Wethersfield, Connecticut is the setting of Leigh Goff’s Disenchanted. Filled with magic spells, witches, curses, ancient family heirlooms and haunting prophecies, Wethersfield is the perfect place for the occult enthusiast. Oh, and don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers in Sophie’s aunt’s garden, or sample some of her fantastic home cooking.Cover SDOD4

 
2. The Kingdom of Dorlith

Elizabeth J.M. Walker’s She Dreamed of Dragons is set in the magical kingdom of Dorlith. Dorlith is home to magic-users of all kinds and cats. Lots of cats. Enroll yourself in Mage Academy, or dance your way to the palace and sign up to compete in the Royal Tourney. Either way, you’ll have a blast, learn a lot, and maybe, just maybe, end up the next heir to the throne!

 

3. Crimson Winter

Officially the planet has no name, but the desert world of the Crimson Winter Trilogy, by yours truly, is certainly a unique place to visit if I do say so myself. Accessible only through the magic of the gods, this planet has gone eight hundred years without seeing the setting of the sun. Water is scarce, and so is shelter, with the majority of the population, the self-named, Roughlanders, living in ancient military outposts and surviving by means of trade caravans from Taiyou, one of the few remaining fertile areas.

ncbook4. Neo Central

A look into the city of the future! In the world of Neo Central, again by yours truly, only one city remains after the collapse of modern society. This city is a marvel of technology and magic, but it isn’t meant for everyone. Those who can’t feel the city’s current and access the magic it uses to run itself are treated as outcasts and left to live in the ancient ruins of York Slums, or in the dangerous catacombs beneath the city; the Tunnels.

 
Thanks for reading!

Give yourself permission to fail

If there’s one lesson in writing that I had to learn the hard way, it’s this one. When looking for ways to motivate oneself to complete a writing project, it’s common to set goals or deadlines. Daily word count goals, for example, can be a healthy way to establish a writing routine and a reasonable deadline to finish your novel by a certain date can help you stay on track. The tricky part comes when your deadlines are not reasonable, your goals too lofty, or when you simply fall behind and suddenly your target seems out of reach.

An important thing to remember when setting goals or deadlines is that life happens. It’s a good idea to leave yourself some wiggle room in your deadlines for when life events get in the way, or for those days you just don’t feel like living up to expectations. You’re going to stumble occasionally, and you’ll be better off planning to accommodate when it happens.

The problem with goals and deadlines comes when you adhere to them too strictly,  or when you are disappointed with yourself for not meeting them. Using them as a means to lift yourself up, to feel challenged and motivated and to count the milestones you pass is great and will have a positive effect, but the opposite can just as easily be true if you feel stressed, ashamed, or guilty for not meeting the goals you set yourself.

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Back when I was working on my trilogy, Crimson Winter, I had written the first book in three months by having a goal of writing 5 pages a day, 5 days a week, totalling 100 pages a month. This continued into book two, which I wrote in a little over four months as it was a longer book. Between book two and three, I went through a rough time in my life and book three took me somewhere between six months and a year. It was by far the longest and most complex of the three, but I was determined to keep myself to my writing goals, which proved to be a detriment. The pace I had set for book one and two was quite grueling, but since I had successfully completed the first two books so easily, I found myself questioning why I couldn’t do it with the third and feeling inadequate for not living up to my own expectations. As a result, I was very hard on myself, which only made me feel worse, which in turn made writing even more difficult. It was a negative feedback loop.

It took a moment of realization at 3 in the morning when I was trying to write on a midnight shift at the crummy part-time job I had taken to pay the bills for me to come to the conclusion that I had become my own worst enemy. By setting lofty unreachable goals and on top of that punishing myself for not living up to those goals, I was being unreasonably harsh on myself. From that moment on, I started giving myself permission to fail. I gave myself some leeway, some ‘get out of jail free cards’ for those times when I just didn’t feel like writing and I tried to remember that I liked writing, that it is a passion first and foremost, and not just a job. And I’ve had a much healthier relationship with myself and my writing ever since.

Thanks for reading. And speaking of reasonable goals, the #85K Challenge starts in just 10 days. The challenge is to write 85,000 words in three months, which works out just under 1000 words a day. Last year, Murandy and I finished the challenge with two weeks to spare, but this year, we’re going to be taking it slower as Murandy is a new mom (see, life happens.) We started the book we’re working on last month, and have been writing approximately 4000 words once a week and we’re going to continue that pace into the challenge to see how far that gets us. We’ll keep you posted on our progress, but if you’re interested in joining the challenge you can find all the information you need here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/85K.90days/15134760_641119006068066_5321651935076382972_n