“I’m your huckleberry.”

In an old writing group we had an ongoing joke you never “arrived” until you wrote an Elvis story. Many members did, I did not. Doc_Holliday

The same sort of thing might be said of westerns, but with Doc Holliday. This consumptive blue-eyed killer continues to generate stories, ideas, and unverifiable legends. I got to thinking. What if Doc Holliday visited Haxan, the one town in New Mexico Territory known as a vicious killing-bottle. Mightn’t he feel at home?

My “Doc Holliday story” was named “Tombstone” and it appeared in 2010 in The Western Online. Later, people got in touch with me and expressed how much they enjoyed it.

Finally, Holliday’s trademark quip has historical backing*, so that’s why I included it in my story.

Just follow the link if you want to take a peek at it! I hope you enjoy it.




*Much of what we know about Holliday is shaky at best. I think that is what draws him to readers and writers. Aside from the basic facts regarding his life, almost everything else is a tabula rasa.

Doc Holliday in 1879



Woo! My New Story “Talitha Koum” to be Published by Frontier Tales in June

My new Haxan story “Talitha Koum” is scheduled to be published by Frontier Tales in June of this year. I am looking forward to this. It’s a “Magra” story more than anything else, and though written from Marwood’s perspective, it’s mostly about her.

We learn more about her early life and especially her mother, Black Sky. I’ve always felt we needed to know more about Magraand this story was that attempt. Also, this is the story in which Marwood pops the question.

So you will have to read it to see how it all ends!

Elsewhere, I went ahead and joined the DFW Writers’ Workshop. I think it will be beneficial.

I’m getting my other ducks in a row and plan to attend several SF/F cons this year. I’ll post schedules and such when I have them.

Thanks for your interest in my writing!


Banner designed by Reeve Notley

Banner designed by Reece Notley

DFW Writers’ Workshop

Last night I checked out the DFW Writers’ Workshop. It’s in Euless so this place isn’t around the corner from me. They host the DFWFullMoon Conference every year which is a pretty big writers’ conference in the southwest. Dues aren’t too bad for the workshop, $100 a year, and they meet four times a month.

When I first moved here I thought about joining this workshop, but for whatever reason I put it off. They meet and afterward head to the IHOP for coffee and snacks.  There are all sorts of writers here from beginners to professional, fiction to nonfiction and essayists. After the preliminary meeting where everyone announces if they got a rejection or acceptance or what they are working on, they break up into separate critique groups.

I’m going to be gone a lot of this summer, but I’m leaning toward joining. I have to do something to help jump start myself and get back in the swing of things. I can’t go four times a month, but once or twice would do, and it will force me to write because I can’t see myself going up there with nothing in hand.

Writing is all about what have you done lately. I can’t answer that with much clarity at the moment. Being around other writers might be more beneficial than I can say at the moment.

Finally Wrote Something New!

This weekend I wrote a book review and sent it off to an online magazine for approval. It was the first new thing I have written since last Ian FlemingNovember.

I’ve worked on edits and rewrites for Haxan and Quaternity at the request of CZP and that went pretty well. So it’s not like I have been completely fallow. But getting something else done, writing something new even if it was a book review….well, dipping my toe back into that water felt pretty good.

Got back from the Texas Library Association meeting in San Antonio this weekend as well. I made good contacts and have followups to pursue. I’m optimistic many of them will turn out well for me. Doing stuff like that keeps my mind off other things going on in my life right now.

At the moment, given how things are, I will take what I can get.

A Personal Writing Note on Future Projects

Now that life have settled down (somewhat) I am starting to turn my attention to a new writing project.making decisions for writing is sometimes difficult, but necessary

I’m debating which direction to explore. I think another novel is the right way to go. Novels work harder than short stories in the long run. But with Haxan coming out in May from CZP/HarperCollins I have to keep in mind some basic marketing stuff.

It would benefit me to get a short story or two out there before the novel launches to help generate interest.

I haven’t written anything new since November of last year. A lot of personal things have happened, and in the face of that I haven’t felt writing was a top priority when I had so much else to deal with.

Sometimes a writer has to force himself to write whether he wants or not. I think that’s the situation I am in now. I know it will help me both professionally and therapeutically.

Of course, knowing you have to do something is different from actually doing it. But I need to try and focus on what’s coming up despite any personal turbulence that goes on around me.



I’m attending the Texas Library Association for CZP Haxan promos!

Wow, this was unexpected but great news. I will be attending the Texas Library Association conference in San Antonio on April 8 and doing Haxan promos for CZP. I will be at the Diamond Book Distributors booth, probably handing out Haxan postcards or something and talking to people.

CZP is also thinking if they download Haxan from NetGalley to read and review it, we can also send them the 1st three chapters of a future novel. Something like that to give them an incentive, maybe. Details are still being worked out but count me on board for this project.

The TLA is a pretty big deal. It influences what other state libraries buy. We are also hoping since I am a local author the librarians will order lots of copies of this violent, dark fantasy western.

I’m looking forward to this trip. I’m excited about the prospect of representing CZP at this conference and I want to do a good job for them.

Just as a quick aside, there is an existing link for the Haxan Kindle edition. The Haxan paperback can be ordered here.

The novel is coming out in May, 2014.

Here are some longhorns to get you in the mood:

Longhorn cattle drive, Stockyards, Fort Worth, TX

Longhorn cattle drive, Stockyards, Fort Worth, TX

Wow, my novel HAXAN is up for preorder by CZP/HarperCollins (plus a shout out)

All right, this is pretty cool. CZP/HarperCollins already has my upcoming dark fantasy novel Haxan up for preorder on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback. Thanks!

Haxan Preorder Page

And another cool thing that happened. My novel was listed (with many other upcoming novels to be sure) on the Westeros.org site. Now that right there made my week because they didn’t have to do it:

Westeros.org List of Upcoming 2014 Novels

Finally, a writer friend of mine, John Zeleznik name dropped me in the Westeros thread. Thanks, John! So, all things considered, it appears we are inching closer to the May launch date for Haxan. Looking forward to it.

Cover Reveal! My New Haxan Novel Coming Soon!

Yay! My new weird western novel Haxan will be published by CZP in May, 2014. Here’s a peek of the cover designed by Erik Mohr.


My new novel Haxan slated for publication by CZP in May, 2014!

I am currently getting events lined up to attend and talk about the novel. I have been invited to ArmadilloCon in Austin for July 25-27. When I get a schedule of my panels and events I’ll share it here and on Facebook. Thanks!

Quaternity and Haxan Update

Still have some personal things on my plate which take precedence over everything else, but I wanted to catch you up on my

Busy writer is busy.

Busy writer is busy.

writing so far.

I finished the second draft of Quaternity and sent it to the publisher for review. I thought they had a lot of really good advice for me and I believe the novel is that much stronger for it. I feel I am lucky they took the time to critique it at this depth and commit so much time to it. They didn’t have to do that.

I added about 3,000 words to the original manuscript and now it runs about 78,000 total. Fleshed out some characters and brought Marwood more to the forefront in key scenes where he was something of a background character. I’m happy with how things have progressed regarding this novel. If you’ve been following this blog you know how much trouble I had with this book until the flood gates opened and I wrote the entire novel in 19 days. Pretty crazy, but I still view this novel as the best thing I have ever done. I raised the bar on myself a lot with this book and I was glad I met my goals.

I’ve also got news in the upcoming days regarding the novel Haxan which will be published by CZP in May of this year. Please, keep checking back.


The Writing Log Jam is Finally Breaking Apart

I’ve had a bit of a breakthrough on the short story I’m working on. It’s called “Remember Me in the Halls of Valhalla”. I started this story at writer-smoking-pipe.jpgthe last WorldCon in San Antonio.

I knew if I thought about it long enough, and talked to a couple of writers and bounced some ideas, something would come to me. I think I see a way out. I like the direction that is starting to take shape in my mind for this story. I’m kind of eager to see how it will all turn out, assuming I sit myself down and actually write it.. I’ve also had a helpful idea or two regarding the hobo novel which I put aside. I am hoping these log jams are starting to break up and I can start producing work again.

In other writing news I heard from CZP and sent them some marketing stuff for the upcoming Haxan novel which will be published next year. I had a good time working on that because it got me to thinking about the novel again, which I haven’t done much lately. I have  a tendency to put a story behind me completely when I’m finished with it because my whole process is “Start writing the next one.”

Everything else being equal (which it never is) I’m okay with where my writing is at the moment. I’d really like to finish this particular short story, though, because I want to find something else to work on.

Short stories are fine in the interim. But I want a bigger project to occupy my time.

Noticing the Four Elements of Wicca

Since I have started turning my attention toward Wicca for reasons I set down in this earlier post, I have become increasingly aware of certain things around me.

In Wicca the elements, Earth, Air, Wind and Fire play an important role. Not surprisingly, I have become more aware of their influence and existence.

When I am walking outside I notice the wind moving through the tops of the trees. How it feels against my face. I notice the rain and listen to the sound it makes dripping off the roof. How the ground feels beneath my feet, what it smells like. The shape of fire in the pit and how it gyrates.

Earth is my body

Water is my blood

Air is my breath

and Fire is my spirit.

Now of course I have always seen these things before and noticed them. You can’t help but get stuck in the rain and not notice that. Or be hit by a hurricane or whatever. But I guess what I am trying to say here is because I am sort of focused on trying to understand Wicca I am more aware of these things than previously. I didn’t need Wicca to help me find this connection to Nature. It’s just a way that helped me focus, I guess is what I am trying to say.

So anyway it’s been pretty cool. And as a writer it really does help me to see these things around me in a different light, so to speak.

As I mentioned earlier I have been doing a lot of research. I learned there is a facet of Wicca called Seax Wicca that does use the Norse Gods. I looked into it but I still think a solitary, eclectic path will fit me best. I have decided, however, to seek out some other Wiccan groups in the area later and perhaps contact them. They have little meetings and get to know you lunches and whatever every week and if nothing else it will help me (force me) to be more social. Which is something I always struggle with. (Just ask my writing buddy!)

So that catches you up on everything Wicca this week. As for my writing I have to finish the short story and really search around for a new project to work on. I may return to the hobo novel or go in another direction. I haven’t written a good hard SF story in a long time, I might think about that.

I leave you with Earth, Wind and Fire. We will take Water on account.      )O(


Looking Beneath the Surface

I have been thinking about the hobo novel.Guess I will have to start this novel over.

If I went forward it would be fine. No one would know differently. It reads fine, the story works…but I am not happy.

And that’s the problem. It’s fine. But I don’t want to compromise, if that makes sense.

I am not satisfied with “good enough to get by” for my own writing. For better or worse I hold myself to a higher standard. I may not reach that goal. But I am not happy with writing the ordinary. I’ve written that already. Formulaic stories no longer interest me. They don’t challenge me in any way and they don’t bring anything new to the field of literature.

I want to write stories that unfold beneath the surface. That’s what I am missing here. I have the top part down pat. I don’t yet know what’s going on beneath the surface. And that’s what I want to understand and write about.

So. What to do. Well, obviously I have to rethink this novel. Like I said, it’s fine the way it is. I don’t think any publisher would say they don’t like it or have any problems for what it currently is, and for what it says. But I don’t like it. So I have to fix it. I have to figure this out. Just takes time.

I always have before.

Meanwhile, I will move on to a different writing project while this one simmers.

My New Story Coming from Frontier Tales, and a Discussion of Character Motivation Revealed by Voice and Style

Frontier Tales has accepted a new Haxan story from me. It will appear in September. Magra Snowberry must get home to find the man she loves. Standing in her way are four horsemen.The title is as yet undecided.

I’m really excited about this story for many reasons. It features Magra Snowberry and tells the story how she tries to get home to the man she loves. Standing in her way are four peculiar horsemen, and a ferryman who tries to help her.

I wrote this some months after I finished the Haxan prequel Quaternity. Some of the stylistic language is similar, along with a decidedly literary bent. I did this for a purpose. I no longer write stories only to transcribe action. I now try to write for the ear as well. I write for the voice.

How a story sounds is just as important to me as how it reads. I wasn’t always that way. But I am fully wedded to that philosophical idea today. I think the Rubicon I crossed was with the short story “Fishing the Styx” because in that tale I went far the other direction from a simple retelling of action.

I do this because I have never viewed my role as a fiction writer coupled with that as a stenographer. Right or wrong, I view my role as a writer more important than that. I view fiction as more important than that. Of course, I always try to be careful to avoid pretension. Stories that rely on that dynamic alone always collapse under their own weight. So it’s a balancing process…and one I admit I have yet to master.

But I think I’m getting there.

While I like the story as is, it remains for the reader to decide for himself whether my stylistic choices, and my philosophical choices, work.

I tend to like stories that take chances and I took a few here. I hope you like them.

Magra Snowberry has always been a character who intrigues me in a very different way than, say, Marwood. John Marwood brings his own identity to each and every story. But I have always thought Magra was more malleable. Not in a sense of weakness. Her malleability comes with her innate ability to adapt.

Magra is more philosophically fluid, if that makes sense, than Marwood. Or, perhaps, anyone else around her.

Also, when push comes to shove, she’s as willing to take the long red road of violence to achieve her ends as Marwood. I think the difference between her and Marwood is he sometimes tries to couch his actions within the framework of the law. He’s not always successful.

Magra, on the other hand, isn’t so wedded to thoughts of justice or the arc of law. She’s not more nihilistic than Marwood. She’s more practical.

She’d rather be left alone. But if you keep getting in her way there’s going to be pain involved.

A lot of pain.

It’s very easy to write about Marwood. You always know how he’s going to jump. I don’t necessarily view this as a point of strength. I’ve had characters say in several stories that Marwood never changes. “The west is changing, but you stay the same.”

It’s not a compliment. It’s an indictment of his lifestyle. It’s a warning to him (and people like him)  a rigid worldview is not going to hold up to the pressing arc of history.  Other people see this. He can’t. He never can. At the moment it’s his strength. But he’s not stupid. He realizes the inability to change or adapt will, one day, prove disastrous.

Simply put, Marwood is unable to learn from the history he has lived. He doesn’t look back and he doesn’t look forward. He is trapped in the now.  He is trapped by Fate.

Magra, on the other hand, views life and death in longer terms. This comes from her ability to night-walk along with her powers as a bruja.

She is not trapped or limited by Fate. She weaves Fate.

When I first started writing these stories Magra didn’t have the elevated position she now holds. I think in some of the very early stories she comes across as the damsel in distress. I changed that forever with the story “Vengeance is Mine” published in the anthology Beauty Has Her Way.

I originally wrote that story from Marwood’s perspective, but the editor, Jennifer Brozek, made me see the story would be more powerful and possess more emotional resonance if viewed from Magra’s perspective. This made me take a long and serious look at Magra and forced me to elevate her place in the pantheon of Haxan characters. Who, for the most part, tend to be broken and flawed people trying to survive in  a violent world.

Magra was always important, of course, and especially strong-willed. But now she had to take those characteristics and apply them in a way that would make the fiction interesting and memorable.

Magra came into her own in the short story “Vengeance is Mine” and she’s never turned back. I’m pretty happy about that because it makes her a viable character with her own stories to tell.

This new story is a continuation of that. When the story comes out I’ll link it here on the blog for you.

Hope you like it. 🙂

In an upcoming story Magra Snowberry meets four horsemen. This can't end well.

Looking at a Story with Fresh Eyes

I’m a couple of chapters into the new novel.Sleeping and looking at the story later always works for me.

After I wrote the first chapter I was pretty okay with it. I knew it wasn’t perfect but there was enough there for me to feel it was well within my ability to fix.

After I went to sleep and looked at it the next morning I saw it afresh. This helped a lot. It always does. I experience this quite often with my writing and I know other people do. It never ceases to interest me, though. I can write a story and put it away and when I look at it again I see it in a whole new light.

I see things that were hidden to me and I can fix them. I like when this happens. I’ve been working on the opening to this novel since Monday. It’s still not perfect but it’s better than it was.

I’ll take that kind of progress any day of the week. 🙂





Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld

Tablet depicting Sumerian Goddess Inanna

He clawed feet is an ancient way to depict the fact she visited the Underworld.

“From the great heaven she set her mind on the great below. From the great heaven the goddess set her mind on the great below. From the great heaven Inanna set her mind on the great below. My mistress abandoned heaven, abandoned earth, and descended to the underworld. Inanna abandoned heaven, abandoned earth, and descended to the underworld.”


Thus begins one of the most famous Sumerian myths of all time, with one of the most famous introductory passages of all time.

The new novel I am working on is a retelling of the Inanna myth. Inanna was a Sumerian goddess of fertility, love, and war. Venus is her star. As she descends to the Underworld, ostensibly to find either power or knowledge (the poem is open to interpretation), she has to divest herself of her garments. This is probably a metaphor for divesting herself of certain earthy illusions, but it can play either way.

Anyway, as you might suspect, descending to the Underworld is a really bad idea on her part, and it doesn’t work out the way she thinks. When she does not return, her loyal servant, Ninshubur, goes in after her.

In ancient times Venus was considered to be the Star of Inanna

Venus is the Star of Inanna

I became aware of the Inanna myth a year or so back. I immediately thought it would be a nice framework for a story. At the time I was thinking about writing a Great Depression novel. I wanted to examine the hobo culture at the time. Personally, I don’t buy into the romanticization of that period. Frank Capra’s idealistic portrayals aside, I don’t think it was a heroic lifestyle at all. I believe it was brutal, hard, dehumanizing, and violent.

That’s the novel I am going to write, anyway. Or attempt to write.

There are many translations of the Inanna poem online and you can find them rather easily. The problem with the translations is the language itself is so ancient you can read many things into it. Which, for a writer, isn’t all that bad.

Thus, Inanna. This is the project I am working on now and will be blogging about, including aspects of the hobo culture and their lifestyle. Stay tuned to see how it all turns out. 🙂


Another depiction. Again notice the Star of Inanna (Venus) in the sky.

Another depiction of Inanna

The ordinary people above Inanna are the people of Earth. The creatures below are those of the Underworld.

Finished Notes for New Novel, Still Hazy on Characterization

I finished the bulk of my notes for the new novel. I like what I have so far. I haven’t reconciled the problem of having the story down without a firm grasp of the characters, but I believe I am making progress on that front as well.

At any rate I hope I am making progress on that.

Right now I am thinking I might plan a trip up to Dalhart and Boise City which were the epicenter of the Dust Bowl and plays a part in the novel. Not a big deal. This isn’t like the Border Trip I took when I was researching the last novel. I honestly felt that was necessary because the border itself played a big part in the novel and you could argue it was a character itself.

Not the same with this new novel. But it can’t help to get a firsthand look at this area and get a feel on how it shapes people. That can never hurt.

I won’t lie. I’m a little nervous about not having the characters down as well as I would like. That is so unlike me when I write. But every day that passes I see a little more, turn another little corner. It’s not much, but I hope collectively it will be enough.

I’m even toying with the idea that my main character is all wrong and that’s what I need to change. Either change him, or delete him and come at the story from another angle.

I believe in the story. I like the idea. I am not as happy with the character I have picked to tell that story. That’s my problem right now.

I haven’t found a way to reconcile it and it keeps me up at night.




WHC and New Orleans Report Winding Down

I’ve had a good weekend. Did a lot of walking and thinking which for writers are two activities that go well together.

Came to a decision about the hobo novel. I am going to start work on this soon. I had an idea of going back to the Cigar Factory on Decatur and writing, but TBH I didn’t want to lug my computer that far.

I’m lazy.

Anyway, headed home tomorrow and I’m ready. I’ve eaten a lot of good food here, but I’m ready to head back to Texas and eat pork fajitas and drink an ice-cold Lone Star.

Picked up some books and anthologies from the World Horror Convention. Very much looking forward to reading them. In the interim I became aware of a writer called Lucy Taylor and you can pencil me in as a big fan. Her work is very, very good. How was she flying below my radar? Who knows. But I will be following her career from now on.

Met and made some new friends at the convention. All in all I had a fun time, but I do confess the walking wore me out.

See you next time when I am home!

WHC and New Orleans Report

Today is my first full day at World Horror Convention. I’ll be attending a panel or two on marketing, and I have a reading marked down from one of my friends I want to attend.

I cannot seem to upload pictures from this connection. Nothing I can do about it other than wait until I get home, I guess. But look on the bright side. There will be lots of pictures coming!

I’m looking forward to seeing the dealer’s room later today. That’s where I will often find people I know. Writers tend to congregate among lots and lots of books. 🙂

Food here is great, which you expect since it’s New Orleans. The weather hasn’t been too bad. It’s overcast so we aren’t being blistered by the sun. Making sure I stay hydrated with lots and lot of liquor water. I love the street performers and all the history here. It’s a great place to absorb what makes people tick.

I’ve been writing off and on which I try to make a habit of when I attend these cons. It’s a nice way to recharge my batteries.

I have this week carved out for the JTR story which is okay. But I can’t deny my thoughts and creative energies are turning more and more to the hobo novel.

Maybe I need to accept the fact the hobo novel is the more important work right now and start that.

Headed out to the convention to poke around a bit and then head out for lunch.

So you want to be a writer? Pro-tip: Always Expect the Unexpected.

Relative to my wail of angst yesterday I am taking another look at a project I started and abandoned last year.*

It’s a short story about a city undergoing a change between magic and the ascendency of science, and meanwhile there are are very terrible Jack the Ripper-type murders being committed. I didn’t want this to be another JTR pastiche so I came up with what I hope is a (at least to the murderer) valid reason behind the slayings.

Not that the victims would agree, of course.I am working on a Jack the Ripper story set in a dark fantasy world where magic is waning and science is on the rise....

So many things can go wrong with a story like this. It’s not like it hasn’t been done. At least as far as the basic concept of JTR shoehorned in any setting. I hope the background of magic waning and science on the rise is a foundation that can work.

But I don’t want it to become Fantasy CSI, or Middle-Earth Bat-Man, or “Oh, Gee, yet another Jack the Ripper yarn masquerading as another Jack the Ripper yawn…I mean yarn.” It would be so easy to mess this up completely. Well within my wheelhouse.

But, darn it, I like the story idea. It keeps pulling me in.

Stories dictate when they are going to be written. Not the writer. I know that. It’s just coming home with a vengeance right now and all I can do is hang on.

So there is no little difficulty involved with this. Which is fine. It’s something for me to fiddle with until I get the main character, Mankin Sodder, in the upcoming hobo novel straight. He’s kind of fuzzy and inchoate, and I need a better grasp on his motivations.

I need a better grasp on him. That’s the key to the hobo novel and I have yet to understand how to unlock it.

Anyway, as far as this new story is concerned I am using the working title of “City of Sunless Years” so we will see how it all shakes out.

Label it dark fantasy/horror. Wish me luck.


*Meanwhile, tomorrow I head for New Orleans because I plan to attend the World Horror Convention.

Two Writing Projects at Once?

I was afraid this might happen.Troubled Writer

I’ve been getting ready to work on the hobo novel, but meanwhile I haven’t been able to forget the Jack the Ripper dark fantasy I started to work on and then dropped.

Now they are both demanding attention.

I know some writers can work on more than one thing at a time. I have done this with short stories. But these are novels.

I wasn’t happy with the JTR thing and let it go. A couple of days ago I took another look at it and thought it wasn’t all that bad. Plus, I still like the idea. I just have to find a way to make it work.

So now I am torn. Which novel to work on first?

I think I will blog about the JTR idea a little more tomorrow. Maybe that will help settle things in my mind. When I  write about my ideas and give them space it helps me see them in a better light.


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