A Summer Update, and Writing Monoliths

I am working on an espionage novel, trying to get it into shape for submission. That’s my big summer project, along with promoting the new novel Haxan. When I am finished with that I will turn my attention to writing a new Haxan novel in the series. I think I have a weighty enough idea for that.

When I first began to write I was worried I wouldn’t have enough ideas. But the nasty secret (and it’s not so secret) is you come up with too many ideas. So you have to pick and choose which ones are worth your time, and which ones are not.

I am reminded of the enigmatic Monolith in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The idea behind the aliens was they cultivated intelligence where they thought it might take root, and when necessary dispassionately weeded the growth.

Writing ideas, and how they take root in your mind, are a lot like that. Not all ideas are created equal. You must pick and choose which ones are worth your time. I will come across an idea and think, “No, I will let someone else write that one.”

Not because I think a particular idea is beneath me. I determine someone can do a better job with that idea than I can. I have to maximize my time with ideas that excite me. If I think I can do something interesting then I am on board. If I think it will be another average retelling…I cull it out.

So, yes, ideas are very important. Not that short stories can’t be weighty. Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” comes to mind. But you need an idea that holds up over the length of a novel. “The Lottery” works as a short story. I am not certain it could work as a novel. Similarly, Moby-Dick is an excellent novel and would be difficult to present as a short story. (Although I have tried.)

So those are my summer plans. I’m in the thick of them as we speak. I’ll let you know how things develop.

 

daveinbed

“Talitha Koum” now appearing in Frontier Tales

Well, the new novel is out. But that’s not all going on in the world of Haxan.

My new Haxan short story entitled “Talitha Koum” has already engendered controversy among fans. It’s published by Frontier Tales and is on their website now. If you like the story please remember to vote for it on their website. That helps me a lot.

If you don’t like what happens in the story, please remember to vote for it on their website anyway. It helps me a lot!

So click the link and see what all the fuss is about! I mean, it’s Haxan. What could possibly go wrong for the people who live there, right….?

Right….?

 

“TALITHA KOUM” by KENNETH MARK HOOVER

The Eyes of the Valkyrie

Several days ago I finished my new Haxan short story “Remember Me in the Halls of Valhalla” and I think it came out okay.

Eyes of a Valkyrie

Eyes of a Valkyrie

I had a scene where I wanted to show these Valkyries were unlike the common blonde-haired, blue-eyed fantasy figures you often see. These were more like true death-maidens (though still beautiful) which is how they are portrayed in the Elder Edda, and other ancient sources.

In one paragraph I had the chieftain. Kara Wind-Travel, looking over the iron rim of her shield at Marwood as she recognized who (and what) he really was.

So I needed a pair of eyes.

Writers always steal body parts from other people. It’s a not-so secret thing we do. Truth is, most people never see themselves in fiction anyway, because as you write you tend to change other parts as well. Hence, the organic process that is writing…and most art in general.

But I really needed a startling pair of eyes to get me to bring out a very important part of the chieftain’s fierce character, and her emotion.

So I contacted a friend and asked if I could borrow her eyes for the story. She said yes, and the rest is history.

You know, sometimes being a writer is really pretty damn cool. You can make people kind of happy by doing what you do, and get a good story in the process.

But more importantly, you just kind of make your friends happy.  🙂

My New Haxan Story, “Talitha Koum” Published by Frontier Tales

Big breaking news day on the writing front!

I also have a brand new Haxan story “Talitha Koum” which has just been published in Frontier Tales Magazine. Click the link to read it, and please vote for my story!

This is a different kind of story in the Haxan mythos. In this one Magra Snowberry discovers a terrifying truth about her past…or is it a lie? And Marwood finally asks her to marry him!

But can anyone find what they are looking for in the town of Haxan when a dark mystery from the past comes in on the night train, carrying not a gun, but the truth in his pocket?

Read and find out!

“TALITHA KOUM”

 

Reflection on Story Present

I’ve been struggling with my new story “Remember Me in the Halls of Valhalla” for several weeks now.

To put things in perspective I haven’t been writing a lot lately. Personal stuff has roared in and stolen much of my time. It happens. But I have kept this story on the front burner in my mind.

Several nights ago I had a breakthrough on the plot. I usually have a vague idea where I want to go and what direction a story should take. I knew where I wanted to go with this one, but the direction was shaky.

I always believed writing is an organic process. I knew a solution would come. I slept on it and the idea continues to hold up. I need to be careful, though, because the “reveal” which is part of the story could overwhelm everything else.

So I’m going ahead with this idea and see where the remainder of the story lands.

For future projects I’d like to get one or two more short stories written and then move ahead with a summer project I’ve been planning for months now. More on that later. Maybe. Not trying to be a tease, I’m not 100% certain I will tackle it, or that I will have the opportunity.

But I think I will, and the idea excites me enough to see where that story might go. For me, that’s the fun part.

 

Water Reflection

“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.

 

TOMBSTONE

 

*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

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.

A Study in Character Motivation Revealed through Style and Voice: “The Bruja and the Ferryman”

Not too long ago I learned I had an upcoming Haxan story in which I used voice and style to reveal character motivation which would be published. I even blogged about it.

Well, that dark fantasy story is now live at Frontier Tales and you can read it for free. The story is about Magra Snowberry who is trying to get home. She runs into a strange ferryman and three apocalyptic horsemen who are looking for a fourth rider.

I ask you, what better way to get your morning started than some Old West necromancy?

I tried to do other things in this story, including the use of vernacular and dialect. Like anything else in fiction a little of this goes a long way, so I used it sparingly.  I believe this gives it impact without making it too difficult to read, but that’s for the reader to decide.

I really do hope you take a look at the story and I hope you like it. Thanks!

“The Bruja and the Ferryman” by Kenneth Mark Hoover

New Haxan Story “The Weight of Memory”

While I was attending Lone Star Con last week someone asked me if I wrote the Haxan stories in chronological order.

I had to admit I did not. I write the stories as they come to me. Sometimes they might be in order, often not. I usually have some idea, however, where they fit along the timeline. Though not always.

This brand new story which has been published by The Western Online is a story which appears at the beginning of the that timeline. It presages the appearance of Marwood, and gives some idea of the ancient lineage of the Eternals and those who are chosen to stand.

A nice dark fantasy to get your morning started. What better way to start the day? Just click the link below and read for free. Hope you like it.

“The Weight of Memory” by Kenneth Mark Hoover

 

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.

How I Wrote My New Haxan Story “Rado”

I had what I consider an unusual amount of trouble writing this short story. It wasn’t the plot but how the voice was developing that I had so much trouble with.

I had never written a Haxan story that featured Jake Strop before so maybe that was part of the problem. I didn’t want him to come across as a clone of Marwood and he had to have his own voice and way of looking at things.

I started this story about two years ago, dropped it and came back to it from time to time. I knew there was something there worth working for and I think I finally found it. But this was one of the more difficult stories to write, I found. I’m glad it all came together for me, however.

Anyway, The Western Online has accepted it and now it’s up for everyone to read. Just clickie on the linkie below.

I hope you guys enjoy it. Thanks for listening! 🙂

 

“Rado” published by The Western Online

Long Week Finally Has a Good Ending

Yesterday I learned The Western Online accepted a short story of mine. This was a nice end to a pretty awful week and I needed some good news. I’m glad they liked it and I look forward to appearing in their magazine soon.

It’s a new Haxan story in which I tried to do something a little different. Apropos of my earlier post in which I talked about writing outside your comfort zone. Now I’ve got the weekend ahead of me and I’m going to be busy with personal stuff, but I will try to get back to this blog on Monday and post updated material.

I didn’t make it to MidSouthCon this weekend even though I planned to attend. I wasn’t out any money but I had to make the decision whether I would go this year, and decided to stay home and take care of stuff. I never bought the preregistration in time anyway, so all I had to do was cancel a hotel reservation. I will pencil in this convention for next year, though. Meanwhile, I need to get registered for other SF/F conventions coming up this summer.

Writing is the Art of Reality

I believe writing is the art of reality.Do you want your reader to read the same old boring story?

Writers paint in words. We use the world around us to create, and we create immense worlds. We aren’t constrained unless we let ourselves be constrained. We can take as much as we want, or as little, depending on the story that wants to be told.

We are in complete control. The only limitation is ourselves.

I was talking to a writer friend yesterday. There’s a person in her writing group who does not accept criticism of his work. Every word he writes is gold, every sentence glitters. In his mind he’s a writer, and everyone else, especially the reader, is always wrong.

I don’t have to spell out to you how toxic this is.

Earlier this week I followed a link to a writer’s published work. It was bad. The dialog was cringe-worthy. I honestly felt embarrassed for the writer.

How does stuff like that get past agents and editors? Seriously, how does it? So much for the vaunted gatekeepers.

But these are extreme examples. Most published writers are technically able to turn out a readable story. Readable, yes, but not memorable.

Or maybe the readers keep reading them because that’s the only option they have?

I have wrestled with this my entire life. I always try to challenge myself. If you follow this blog you know my peculiar philosophy. I’m not saying I am successful. I fail more often than I succeed, but I keep trying.

I love and respect writers who elevate their craft beyond the mundane. I like seeing genres grow out of their cliched roots and welcome new readers. That can’t happen unless writers are constantly challenging the status quo, however.

I don’t think I am alone in this. I believe most writers want to write well. I think they want to bring something new to the reader, and I believe the reader wants to be challenged and entertained.

But when writers take the safe path  everyone loses, and the genre is watered down.

Then again maybe I am wrong about every blasted thing we have talked about today. Maybe writing is not art. Maybe it’s only a method to shovel thoughts and ideas down to the reader. But I don’t believe that in my heart. I don’t believe most writers think that way about their craft, and I don’t believe readers think that way, either.

Meanwhile, a lot of people are getting published.

But, by comparison, I am seeing fewer writers in the process.

So my advice, FWIW, is take a chance. Stand out. Separate yourself from the pack.

Look, if all you want to do is get published, if that is your goal…well, anyone can do that. Nowadays it’s not difficult. But if you want to be a writer? That’s something else altogether. You will have to work to accomplish that goal.

Trust me. It’s worth it in the long run. You won’t always be successful and there are never any guarantees, especially in this ego-shattering profession. But when you are able to pull it off….man, is it ever worth it.

Chopping Out the Undergrowth of a Story and Revealing Gold

Today I will start the third (and I hope) final big edit of the new Haxan novel, Quaternity. I plan to read the novel out loud, as I mentioned before in this blog, and am eager to see (hear?) how it sounds.

I’ve been a little stuck on another short story I finished editing, though. After the initial big edit of this shorter piece (which I finished last year, Editing should be more than taking a hatchet to your story!that’s how long it has been sitting fallow) I saw it could again be edited one of two ways. I could change the whole meaning and structure of the story if I cut out some pieces. I don’t know if I want to do this. Yes, if I go that route I think I can probably find one or two magazines that would publish it, no problem. But if I leave those parts in (mostly heavy dark fantasy) then I might have to do a little homework to find a good place for it.

Which is fine, I have no problem doing that. What interests me most about this particular short story is how I can change it so dramatically by careful editing. Which, come to think of it, is probably always the case with any story I write. It’s just very blatant in this case. At least to me.

That is why I haven’t finished the final edit of this particular and as yet unamed short story about Magra Snowberry from Haxan. It could go either way. My philosophy about this has always stayed the same. I want to present the best story I can. That’s why I am on the fence as to which way to edit this thing. Even my instincts, which I always trust, says it could be a coin flip.

I think I am leaning toward keeping the very dark fantasy elements in it. The new Haxan novel Quaternity works variations on some of those familiar themes without the elements I use in the short story. So that is good.

I am probably over thinking this as I often do. But this is something I have to get past because it is hanging in the background like a flag demanding attention.

Thus, writing.

Catching Up with Me

Next week I will try to post some pictures from the Border Trip I took to research the novel. I don’t know what they will add to the context of the process I have already written about, but you might like them. Who knows?

I wanted to thank everyone for all the kind words and support you sent my way during, and after, the novel was written. It means  a lot to me. 🙂

I haven’t been doing much lately. Getting some reading done. I am thinking of working on a couple of short stories. After a big project like this I generally enjoy working on shorter stories. But I am committed to beginning the edit on the novel Christmas Day. Doesn’t leave much time. I won’t obsess over it. If I can squeeze in a short story or two, fine. If not, no big deal .

The novel comes first. Period.

I am also kind of toying with an idea for  a new novel, but I am keeping that close to the vest right now. I will blog about that, too, later. Not trying to be coy, the initial phase of this new novel idea is pretty inchoate. We will see where it goes. (If anywhere.)

I also have some blog posts that have been hanging fire, reviews and such, I haven’t gotten to. They are on the agenda as well.

Other than that everything is going along fine here. Hope everyone has a good weekend. See you next week with new blog posts. 🙂

Chicon7: Last Update Post Thing Before I Leave for Dallas

Started a new Haxan short story last night and got about ten pages done. I always do this at a WorldCon, start a new story or poem or whatever. Good to see the streak has continued.

This story is a dark fantasy and features Magra Snowberry, one of the principal characters of Haxan.

Don’t know if I will be able to do more work on it today before I leave for Dallas, but we will see. I’ve just had breakfast. Headed to the convention hall later this morning to pick up my bookmarks and make one last turn through the dealers’ room and see if any sales are going on.

All in all it was a good convention for me. I got some networking done which is surprising for my introvert self and squeezed in some writing. (For me the latter is always more important.) I would have liked to do more at the convention, but I’ve learned from the past I can overdo things quite easily and then I get nothing done at all.

After I finish this short story I will get back to the main novel.

Rules are made to be broken, except when they’re not.

As a writer, the only time you should break the rules is when you know the rules beforehand.

Fortunately, in writing, there are no rules. Which is why you must be extra careful before you go around breaking them and drawing attention to yourself.

I know. Sounds screwy and somewhat zen-like. But there’s a lot of truth in it. Many classics have withstood the test of time  because they are stories which, in one form or another, broke rules. These can be rules of grammar, pacing, POV, format, a lot of different elements. You can name just as many as I can off the top of your head, probably more. Novels like Lolita, Tropic of Cancer, Dracula, Blood Meridian, Moby-Dick, 1984 and on and on.

But you have to know what the basic rules are before you go around breaking them. That means you have to learn your craft inside and out. You have to do your homework and you have to keep your mouth shut and listen when professionals are talking about writing. Because you know what? You can tell instead of show…but only if you know how to show instead of tell first. You can mix POV in a scene. But only if you know and understand why it’s normally not done in the first place.

There are lots of others like this. You can break all the rules because writing is not a protocol exercise. It’s an organic creative process. Because it is organic it has the leeway already built in so you can leaven your imagination into it and make something truly memorable, truly artistic.

I am a big believer in breaking rules. You should be, too. But learn what they are first and then when you do break them it won’t be because you’re an amateur, it will be because you are empowered. 🙂

Fishing the Styx: Moby-Dick and Dante’s Inferno, with horror and revenge served cold in Hell….

As a writer I like all my stories. I would not submit them for publication if I felt they had nothing to give readers. But I have to admit there are some stories that are very important to me for one reason or another. “Fishing the Styx” is such a story.

I have always loved reading Dante’s Inferno and Melville’s Moby-Dick. They are my favorite classics ever. But I got to thinking about what might be living in the River Styx…and what would happen if you actuallywent fishing for it….

I don’t want to say much more about this unusual story. I will leave it for you to discover what it’s all about. It scared me when I was writing it, and I hope it make you feel the same way after you read it. It’s being put out by Argo Navis Publishing and is available on Kindle. I do hope you give this story a read and leave a review. I honestly hope you like it a lot.

 

Fishing the Styx: A new short SF story from Argo Navis Publishing!

Product Description: “If you can imagine a mashup of Dante’s Inferno with Melville’s Moby Dick, with a little mathematical horseplay along for the ride, maybe you might come close to imagining “Fishing the River Styx”.

“Kisa, a former Russian mathematician is in Hell because that’s what happens to nearly everyone, ferried there from earth by the great Leviathan that swims the mobius strip that is the river Styx, which borders the infnity that is Hell. Enraged by the blatant injustice of it all, Kisa decides to do something about it, and that something is to hunt and kill the Leviathan itself.

“But as the demon Talon points out, “Hell isn’t about punishment. It’s about learning.” So maybe Kisa has something yet to learn. Or not. You have to decide that for yourself. After all, demons lie.” —Richard Parks, fantasist and SF author

Wuthering: A vengeful take on Wuthering Heights in the violent world of Haxan

Mark here. The world of Haxan gives me a lot of room to retell stories and do variations. The short story “Wuthering” is such an example. I mean, how many settings lend themselves to a retelling of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights? Well, in my opinion, Haxan does.

I had fun writing this story because it proved to me I could write, literally, anything in the world of Haxan about any topic whatsoever. That’s one reason I like Haxan. There’s a lot of built-in versatility other than your ordinary cliched western. Once again, I am not saying I am the first or the best writer to have done this with westerns. I merely argue I am having fun doing it!

If you are interested in reading the story please click on the link below. The story has been published by Argo Navis Publishing and it’s currently being offered on Kindle. I really do hope you like reading this story half as much as I enjoyed writing it. 🙂

 

As a neverending gale scours the land and the souls of men, a vengeful revenant comes to Haxan seeking the love she lost....

 

Product Description: Cathy Bell is a vengeful ghost seeking retribution. As Cathy night-walks the New Mexican desert in a jealous rage and prepares to strike an innocent family, Marshal John Marwood decides to confront the revenant — by risking his own life, while forever losing the only woman he will ever love.

“Hoover never hesitates to go deep and find what it means to be human.” —Richard Parks, fantasist & SF author

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