Thursday, January 6, 2011

So, what are you working on?

What do you write?

It's a question I often get after telling someone I want to be a writer. Actually, I might be able to actually claim now that I'm a writer, now that I've had four stories published. However, I still have a day job that requires most of my time, so for now, I'll stick with "I want to be a writer" or "writing is my hobby" or "I write on the side."

Still, when people ask me what I write, my default answer is usually "I write science fiction and fantasy." It's a broad category, but it gives people a decent idea of what I'm doing. I write genre fiction, geek stuff. I'm a geek...and my writing reflects that. You won't see flowery prose that spans nine pages about the awe-inspiring beauty of a sunset in my work. It's not that I'm not capable of's just that if I open a book and suffer through nine pages of that, well...I won't make it through four of them.

I want humor, I want excitement, I want escapism. It's very difficult for me to work on something I wouldn't actually read myself. If that means people look down on my work because I don't write nine pages of thesaurus-fueled hokum about the creepy wrought-iron fence outside the creepy, Victorian home, then so be it. I can still do description, I can still do symbolism with the best of them.

I know my writing isn't perfect. In April, I became obsessed with short stories. I don't know when that happened, but I kept churning them out and churning them out. Since then, I've written approximately 25 pieces of short fiction. I look back on some of my early ones, and I see things I can improve upon. Characterization, setting, description, plotting, pacing, wordiness, flow, and dialogue are just a few facets of my writing that need improvement.

Like any other writer, I've faced rejection. The other day, I received a quick, terse reply about a story I submitted. The story, "Swatch, Guardian of Time," is a farce about a goofy Time Ranger tasked with stopping an important event in the past. The Time Ranger, Swatch, has a short attention span, is obsessed with 80s pop culture, and fails utterly in his given task. The story is supposed to be absurd, yet I got a rejection note saying the reader couldn't make it past the first page because "it's clear the author doesn't take this story seriously, and if the author doesn't take his work seriously, how can he ask the reader to?"

A quick note to the reader: I'm not asking you to take it seriously. That's the point of the's supposed to be goofy. It's supposed to make you smile. What it means is that the story failed to connect with that particular reader. I sent "Swatch" to another editor who raved about the story...calling it "humorous, well written, and completely unique." The editor ended up passing on it...but said to keep sending it out, because he had no doubt someone would publish it.

I'm not really sure what I'm writing about here...but the point is that I'm still feeling my way around. I've tasted some success and I expect to find more; in addition, I also expect to taste plenty of rejection and disappointment. Not everyone will like every word I write; it is the nature of the beast.

Now, I have digressed greatly from the original question posed at the beginning of this little diatribe.

"What do you write?"

Here's the ultimate answer to that question:


I, Crimsonstreak: After busting out of an institution for the “criminally insane,” superhero Crimsonstreak emerges to find his power-drunk father in charge of the entire world. Forced to team up with a wet-behind-the-ears, teenage superhero-to-be and the boy’s proper butler, Crimsonstreak must rely on his super-speed and wits to confront his father and set the world right again. Published by Candlemark & Gleam, May 2012.


II Crimsonstreak: Crimsonstreak and company return three years after the events of I, Crimsonstreak. World governments are still getting back on their feet and the superhero community remains fragmented. Sounds like the perfect time for an alien invasion, the arrival of a speedster who can outrun our hero, and the machinations of a band of snobbish space cops.

III Crimsonstreak: The third and final (?) book in the Crimsonstreak trilogy, our hero races against time to repair fractured timelines and put the pieces of the shattered multiverses back together. (first draft in progress)

Mortimer: International Man of Taste and Intrigue: The memoir of the estimable Mortimer P. Willoughby. Intrigue, sarcasm, etiquette, fine dining, and adventure collide in this epic tale of how a humble Brit from Leeds became the hidden force behind the Crusading Comet, one of the world's preeminent superheroes.

The Franchise: Emma Davis knew the company mantra: “Stop criminals. Fight crime. Save the world.”

The new employee is having a much different experience at OMNI Corporation, the world’s first and only fully-licensed superhero-for-hire franchise. Instead of taking on the bad guys, she’s vanquishing paperwork, crusading against office boredom, and trying to brush aside the advances of her womanizing boss.

When business finally heats up, Emma uses her mastery over fire to extinguish a blazing inferno and snuff out an escaped supervillain. That’s the frying pan. The fire? OMNI's founders start to disappear--and it's clear someone has a murderous ax to grind.

While her co-workers think it's business as usual, Emma teams up with an outlaw, old-school masked avenger with questionable motives and methods. Together, the unlikely allies follow a smoking trail of evidence that billows toward the highest levels of OMNI Corporation, unleashing a fire not even Emma can put out.

Sheridan's Hammer: Stranded for ten years on a war-torn planet controlled by oppressive religious zealots, former intergalactic gladiator Sheridan has one goal: to get home. Now a low-paid media systems installer, Sheridan visits a customer with ties to a growing insurgency. Plunged into the middle of a vicious fight between the warring religious factions, he brushes aside his lifelong vow of neutrality, agreeing to lead a daring rescue mission guaranteed to end of his ten-year exile, one way or another. (second revision)

Seven: Mired in baseball obscurity for two decades, a small-market pro baseball team welcomes a new addition known only as "Seven." The new player is a media sensation; a hit with fans and teammates alike. But mystery shrouds the player with no name and no hometown, threatening to derail a championship season and bring the sports world to its knees. (fourth revision)

Red Plague: A man materializes at a county fair in the Midwest before collapsing, spreading a deadly new strain of bubonic plague that begins sweeping across the world. As millions die, CDC specialist Anna Manning stumbles across a startling discovery: the disease appears to have been genetically altered in the past. The revelation dredges up painful memories of the Cold War and forces Anna to travel back in time, the fate of humanity resting on her shoulders. (incomplete)

17th Parallel: A burnout. That’s what they called Marshall Drew. Once a promising young quarterback, he let the temptations of the good life destroy his hall of fame prospects. When a talent scout comes to his hometown offering one last shot at gridiron glory, Marshall agrees, triggering events that offer football immortality at an unimaginable price. (first draft complete--revisions underway)


College Radio: The beleaguered general manager of a small college radio station battles a power-hungry school board chairman who wants to wrest control away from students to promote his political agenda.


Absolution: Paralyzed after saving a woman under attack by two thugs, a man gets a second chance from on high. Armed with a divine mandate, he takes the name "Absolution" and embarks on a single-minded quest to rid the world of the wicked and corrupt. (published by Wily Writers Podcast; also appears in Future Imperfect: Best of Wily Writers)

In Memoriam: The loss of a firefighter stings a community; more so, after the man's double-life as the mysterious "Wraith" is revealed. Those who know the man mourn his passing during a memorial service and all witness a chilling sight that defies explanation. (published in A Thousand Faces)

The Stuntman: Thrilled that Hollywood plans to make a movie about his life as the Amazing Marvel, Stan presses his agent to land him the starring role. The producers have a different idea, hiring a rising, hot-shot star, and relegating Stan to the role of indestructible stuntman. (published in the Powers anthology)

Old-Fashioned Police Work: After the police department hires a contingent of super-powered rookies, a veteran officer learns he'll soon be forced into early retirement. As he contemplates his career options, he and the rooks confront a string of robberies that only a little old-fashioned police work can solve. (published by Strange, Weird, and Wonderful)

The Bank Loan: Frustrated at his inability to get a bank loan, Baron Gallant confronts the loan officer who refused to sign off on his request. The loan officer soon learns why the superhero needs the money after Gallant's rival begins ransacking the city. (published by This Mutant Life)

Sparky Save the World: Harris and his bomb-sniffing partner Sparky work to stop biological weapons and other dangers from going through the nation's ports. Trained to detect hazardous materials, Sparky--an UNDEAD (UNnaturally DE-evolved Anthropological Degenerate) who used to be human--proves his ultimate worth when confronted with a massive, potentially catastrophic weapons shipment. (published in Library of the Living Dead Press' Live and Let Undead anthology)

No Errors in Programming: Robot bounty hunter Molitor (Mobile Operation Licensed for Infiltration, Termination, Observation, and Reconnaissance) never compromises in tracking down its quarry. But when the machine accepts a contract to terminate a member of a well-known royal family, certain parameters don't compute, forcing Molitor to recalculate the best course of action. (published in Static Movement's Bounty Hunters anthology)

Vengeance: Calvin Collins is a nobody, a low-level hood with friends in low places--the perfect police informant. Double-crossed by two detectives he foolishly trusted, Calvin gets three bullets in the chest and an all-expenses-paid trip to Hell. There, he faces a choice: a painful, fiery afterlife or the chance to get even. But in order to avenge his death, he must first become Vengeance, a being of pure, dark energy who serves an even darker master. (published in Static Movement's Serve in Heaven, Reign in Hell anthology)

Dawn of the Super-hero: Over the course of an extraordinary week in the 1930s, a Midwesterner learns about the rise of super-powered beings around the country through newspaper accounts and radio reports. But when the world's first "super-villain" threatens to destroy New York, the man's thirst for knowledge is overtaken by his will to act. (published in This Mutant Life)

Harrigan the Magnificent: Strange psychic messages draw Harrigan to a sinister circus where children disappear in the wake of the grand finale. Determined to save the victims, the luckless antihero confronts the dark mistress behind the behind the plot and stumbles across an unexpected, bittersweet destiny. (published in Timid Pirate Press' Cobalt City: Dark Carnival anthology)

And the World Stopped: When the world's super-powered heroes and villains suddenly lose their awe-inspiring abilities, Night Wasp gets an unexpected call from the Heroic Legion to investigate. The vigilante's uncompromising effort uncovers a deep, wide-ranging conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels and pits him against his own government. (published in Pill Hill Press' Told You So anthology)


Gus and Mariel: Gus, a puffin who spent his whole life in captivity, falls in love with a bird named Mariel who arrives from the outside world. When she is suddenly taken away, Gus escapes and stumbles into radioactive goo that makes him the size of building. He goes on a single-minded quest to reunite with his lost love while unwittingly leaving behind a trail of destruction.

The Villain: The Blue Avenger and his arch-nemesis Heckler engage in their final showdown, and it looks like the villain has the upper hand. Memories of their past encounters assault the Avenger, who retraces the bitter steps leading up to their final fight, culminating in a desperate act that will forever redefine the hero's crusade against crime.

Cabin Boy's New Gig: A distraught sidekick strikes it out on his own, adopting a new name and finding his own city to protect. Broke and disillusioned, he brushes aside an offer for help from his mentor. He soon realizes the long, inescapable shadow the man cast in his life.

Swatch: Guardian of Time: With most members of the Time Rangers on vacation, Madame Timeweaver begrudgingly enlists Swatch to preside over a vital mission. Determined to prove his worth, the easily-distracted Swatch screws up the mission and scrambles to find a solution in the Temporal Mists.

Shatterforce's New Chapter: A retired, burned-out superhero named Shatterforce roams the convention circuit and struggles to make a buck while grappling with her growing obsolescence. Fate gives her one last adventure after she witnesses the abduction of a child at a convention.

I Took Over the World for This? Dementius has finally beaten the good guys and taken over the world. Instead of groveling at his feet, his subjects seem more concerned with border disputes, petitions for universal health care, and other petty concerns, leaving the ruler to wonder what compelled him to take over the world in the first place.

The Journalist: It started as a joke...that beautiful socialite Meg Maguire shared the same identity as the mysterious White Knight. Now, reporter Freddy Rodriguez is convinced he's stumbled across the story of the century...and six months of research appear to prove him right. His dogged pursuit leads him to confront the socialite in hopes of confirming the story once and for all.

The Washout: The Supervillain Relocation Program depowers Darren and assigns him to wash recreational vehicles at a second-rate RV Dealership where he bows to the will of his bossy supervisor. When one of the heroes who put him away walks into the dealership, Darren relishes his good fortune and formulates a plan to exact a small measure of revenge.

Elf Hunt: Two accountants join an exclusive hunting expedition where elves are the main target. When their hard-nosed tour leader is killed, the accountants find they're the ones being hunted.

Baz Ramen and His Great Intergalactic Band: A news magazine reporter traces the rise of the galaxy's most famous band and unravels the shocking series of events leading to the popular group's fall from grace.

The Garbage Collectors: A father and daughter run a garbage scow, accepting a mysterious contract for a pickup that puts them at the center of a fearsome mercenary's plot for revenge.

Should've Stuck with the Chicken Story: A TV news reporter and his trusty photographer scoff at the chicken wing shortage story they're forced to cover...until a strange outbreak of mindless, hulking creatures leads them to reconsider their opinion of the story.

The Artifact: Two rival galactic barons fight for a legendary artifact rumored to have resurfaced on a distant planet.

The Commentator: A holo-network commentator stirs up controversy concerning a peace deal between his planet's government and a neighboring planetary system. His pointed comments create a cult of personality, leading to a violent uprising with unintended political consequences.

Observer of History: A college student is given the chance to change one world-altering historical event for the betterment of mankind. He decides to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and returns to a future much different from the one he imagined.

A Wing and a Plan: A superintelligent penguin declares war on humanity, citing the human race's mistreatment of penguin kind. He works to raise an army of penguin super soldiers, until the foibles of his own kind unwittingly befall him.

Last Stand on Cyclonus Seven: Cyclonus Seven was just an orange blot on the star chart; an easily-skipped stopover on the way to Earth. But when an overwhelming army storms the planet, a single guardian knows the truth: if Cyclonus Seven falls, Earth follows suit. Fifty-two heroes arrive to answer the distress call. They are greatly outnumbered, hopelessly fractured, and desperately low on time. Wave after wave, fallen comrade after fallen comrade, they fight knowing that victory means sacrifice and death. Everyone would remember Cyclonus Seven. And no one would forget the last stand.

The Courtship of LavaFrost: Two supervillain rivals, one who controls ice and the other who controls fire, vie for the services of a super-powered woman capable of commanding both elements. Their efforts to secure her services run lukewarm until she makes a final decision that both chills and inflames.

SimCo Makes Life Better: A boy's parents head off for an important diplomatic mission, leaving him home alone with a new robot servant. When the 'bot starts to show signs of emotion, the boy thinks his new friend is becoming self-aware until the machine's true intentions come to light.

Hero in Flux: D-list superhero Flux gets the chance of a lifetime when a voting mistake gives him a spot in the 40th Annual Charity Showdown, an event pitting the world's preeminent heroes against one another. When the competition takes an unexpected and dangerous turn, Flux discovers he's not only the cause of the problem...he's also the only hero capable of fixing it.

Grisham's Council: Ticked off at the inability of earth's heroes to repel an alien invasion, Grisham ditches the resistance effort and strikes out on his own. As the days grow darker, the hero realizes he's never alone: a dark force hunts him and the others, forcing Grisham to make amends before it's too late.

And a God Could Finally Cry: Goldwing, earth's greatest hero, abandons the planet and its people after his lady love dies at the hands of his arch-nemesis. Grief-stricken, he travels farther than he ever thought possible, ending up on a planetary paradise where he starts anew. He soon learns no one, not even a god, can escape a tormented past forever.

Capes: Skyfire finally achieves a lifelong dream by earning an invitation into the prestigious ranks of the Heroic Guild. But the Guild's unwavering rule--all heroes must wear capes--remains a persistent sore spot, especially given her family's problematic history with the classic superhero accessory.

SimCo Tech Support: A bored, beleaguered tech support worker named Carl discovers a dangerous flaw in his company's new flagship series of robotic servants. As customers flood the call center with problems, Carl tries to get the attention of corporate leaders. But no one is willing to listen to his concerns until an apparent robot revolt begins to take hold.

Family Tradition: A young man recounts his family's futile superhero legacy during a battle with the villain responsible for his father's death. Dressed as the armored hero "CLANK," he tries to save the city of Cincinnati while coming to terms with his embarrassing family history.

To the Infinity Room! Obsessed collector Mervin Garth gathers items from alternate universes using a device called The Infinity Room, often neglecting his young, dim-witted assistant Nathaniel in the process. When the boy disappears during an unauthorized trip using the Infinity Room, Mervin realizes the priceless items in his collection have little true value.

The Memory Pools: On Garland IV, every native must travel to the Memory Pools; it is a planetary birthright. But when Garland leaders discover the pools have unique regenerative powers other cultures will pay any amount to possess, the world's most precious resource goes up for sale. And the cost of greed couldn't rise any higher.

His Time: Name a war, Magnus has seen it. A warrior blessed--and cursed--with immortality, he's cheated Death countless times, only to watch the ghostly specter guide beloved friends to the afterlife. After insurgents ambush his tight-knit unit in Afghanistan, Magnus recounts previous battles across a lifetime of war, wondering if this time will finally be his time.

The Starting Five: A high school senior and the girl he's always liked encounter a ghostly basketball game among the cornfields of a crisp Indiana night. Think "Field of Dreams," except with a fieldhouse. Make that "Fieldhouse of Dreams." Or something. (not one of my favorites)

Bleak Red Sky: A misunderstanding sparks an intergalactic war between humans and a mysterious alien species. With humanity losing badly, earth's greatest commander leads a daring mission into the heart of the alien homeworld, but something about the planet's blood-red sky continually unnerves him.


Mervin the Baseball King: Hard-working Mervin Moose desperately wants to play baseball, but spends all of his time on the bench instead. When the team's star player gets injured in the biggest game of the year, Coach Llama has no choice but to put Mervin in the lineup, giving the ballplayer the opportunity to shine.

The Adventures of the Taxis: A screwball crew of misfits becomes embroiled in an intergalactic war after Lt. Leslie Ceeney, the ship's inept navigator, mixes up his directions (again). It's like Star Wars, only shorter. And without Wookies. Or lightsabers. But it has ships. (this book is in no way near a finished form, even though there's a sequel)

The Adventures of the Taxis: The Sequel Another wrong turn, another intergalactic kerfuffle. At least the crew of the Taxis is used to cleaning up after Lieutenant Leslie Ceeney. (completely incomplete)