Category Archives: Stories

Everyone burns for their dreams…

Norway, 1843


On a brutal night in the depth of winter, I traveled through the wilderness to reach a village in desperate need of my services. Under clear skies, I felt myself lifted despite the cold by the meaning behind each poke and stroke of my skis. Yet, even with the effort I could feel the cold creeping into my bones.

What luck I had then when rounding a bend to find a small fire crackling in the trees not far from the track. I approached carefully not wanting to surprise any woodsman there, but I needn’t have worried for the man tending the fire saw me from afar and had been waiting.

“What are you doing out here and not in your hut?” I asked.

“I might ask you the same,” said the woodsman, “but instead I will tell you I am burning for my dreams.”

As a physician, I naturally worried about the man’s health and told him so, but his reply shocked me all the more.

“Everyone burns for their dreams in some way,” said the woodman. “Those settle, more often I have met them in villages in towns, are singed by the memory of the dreams they’ve abandoned. Though here in the wilderness, where dreams as much as wit might keep a man alive, he smolders in anticipation of days to come or he may do as I am doing which is stoking the fire of my first dream.”

“And just what are your dreams?” I asked.

“My dreams?” asked the woodman. “One dream is to see the sun rise tomorrow and then perhaps the day after that. Another dream is to see Spring on the river and for my sons to do the same.”

After the woodsman’s first statements, I was taken back by the simplicity of his reply.

“But surely,” I said, “these are same dreams that most men share and not worth the danger of exposing yourself on a night like this.”

“Oh to be sure,” replied the woodsman. “However, there is the first dream I mentioned which is far more important.”

“Which is?” I asked.

The woodman looked across the fire with eyes as bright as the stars. He flashed a grin and tossed another branch on the fire.

“Why of course to make sure the doctor reaches the village where my sons lie ill without the fool freezing himself to death.”

I Dare You Not to Imagine a Story

No matter where I go, my imagination bristles and bucks at any attempt to quell the flood of visions and story. It’s really quite impossible.

Just yesterday, I went for a walk in the woods. It was a dreary and gray sort of day filled with mist and the threat of rain. The sort of day where every light twinkles and midday feels like a constant dusk.

In other words, it was wonderful.

Do you doubt me? Then here is a challenge…

Buried deep in this article is an except from a letter written in 1919. I dare you to read this clip and not think of a story.

A Story Just Watiing for Your Imagination

I feel confident that you won’t be able to do it. In fact, I think that after your read this short letter you’ll go to the article itself and look at the photographs. You’ll see the faces of the men. You’ll see their equipment and the ruin that remains. Your writer brain will take all of this in and you’ll begin to find yourself deep inside a world that only exists in your head.

Depending on your proclivities, you might imagine some fantastic horror tale involving a creeping and ancient evil lurking in the forest. You may think of some realistic historical fiction piece centered around the life of John Snow (or even the reporter of the events in the camp). The possibilities are endless because we are all different writers with different ideas and tastes, but one thing is constant: we are all beholden to the will of story.

We cannot help but be drawn into the tangled web we weave. We are writers.

So go on, I dare you not to imagine a story… and when you fall for my trick, I hope you’ll take up your pen and write it all down. I can’t wait to read it.

Sharing Your Original Sin: Publishing a First Novel

This is the cover of the book. This is exactly what it would look like in the bestseller section at Borders or B&N if a crazy person printed it through and left on the shelf with a half-eaten bakery item of their choice.

I’m going to do something stupid.

Isn’t it nice when you get a warning like that? I really wish that more people would take this approach in life. It would help smooth over so many uncomfortable situations where both parties know that something truly idiotic is about it happen but neither is capable of acknowledging it.

There are some stories you are proud of and some not so much. There are some stories that you just have to write and put away in a drawer and hope beyond all hope that no one will ever find. For me, The Madness of Ants is just such a story. So of course, I am going to put it right out here where everyone can see it.

This all started as part of my experiment in digital publishing. I wanted to try a book-length bit of fiction, and since I only have two novels I figured I’d start with the first.


You know, I’ve said many times that this book is terrible but in preparing it for the Kindle I found that it is even worse than I remember. Well, there’s nothing for it now but to get on with it. Here we go…

The Original Sin

To begin, The Madness of Ants (TMOA) is a book not a story. It is only a book because it has 59K words and that the words are written in a language people can read. It is not a book because it is particularly interesting or engaging.

It is a book because it is my first novel.

Almost 16 years ago, I spent a summer writing the first novel I would actually finish. That in itself is something of an accomplishment and I’m proud of the fact that I did it. The work itself though is really a study in everything that a first time novelist can do wrong.

  • Surrealism
  • Obscenity
  • Aping the styles of literary authors
  • Wild plot twists
  • Total lack of plot (yes, you can have both)

About the only thing I didn’t do is plagiarize, but considering how many ideas I stole from other writers I suppose it would be fair to heap that sin on the pile.

Original Sin

So why am I publishing this book at all?

It’s a fair question. After all, the book is so horrible that no one should be allowed to read it. But then, every writer has something like this in their closet, hard drive, etc. It is their Original Sin. The work they finished but cannot be proud of. The work that haunts their waking moments for no reason other than it was the first reason they started down the path.

Lately, I’ve not been writing at all. Even worse, I’ve gone weeks without even thinking about writing. Then, when I have a moment to myself, I wonder just what the hell happened to the guy who got up at 5AM every day to write. I wonder what happened to the guy who sequestered himself with his words and his characters and wrote thousands of words each day.

Eventually, I come around to thinking about the work I’ve done, as most writers do. I dust off a manuscript. I look deep inside to find some gleam, a gem, a reason…

But this practice rarely produces anything resembling inspiration.

Research shows acquiring a thing only give us half the pleasure of holding onto it. In other words, we’re stubborn as hell once we’ve got hold of something. It is twice as painful to lose something than it is pleasurable to acquire it in the first place.

I think this is the real truth of a writer’s Original Sin, and it probably applies to a lot more than just writing.

So, to answer the question, I am publishing this book so that I can forget about it and move on.

Why You Shouldn’t Read This Book

It should be fairly obvious that the book is really bad. What’s worse is that sixteen years of holding it in have given the book more gravitas than it deserves by a hundredfold or more. Still, long time readers of this site are undoubtedly curious and no warning whatsoever will keep them from reading the thing.

So, here is a brief list of reasons why you might not want to read this book:

  • You are offended by obscenity in all forms.
  • You are put off by incessant navel gazing.
  • You are filled with rage when reading political discourse.
  • You dislike stories where there is an excessive amount of drinking.
  • You hate it when writers ape the styles of more famous writers who are only famous for being infamous.
  • You loathe pretentiousness.
  • You generally believe that anyone under the age of 25 should never be allowed to hold a pen.

This is not meant to be a complete list. No, not by any means. I am certain that readers of this book will find many reasons to dislike it. I hope you will share those reasons in the comments.

The Madness of Ants will soon be available in the Kindle store. However, because it is such a bad book, I feel awful about selling it. So, I’ve produced both the Kindle (mobi) and ePub version here. If you wish to inflict a PDF on yourself, I can make that format available too but be careful what you wish for… A PDF version is now available as well!

The Madness of Ants (ePub)
The Madness of Ants (Kindle – mobi)
The Madness of Ants (PDF)

My Quickie Publishing Experience on Kindle

Last week I read an interesting article in the Huffington Post about publishing work on Kindle by J.A. Konrath. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for awhile now, so I took a stab at it over the weekend. I’m happy to report it was really quite simple.

I didn’t feel like putting up one of my awful novels, so I went ahead and put up a short story I ran on the site back in 2008 called Jeremy Shade and Spatula Inn. It’s a Halloween story for kids, runs about 5,000 words, and is written in a style that is meant to be read aloud.

Adding Jeremy Shade to Kindle

Putting up the story involved, signing up for the Amazon Digital Text Platform and then uploading the text of the story. Really, that’s it.

Amazon allows you to upload in one of several formats, including Word, HTML, or epub. When you upload your work, you can also upload a cover. There are a few additional fields for description and category, but all in all it’s what you would expect in adding new content to any large system.

Once everything is submitted, Amazon does some magic on the files to prepare them for the Kindle and then it goes off for a quality check. I thought the quality check would be editorial in nature, and maybe it is, but I believe it’s just to be sure that the work you’re putting up looks okay on the Kindle.

Less than 48 hours later, my story was available for sale.

I did feel a little odd about selling just one story. It didn’t feel like a product on its own. However, Amazon didn’t give me the option to offer it for free so I went with lowest price I could set and left it at that.

One thing that is interesting about the Kindle platform is versioning. After you release a work, you can update it by editing the title you posted and putting up a revision. This revision gets pushed to readers automatically, just like apps on the iPhone.

Adding Myself to Author Central

After the story went live, I received an email from Amazon inviting me to add myself as part of Author Central.

Author Central allows you to put up information about yourself (including photos) and link yourself to your books. Once linked to your books, you can add author notes, editorial reviews, and additional information about the books and content Amazon is selling.

I went ahead and created a basic profile for myself. It just as easy as adding a new title.

A whole new world?

As the Konrath article points out, a traditional publishing company provides editorial, marketing and distribution services to authors. Yet with so many things changing in the way that content is marketed and sold, I’m beginning to wonder why anyone starting out would go the traditional route.

Why not put work out directly, promote it, and build up a following? If things get rolling, sign a licensing deal with a publisher to produce the work as a physical book when you have some leverage?

Don’t get me wrong, Jeremy Shade doesn’t have that kind of gravitas. It’s just a fun Halloween story I wrote for my boys. But the idea is intriguing…

What do you think?

On Being Published

I AM PUBLISHED! Ok, enough smiling back to work!

This is a post I expected to write, I just didn’t expect it to be today nor did I expect it to be this year:

Today, my work appears in Brain Harvest. It’s a short story. Just 750 words. I hope you enjoy it!

Read “How Duane Came To Be In The Bathroom” in Brain Harvest, an Almanac of Bad Ass Speculative Fiction.

I’m not really sure where 2009 will rank in the years of my life, but I’m fairly certain it will be hard to top it as a year of change. I left a job of seven years. I made my living by my wits (which is a huge accomplishment given my limited supply of brainpower). I moved across the country without my family. I wrote a novel. I worked myself raw. I forgot how to sleep.

But last night, in the middle of a snowstorm, I slept.

I slept for nearly twelve hours and when I woke I was published and my wife was 500 miles away making buttercream frosting with real Mexican vanilla. The sun is shining and someone finally figured out that salt melts snow and everything is dripping both above and below.

It looks happy outside and I am happy too, but now is the time to start again. Another story is waiting. Time to write…

Editor’s Note: Wow… With a lead in like that, you’d think I’m laying claim to being the next Alice Munro. No, I’m no Alice Munro. I admire her work, but I find the universe far to funny to ever write a story like hers. Besides, as far as I know, Ms. Munro has yet to write a comedic story with overtones of necrophilia. So, I got that going for me, which is nice.