Friday, June 26, 2015

Freestyle Writing Challenge

I don't usually write flash fiction, but I'm always eager to look for an excuse for a post, and I figured I could spare 15 minutes for this one. Melanie Atherton Allen tagged me with this interesting challenge that's been sitting in my inbox for a week. Somehow I managed to make it all this time without reading the prompt (actually it was easy, I forgot about it) but here it is in all it's rapidly-typed glory.

(The rules are below, in case you're interested in what this was all about).

~ | ~

Dictaphone in a Swamp

"Roll of tape, pliers, fifty feet of rope.

"And a hammer. Can't forget the hammer."

It was innocent enough. It could be a shopping list. Maybe the guy was going to the hardware store to get supplies for a home improvement project.

There was a few moments of dead air, I let the tape play through this time. I rubbed some more dirt off the Dictaphone as I waited for the next part. The first time I had listened to it, I had missed the second part.

I was praying I had misheard it.

It was an old model recorder, and probably been sitting in the mud and the grime a long time. Years, maybe. There was a tape inside but I didn't have high hopes for it when I popped in fresh batteries.

I listened to it once, heard the list, and that was it. I fast-forwarded a way but didn't hear anything else. The kids started yelling about something so I tossed it in my desk drawer and forgot about it.

That was a year ago. I found it again this morning, and listened to the rest of the tape.

About ten minutes in, there was a click as a fresh recording started.

"I'm gonna grab her after work. She walks home alone along 5th street. I watched her every night last week."

The voice had a slight Southern accent, but I couldn't place it. It was a man, not too young, not too old; he could have been anywhere from 25 to 50, as far as I could tell.

"September 13, 2013. You'll remember that date, won't you? That's the anniversary of the day you left me. That's the date I'm gonna make sure you never forget.

"That leaves us almost two weeks to play, don't it? 

"I hope you make it to the 13th."

That was it. The recording clicked. More dead air.

Why did he record it? Was this his confession? Did he intend for "her" to hear it?

I looked at the calender. August 20, 2014.

I had found the recorder on September 9.

Last year.

It hadn't been in the swamp that long after all.

I put my head in my hands.

What do I do now?

~ | ~

I wrote 374 words in 13 minutes. I had 2 minutes to spare but I saw the end coming and left it at that. I think it clued up nicely. I admit I used the extra time to go back in and add the italics.

I'm going to tag a few more people, in case they're interested in participating. I have no idea if these folks do challenges or flash fiction and I couldn't even get to five, but I've I don't want to tag the same people I tagged last week, so...

Majanka Verstraete

Liesel K. Hill

Serins RH

Natasha Duncan-Drake

Here are the rules:

  1. Open a new document.
  2. Set a stopwatch or your mobile phone timer to 5, 10, or 15 minutes, whichever challenge you think you can beat.
  3. Your topic is at the foot of this post BUT DO NOT SCROLL DOWN TO SEE IT UNTIL YOU ARE READY WITH YOUR TIMER!!!
  4. Fill the word doc with as many words as you want. Once you start writing do not stop.
  5. Do not cheat by going back and correcting spelling and grammar using spell check (it’s only meant for you to reflect on your own control of sensible thought flow and for you to reflect on your ability to write the right spelling and stick to grammar rules).
  6. You may or may not pay attention to punctuation or capitals. However, if you do, it would be best.
  7. At the end of your post write down ‘No. of words = ____” so that we would have an idea of how much you can write within the time frame.
  8. Do not forget to copy paste the entire passage on your blog post with a new topic for your nominees and copy paste these rules with your nomination (at least five (5) bloggers).
  9. Your Prompt:
    Aliens Abduct Famous Actor - (I admit I may have swiped this one from somewhere)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

10 Favourite Screen Characters

Celine over at Down the Rabbit Hole tagged me for a fun challenge: to make a list of my ten favourite screen characters. I was thankful for an idea and an excuse for a blog post, so I jumped all over it.

At first I had trouble thinking of enough, but as I went the list snowballed until I had dozens (especially when I realized that I could include characters from the TV screen!) and had to cut myself off. So basically I just picked ten at random from near the top of the list and here they are in no particular order:

Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune)
Seven Samurai (1954)

When I first saw Seven Samurai as a teenager, I hated the Kikuchiyo character. I wanted a serious, bad ass samurai movie with cold, expert killers. Mifune was an over the top buffoon. But as the story progressed, and he became such an integral part of the plot and such a sympathetic character, you can't help but root for him. And then when I saw Mifune in other movies (he's brilliant in Yojimbo), I came to appreciate the actor and the character even more. As far as I'm concerned now, Kikuchiyo was the main character in Seven Samurai, and he has one of my favourite lines in any movie. It sounds silly in context, but if you've seen the movie it's perfect.

(At just before the final battle he starts pulling out bags and bags of swords)

Shichiroji: Kikuchiyo, what on earth are you doing?

Kikuchiyo: I can't kill a lot with one sword!

Top Dollar (Michael Wincott)
The Crow (1994)

Really, I could pick any of the villains from The Crow (one of my favourite movies from my teenage years), but Top Dollar stood above them. With Wincott's voice and Top's slick evilness, he was the epitome of a cool bad guy for me. He even used a samurai sword! He was also the stereotype of every vampire in every story I wrote or role-playing game I played for years to come. He's probably still my favourite vampire character from any film, despite not actually being a vampire. He just has the right level of vileness while at the same time keeping a slight sense of humour. It's awesome.

Best quote (after shooting the crow):

Top Dollar: Quick impression for you: Caw! Caw! Bang! Fuck, I'm dead!

Kurgan (Clancy Brown)
Highlander (1986)

The Kurgan was the immortal villain in the first (and only good) Highlander movie. While Top Dollar was slick and cool, Kurgan was a brute: mean, nasty, a bully. He kills the main's character's mentor and rapes his wife. He's despicable, but Clancy Brown just chews the scenery so masterfully and his voice is so frigging awesome, he steals the scene every time he's on screen. Plus he's so physically imposing and made up to look like a such a whack-job, he really does look like a dangerous monster.

Kurgan has lots of great lines (it helps they're delivered in Brown's voice) so here's one at random:

Priest: This is a house of God. People are trying to pray. You're disturbing them.
Kurgan: He cares about these helpless mortals?
Priest: Of course He cares. He died for our sins.
Kurgan: That shall be his undoing.

Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving)
The Matrix (1999)

Hey look, another bad guy! They're not all villains, I swear.

Agent Smith is the quintessential, creepy emotionless bad guy. The fact that he actually ends up becoming obsessive and crazy, despite the fact that he is supposed to be a logical machine, only makes him all the more terrifying and awesome. Right from the beginning you want to punch this guy in the face, yet he's so obviously dangerous and deranged that you don't dare go near him ("If you meet an Agent, run" remember?) Perfect bad guy.

Best quote is obvious:

Agent Smith: I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a plague and we are the cure.

Han Solo (Harrison Ford)
Star Wars (1977)

When I was a kid I was a Luke fan. The wide-eyed, simple kid who grows up to be a hero, that's the character we're supposed to identify with, right? But when we get older we all realize that Han was the cool hero. The nonchalant badass.

Except I realized recently why I probably wasn't a huge Solo fan as I kid. The argument for years has been "Han shot first" right? That the Special Edition, where they add Greedo shooting is some kind of terrible affront to storytelling? Well someone pointed out to me, after watching the original "unspecialized" edition with their 8 year old, that watching the supposed "hero" murder a random dude in cold blood with barely a provocation is HORRIFYING. When you're a teenager and older, you're like, "Yeah, that's bad-ass!" but when you're a kid who thinks good guys are supposed to be, well, good, you're like "Daddy, why did he shoot that man? He was just talking to him!"

Yeah, but I'm 35 now so I'm allowed to think Han is cool.

Best quote comes immediately after the above-mentioned scene:

Han Solo: Sorry about the mess.

Detective Ward (Colm Feore) / Detective Bouchard (Patrick Huard)
Bon Cop / Bad Cop (2006)

Yeah, these are two character, but they're such perfect sides of the same coin and play off each other so well you can't talk about one without the other.

Bon Cop/Bad Cop is a Canadian movie about a mismatched pair of detectives trying to solve the murder of a body that's found literally on the Ontario (English) and Quebec (French) border (The body actually gets ripped in half while they're fighting over it, to tell you what kind of movie it is). Ward is the no-nonsense, by the book straight man while Bouchard is the wild, dirty loose cannon, and they're brilliant together. The movie is hilarious and I recommend everyone check it out. You may not get all the Canadian humour (there's a lot of hockey references) but I think you'll still appreciate it.

[while discussing the aforementioned murder victim]:

Martin Ward: His heart is in Qu├ębec.

David Bouchard: But his ass belongs to you.

Gaius Baltar (James Callis)
Battlestar Galactica (2004)

Gaius almost singlehandedly wiped out the entire human race by thinking with his dick. Seriously - the whole premise of the series is that BILLIONS of people died because he couldn't keep it in his pants. He is a sniveling, self-serving coward, who - despite being a genius and charismatic leader - spends the entire run of the series trying to find ways to save his own neck instead of doing anything to help others.

Yet, despite being this terrible, terrible person, he survives through years of hardship that destroys and kills far braver and stronger people. In fact, he even strives at points. There are even points where you feel sorry for him (or at least I did, maybe I'm a bad person). Callis plays it to the hilt, making Baltar skeevy and haunted but also charming and kinda hilarious.

Doctor Gaius Baltar: So the fate... of the entire human race depends upon my wild guess.

Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman)
WKRP in Cincinnati (1978)

I was a bit young for WKRP, but my parents watched it so my little brain was molded and warped by watching along with the misadventures of Johnny, Mr Carlson, Andy, Venus, Jennifer, Les and Herb during syndicated re-runs when I was about 5. I didn't get most of the jokes, but I laughed when my parents laughed and learned to love it.

Watching it again years later I really appreciated how well made and hilarious it was. It's probably my favourite sitcom ever, and Johnny Fever is probably my favourite character. Hesseman was genius here as the washed up, stoner disc jockey. Every line was gold, flipping back and forth between hapless self-pity and biting snideness (especially toward Les).

I hope they put out a proper DVD version of this show with the music intact some day.

Dr. Johnny Fever: Do you have enough money to feed yourself?

Les Nessman: Yes.

Dr. Johnny Fever: I don't, can you loan me some money?

Les Nessman: No.

Dr. Johnny Fever: Can you loan me some food?

Douglas Reynholm (Matt Berry)
IT Crowd (2006)

All of the characters on IT Crowd are brilliant, but the company owner Douglas stands out (the goth Richmond is a close second) for his complete perversion and disconnection from reality. He lives in his own little world and every twisted nonsequitor that comes out of his warped mind is hilarious. One of these days I should just write a post about my favourite Douglas Reynholm lines.

Douglas: God-damn these electric sex pants!

Hayley Stark (Ellen Page)
Hard Candy (2005)

If you haven't seen this brilliant film about revenge and child molesters, do yourself a favour and check it out. Just be warned that you will probably be disturbed for days afterward. It is intense and really messes you up.

Ellen Page is always wonderful, but in this one she plays a young girl who is picked up by a pervert only to turn the tables on him and begin a series of terrifying and thrilling scenes. She is probably the most sympathetic pyschopath you will ever meet because she is totally justified in her behaviour. Seriously, check this movie out. Just be ready to watch some IT Crowd and WKRP to clear your palette afterward.

Jeff Kohlver: Ah, so you and your mom are both wacked?

Hayley Stark: I dunno. There's that whole nature versus nurture question, isn't it? Was I born a cute, vindictive, little bitch or... did society make me that way? I go back and forth on that...

* * *

So what about you? What are your favourite film or TV characters? I'm going to tag and challenge Philip Overby, Loni TownsendBirgit Bedesky, Stephanie Farris, and Jennifer Hawes to come up with their own lists!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

GUEST POST: How To Write a Splatter-Elf Story by Philip Overby

Today I'm turning the ol'blog over to The Godfather of Grimmer-than-Grimdark Fantasy, Mister Philip Overby. Phil is in the middle of rolling out a fantastic new darkly comic fantasy world called SPLATTER-ELF that is taking the world by storm, and he's here today to tell you how he writes these grotesquely hilarious tales.

Full disclosure, I've been a fan of Phil and Splatter-Elf from the beginning - I even designed a role-playing game based on his ideas. I'm extremely excited that his stories are now available for the consumption of the general population, as well as to have him here on the blog today. Take it away, Mr the Drill...

Splatter Elf is one of those names like Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms that evokes adventure. Right? Or does it just make you think of an elf splattered against a wall? Maybe dumped off a cliff? Perhaps even crushed by a rampaging giant? In any case, Splatter Elf is my "action-adventure" world that focuses a bit more on foul language, bloody over-the-topness (a la 80s action movies), and weirdness that could only come from someone who grew up in the Deep South but moved to Japan in his late 20s. 

So in an effort to educate all of the fine people that frequent Mr. King's blog space, I've decided to create a list of how I create a Splatter Elf story, piece by piece. And if you want to see it all come together, I have a short story for sale called "The Unicorn-Eater" here: Amazon Kindle Explosion.

1. Think of What I Can Kill
You can't have a Splatter Elf tale without lots of killing, correct? Correct. Therefore, I have to decide who or what I'm going to kill throughout my story. With a story like "The Unicorn-Eater" it's quite obvious: goblins! I kid. Unicorns, of course. Lots of them. Why would I have unicorns getting killed in a story, you may ask? Well, because I like them and they always seem to be these majestic, rare, untouchable creatures. Having a bunch of them eaten seemed to take away some of the mystique. And I'm all about taking away mystique!

2. Which Character Will Curse the Most
Many writers may decide, "How can I make sure my main character has a good arc?" Yeah, that's important, too, but I need to decide early on, who is going to swear the most. In most of my stories, Katzia of Clovenhoof would be the main culprit. She's a half-elf, a sword-collector, and a bounty hunter. As such, she tends to speak plainly and with lots of extra salt. People on low sodium diets may beware. Once I've decided, "OK, she's going to curse a lot" then I can make sure others characters curse less in order to impact Katzia's tapestry of obscenities (always liked that line from "A Christmas Story.")

3. What's the Plot?
Important stuff. In most Splatter Elf tales the plots involve (SPOILERS):
a. Dead things are found
b. Researching dead things
c. Finding a monster
d. Fighting the monster
e. Maybe killing the monster or some other weird shit happens
f. ?

Being that I'm trying to write stories in the vein of sword and sorcery tales (easily read in one or two sittings, fast paced, stuff killed), I try to have plots that are relatively simplistic but often with some kind of slight twist. For example in my Breadhammer flash (on my website Philip Overby's Fantasy Free-For-All here.) there is a warrior that fights with a hammer made of bread. When he goes to find soft bread in the world, he encounters a bread golem. So, surprise, he can't fight bread with bread. He's got to get creative. Or I have to. Whatever.

4. Balancing Grotesqueness with Heart
While I do love the splatter that comes with Splatter Elf, I do want my characters to be more than caricatures hacking limbs and releasing arterial spray. This means I have to add depth to the characters in some capacity. Sigh. Really? Depth in a schlocky adventure story with blood waterfalls? Yes. I attempt to do so anyway. I want readers to walk away thinking, "That was funny and/or gross/weird" but to also feel some connection with the characters in some capacity. That's tough. But I attempt to do so. Maybe I'm flailing my arms wildly.

5. Figuring Out "Who the Hell Wants to Read This?"
I've always heard that "If you can't find some of the kind of stories you want to read, write your own." That's what I've done with Splatter Elf. Not to say these are the only kind of stories I'd like to read, but I feel like that fantasy can be a genre that can be explored in so many different facets. It can be deadly serious, full of whimsy, or just silly fun. I try to do all of these things in Splatter Elf. Which may be like trying to make a Kobe hamburger with string cheese and bologna. I don't know. But I figured, "Hell, why not try something different?"

There you have it! My magical list of Splatter Elf alchemy. If you're interested in something that doesn't take itself too seriously, has action, weird characters, tons of blood, and general weirdness, you may very well be interested in the world of Splatter Elf!

If you're interested in connecting with me (I'm not crazy, I promise) I'm all over the internet in various places:

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

IWSG June: A Month After Coming Out of The Closet...

(Once again, not that closet. This Closet.)

I've been a writer for a month now.

Well, technically I've been a writer for about 30 years, but I've officially been a self-published writer for a month.

How has it been going?

It's had it's ups and downs, for sure. I was all set to write a long, pessimistic post about the negative points and pitfalls and look for pity. This is the INSECURE Writers Support Group after all. But you know what? It really has been going pretty well.

I've found tons of support from the writing community as well as friends and family. I had lots of people jump on board and buy the book when it first came out, which was flattering and more than I expected. I was truly serious when I said I would probably only sell 3 copies. But no only did I get a flurry of interest in the first couple of days, I've continued to sell books - a few here, a few there - continuously for the last four weeks, which is hugely encouraging. Some of those books I can't even account for - meaning they're actually being bought by people who don't know me, or barely know me. That's both amazing and terrifying.

It's like handing out hundreds of these to strangers.
Every day.
I'm getting lots of activity on my Facebook page (You should check it out, all the cool kids are doing it), and my posts are being shared far and wide, allowing me to interact with people I would normally have never met. I'm hoping my natural charm will help convince them to buy a copy and maybe even tell a few more friends about it.

I've gotten several fantastic reviews, which warms the cockles of my black little heart.

I've done some guest Blogs as well as a podcast interview which was super fun (You should definitely check that one out). I've got several more scheduled for June, so you're going to be sick of me before you know it.

The book has ranked a few times in the "Contemporary Fantasy" section of, peaking on Monday at #13. Since the number "13" is an important plot point in the story, I find this a good sign.

So yeah. As of today I'm optimistic, which I don't say very often.

Sure there's some hiccups. I STILL haven't gotten my tax paperwork sorted out, so all of the (admittedly meagre) money I've made so far is going to be cut 30% to pay Uncle Sam. I had some technical issues whilst tinkering with the file and ended up taking the book offline for the better part of a day. But it's all good now.

Pictured: Uploading a file to
Plus, I had some horrifying moments of personal introspection where I realized "Oh man, this was a terrible idea. This book is lousy and it has problems that I should have fixed and I'm going to shoot myself in the foot and even if anyone reads it now I'm going to turn them off and no one is ever going to read anything else I write ever again." But all writers go through that, right?


I'm not going to dwell on it now. Like I said, today, I'm in a pretty good mood.

Here's a happy puppy as proof.
Not to mention the next book is well underway...

So how has your month been?

Monday, June 1, 2015

How Do You Write?

No, I'm actually asking: How - and where, and when - do you write?

Everyone has their favourite setups. Some people like to monopolize space at their local Starbucks. I heard of one writer who had a special desk built so she could walk at a leisurely pace on a treadmill while typing (I actually like the sound of that). Some authors like to write in a home office with the lights dimmed and Mozart playing. Still others prefer to write by oil lamp on parchment made of human flesh, their quill dipped in the blood of virgins with the screams of their next victim ringing in the background.

I'm not quite so fancy.

I used to write on a desk in our office/den on my own snazzy computer. That was where I wrote my first five or six books, including Ten Thousand Days. That was before my computer caught fire, and we moved to a house and had two kids. We no longer have an office or den (every inch of the floor is carpeted with toys). I don't even have a proper desk anymore, not that I would have time to sit at it anyway. See two kids, above.

What DO I have though? An hour and half commute to work every day. EACH WAY.

I used to use this time to watch TV shows or play video games on my iPhone. Or sleep. But I recently discovered I could put this time to much more productive use.

I tried watching Game of Thrones, but it was too embarrassing with all the gratuitous sex and boobs and people watching over my shoulder.
I wrote the first draft of my next book entirely on the bus, scribbling in this notebook by as we bounced along and people elbowed me in the face. It was painful and invigorating at the same time. It also has a neat side effect.

Behold! A very special sneak peek. Good luck reading it, even I can't make out most of these scribbles.
Now that I'm typing up the first draft, I'm revising and editing as I go, and because my handwriting is so awful and because it was basically written as stream of consciousness drivel, I'm forced to make updates and changes as I re-type on my second draft. It's adding in a whole extra pass that I would't usually get. Which I'm also doing on the bus, on my handy-dandy Toshiba Netbook balanced precariously on my lap.

The computer is pretty old and a piece of crap, so I have to use WordPad as Word crashes all the time. I'm discovering some interesting functions of the program. Did you know that if you hit "Undo" on WordPad, it undoes ALL the typing you did since the last time you saved? And did you know that WordPad doesn't have a "Re-do" button? Yeah, I learned that one the hard way.

I've wanted to throw this bastard on the floor a couple of times, but really it's not his fault. It's Microsoft's fault. Screw you, Bill Gates and your philanthropy.
I also learned that just because I started using my bus time for writing doesn't mean I no longer need the nap time. If I'm not careful, I often find myself waking up after my bus trip and my only writing contribution for the day is "lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll."

So I've started drinking a lot more coffee.

At least two of these per day, plus two more regular-sized mugs at my desk at my real job.
So yeah, it's a lot of work, but I'm making it happen. I have to write. I often say I write for the same reason I jog - not because it makes me feel good, but because if I don't do it, I feel terrible.

So I will finish this book, even if if kills me.

At least I had a nice office, right?

I'm serious. I'm writing my book entirely in this seat. This is my Iron Throne.
So where DO YOU write? Please tell me it's somewhere more comfortable...

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