Behind the Scenes of “When Magic Died”

Happy new year, all! I’m excited to announce that my latest flash fiction story “When Magic Died” has just been published on the new Havok Publishing website. If you’ve already finished it, read on to learn a little about how the story came together. If not, go check it out now — because it’s only available to read for free today (January 2nd)!

Like previous stories submitted to Havok (when it was an imprint of Splickety), I wrote “When Magic Died” specifically for the theme. But this time was a little different. The theme for the whole month of January is rebirth, but I also needed to decide which genre/day to submit to (mystery, sci-fi, humor, thriller, or fantasy). I sat on this decision *for a while*. Then, in late October, I saw them put out a call for submissions for the humor genre. I took that as a sign, and started brainstorming.

Taking the theme very literally, I figured that something would need to die at the beginning of the story. Since fantasy is my preferred genre, I thought about what kinds of things would die in a fantasy story — and pretty quickly thought of chosen heroes’ quests to do something like save the world. I figured the humor part would come from the hero failing their quest right at the beginning, then doing just as bad a job when they’re invited to be part of the rebirth.

I considered having the hero fail a quest to save the world, but I felt that I wouldn’t be able to describe a world-rebuilding scene without ripping off The Neverending Story. The idea of magic dying struck me as a good replacement, so I ran with that. It seemed like it would be fun to write about an adventurer who’s supposed to help rewrite the laws of magic, but ends up doing so in a very unconventional way.

In terms of writing the story, that was the only outline I worked with. Most of my other flash fiction stories are a little more plotted-out before I start writing. But I figured I’d do better at being funny if I took more of a discovery-writing approach. That way, things would feel more natural instead of being forced in a particular direction.

So when I started writing, some things came more easily than others. I wanted to get to a joke as quickly as possible so I could readers’ expectations from the beginning. The set-up “magic was dying … had the nerve to do just that” was an idea that stuck from early on, and (especially in the first draft), it gave me some space to be not-as-funny in describing the opening scene in more detail.

Which felt like a mini-saga of its own. Since I knew most of this piece would be driven by dialogue, I originally wanted to cram so much information right in the first couple paragraphs to make sure readers understood the point of the quest, show how magic died, establish the dragons in the story, etc.

It was all pretty superfluous, which is a recurring theme in most of the early paragraphs of my flash fiction. Thanks to some incisive editing, the final version gets to the meat of things much quicker — and lets me reference the enormous collections of random objects collected by questers (especially in video games). If this story hadn’t already been so close to 1000 words, you can bet that list would’ve been a lot longer and weirder.

As I wrote, I figured a lot of the humor was going to be juxtaposing traditional, almost regal, high fantasy elements with more modern and banal bits. I’m not well-versed enough in comedy theory to understand why, but I just think it’s funny to have a fantasy world where dragons say things like “Missed it by that much,” and “A magic system. You’re supposed to come up with a magic system.”

I was happy with the way Dave (so named because I thought a non-fantasy-sounding name would be funnier) came together as I wrote. My initial thought was that his character would be just shy of competent. Which is funny, but can also become moderately annoying. Fortunately, when I settled on snark and sarcasm being the basis for magic at the end, I realized it would need to be part of his character during the story (instead of just thrown in at the very end). I feel like that gives him some agency earlier on, especially when the dragons are suggesting different magic systems.

Which leads back to the conversation between Dave and the dragons. As mentioned earlier, I tried exercising my discovery-writing (and comedic) muscles with this story. I enjoyed the challenge of balancing things that just seemed funny with beats that would push the story forward. This made it nice to have five different characters playing off one another — no matter who inserted a wry comment or made a joke, there was always someone to steer things back on track. Five characters in a flash fiction story really is madness, but I was fortunate that this one could revel in it.

And, in case the topic comes up, I take zero issue with developed magic systems, haha. It just seemed like a fun thing to play with in the event of one being entirely erased.

Of course, I can’t talk about what went on behind the scenes without mentioning editors Lauren Hildebrand, Gen Gavel, and Andrew Winch. The story is much stronger than the first draft thanks in no small part to their help and insight, and I’m super honored that they selected it as Havok’s inaugural Wacky Wednesday story! Thanks all 🙂

Have any questions or comments about “When Magic Died” — the story itself or how it came together? Feel free to post below or under the story on Havok’s website. And make sure you keep following them on social media or become a member for even more awesome flash fiction stories!

“Special Delivery” Published!

Hooray! My latest short story, “Special Delivery,” can now be read in this month’s issue of Splickety. This month’s theme is “Christmas abroad,” and my story is about a couple of college students about to head home after a semester in Italy … until a last-minute revelation threatens to ruin their flight home.

This story’s publication is just a tad bittersweet, because this is also the last issue of Splickety. I’ve really enjoyed writing flash fiction pieces to submit to them for the past few years. And I’ve tremendously appreciated all the stories they’ve accepted and the opportunity to work with their editors. Fortunately, two new publishers are spinning off from its closure (Havok and Spark). So I’m looking forward to the chance to submit to them in the upcoming year.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, Christmastime! So if you’re looking for a few flash fiction stories to get you in the holiday spirit (and maybe transport you around the world), check them out in the December issue of Splickety.

Hard copy & digital: http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/1533847

Kindle edition: http://a.co/d/bSm2i7H

“On the Frontlines” Published!

Yay! My latest short story, “On the Frontlines,” was published in the latest issue of Splickety’s Spark imprint. This month’s theme is “Lab Coats and Love Letters,” so you can expect plenty of medical-themed romance.

That’s right, it’s another romance story! But as the title should’ve tipped off, there’s also an element of action. It takes place during September 1918, toward the end of WWI. But how could love possibly bloom in the trenches? You’ll have to read it and 13 other medical stories in November’s issue of Spark to find out.

Hard copy & digital: http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/1527845

Kindle edition: http://a.co/d/iBq3AIg

“Road Tripping” Published!

Woohoo! My latest flash fiction story, “Road Tripping” was published in the latest issue of Splickety! It’s September, and you know what that means: time to head back to school. In the spirit of the season, this issue’s theme is senioritis.

If you don’t know what senioritis is, a) you’re very lucky, but also b) it’s the feeling of being so over school that it takes motivation just to build up motivation. The main character isn’t nearly as angsty as this definition sounds, but he does have his own challenge to overcome at the end of the school year.

What kind of challenge? You’ll have to read the story to find out (but the title should give you an idea 😉 ). So if you’re interested, you can read “Road Tripping” and ten other stories about senior year in the September issue of Splickety. I’d love to hear what you think—or if you have your own senioritis story to share 🙂

Hard copy & digital: http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/1501176

Amazon kindle: http://a.co/d/3UYnKNa

“The Birthday Party” Published!

This one almost got away from me—my latest flash fiction story “The Birthday Party” was published in this month’s issue of Spark! I hope you’re ready to see my stab at romance.

That’s right, Spark is Splickety’s romance imprint, and this month’s theme was “The ‘Aww’ Factor.” Think meet-cute, but dialing the cute factor up to 11 with kids and/or animals. I don’t think that romance is my strong suit, so I was super honored to have this story selected for publication (and grateful with my editor’s patience, insight, and guidance in polishing it).

As you may have guessed “The Birthday Party” takes place at a kid’s birthday party. How could love possibly bloom there? You’ll have to read to find out! Check it out along with 13 other cute flash romance pieces in the August issue of Spark.

Hard copy & digital: http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/1490466

Kindle edition: http://a.co/d/2KG5hoN

“Mr. Nilssen’s Kjempehytte” Published!

Hoorah! My latest flash fiction story, “Mr. Nilssen’s Kjempehytte,” was published today in The Norwegian American. You can read it in this week’s issue or online. This is also my first story with an illustration, and it’s awesome!

As you’d expect from a story in The Norwegian American, this story draws a few themes from Norwegian culture (though you don’t need to be familiar with the culture to appreciate the story). It follows a detective investigating a destroyed backhoe in the mountains, though the culprit may not turn out to be who—or what—he originally suspects.

But what’s a Kjempehytte? There’s no direct English translation, but it roughly means “cabin fight.” You’ll have to read the story to find out why it’s called that!

Intrigued? Check out “Mr. Nilssen’s Kjempehytte” in The Norwegian American today!

“The Exomaton of Panner’s Bend” Published!

Yay! My latest flash fiction story, “The Exomaton of Panner’s Bend,” has just been published in the latest issue of Havok. And since this is a contest issue, it means this is the first time one of my stories has been a writing contest finalist. Woohoo! Check it out here.

This month’s issue of Havok is called Rampage! Monsters Vs Robots. Think Pacific Rim or a Godzilla vs. Transformers crossover. But instead of setting it in the modern day or near-future, I wanted to explore how the prompt might look sometime in the past. What resulted is a pseudo-Weird West alternate history where pioneers have developed enormous steampunk robots piloted by volunteers to protect themselves from gargantuan monsters that roam the prairies. If you like action on a grand scale (… pun not intended), this story is for you. I really enjoyed writing it, and I hope you enjoy reading it.

Get contest finalist “The Exomaton of Panner’s Bend” and nine other epic kaiju stories in Havok’s July issue, available now!

Hard copy & digital: http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/1481066

Kindle edition: https://amzn.to/2NyssHs

“Returning Home” Published!

Woohoo! My latest flash fiction story, “Returning Home,” was just published in Splickety’s June issue. Check it out here!

This month’s theme is “Heirs and Spares.” In other words, royal teenage drama. But in case you think you’ve read it all, perhaps you’d be interested to hear that this story is set in the classic Maya period—inspired by the story of the mysterious site of Dos Pilas breaking its alliance with the powerhouse of Tikal. It’s my most heavily-researched story to date, and I’m really happy with how it turned out!

If that intrigues you, you can read “Returning Home” along with ten other royal flash fiction stories in Splickety’s June issue! I’d love to hear what you think about it 🙂

Hard copy & digital: http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/1472873

Amazon Kindle: http://a.co/2XiMEQj

Sword of the Stones Published!

Exciting news! Havok has published my latest flash fiction piece “Sword of the Stones” in their latest issue! You can check it out here!

This month’s theme/prompt was “Extraordinary Exploits.” Think Indiana Jones, Warehouse 13, The Librarian, or other adventure stories with some supernatural elements thrown in.

I’m really excited to be part of this issue. This genre is right up my alley, so I was super pumped when I got the news that my story was accepted. I think you’ll like it if you’re a fellow fan of action/adventure stories with a dash of magic and/or sci-fi—plus, you’ll get nine other stories also in the same genre (all of which are a blast, but I must give a special shout out to the cleverness of “First Contact”). If you do check it out, I’d love to hear what you think!

Once more for SEO: Read “Sword of the Stones” today!

Hard copy & digital: http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/1441511

Amazon Kindle: http://a.co/6DuPj1D

The Imp and the Elf

As you know from last week’s post, I was published in the most recent issue of Havok! If you haven’t read it yet, check it out before reading the rest of this post.

Moving on. As I mentioned last week, the prompt for this issue was “Holiday cauldron.” But I didn’t mention that “Lunar Eclipse” was actually the second story I wrote for this prompt. Originally, I wrote a different flash fiction piece about an imp and an elf struggling with some issues in their workplaces. I finished this story, then re-read the prompt and realized that Havok wanted something with a darker tone than what I had written. Thus, “Lunar Eclipse” was conceived.

But I still have the imp/elf story, and one of my friends recently said he’d be interested in reading my original holiday mashup. And this blog seemed like just the place to share it. So click through to read “The Imp and the Elf” and let me know what you think!

Continue reading “The Imp and the Elf”