These 10 SFF Magazines Will Change The Way You Look At Fiction

Short Fiction is where novels have their beginnings. Or endings. Depending on how you look at it. Some authors make short stories of what might have been a novel that never got off the ground. Others thrust forth from single ideas given room to play. They come in all shapes (and ironically) sizes, but they are, at their heart, authors’ playgrounds. Novels are where the public acclaim lies, but short stories are where true progress in the genre is made.

Of course, nowadays one can’t even call them products of magazines. Some are, certainly, but there are podcasts and anthologies and e-zines—modernity has really diversified its portfolio on the fiction telling front. Some are paid. Some aren’t. Some are cobbled together by the resources of universities, others independently operated, and still others funded through advertisements, donations or Kickstarter.

Regardless of their roots, here follows a list of 10 personal favorites as a reader. Please note, they are in no particular order, nor does their presence here reduce, in any way, the standing of any other magazines.

  1. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

If I didn’t have the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction on here, you couldn’t take me seriously. An absolute beast of a magazine, this market’s story has been running since 1949, with hundreds of pages between its covers. Nowadays F&SF is perhaps best known for giving us Stephen King’s Gunslinger tales and the classic for schools everywhere, Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes. This magazine (digest, really) is the unshaken epitome of a fiction short story publisher, with stories that range drastically in length and topic, genre and style.

I have been reading F&SF since high school and I have never regretted the decision.

  1. Daily Science Fiction

These fellows have a simple but effective model: give them your e-mail, they’ll send you a story every weekday, generally in the wee hours of the morning. Nothing longer than 1,500 words and, despite the name, they have a pretty diverse collection of both sci-fi and fantasy works. It makes for a great way to start your morning, getting you settled in outer space before the 9-5 grinds you back into that desk.

Sorry. I’m a little bitter. That desk is contained within a cubicle.

  1. Strange Horizons

Strange Horizons is a weekly magazine, and more than short stories, it comes to the table full of fiction, poetry, essays and reviews. They offer a comprehensive collection of goodies that covers pretty effectively the state of modern sci-fi and fantasy. If I want industry news or a breakdown of perspective relevant to issues facing genre writers and readers alike, this is my go-to.

  1. Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Literary adventure fantasy. What does that mean? Secondary worlds, with the story focus on the journey, the struggle, and the beautiful, enticing prose. Tolkien’s works would soar here, if they weren’t so bloody long in the first place. Despite the fairly specific focus, too, the magazine’s authors manage to find a rather eclectic approach to the voyage. Fellowships optional.

  1. Clarkesworld

Like the Magazine for Fantasy and Science Fiction, Clarkesworld is on pretty much every list. That’s because it delivers consistently. Also like the aforementioned, it takes in stories from across the speculative board (although the bulk of its material do tend toward harder sci-fi roots), and at greatly varying lengths. Small novels are not uncommon in its pages (novellas) and the website also hosts a delightful amount of podcasts for those who have things to do and places to be.

  1. Lightspeed

Lightspeed holds a special place in my heart. I remember when it first came out. It was just a few months before I graduated from college. I’m not ashamed to say I’ve been trying to get published there ever since, but given the talent crammed between its pages, it’s certainly an uphill battle. Begun as the sci-fi counterpart to the simply named Fantasy Magazine, it eventually absorbed its sister and today ranges across the speculative plains (though horror is still relegated to Editor John Joseph Adams’ other magazine: Nightmare). Selected stories are made into free podcasts.

Also notable for its recent production of “Destroy Science Fiction” anthologies, which have highlighted the plights of gender, sexual orientation, minorities and, more generally, DIVERSITY issues in the realms of fantasy and sci-fi. I couldn’t begin to list the number of awards this magazine has won.

  1. Apex

Normally, I’m not a big fan of contemporary fantasy. Apex seriously makes me reconsider that notion. While open to sci-fi and fantasy alike, they do seem to have more than their fair share of contemporary, and the one thing linking it all together is the superb writing. A monthly magazine, Apex kindly puts up more than half of each issue for free on their website.

It also has the distinction of hosting one of my straight up favorite short stories: The Bread We Eat in Dreams, by Catherynne M. Valente. Dark fantasy, it combines demons, American history, time-lapse and nature to enchanting effect. It builds. Oh does it build.

  1. Uncanny Magazine

Behold the dreams Kickstarter can give life! The newest market on this list, Uncanny Magazine is only on its second birthday, but thanks to its space unicorns (backers) it was funded enough to become an SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) approved market right off the bat, with a strong debut. Guided by the husband and wife duo Michael and Lynne Thomas, it features podcasts, poetry, essays and all the fantasy and sci-fi a growing reader could eat. Like its improbable birth, this magazine exists in the uncanny valley, with just the right amount of quirk to keep things engaging.

You can also read about Uncanny Magazine’s journey through Kickstarter here.

  1. Grimdark Magazine

Bless the Australians, because they’ve taken one of the most popular twists on the old school genres right now and given it room to grow. The offspring of dark and low fantasy, it’s exemplified by people like Joe Abercrombie and R. Scott Bakker…the former of which has had pieces within Grimdark’s pages. Moral ambiguity, savage heroes and gritty situations abound. If you want to feel the borders between the real world and your fantasy disappearing, this is the light to head toward.

  1. Drabblecast

Drabblecast is one of those podcasts I spoke of, a broad collection of fantasy, sci-fi, horror and downright silly that set the standard for narrative. If you’re elbows deep in another project, or otherwise engaged, but need some good background sound or something to carry you away for a bit, let the voices of the Drabblecast readers give your eyes a chance to recover. They even have Drabbles and Twabbles, which are 100 word and 100 character stories, respectively…if you really want to just machine gun through some story ideas.

What are some of your favorite magazines? There are plenty of others I could name, but I had to draw the line in the sand somewhere. Hopefully this will give you plenty of literary food for thought for a drizzly Thursday morning, though.

(And while I’m plugging stuff, let me point out that if you haven’t yet, you should definitely check out my friend Bryce David Salazar’s debut novel, She Sees Metaphors. It’s short, it’s contemporary fiction (fantasy?), and its images will devour you. You need this book badly. Go now.

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The Pedigree of a Novel Family

Do you know what doesn’t last long? A half-way decent emperor. They drop like flies. They kick the bucket. They are…well, incinerated. Troubling, that.

Fortunately, if you haven’t noticed, the royal family in my books is rather extensive. Bearing that in mine, I thought I would give you an idea of the scope you’re working with in my books for their maddened political frenzy.  If you couldn’t tell: today, we’re talking The Hollow March and its sequels, so bust out those fantasy hats, people. Now, some of the folks below don’t even appear in the books, mind you—either fled or already dead, and the list is far from complete. This is not nearly so complete as something George R.R. Martin would whip out, for example. This list references those mentioned in the books and, in some cases, more prominent offspring. It does not capture the full embodiment of spawn, grandspawn, or the namesakes of the reigning house’s offshoots—the lines of Mauritz and Portir.

It is but a recording to give you some semblance of the House of Durvalle, and the uphill battle anyone (Cullick lions, perhaps?) facing them must surmount.

But really, do you see how eye squinting an experience this COULD have been?

But really, do you see how eye squinting an experience this COULD have been?

House Durvalle (Royal House of the Idasian Empire)

Foremost of the houses of Idasia, following their rise to power in “The Children’s War” a little over a century prior. Few still name them pretenders, though, largely due to the success of their reign. Three Durvalle Emperors have claimed the throne since then, with the current Emperor Matthias having the distinction of being the longest reigning monarch in the history of the Empire. Their descent is traced through the southwestern Duchy of Dexet, where a branch of the family still rules.

Emperor Matthias Rogimer Durvalle, styled “the Bold” and “He Who Rides,” aged 77 years.

  • His wife, Empress Noelia Tirozzi—deceased 15 years. Visaj.
  • His wife, Empress Surelia Jerantus. Binding their house to the Kingdom of Banur. Farren.

And their children: (13 children and 3 known bastards)

  • Joseph, aged 54 years. A Lord General. Visaj.
    • His wife, Mariline Debourge, binding their house to the Kingdom of Asantil.
    • His son, Prelate Barise
    • His son, Ser Haruld
    • His son, Yorne, the youngest, considered lost at sea.
  • Sarre—Deceased 30 years. Visaj.
  • Moira—Deceased 12 years. Visaj.
  • Leopold (later Emperor Leopold II), aged 38 years. Prelate. Visaj.
    • His wife, Ersili
    • His son, Anatole, aged 8 years
    • His daughter, Fiore, aged 6 years
  • Heinrich, aged 37 years. Principal Secretary to the Chancellor. Visaj.
    • His wife, Marren Certeri, binding their house to the Principalities of Ravonno.
  • Sara, aged 32 years. Handmaiden to Empress Surelia. Farren.
    • Her husband, Count Hernando of al-Saif, of the court of Narana in exile.
  • Gerome, aged 28 years. An Ambassador. Visaj.
    • His wife, Jesmere Turgitz.
  • Matthias, aged 25 years. Visaj.
    • His wife, Mecthilde Rusthöffen
  • Rufus, aged 23 years. A Count and Cavalry Officer. Visaj.
    • His wife, Anna Marie Venier, binding their house to the Principalities of Ravonno.
  • Molin, aged 20 years. A Cavalry Officer. Visaj.
  • Kanasa, aged 18 years. A Maiden. Visaj.
  • Rosamine, aged 9 years. Farren. (From the line of Surelia)
  • Lothen, aged 5 years. Farren. (From the line of Surelia)
  • Kyler Tessel, a legitimized bastard, aged 36 years. Styled Ser Tessel of Affing. Farren.
  • Gerhard of Torruf, a bastard.
  • Ilse of Anscharde, a bastard.

His brothers, Mauritz, called “the Wild,” aged 75 years. Master of Arms and Lord Justiciar. Visaj.

Portir, called “the Devout,” aged 70 years. Master of the Imperial Treasury. Visaj.

  • His grandson, Duke Urtz of Dexet

His sister, Atilde Debourge, wife of King Jon III of Asantil, aged 63 years.

Symbol: Two white, coiling, snake-like Gryphons, their heads ringed by the silver halo circlets of the Holy Church, a scepter in one’s claw and a sword in the other’s.

Traits: It has been said that all Durvalle eyes are green. This is baser rumor than earnest truth, but it is a trait which holds strong in their line, regardless.

The Hollow March Audiobook

Fantasy bandwagon: activate!

Fantasy bandwagon: activate!

There comes a time in every book’s life when it needs–nay, deserves!–to be adapted into the realm of vibrant verbosity. That is to say: the time has come for an audiobook up in this house. Over the next however long it takes I’m going to be converting The Hollow March into appropriate audiobook format, now that I have the proper equipment and it doesn’t sound like a day trip through the whistling Mammoth Caves when I drop into my narration voice.

Yes, that is a reference to my previous reading of the prologue, in its present incarnation on Youtube. Go there. Bask in it. Chuckle haughtily at what once was the peak of Galfordian recording technology, because I lack the connections or mad money for bigwig narrators and voice actors. I’ll wait.

Got that out of your system? Good. It will be replaced in due time.

At the same time, I’m also currently working on transforming my short story, New Frontiers, into an audiobook as well, which I intend to submit to Audible and opening up a new market for it, beyond its current Amazon debut. With all of these books currently in production, suffice to say, it’s shaping up to be a busy Autumn.

It wouldn’t do to make such an announcement without proof and tasty treats, though, so I would like to present to you all the new, improved, revamped version of The Hollow March’s audiobook prologue! Enjoy.

https://soundcloud.com/galforc/the-hollow-march

Top Ten Best Fantasy Series

Writers draw inspiration from one another. Our creativity is a spark all its own and the best need nothing but the kindling of their own thoughts for fuel, but it’s a fact: a writer, every bit as much as the average reader, is inspired by their peers.

The other day I was poked, prodded and more generally had my interest piqued by a friend demanding that I slap together a list of my favorite fantasies. “There’s fifteen billion such lists on the Internet already,” I cried, but he persisted. It would be interesting to see, he insisted, the reasoning behind a writer’s choice for choosing other writers. To see from where they themselves draw inspiration. I have decided to acquiesce. Thus, without further ado, I present to you a top 10 list of the best fantasy series currently out there, in my humble opinion. This does not include Stand Alones…a separate list might come about for that later. We shall see.

Note: none of these are ranked against one another. This is simply a general TOP TEN—within, they are for all intents and purposes of this list, as equals.

  1. A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE
The book fans have been waiting for...

The book fans have been waiting for…

Write like the wind, Martin. What the song doesn’t build enough on, of course, is the reason we want him to write like the wind (and the reason legions are incensed he hasn’t). Martin has left an indelible mark on the fantasy genre, forever engrained within it the notion of the dark or “realistic”—the idea that fantasy needn’t be romantic to be escapist.

A Song of Ice and Fire is a masterpiece of storylines which get more and more intricate with time, and what’s more, its character range the spectrum of class, color and creed to such a degree you cannot help but find someone, somewhere in which you’re going to become invested.

  1. THE PRINCE OF NOTHING
One of Bakker's gems.

One of Bakker’s gems.

Gives me shudders every time I read it. The Prince of Nothing series, by R. Scott Bakker is a perfect blending of philosophic nihilism and gritty, realistic fantasy. He takes what Martin began and twists the blade into still deeper, darker places, while provoking thought and reflection over the human condition and the horrible things people will do to one another. It’s not a series you’ll come out of feeling all roses and sunshine, but rather as though you’ve gone through the Slog of Slogs (relevancy points), conquered, and become all the more fascinated for it in how the world shall end.

The Prince of Nothing also handles magic in such a devastatingly destructive manner. It is unique, particularly in its intrinsic mix into the battlefield and the different forms the various schools adapt.

  1. TALES OF THE BLACK COMPANY

When all else fails, there will still be the Black Company.

The slogan holds true. The Black Company goes through some serious pitfalls. That’s because this series perhaps kickstarted the whole realistic fantasy genre, and while it has not had the widespread cultural phenomena impact of Martin’s books, it certainly inspired them. The series is predicated on one notion: war is messy, it’s terrible, and everything about it goes quickly to hell; beyond that, it’s all shades of grey.

It’s action-packed, and unique in that we are given legion for characters—we have main characters, to be sure, but the Black Company ITSELF nearly acts as its own, separate character, an interwoven, realistic mass of toiling personalities all pushing forward the greater whole in one way or another. The characters are soldiers. They don’t wish-wash so much as fling themselves from one hard decision to another, and their honor code often trumps morality, lending a curious dynamic and food for thought on the righteous of war—ANY war.

Plus, as with The Prince of Nothing, it shows how magic would actually, likely be used in the real world. The grandiose gesture, the nascent trickery, it’s all there, but the Company and its enemies use it in a manner conducive to war, to survival—not unlimited power, but an extra trick used in conjunction with traditional tactics to gain a leg-up on one’s enemy.

  1. CHRONICLES OF AMBER

Team Corwin. To hell with Merlin.

Sorry, I’m opinionated—isn’t that the whole point of this piece?

The Chronicles of Amber is quirky fantasy at its best. Scheming family, silly twists, endless plotting and planehopping; this tale is the tale of order versus chaos, complete with allusions to Shakespeare and quantum mechanics. It is also the tale of one man’s unfortunately insatiable need to keep spawning more children. Seriously, Oberon.

This series is, to put it simply, fun. There is scarcely a dull moment and the characters are so enjoyable it’s difficult to cast aside from them, even as they make some rather poor decisions.

  1. THE KINGKILLER CHRONICLES

Has the third day dawned yet, Patrick Rothfuss?

First off, let me get a few things out of the way. The Kingkiller Chronicles does nothing other fantasy novels haven’t done before it. It’s a coming of age tale, it’s a doom on the horizon tale, it’s a quest tale. What Patrick reveals, however, is it’s HOW a book is done, not what is it about that makes it what it is.

Patrick weaves prose together in a fashion that makes my heart beat like a first year English student at a poetry reading. It is musical, elegiac, a true bard’s tale with a narrator that is at once unreliable, fascinating and altogether human (despite his heroic tales) for the former. It also carries us into a character’s head in a fashion matched and surpassed, perhaps, only by the writings of Robin Hobb. I’m among the many that felt the second book didn’t live up to the first, but I suspect that second to simply be suffering from “middle child” syndrome, and have great faith the third will wrap up nicely what the first book began.

  1. LORD OF THE RINGS
An iconic image for us all, to be sure...

An iconic image for us all, to be sure…

It happened. It’s a classic. It’s the thing from which all other fantasy works can claim ancestry. Without it, neither I, nor any other modern fantasist would likely be scribbling in quite the same way. Moving right along…

  1. HARRY POTTER

How could I not include the boy wizard? If for no reason more than the fact that he and Rowling revitalized and inspired the imagination and fantasy for a new generation, this series deserves a permanent place in anyone’s top ten.

  1. EARTHSEA CYCLE

When I think of Ursula K. LeGuin, I tend to think of her bountiful contributions to the Sci-Fi realm, but she has also made a lasting impression on the world of Fantasy as well. With Earthsea, she takes the coming of age story, and the wizard saves the world story, and casts both into a nautical story that really set the foundations for the modern obsession with the wizard school staple.

What it lacks in the, say, complexity of modern fantasy, it makes up for in perspective, and offers us plenty of meaning to cradle at night. Each book in the Earthsea cycle prods at some of the great struggles of the human condition—writing wrongs we ourselves created, a fight for identity, the struggle to overcome death. The story may be familiar to many of us nowadays, who bask in the legion of copiers, but Ursula shows what traditional fantasy should look like.

  1. THE TAWNY MAN TRILOGY

Character. Character. Character.

It is the hallmark of Robin Hobb and oh, no one does it quite like her. It was a hard fight, it must be said, to choose between her series for this one. Yet in the end I had to give it to Tawny Man. A continuation from the Farseer Trilogy and a prelude to her current series, the Tawny Man brought us the character of Fitz in an older point of his life and engaged more heavily with the Fool, who should hold a special place in the hearts of any reader of Robin Hobb’s works.

Robin shows that story—which is still a strong component of her stories—needn’t always trump character. Through the person of Fitz, she has demonstrated that if you can pull us into the mind of a character, we will follow you wherever you lead us, treat his troubles as our troubles, long to see wherever else his journey will lead. Fitz has been with us since childhood, and carries us into old age, and is perhaps one of the best, most fleshed out characters in fantasy history.

Robin shows the art of personality in writing. I would stand up in front of any English class and point to her Fitz, her Fool, as case-and-points of how to craft a human.

  1. THE LONG PRICE QUARTET

The beginning of a unique tale…

Let me begin by saying this: The Long Price Quartet is not, in any sense, standard fantasy. Not the modern kind. Not the classic kind. It truly is its own concoction.

These books aren’t about the action. In the first book there isn’t even a soldier or battle sequence to be found. They aren’t about epic, good or evil, world-ending monstrosity versus legions of paladins.

It’s a story, plain and simple, without excess, moved along by fully realized characters breathing life into a strong plot. They are flawed, they are at points strong and weak in turn, and it is the convergence of their moralities, decisions and consequences which shape not only their own character, but the nature of two worlds: one clinging desperately to the past, one marching steadily toward a new foundation.

On Colloquialism in Fantasy Writing

Language is a powerful thing. So much is wrapped up in that word, so many divisions that separate and define people–Southern Americans versus Midwesterners, Cornish versus Cockney, etc. Any writer knows this. Achieving proper, distinct diction in writing can add a whole other layer to immersive quality.

Unfortunately, it takes time to develop the ear and the eyes in that direction. For the unwary reader, it can stumble them–look how many fumble with the Great Bard’s classic speeches and Twain’s twangs these days, and how many miss out on great works because of them.

I love colloquial speech, but especially in a fantasy world, where readers are already trying to settle their feet and get a feeling for the world they’ll be sifting through, I fear it can be too much. Good colloquialism is something that, when done well, is something you cease to notice very swiftly. But I dare say in mainstream fiction, or nonfiction, what have you, that colloquialism also comes with an innate ground: we have basic conceptions of Welsh, say, or German intonations, or Arabic. Even if we’ve never heard the phraseology before, most have already formed conceptions of the place or have some little knowledge of it: we ground the language firmly in that knowledge and do our best to move forward with it so located. We work toward its sounds from a different direction.

In a fantasy world, there is no such pre-existing “ground”. Many people also don’t have the patience to develop the means to interpret such. They want to dive into a world and be immersed, snap of your fingers, without the need to assemble a different sort of ciphering to get to that point. Thus, key words can be a better means, perhaps, to establish dialect and that sense of “the other” than full-blown colloquialism. It’s been something, I confess, to having battled my way through with The Hollow March and its sequels–how hard do I let the hammer of (often) class-based language barriers fall? The Nobles, with their precious jurti and guarded refinements, speak in a necessarily different version of the same tongue than many of the “Common Folk”. Most often, I have settled to let this come through in the use/non-use of contractions, older uses of similar words, with hardcore, jilting colloquialism reserved for specific characters: such as Chigenda, who has a very limited grasp of the language ANY of the other characters are tossing around him.

In the end, to any fellow writers reading this, I’d say in the end I’ve landed on a school of thought of using full-blown colloquialism at your own peril, as it may isolate you from some reader base. They’re there for the world, and above all, they want to understand it, be immersed in it; colloquialism is surely more immersive, but only once they’ve broken inside its external shell!

The Big Literary Questions

I think, for fiction authors, we all have this moment.

Call it the breakdown.

Call it the enough is enough.

Call it bringing straight talk to the people.

Call it what you will, but in all honesty, it’s us taking a very deep breath, breaking the fourth wall, and saying: “The secret to literary success is…”

Specifically, it’s a lot easier when we directly address the questions we are, in turn, pelted with by legion.

  1. How do you find the time?
  2. How do you know if you’re good enough?
  3. What is the hardest part?

Sure, they seem like simple enough questions, but no matter how often they’re answered, still they rise again and again. You’ve long since learned that we writers possess the secrets of alchemists’ ancient knowledge, that we have horded the wisdom of the sages and have access to all those brains the scientists claim to have (and use it to dissect things with—we just do that in writing!).

This is pretty secret stuff, though, so if the words happen to cause an Ark of the Covenant ala Nazi effect on you, just know that I warned you.

  1. Time? What is time? Yorick, do you know what time is? Fine, don’t talk, Yorick. Excuse me while I giggle. Oh, time. If we’re not procrastinating, we’re furiously scribbling off a thousand other details for a thousand other projects, right?
    Don’t get me wrong, the day to day shenanigans of the world are rough. They exhaust us and beat us down with details; god help you if you have a family to manage in addition to your own life.
    Truth? More often than not, you make the “time” you want. It’s not a matter of finding time, it’s a matter of making time. Has every self-help book from here to Timbuktu said the same? Yes. It doesn’t make it any less true. Success or failure, you will never have more or less time than you do right now—life doesn’t stop, and neither should you.
    There was a time we had things known as pens. If you can still find one, get it, and use it where you have spare moments. Oh, don’t look at me like that, I know you have them—minutes that is. Minutes at the dentist’s office. Minutes waiting for a phone call. Minutes spent dreaming of what you’re going to be having for dinner. Write, damn it. And if you ask me this question again while simultaneously playing Farmville or Bejeweled, I will smack you upside your face. With a pen.
  2. We all ask ourselves that question! Of course, what we should be reminding ourselves is that if we can find some way to express a story, we’re already succeeding. But, naturally, you mean good enough for them. The ill-defined them. The mystery people. The grand cabal lurking beyond the boundaries of time and space, waiting to judge your every word.
    Here’s a fact: if you can talk, you can write. Hone your voice, hone your writing. Make it distinct. You hear of so many people defining themselves by others—it’s nonsense, really. Stephen King does not write like Neil Gaiman. Robin Hobb does not write like George R.R. Martin. Mary Roach does not write like Carl Sagan.
    …and, alright, did I just lose track of my thoughts because now I have a host of glorious authors swirling about my head? Maybe. But you? Focus, blast you. The point: each of these people is readable, engaging, and downright enjoyable on their own merits. The more you question yourself, the more you craft a self-fulfilling prophecy. Worry after you’ve created. Worry about grammar and spelling and all the million little things a spellcheck harps at you about all throughout the process (or your mother, if you’re going old school editing on this)—and as you go back, picking away at those, then look at your dialogue and your metaphors, your imagery and rhyme. Do they make sense? Would something work better there? Then make it happen.
    After that? Sit on it a little. Go back. Reread one more time. Does it still work? Then submit it. Don’t keep picking at yourself. The only way you’ll know is if you try.
  3. Beginning. Or maybe I should just say the writing portion of writing. Yes, that’s definitely the trickiest part. There are any number of little ways to make it seem more foreboding than it needs to be—we’re all very good at it, too. (Stupid brains.) The way to work through it is for that first step, don’t think big. Don’t try lassoing the Cosmos—bring it down to what’s around you. In other words: write a scene. Focus on one little dot; the rest will wait, the rest will come. Believe it or not, you have time. If you’re writing a book, chances are you already know how it’s going to go—so write what interests you at the time. You’re not the reader—you don’t have to read the ninth chapter to engage the tenth. Write at your own pace. In doing so, you may even find that where you thought you would begin or end are nothing like where you now actually begin and end; your book could have entirely different shape by the end, when you’re framing and patching it all together, and you know what? That’s okay too. As long as you write.

Most importantly? This soap box I’m standing on it a lie. If you’re listening to me you’re not writing; you’re taking tips instead of developing yourself, and so I’m going to go get a rolled up newspaper now. You have until I get back to start writing.

Write. Don’t make me hit you on the nose.

Live, Love – A Letter

In the words of sillier people than I: “Not my usual, but nice.”

I’ve been writing a lot, lately – and while that may be nothing extraordinary in and of itself, the nature of that writing has been beyond its usual course. For those waiting on the third (and final) book in my fantasy series, The Haunted Shadows, this will undoubtedly come as something of an annoyance (sorry, friends!), but sometimes the mind wanders, and something of the unexpected demands to be let out.

So what IS this? A letter. To friends. To family. To people I’ve never met. A letter to the world, as it were, for any that would listen. Spread it around if you like the message contained within – and don’t be afraid to hit that little like button therein. A transcription follows below that would prefer the read…

“If I have never told you these things when you looked me in the eye, know that it is not because I have not loved you. Whether I have met you or know you or ever for a fleeting instant passed you on the street, for all that I put forth to the world, I have loved you. There is no shame in saying it. There should be no fear. Life is too brief a thing upon this earth to be dragged down by the bitterness of blindness. I should know; I have admittedly at times been its greatest connoisseur.

But it is from experience that I tell you: sweet star child, do not let age descend upon you. It is a foolish path. There is much in this world that will grey you if you let it, leeching all of its lessons from the marrow of your bones. You have the power to resist. Too many say we are marching toward death; what they fail to realize is all too often we are marching away from life. Death is inevitable. Do not fear it. Life is, in every moment, a chance to smile, to positively impact another life, to together laugh in the face of the Devil and love, love, love with the light of the sun.

Keep that light, child. Let it flush beneath your skin, let it swell the tenor of your voice, and let it be a beacon for you even in darkest night, that you might always remember: you and you alone are your own true north. You know what needs to be done; the world is just the trail on which you wander to achieve it. What made possible the fires of this universe so also made you, and if they created starlight and planets and life as rich and vibrant as our own, think what just a fraction of their heat could achieve.

I am not blind. I could never tell you your journeys won’t hurt. Life is painful. It will break you, it will tear you open and beat you down. Do you remember the first time you fell? The first time you skinned your knee? Childhood made everything more acute; the tears, they fell like rain. You walked away with a scar, but the pain, for all that you dreaded it, faded with time. Everything heals. There will always be scars to remind us, but people will come to you and take your hand and offer to patch you up again with the fervor of their love and their devotion; never shut them out. You may wish to hide. You may wish to tough it out. But people are the salve as often as they are the poison; never let the one blind you to the other. Your flame will burn brighter with their fuel.

Oh, child, if only you could know what it is you are. Zeus, they said, had his thunderbolts, and Poseidon had his waves. Stories. We are the gods of this world, and I tell it true, when you were born there were waves that would drown us all in the moments of your tears, and the crackle of summer’s storms in every quiver and quake of your laughter.

You are a gift of creation. You are creation and destruction, and the marvelous structure of the universe: we may be motes, but we are motes of the infinite, and no one should ever make you feel small.

Hate will ever be in your sight; the road will grow muddy. If ever you doubt, just look to the sky and the myriad other stars still twinkling in that long night, and remember what it is to love. That the first people to ever hold you are in that sky, still watching, and waiting, and growing with the journey of the one they made. That friends, lovers, enemies, all revolve across the same sky, following their trails to the lightening of all others—wobbling, stumbling, falling the same as you.

Never forget them. Not once. For your heart will not. Your first love will be there beside you to your dying day. Your feet will still remember the contours of their first dance. These things do not die. For this form of living, and love, is unconditional—we are what we are, and may you never be ashamed of it.

Laugh. Love. Cry. Hate. Fall. Rise. Run. Learn.

Smile. All of existence is in your sight.”