Category Archives: Writing

An Old Prologue

This is the prologue of a novel I was working on years ago. I decided to post it here because it’s out of date. I like my thrillers to be contemporary and this prologue is obviously set during the war in Iraq, which has been over for a while now. I don’t want to throw it out and I don’t know what else to do with it, so why not share it. This is just the prologue, the rest of the novel is not included because I still might use it.

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The Tigris flowed as brown in the moonlight as it would during the daylight hours. The smell irked Paul. Raw sewage and decay. Drinking tap water in the city was discouraged, but not everyone listened. He remembered the treatment plant that the United States repaired a few years ago only to have insurgents raid the place and destroy it again.

He watched as Omar led his team to the front door of the three-story apartment building. They slipped inside and disappeared. Paul hung back with the American squad. The Iraqi soldiers would make the raid. Paul’s team was only to cover the outside of the building.

They had strong evidence that an apartment on the second floor housed three active members of the al Qaeda terrorist organization. But things were looking better in Baghdad than they have in a long time. The insurgents were still out there stirring trouble where they could, but the river of extremists was drying up as more and more grew weary of the war and encouraged peace. Just the other day Paul saw a man and woman walking hand in hand, free and happy, in an area that had once been declared unsafe.

But the war wasn’t over yet and no one expected the US troops to leave for another year or two. But things were getting better. Plans to repair the treatment plants were underway. The Tigris might never be clean again, but things were moving in the right direction.

Things were getting better.

A light came on in an apartment on the second floor of the building. A man walked past a large picture window. A moment later another light came on. It was 3 o’clock in the morning, most people in the city were sleeping and Paul had expected the people here to be sleeping too. Had the suspects spotted the troops outside, or were they somehow made aware of the troops inside? Paul was behind a large bush with another soldier and the rest of his team was just as careful to remain out of sight.

No, they couldn’t have been spotted. And if they were spotted, why had the suspects turned the lights on and given away their cover of darkness? No, something else was going on, and at three in the morning. Could be insomnia or it could be something else.

Two men appeared at the window, by their hand gestures Paul judged they were making small talk. Non-threatening behavior, he decided.

“Tell Omar the suspects are awake,” he said to Chip, who was down on one knee and weapon pointed through the branches of the bush. “They appear non-threatening at the moment, but his team should be ready for surprises.”

Chip spoke into his mouthpiece. Omar’s radioman rogered.

The two men at the second floor window turned to someone or something that could not be seen from the ground outside, and then their hands went up. A moment later three Iraqi soldiers came into view, their AK47s pointed in the faces of the two suspects.

Paul couldn’t make out the orders the Iraqi soldiers shouted at the suspects, but when the suspects did not react fast enough the soldiers grabbed them and yanked them to the floor. Two soldiers stood over the suspects while the third bent down to apply handcuffs.

Then Omar stepped up to the window and looked out toward the bush Paul was behind. His first finger and thumb formed a circle

“It’s all clear,” Paul said. “I’m going in. You guys stay out and watch the doors.”

Chip bobbed his head and Paul started away. The raid went well, not a shot was fired. He had no doubt the men who had been at the window were two of the suspects whose faces were printed on the paper he and Omar both had a copy of.

He entered the building. The landlord apparently cared a great deal about the place. The red carpet that made the floor of the foyer looked as if it had just been vacuumed and the walls had been repainted not so long ago. Photos of Baghdad’s more pleasant sites lined the wall beside the flight of stairs, but Paul didn’t waste time looking at them as he headed up to the second floor. A hallway cut across the top of the stairs and he looked both ways before stepping out into it.

He carried his M16, butt at shoulder, barrel pointed down and finger on the trigger, as he moved along the hallway. But there was no apparent threat. A few doors were open and people in their pajamas looked out, but Paul only had to glance at them to know they were simply curious residents.

At last he reached the door with an Iraqi soldier standing outside.

“The room is clear,” the guard said in English, his Arabic accent heavy.

Paul gave a nod and relaxed his finger on the trigger before he entered the apartment. He made his way through a short hallway and emerged in a nicely kept living room. Nice in a manner that it was clean and fashionably furnished, but on the coffee table was an automatic handgun. An Iraqi soldier reached under the couch. He gave a bark of laughter and fished out an AK47.

There were other things in the apartment. Black ski masks on one chair and questionable articles of clothing. When Paul glanced into the kitchen he saw three artillery shells, one was on the table with tools scattered around it.

Paul didn’t have to ask what the suspects were doing with the artillery shells. He had been in Iraq long enough to know the effect of IEDs. Just about every Humvee on patrol was equipped with a Warlock because of these things. But the Warlock devices were not perfect. The devices attempted to block the radio waves from the cell phones insurgents used to set off the IEDs. The Warlocks worked much of the time, but not always. The roadside bombs still remained the enemy’s most effective weapon.

The suspects lay facedown on the floor, their hands cuffed behind their backs. Omar knelt over them and lifted each head by the hair so Paul could see the faces of the men. They were positive matches to two of the men pictured on the paper he had folded in his breast pocket.

Omar stood up. “Malik Zaid isn’t here.”

Malik Zaid al-Ahmad was the third man pictured on the paper. Age 42, six feet tall, slender and he had a wicked scar running down his right cheek. He was also the primary target of this raid. A man highly educated and overly intelligent, he was believed to be the mastermind behind countless pranks that took more lives than Paul wanted to know about.

“We need to search the building,” Omar said. “Are your men still outside watching the doors?”

“Yes,” Paul said.

“Good, leave them there. If he’s here somewhere, he must not leave.”

Malik Zaid had been responsible for the deaths of more Iraqi soldiers than American soldiers. He was also responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians. Malik Zaid didn’t operate out of anger like many of his comrades; instead he was in it for the pleasure. Or that’s what people said. Paul didn’t know one way or the other, but the attacks that were supposedly laid out by Malik Zaid seemed to have been conducted with a humorous mindset.

Omar wanted him caught as badly as Paul did.

The radioman called in three more squads to help search the building. He also sent a confirmation to Chip that the Americans were to remain outside and assure no civilian left the building.

A soldier who had been searching a bedroom came into the living room and handed a metal file box to Omar. He said something in the Arabic language and then returned to the bedroom.

“He says there are documents in this box, but he can’t read them.” Omar sat down on the couch and opened the box. Inside was a folder containing a few sheets of paper. Omar looked at the first page and scoffed. “My English is good, if I’m speaking,” he said. “I have not learned to read it yet.”

Paul accepted the folder and lowered himself into the cozy armchair behind him. The pages were handwritten, a little sloppy, but in English. He read the first page. It was a letter to someone, very likely any of the three men who had resided in the apartment. The writer had taken care not to address his “friend” by name. He also referred to a “meeting place”, but gave no hint as to where the meeting place was located.

There were ten pages altogether, none were dated, but each was a new letter with the same handwriting, and each letter was signed The Doctor. That was all the identification the writer would give. Paul suspected the letters had been mailed out over a period of time, months or even years could have passed between the first letter and the last letter for all he knew.

The letters told about the transferring of money and the willingness of the Doctor to see something through, if only his Friend could deliver the necessary products. In the last letter the Doctor said he had received the delivery, he would be at the meeting place when his Friend arrived—no time specified—and they could go for a cup of coffee before “activating the mission”.

I have applied the device to six of my patients and I will continue to do so as long as we are working together. You only need to lay in the final touches and the rest will take care of itself.

Paul read the last letter twice. He didn’t know what the Doctor was talking about, but that such letters were found in this place troubled him. It might be nothing or it might be something. Chances were high that they wouldn’t be able to track down the Doctor and get to the bottom of this, but Paul decided he needed to get the letters to his superiors so an investigation could get underway.

He closed the folder and stood up.

“This is important,” he said and started for the door. “I’m not sure what it means, but we have to check it out.”

Why I Won’t Tell Anyone What My Novel is About

From time to time, I’m asked what the novel I’m writing is about. I always give the same boring answer: “I prefer not to say, but it’s a thriller.”

If you had asked me a couple years ago, I might have been more than happy to tell you. But, it seems like every time I talked about my work, I would later feel embarrassed about it and start kicking myself for having pulled the rabbit out of the hat before it was cooked. This can lead to me feeling discouraged about the project, and I might give up on it.

There’s a part of me that does want to talk about my work, to share some details, give people an idea of what the story is about. That part of me wants to tell everyone what I’ve been doing in the story, to even display chapters for you to read before the work in question is done. But I have that part of me on a gag order, allowing him to only share my progress stats.

I’m not the only writer who shares progress stats on a daily basis. Cherie Priest is the writer who inspired the progress form I use on Facebook. At the bottom of almost every one of Priest’s blog entries, she posts her progress stats. But Priest is a bit different from me, she might reveal a little bit on what she’s been doing in the story, she might give an idea on what it’s about and she certainly isn’t uncomfortable about revealing the title.

I won’t give you the title anymore. Now all my projects are numbered, Novel #1, Novel #2, etc. If the novel is accepted by a publisher and is on its way to becoming a published book, then I will probably start giving the title and talking a bit about the book, and I’ll probably put up a few sample chapters. All for the sake of promotion. But at this point, I’m not very comfortable sharing anything about the book, except that it’s being written.

This attitude of mine might change in time.

What I’m Doing Different

In my blog post a few days ago, I said I finished four novels and hundreds of short stories, and that I had begun more than a hundred novels, but never finished them. I also begun but never finished just as many short stories.

I would say I have been very productive as a writer, maybe even more productive than a lot of writers I know. But most of the writers I know have more sales than I do. Why might this be? Well, aside from the fact that they’re better writers than I am, they have also submitted a lot more stories for publication than I have.

I have (or I had) a tendency.to give up on my projects fast. Even the ones I’d finished, I would decide that they were terrible and no amount of rewriting was going to make them better, and eventually I would throw them out. I threw out a lot of projects, hundreds of them, and some of them probably weren’t half as bad as I thought they were.

Those of you who have been following me on Facebook for the last year or so have probably seen me posting several times about restarting a novel, and more recently I went over what was already written to rewrite parts and get the story back on track so I could move it forward again.

That’s what I’m doing different. Instead of throwing the project out and starting a new one, I’m sticking to the first project until it’s done, cleaned up and ready to go. I don’t care how many times I have to rewrite, or dump the whole thing and restart from a scratch, the project is going to get done and it’s going to be made perfect before I start the next one. It will be the same for every project that follows. I’m not giving up on my projects anymore. I wish I had gotten into this mindset years ago.

Questions About My Writing

I get asked these questions a lot, so I want to answer them all.

1) Are you still writing?

Yes, I am. It was never just a phase I was going through. I’ve been serious about writing since I was a teenager. Now it’s more like an addiction. I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to. Rest assured that I will be writing until the day I die, even if I’m not selling anything. I write because I have to. It’s who I am. I would be very unsettled if I wasn’t writing.

2) How is your writing going?

Seeing how I’ve been getting in some writing almost every day, and over the last week or so, I’ve been plugging wordage into two seperate projects. That alone says that my writing has been going fairly well, though I wish I was getting in a few thousand more words a day than I have been.

3) How many books have you written?

I think the proper question is “How many books have you finished?” I have to think about that. I finished my first book when I was sixteen, and I’m thirty-six now. So, ticking off the titles of the novels that I remember finishing., there’s Reap It, Colin, The Awakened Dawn and Off Target. I feel like there’s one or two more that I’ve finished, but I’m not sure. Next to the novels, over the years, I’ve finished hundreds of short stories, some of them were actually novellas, which means “short novel”. I’ve also finished a few non-fiction articles. I’ve begun more than a hundred novels and I got a long way into plenty of them before the project came to a dead halt for one reason or another, the most common reason being “It just wasn’t working.” And I have started several projects over more than a few times. So, I lost track of exactly how many novels, stories and articles I’ve written.

I’m planning to finish some of the novels that have been left unfinished.

4) Can I read your books?

You’re more than welcome to go looking for Reap It, Colin and The Awakened Dawn. They might be at a landfill somewhere, hopefully under a pile of rotten diapers. If you find them, go ahead and read them, but I doubt you’ll be impressed. I still have Off Target on hand, but no one gets to read it until I’m done fixing it up and it is a mess. When that’s done, the only people who will get to see it are editors or possibly first readers. Unless it’s published, it’s going to stay under the hat.

5) What do you write?

I know a lot of writers, and most of them are more focused on writing certain genres, such as science fiction, fantasy or horror, romance, mystery, etc. I’m sure they could write any kind of book, but their main focus is on certain genres.

I have a list of novels I want to write (And I’ve gotten much better at finishing what I’ve started, so they’ll probably all get done at some point.). Looking down that list now, there are currently 39 novels planned in advance. Some are thrillers, some are science fiction, fantasy, romance, mystery, historical, horror. Some are young adult projects and others are intended for more mature readers. I’ve even kicked around the idea of writing children books, So, it’s hard to put me in a category.

I will probably use pseudonyms for several of these projects.

6) Has your writing ever been published?

Yes, I’ve had a few pieces published. But you gotta understand, my first few publishing credits, I don’t count them. I was still young, still learning the ropes, and I… I sent stories to non-reputable markets. They didn’t pay me a cent and they published my stories in their shitty magazines. I’m still embarrassed. I no longer submit to those markets, and after getting a lot of positive feedback from reputable editors, I have high standards now.

Currently I have two sales that I’m proud of. I have a story in the anthology Legends of the Mountain State 2, which was edited by Bram Stoker Award winning writer and editor Michael Knost, and Mike paid a good sum for my story. I also had a non-fiction article published in Strange Horizons, which is an online magazine and I’m pretty sure the article is still in their achives. Both markets paid well.

7) But haven’t I seen other stories by you?

No, you haven’t. I was an assistant editor at Hadley Rille Books and I had a hand in the creation of a few anthologies. I didn’t write any of those stories, I was just an assistant editor. I’ve also done editorial work for a few different magazines.

____

I hope that answers the questions.

Market List

  1. Abyss & Apex
  2. AE
  3. Afrocentric Books
  4. Agnes and True
  5. AGNI
  6. Alban Lake
  7. Albedo
  8. Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine
  9. A Lonely Riot Magazine
  10. Analog Science Fiction & Fact
  11. Apex Magazine
  12. A Public Space
  13. Aquila
  14. Arsenika
  15. Asimov’s Science Fiction
  16. Aurora Wolf
  17. Baen
  18. Bards and Sages Publishing
  19. Bare Back Magazine
  20. Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  21. Bennington Review
  22. Better Futures Press
  23. Blackbird
  24. Black Rabbit
  25. Blood Bound Books
  26. Blue Marble Review
  27. Body Parts Magazine
  28. Bourbon Penn
  29. Bracken
  30. Breakroom Stories
  31. Breath & Shadow
  32. Bright Desire
  33. Bull Spec
  34. Buzzy Mag
  35. Caffeinated Press
  36. Cast of Wonders
  37. Cemetery Dance
  38. Cheapjack Pulp
  39. Chrome Baby
  40. Cicada
  41. Cincinnatus Press
  42. Circlet Press
  43. Clarkesworld Magazine
  44. Comet Press
  45. Concis
  46. Confingo
  47. Contrary
  48. Copper Nickel
  49. Crab Orchard Review
  50. Cracked Eye
  51. Creative Guy Publishing
  52. Cricket
  53. Crime Syndicate
  54. Crimson Streets
  55. Crossed Genres
  56. Crystal Lake Publishing
  57. Daily Science Fiction
  58. Dark Discoveries
  59. DarkFuse Magazine
  60. Dark Futures
  61. Dark Moon Digest
  62. Dark Regions Press
  63. Dead Oaks Podcast
  64. Deep Magic
  65. Devilfish Review
  66. Devolution Z
  67. Double Feature Magazine
  68. Dreaming Robot Press
  69. Dreams & Nightmares
  70. Dreamspinner Press
  71. Dual Coast Magazine
  72. Ducts
  73. Dust Jacket
  74. Eagle Wings Press
  75. ECW Press
  76. Electric Spec
  77. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
  78. Ember
  79. Empyreome
  80. Enchanted Conversation
  81. eSensual
  82. Escape Pod
  83. Event
  84. Every Day Fiction
  85. Evil Girlfriend Media
  86. Existere
  87. Expanded Horizons
  88. Fabula Argentea
  89. Fantasia Divinity Magazine
  90. Fantastic: Stories of the Imagination
  91. Fantasy & Science Fiction
  92. Fiction Silicon Valley
  93. Fig Tree Books
  94. Filling Station
  95. Flapperhouse
  96. Flash Bang Mystery
  97. Flash Fiction Online
  98. For the Girls
  99. Four Star Stories
  100. FreedomFiction.com
  101. FreeFall
  102. Freeze Frame Fiction
  103. FrostFire Worlds
  104. Gafencu
  105. Gamut
  106. Gaslandia
  107. Gemini Magazine
  108. Ghost on Drugs
  109. GigaNotoSaurus
  110. Glimmer Train Press, Inc
  111. GlitterShip
  112. Gobshite Quarterly
  113. Guardbridge Books
  114. Grain Magazine
  115. Grasslimb
  116. Gray’s Sporting Journal
  117. Greenprints
  118. Grendelsong
  119. Grimdark Magazine
  120. Grinning Skull Press
  121. Grievous Angel
  122. Guardian Angel Kids
  123. Gumshoe
  124. Hadley Rille Books
  125. Harmony Ink
  126. Helen
  127. Helios Quarterly Magazine
  128. Heroes & Heartbreakers
  129. Highlights
  130. Honeydew
  131. Hyperion Theia
  132. Hypnos Magazine
  133. Image
  134. Interfictions Online
  135. Into the Ruins
  136. Inwood Indiana
  137. Issues in Earth Science
  138. James Gunn’s Ad Astra
  139. Jerry Jazz Musician
  140. Jitter Press
  141. Kaleidoscope
  142. Kaleidotrope
  143. Kasma SF
  144. Kids Imagination Train
  145. Kweli
  146. Kzine
  147. L0w L1f3
  148. Lagos Literary and Art Journal
  149. Laska Media Groups
  150. Leading Edge
  151. Lethe Press
  152. Library Tales Publishing
  153. Lilith
  154. Liminoid
  155. Lightspeed Magazine
  156. Liquid Imagination
  157. Litbreak
  158. LitMag
  159. Lontar
  160. Lore
  161. Luna Station Quarterly
  162. Makeshift
  163. Manawaker Studio
  164. Maple Tree Literary Supplement
  165. Martian Migraine Press
  166. Matter Press
  167. Menda City Review
  168. Metaphorosis
  169. Middle Planet
  170. Mirror Dance
  171. Mithila Review
  172. Mofo Pubs
  173. Montag Press
  174. Mystery Weekly Magazine
  175. Mythic
  176. Nameless
  177. Nanoism
  178. Nashville Review
  179. Nasty
  180. National Lampoon
  181. Nature
  182. New Haven Review
  183. Nefarious Thoughts
  184. Neo-Opsis
  185. New Haven Review
  186. NewMyths.com
  187. Nightmare Magazine
  188. Nightscript
  189. Night Shade Books
  190. Ninth Letter
  191. Nonbinary Review
  192. Occult Detective Quarterly
  193. Odyssey
  194. Omicron World Entertainment
  195. On Spec
  196. One Story
  197. Opossum
  198. Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show
  199. Outposts of Beyond
  200. Over My Dead Body
  201. Page & Spine
  202. Pantheon Magazine
  203. Peach Fuzz
  204. Pen
  205. Penny
  206. Perihelion Science Fiction
  207. Perpetual Motion Machine
  208. Persistent Visions
  209. Penumbra
  210. Phantaxis
  211. Phobos
  212. Pinball
  213. Plenitude Magazine
  214. PodCastle
  215. Psychedelic Horror Press
  216. Punchnel’s
  217. Queen’s Quarterly
  218. Rainbow Rumpus
  219. Read Short Fiction
  220. Reckoning
  221. Red Sun Magazine
  222. Reflex Fiction
  223. Refractions
  224. Reinfield Press
  225. Retro Future
  226. Rhubarb Magazine
  227. Ricky’s Back Yard
  228. Riddle Fence
  229. Rivet
  230. Room Magazine
  231. Ryga
  232. Salamander Magazine
  233. Sanitarium Horror Magazine
  234. SciFan Magazine
  235. Scout
  236. Severed Press
  237. Shades of Romance Magazine
  238. Shimmer Magazine
  239. Shooter Literary Magazine
  240. Shine Brightly
  241. Shock Totem
  242. Silver Blade
  243. Slink Chunk Press
  244. Small Beer Press
  245. SN1 Press
  246. Solarcide
  247. Southern Indiana Review
  248. Southern Pacific Review
  249. Space and Time
  250. Space Squid
  251. Spaceports & Spidersilk
  252. Spark
  253. Sparkle
  254. Spartan
  255. Specklit
  256. Spencer Hill Press
  257. Spider
  258. Spinetingler Magazine
  259. Splickety
  260. SQ Mag
  261. Star Ship Sofa
  262. Starward Tales
  263. Starwheel
  264. Stone Skin Press
  265. Strange Constellations
  266. Strange Horizons
  267. Sub-Q
  268. Subprimal Poetry Art
  269. Swords and  Sorcery Magazine
  270. Sycamore Review
  271. Syntax & Salt
  272. T. Gene Davis’s Speculative Blog
  273. Tachyon Publications
  274. Takahe Magazine
  275. Tanstaafl Press
  276. Terraform
  277. The 3288 Review
  278. The Adroit Journal
  279. The Antigonish Review
  280. The Arkansas International
  281. The Atlanta Banana
  282. The Atlantic
  283. The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy
  284. The Bloody Key Society Periodical
  285. The Blue Route
  286. The Café Irreal
  287. The Capilano Review
  288. The Centropic Oracle
  289. The Cincinnati Review
  290. The Colored Lens
  291. The Dark City
  292. The Dark Magazine
  293. The Kids’ Ark
  294. The Fantasist
  295. The Fifth Di…
  296. The First Line
  297. The Flash Fiction Press
  298. The Forge
  299. The Future Fire
  300. The Golden Key
  301. The Impressment Gang
  302. The J.J. Outre Review
  303. The Knicknackery
  304. The Lascaux Review
  305. The Literary Hatchet
  306. The Lorelei Signal
  307. The Lovecraft eZine
  308. The Malahat Review
  309. The Masters Review
  310. Theme of Absence
  311. The Pedestal Magazine
  312. The Ne’er Do Well
  313. The New Yorker
  314. The Offing
  315. The Overcast
  316. The Puritan
  317. The Rusty Toque
  318. The Saturday Evening Post
  319. The Shadows Magazine
  320. The Stoneslide Corrective
  321. The Sun
  322. The Threepenny Review
  323. The Timberline Review
  324. The Violet Hour Magazine
  325. The Western Online
  326. The WiFiles
  327. The Windsor Review
  328. The Worchester Journal
  329. The Massachusetts Review
  330. The Worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror
  331. Thin Noon
  332. Third Wednesday Magazine
  333. This Side of the Divide
  334. Three-lobe Burning Eye
  335. Tickety Boo Press
  336. Tincture Journal
  337. Tin House
  338. Titan Books
  339. Tor.com
  340. Tor Forge
  341. TQR
  342. Triptych Tales
  343. Triskaidekaphilia
  344. TTA Press
  345. Typewriter Emergency
  346. Uncanny
  347. Understorey Magazine
  348. Unlikely Stories
  349. Unnerving Magazine
  350. Unsung Stories
  351. Upstreet
  352. Urban Farmhouse Press
  353. Vandercave Quarterly
  354. Visions With Voices
  355. Voiceworks
  356. Waylines
  357. Weasel Press
  358. Wee Tales
  359. Westerly
  360. White Cat Publications
  361. Whitefish Review
  362. Wild Musette
  363. With Painted Words
  364. Wolves
  365. Wordrunner eChapbooks
  366. Writers & Artists
  367. Writers of the Future
  368. Writing for Peace
  369. Year 20XX
  370. Youth Imagination
  371. Zetetic