The muse is a fickle _____

All writers have  love-hate relationships with our respective muses.  We love it when they sit on our shoulders and guide our typing towards brilliance.  We hate it when they lead us down dead ends. And we go comatose when they disappear.  There is nothing worse than an AWOL muse for a writer–because then we can’t write.  Or so we tell ourselves.

penWriters Block it’s called.  I’ve had a severe case this past month, and only now beginning to shake it. Normally when the muse takes a knee, I resort to the more left brain aspects of writing: research, editing, and rewrites.  Eventually the muse takes pity and returns, or maybe she just dislikes the tedious aspects as much as I do.

So I did all that.  Got every one of my short stories cleaned up.  Bounced around the internet jotting down factoids.  Crawled through Writers Market updating my list of agents.  Still nothing.

So I started throwing ideas for new stories at the proverbial wall, to see what might stick.

Queen Méabh the Novella

    • 5000-year-old faerie queen takes over Ireland
    • Basically expand my short story “Queen Méabh” into a novella.
    • Opening line (draft (really rough)):The opening of King Tut’s tomb cursed two archeologists.  The opening of Queen Meabh’s tomb cursed half the world.

Beyond the Pale

    • Faeries return to Ireland, throw out the English and bring back the snakes
    • Two variants, one fantasy and one horror
    • I’ve managed 2K words on the fantasy variant
    • Opening line (draft (really rough)):

Cormac wasn’t certain which he hated more, faeries or snakes.  .

  • The Valkyrjarna: The Choosers of the Slain
    • Not really about my beloved valkyries, this is a ghost detective story which may or may not include Hildi and Nishi again

Dax McPherson was too old to be repelling down the face of a darkened office building a few hours before dawn.

Giant Bones

  • Archaeologist uncovers the bones of a not-so-ancient frost giant who may or may not come back to life (yeah these ideas are half-baked)
  • First paragraph

There should not have been any bones left in the three-thousand year old burial mound.  Nor should the femurs be three feet long each.  Yet there they were, gleaming white as if they had been freshly picked clean by a flock of crows.  Giant crows.

Valkyrie in Tights

  • One of the thirteen modern valkyries goes a little wacko and thinks she’s a superhero
  • Just a concept , but could be fun to write

Valkyries on Mars

  • Valkyries might make really good astronauts, especially if there are aliens to fight
  • Just a quarter-baked concept

Mercury Revolt

  • Mercury is colonized and then the Earth attacks
  • Not even a quarter baked, plays off my Gjerdahl reactor concept from “New Svalbard”

Vasa

  • When the Swedes refloat the Vasa in the 1960s, a long-lost artifact is uninterred from the frigid depths
  • Opening paragraph (that’s all I got)

The Swedish warship Vasa set sail on August the 10th in the year of our lord, 1628, to conquer the world.  The ship capsized in full view of the citizens of Stockholm in modest winds.  Four hundred sailors, the captain, and a valkyrie went down with the ship. The valkyrie lived.

To say none of these has really stuck is an understatement, but frankly just writing this all down in a blog is therapeutic.  I have put down a couple of thousand words on both “Beyond the Pale” and “The Valkyrjarna” now, so we’ll see if all this summons that fickle muse back to my shoulder, where she belongs.

Open to any opinions on all this from friends, readers and fellow writers.

CR Hodges

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Excerpt of the week: Preschool War Games

My mythica short story, “Preschool War Games,” was just published in the March 2014 issue of Cicada Magazine.

???????????????????????????????A long time in the making, “Preschool War Games” started life as a denouement to a longer short story. But short stories don’t really tolerate denouements, so it got a life of its own, and after many, many edits the good folks at the Cricket Magazine Group picked it up, and so my valkyrie-in-training Siggi and her papa get to see the light of day.

Excerpt:

Preschool War Games

C.R. Hodges

I arrived in Helsinki on the red-eye from Islamabad and took a taxi to the preschool. The teacher, a young woman with pink hair and three studs in her nose, gave my fatigues and duffle bag a long look. “I’m Siggi’s father,” I said, in English.

She raised an eyebrow, also pierced. “Your daughter has an independent streak,” she said, eyeing the American flag on my shoulder with unconcealed disdain. The taxi driver had stared at me the same way.

“She gets it from her mother.”

“Siggi refuses to take her nap. Our janitor kindly plays games with her instead.”

The other children, conformists all, were indeed napping. Siggi sat in the back at a low table, playing a board game with a gray-bearded man in brown coveralls and a wool coat. “Hello, Papa,” she said, without looking up. 

<more>

Enjoy!

CR Hodges

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Paying Short Story Markets, updated April 2014

I’ve updated my list of paying spec fiction short story markets.  I now show over 100 listings.

Updates as of April 6, 2014:

The following markets changed their pay rates:

  • Bards and Sages Quarterly– increased to $20

The following markets have been added:

  • Semipro:
    • Pseudopod
    • Blank Fiction
    • Wicked Words
    • Straeon Quarterly

The following markets have temporarily closed:

  • Weird Tales
  • New Myths–Will reopen June 1
  • Stupefying Stories–Will reopen June 1

The following markets have reopened:

  • Kazka Press
  • Pedestal
  • Cosmos

The following markets have permanently closed:

  • Chizine

Click here for the full list.

CR Hodges

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Excerpt of the week: Riding the Bow Wave

Write what you know, they say.  Guys can’t write female characters, they say.  Well, for us spec fiction writers that just doesn’t work.  No one has been to Mars, nor Alpha Centauri, yet Sci Fi novels abound.  Vampires, ghosts and aliens anyone? Point made.

Me, the toughest character I ever wrote was a dolphin.

It all started in the usual way, out on a boat with my wife on San Diego Bay.  By the plane ride home I was already plotting out “Riding the Bow Wave,” about a wounded dolphin trying to find his way home.

Excerpt:

Riding the Bow Wave

C.R. Hodges

Tap.

Infinitesimal, like a single raindrop falling on a tranquil sea. A few heartbeats later a second, and then a third. Too numb to listen, I fade back into the swimming half sleep. Lost, starving and exhausted, rain is of no interest. All I want is to make my way home.

More taps, persistent, yet without the randomness of rainfall. My eyes flutter open, my head swivels slowly, imaging the distant pings through my jawbone. A sonic mirage, I tell myself, as my eyes droop again. I have been swimming toward the sunrise for countless moon cycles now, through the vast deep water devoid of food or companionship, more a skeleton with fins than the dolphin I once was. Not even a whole skeleton—my right fin has been half amputated.

The swelling amplitude and the eerie familiarity of the pinging eventually cut through my stupor. Both sides of my brain awaken, listening, counting the voices. Four, no five. None bold enough to be Ger-Ald, but still they are friends. An ocean ago, Mel-Nie trained me to recognize foes from friends by their voices, their sounds. The water suddenly frigid, I tremble. Thinking makes me remember. A sea of blood and fire, a world away. Chi-Laa’s blood. I’m awake.

All for now, it’s not published, yet.

CR Hodges

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Blog Hop: My Writing Process

Do blogs hop? My writing buddy and fellow author Timothy Hurley invited me to join in the My Writing Process blog hop.  He posted his version of the blog, in his usual dry wit, last week at www.thelunaticassylum.blogspot.com. His fiction can be found at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I5P3WYS, and in my Kindle (no, you can’t read it on my Kindle, just saying). That all said, let’s hop to it.

viking bird

1. What am I working on?

As many of you know, I write mostly speculative fiction, mostly short stories, with a novel in the works (what writer doesn’t?). I’ve had good success with the short stories, with 15 sales to date, across multiple subgenres including mythica, science fiction, historical fiction and ghost stories.  Novel writing is not only harder, but it’s also incredibly hard to sell novels, which are my excuses in that arena, lame as they may be.

But I’m getting closer, with my second novel (the first one, Gho, eventually got downsized to a novella and just sold), Ragnarök Willie, basically complete and ready to query.  Almost—I successfully postponed the dreaded querying process a few more months by submitting Ragnarök Willie to the ABNA 2014 writing contest (wish me luck). But here is my query pitch:

When an archeologist unearths the prehistoric fortress of Valhalla, thirteen semi-mythical valkyries, an ancient pagan cult, and young Lasse Nordberg all head north.  The valkyries are vying with each other over global domination.  The pagans are plotting to avenge the millennium-old Christian invasion.  Lasse, a university drop-out and video game junkie, is looking for a job, a girlfriend who doesn’t cheat, and an occasional latte.

Thrilled to find work at a tiny newspaper in the frozen armpit of arctic Sweden, Lasse is assigned to report on the dig.  He wonders why his blond boss keeps a bevy of throwing axes in her desk drawer.  And why the sexy druid keeps asking him about old hunting horns.  He should do more than wonder: his boss is one of the valkyries, wingless but deadly, and his druid girlfriend is using him to find Gjallarhorn, the not-so-mythical horn of Heimdallr.  Which, if blown three times, will awaken Odin’s undead warriors for Ragnarök, the battle at the end of the world.

Come Midwinter’s Day, his back to a pillar of fire, surrounded by warring valkyries, a blue-bearded giantess charging at him, Lasse will have blown Gjallarhorn twice already.

2, How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think this is the toughest question on this blog tour, because at one level everything that anyone writes has been done before.  But of course everything is different too. For my part, I enjoy combining myths and legends with modern-day life, with the fantasy element real but plausible do everyday folks, and hence my everyday characters.  In Ragnarök Willie, Lasse Nordberg is you typical 20-something slacker looking for a latte and a girl, yet he’s unwittingly surrounded by semi-mythical valkyries vying for a really awesome hammer.

I also like to set stories somewhere other than New York City (sorry Timothy) and Paris.  Besides setting Ragnarök Willie in Kiruna, Sweden, I’ve set stories in Svalbard (the northernmost island of Norway), Australia,  Wyoming, of course Colorado, and, being a Sic Fi writer, the moon, Mars and  Mercury . I even mash things up a bit—my only story that includes elves and dwarves is set in the Asteroid Belt.

3. Why do I write what I do?

OK, this is tough too.  The simple answer is I have a hyperactive imagination and writing lets it leak out in ways that are not socially unacceptable.  I also travel a lot on business (I have no plans to quit my day job, running a product development company, Zebulon Solutions ), so it’s fun to set scenes in places that I can see from an airplane.

4. How does your writing process work?

I usually start with a premise, like what if the Chinese embargoed rare earth metals like in The Trillionaire or what if two valkyries battled it out on the apex of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, like in How a Valkyrie Flies? The next step is to invent a protagonist, and more importantly his or her voice. After that I throw words at paper, banging out a first draft without thinking too much, just letting the characters do what makes sense.

Then I edit, and edit, and edit.  Then rethink the plot.  Then edit some  more.  Maybe one day I’ll be able to edit less, but that’s not today.

After that I’ll let a story rest for a while, so I can go back with a new set of eyes. Eventually I’ll feel good enough about it to let a critique buddy have a crack at it, and then I edit some more. Eventually I get to done, then I let it sit a little more, then I edit another go or three.  Then, just maybe, it’s done done.

Next Hop

That’s it for my hop.  Next week, please check out the next hop when multicultural fantasy writer JF Garrard takes the reins on February 24th.

JF Garrard got into writing through reading comic books and watching movies as an escape from her mundane childhood in Toronto.  Writing has always been something she wanted to do although she was almost tossed out of her Catholic all girls high school writing club for writing dark and weird stories.  She is a germaphobe with a Nuclear Medicine background and holds a MBA in Strategy & Marketing.  Her first book “The Undead Sorceress”, Book 1 of the International House of Vampire series is set for release in April 2014.  Concept art for her multicultural fantasy books and excerpts are available on her website, jfgarrard.com. Find her on Twitter @JFGarrard and Facebook page as JF Garrard.

Hop on!

CR Hodges

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Excerpt of the week: Casey at the Bat

In honor of all the grieving fans in Denver after striking out at the Super Bowl yet again, I thought Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat” was an appropriate excerpt for this week.  And while the poem actually doesn’t end, There is no joy in Colorado, mighty Peyton has struck out, the message is the same.

Denver steam

First published in The Examiner on June 3, 1888

Excerpt:

Casey at the Bat

by Ernest Lawrence Thayer

The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:

The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.

And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,

A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

 

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest

Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;

They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that -

We’d put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.

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Spring training starts in a month. Perhaps the Rockies will beat the Mariners in the World Series come November.  Or perhaps not, in which case I will have more time to write.

CR Hodges

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Blog hoppers wanted

I’ve been invited by fellow writer Timothy Hurley, the author of the hilarious Shortstack anthology and other fun reads, to participate in the My Writing Process blog hop (do blogs hop?) on February 17th.  As such, I’m looking for a 3-4 fellow authors to pass the proverbial hopping baton to, who would then post their own My Writing Process blog the next week (February 24th), and further pass it forward.

I’ll be answering four questions on my writing process for my almost-ready-to-query mythica novel, Ragnarök Willie.

Thought I’d ask my loyal followers first–blog hop anyone?  I’ll forward more details to the first few interested writers.  Either comment the blog with a link to your own blog and / or email me directly at crcrhodges (at) msn dot com.

Disclaimer–while I’m very open to supporting creative writers of almost any genre, I draw the line well shy of porn, slash and gore, political rants and hate.

Keep on hoppin’

CR Hodges

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