I’ve now posted another short story called “Masquerade” and it actually belongs in the Web of the Shepherds universe. It’s meant to be a teaser, with most of the story giving the reader a sense of what-the-hell-is-happening. And to be fair, that’s how it ends as well, but that’s just how it is.
I’ve posted another short story called “Doctors Without Galactic Borders” and it amused me sufficiently enough to share it. The premise was determined for me, as it was part of a competition; there were three elements: sci-fi genre, a surgeon, and camping. I had a number of wild possibilities, but the one I settled on was most appropriate for the format. Before I tell you about that, however, let me tell you about another idea which has now been relegated to the “future novel” pile.
The gist is an interstellar organism the size of our moon visited our solar system several generations prior to the story. It consumed Phobos for fuel. It now orbits Mars, seemingly dormant. It was originally a generation ship for an alien species, but they’re nowhere to be found. It has artificial gravity and an artificial atmosphere, modified by Earth scientists to now be mostly habitable by humans. The generation ship/whale has become a tourist destination for the wealthy – a tropical island in space. But there is a tumor growing inside which requires surgery. Our surgeon wears a medical mech suit and burrows into the organism to root out the growth. It’s not the first time either. The entry point has become a pop-up city, comprised of numerous hazmat tents. Labs, engineering, sleeping quarters, recreational, etc. It’s a large operation. That’s just the beginning…
In the end, I ended up switching horses, and this was the new story seed: “An alien surgeon beams down into someone’s camp to remove a parasite from their brain stem. The alien needs it for a recipe.” As you’ll see, that plot morphed a bit – just like I like it. Enjoy!
Another piece of flash fiction “Grigori” has been posted here on the site. This is a small seed based on a simple concept that occurred to me long ago: What if Grigori Rasputin actually survived all of the murderous methods used on him? I wanted to figure out how he would have possibly lived through that and then where would we have gone to avoid further attempts on his life? Faking his own death would have been a good choice, considering none of the killers would have believed that he lived anyway. And having him survive at all would definitely involve some of the “sorcery” that he was often accused of.
This story required a little bit of historical research, as I wanted to know what else was going on in the timeline that could be tied in. As it turns out, he was killed just before New Year’s Eve in 1916 in Saint Petersburg. And since 1917 was a breakout year for Joseph Stalin, I decided that Grigori managed to fake his death and take over Stalin’s life. To work in the rumors of sorcery, I landed on the idea that Rasputin did a literal body transference using the mysterious spiritual hangups he had with horses. In actual historical tales, he had an uncanny ability to heal horses just through touch alone. He also apparently had a serious way with women and had captivating eyes that were almost lupine. Good stuff.
Taking all of those ingredients, I wrote a story about Grigori pulling himself from the river where he supposedly drowned. He encounters a young Joseph Stalin and uses his horse to partial heal himself before transferring his spirit and taking over the country beginning in 1917. If this were to be expanded into a novel length work, I’d probably figure out how he exited Stalin’s life and where he went next, over and over, all the way into the near future where he had worked his way to the top of the global shadow governments. It’s probably not going to happen for me, but maybe someone else would be interested in writing it!
There has been yet another writing challenge, this time a 250 word story involving “spirit”, “clapping” and “unconcious”. After discarding all of the obvious stories that come to mind, I focused on the clapping element, and wanted to do something different with it. There are a multitude of ways to interpret and convey clapping, but I settled on the applause angle. And why would there possibly be applause when a spirit is involved? How would one work in unconciousness other than just having someone faint from a ghostly encounter? Eventually, I settled on a ghost that performs to applause but then their costume falls unconcious. Talk about a wardrobe malfunction. Oh, man, that would have been a much better title. Just for reference, it’s called “The Method Actor” and it’s available here on the site.
Of course, once I’m done with a piece of flash fiction, I wonder how it would instead be written in full-length novel form. The ghost would need a fleshed out backstory, a motivation for sticking around a television studio, and a need to possess people so it could have some of the spotlight. The story would start way before the main character became a ghost and then continue through their death and the tribulations of acclamating to the spirit realm. The ghost would have to learn how to even possess someone and control them. What other characters would need to exist to support the story? How did the main character die? Accident, natural causes, murder are all the most obvious possibilities. So, something else happened to her. If you rule out those three types of death, that only leaves suicide and that’s boring. Which brings me to unnatural causes – something from the spirit realm selected her at random, or had some specific intent, or maybe there was a ritual involved. Hell, it could even be a secret project by a nefarious foreign government that went wrong. Or aliens. Let’s get crazy.
Anyway, let’s just say she had a genetic mutation that allowed her to achieve astral projection, and while she was skipping about town in spooky mode, her body was left alone too along and expired. It was a bit like leaving the milk out overnight. Oops.
Leading up to that moment though, she had spent a long few months playing with her ability and every time she used it, she became a little more unhinged. And in her daylife, she was a camera operator at a local television studio, just trying to get her foot in the door and working her way up to being in front of the cameras. She majored in theater production and media management after all.
It was on Halloween when she decided that a normal costume wasn’t sufficient – she really wanted to be someone else and began wondering about body possession. She managed it a few times with varying degrees of success and abject disaster. She had no idea that it would be become an essential part of her story later on.
After the scene where she possesses most of the studio audience, causing permanent damage to many of them in the process, she is revisited by spirits that have been pursuing her this whole time. They brought the muscle this time, too. They have some very unpleasant plans for her afterlife and her only hope is to completely replace the spirit of another person and take over their life permanently. I don’t know who it would be, but it would have to be someone from earlier in the story and she’d have to completely eradicate the displaced spirit, otherwise the afterlife police would be able to locate her.
I’ll certainly never write this novel, but it’s still fun to think what it might have been!
In response to a random writing prompt, I set out to write a story in exactly 100 words. I’ve never written a piece of fiction that short. After all, it was always daunting enough to write a story in 1,000 words. My biggest question was exactly what kind of story could possibly be told in 100 words?
Indepedently of this prompt, I had been thinking plenty in the recent months about humans and society. Asking questions of myself about how we could establish a government that was not subject to human nature. Most of human history has been marred by our own doing. Natural disasters and other environmental hazards have their place, but mostly it’s been us. A certain train of thought led me to the hypothetical situation of having a benevolent dictatorship in which the dictator was just a set of rules, like a super detailed and complex Constitution. It had all the logic and values already worked out in advance so whatever came up, there was a “best” answer that had nothing to do with human emotions and irrational behavior. If the entire world got onboard with it, there would never be another war, another revolution, or another riot.
It was one small step from there to arrive at an AI (Artificial Intelligence) that had all the answers – it would be our “oracle” and an impartial decision-maker.
That seed, by itself, offers a deep well of writing material, but that made it all the more obvious as a topic for a 100 word story. Marrying the two things, I ended up with “Computer-in-Chief” and quite liked how it turned out. It could easily balloon into a 75,000 word novel, and I may tackle that one day, but for now I’m content. Enjoy!
The second story in the Web of the Shepherds is Sidereal Mummy. As you might expect, it tells the story of another descendant of ancient lineage, specifically a lineage of mummies.
Layla Bitar is a woman whose lifelong mission is to undergo the mummification process that will allow her to transcend death and gain otherworldly abilities. She is the head of an empire of egyptian cultists in modern day Atlanta, GA. Their goal is to achieve the summoning of their god, but there are always wars brewing between different sects that distract her.
In this story, in addition to the struggle of maintaining order among her followers, and the taxing preparations for her own ritual, Layla has to overcome betrayal, assassination attempts and hostile takeovers. She must do all of this in order to maintain the strength of her community so that they can continue their mission to bring forth their god and establish dominance over the Earth and all of the other Shepherd lineages.
She’s certainly prepared to die, but she also fully intends to live again.
Sidereal mummies are the result of a prolonged scientific method and it is only the individual’s preparation which makes their living mummification possible. But Layla has her own methods…
Author’s Note: The name “Layla” is an ancient egyptian female name, meaning “born at night”, and “Bitar” is an arabic surname and is likely more customarily spelled al-Bitar.
The first story in Web of the Shepherds has been published and is the first warlock taste of this universe. It answers the question “Where can a warlock find the power to rescue his banished father?”
Luc Canul is a middle-aged man working retail security and going nowhere in life. His deceased grandfather apparently had other plans, and Luc learns of a long-kept secret that changes everything he knows about his family.
When Luc discovers that his dead father is actually trapped in another dimension, he finds himself racing to unlock his warlock powers so they can be reunited. But, trying to become powerful enough may just kill him.
Armed only with old family connections and a sense of urgency, Luc must defeat a bloodthirsty demon to access the raw infernal strength within himself. But is he prepared to die, if and when he fails?
Currently, this story is only available on Amazon, but in a few months it will be released in all of the other ebook outlets.
During Earth pre-history, a number of alien deities, called the Anunnaki, descended upon primitive mankind and took them under their care. They mentored their flock along during evolution, but they also sculpted them. It was not just their culture, but also their abilities. Thousands of years later, these civilizations are now lost.
However, there are still remnants among us, in the form of warlocks, mummies and prometheans. The Web of the Shepherds project is a series of short stories that are either directly or indirectly interconnected, each focusing on different paranormal beings in the urban fantasy genres. The ‘web’ is this very interconnected collection of stories.
- Human warlocks; powers are hereditary, father to son.
- Ghosts are spirits bound to the prime material plane by sheer will-power or a warlock curse.
- Werewolves are a result of a curse from any of several scattered and ancient tombs of an extinct people
- Dagons, or Merrow, are a fish people that now live in the sunken city of Atlantis
- Vampires are pathogenic but a specific process is required
- Mummies are the result of a scientific method. Their preparation makes them possible.
- Prometheans are created but a cult, stitching them and creating life with exotic meteors and lightning.
- Sitchkin are an alien-human hybrids named after a historian named Zecharia Sitchin, related to grays or planet Nibiru.
- Revenant and Gorgons are very rare and little is known about them
A few years back, I took part in NaNoWriMo for the first time. I had no idea what I was doing and there was no plan. I spontaneously decided the night before the event started, and just showed up at the keyboard the next morning. I learned a lot that month. Writing fifty thousand words without a plan was grueling for me, but when it was over, I was full of a new appreciation for what was possible, if you just pushed yourself.
Anyway, this post isn’t really about that bit of history. However, it is about the fact that it happened again. This Camp NaNoWriMo thing came along. I had heard of it before, of course, but never digested what it was. I assumed it was about taking a month off of work and renting a cabin in the woods with other writers. Apparently, that’s not how it works. There’s actually a virtual cabin you can join with other writers, and you can write between the cracks of life all month long. It’s a bit like the normal NaNoWriMo, except you’re not required to write a 50,000 word novel. You can set your own goals, whatever they may be.
On the eve of Camp NaNoWriMo 2019, I decided to do it. I figured, “Hey, I’ll be writing anyway – might as well make it a specific month-long project.” I wanted it to be low stress, so I set a low goal of 500 words per day for thirty days. That leads to a 15,000 word total, which I figured I could break up into three short stories. I’ve always wanted to write short stories that individually stood alone but also overlapped with events and characters that crossed-over with other stories. Perfect for this project. But what genre?
I considered and discarded all kinds of ideas. Then I landed on urban fantasy as a genre, even though I don’t know a whole lot about it. I only knew the tropes in vague terms – metro city, paranormal main character, supernatural adventures, etc. I decided quickly to use Atlanta, because I live here, but I didn’t want to use a wizard, vampire or necromancer as the main character. They’ve been done already, and I’m sure others have too. I decided to just collect a bunch of mythical monsters and use those, a different one for each story.
I’ve now planned out ten of these such stories, and the first three are happening this month. I‘m calling it the “Web of the Shepherds” series, for reasons I’ll explain later. I’ve already finished the first story, Sidereal Warlock, and I’m working on the next two, Mummy and Promethean. And along the way, I’ll probably find a way to tie these all into my world of Cromkhar and the Supers & Sorcery series. Because, let’s complicate things!
Up until this point, I’ve only ever offered updates to members of the reader’s group (aka people on the mailing list), but now I’ve also added a new short story to the bounty. It’s a better “thank you” and I feel good about it.
When considering what I should write for this project, I wanted it to be at least tangentially related to the Supers & Sorcery series, if not directly connected. I thought about writing some side stories or back stories for some of those characters, but decided those would be better received as collections that could be picked up after reading the whole series.
I went way back into my notebook, looking at the many other story ideas I jot down from time to time, trying to find something that gave me a spark. I found the story about a medieval farmer who gets his back pressed against the wall and is forced to become superhuman simply to survive. There are other comic and superhero origin stories that follow this trope, and I really feel that it works. The other component of this story is subverting a zombie trope, in that there are shambling undead in the story but they aren’t slow. They aren’t even 28 Days Later fast. These zombies happen to be super-charged monsters with speedster powers.
Another thing I tackled was the term “zombie” which is overused in modern mainstream entertainment and now actually feels out of place in a medieval fantasy setting. I still wanted to label them zombies, though, so I concocted a new word as a decent stand-in with a plausible explanation. Overall, I like the end result and I now have a character which I can bring into future Supers & Sorcery sequels. Win-win!