On Writers’ Groups

A few months back (in March, I think), I joined a Writers’ Group. A few weeks ago, it basically disbanded. It counts as the fourth such group I’ve ever joined. Anyhoo, I figured I would comment on what I’ve learned from such endeavors. Or, at least, give my opinions.

In my view, smaller is better. I say a maximum of five people is preferred. This latest one usually included about eight or so, at the meetings, and perhaps as many as fifteen in the group in total. And, of course, everyone wanted to expand and get more people. Not me. I didn’t mention it to anybody, but I wanted fewer.

There are several benefits of working with only a few people instead of a lot. First off, it is much easier to digest the comments of four other people instead of fourteen. Secondly, you will also have a better chance of getting your work looked at in a reasonable amount of time. In this last group, two people would submit their work on any given week, and the next week we would discuss it. That worked pretty well for a while, like when it was eight people, because then you would only have to wait a month to get more feedback as you cycled through again. Unfortunately, though, as the group got bigger, the time between your submissions grew. And I, for one, join writers’ groups primarily to get feedback, not give. I give in exchange for that, but my primary interest is still getting. Call me selfish, if you like, but I think that is the primary goal. Thirdly, the feedback you do get is usually much more in depth. With a large number of people, it just seems likely to degenerate into little more than proofreading. You simply don’t have time to get fourteen different commentaries on a ten page short story, unless you spend like five hours at each meeting… but who wants to do that?

I also think it is a good idea to focus on a single genre like speculative fiction, or fantasy, or what-have-you. Just keep it in one genre if you can. For myself, it would be fantasy. In this last group, we had poetry, sci-fi, fantasy, memoir, romance, and I’m sure a few more. It’s all very interesting, but I don’t really know how to comment on any of those except fantasy, and maybe sci-fi. Don’t get me wrong. You do learn things reading different genres, but I think you get the most bang for your buck from a genre-focused group.

So, to sum up, my ideal group would consist of five people, all involved in fantasy. We would meet every other week and we would focus on two people out of the group at a time.

Don’t know what else to say on that topic, so I’ll close it here.

Again, An Author Update

Well, it’s late September, 2016. Time for another author update, because I’ve got nothing better to do. I’m still editing my novel, The Citadel, and making progress. I’ve also finally decided to go ahead with my plans for my novella, Prism. I’ve read it over several times and I finally think it is ready to go. I have a Cover Reveal for Prism coming up on November 16th for which I will give more information later on. I still haven’t heard anything about my short story, but that’s okay; it takes time to get these things reviewed. When you’re a writer, any project will require quite a bit of time spent waiting for a reply after submission. Well, at least, most of the time. There have been places that have gotten back to me within a week, but those are usually rejections anyway.

My writers’ club is now defunct, which, I suppose, is bad news, but in my opinion, it was getting a little too large and unwieldy anyway. Everyone else wanted to increase the size of the group, and I think I would have preferred a smaller group. But it served its purpose; it boosted my confidence in my writing: all the people there—each one a writer—liked my stuff and none of them was a relative or friend who could be biased.

Anyhoo, that’s all I wanted to say.

Apologies for the Cat

ConfuciusFor the record, I am not politically correct. In fact, I have a very strong urge to do the exact opposite of what the politically correct say I should do. That said, I used to be a Platonist and was against the mocking of other people’s religion. The constructive criticism of such was okay as long as it was done politely and with decorum, but the attempt to “shout down with laughter” I thought to be a very unsound and distasteful approach in the etiquette of argument. And yet, a few weeks/months ago (5/28/16 to be precise), through the personage of my cat, Confucius, I mocked a certain Sheikh Saleh Bin Fawzan Al-Fazwan for trying to ban people from taking pictures with cats. He believed that people who took pictures with cats were becoming “too Western.” In response, I ridiculed him here. Now, the Platonist in me (and the Christian, as well) feel obliged to offer the Sheik an apology. So, I apologize to Sheik Saleh Bin Fawzan Al-Fazwan—although I’m sure he has no idea I exist. I should not have mocked him and, by extension, even Mohammed and Islam. It was poor taste on my part. Sorry.

Anyway, in my opinion, banning pictures with cats seems very odd. If you want to make it some kind of religious tenet, I suppose you can, but it seems kind of a trivial thing to me. Kind of on the level of not eating meat on Fridays in Lent according to my own Faith (Catholicism). I was always of the mind that how you treated other people was paramount. Ritual was just ritual, and not of major consequence. Kind of: “I desire love, not sacrifice.” God wants us to love Him and each other, not get lost in the minutiae of religious rules and strictures. The older, wiser me realizes that some people get very upset if their rituals are infringed upon.  Anyway, I think the more pressing problem for Islam is the segment of its practitioners who are going around killing everyone and everything they can. I think the Sheik and his religion would be better served if he addressed that problem and not the current celebrity status of cats. I am free to criticize the loons of Isis all I want, but they probably won’t listen to me, as I am an outsider. Indeed, they probably won’t listen to the Sheik either. But potential recruits? There the Sheik might have a more substantial impact. Muslim youths would surely listen to him far sooner than they would me. And he could do so much good, if he directed his energies there.

Just Another Author Update

Well, it’s August, 2016 and once again I find that I have little to write about for this blog. In fact, I haven’t made a substantial post on this blog for quite some time. So, with nothing better to do, I’m going to give another author update. The last few days have been difficult; I’ve been dealing with mental illness/antichrist issues. Which means I’ve done very little in terms of writing and editing this week. But that’s okay. I’ll get to it eventually.

As of now, The Citadel (Book III) is currently entering its third draft. I suspect it will take at least another year to get it in its final form. I also have a novella, Prism, which was all set to go, but then I submitted parts of it for critiquing to my writers’ group. It consists of basically four chapters. After rereading it, I’ve decided that Chapters I and II are kind of slow. Although the characters and world are unique, I’m feeling I have to do something to those Chapters, especially chapter two. So, I haven’t released it yet.

I’ve also got a really cool short story that is doing the rounds, hoping to be accepted by an ezine. Plus, a second short story—also cool, in my opinion—that has completed several edits and is almost ready for submission.

Anyway, that’s where I stand at the moment.

Interview and Promotion on Megan Cashman’s Site

I have a guest spot on a fellow writer’s blog today. The writer’s name is Megan Cashman. We met (on-line, that is—we’ve never met in person) a couple years back on one of my previous blog tours. Anyway, she offered to do a promotion for me when I released my latest book, The Sceptre of Morgulan, back in November 2015. Unfortunately, at the time I lost the email amidst the chaos of events and never replied. When I finally discovered my mistake—about a month ago—I dropped her a line to apologize and she offered again. Which is way cool of her. Anyway, she’s agreed to promote my books on her site. The promotion should last one week or so. The books in question include my series From the Ashes of Ruin. The series starts with the prequel, Drasmyr, continues with The Children of Lubrochius and then The Sceptre of Morgulan. My series is primarily a fantasy story, but it does have strong horror elements running through it. Specifically, it features a gothic-style vampire much more in the line of Bram Stoker’s Dracula than Stephanie Meyers Twilight. My vampire is evil and diabolical. You wouldn’t want to date him. There are also a number of demons scattered throughout the series, so there is that dark element as well.

Anyway, you can find my promotion on Megan Cashman’s site here: http://wp.me/p2q6dm-lM

Please go check it out and lend her your support. You’ll also be able to find the coupon codes on the bottom of the page for a promotion running simultaneously on Smashwords. If you use both codes, you’ll save six dollars. SIX DOLLARS! WOO HOO! (And spend only $2) Anyway, check it out and leave a comment.

Confucius Speaks

ConfuciusMeow. Time for another politically incorrect post.

It has reached my feline ears that a certain Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia by the name of Sheikh Saleh Bin Fawzan Al-Fazwan has banned people from taking pictures with cats. Don’t believe me? Although it is beneath the celestial dignity of a feline like myself to make false claims or be forced to support my claims for verification, I’ll present the following evidence anyway: http://maudmanyore.com/2016/05/saudi-arabian-cleric-bans-people-from-taking-pictures-with-cats.html and http://static.independent.co.uk/s3fs-public/styles/story_medium/public/thumbnails/image/2016/05/26/17/saudi-cats2.jpg and … well, google it. See? I told you so.

The Sheikh claims the ban on such pictures is an attempt to keep people from becoming “too Western.” Clearly, he is a Westernaphobe as well as a felinaphobe. Pesky Muslim Sheikh. Although perhaps I should take the whole business as a compliment: visual expressions of Mohammed are condemned as blasphemy in the Muslim world; is the Sheikh trying to make a similar connection with cats? If so, I fear I must correct the record: us, cats, are not major religious/political leaders in this world. We certainly don’t deserve the status of a Mohammed or a Jesus or a Buddha for our efforts and achievements in our earthly lives. If the truth be known, we could earn such, if we wanted to, we just prefer to spend our time having our chins rubbed and that place behind our ears scratched.

I hope that does not earn me a fatwa. If so, I’ll have to respond with a meowtwa.

Author Update

Well, it’s May, 2016. I have nothing else to write about tonight, so I figured I would do an author update to fill people in regarding my current writerly adventures. I’ve joined a Writer’s Group, which is cool. I’ve been itching to do so for several years, now; I just was having difficulty finding one. But no worries, I found one that meets at the local library. Actually, I wasn’t the one to find them: One of my associates at the Food Shelf found the ad in the newspaper and cut it out for me. Woo hoo! Thank you, Dorothy!

Anyway, I was in a big slump for almost three months, maybe even longer. But the Writer’s Club rescued me from the doldrums. They brought a successful published author in to give a talk and that talk got me psyched for writing again. I’ve churned out, oh, I don’t know, seven chapters in about five weeks or so. Very productive. I think I have maybe one or two chapters left in total and then I will have finished the rough draft of Book III of From the Ashes of Ruin. Also, I’m still trying to publish a few short stories. Oh, and I have a novella in the works which I shall shortly release and give away for free. It has nothing to do with my current series, but it’s a cool tale nonetheless. It was kind of an escape from the series; it let me relax my brain and chew on something different for a while. (At the time of posting, I have officially completed the rough draft of From the Ashes of Ruin.)

Anyway, that’s the news!

I’ve Got It: My Next Novel Will Feature …

This might be a bad idea from a politically correct point-of-view; I might make myself into a pariah by posting this. But I’m not politically correct. If the truth be told, I can’t stand the whole movement. I get it: if there’s a man standing next to me in a dress, that’s no cause to beat him senseless or publicly ridicule him. But I still think it’s a little weird. And I think I’m within my rights to raise an eyebrow. Sorry.


I find it amusing as I hop from ezine to ezine and peruse the wish lists of the respective editors. A whole bunch of them are looking for LGBTQ (or whatever) literature and all sorts of variants on that theme. Basically, the characters in our stories are getting stranger and stranger, more and more removed from “normal” (if there is such a thing–the PC movement denies that there is; I’m not so sure). I suppose that’s natural as a perfectly “normal” character would probably be boring. But it seems to me that it is possible to get lost in the weeds of details, striving to make your character so unique it becomes its own bizarre amalgamation of traits and randomness; a string of characteristics that mock the whole notion of character.


So, in light of the vast PC wisdom, and the muse that inspires me, my next novel will feature …

a cis-gendered Hispanic male albino lesbian with a penchant for Cheerios and heavy metal music. His love interest, of course, will be a trans-gendered female weightlifting Sumo wrestler from Alpha Centauri with seven fingers on her right hand and an extra row of teeth; she suffers from psoriasis.


I should apologize for that. Maybe I can make it good by claiming they are both hobgoblins. Am I allowed to tease hobgoblins? Or are they off-limits, too?


Confucius Speaks

Confucius            Mr. Matthew Ryan, my presumptive owner, is all broken up over the results of the Republican primary over the past week. Being a cat, I am not as delicate as the feeble human, so I will be filling in this entry for him while he pays homage to the porcelain god sans alcohol.

I, too, am utterly flabbergasted that Mr. Trump is the presumptive nominee for the Republican ticket. I mean, seriously? I’m only a cat but I don’t really remember him giving much more than the occasional clever insult or nickname to his opponents. Policy matters were completely out of the discussion.

Well, the primary is all but over, and it looks like we are going to have a choice between Trump and Clinton. Mrs. Clinton, courtesy of her e-mail scandal, belongs in prison. Mr. Trump courtesy of, well, just being himself, belongs in a psych ward (is that the correct spelling of ‘psych’?). A potential prison inmate or a mental case; that is America’s choice. Congratulations! And you humans wonder why us cats think we are superior?

So, on to the meat of the matter. I believe it is time I made a proper endorsement. And given the options, I hereby fervently endorse … Ted Cruz for President. I know he dropped out, but perhaps we can start a movement to see how many people can write in his name at the ballot box. Our country needs a good strong conservative. Otherwise, we’ll go the way of Venezuela and run out of milk and other necessities … like cat litter, litter boxes, and everything else in between. It would be a travesty, a travesty if that happened!

Vote Cruz 2016. Join the Movement!

Okay, there is also the Libertarian Party. Vote Austin Peterson 2016!

From the Gamer’s File: The Invisible Maze Trap

Imagine, if you would, your brave party of adventurers enters a one hundred foot by one hundred foot square room. It appears to be empty. As your party looks across the empty space, a door on the far side opens and a minotaur in plate mail (because if you’re going to use a minotaur to intimidate a party, you might as well put him in plate mail 🙂 ) walks through. While you watch in fear, the minotaur takes a step forward and taps his axe on the floor in front of him. Immediately, a ten foot by ten foot square on the floor swings down like a trap door and then swings back up. The minotaur turns to his right, taps the floor with his axe and nothing happens. He moves to the right. The warrior in your group draws his sword and charges. He only goes ten feet before a ten foot by ten foot section of the floor swings down like a trap door, dumping him in a pit of acid below. You can hear his screams through the floor. Do you understand what’s going on? Can you outwit the trap?


I used this trap on one of my gaming groups many years ago. It was actually inspired by an encounter in another DM’s game where I misinterpreted the use of a cube of force in AD&D. In any event, my gaming group never did figure out what was going on. They managed to cross the room and I think they may have dumped the minotaur in the acid himself (which is a weakness of the trap), but they never fully grasped the concept. It was an invisible maze.


Basically, as a DM I had a map of the room. On that map, the one hundred foot by one hundred foot room was represented by a drawing of a ten square by ten square room where each square represented a ten foot by ten foot square. That’s a little confusing, but it’s basically how most DM maps work. Anyway, on the map I had drawn a maze where every wall in the maze was drawn on a line separating two squares on the map. They were never drawn across the square, only on one or more of its borders. So the maze was there, but it was invisible. Whenever the plane of a “wall” in the maze was broken, that activated the trap door that dropped whatever had entered the square into the pit of acid below. I was kind with the acid. There was an exit down below so that the characters could crawl out of the acid and return back up to the maze atop. So, basically, if you crossed a wall, you fell into the acid. If you moved diagonally between two squares, you fell into the acid. The only way through the maze was to “find” the correct pathway through the walls. Like I said above, there is a flaw in this trap. Basically, when the minotaur got too close to the party, if I recall correctly, they just tapped his square and dumped the minotaur into the acid. I’m not sure if I permitted that to work or not. I don’t remember.


Anyway, the party never did figure out what the trap was or quite how it worked. They got through it, but it was largely from dumb luck, if I recall. This trap remains one of my favorite self-designed D&D traps of all time. I’m quite proud of this one.