Short Stories

The other day I was approached by Chris Rosser, amazing author of ‘The Weaver’s Boy’, Book One in the Lords of Skeinhold, about the possibility of contributing a short story to an anthology project* he was considering.

*N.B. This is all hypothetical with a very specific theme, don’t go bombarding Chris with your short stories!

Now, why would he approach me, an unpublished writer, you might wonder? Well, he is currently beta-reading my WIP, so hopefully that means he thinks my work is good enough that a short story of mine would be enjoyable reading. It is a huge compliment, but alas, I have been focusing exclusively on novel writing – and having been ‘working on’ ‘The Blood of the Spear’ for ten-ish years (and world building t for even longer), I’ve never written a short story in my life.

I haven’t even read many. My reading habits, again, tend to focus on novels – big epic tomes at that – because I like to sink into a story, a world, and really get to know characters and I just somehow assumed that short stories couldn’t get me there. That being sad I have read shorts by GRRM set in Westeros, and shorts by Janny Wurts set in the wider universe of Paravia.

However, more recently I have been branching out reading, being (forced) by both Chris Rosser and Deck Matthews, to read their novellas and short stories. As I said, I haven’t read many previous, and I have never looked into the art of writing a short story or novella.

Now, I have some discarded prologues from ‘The Blood of the Spear‘ that I have put into a folder called ‘Shorts’, with the idea that I might revisit these and expand them some. Or at the very least, turn them into character sketches that might get released one day. But I really don’t have anything ready now, or that I could even work on at the moment as I continue to think about BotS and the greater series.

But Chris’ question got me thinking. What could I write a short story about? Or even a novella? The answer came to me fairly quickly as the muse would have it. I have two characters in BotS who turn up approximately halfway into the story. They are important characters, and as they join my main cohort their back story is left as rather mysterious. Not in the ‘what’s the secret’ kind of way, but more along the lines of ‘there is a story here’. Yesterday they, the characters, gave me the bare bones of that story and I have started a new document in the ‘Shorts’ folder with the notes on how they met and why they travel together.

Now, all I have to do is look into the art of short stories (and given I take after GRRM with the whole ‘ten thousand words is me clearing my throat’ thing, it will likely be a novella) flesh out the bare bones into an actual plot and get some writing done.

It always reassures me when the idea for a new story comes to me. Often time writing BotS I will become so immersed that I wonder what is next and panic, thinking I have no other story in my mind. But then I remember my ‘Shorts’ folder, and my ‘Future Projects’ folder, and my head is again filled with ideas. It’s exciting!

The Long Way Down

The Long Way Down
Daniel Faust Book 1
By Craig Schaefer

Nobody knows the seedy underbelly of Las Vegas like Daniel Faust, a sorcerer for hire and ex-gangster who uses black magic and bullets to solve his clients’ problems. When an old man comes seeking vengeance for his murdered granddaughter, what looks like a simple job quickly spirals out of control.

Soon Daniel stands in the crossfire between a murderous porn director; a corrupt cop with a quick trigger finger; and his own former employer, a racket boss who isn’t entirely human. Then there’s Caitlin: brilliant, beautiful, and the lethal right hand of a demon prince.

A man named Faust should know what happens when you rub shoulders with demons. Still Daniel can’t resist being drawn to Caitlin’s flame as they race to unlock the secret of the Etruscan Box, a relic that people all over town are dying — and killing — to get their hands on. As the bodies drop and the double-crosses pile up, Daniel will need every shred of his wits, courage and sheer ruthlessness just to survive.

Daniel Faust knew he was standing with one foot over the brink of hell. He’s about to find out just how far he can fall.


I first came across Schaefer’s name with the inclusion of a more recent novel of his – Sworn to the Night – in the 2018 SPFBO.

Now, I am one of those readers who, on coming to an author with an extensive back catalogue, I has to start with the first. Especially as his website does advise that some of the books overlap through a shared world.

Luckily, I really enjoyed it! What’s even better, is that he has written a lot of books. So, I am going to have quite a few books to read – and what bookworm doesn’t love a large TBR pile?

As with most Urban Fantasy, The Long Way Down was written in first person. There was a time when I actively avoided first person books, and truth be told I can still find myself reluctant to pick them, but Schaefer writes with an assurance that belies this being a first novel. I was instantly captivate and really interested in learning more about Daniel and this world of Schaefer’s world. In fact, I think the description on his sites says it best:

Las Vegas. It’s a city of big winners and bigger losers, where fortunes tumble with a roll of the dice. Under all the glitz and sleaze, though, there’s another Vegas: a city infested by monsters in human skin, drenched in occult corruption. It’s the kind of place where a dash of black magic and a gun could be the only thing standing between you and the gates of hell. The kind of place a man like Daniel Faust calls home.

Faust is nobody’s hero. He’s a card-carrying villain by trade, a thief and sorcerer just trying to make a dishonest buck in Sin City. He doesn’t have to go looking for trouble, though: trouble finds him. Surviving by his wits, he does his best to save the day (if he absolutely has to), save his own skin (preferably), and beat the odds on his way to the next big score.

Reminiscent of Butcher’s Dresden Files, if a bit darker, The Long Way Down is a like a pulpy, noir detective novel – in the best possible way – with a shot of the occult. The action is thrilling and Schaefer’s page turning skills are on point.

I am looking forward to continuing me reading journey into Faust’s world and highly recommend it for lovers or urban fantasy in the P.I. Noir territory.

First Drafting

As I wait for the final beta-readers to get back to me before I send the manuscript off to Bothersome Words, I have begun work on book two.

Image by qian

And wow, am I rusty!

I completed the first draft of The Blood of the Spear back in 2010.

If you are wondering what in the world have I been doing between then and now, well, you aren’t the only one.

A standard piece of advice that new writers receive, is to put their finished work away for a length of time (that length varies depending on who is offering the advice). Well, I did this. I did this a number of times.

Of course, not having done any writing courses, or even read any ‘how to’ books, I only had a vague idea of what happens next. I knew that some writers had a number of drafts, so I embarked on ‘rewriting’ – this ended up just being a number of re-reads and pushing words around.

I did send it out to beta-readers, and I received feedback – luckily none of it was horrible, although it would have been justified back then I am sure. Still, I didn’t really know what I needed to do next, so the manuscript was put away again as I continued to think and reading and day dream about being an author.


Then, approximately fifteen months ago, I had an idea that changed a quite a bit of the back story, and required a significant amount of re-writing so I set to it. As it turns out I had learnt something over the years of rewriting because I changed a great many things in the manuscript as I went.

You see, over this period of time I had become friends with a number of other writers and editors, and through conversations with them and the reviewing of other writers works, I have now developed a better understanding of the steps I need to go through with a manuscript once I type ‘the end’.

But while I have been writing over the last five-odd years (years that I was actually working on the manuscript) it has mostly been about ‘editing’ and tweaking, not first draft writing. When I was doing the first draft, I was writing approximately two thousand words a day, seven days a week. I had managed to turn off the inner critic – who wanted every word to be perfect – and just got the words onto the page. It’s been eight years since I wrote like that, and now heading back into a first draft I am finding it a struggle.

I understand the work I have been doing is, in fact, writing, and it has been beneficial. I have learnt a lot and – in my humble opinion – my writing has improved. It’s just been a different type of writing, and first draft writing – at least for me – uses a different part of the brain.

But I’ll get there!

P.S. Of course there is that other piece of advice that first time writers are given also, and that is to trunk (put away and don’t take back out) their first novel. The idea being that this is the novel you are learning on and the things you will need to fix are just too numerous. Yeah, while I ma not actually get this book published first in the gran scheme of things, it will see the light of day.


The first, and last, novel by Robert Jordan

A week or so ago TOR made the announcement that they are going be publishing the first – and last? – novel by Robert Jordan.

The story goes that back in ’79, Tom Doherty bought the book when he was publisher for Ace, but for whatever reason it was never published. That it is ‘a standalone fantasy story told with implacable momentum, readers new to Robert Jordan will find Warrior of the Altaii an easy gateway to the author’s artistry.’

I am both excited and apprehensive.

The Wheel of Time was/is very important to me, and Jordan spent so many years working on it, writing it that we fans never got to experience his writing in other works. Yes, I am aware he wrote several Conan novels, but while they are his words, it’s not his world building, and Jordan’s world building is amazing. Yes, he also wrote The Fallon Blood under the name Reagan O’Neal, but this isn’t fantasy. I did try the first novel but didn’t connect it with for whatever reason – maybe I should give it another go, I don’t know.

In any case, as much as I love The Wheel of Time, I was always excited about what he might do after it was concluded, he’d made mention of a story set in a land similar to that of the Seanchan Empire of the WoT books – which as really exciting, in fact I am pretty sure he’s sold the series to TOR but was planning on finishing WoT first – as well as what he called ‘Outrigger’ novels set after the Last Battle of the WoT books I believe. These things were not to be however as Jordan passed away in September 2007, before concluding WoT.

So, to hear his first fantasy novel is finally going to be published, and that it contains ‘themes that Jordan continued to develop in The Wheel of Time’ is exciting, but I wonder how much did Jordan’s writing change from the time he wrote this first fantasy novel to the time that The Eye of the World was released? I guess we will have to wait and see.

Regardless, I will be buying this one for sure.

WIP Origin

In 1985 I discovered Dragons of Autumn Twilight in the school library, I didn’t know anything about Dragonlance or D&D at the time, I had never heard of Tolkien or Feist or Eddings or Brooks. I saw this book, and it was a story about dragons and magic! I had to read it. Up until then, I had never known/realised that books could be the window into another world, a world that I had only glimpsed in TV shows and Saturday morning cartoons. Dragons of Autumn Twilight fired my imagination. Then and there, I knew I wanted be a writer. And I wanted to read more epic fantasy novels now that I knew it was a thing.

I searched through all the books in my school library, and the local bookshops. The secondhand bookshop in Dee Why became my favorite place to search trough piles of old paperbacks and discover books from the US that were not in the Aussie bookshops.

I wanted to read epic fantasy with a single minded passion. And I wanted to write. I wanted to rewrite every book I read. I wanted to create something made other people feel the way these books made me feel and I wanted to play in the sandbox of my imagination and world build.

Then in 1990 found ‘The Eye of the World’ in the local library and my life changed completely. The desire to write became a passion that is still with me to this day, even when I became so lost in other writers works that I lost sight of my own. You see, I wanted to write but I didn’t have a story.

So I kept making notes, drawing maps, crafting ideas and reading other peoples work. Then one day I say a piece of fantasy art by Larry Elmore – an artist employed by Wizards of Coast, whose work I admire greatly – of two men fighting in a snow covered landscape. One wearing the trappings of a warrior or knight, and the other the robes of a magic-user (okay, the headdress makes me think shaman, but I transposed magic-user over it). I was captivated by the image and it made me wonder who the two men were, and why were the they fighting?

Deadlock by Larry Elmore

From these musings the back story of my two half-brothers grew, and the why of ‘why they were fighting’ gave me my story!

Of course nothing is a easy as it seems. I had no experience writing, I had not gone on to university after high-school, I did a six month Tafe course and then jumped into the retail work force full-time. I wanted to write and you need a job to support you until you are a international bestselling author, right?

Well, it took me many years until I had a first draft done. And it has taken more years to get the manuscript to the state it is at now (although the last six drafts have happened much faster then the 20-ish years it took to get a first draft ‘done’). And this is still not the end, but it’s getting closer to it.

Who knows if The Blood of the Spear will get published or not? But I will always be reading, looking at art for inspiration for my own world building and writing regardless of what happens next.

The First of Shadows

The First of Shadows
The Riven Realm Book One
By Deck Matthews


How do you kill a shadow?

As a raging storm descends on the Blasted Coast, the crippled young rigger, Caleb Rusk, meets a stranger on the road. Little does he know that the encounter will pull him into a conflict that threatens everything he holds dear—and change the course of his life forever.

Meanwhile, in the Capital of Taralius, a string of inexplicable deaths have captured the attention of the Ember Throne. Second Corporal Avendor Tarcoth is tasked with uncovering the truth behind a danger that could threaten the very fabric of the Realm.


142 pages
Published by echo Enduring Media
Published on January 22, 2019
Author’s webpage
Buy the book

I purchased this book.


For anyone new to the blog and my reviews, you would be forgiven for thinking this was Deck Matthews fan page. It’s not, although I am indeed a fan.

About three weeks ago I came across Matthews via his varkaschronicles account on IG. He is by trade a designer and it shows in his posts which are quite eye catching, not to mention somewhat surreal because if I go off his posts alone, he’s reading, or has read, every book in my own library. That’s what first caught my attention. Then I saw an image of his map for the world – or continent – of Varkas (love me a good map!) So, I went to his website. He had a sample of this novella up and I liked it enough that I promptly pre-ordered it, and bought the two short stories he’d already released. I loved them both (and I am not a huge short story fan) hence the flood of ‘omg, I love Deck Matthews’ on this site recently. It’s true though. I do.

This novella marks the beginning of Matthews ‘Riven Realm’ series (I am unsure at this point how many books are planned, I hope it’s a few because I don’t want to stop reading) and gives us more depth to world of Varkas that he had started to reveal in his short stories. In ‘The First of Shadows’ we meet some great characters that I am very keen to get to know more about. We have the mysterious drifter whose opening scene so captivated me, the crippled Caleb Rusk – my favourite, I can’t wait to see how he grows! – the corporal Avendor, the sage Tiberius, the half-fey woman, Palawen and the Tanner, a veteran of the most recent Frost War.

I quickly came to love all these characters and Matthews has a great sense of pacing. He builds a chapter up, and then cuts you off to start a new one! He’s definitely got that whole ‘just one more chapter’ thing down pat. In fact, if I had started reading this at night, rather than at 11am in the morning, I think I would have been very late to bed!

And teasers. He’s great at teasing you with an idea, with some information that hints but doesn’t fully explain – yet – so you keep going, not just to find the answer but cause it’s a great story.

Matthews is all about the tension. And this only a freaking novella!

But we also have to talk about his endings. I think Matthews does endings very well. I loved the ending of ‘The Melding Thief’, and the ending of ‘The First of Shadows’ – o.m.g GIVE ME THE NEXT BOOK NOW! It is again one of those tantalising snippets that sets up the next book and has you hanging out for more.

If this is what his novellas are like, I cannot wait for him to start writing a Jordan-esque sized Varkas series (or at least ‘full-sized’), because this, THIS, is the type of epic fantasy and writing I live for. A world that is entirely its own. Varkas is a completely different world to earth and while aesthetically you can assign some imagery to a medieval Europe, the culture is clearly different. Honestly, think The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Stormlight Archives, even The Forgotten Realms in scope. All the (to me) great fantasy authors do what Matthews has begun to do here.

If you are a fan of Jordan, Sanderson, Brett, Weeks or Martin, then take my advice and get in on the ground floor of Deck Matthews career. I am sure it’s going to be a great ride!

The Melding Thief

The Melding Thief
The Varkas Chronicles – Short Tales 2
By Deck Matthews


Kelven Strall thought he’d left the life of thievery behind him. Now he’s dying. The black lung ravages his body, and with two young daughters to think of, he makes one last theft. Pursued by the hunters of the Stone Seat, he flees toward home and what’s left of his life—until a chance encounter with the magus known as the Ravenwalker.

He offers Kelven a deal. One last job, in exchange for the Ravenwalker’s help. All he needs to do is sneak the magus into the castle of a rogue sorcerer.

38 pages
Published by Echo Enduring Media
Published on November 09, 2018
Author’s webpage
Buy the book

I purchased this book.


This morning I sat down and read The Melding Thief, the second story in Deck Matthews world of the Varkas Chronicles – Short Tales.

I enjoyed it just as much as I did the first, In The Tower of the Witching Tree. Matthews is building an intriguing fantasy world that really want to spend a lot more time in. World building is as big a thing for me as good writing and Deck Matthews is excelling at both for me. It is a short tale so I can’t really talk about the plot without giving too much away, but I while thoroughly enjoyed it all I found the final scene to be beautifully written.

I’m very eager to get my hands on his novella – and am dying for a full length novel. Again Deck Matthews writing is ideal for fans of Brooks, Weeks and Sanderson.