Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Revisiting the Making of a Goal Sandwich

Last December, I did a Toastmasters speech about setting goals, and I thought, as the year winds down to a conclusion--and won't we be glad to see the back of it?--that I would reprise this entry from last year and expand upon it a little.

To recap that post, a goal has three parts, and those parts can be equated to the making a sandwich.

First, you set a goal. This is equivalent to deciding you are hungry and NEED a sandwich.

Now, you may not NEED to set a goal, but if you WANT to focus your efforts, it is where you start. You can see from that earlier post that my goal in 2015 was to submit something everyday for the year. In 2016, it was to make $5000.

Your goal can be simpler: write 100 words a day; submit to 5 new markets; find a writing group.
Or, it can be even more ambitious: get a New York publishing contract; land an agent; write 5000 words a day.

The important thing is to set a goal in the first place.

Secondly, you work to make that goal happen. Make the sandwich.

It was hard work to make that submission a day goal a reality--but I did it. In fact, I actually made over 400 submissions that year. Some days, it was a tiny submission--like a haiku sent to Haikuniverse. Some days it was a novel. The important thing was to submit something.

Getting to $5000 this year...didn't happen. But I got to over $2700...which was over a thousand more than my best year since I started keeping track.

Pushing for a goal helps you focus. It can increase your output. It gives you an amazing sense of accomplishment as you hit milestones. And, even if you don't reach the goal--working toward it makes you feel in control of your work.

The third section of the process is to reward success--eat the sandwich.

This is not a step you can skip. If you don't reward a successful goal's completion, you have given yourself no incentive to set another goal. However, make sure that your reward doesn't sabotage your NEXT goal.

For example, when I completed the submission a day goal, my reward was a few days off...and that really destroyed the goal to submit one thing a week that I made this year.

And, don't beat yourself up if you don't complete a goal. No, I didn't make my goals this year. However, I worked probably harder than ever to sell more books at conventions, to find new shows to sell at, to submit to higher paying markets. And next year, I will try again.

If you don't make your goals, adjust the next year. Build on what works. Re-evaluate what doesn't. Next year, I will be trying to write a piece a day--this is building on the submission a day goal of 2015. I will be shooting for $3500 in revenue. Still more than I made this year, but a more realistic advance on 2016's figures.

What are your goals? How will you accomplish them?  I'd love to hear from you. :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Movie Review -- "Arrival"

The science fiction film "Arrival" has been promoted as "a movie about alien visitors for people who don't like movies about alien visitors."  Put another way, it's a science fiction movie which connects on a human level (or, at least aspires to.)

Speaking as a writer of the paranormal genre, I hope for a time when science fiction gains not only the respect of the general public but a means of connection with people who may not be science-minded or given to flights of fancy.  Science fiction is largely dismissed as the realm of the outsider, the "geek," the "nerd", the "loser."  Largely because it offers no connection with human life and drama; only with dreams and speculations which connect mainly with our child-like wonder.  Something which (sadly) we're expected to grow out of.

But, "Arrival" is a science fiction film for adults.  (In fact, speaking as a Boston resident, it was the only science fiction film I can recall being run at Kendall Square, a cinema that generally runs only art films.)  The point of view character is a linguist named Louise Banks, played with a marvelously human combination of strength and vulnerability by Amy Adams.  She is a mother raising a daughter.  Years slip by in a heartbeat.  We see glimpses of the child telling her mother she loves her.  The teenager yelling at her mother that she hates her.  And, the heart-rending tragedy of the mother at her daughter's deathbed.  Life presented as a misty, dream-like vignette which introduces us to a character we care about.

And then, the familiar, the tragic, the human comes into direct contact with something outside human experience.  Extraterrestrial visitation.  Huge, enigmatic objects from space set down all over the world.  No one can guess at their intentions, but of course the world is on hair-trigger alert.  Each nation sets up a team of translators to approach the seemingly impossible task of learning to communicate with a non-human intelligence.  And, ironically, at the very time when the nations of humanity should be talking to each other and comparing notes, the nations instead stop talking to each other altogether.  Instead of a collaboration that unites the world, the first alien encounter becomes a race to see which nations can get the aliens to cough up superior weapons technology first.  Meanwhile, the radio and TV shock jocks are criticizing the American president for not making a show of military strength.  It's all sadly familiar.  A dark look at human nature.  The theme is of course communication, or the lack thereof.  And, finding a common point of reference.

But, the protagonist, Banks, is the redeeming face of humanity.  Her quiet strength and gentle but determined hunger for knowledge drives her to try to understand the incomprehensible.  She has an academic intellect combined with a mother's patience.  It seems almost with love that she tries to make herself understood by beings who are as opaque as they are fearsome.  Banks peers out with her big, questing eyes through a viewport at towering, dark beings who, shrouded in white mist resemble a cross between giant squid and uprooted tree trunks.  Their language looks like circular squiggles of the type a child would make with finger paints and a mother would pin to a refrigerator.  But, Banks must find a deeper meaning in them, all while managing her budding romance with a man on her linguistics team.

The action is slow, testing the audience's patience and attention, but it is the quiet melancholy of the human drama intermingling with the unknown and the looming threat of Armageddon that holds the audience.  The film is about understanding, patience and compassion overcoming fear and animal instinct, but it's also about learning to look at life from a completely unfamiliar perspective.  The alien concept of time, it turns out, is circular, rather than linear, as ours is.  Reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five," this tale offers a holistic, circular view of life that not only manages to endure the tragedy of death and separation, but even to embrace it as a cosmic force that shapes us into who we are.  The ending (or, beginning?) is sad and sweet and brings the circle round in a strange and beautiful way.  Not a conventional happy ending, to be sure, but one that makes you think, which is what science fiction (good science fiction, that is) is supposed to do.  But, this one also makes you feel.

A story like "Arrival" proves science fiction can come of age as a respectable medium which bridges the gap between the child-like dreamer in all of us with the adult issues of daily life.  A story that directly connects the larger philosophical questions with life's accessible texture.  Here's hoping we see more of its kind.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Importance of Anthologies

As I said in my last post, Mocha Memoirs newest anthology release is Ghosts, Gears, and Grimoires, a Steampunk horror collection. The new Sherlock Holmes anthology is currently in production. Last year, we produced Avast, Ye Airships! and An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Past anthology offerings included In the Bloodstream and The Grotesquerie.

Why should you care?

Many reasons. First of all, an anthology is a brilliant way to see the work of many different authors for a substantially cheaper price than if you bought their longer works without knowing anything about them. Of course, we hope that you will want to see more of their writing, but if someone's style doesn't resonate with you, you have other stories to read.

Tying in with that, it is a great way to find new favorites. An anthology usually has a mix of authors--some you may follow regularly, and others you may never have heard of. With a small press, you are even more likely to find some unfamiliar names.

Anthologies usually have a unifying theme or subject matter, which means that you are going to be getting stories that all relate to something you are interested in. Like Airship pirates, or Sherlock Holmes. :)

It can be a lot of fun to collect the authors' autographs too--though sometimes a challenge, as we have many foreign contributors. Which is another benefit: you get to see varying perspectives when you have authors from around the world.

Finally, you don't have to invest a great deal of time all at once to reading it. With short stories from different authors, you can pick and choose the order to savor them depending on the time you have to devote to reading at the moment. Anthologies are great for Kindles and other readers when you might be stuck in a waiting room or a long line.

Search for anthologies on Amazon, and you will be amazed at the variety of offerings. Of course, some may be higher quality than others. In these fast-shifting days of publishing revision, there are many anthologies that have been cobbled together quickly--but even the worst that I have seen have a gem or two in them, and for a reasonable investment.

And Mocha Memoirs has treasure chests full of carefully-chosen gems for you to enjoy!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Substance of Good and Evil

The substance and nature of good and to define and recognize a question as old as time.  To a writer, especially in the genres of fantasy and larger-than-life melodrama, the question manifests in the design of heroes and villains.  What are their core motivations?  What drives them?  What do they stand for?

The hero's mission is usually a direct reaction to what the villain does.  As in classic mystery, the detective's job is to maintain the status quo of society, which the villain would disrupt.  So it was with Sherlock Holmes vs. Professor Moriarty.  As it was all the way back to Dante's Inferno.  Lucifer, the first villain, was the rebel, the one who rejected authority.  His adversary Michael was the loyalist, the one blindly adhering to the established order.  Lucifer was driven primarily by selfishness, pride, envy, ambition and perhaps a feeling of abandonment by a father who no longer considered him his favorite son.  Michael represented good because he was apparently selfless, blindly following the commands of a higher power.  Hmmmm....good offers a blank check, it seems.

And while I'm still on Dante's Inferno...anyone see "Inferno", the latest film adaptation of the works of "DaVinci Code" author Dan Brown?  Tom Hanks is back as another great intellectual investigator, Professor Robert Langdon, racing the apocalyptic clock as he travels through exotic locales, deciphering ancient clues, this time to save the world from an Armageddon virus which would substantially reduce overpopulation on a global scale, killing billions, turning Earth into a real-life Dante's Inferno.  The virus is the brainchild of an old familiar type of villain:  The mad scientist.  The villain who creates the virus is not some mustache-twirling fiend in a black cape, obviously motivated solely by power-lust or cruelty.  He is, like Langdon, a brilliant academic who has perceived (not without justification) that humanity is over-populating, polluting and destroying a fragile eco-system.  A modern-day plague of biblical proportions is necessary, he reasons, to cull the herd and usher in a bright new day, as the Black Death ushered in the Renaissance.  His reasoning seems perfectly sound (as members of the audience jokingly declare as they leave the theater), albeit cold, reducing humanity to a bacterial culture on a microscope slide.  False promises the villain uses to deceive his followers?  Or, a truth too terrible for most of us in our short-sighted selfishness to face?  In fighting to save the world from the pure-hearted fanatical zealots who would kill half the human race, Professor Langdon makes an emotional appeal which is, frankly, less than inspiring.  "Kill half the world to save the other half?  These are the promises of tyrants."  Okay, so humanity is destroying the world?  "So, scream, lead, effect change."  He says this, but after saving our sorry, polluted world, he goes back to his safe university gig, his life unchanged.  Good lacks imagination and commitment, it seems.  Evil takes decisive action.  To be good is to accept mediocrity.

As in another contemporary fantasy adventure film, "Dr. Strange."  Benedict Cumberbatch (who looks like he was born to play the role) brings the Marvel mystical hero to life in another battle to save the world (such as it is.)  This particular hero is interesting in that, unlike many heroes, he isn't static; he changes and grows.  From a selfish fop who uses his medical genius to advance his own wealth and glory rather than out of any genuine sense of caring for his patients.  An accident leaves his manual dexterity impaired, taking away the source of his fame and glory, destroying his life.  He seeks magic only out of a selfish desire to restore what he has lost.  His great awakening comes only through learning that there are dangers out there.  Great evils.  That which guessed it...change the world.  This time, the villain, the wizard Kaecilius (played by Mads Mikkelson of Hannibal Lecter fame) seeks not to destroy half the world.  Just the opposite.  He wants everybody to live forever.  The price, however, is free will.  To achieve immortality, we must blindly submit to a dark god who would bind us to his uncompromising will.  (I guess Kaecilius is Michael, then.)

Heroes don't always reject change, though.  Some heroes are rebels, like Luke Skywalker, making the decision to change the dark status quo of a repressive galactic empire and fighting to overthrow a dictatorial regime.  In trying to tempt him, the villain Darth Vader offers him a chance to "restore order to the galaxy."  "Your kind of order," Luke scoffs.  But then, Darth Vader started out as a rebel, too.  He rejected the status quo that required his loved ones die at the hands of common savages.  He raged against that status quo, ruthlessly slaughtering his enemies.  He craved a stable universe under a strong leader (two days to election time, folks) and his longing for swift, easy answers was his path to darkness.  Luke is really trying to restore the old order that the empire had previously supplanted through its own earlier rebellion.

Every villain starts out by rejecting the status quo, it seems.  The villain, in his genesis, rejects what is, insisting he can do better.  He may be motivated by envy, arrogance, grief, perhaps even compassion for the suffering of others.  He believes, perhaps with the arrogance of a child believing he knows more than his forbears that he can do better than the established order, so he takes what he wants.  The American Revolutionaries did that.  Women and oppressed minorities have had their own rebellions, from chaining themselves to fences, starving themselves, even blowing things up.  At the time, they were (and, are) denounced by advocates of the status quo as the villains of the piece.  Later generations recognized them as heroes.

So, what is the defining criterion?  What distinguishes the good rebel from the bad rebel?  The stage coach robber in the western, we see as the villain.  Robin Hood stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, we see as the hero.  It all depends on whether we see the status quo as good or evil, how good or evil, and what lengths we are willing to go to effect change.

In real life, many may think our world is heading "in the wrong" direction and we may long for change.  Even to the point of bombing the s**t out of half the world.  I suppose defining our heroes and villains should come down to defining their core values.  More often than not, it comes down to perceiving their outward selves in whatever form we need to satisfy our own ill-defined values and desires.  Life is a story we're all still writing.  But, it's always the later generations who decide who were the villains, and who the heroes. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Has It Really Been a Month Already?! -- Endings and Beginnings

Time flies when you are having fun...

It looks like October will be a month of endings and beginnings here at Mocha Memoirs. First of all, if you haven't gotten your story in to Alexandra Christian for the latest Sherlock Holmes anthology call, submissions END on October 14th. Time is running out--so if you have been procrastinating...get a move on!

It will also be the BEGINNING of availability for Ghosts, Gears, and Grimoires, the Steampunk Horror anthology that debuts on October 27th. I can't wait to see the book in print. There are some wickedly awesome stories in it.

Of course, Halloween is also coming--that is the END of October (and my personal favorite holiday) and marks the BEGINNING of National Novel Writing Month. If you have never participated in NaNoWriMo, give it a shot! What have you got to lose? Even if you don't finish, you will have more words than you started with. :)

The goal is 50,000 words in a month, which is a bit daunting, I know--but that works out to only 1667 words a day to make the goal. That isn't so bad. After all, this post has over 200 words, and look how short it is... It is a lot of fun, and I've gotten at least five or six completed manuscripts from the rough first drafts of November. Who knows? You might be the next discovery for us!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Being your own editor

Accepting a submission call for a story of limited length forces you to be your own editor.  You have to discipline yourself in telling the story you want to tell in as few words as possible.

For me, writing has a purely instinctive stage.  I start by just getting out what I want to get out and worry about whittling it down and cleaning it up later.  I like to turn the characters loose and let the scenes take on a life of their own.

But, as you keep one eye on the word count, you realize you have to go back and decide what to sacrifice.  How can you convey the same information in fewer words?  Which information or character expression is unnecessary?  What's the best way to streamline each scene effectively? And, which scenes are completely unnecessary?  You start to feel like you're deciding who to push out of the lifeboat.  But, then you remind yourself that you'll never improve as a writer unless you learn to cut the flab from your own work and let the story become an instrument to get the point across as effectively as possible.

You write for yourself, but learning to develop an editorial facility means you're writing for the reader as well.  That means getting to the heart of it without sacrificing the soul.  Hard sometimes, especially when you're having fun with a story.  But, it's like dieting; learn to internalize a regimen and you'll be pleased with the result.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Why Do My Posts Always Seem to Land on Holidays?

Because the first Monday of the month often is, I suppose...

It's been a busy time for me this month, and part of that was getting Ghosts, Gears, and Grimoires ready for bed. The manuscript is currently in production's hands. Can't wait to see the final package!

Putting together an anthology is a labor of love. It is a very fine balance making sure all the stories work together, make the page count, show variety--a thousand other considerations. As both an anthology editor and frequent contributor, I just wanted to remind all our writers out there that an anthology rejection is not always because your story needed more work than we could realistically give it...sometimes, the story is PERFECT--for another anthology. I got so many submissions that were well-written but without a speck of Steampunk. Couldn't use them. They didn't fit the theme of the anthology.

As a writer, it is your job to read the requirements carefully and make sure that your story meets them. The Pac-Man story wasn't even Victorian...I might have been able to stretch a little, but not that far.

As an editor, it is my job to think outside the box if there is a quirky story that fits the requirements but might need a little work to polish it up. It is NOT my job to make your story fit the guidelines.

I love editing anthologies, but I don't see how someone does it all the time. It is exhausting! My hat's off to those who do nothing but anthologies--or even more extraordinary--still manage to make time for their own work as well. I'm a once-a-year anthology editor. At least for the time being. ;)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

He's baaaack...

And, here comes the anticipated second volume in Mocha's paranormal exploits of the great Sherlock Holmes:  "Curious Incidents: More Improbable Adventures."

I was very happy to hear about this one and have eagerly started work on my submission, which is about half written.  I did find the idea of putting Holmes into alien realms distant from his familiar Victorian environment a bit of a challenge.  The atmosphere of 19th century London in many ways seems part of the appeal and workings of Conan Doyle's immortal sleuth.  But, as the saying goes, you can take the man out of the fog but you can't...well, you know.

As a science fiction writer, I have to design characters whose personal qualities, psychology and backstory justify the way they act and react in the hypothetical world in which they exist.  But, they're a part of that world, and it a part of them.  Transplanting someone else's character into worlds of your own creation is much more of a stretch.

Especially a character like Holmes, who everyone knows, who has familiar characteristics and personal qualities that are well established and must be honored.  So, determining how Sherlock (and, Watson, for that matter) would react to being ripped from their familiar surroundings and thrust into not only unfamiliar but largely incomprehensible events and environments requires careful analysis of the characters.  Like any characters, they are shaped by the culture and conditions of their native era and once displaced from it would have to adapt not only to alien viewpoints and mindsets, but to knowledge that might upset their self-defining world views.

As the POV character, Watson provides the emotional appeal of confusion and distress, his limited 19th century scientific knowledge and Victorian sensibilities placed hopelessly out of their depth.  Holmes is always the anchor point because his defining strength has always lain in his ability to extrapolate the truth through logical deduction based on the available facts.  In theory, a truth, no matter how outlandish can so be determined through pure intellect.  In practice, of course, it's not usually that easy, since the cultural prejudices and assumptions of the observer can cloud his interpretations of the facts in ways even he doesn't suspect.  But, the investigative prowess of Sherlock Holmes has in many ways always depended on his cold, purely detached outlook on life.  Since he has little or no visible emotional attachment to the world around him, he can more easily adapt to new and unfamiliar landscapes, since the rules of logical deduction are universal.

The one thing that seems to get Sherlock Holmes fired up is the intellectual challenge of an unusual and intriguing case.  For the writer, coming up with appropriate challenges for him in which he can survive worlds of limitless boundaries and yet remain the one and only Sherlock Holmes is the puzzle that needs solving.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines!

One of the hardest parts of being a writer is sticking to the deadlines. And, when they are stretched out before you, several months out, it is easy to ignore them.

"I'll get to that tomorrow...I have time."

Until tomorrow IS the deadline, and you still are no where near the Finish Line.

Procrastination is one of a writer's biggest foes. It is so easy to put things off, and so hard to focus on getting them done now. That is why I am struggling with three books to finish by the end of August...

That old saying "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today" is really good advice. But you can't do everything in one day either. Make a list of everything you need to do and prioritize it to get the big stuff done first. And it is best to write this list down, as checking things off or crossing them out is a great incentive.

Mix in a few quick and easy tasks here and there so you don't get completely discouraged, but keep your eye on the Big Picture so you don't run short of time.

It is okay to focus on one project at a time, but it is equally okay to do something from several projects in a day, as long as they all get completed on time.

Give yourself a workday. "I will write/edit/promote/clean house/etc. from 9 AM to 5PM" (if it is your entire job...) or "I will write two hours a day." (if that is all you have available.) And limit distractions for that time-frame. But don't work straight through on one project for eight hours without a break, because you stop seeing what you are editing, or miss things in your proofreading, etc, if you don't get up and at least circle the living room now and then.

And one of the things of extreme importance is reward yourself for milestones. (Even if it is something as simple as watching a rerun of America's Next Top Model...or catching Pokemon.)

If you can't tell, I am codifying this for myself as much as you, Gentle Reader! ;)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

SUBMISSION CALL!!! Curious Incidents: More Improbable Adventures

Mocha Memoirs Press is pleased to announce that they will be publishing another Sherlock Holmes anthology with editor A.C. Thompson! So sharpen those pencils and get ready to write.

“The game is afoot!”

Welcome back to Baker Street! Holmes and Watson are there to greet you once more with amazing tales of murder, mayhem, and mystery with a supernatural twist. This time the great detective and his stalwart companion will venture into alternate universes, histories, and futures to solve puzzling cases of the paranormal beyond the bounds of imagination.

In Curious Incidents: More Improbable Adventures, I am looking for stories that diverge from the original canon setting of Victorian England. The adventures should be paranormal in nature, but the universe is completely open. In fact, stories set in the traditional Victorian will not be considered. Some examples of alternate settings might be: steampunk, weird west, distant future, space, ancient world (ok, so I’d just really like to see if someone could do it…), dystopian, American noir, or even modern times (BE CAREFUL WITH THIS. I CAN’T PUBLISH SHERLOCK BBC FANFICTION!).

Word of warning:  Sherlock is a beloved character with a very distinct voice and manner.  We want to be sure that we keep and/ or expand on those attributes that have made him a literary icon. However, I am very interested in seeing diverse characters in starring roles (gender, ethnicity, etc.). The entire original canon is available on Kindle for FREE.  Take advantage.

This time, I’m a little more flexible with genre. I am looking for stories that will fall into the speculative fiction genre and all its subspecies (horror, sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk, magical realism, gothic horror, etc.). I’m even being adventurous this time and allowing for a romantic element as long as you stay true to the character, but NO EROTICA (it’s not that kind of book). The important thing is--- it has to have a paranormal thread. These are CURIOUS INCIDENTS, not everyday occurrences.

Let your imaginations run wild and give me something I haven’t seen before!

Publication of CURIOUS INCIDENTS: MORE IMPROBABLE ADVENTURES will again be handled through Mocha Memoirs Press and therefore, all submissions are subject to their general guidelines which include, but are not limited to:  no bestiality, glorified rape, necrophilia, hate language, etc.  We are not seeking erotic stories for this anthology.


Minimum word count:  4,000 not to exceed 8,000

Payment:  split royalties + 1 contributor copy.

General Mocha Memoirs Press Submission Guidelines:

·         Submit your work to with “CURIOUS INCIDENTS” Sub: [Your Story Title]; [Your Name] in the subject line. Attach your story as a DOC or DOCX file. Submissions sent in the body of the email will not be read.  Stories should be in 12pt, Times New Roman font.  Please double space. Don’t forget to include a title page that includes all contact information.  

·         Include a brief cover letter in the body of your email stating your name, pen name (if using one), story title with word count, a brief (1 paragraph) synopsis, and bio.  

·         No simultaneous submissions, please. We ask that you do not submit a story to us and to another market at the same time.

·         Multiple submissions—sending more than one story for consideration—are okay. If sending more than one story, please send them in separate emails.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Heroic Inspiration

And, in a time when we sorely need heroes, our nation mourns the passing of one of our most famous:  Mohammad Ali.

His story was an inspirational one.  His rise from humble beginnings, the skill and courage of a warrior forming in the soul of an angry young man growing up in angry times when the struggle against injustice demanded courage and willingness to sacrifice.  And, he displayed both.  When he threw his gold medal into the river rather than accept an award from a nation that denied equality to his people.  When he discarded an athletic career rather than submit to conscription into a war he did not believe in.  When he fought to get that career back, and won.  Truly an inspirational figure to all Americans.  To the world, perhaps.

And, of course, to writers.  Especially writers of dramatic fiction who wish we could create characters formed from the stuff of reality, characters who touch the hearts of our readers and inspire them half as much as the real-life heroes of the real world.  It's the real-world heroes who seem larger than life who seem to inspire us the most.

Perhaps even more remarkable is what those heroes reveal of the soul of the nation that embraces them. Mohammad Ali perhaps most of all.  Admired for his courage, his spirit and his showmanship (the three things Americans value above all else) he represented the American soul in many ways.  The irony...and, the wonder of his rise to iconic fame...was that he embodied many things that Americans have trained themselves to loathe and revile.  He defied his government in time of war.  "The true enemy of my people is here, not in Vietnam," he dared to say.  He embraced Islam and called his Christian name a "slave name."  He seemed to brazenly spit in the face of American chauvinism and blind, jingoistic nationalism.  In short, he forced Americans to question and analyze the short-comings of our society, of our failure to live up to our national creed of justice.  We are not a nation that readily accepts criticism, least of all from our own citizens.  We consider ourselves too great, too wonderful for such rebuke.  Yet, we embraced a man like Mohammad Ali as a true American icon.  He changed our collective way of thinking, shattered our national complacency.  At least, he embodied a wave of history that did that.  And, that's what a truly inspirational figure does.

As writers, we try to create such larger-than-life characters.  Characters our target audience can not only care about, but draw inspiration from.  Hopefully in a way that challenges their presumptions instead of reinforcing them.  Not easy, but we go on trying.  And, we remember those who inspired us along the way.

Steaming Along....

Well, I got so busy I totally forgot to write a May post until far too late to matter. I apologize for that. Especially since I promised the Table of Contents for Ghosts, Gears, and Grimoires. You may recognize many of the pirates from Avast Ye, Airships on the list, but we have some new writers to welcome to MMP as well.

The stories are set in several continents, and various time periods, but they all have elements of Steampunk horror that resonated with me. :)

The order hasn't been finalized, but, in alphabetical order, the stories are as follows:

A Few Days in Kansas 1881 -- Jim Reader
Better Left Dead -- TC Phillips
Death in the Witch House -- John Lance
Engineered Deceit -- Amy Braun
Footloose -- Ross Baxter (Title may change)
Honeymoon in a Jar -- Robert Perret
Here, Where Our Blood Spilt -- Eric Del Carlo*
Last Dance with Mary Jane -- Wynelda Deaver (Title may change)
Light Over Birmingham -- Mattia Ravasi
Muzzle the Monster -- Leigh Ward-Smith
Purchase & Possess -- Steven Blake
Restless Spirit -- Rie Sheridan Rose
Steel and Steam -- Andrew Knighton
The Express -- Jason Gilbert
The Horrors of War -- Stephen Sanders*
Through the Darkness of the Opera House -- DJ Tyrer

*will update with links when I find them. :)

I am very proud of the lineup, and I think that the resulting anthology is going to be awesome.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Too Many Voices?


Fiction writing, like anything else, has its basics.  Define your characters.  Show, don’t tell.  Make the reader not just know, but see, feel and smell.

But, knowing the basics isn’t enough.  One of the first things every writer is advised to do is seek the critiques of other writers or editors.  I’ve benefitted, as I’m sure all writers have, from the feedback of editors.  A clear editorial voice can help develop a writer's sense of focus and clarity, and an internal protocol for refining one’s own work.

But, what is of dubious value is when a whole team of editors are all working on the same submitted story at the same time.  They’re all doing their best, but it does go to prove just how subjective the process really is.  This may be especially true if you’re a science fiction writer like me, creating a new world that the audience has never seen.  I had one editor on a team who told me to take a breather in the middle of an action scene (and, the POV character is being chased and fighting for his life here, you understand) and slip in some expository on certain gadgets and futuristic references.  I’m like: “I don’t think so.”  Then, three paragraphs later, the chase scene is over and I do take a breather to drop in some narrative explanation about how this world is put together, and another editor on the team makes the opposite complaint, telling me to scrap the expository “author dump” and break the information down and spread it through the story.

Every critical observation does have value; it trains you to be on the lookout for weaknesses and avoid repeating past mistakes.  But, the conflicting viewpoints and priorities of different editors proves another basic truth of writing:  Every writer has to find his or her own individual voice.  Just make sure the reader can hear it.

One strong solitary editorial voice, I think, is the best way to put a themed anthology together in such a way that effectively combines the individual vision of the author with the editor’s vision of what the anthology is supposed to be about.  That’s especially true when the star of the themed anthology is an established, popular character.  In assembling the anthology “An Improbable Truth:  The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” we contributing authors had the benefit of a strong and consistent editorial voice in refining our individual stories.  That was beneficial not only to the anthology but to sharpening my own skill as a writer.  I’m sure we all benefited from the experience and hope for more such projects, even as we work on our own individual projects.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Last Chance!

This is it. The deadline was extended a week, but this is your final opportunity to be part of the Ghosts, Gears, and Grimoires Steampunk horror anthology. We have some really great reads for you, but there is still room for a few more. If you've been hesitating or procrastinating, this is the time to put pen to paper! (And I am in the same boat...)

So far, I am really pleased with the Table of Contents. I'll be revealing it soon. ;)

Mocha Memoirs is beginning to have quite a nice collection of Steampunk:

Heliodor by Shannon Wendtland

Avast Ye, Airships edited by Rie Sheridan Rose

"The Head Above the Gate" in RieTales...

But we can always use more, and that is where you come in. Get me a story by Friday! I want to see what YOU have to add to the genre. :)

Monday, March 21, 2016

NEW RELEASE: Heliodor by Shannon Wendtland

Happy springtime! We have a brand new steampunk adventure coming on March 22nd from Shannon Wendtland. So to celebrate, we thought we'd give you a little taste with an excerpt! 

AVAILABLE 3/22/16!!

The captain placed a kid-gloved hand over Malfric’s.  “Walk a bit with me while I fill you in.”

          Malfric got to his feet, leaving the barrel-stool behind and looped his left hand through the crook of the captain’s arm. As the captain led him towards the bow of the ship, Malfric tasted currant jam and warm biscuits on the salty sea air.  His favorite.  

          He stopped the captain before he could take another step.  “There’s no point in buttering me up, Finch.  Just give me the details.  If I agree, we can proceed straight to the repast you have set up in your quarters.  Otherwise, just hand me your purse and we’ll call it even.”

          Finch muttered beneath his breath.  “Your infernal nose ruins everything.  Fine then, have it your way.  A job has come up ― not our usual fare, but the bounty was too good to resist.  So I booked it.  But I need a voyeur to get it done.  Naturally, I thought of you.”

          Naturally.  “What’s the catch?”

          “No catch.”  Shifting floorboards belied the captain’s response.

          Malfric frowned.  “You wouldn’t have laid out my favorite tea if it were an easy job with no strings.  In fact, you wouldn’t have sent for me at all...any novice voyeur would have done.” 

          A snicker came from his right.  Ah, Quantex had followed them.

          The captain’s arm tensed beneath Malfric’s hand.  Though he said nothing, Malfric detected the shift and rustle of his silk coat as he turned to glare at his first mate.

          “There’s an artifact.  We were not the only ones hired to find it,” Finch said with a disgruntled sigh.  “The other crew has a day’s head start.” His voice softened to a conspiratorial whisper, “but we have an advantage they do not.”

          Oh?  “And what, pray tell, is that?”

          A sharp intake of breath, a faint whistle through his nose, and the captain answered.  “A body.”
I don't know about you guys, but I can't wait to curl up in the garden with this action-packed novella!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

COVER REVEAL: Heliodor by Shannon Wendtland

Happy Springtime! We here at MMP are so excited to announce that this month we've got a new release blooming! It's a novella by a brand new author that I know you're going to be itching to read more of. Her new novella, Heliodor is releasing on March 22, 2016. Check out this blurb!

Malfric sees through the eyes of the dead – literally reliving their last moments as if they were his own. This ability is highly sought and highly priced, which is why the unscrupulous Captain Finch hires him to find the murderer of a nobleman and the whereabouts of a valuable artifact.

Quantex, the able-bodied first mate of Captain Finch, quickly becomes Malfric’s foil as he demonstrates uncommon intelligence during the investigation. Together the two uncover several clues that lead them to the killer, the artifact, and the frayed end of a mysterious plot that begins to unravel the moment Malfric takes it in hand and gives it a good yank.

Sounds pretty amazing huh? I love a good adventure story! So without further ado......


Check back here for more about Shannon, excerpts from the book, and MORE!

Monday, March 7, 2016

We Haven't Finished Yet...

...there is still time for you to be a part of Ghosts, Gears, and Grimoires! Submissions have been a bit slow, which is odd, because Steampunk and Horror are made for each other. The Victorians had a fine sense of the macabre. After all, remember, the practice of Post-Mortem Photography began with the Victorians.

They believed quite strongly in the supernatural. Spiritualism as we know it, with mediums contacting the dead, also had its roots in the Victorian Era, providing a lucrative living for many.

Remember, there were no radios, no televisions, and no movies to distract people. Books and shared tales were the most common forms of entertainment. Fairy tales and ghost stories were passed from generation to generation.

These are just a few suggestions for inspirational material. I've got a couple of ideas just writing this post!

If you need a refresher on the guidelines, look here. And for a little more detail on the information above, as well as further links, check out these posts:

Now, go write me stories -- deadline is the 31st!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Horror's perspectives

As we bid farewell to Women in Horror month, it warrants mentioning the essence of horror.  What is it about a good horror story that strikes deep, like an icy cold skewer to the marrow?

Like anything else in fiction, it's largely point of view.  One kind of horror - the most visceral kind - strikes at the primal POV of the hunted fleeing the relentless pursuit of the predator.  The reader in the victim's shoes feels every pulse-pounding moment, every stifled breath in the pitch dark, every bead of sweat.  Whether it's group of people being picked off one by one in a dark, haunted forest, as in the "Blair Witch Project" or a woman fighting for her life in the dark, claustrophobic passageways of a futuristic spaceship as in "Alien."

The female perspective may sometimes seem more primal, more intense and therefore more powerful in such horror, and it sometimes makes it that much more effective if and when she turns the tables on her adversary in the end.  Other times, though, things aren't so primitive or clearly defined.  Sometimes a more subtle kind of horror can lie in the mystery of not knowing what's going on.  You don't always need a body count to project an effective sense of dread or menace.  Sometimes that unseen presence that may or may not be real as you hear a floorboard creaking in the next room is all it takes to get the reader's blood racing.

And sometimes, the final moment can be the most effective when there's a twist in the plot.  Usually a twist based on POV.  Sometimes, the protagonist we assumed was the victim turns out to be the predator, or the one different from ourselves whom we instinctively fear.  It's been said a nightmare's power lies in its ability to rip the world we think we know out from under us.  The shattering of preconceptions can be the biggest jolt of all.

Our own point of view is the place we call home, where we feel safe.  Shake that foundation, and horror rises from the pit of the unknown.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


The 2016 Women in Horror Flash Fiction Contest is complete and now it's time for the fun part--- THE WINNER! Our judges took the bundle of amazing stories and painstakingly wheedled them down to a top ten. Then, our loyal readers did their part and voted on their favorite! It was a neck-in-neck race that was really fun to watch on my end. Every story we received was great, but in the words of Connor MacLeod--- "There can be only one." So without further ado.....


The winner of the 2016 Women in Horror Flash Fiction Contest is...


Congratulations, Myriah! Our readers chose your twisty story of possession as their favorite of the lot! Myriah has won not only lots of bowing and proclamations of "we're not worthy," but also a $20 Amazon Gift Card!
Thanks again to everyone who entered, read, judged, and voted! We at Mocha Memoirs LOVE interacting with our readers and hope that you'll think about checking out all of our titles! You can also keep abreast on our new releases by subscribing to the newsletter using the form to the right! Stay tuned for more springtime fun coming up in March... 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Women in Horror: The Top Ten!!!


The following stories have been chosen as the TOP TEN Flash Stories of 2016! These stories (pending various technical stuffs) will be compiled into a micro-anthology for use by the press. However, now we need YOUR VOTES to determine the winner of the GRAND PRIZE-- $20 Amazon GC!  So use the form below to find your favorite (CLICK THE TAB FOR WiH Flash Fiction Contest 2016)  and VOTE!!!!

The Top Ten Flash Fiction Finalists!

Diabolique by Tracy Vincent
Flightless Rats by James Dorr
Pickman's Model by Jason Ellis
Hell on Earth by Carrie Martin
The Damned by Melissa McArthur
Servant Girl Anihilator by Robert Perret
Staying by Myriah Strozykowsky
Hag by Marcia Wilson
What the Dollhouse Saw by Karen Bovenmeyer
Thin Ice by Marcia Colette

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Someone Else's Creation

The Sherlock Holmes anthology "An Improbable Truth:  The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" was an entirely new experience for me as a writer, since I'd never done any kind of "fan fiction" before.  The idea of putting my own spin on someone else's character(s), no matter how iconic, just never appealed to me.  I usually like to go in my own direction, follow a thought and see where it leads me.

That anthology attracted me mainly for the atmospheric part of it.  I liked the idea of a cosmic horror set in the grimy dark of Victorian England, and Holmes was the perfect guide for that.  I'd so enjoyed Jeremy Brett's portrayal of the Victorian sleuth, and it was just an opportunity I couldn't pass up.

The trouble with this kind of project though, at least in an anthology, is that you have to operate within the editor's view of the character, not your own.  There's room for interpretation on the part of the writer, of course, but only within the parameters of what the editor considers a proper homage to the character.  Others may want to focus on the cold intellect and almost inhuman distance of Conan Doyle's Holmes, while I might have wanted to explore the brief but endearing glimpses of human warmth I saw peeking out from behind Holmes's mask of erudite detachment when watching Brett portray him on "Mystery."  It was those snatches of vulnerability juxtaposed with the air of cold superiority for which Holmes is famous that made Brett's portrayal my favorite.  The sadness in his eyes, the distant, pensive stare and the low, morose tone of his voice punctuated by the occasional shout in moments of anger gave him an almost pitiable air; the emotionally stunted intellectual giant, trapped in the lonely prison of his own mental superiority, the child within him struggling to emerge.  He displayed moments of compassion, as well, a gentleness in his eyes at the suffering of the innocent.  But, such flaws or hints of sentimentality just didn't seem to fit in with what the editor had in mind.

I like sometimes to jump on the bandwagon of an anthology if it's in a genre I enjoy; it's a challenge that sharpens a writer's skill.  I'm glad I entered that one; it was an enjoyable experience, revisions and all.  In general though, I'm still partial to developing my own characters, even knowing they'll never enjoy the fame of Sherlock Holmes.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Women in Horror Month: A Flash Fiction Contest

February is Women in Horror Month, and we here at Mocha Memoirs Press love our ladies of horror! In celebration of “Ghoul Power,” MMP is hosting a February Flash Fiction contest! Flash fiction is quickly becoming popular on the eBook scene. They’re super short pieces (usually less than 1000 words) that you can read on your phone, tablet, or eReader while you’re waiting your turn at the salon, stuck in traffic, or right before bed. So here’s how it works:

  1. Write a short horror story with a female POV character that’s 1000 words or less.
  2. Submit your story to with WIH FLASH FICTION_Title_YourName in the subject line (Example: Re: WIH FLASH FICTION_BathtubOfDestiny_AlexandraChristian) by February 15, 2016. Please take note that all stories must be submitted as a Word document attachment!
  3. All stories will be posted on the Mocha Memoirs Press blog**:  by Feb. 17th.
  4. Our panel of judges will choose the top ten finalists’ stories by Feb. 22nd. Voting will open on Feb. 23rd, allowing readers to vote for their favorite finalists.
  5. Grand Prize Winner: $20 Amazon Gift Card.
  6. All TOP TEN FINALISTS will have their stories featured in a promotional mini-anthology used to promote Mocha Memoirs Press.

Even though it is Women in Horror month, authors of all genders may submit. Just remember:  HORROR stories with FEMALE PROTAGONISTS! So there, that’s not so complicated! Now, the submission window is narrow, so get to work on those stories!

** Please note that all standard MMP guidelines concerning content apply.  While this is horror, stories that feature explicit descriptions of rape, bestiality or abuse will not be accepted. Also stories that glorify violence, racism, or misogyny will not be accepted. Violence and sex are acceptable but make them integral to the plot. Remember, these stories are for Women in Horror Month and therefore we are all about empowering women!

About our “Ladies of Horror” Panelists…

Eden Royce: Eden Royce is descended from women who practiced root, a type of conjure magic in her native Charleston, South Carolina. She now lives in Kent, The Garden of England, and writes stories loosely based on her childhood. She has had over a dozen short stories published in various anthologies and her current release, Spook Lights: Southern Gothic Horror was on the Horror Writers’ Association’s recommended reading list for 2015. Eden is one of the writers for The 7 Magpies project, a first of its kind: a short horror film anthology written and directed entirely by black women.

She is also the horror submissions editor for Mocha Memoirs Press where she conceived and edited several anthologies, one of which is The Grotesquerie, twenty-one horror short stories written by women. She also writes a regular feature for Graveyard Shift Sisters, a site dedicated to purging the black female horror fan from the margins, where she interviews female authors and reviews their latest work.

In her dwindling free time, she is a proofreader, book reviewer, and ice cream connoisseur. Learn more about her at

Selah Janel: Selah Janel has been blessed with a giant imagination since she was little and convinced that fairies lived in the nearby state park or vampires hid in the abandoned barns outside of town. The many people around her that supported her love of reading and curiosity probably made it worse. Her e-books The Other Man, Holly and Ivy, and Mooner are published through Mocha Memoirs Press. Lost in the Shadows, a collection of short stories celebrating the edges of ideas and the spaces between genres was co-written with S.H. Roddey. Her work has also been included in The MacGuffin, The Realm Beyond, Stories for Children Magazine, The Big Bad: an Anthology of Evil, The Big Bad 2, The Grotesquerie, and Thunder on the Battlefield: Sorcery. Olde School is the first book in her series, The Kingdom City Chronicles, published through Seventh Star Press. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal, her fairies to play mind games, and her princesses to hold their own. Catch up with Selah at

S.H. Roddey:  South Carolina native S.H. Roddey has been writing for fun since she was a child and still enjoys building worlds across the speculative fiction spectrum filled with mystery and intrigue.  She brings to the literary world a unique blend of humor, emotion, and wild ideas filled with dark themes and strong characters. She is a voracious reader, wannabe chef, and video game addict with two full-time jobs: administrative professional and mom to a cat, teenager, and pair of precocious little girls. She also enjoys being married to her best friend and full-time muse and moonlighting as romance author Siobhan Kinkade. Visit her at

Sumiko Saulson: Born to African-American and Russian-Jewish parents, she is a native Californian, and has spent most of her adult life in the Bay Area. She is a horror blogger and journalist, graphic novelist, horror, sci-fi and dark fantasy writer. Her works include “60 Black Women in Horror,”“Death’s Cafe: Ashes and Coffee,” “Solitude,” “Warmth”, “Happiness and Other Diseases,” “Somnalia,” “Insatiable,”  the Young Adult horror novella series “The Moon Cried Blood”, and the short story anthology “Things That Go Bump in My Head.” Visit her at