Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Four Writings I'm Most Proud Of

Decided to list the four completed works I've written that I'm the most proud of, in order of pride. Here goes, with spoilers contained therein...

The Skirmish at the Vale's Edge (BattleTech)

When I visited DragonCon in 2008, I found a booth for Catalyst Game Labs, the company that current produces the BattleTech game and licensed fiction, and figured this would be a good writing opportunity. However, I let the project sit by the wayside while I worked on other projects until spring/summer 2009. I decided then that I ought to have the story done by DragonCon 2009, so I could find the Catalyst people again and tell them I'd submitted something.

I purchased some BattleTech source-books online and went to work. I remember watching the BattleTech animated series when I was in elementary school (it was on UPN on Sunday mornings, before church), so I remembered the Clans. Given how new writers are encouraged to start out far away from the important characters from the books and games, I figured the Clan invasion of the Periphery was a good place to set a story.

The Clan Wolf conquest of Drask's Den reminded me a lot of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, which I'd researched extensively for my Gates of Vasharia project, so I went to work. I like to think my future biographers will have a field day with all the inside jokes--there's a city on Drask's Den named Carrollton, after the town where The Griffin Daily News is printed, while the protagonist shares a surname with my coworker at the Griffin paper.

I finished the story over the summer of 2009 and ran it through my Kennesaw and Lawrenceville writing groups twice and ended up submitting it to BattleCorps, the online BattleTech fiction compendium, a few days before DragonCon. After some tinkering, it went up on in early October 2009. Since it's an older story, it can probably be purchased for $2.00 or so.

Four cents per word is not considered a "pro rate" (that's $0.05/word plus), so I can't count this toward membership in the Science Fiction Writers of America. However, it still came out very lucrative for me and I intend to write more. The protagonist proved to be very popular with the BattleCorps denizens, so I think we'll be seeing him again.

Best of all, my story is now considered BattleTech canon.  For those of you who need some clarification, that means it is now considered as valid as any of the source-books, gaming manuals, or novels as far as the history of the BattleTech fictional universe is concerned.  I've made a mark, albeit a small one, on one of the biggest gaming franchises out there.

Lord of the Werewolves (Harry Potter fan-fiction)

Although this is fan-fiction and therefore I cannot make any money on it (unlike my original story, "I am the Wendigo," which we'll discuss later), I do like this one. But before I describe why, some background.

In 2008, I wrote a novel-length Harry Potter fan-fic entitled "The Wrath of the Half-Blood Prince," which took place during the First War of the Dark Lord (in the timeline, the 1970s) and was about Snape.  More on that later.

In order to get ideas and share my own thoughts, I joined the FictionAlley web-site.  While I was there, I made the acquaintance of Kyli Ann Rasco, who was an active poster in the threads critical of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I did not agree with all criticisms of the last book, but one of the better arguments was that Lupin and Tonks were underused. All they did was get married, have a baby, and die (offscreen, no less), and Lupin acted like a total tool when he learned that Tonks was pregnant. Both of them could have done so much more--Tonks, a shape-shifter, could have been a hard-core Order of the Phoenix assassin, while Lupin, a werewolf, could have challenged the terrorist Fenrir Greyback for control of Britain's werewolf community.

Kyli and I started corresponding and so "Lord of the Werewolves" was born. We both came up with ideas, I wrote the chapters, and then sent them to Kyli for revision and approval.

I'm proud of this for several reasons. Firstly, it's probably one of the most character-centric things I've ever written.

Remus Lupin starts out the story the way he is in canon--a nice guy who doesn't have a lot of moral courage (werewolves are treated similarly to how those with AIDS were treated in the 1980s and he was so glad to have friends that he never stood up to them, even when they did bad things like bully the nerdy young Snape). However, there is a dark, violent side to his character (we see hints of it in the earlier books) that is unleashed when Tonks, injured in a battle with her mad aunt Bellatrix Lestrange, is denied medical treatment by prejudiced doctors and miscarries. After killing the two Healers, Lupin is forced to kneel before Fenrir Greyback to escape the vengeance of the wizarding legal system, now under the control of the Dark Lord.

Once he's realized how thoroughly he's screwed up, he begins planning something resembling Operation Valkyrie (the plot to overthrow Hitler)--he'll assassinate Fenrir Greyback, blame the Death Eaters, and turn the werewolves against the Dark Lord. In the meantime, as a rising star in Greyback's outfit, he becomes more assertive and aggressive, or as one of my readers described him, "darker and edgier." As another reader said, he ultimately "finds his backbone" and is able to stand up to both the Forces of Evil and the often-prejudiced Forces of Good.

I did not put as much thought into Tonks' characterization, but it's there. She starts out her usual spunky self, ends up in a very dark place as a result of her miscarriage and her husband's apparent abandonment, and pulls herself back together. She ends up using FiendFyre as a weapon of assassination, and is back to normal by the end of the story.

I also got to indulge my penchant for making truly awful puns. Here's a selection from a chapter taking place on Valentine's Day...

"Oh Merlin," Tonks said from underneath him. "Professor Lupin, I didn't think you still had it in you."

Lupin smiled.

"Well, you could say I was just hungry like the wolf."

Tonks giggled. That warmed Lupin's heart. He decided to keep the jokes rolling.

"Who knew Miss Tonks liked it on all fours?"

She laughed. "I admit, not my usual cup of tea. But damn."

"So nice, we did it twice."

Tonks laughed again.

The "hungry like the wolf" pun provoked much groaning from those who heard it. This selection also reflects character development on Lupin's part--in a chapter taking place during their honeymoon, it's Tonks who is the sexually-dominant one (due to being younger and much more energetic). However, in this one, some months after kneeling and swearing allegiance to Greyback, Lupin has shown himself much more willing to take charge, so to speak.

Here's the story, for those who want to read it:

I am the Wendigo (original)

I wrote this one when I was a senior at the University of Georgia. In December 2006, I sold it to the webzine Chimaera Serials and it went up in January of 2007. I was ultimately paid $20 for it, which is somewhere between $0.01 and $0.02 per word.

Chimaera Serials died later in 2007 and the web-site ultimately went down within the last year. Somebody has posted it on an Internet forum and let it sit there for years as a free "calling card" to give out to people. I had to take it down in order to self-publish it on Amazon and it's available here.

I think "I am the Wendigo" is probably the scariest thing I've ever written. I think that's something to be proud of.

The Wrath of the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter fan-fiction)

I started writing this one after reading Sindie's "The Moment It Began," which I found via some fan-art on It started out as a one-shot in which the Death-Eater-to-be Mulciber attacks Lily, not Mary Macdonald (as was the case in the canon timeline), and Severus Snape unleashes the titular wrath. However, there were enough people who wanted more that I continued the story, to the point that when finished (it took all of 2008 to write), it was longer than the first three or four Harry Potter books combined.

One reason I'm proud of this is how popular it is. It's gotten over 250,000 hits, it's been included in over 40 collections, and hundreds of users have included it in their "favorite stories" list. This means there are hundreds if not thousands of people who will remember my name when, someday, they see my original novels for sale.

It's also my first finished novel and showed me how to avoid letting projects fall by the wayside--I had a large number of fans who read, wrote reviews, and were expecting more. When you have people waiting for your next chapter, it provides an extra push to write it. I've put this principle to good use with my original fiction, using my two writing groups.

Although character growth and development was not my original concern when writing the story, there was enough of it that one member of FictionAlley pointed it out, in a most unexpected place--the Marauders!

For the record, I don't like the Marauders. I think they were a bunch of thugs, with James Potter in particular being the Gryffindor equivalent of Draco Malfoy. Only Lupin gets any sympathy because he was less involved with their bad behavior and went along with it because he was desperate to have friends, not because he was truly a bully or sadist.

However, this member of FA (whose user-name I cannot remember) said I did a really good job depicting the transformation of the Marauders "from bullies into men of character." I believe Rowling's intent was to depict James as having abandoned his cruel ways as a youth to become a heroic fighter against Evil and although this isn't portrayed very well in the books, I figured I ought to include it in the story.

Of course, at one point in their school days, Snape gives him a good working-over with Sectumsempra in a midnight-mugging-gone-wrong.... :)

I did give Snape a character-arc too. He starts out as being concerned only about Lily and his own position in Slytherin (in that order) and his initial breach with the Death-Eaters-to-be was, like his canon break, the former taking precedence over the latter.

Once away from the bad influence of his evil friends, he slowly detoxes from their selfish and racist ways and, seeing his abusive Muggle father's treatment of his witch mother, firmly represses any controlling attitudes he has toward Lily (although he immediately backs down when she calls him on "I won't let you..." in the books, that attitude is still there). He ultimately grows to the point he protects James from Arnold Trigg, whom he had taught Dark Arts and who had gone progressively insane as a result of his fiancee's death at the hands of the Death Eaters.

Lily gets a character-arc too. In a snippet in Deathly Hallows, when she criticizes Snape for what Mulciber did to Mary, she focuses on the fact it was "Dark Magic" more than what Mulciber actually did. The events of the war push her to be more flexible and less moralistic. After all, I could argue aggression using "Light Magic" (James' bullying of Snape, seen in flashback in Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix) is worse than self-defense using Dark Magic (Snape's retaliation using Sectumsempra).

I also tried to make Tobias Snape, Snape's abusive Muggle father, into a more complex character. Rather than making him an alcoholic vagrant, as is often done in Snape stories, I depicted him as a war veteran (the Suez Crisis and the Malayan Emergency, which would have taken place when he was a young man) self-medicating his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with alcohol and as a mill-worker whose livelihood is disappearing as British mills lose market share to cheaper foreign producers. He's also on some level insecure and frightened of his wife's supernatural powers, which explains why, when he's been drinking, he berates her and puts her down. He also has a secret love for musical theater.

(He's still a colossal jerk and I admit I teared up writing a scene depicting him drinking and ranting--it was that depressing.)

Here's the link if you want to read it:


  1. I had no idea you've had works published! Please tell me, do you have any pointers for yours truely?

  2. Well, to find markets for speculative fiction, there's and

    I'd recommend reading the how-to-write books you can get from the library, the one that describe how to write dialogue, develop characters, etc.

    If you're into fantasy, you might want to read this:

    It makes fun of the cliched fantasy tropes and can serve as a good list of things to avoid.