Below are the most recent posts on NedMarcus.com.
At the weekend we had a day of sunshine, and I decided to take a walk along the river to Wutuku, a small town in one of the valleys adjoining the one where I live. A beautiful walk between the river and bamboo forest.
I've recently been rereading several Michael Moorcock novels, including his History of the Runestaff series and the Books of Corum. I originally intended to read small extracts in order to write a few list articles (the top ten fantasy novel type of articles) but have become hooked and have ended up reading much more than I'd intended. His novels are really novellas, and many writers nowadays would put the books of each series together to form a single novel, but it doesn't matter. I'm enjoying my 'research.'
Here's the cover of one of the books: The Knight of Swords. It's an old paperback and badly foxed, but I keep it because it's good and because of the cover. You don't see many covers like this anymore.
The Darkling Odyssey is the second book in Ned Marcus’s Blue Prometheus trilogy, which takes place deep beneath the surface of Prometheus.
It's been a long time since I've read The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, but I'm creating a list article of fantasy books (perhaps more than one) and I'm rereading the beginnings of fantasy novels I once loved. I've read a lot of criticism of this book, and some of it's justified, but despite its dryness and lack of humour, the book still hooked me.
A one-minute fantasy flash fiction story. Ideal to brighten your commute!
I usually take Sundays off. It's good to have a complete break from writing (or any other work) at least once a week. But this Sunday, I've been busy preparing two short stories (one fantasy and one science fiction) to submit to fantasy and sci-fi magazines next week.
A change does feel like a rest; working on something very different is sometimes quite relaxing.
I'm just over 53,000 words into the second novel in the Orange Storm series. The protagonists have just discovered that more lies beneath the streets of London than they'd imagined.
I only sometimes listen to music as I write, but recently I've been listening to John Dowland—Renaissance lute music. Good for relaxing, too!
The link's to YouTube.
First, I found out that it's not possible to write a bad story every day.
Second, when you don't care whether the story's going to be good, you free your creativity, making it more likely the story will be good.
Third, my mind works in longer stories (longer short stories or novels).
Fourth, there are times when a story can come out almost fully formed.
If you'd like to read more, click to read the full article.
I recently asked the above question on a fantasy forum. Almost no one regularly reads them—most people occasionally or never read them. It seems that reading fantasy magazines is a very minority activity.
The commonest comment was that they're too literary, which leaves people cold. Another comment was that there's a sameness of stories chosen by the magazines.
The fact that the list of submission requirements that most magazines have are very similar also increases the chances of stories being very similar in length and style.
Almost no one said they never read short stories.
I've added comments to the bottom of this blog. It's FB comments, and I know some people are allergic to them. I use them because they're free and wouldn't mind changing, but other options I've seen are quite expensive.
Comment below if you know of good alternatives!
In my 30-day flash fiction challenge, I set out to write a story a day. Here are the results.
NaShWriMo looks more likely than NaNoWriMo this year. I know a few other writers who may join me in writing a new short story over the month. The story I hope to write is called "The Long Night of Sasha 12" and is science fiction set on another planet.
It might seem strange that I plan to do this over the month after I've recently completed a flash fiction challenge, writing a flash fiction story almost every day for a month, but many of them were incomplete, and all of them were very short. This story will probably be 3,000-4,000 words, and I hope it will be polished by the end of November.
My main focus is still the second novel in the Orange Storm series. That's coming on quite well, but I like to also write short stories because they give me a change of pace. Mostly, I just work on the short stories in the evening when I can't concentrate on my novel anymore (I write my novel in the mornings usually) and on Sunday when I want a change of pace.
I recently read an article on hearing an inner voice. The article discussed research in neuroscience and looked at the ways in which people hear, or do not hear, an inner voice. Just as some people have clear mental imagery—if they wish to imagine an apple, they can see one clearly in their mind's eye, whereas other people have no mental imagery—aphantasia. It's a continuum. I'm on the side of not having either. I wrote a short fantasy story based on the experiences of an aphant.
This is a topic that we seldom discuss openly. I was shocked to discover, in a psychology class at about the age of 20, that some people literally had mental imagery. I'd always believed they were speaking metaphorically when talking about picturing something in their minds.
I've tried, on a few forums, to initiate discussion on the topic. Psychology is an interest of mine. Slowly, people spoke about it. I think it's a little tricky because there's the idea that if you hear a voice you must be insane. I don't think this is true. I'm not talking about when someone speaks to another person who isn't there, but they believe is. That's different. I'm just talking about a literal aural representation in the mind.
Of the people I spoke to, about half have a clear inner voice. The other half have a vague or partial voice. My sample size is only 7 including myself. Although I don't have literal visual or aural imagery while awake, I do possess both in my dreams.
One point brought up was whether people have inner representations of other senses. Touch (a few of us do), smell, and taste. Nobody claimed any inner representation of the last two. I imagine that there are people somewhere who do have inner senses of smell and taste.
Today's the final day of my 30-day flash fiction challenge. I found inspiration for my final story from a post on a fantasy forum I belong to.
I've written a story on all but two days (days on which stuff just happened). Three other days I spent deepening one of my stories, Flowers With Deep roots, which (after feedback from my critique group) I'll probably make into a longer short story. Deep down I knew this, but it was good to get confirmation.
So in total, I have twenty-five new flash fiction stories. Of course, they need polishing. I plan to write a more detailed article on my flash fiction challenge—both the good and bad parts of it—later this month.
Overall, it was a good experience. I won't continue with it, but I may write a flash fiction story every Sunday and continue as long as it's fun.
Today is Day 28 of my 30-day flash fiction challenge. The premise for today's story is what if some habits are caused by alienness or magic that's unknown to the person involved.
Perhaps not the most successful of the flash fiction I've written this month, but it's given me what I hope is a better idea for tomorrow's fantasy flash fiction story.
Time differences account for the seemingly strange disparity between dates and days!
Today's day 24 of my 30 day challenge. I've written a piece of flash fiction every day except one.
Today was a short piece inspired by The Interpreter by Brian Aldiss—a science fiction novel about a human interpreter working for an alien race that has taken control of the world, which is well worth reading.
I added some fantasy elements to the (unfinished) story.
Today I wrote the first 700 words of a food-related fantasy story, partly in response to a magazine inviting theme-related short stories this month. Dace refers to the fish. I didn't have the time to finish it as I still need to get in the time on my main writing project—the sequel to Orange Storm.
It is taking some time from my novel writing, and I probably won't continue past the 30 days I set myself, but I'm enjoying the flow of ideas I'm generating. And I'm building a collection of unfinished short stories—some of which I'll finish later.
Today is Day 16 of my personal flash fiction challenge. Yesterday and today I spent time polishing two of the short stories in preparation for a critique group meeting next weekend. Tomorrow, I'll be starting a new story.
Pausing to go deeper into two of the stories, led to some research. One of the stories is set in a village in England around 500AD. I wanted some Old English words to convey the atmosphere. I now know that in Old English poppy had several translations: popæg, papæg, popāg, papāg, and popig. I went for popig. I also learnt that the expression about the tallest poppy getting its head cut off comes from a story about the last king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Suberbus, who apparently ran around his garden cutting the heads of the tallest poppies to demonstrate what he wanted doing to his enemies in Rome.
I read a couple of interesting articles recently, which I linked to on my Facebook page, which discuss the drop in the number of animals and nature words in fiction.
First, there's a general drop in the number of these words. Stories are simply not involving animals or nature as much.
Second, specific animal or nature words, such as Labrador or oak, are being replaced by generic words, such as dog and tree.
I don't know the reason for this, but seems to show some increase in the disconnect between writers and the natural world.
Today's short story, which I wasn't able to finish (I think this one's going to become much longer than flash fiction) is science fiction. A spaceship crash lands on a remote desert planet and the crew are faced with the problem of no water or food. The only thing on the planet, apart from its vast deserts, is the strange oases that expand each day and disappear during the long nights of the planet.
This is one of the stories that I'll polish later and perhaps try to get published.
I'm now writing a short series of flash fiction pieces, trying to make each story distinct, but they're flowing on from each other. I'm taking this as it comes.
Abandoned by the ghost of the man he killed, the protagonist encounters light in the netherworld. A giant scarab with a solar disc on its back leads him through the forest.
Today's flash fiction story is set in a netherworld that surrounds the protagonist's country. He's guided by the ghost of the man he's murdered.
In case anyone has noticed, the days of my challenge (and my real days here in East Asia) are out of sync with the posting days. That's because the website system I use uses North American time.
My inspiration today came from a stationery blog I came across. I was surprised to see a short story featured on any kind of blog, and I wondered what sort of story I'd have written for a stationery or planner website.
It ended up being the longest short story of the challenge so far—just over 900 words, and it took me 45 minutes, 15 more than I'd intended. But I was up early enough that it didn't matter.
It's now Day 4 of my flash fiction writing challenge. So far, I've written a story a day, taking about 30 minutes for each. I know that if I spent more time than that, I could write something more polished (and I may go back later and polish my favourites) but for now, speed is good.
Writing a short story every day requires fresh inspiration every day, too. For the first two days, I looked out of the window and wrote about what my eyes fell on first, or used a tarot card instead.
For Days 3 and 4, I decided to start with the title. Very few fantasy shorts have titles that begin with x, y, or z. So that's what I decided to do. Restricting myself brings out more creativity than allowing complete freedom. Day 3 was 'y', Day 4 was 'z'.
I'll decide on tomorrow's inspiration tomorrow.
I'm on the third day of my 30-day flash fiction challenge—to write a short short story a day. The stories are incomplete, but I'm managing to get a first draft down. The word counts are 519, 560, and 544. I'm mostly sticking to my 30-minute limit but did go 15 minutes over on day 2.
The protagonist in today's story is called Ælfswiþ. After writing the story, which is set in the fifth century in the north of England, I had to work out how to type the Old English/Old Icelandic 'thorn' character þ. It doesn't seem to be possible on a Mac, but I found some good online resources.
I started the morning with a 30-minute flash fiction story. It's incomplete, of course, a fragment really. I just wanted to see what would happen. The story was inspired by the Moon tarot card and a glance at the forest across the river from my house. A shaded area appeared like a throne occupied by the ghost of a lost god. The god leaves something on the forest floor for the hero to discover...
I may polish it later, but it's made me curious. What will happen if I do this every day—a 30-day challenge to write short short stories each morning before I do anything else?
I'll tell you later.
40% off the Blue Prometheus boxset (the complete trilogy) + over 40 boxsets by other fantasy/sci-fi writers, for Kobo readers in the UK, Canada, Australia, & New Zealand. Enter the code BOXSEPT.
This November I won't be attempting to write 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo as I did last year. I like the community feel and enjoy talking to other writers, but it just doesn't suit my style of writing. It makes me rush when I should be going more slowly. The beginning of a novel is the time when I go slowest. I like to think through the story and get it off to a good start. Rushing at the beginning means I have to spend time later correcting the mess I made because I went too fast too soon.
So instead, I've decided to do a NashWriMo. 'Sh' being for short story. I think I can manage that. More later...
Blue Prometheus is now on sale at most online booksellers. Reduced from $4.99 to $1.99 until Friday.
See my books page for all links!
This novel by Robert Holdstock won the World Best Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1985. It's been a few decades since I've read it, and it's different from the fantasy I usually read—different from most fantasy, I think.
It's mythic fiction, set in a wood in England just after the end of World War 2. A first-person story about the strange happenings in and around the wood. The wood is populated by mythagos, magical creatures created from ancient memories and myths that interact with the unconscious minds of humans.
It's worth reading. I might write a review after I've finished rereading it.
I have two sales coming up next week. A three-day sale on Blue Prometheus; and for Kobo readers in the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, there's going to be a special sale on the boxset.
I'll give more details later.
A witty quote by Kurt Vonnegut:
"Kilgore Trout once wrote a short story which was a dialogue between two pieces of yeast. They were discussing the possible purposes of life as they ate sugar and suffocated in their own excrement. Because of their limited intelligence, they never came close to guessing that they were making champagne." Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (Breakfast of Champions)
Read more short story quotes on the short stories page...
I've updated this page, adding short story quotes from Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut Jnr, and others, and I talk about how long a short story should be.
Not the same page as the one below.
I've not done a free book promo for a long time. In all honesty, I became bored of them. But I like experimenting with short fantasy stories, so here's another promotion. 18 short fantasy stories in all, including Young Aina.
Incidentally, if you've not already, sign-up to my mailing list here on this website, and I'll send you another short fantasy story—The Huntress of Prometheus.
Also check out The Boatmen and An Offer of Redemption here on this website, too. See Short Stories in the menu.
I still write short stories, but it's slow going because I want to focus on longer fiction.
Jung talks about the necessity of having an imagination for evil and mentioned a contemporary politician (1950s) who said that he had no imagination for evil.
Jung, of course, believed that an awareness of our dark side would lessen the risk of it being acted out in reality. He believed that naive ignorance was extremely dangerous. This is a theme I've been playing with recently in my stories.
Orange Storm is now for sale on Kobo, Apple, B&N, and Google Play. Visit the books page for bookstore links...
Orange Storm is now available for pre-order on Amazon, Kobo, and Apple. The links and more details are on my Books page.
Orange Storm is an urban fantasy with elements of science fiction. When aliens from another universe find a way into ours..
The types of fantasy I read and write...
I've just finished a short story, science fiction this time, which was inspired by the line from the Bible: "Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth." I'm not affiliated with any church or religion but have read the Bible, and I've wondered about the meaning of this line. Psychologically, it doesn't seem to make sense if taken literally, so when I listened to a lecture on the psychological significance of the biblical stories by Jordan Peterson, I was fascinated by his interpretation.
He said that when the King James Version of the Bible was written, meek meant something quite different from now. It meant free from pride or self-will. A quick check with my dictionary of etymology confirmed this. He also pointed out that in the original Hebrew, the meaning was closer to 'those who have the ability to fight but who also have the self-restraint not to, will triumph in life.'
This idea stuck, and months later, when I was taking part in one of the regular fantasy and sci-fi flash fiction challenges I run in my writers' critique group, I started this story. It quickly became more than flash fiction. The finished story is 3,500 words.
In this story, a soldier meets a seeker, an artificially intelligent space pod. Both have been through extensive combat, and both have been rejected by their respective nations. They've also both learnt the value of restraint, and this saves them. In the story, they inherit a new world, a new life.
I'm designing the spines, back covers, and inner jacket sleeves for the paperback and hardback versions of my new novel at the moment.
And considering a new look for the website, although I really like the blue Blue Prometheus one, too.
There are two reasons why I named my first novel Blue Prometheus. At least, two reasons for choosing the name Prometheus. The Blue part is easier to explain; it's one of the primary colours of the planet, which I imagined in hues of blue, grey, and white.
But why Prometheus? The lesser reason is that I wanted the story to take place in an alternate version of our solar system. Some planets have the same name, for example, Venus, Mars, and Neptune, but I wanted some planets to have other names to give the world the feeling of being different from our world. So Earth became Dnasis, the moon became Palace Moon, and Uranus (which is inhabitable in the story) became Blue Prometheus because I'd read that the name Prometheus had once been suggested for Uranus. I've not found evidence of this, but I liked the idea.
But the main reason was because of the Greek myth. Prometheus gave fire to humanity, so raising their awareness. This is an important part of the story of the Blue Prometheus series. A powerful demon thinks an evil thought that ripples across the multiverse. It must be opposed. The heroes counter it by raising the Fire of Prometheus and so raising the consciousness of all life.
I hardly recognised myself speaking in the recent interview I did with Edwin Ryberg. The link is below if you'd like to listen. I'm not used to the sound of my voice, and it was painful for me to listen to the whole podcast. Not because of what I said—just the sound of my voice.
I plan to get over this soon as I want to play with recording some of my short stories—perhaps the ones available on this website. Click on short stories in the menu if you're interested in reading them. There are only two, despite me having many more on my computer, but I'm still hoping to sell some of those to fantasy and sci-fi magazines. Once I've recorded a few short stories, I plan to put them on YouTube and see if there's any interest. I don't yet have a channel but plan to start one later this year.
I've added several Frank Herbert quotes to my Fantasy Quotes page. It's time I added some science fantasy to the mix. I recently reread Dune and Dune Messiah, and then went on to read the rest of the series. The first two are the best, but I enjoyed some of the others (there are four more) too.
Here's one of the quotes. This one is from Dune.
“Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.”
I was interviewed last month by Edwin Ryberg for his Alternate Futures podcast. We talk about my life, influences on my fiction, Blue Prometheus, and more. Click on the link below to listen.
Here's the new book description for my upcoming novel Orange Storm.
Pale orange snow falls over London. With it arrives life from another universe intent on manipulating the fabric of reality—to deadly effect.
When linguist Luke Lee witnesses the aliens murder a senior British politician, he becomes a target. And when they kidnap his pregnant wife, he will do anything to get her back. He’s one of the few people with the skills to understand and defeat them.
Psychic Amelia Blake never imagined she would be called upon to defend humanity—but the message is clear. She must stop this evil.
And she sees what others cannot—a magic unlike anything she’s encountered. In her search for help, she’s drawn to another plane where she faces a witch of terrifying power.
Should she risk summoning an alien witch to counter an alien threat?
Can Luke and Amelia prevent further deadly intrusions into Earth?
They have 38 hours to act.
If you like fast-paced urban fantasies with science fiction elements, you’ll love Ned Marcus’s exciting new adventure.
I've just added book reviews to my Books page. Click the link below to read them.