Monday, December 22, 2014

Podcast Inc.

Looking to listen to something that isn't dripping with holiday cheer? Well, you're in luck!--for I have some awesome podcasts to share.

Tina Connolly of Toasted Cake did a fantastic reading of "All I want for Christmas..." Really enjoyed Santa's faltering and Abbey's obnoxious kiddie voice. This is one to check out if you like a little dark humor in your holiday spirit. Big, BIG thumbs up to Tina for pronouncing my name correctly. :)

And from Third Flatiron, a reading of "Blade Between Oni and Hare" Unfortunately, I can't vouch for the pronunciations of some of the Japanese words (I'll be honest, it pained me to hear katana mispronounced), but it's still a decent reading if you can put that aside.  

There's also a Q&A with me if you're interested in that.

Enjoy! And Happy Holidays, folks!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Good Stuff!

'Tis the season for eggnog, corny holiday music, Amazon shopping, and forgetting the blog. I actually had to do real holiday shopping this year. I don't wish to repeat it.

But fear not! There are goodies to be had, and some awesome stuff to check out.

The cover looks MUCH nicer in physical form, trust me.

Some time ago I received a complimentary issue of Saturday Night Reader magazine--yes, a real magazine that you can hold and read and turn pages 'n stuff! A very nice magazine, too! It's big, has nice thick pages (so no fear of accidentally ripping a page), and colorful pictures and backgrounds for each story. It contains fifteen flash stories from various authors published on SNR's site, including my piece, "A Beastful Hunger."

Also, I didn't know Saturday Night Reader was a Canadian publication, haha.

If you like flash fiction and well-made magazines, and maybe you're Canadian, or have a hankering for noir and fast food, then I think it's worth picking up from SNR's store. Some of the magazine's proceeds goes to the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and Cystic Fibrosis Canada.

The long, long awaited W1S1 anthology, "Drunk on Writing," is out!

This anthology contains a whole slew of W1S1 participants, and includes my story, "The Ungreat Escape"--which sadly, this is the only place now you can read the story, because Cosmos redesigned their website and axed all their short fiction.

And best part is, it's free! Pick it up as a PDF, MOBI (Kindle), or EPUB

Friday, November 21, 2014

Whiney Pages

This may be old news, but not too long ago, Pithy Pages for Erudite Readers (my, what a title!) closed their publication, after only being in business for about 4 months. This is pretty common for the short story publishing world; in fact, I'd say close to 80% (hell, it's probably higher) of new short story markets fold within their first year.

But why is this particular market worth mentioning?

If you had submitted to this market, you would've received a free subscription, like I did. In their final issue, there was a publisher's letter explaining why they were closing. But, it didn't stop there. It went on to something a bit more passive-aggressive. Fourth paragraph in the letter reads:

Publishers too, would like to be paid for their time and effort. To do this each publisher must decide to work as a profit or non-profit company. Pithy Pages chose the former because our publishers believe that the literary public, rather than government or some wealthy foundation, should support the publication of the short fiction they read or write. That being said, there are two ways to generate revenue from a publication: subscription fees and/or advertising. We tried both with dismal results. It turns out that there is more interest in writing short fiction than in reading it. It seems that the only people left to support the publication of short fiction are the authors working in the genre. Unfortunately, short fiction authors are under the incorrect assumption that people are lining up to read their work … They should be (it is really, really good) but they’re not, preferring the latest full-length novel (now showing as a movie).

There's quite a few problems with this, not to mention the gross assumptions made about the short story marketplace. So your publication wasn't making the $$$ that you expected, therefore, it must be the fault of writers and the literary public for not supporting your publication. Nothing to do with the fact that you were in existence for a very short time, or that your first issue was none too great.

Hard fact to admit, but people only tune in if you've got something worth while to read, or if you've stuffed your first issue with a bunch of well-known writers, as Uncanny has done. I understand Pithy Pages gave submitting writers free subscriptions in the hope they'd spread the word, but again, you need somewhat decent stuff. First issue of Pithy Pages only contained a public domain reprint and two originals stories; one flash, one longish short story--and the short story was pretty much what I made fun of in Twisty; it puts a twist on a twist, like you would wear a hat on a hat. The flash piece was just forgettable.

Given some time, this publication could've bounced back from a poor first issue; it's certainly happened before. But I suspect these guys were never prepared to support Pithy Pages on their own dollar; another misguided assumption on their part.

A cautionary tale, but one that leads to some unnecessary blaming. Oh, but wait! Pithy Pages has a solution!

Without the direct and active intervention of the writers of short fiction the genre will continue to be a quaint, underpaid, and unappreciated art form. We, therefore, offer the following solution. Every author and aspiring author of short fiction should set aside ten dollars a week to support the publications of short fiction. When this is done, publishers will be able to sell enough subscriptions to stay in business and to continue to offer a decent payday for those authors selected. When those same authors encourage their friends and family to subscribe or advertise in short fiction publications, pay to authors will increase … as will the number of publications. Eventually, short fiction will rebound as a genre to everyone’s benefit.

Fuck you.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

You are now entering Yakuza Territory

Milo James Fowler's latest book, Yakuza Territory, is now available from Musa Publishing.

World-weary detective Charlie Madison has seen more than his share of war. When he stops by the 37th precinct late one night to check on his old friend Sergeant Douglass, the place is as quiet as a morgue. The last thing he expects to find: half a dozen Russian gunmen with a score to settle.

What starts out as a vicious Alamo-style battle soon evolves into something more sinister as Madison's past comes into play. Will his ties to a branch of the Japanese mafia be a help or a hindrance? And who is the strange man in holding? Why are the Russians determined to break him out?

Struggling to survive the night, one private eye must rely on his wits to solve a mystery where he's outnumbered, outgunned, and trapped inside a police station with a soulless killing machine.

Sounds exciting, right? And if you're familiar Milo's work, you know he never fails to bring on the action.

If the summary wasn't enough, here's an excerpt from the book:

Maybe checking in on Sergeant Douglass late that night hadn’t been the best idea. I should have paid more attention to the warning signs right off; things weren’t exactly business as usual at the precinct. The pencil-necked clerk wasn’t at his post, and an eerie quiet held the foyer as still as a morgue. No cops, uniformed or otherwise, to be seen. In a city that never slept, one expected its law enforcement personnel to share the same god-awful insomnia—graveyard shift or no.

The vacant front desk didn’t sway me from my course, though. Little glitches out of the ordinary seldom did. I’d trained myself over the years to file them away, but not focus on them too much. As a detective, it was easy to get distracted by particulars while going after the big picture. Besides, I was suspicious by nature. I questioned everything as a matter of course. But as far as I knew, everybody on duty was partying in back, throwing Douglass a well-deserved soirée after his recent ordeal and return to the land of the visible.

I paused at the unlocked door leading into the bullpen—an open-concept area with clusters of desks for everybody ranked lower than lieutenant. Access into the station’s inner workings wasn’t usually so free and easy. As I quietly stepped inside, I knew without a doubt something was amiss.

The whole room lay empty except for five guys standing in the middle with assault weapons slung over their shoulders—AK-12s and SIG MPXs by the looks of them. Not what your average citizens usually carried around concealed on their person.

“Hey.” I saluted the first one to notice me. “Am I late to the party?”

He glared my way, and I couldn’t help feeling like I was back in high school; once again, I’d forgotten the beer. They weren’t in uniform—unless black nubuck jackets and jeans counted, not to mention the scruffy stubble, slick hair, and stocky frames. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much the look of your standard-issue thug for hire these days.

“Charlie—get down!”

I would have recognized that Scottish brogue anywhere. I’d already assembled a good enough picture of the situation to know it was in my best interest to hit the floor a split second before the deafening staccato of weapons fire and a hail of bullets headed my way. The rounds blasted straight through computer monitors and potted plants on desks; sparks flew upward along with shards of clay and clouds of potting soil. Chairs disintegrated as I cringed behind a solid steel desk and drew the snubnosed Smith & Wesson from my shoulder holster.

“Sarge, you all right?” I barely heard myself over the stampede of slugs plowing into the steel that sheltered me. The rounds were making some serious dents, but none had punctured through—yet. It was only a matter of time.

I wouldn’t be able to stay put for long.

The man behind the book:

1. When did you start seriously pursuing writing as a career?

I've been writing since I was a kid, but I started submitting my work for publication in the summer of 2009. I'd always thought I would pursue publication at some point—probably after I retired from teaching or turned 40. My first story was published in January 2010, and I've had another 96 accepted for publication since then. I won't turn 40 for a couple more years, and I'm still teaching full-time. Doesn't look like I'll be retiring anytime soon!

2. How did you create the character Charlie Madison?

When I was a kid, I learned to type on an old-school manual typewriter. That's where I learned to write, too. My first novels were messy, full of typos and plot holes. But they were fun. And at age 15, that's what it was all about for me. Private eye Charlie Madison was one of the first characters I created, based on Box 13 and Dixon Hill, and The Double Murder was his big debut. By the end of it, I had over a hundred pages of snappy banter, mob hits, double-crossing dames, car chases, and even some alligators on leashes. It was a horrible parody, and I knew it.

Halfway through Write1Sub1 2011, I came up with the first Charlie Madison story I'd written in decades: Girl of Great Price. It wasn't anything like his original case, but he was the same quick-witted, intrepid detective I'd known before. I transplanted him into a more serious and gritty "future noir" sci-fi setting, and once I'd envisioned that world, I knew I'd be back. Immaterial Evidence soon followed, and Yakuza Territory will be available from Musa Publishing on November 7th.

3. Are you working on more Charlie Madison stories?

I'm outlining the follow-up to Yakuza Territory, and it's going to be full of assassinations, kidnappings, killer robots, and maybe even a mad scientist. The working title is The Gifted Ones, and it follows the origins of the mysterious suprahumans who have appeared in all three Charlie Madison detective stories so far.

Milo James Fowler is a teacher by day and a speculative fictioneer by night. When he's not grading papers, he's imagining what the world might be like in a dozen alternate realities. He is an active SFWA member, and his work has appeared in more than 90 publications, including AE SciFi, Cosmos, Daily Science Fiction, Nature, Shimmer, and the Wastelands 2 anthology.

Visit and join The Crew for updates about new releases as well as exclusive promotions.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Abbreviated Epics is Out!

From Third Flatiron comes their 10th anthology, Abbreviated Epics--and as the name suggests, it's 19 tales of adventures, betrayals, death, sword fighting, and more! Included is my story, Blade Between Oni and Hare, inspired by the Japanese fable "White Hare of Inaba". You can actually check out the story in the Amazon preview function or, you know, just buy the anthology from Amazon or Smashwords.

This is the first time something of mine has led the forefront in, well, anything! Not only that, but a manga-style cover inspired by my story--how epic is that? (Maybe this is bias, but this has to be one of my favorite covers.) 

Blade Between Oni and Hare is actually my second-written tale of Kazuko--the chest-eyed, rogue samurai. And no, not rogue in the D&D sense. (I had one editor think that. Sheesh!) I call her "rogue" because she falls outside samurai tradition (she's a woman and not even of the samurai class), and depending on how you look at it, isn't the most honorable person. Despite all that, she likes to think of herself as samurai, wielding the classic katana--symbol of power and strength.

Hopefully her other story will eventually see publication, and hopefully more will be written. Japanese folklore is a minefield of monsters, both fun and unusual; and while Kazuko transverses Japan, looking to slay fukakimonodomo (Deep Ones in Japanese), she's bound to run into a lot of crazy shit.

Friday, October 31, 2014

SpooOOky Stories to Read

You might be too old to run a muck in a costume, and are likely serving the next generation of ghoulies their sugar feast, so why not serve yourself a little something? Here are some recommendations that may cause the possible side effects: excessive squirming and cringing, covering of the eyes, heighten sense of paranoia, and enjoyment. Thank your sanity, for these stories have none.

Brimstone and Marmalade by Aaron Corwin - Every young girl wishes she could have a pony, and Mathilde is no different. But in order to prove she can take care of a pony, she must first take care of a little demon pet. A cute, heart-warmingly bizarre tale, one of my very favorites.
The Oregon Trail Diary of Willa Porter by Andy Marino - If the Oregon Trail had been mixed with a very heavy dose of acid, this would be the result. Good build-up, creepy imagery, though the ending doesn't quite live up to the potential. Still, a decent read just for the uniqueness in setting.

The Mothers of Voorhisville by Mary Rickert - I did a story analysis of this one, but still worth recommending again. The many perspectives and the slow dissolve of all sense and reason among the mothers, will have you watching out for any strangers driving around in a hearse.

Headache by Julio Cortázar - Our narrator(s?) complain of a headache and other side effects while caring for the mancuspias. Things soon go haywire. What or who is going on? Does anyone know?! Psychedelic horror open to many interpretations.    

Imaginary Friendships Aren’t the Easiest to Break by Milo James Fowler - Because the imagination can be a scary thing, but even scarier when it's giving you a neck message.

Another Mouth by Lisa L. Hannett - Maura's husband is in a deep depression after the death of their adopted son, and without his fishing hauls, they have little food for themselves, let alone the strangers that come scratching at their door. A good solid character-driven piece with excellent language, and one of the better horror-endings I've read.

The Black Veil by M. Bennardo - Constant Sterry, a judge who once sentenced women to hang for witchcraft, rides to his final destination. Ill and conflicted, he hopes to find answers--will the Black Veil provide them? Another excellent tale of dread with a, shall I say, veiled ending.

Friday, October 17, 2014

New Flash Fiction: A Wizard's Day Journal

Some fun for your Friday (in case it wasn't fun enough already), I have for you "A Wizard's Day Journal" over at Grievous Angel. Free online, so you can check it out whenever.

Every story has a story, or at least a trail of rejections in its wake. Normally I don't post about rejections, but I think this is a special case, because I find it a personal victory that this story got published (with pro-pay, I might add) despite some ass-hat accusing me of ripping off "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" from Disney's Fantasia. I would hope anyone with eyes could see it's not a rip-off, but a running joke. Wizards/sorcerers just seem to have a bad handle on brooms.

So here's the comment in its entirety from a slush reader over at Every D@y Fiction. The rejection itself is nearly a year old, and obviously there have been changes made to the story. Emphasis mine because the guy wrote too damn much.

I got some good chuckles out of this (my first time reading). There are a few good threads in this, though none of them really make it all the way through (as we would like to see in a plot for EDF) except the broom. And the problem with the brooms was that I saw it as a direct rip off of "Sorceror's Apprentice", the "Fantasia" broom scene where as brooms are destroyed, they come back in multitudes from the shattered parts. My other main problem here is, I'm afraid, the overall premise: this isn't a Day Planner, it's a journal. The Wizard is writing things down as they happen, not as pre-made appointments (I have never kept a day planner to jot down everything I had already done). Perhaps making this have a he-said she-said vibe where the Wizard tells us the plans for the day in the first half and then writes in his journal that night would work better? In that way, we could see the "before and after", lending even more humor to the "after" segment as things go wrong. Writing in a journal might also work better with this ending, the poor MC sittign in a motel doubting his whole occupation. Technical issue: I wasn't sure what this meant: "...must cash it in later in case it bounces." Wouldn't you want to cash a potentially-bouncing check ASAP so as to go back to the debtor and get your money? How would ashing it later make more certain it doesn't bounce?
-- Joseph Kaufman  

Now this was a rejection to a rewrite request, but EDF has a very odd policy of having completely different people view the rewrite, which I dislike. You have one person offering you suggestions on the first draft, then another person disregards those suggestions made on the second draft, telling you you should've done something else. Frustrating? Yes! See my post about rewrite requests for more on the topic.

On top of that, you got a slush reader who has no concept of etiquette. There's a lot, and I mean A LOT, better ways to convey the idea that the story is too similar to something without accusing the person of ripping off anything. For example, when I was on a forum critiquing another writer's story, I noticed the story had many of he same elements as X-Men: there was violent conflict between humans and mutants, and the main character had diamond-hard skin, like Emma Frost. So I asked the writer if she were a fan of comics, because the story reminded me of X-Men (and to some extent, Spider-Man). Writer said she didn't read comics or watch the films. So despite similarities, it was more coincidence than rip-off.

I did contact the editor at EDF about the rejection, but I didn't specifically point out the rude slush reader, which in hindsight, maybe should have. I just thought the editor, who made the rewrite request in the first place, should see it. Well, she wound up agreeing with the slush readers. She did make an offer that I could, after making major changes, query and resubmit. But if I was going to put that kind of effort into a story (again), I expected more than three measly bucks.

Interestingly enough, I haven't submitted to EDF since then. Probably because my flash stories sell to better paying markets.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Back! --and with new story

Yes, another hiatus from me. Was in Ireland for the latter half of September, and finally got the pictures off the phone, so I'll be posting about that soonish. Didn't catch a leprechaun, but did catch a cold on the returning flight, so had been out of it. Better now (yay!)

First off--new story, "Neither Heaven Nor Hell" from Bards and Sages Quarterly. Can grab the October issue here from Smashwords (because they're so much better than Amazon). If you're subscribed to Bards and Sages newsletter, you actually receive the issue for free.

A wee excerpt of the story:

She smirked. The skin around her mouth crinkled, as though it was a mask that didn’t quite fit right. She held out her hand; all she cared about was the coin.

I nodded and handed it over--thick and heavy, one of the old coins. She took the coin, held it up to her eye and... Where did it go? Just vanished! She didn't put it behind her eye, did she?

“Okay,” she said, “you’ve got half an hour. Then we’re back here.”

“Wait--the coin--”
She jerked me off the stool, and the bar whited out.

If you're familiar with Bard and Sages, then you might be thinking: "What? This is 1st-person! B&S doesn't publish 1st-person!" And you'd be correct. Originally the story was written in 3rd-person limited, but that was apparently confusing (I don't believe so, but eh), so the story was switched to 1st-person. If you wanna know what it was like originally, just replace all the "I's" with "he". That's all I did, lol.

Also, first time I get to share TOC space with fellow W1S1er, Milo James Fowler. Yay!

Other news ... "Blade Between Oni and Hare" was accepted by Third Flatiron, second story they've bought from me; first time was in Universe Horribilis anthology. First time Kazuko, my chest-eyed rogue samurai character, will be in the spotlight, and first time I get to be the lead story with cover artwork. How cool is that? The cover is pretty epic as well.

TOC for the Abbreviated Epics anthology (and once again, sharing space with another W1S1er)

Blade Between Oni and Hare by Siobhan Gallagher
HMS Invisible and the Halifax Slaver by Iain Ishbel
Beyond the Turning Orrery by Deborah Walker
Heart-Shaped by Manuel Royal
A Wolf Is Made by Jordan Ashley Moore
Through an Ocular Darkly by Martin Clark
Damfino Plays for Table Stakes by Ben Solomon
The Committee by Margarita Tenser
Rain over Lesser Boso by Gustavo Bondoni
The Perfection of the Steam-Powered Armour by Adria Laycraft
Assault on the Summit by Daniel Coble
Fortunate Son by Steve Coate
Odin on the Tree by Jo Walton
Refusing the Call by Elliotte Rusty Harold
The Blue Cup by Marissa James
Toward the Back by Jake Teeny
The Lost Children by Alison McBain
Great Light's Daughters by Patricia S. Bowne
Qinggong Ji by Stephen D. Rogers
On a Train with a Coyote Ghost by Robin Wyatt Dunn

Thursday, August 7, 2014

New Stories! "Zeitschatten" and "A Beastful Hunger"

The month of a July was a dry one in terms of publications, but now I've got two new juicy stories out.

First off, a wee 100-word piece (that's 100 words exactly), "A Beastful Hunger", from Saturday Night Reader. The website also has optional rain effects, to give you the ambiance of sitting at home on a rainy day; kind of neat, I think.

Secondly, my sci-fi horror "Zeitschatten", from Wanderer's Haven Publication (free to read). Quick excerpt:
Cold pressure. Nerves on fire. Sick sensation in her stomach, as if something reached into her very soul and torn a piece off.

She squeezed her eyes shut against the pain, prayed. Please God make it stop. Make. It. Stop.

This is a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Shadow", which I really enjoyed but it lacked an Event which would cause the narrator's shadow to separate; it just sort of does. So I fixed that, plus it's written in my awesome style, haha.

As for the title, it means "shadow time" in German. I know Hans Christian Anderson wasn't German, but zeitschatten sounds so much cooler than its English translation. Also the issue of trying to give horror stories interesting titles that won't give away the meat (or nasty lil' giblets) of the story. If you've noticed, horror stories tend to have the most mundane titles of all.

So watch out for those shadows, you never know where they may go off to.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What's in a Gonad?

Title might need some explain since it's (okay, maybe a lot) odd. For the past week or so, after reading Lois Tilton's early July review of short magazines, I was thinking on what Miss Tilton had said about characters, specifically:

I notice in reading so many of these works that female characters sometimes seem only nominally women; change the gender of pronouns from "she" to "he" and there would be little real difference.

Which is interesting since some women complain that they don't see enough representation of their sex in speculative fiction. I remember reading one forum thread where a woman disliked how in the original Star Wars trilogy, the only female characters were Princess Leia and some sexy alien dancers. Why weren't there any female tie fighter pilots?  

Personally, I never really understood the issue. I don't get offended if I don't see a woman in the story. I don't even mind the oversexed females, assuming that they actually do something, rather than just being eye candy.

To me, the most important aspects of a character are a) they act on something (none of this sitting around and boo-whooing) b) they use their brain (YA has given rise to the "dumb as fuck" characters), and c) they have a personality and a history.

Nothing that I listed has anything to do with what the character has between their legs. The character should feel right at home in the story, rather than be shoe-horned in because the writer felt like he/she had a quota to keep up.

For me, I write whatever character walks onto the set, whether they be male or female, straight or gay. I do give more careful attention to nationality, because if I set a story in medieval Japan, the main character probably shouldn't be white. 

However, I thought about whether or not personalities are completely sexless. Because I like to think that a story about a woman character is more than her having a vagina, that her womaness shows through in her personality.

A nominal woman sounds uninteresting to me (as would a nominal male), like they're stock characters or something. I mean if you're going to write a character, then write a character. Not some walking generality. Because a bland character usually means a bland story, and I don't finish bland stories.

And thinking back to some of my favorite stories, I've noticed the characters feel distinctly male or female. (Unfortunately, I haven't encountered much in the way of transgendered characters.) The stories weren't even about gender issues; it was just the way the character talked or behaved--and not in a stereotypical fashion, but like real people.

So yes, I believe a character's sex is an important influence on personality. You might argue that the personality of a man and the personality of a woman are not that different, and whatever differences that exist are because of gender traits that society has placed on men and women. That's a tough one to say, especially when we're still trying to figure what is "man" and what is "woman" outside of gender roles. But I feel the difference has to be deeper than our genitalia. We do after all manufacture different amounts of hormones which must play a role.

Anyway... Thoughts?

(And if you haven't guessed the title, it's a rift on "What's in a name?")

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Editorial Requests: Vagueness vs. Specifics

Anyone who's been in the writing business for a time will be familiar the the old rewrite request; their story is close, but not quite there. Sometimes editors are really cool, and will tell you what part(s) of your story need fixing up. While others sort of don't. And I think that makes a huge difference between turning a rewrite request into either an acceptance or rejection.

In my experience, a vague or unclear request has never resulted in an acceptance. I understand editors want to give the writer some leeway and not dictate how the writer should write their story, but at the same time, writers aren't mind readers (Sorry, that's not a super ability you get when writing.) And it's often the case that I didn't interpret the editor's request the way they wanted it to be interpreted. Again, I'm not a mind reader! Also, interpretation is a frustrating process, more time-consuming than writing the damn thing, and when you receive the rejection, it honestly feels like a punishment for misinterpreting. Like this was your chance to save the story and in the editor's eyes, you failed. 

When an editor can pinpoint where the story needs improving, that helps to open the writer's eyes and go: "Oh, is that what needs redoing?" Because let's face it, writers are often blind to their stories own flaws. For example, Sam Bellotto Jr. of Perihelion SF made this request for Mapping in the Darkness:

I truly enjoyed this story, but it needs a much more satisfying ending (not necessarily a happy ending) than the throwaway "Creepy" comic book trope of "EEAagghh!"

Please consider coming up with a more inventive conclusion and resubmitting the story.

 Ah! Now I know what needs fixing. (And if you're curious about submitting to Perihelion, here's W1S1's interview with the editor.)

Another example, Brian Lewis of Spark: A Creative Anthology made this very detailed request for Spirit Flare:

More important to clarity of the story is much earlier mention of Spider Woman if you're going to mention the her at all, and perhaps at least a little snippet of the Hopi creation story and the Spider Grandmother's role in it. This is necessary to create a connection for those readers who don't know it—and most of Spark's readers won't know it.
         For example, the conversation about the spider-shaped scar on Kasa's grandmother's should be a perfect point to say something. Grandmother could even launch into a retelling of the story, Kasa could respond dismissively by rolling her eyes (because she's heard it a thousand times and because she believes primarily in the modern world), and that would add to the justification for Grandmother getting upset.
         Since the presence of Hopi ancestry and culture is, in fact, one of the things that set this story apart, I think bringing a couple more hints—but not overdoing it—of how that culture has continued into the future, even into space exploration, will really bring home the piece. (I even wonder if you missed an opportunity by not having Grandma refer to the pirates who left her with a scar as coyotes.)
         The take-away from this is that if you're going to mention Spider Woman at the end as part of Kasa's change of heart, there needs to be more to help the reader make a connection to Hopi culture and religion, and these are just a few suggestions on how you might accomplish that.

Holy crap, actual suggestions! That's great! Not to mention it shows that the editor has a genuine interest in your story succeeding.

So I guess this is one writer's request for editors to be conscientious when asking for rewrites. The more clear and specific you can be, the more likely the writer will meet or exceed the editor's needs for the story.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Updates from a Slacker

Not entirely slacking, but I do feel like I haven't written as much lately. Partly because I've been editing/writing for an indie game Hellenica--a steampunk JRPG set in ancient Greece, hopefully coming out at the end of the year.You can check out the developers' blog here if you're interested to find out more.

But there's been some news in the past few weeks.

First off, publications!

"Astreya's Fish" over at Chrome Baby, which is free to read. If you've read By the Stars You Will Know Her or Oh Deity, My Deity, then you've encountered Astreya before. At some point, I'll get around to writing the fourth installment that'll wrap all these stories together. I just haven't gotten on it since none of those stories have been big sellers. *sigh* But it'll of these days...

Other publications:  "Detergent" in Bete Noire issue #15  --a black comedy sci-fi flash piece. Need to buy the issue, but here's a snippet: 
“We need detergent so--”

“How could you?” She frowned. “You should at least wait until she dies.”

He sighed. “But that’s taking too long. We need soap now.”

“Absolutely not!”

“I think we’ve kept her long enough, past her usefulness anyway. What does she do now? Except cost us credits. I mean, how many hips do we have to replace on her?”

“She’s not a refrigerator.”

“I agree, our fridge has never given us trouble.”

In space, you gotta get your soap from somewhere, right?

And yet another flash piece, "The Last Old House," in Horror D'oeuvres.

Some acceptances, one from an awesome anthology called Unfettered--stories which revolve around illustrations by Terry Whidborne (I chose the one with gnomes on stilts crossing tentacles). The same publisher is open for another neat anthology idea: The Lane of Unusual Traders. The pay is really good, so it's something worth checking out. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Story Analysis: The Mothers of Voorhisville

I'm going to try something new here, and may or may not earn me the wrath of some author. But I figure if these stories are up for reviews and critiques, then playing the analytical game isn't so bad and it's something I already do when reading, so...yeah.

So going to take a look at "The Mothers of Voorhisville" by Mary Rickert, published by Story is available for free online so you can read you won't be left out.

I'm going with this story because it's actually a pretty decent psychological horror, and it's becoming increasingly hard to find those that don't sound like a dreamlike sequences the author had while hopped on cold medicine. I also disagree with Lois Tilton in her review, but we'll get to that. The story is certainly (in my opinion) flawed, but not in the way that she thinks.

Voorhisville is a small town that gets turned on its head when "The Stranger" comes and seducers several of the women--women who range from married to widowed, underage teens to some reaching into their forties. The result of the seduction leads to pregnancies and the birth of blue-eyed boys...with wings. So yes, there is a Village of the Damned vibe to this, however, instead of creepy kids, we get crazy, overprotective mothers.

The story is told from multiple perspectives, individual mothers and "The Mothers" who is a collective voice. The Mothers try to chronicle the events while individuals share their personal experiences, which are the most powerful scenes. To read how each woman came into contact with the stranger, how they instantly "did it" with him, pregnancy, the terrible labor, the discovery that their child could fly--and the paranoia if anyone else finds out.  

No, what had sealed her fate was that moment when she decided to lie to her husband about the baby’s wings. It was no longer the three of them against the world, but mother and child against everyone else.

And from there, we see these mothers' sanity slip. But consequences reverberate, and we see the husbands having to bear the brunt of this, while not understanding why their wives shut them out. Hell, in Pete's case, husband of Theresa Ratcher and father of Elli, he gets accused of molesting his own daughter!

Now the text isn't clear if this is a case of mass hysteria, bewitchment, or maybe something in the water. Lois Tilton took issue with this because the ambiguity was more frustrating than interesting. If it's bewitchment, why did the Stranger do it? I don't know, but the fact that he drives a hearse should give you a sense of foreshadowing.

To me, it didn't matter. The Mothers are insane, so nothing they do is going to make much sense,  even when they act in self-preservation for the sake of their babies--and granted, they have some reason for this because people like Pete see the babies as sick animals that need to be put down--they go waaaay over-the-top.

There in lies some of the problem. The ending goes completely off the rails, almost to the point of a farce. It's just ludicrous. I can sort of understand why, not in terms of the story itself, but rather, the limits of the horror genre. There can only be so many conclusions to a horror story: the protagonist defeats the evil, the protagonist succumbs to evil, or the protagonist is the evil. As a result, I think horror writers have been struggling to come up with new ways to wow editors, and not fall into predictability. In this case, perhaps the author was trying to go out with as much of a bang as possible, despite the soft plea of the Mothers at the end.

For me personally, I would've preferred seeing the consequences extend, first the mothers, then the family unit, then to society overall. I pictured the Mothers becoming a secret society--probably because I find secret societies creepy as hell--lording over the town, sending their babies to terrorize any who dare speak out. After all, something like this must have had an impact on small town life, and if the foreshadowing is true, then the Stranger may have intended to end such a way of life.

And no, I don't think the babies were perfectly innocent. They may not be monsters yet, but they seemed to have the potential, seeing as they did chew two human beings to death, one of them being a mother. Still, the Mothers protect their young.

So I think that wraps things up. If you read "The Mothers of Voorhisville" and have any of your own insights, feel free to share them in the comment section. I wouldn't let the ending deter you from reading this (in case you haven't), because of course that's my opinion. All I know is that I didn't feel it worked for this particular piece. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

An X-Men movie that is sequel, prequel and even reboot. Obviously this revival was in part inspired by the success of Marvel, because anyone who has seen X3 knows that movie essentially ended the X-Men series...but then the franchise came back.

Brief synopsis: The future is doomed for the mutants. Giant robots known as "Sentinels" have overrun the world and hunted the mutants to near-extinction. Now it's up to Kitty Pryde (aka Shadowcat), using some odd new power of projection, to project Wolverine's mind back into the past where he might alter the outcome.

In short, I enjoyed it. Haven't seen X-Men: First Class, because for a while I was done with X-Men films. I was supremely dissatisfied with X3, and after watching the leaked version of Wolverine: Origins--a complete waste of film--the franchise had truly ran its course. But that doesn't say much because I've never really been impressed with the X-Men movies. Compared to the animated series of the 90's, with adventures of both cosmic and catastrophic in nature and size, the movies are weak sauce. Especially what they did with Rogue (booooo!) Maybe one day they'll be a real reboot. But till then...

I wasn't bored with the action like I was with Star WarsTrek: Into Darkness; in fact, some really awesome action scenes involving a new mutant, Blink, and her ability to throw portals wherever. Quite fun to see allies hop into one portal and fall out of another and onto the enemy's back, or for a portal to cut a sentinel in half. Unfortunately, the best action is reserved for the future scenes, and there's only two good ones, which makes the great cast of mutant characters feel wasted.

The bulk of the movie is set in 1973, where Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) must stop Mystique/Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinate a prominent figure which would set the future as they know it in motion--but first, he must seek out young Professor X (James McAvoy) and young Magneto (Michael Fassbender). All the performances are great and I enjoy how these characters all play off one another, which makes the lack of action forgivable. Also, plenty of gags with a non-adamantizied Wolverine.

Really enjoyed Quicksilver (Evan Peters), and like his name's sake, his time on the screen is short. Again, it's sort of wasted, and you wonder why the character couldn't tag along (aside from the fact that he'd make things waaaay too easy). At the very least, they did give a nod (if you're familiar with the X-Men genealogy) to who his father might be. Interesting factoid: Evan Peters co-starred with Aaron Taylor-Johnson in the first Kick-Ass movie, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson is to play Quicksilver in the Marvel movies.

Here, there be spoilers.

The plot is odd. I'm not talking about the time travel elements, because that's all comic book logic, but the fact that the movie would've been over half-way in if young Magneto hadn't been such an ass. And it makes you wonder: why the hell did they bust him out? He just made things worse!

They also try to shoehorn some historical stuff, like Magneto was originally imprisoned because he "supposedly" assassinated JFK, and then there's young Professor X's addiction to a serum that allows him to walk while inhabiting his powers, which resembles awfully close to heroine use.

Then there's this pathetic attempt to explain the mutant gene and genetics, which is an area that Hollywood has no business going into, especially when there was a preview for a movie that still sticks to the "humans only use 10% of their brain" myth.     

On the plus-side (and this is a big plus), because of all the timey-wimey stuff, this movie effectively erases all the mistakes in X3. That alone elevates this movie to higher standards. 

So despite the flaws, Days of Future Past has rekindled my interest in the X-Men franchise--there's going to be another movie coming out in 2016, so might as well get used to it. Just hoping they don't burn it to the ground again.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Wildstar beta: First Impressions (part 2)

So picking up where part 1 left off...

The aesthetics of the world are cartoony, colorful and fun. It is kind of close to WoW's style, but seeing as everyone else tries to go for dark, gritty realism, I really don't mind seeing some WoW influence. Sometimes you forget that video games can actually have *gasp* a color palette!

Click on the pic to see it in full size and awesomeness!
Just exploring can be amazing as you encounter new places and weird aliens. Each region has a story to tell and you can help sway the events through quests. For one place on Dominion side, I helped clear up a plague by finding out where it came from and who was responsible. The town went from a burning hell hole with its citizens dripping plague, to a much cleaner version. Oh, and I helped build a hospital--which required hassling the local farmers for money. But that's life in the empire, right?

And that's the another thing: many of the quests have a lot of personality. Granted, you do have the mundane "collect X many bear asses", but there are enough fun ones that bring something new and memorable to the table. Such as (once again, on Dominion side) one quest that took me to a mining station off-world. My toon had to wear one of those bubble helmets that you see in retro sci-fi comics, and due to the difference in gravity, she would gently glide down after a jump. Then I had to go through creepy corridors, discovering parasite-infested bodies and the miner's last recorded words, which reminded me a lot of System Shock 2. Very cool stuff. Not to mention, fucking awesome view!

Wish I had figured out how to hide the distracting interface.

In addition to quests, you've got challenges. They'll be certain items or enemies that will trigger them and you'll have a timer to kill/collect as many X as possible. Sometimes I found them fun, other times annoying. The rewards for successfully completing a challenge will scale with how well you did, although sometimes it's impossible to achieve higher than a bronze.

Something new in this game are paths. You can choose one from four, and they basically are tailored to how you like to play the game. Like killing a lot of stuff? Then you would go Soldier. Exploring? Explorer. And so on. I mainly did Settler path, which was building stuff and came quite handy, because I could build banks, mailboxes and boosts (i.e. increased speed, stat boots, extra merchants). Boyfriend went the Science path which unlocked extra lore about the world, and as he says, you got to "science" stuff. I did try a bit of Explorer, but did not find it as enjoyable or useful. Sure, you get a speed buff to go running around, but twice I fell off a hill and died. I guess the trailer was right!

There's also trade skills, which is an element I did not miss from The Secret World. I kind of hate having to farm materials to make stuff, but I will say they do something different. You've got a trade skill tree, and as you create more stuff, you unlock the ability to craft higher end goodies. And with better quality, you  get to choose the stats for that gear. As I mentioned before, I mainly focused on moxie and finesse for my esper class, so I would make weapons with those stats. You also have power cores for these craftable items, and the better the power core, the more stats you can put on your gear.

I also went with mining, which wasn't made easy because I couldn't see ore nodes on my mini-map (I had to go to my main map, which interrupts gameplay). However, neat things would occasionally happen when I'd mine a node. Sometimes the node would sprout legs and become this bug-thing and I had to kill to quick before it scurried away. Other times I'd get a giant ore worm and when I defeated it, a wormhole (har har) would open up and I got a 2 minute spree to farm as much ore as I wanted in another dimension.

Housing--yes, there is housing in this game. At first I was leery of this, because I thought it was some Second Life crap leaking into MMORPG's, buuuuuut it was actually a plus for this game. Everyone can get a plot of land in the sky and you can build/decorate it with whatever stuff you find. The more decorations, the better experience bonus buff you get if you log out on your land. You also get useful stuff like having your own personal farm, ore mine, exploration cave, even a dungeon! and such to help level up your skills. You can even visit other player's houses and have roomates. And if you're busy and haven't logged in for awhile, then other players can farm/mine/whatever your resources and split the profits with you.

So is this game worth getting? Well I had a lot of fun, but I would still wait six months before committing. Like every MMORPG that thinks it'll break WoW's streak, they're going to start with a monthly subscription. So far, no one but WoW has been able to maintain the monthly subscription model. Wildstar might pull it off because it's pretty damn polished, even in its beta form, and provides quite a few unique things that I think players will enjoy. Personally, I prefer buy-to-play since I don't feel obligated to get my money's worth of gameplay each month, but we'll see how this goes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Wildstar beta: First Impressions (part1)

So if you haven't heard, there's a new MMORPG on the block calling itself Wildstar. They recently had an open beta, inviting players to come and break stuff before the final release on June 3, 2014. And because breaking stuff is fun, I thought I'd give it a try. Also, because this was going to be a really long post, I chopped it into two.

Like any MMORPG, there are factions, usually two, sometimes three. Wildstar's two factions are Exiles and Dominion. I played both sides, but most of my time was spent playing Dominion, because damn, they're fun. I love the black humor of Dominion; they're an evil empire and not afraid to flaunt it.A lot of times you'll be answering orders from higher ups with a prima donna complex, but it's all so over the top (as is most of the game), one wonders if this empire is run on swagger alone.

The Exiles are, well, the exiled people of Dominion. They're basically tree-huggers. No, really. They seem to want to do general good, and their missions tend to revolve around saving this or that, and preventing the destructive forces of the Dominion. Whereas Dominion quests will deal with more political intrigue, betrayals, empire infrastructure. Which is good that each faction feels distinctly different in both goals and philosophies--it's just I prefer evil overloads to goody two-shoes.

Yes, there is even a quest to save sentient root vegetables!

Basic story is that this new planet, Nexus, has been discovered, and is considered very valuable to both factions, thus becomes the apex of galactic conflict. And that's as much story as you need for an MMORPG.

As for combat, there is no auto-attacking (yay!). You also don't have a bazillion abilities on hand like in WoW. There's no skill tree, you just buy abilities and slot them, but you have a maximum of eight slots, which are only unlocked as you level. Why yes, that means you need to think about what you slot. Combat is much more active, requiring you to dodge out of enemies attacks, which are made visible with red areas on the ground.

Not sure how I feel about the quick time events that occur whenever you get stunned. You need to hold down a key--and fast--because they will be a lot of hurt coming your way. Personally, I don't care for quick time events, but some people might find this an interesting mechanic.

The two classes I played were esper (aka psyblades) and medic, and both had a pretty good rhythm to their combat. I'm quite use to The Secret World's combat where, depending on your weapons, you build resources before firing off a consumer ability, or start with full consumers and build resources back up. Esper has resource building while medic starts with full consumers. Both are different and both work well. I probably lean toward esper just because seeing my character throw phantasmal swords at foes was pretty awesome, although do like how the medic's weapon is a defibrillator. Both of these classes can heal, and all classes have duel roles. Once again, it just depends on what you slot.

Stats are, err, interesting, but not entirely clear to me. Especially how they translate between classes. Like for my esper character, I mainly focused on moxie and finesse, because moxie would give me more assault power to hit stuff harder, and finesse would give me crits. However, when playing my medic, tech gave me assault power and moxie gave me crits. Which I guess makes sense because medic does tech damage while esper does magical, but on the other hand...that's going to be a challenge to keep track of, especially if you have multiple characters. Perhaps this is a way to make gear a bit more unique to each class, because in other games, similar stats could be used across multiple classes which would inevitably lead to fighting over gear.

So last but not least: character creation. There are seven races (humans are in both factions), and the differences are all cosmetic. No special race abilities of the sort. I went with cassian human on Dominion side, making her in the image of Mirage from The Incredibles. Funny enough, the cartoony look of the game could easily go along with any Pixar movie.

Also, cassian were the only other race that can be esper; the other is a race of psychotic rats with tourette's syndrome. Dominion also has giant robots and a dragon-like species. For Exiles: furries. Well, not exactly, but expect most players to be running around as humaniods with fuzzy ears and tails. They also have rock people and cyberpunk zombies. I of course chose the zombie.

Part 2 coming soon!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

What's that fad!

I've been doing some catch up on reading and have noticed a few trends. So I thought, why not make a game of it? Can you predict the fads the editors are all going after?

1) Lesbians -- I'm guessing this is part of the "increasing narrative experiences" or some nonsense like that. However, no hint of gay males. Bonus points if the males (if any are actually present in the story), are viewed as all rapists! (Joking here, but I have read more than a few stories that take on this viewpoint, which I find very troubling.)

2) East Asian settings -- This fad started toward the end of last year, but has been going strong. Not always directly Asian, though the fantasy world may have a heavy flavoring of Chinese, Thai, Korean, and so on. There have also been quite a few translated stories from Asian cultures. Not so much India (although you do see some veiled references to Kali popping up), but I'm sure as writers delve more into all the different cultures of the East Asia continent, we may be seeing more.   

3) Fairy Tale Retellings -- This has been a big one. Many, many anthologies carrying this theme, and even a few magazines that are nothing but this theme. I blame the popularity of shows such as Once Upon A Time and Grimm.

So if you've got a fairy tale retelling with an East Asian background involving lesbians, best get that thing to an editor--quick!

Any other fads you've noticed? Name them here!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

W1S1 April Update (2014 edition)

 Well April flew by, didn't it? Was a busy month, had moved from Tucson to south Texas (a loooong drive)--which isn't reflected in my author bios, but oh well. 

So how did this month go?

Stories written: 1 (for Sword & Sorceress)
Stories submitted:18 (mostly resubs with a couple new things)
Stories accepted: 2
Stories rejected:18

A much slower month compared to the others. I usually send out many more submissions, but since very few were coming back to me, well, you know. Maybe editors go on Spring Break, hmm...

Received an acceptance from Horror D'oeuvres--that'll be out next month, and another acceptance from The Red Penny Papers for "Eat a Sandwich, Man"--which I'm quite relieved to have finally sold, seeing as it's been around for, oh, about 2 years, racking up 15 R's in that time (horror-humor seems to be a tough sale). That one will be out in Spring 2015. 

And in case you missed them, publications for this month:
"Twisty", part of Unlike Story's April Fool's Day issue (free to read!)

"Mapping in the Darkness", from Perihelion (free to read!)

"Spirit Flare", from Spark: A Creative Anthology, Volume V

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Awesome Flintlock Pistol

Weapons come up a lot in fantasy, mostly the sword, but from time to time you might see some 'black powder age' weaponry, such as in Milo James Fowler's Minutemen (btw, where's the sequel to that?) 

Current story I'm working on has a witch that casts spells with a flintlock pistol, which I think is way cooler than a wand. Not to mention it's a classy weapon.

Some useful videos if you're thinking about using flintlock pistols in your story; first two specifically on reloading, last one on the general build and how it works.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Short Story: Double Feature!

So April looks to be a busy month with lots of publications coming out. For me, I've got two sci-fi stories. First up...

"Mapping in the Darkness" over at Perihelion, which you can read for free.

Mitch cranked the wheel of the SEV as he backed out of the ship’s cargo hold, and onto Plutonian soil. 
“Hey! Careful,” Jerome said from the lavatory.
“You knew I was going to do this, so why didn’t you hold it?”
“It’s not my fault I had a bean burrito.”
This is a dark comedy with one part Lovecraftian horror (if you're familiar with Lovecraft mythos, then you might recognize the aliens from "The Whisperer in Darkness"), although not in the way Lovecraft would've had it, but frankly, I consider far better (as we all know, Lovecraft didn't write characters). I love, love, love dark comedy, and took a good deal of inspiration from Dan Meth's short cartoon Google Earth Guys. Unfortunately, this story was held back due to a lack of ending. I kinda knew that, yet you know how it is, if you don't have a real drive to solve a problem, the problem just slides on by. Obvious good news is that editor Sam Bellotto Jr. gave me that shove.  

Second up...

"Spirit Flare" in Spark: A Creative Anthology, Volume V. The anthology should be out by now, but guess there's some delay--but hey! there's always preorder! 

Yeah it's a YA story; not that I set out to write YA stories but this happens to be one. It's got Hopi Indians in space, which as you imagine is not often done, so much so that I actually got my first personal from Strange Horizons with this story.

I quite like learning about other cultures and their traditions, and one perspective in Hopi culture is that age is a determining factor of how good a person you are (i.e. the older you are, the more likely you are to be a morally good person). Which does make a bit of sense since stupid or bad people usually die young. But I do find the concept fascinating compared to modern day trends, where beauty is the height of purity. I would actually like to explore this theme more in-depth, beyond the confines of a YA story. 

And I have to share this because this illustration is amazing. I rarely get art done for my stories, so it's a real treat to see something inspired by my work, and it has such a great retro-style going for it.

Seriously, is this not cool?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Flash Fiction: Twisty (aka best story evar!)

How can you say this is bad? It's awesome!

What's that calender? You say it's April 1st? Well that can only mean one thing: best story evar! from Unlikely Acceptance. And by that, I mean terrible story.

The man leapt to his feet. “Ha! Vampire, you have met you match, for I am a--” He opened his jacket to reveal rows of wooden stakes. “Vampire hunter extraordinaire!”
“How unfortunate for you,” Freebie said, and pulled a raw steak from her boot. “I’m a vampire hunter hunter.”

So the title "Twisty" should be a dead giveaway that it's about twists--twists upon twists, so twisty that it twists the sense out of your twisted brain.

Why twists? Because nothing will kill a story faster than a poorly done twist. Unsurprisingly, this hasn't deterred writers from doing said poorly done twists. For example, just look at Dean Koontz's The Taking --I loved that book till the end, where a middle finger would've been a more suitable ending than the one readers got.

So yes, bad twists are bad and make for bad fiction. Also things like overdone cliches, lack of story coherency, not keeping track of character names, and unsatisfying endings will all be major ticks against your writing.

Let this be a public message for you wannabe writers out there (and maybe you pros, too). Don't write anything resembling this crap--unless you're me, then totally write this crap.   

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Short Story: Spring Cleaning

So here's a season appropriate story--not the intention, but pretty darn good timing on the publication, if I do say so myself (and I do).

"Spring Cleaning" took first place in On the Premises "21 and up" contest/issue 22, and they routinely run these contests (no fee), so check them out some time. Funny too, because this is only the second time I've entered one of their contests. Last time it was humor, and obviously our senses of humor didn't match up.

Oh, and one of the nicest things that any editor has ever said about one my stories:
Congratulations on writing the first­ place story! I loved this one and wasn’t surprised at all when the other judges did too. Of the ten finalists, yours was the only story not to receive a “no” vote by any judge. (Even our second and third place finishers had one detractor apiece.) 

If that ain't flattery, I don't know what is!

As for the story itself, the inspiration was something I stumbled on while researching about the leyak--the Indonesian version of the penanggalan, except it's a bit more of a shape-shifting sorcerer. (I swear, East Asia has the coolest creatures.) And I came across this tidbit from a brochure site of all places!

Nyepi. Once a year, at the spring equinox, every community holds a general cleaning-out of devils, driving them out of the village with magical curses and rioting by the entire population. This is followed by a day of absolute stillness, the suspension of all activity, from which the ceremony takes its name. Nyepi marks they New Year and the arrival of spring, the end of the troublesome rainy season, when even the earth is said to be sick and feverish (panas). It is believed that then the Lord of Hell, Yama, sweeps Hades of devils, which fall on Bali, making it imperative that the whole of the island be purified.

So I fell in love with the idea of a poor little demon who is, quite literally, swept out of Hell and has survive on Earth. "As expected, Earth was a terrible, terrible place. At least in Hell, he was dry and warm."

By the way, "Bantu" means "help" in Bahasa Indonesia. Also, shadow-puppetry or "shadow play"  is a pastime in Indonesia. See, I do my research. :)