Content Creation, Timelines, and Rants

Its funny looking back. I ended up taking a long hiatus from everything meaningful when it comes to writing and stories.

Now I could justify it all. I moved across country. Hell, I just moved to a different country. I read a book that was just so far outside of what I liked, not only could I not finish it, but it took me months to get the desire to read anything.

The truth is, though, that this content creation wheel we have to ride is a giant pain in the ass. Tweet thres times a day. Post regular blogs. Get a newsletter and shoot that out monthly. Engage with both your audience and with other writers.

Screw that.

Don’t get me wrong. Everyone who does well with indie publishing does these things. But with Twitter? Well established authors just tweet whatever they want. Politics, retcons, rants. As for non-established? Well, they just post things to the writing community. They following are other writers.

Good for them. Really not trying to discourage. I’m not trying to write for other writers though. I don’t care what my MC would do if they were thrown into GoT or the Potterverse or at high tea with the high queen of such and such.

Its why I barely engage with the Facebook groups anymore too. Most the posts are things like that. The few posts that do ask questions and seek advice, most of the comments are “well my chars…”

Look, like I said, if these things help you, great. Some people love exploring what their chars would do in situations outside of the book. They like the mashups. Those questions are probably why they became writers in the first place.

For me…I had stories I wanted to tell. Of course the rub is that i spent so much time trying to create content to engage that I never had time to work on my stories.

So here is what I am going to do. I’m hoping off the regular timeline train. When I finish a book, I’ll post a review. When I get bored and write a flash fiction, I’ll throw it up. If I have random conversations with myself like this one, well I’ll toss that up as well.

My tweets will still be related to my worlds and stories (at least as much as 280 characters will allow). And probably sales and giveaways as well…at least when I add new short stories to Amazon. Or books. One day I’ll finish one of those.

As for now, I have this really weird idea in my head about witches and multiverses and magical detectives. So follow on here or Twitter, @steelstashwrit1, if you want mostly story driven things. Or don’t. And feel free to comment support or arguments. I’ve been wrong before.

But whatever you do, I need y’all to stay fantastical.

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Book Review – Eisenhorn by Dan Abnett

Book: Eisenhorn

Author: Dan Abnett

Genre: Fantasy, Thriller, GrimDark, Warhammer 40k

Part of a Series: Yes, Eisenhorn

Spoiler Warning.

Eisenhorn is a trilogy by Dan Abnett that follows the life and career of Imperial Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn and set firmly within the Warhammer 40K universe. It begins with Xenos and the investigation of a mass murder on a remote planet in the Helican Sector. Using his position as Inquisitor to inspire fear and gather information, Eisenhorn tracks the clues of the murder back to the capital planet of Gudrun. There, he uncovers a plot by the ancient family  Glaw to resurrect one of their ancestors, Pontius, through dark rituals, and their efforts to make contact with an alien race in order to secure a copy of an ancient text of destruction. Along the way, Eisenhorn gathers a team of companions to aid him, fights a daemon from the warp, and eventually saves the day. The dangerous and heretical text is destroyed, the Glaw family is broken, and Pontius’ soul is still trapt in a mystic orb.

The second book, Malleus, sees Eisenhorn come under a charge of heresy. The daemon he fought with in Xenos returns to wreak havoc while dropping Eisenhorn’s name to another Inquisitor. Eisenhorn learns of this after surviving another mass murder and assault on Thraxcian Prime. In attempts to track down the perpetrators of that assault, he uncovers another daemon as well as the evidence of what was assumed to be long dead Inquisitor attempting to perform a grand act of heresy. With Eisenhorn also labeled heretic, he must track down this rogue Inquisitor alone. This forces him to turn to Pontius Glaw in order to learn the secrets of the daemons and their weaknesses in exchange for creating Pontius a robotic body. With the help of a friend from the Adeptus Mechanicus, Eishenhorn fashions a staff that will amplify his psychic powers. Armed with this new weapon, Eisenhorn obliterates the second daemon, severely weakens the first, and kills the rogue Inquisitor. He is found innocent of his heresy and reinstated as Inquisitor. The book ends with Eisenhorn in secret possession of a dark text for controlling daemons and creatures of the warp as well as the first daemon trapt in Eisenhorn’s bunker.

Hereticus is the final book in the trilogy. While presiding over a trial, Eisenhorn learns that the man who killed a friend of his was on the planet. Eisenhorn abandons the trial to track the man down only to find himself confronted with a battle titan. With very little time or good options, Eisenhorn summons the daemon he trapt to kill the titan. While recovering from the event in his home on Gudrun, his entire organization is attacked by mercenaries. He manages to escape with a handful of his people, flees the planet, and pieces together the fact that the attack was conducted by non-other than Pontius Glaw. Glaw seems to be searching for some hidden treasure of a daemon king and wants the dark text Eisenhorn saved while also eliminating all evidence of Glaw’s continued existence. Through much sacrifice and the loss of friends, Eisenhorn is able to defeat Glaw with the help of his daemon and disappears from Imperial record.

In addition to these three books, there are also two short stories of various adventures and investigations Eisenhorn had. They are fun and fine for what they are, but as a whole, they are not necessary. These stories merely explain some of the plot points of the following books. The explanations are not necessary for understanding, but including them in the main texts would have likely killed pacing and been non-important.

First things first. I know that there are going to be some Warhammer fans who are going to disagree with calling this book fantasy. Just because it is set in space doesn’t make it sci-fi. It has all the trappings of a fantasy story. Like Star Wars, it is fantasy in space. This is not to detract from the book, and at the end of the day, label the genre however you want.

That being said, I have always been fascinated with the lore of Warhammer. It is a dark world where millions can die in a cold, unforgiving universe. The works of The Black Library, Warhammer’s publishing house, are proof of the fact that when anything is an existential threat to society, any means are permitted to eliminate that threat.

This philosophy is exemplified in the Inquisitors. Agents of the Holy Emperor, they have near unlimited social power. Many of them are extremely strong psychics. Through the use of the law, fear, and psychic will, they impose the moral right and fight against the corruption and heresy that would destroy mankind in whatever way they see fit.

Eisenhorn is a great case study. He says he begins as a puritan, but in reality, he is more of a moderate. True, Eisenhorn destroys the first dark text in Xenos, but even other moderates within the Inquisition agreed with him on that. As he progresses through the stories,  Eisenhorn makes decisions that pull him more in line with the radicals and closer to a true heretic. The trilogy ends with the reader wondering if he is still the hero that they have followed or the threat that was shown in Malleus.

There are some thematic oddities to this trilogy, however. First, it is definitely a thriller. The mystery aspect does not feel like it is played well enough to warrant calling it that. Yeah, the surprises can be figured out, but they aren’t what provides the underlying drama. The tension and threats are. It also feels very strongly of a noir type story. A private detective in search of truth in the world of corruption.

The problem is that those stories work best when the detective is just outside the system. Everything Eisenhorn does is within the scope of his authority. Sure, he spends long parts of one book labeled a heretic, but that did not affect how the rest of society saw him. To the world outside the Inquisition, he was still an Inquisitor. With the sheer enormity of the universe presented, the ability to disappear and still maintain one’s lifestyle does little to impart the impact of the character’s decisions on his fate.

All in all, though, these books are a fun romp. They are tense, well-paced, and tell a continuous story. The details are interwoven well and despite the massive size, over 770 pages, nothing is really out of place or forgotten. Eisenhorn is great if you enjoy a good thriller or intrigue, as well as a non-threatening introduction into the world of Warhammer and its books. The generally depressing nature of so many people dying so unceremoniously does make it hard to give universal recommendation. And so, I award Eisenhorn with the Iron Stash (4/5)…(really a 4.5. Like I said, tough to give more when I can’t tell everyone to read it.)

Book Review – The Completionist Series 1-2 by Dakota Krout

Book: Ritualist, Regicide

Author: Dakota Krout

Genre: Fantasy, LitRPG

Part of a Series: Yes, The Completionist

The Completionist Series by Dakota Krout is an ongoing LitRPG series following Joe as he navigates the political intrigue and dangers of a new virtual RPG after he is paralyzed in an attack while deployed. Once in game, Joe completes a series of tests to unlock his “true potential” and is able to choose the rare class of Ritualist. With this class and a need to keep his nature hidden, Joe randomly completes various tasks for the non-player characters until he stumbles upon influential friendships and a guild appointment.

Joe quickly progresses through the early levels of the game and helps his new guild to achieve “noble” status. During the course of this adventure, he learns that he has attracted the attention of the AI running the game, gained the favor of the in-game “god” who he follows, and learned that the game is essentially a type of race battle. In the first level, only the humans or wolfmen can survive.

So the first thing that jumps out from this series is the completely pointless and unnecessary prologue. An oil drilling accident causes a midlevel employee to be fired. This employee renames himself, creates an online payment company, an electric car company, and a space company….plus other bad Elon Musk jokes. Skip it. It does nothing and doesn’t matter. The closest thing to importance in this prologue is the fact that a mysterious object is found that seems to have a mind of its own. This object is what powers the AI for the virtual world Joe lives in, but doesn’t make another appearance in any meaningful way.

The next chapter is just as bad, but for different reasons. It is Joe in the real world leading up to his injuries. The soldier interactions ignore rank and customs, a soldier claims another soldier used too many acronyms despite the fact that the Army uses acronyms for everything and no one cares, and is just bad. I still haven’t read a lot of LitRPG, but it seems to be a staple of the genre for anything set in the real world to be garbage.

Once the virtual adventure starts, the book gets so much better. The leveling feels fine, though the skill progression and skill assignment seems random as hell. It is still fun. It is definitely a good entry into the genre if you are curious about LitRPGs. Joe is a fun and relatable character. It doesn’t go super in-depth into the gaming aspect, so there is little worry about getting bogged down in the minutia of gaming.

The story is well paced if a little fast. Joe moves from situation to situation with a quickness, but it never feels so fast that you can’t catch your breath. The conflicts seem somewhat random at times, but they do get resolved.

All in all, the Completionist is a fun series and worth checking out if you are curious about the LitRPG genre. I award the series and both books the Iron Stash (4/5).

Book Review – Dragon Slayer 1-3 by Michael-Scott Earle

Book: Dragon Slayer books 1-3

Author: Michael-Scott Earle

Genre: Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery

Part of a Series: Yes

Finally, a fantasy series to review. Dragon Slayer is a pulp harem fantasy series following Chicago firefighter Ethan Dapaolo. While at the scene of a blaze, Ethan gets trapped in a burning building and is pulled into a magic land by a mysterious guardian. He has been tasked with killing 25 dragons who threaten the people of this world while freeing the dragons’ magic for the guardians return.

So slight spoilers from here on out. Every time Ethan defeats a dragon they turn into a beautiful woman. It takes way to long for the series to acknowledge this, well into book 2 actually. We, the audience, know all the dragons are women after the first transformation, because it is a harem fantasy after all, but after the 3rd dragon, people are still surprised they are women.

Speaking of harem fantasy… Despite the name, these books aren’t over burdened with sex scenes. That’s great as they tend to get boring after a while. It probably works better if you don’t binge read the books, as they are decently spaced out, but if you read these all in one go, you are going to find yourself skipping scenes. It’s fine as the sex doesn’t add anything to the story. No new developments or growth, just titillation. The obvious exception is that the first time Ethan sleeps with a dragon who has been changed, she decides being human is great.

As for the story, it’s fine. The world is interesting. The author does a good job at organically expanding the scope of the conflict and the size of the world. The characters are also fun, even if they are surrounded by plot armor. The magical guardian who brought Ethan to the world is obviously evil and Ethan will obviously be protecting the world from it when he is done with the dragons. It is not hard to guess how everything in this tale will ultimately turn out.

At the end of the day, Dragon Slayer is just a fun, maybe guilty pleasure, read. It is not overly complex and does a good job at recapping the reader on key points. It is not high fantasy, but it is not trying to be. Overall, I give these books the bronze stash (3/5).

Flash Fiction Friday 017 – Let There Be Light

Tom was huddled in his office. On every free surface, candles burned brightly. Their flickering lights danced over his face, giving him a manic appearance that matched his mood

Outside, night hung over the city. Gas lamps burned dimly; winds fluttered across the moon. Hooves clattered on cobblestone; the womp of beaten air grew steadily louder. Shutters and windows closed for the night; screams erupted from the streets.

It was the same every night. The mouth people came with the fading light and took their sacrifices. They didn’t care who the people were as long as they were alive.

The only thing these moth people feared was the light. Candles were barely bright enough to be of any good, and fires required constant attention. That was why Tom kept himself locked in his office under the mad gleam of desperation.

The door to his office burst open, amid he spun towards it in terror and shock. “Damn it, Edison. How much longer?” Tom breathed a sigh of relief as the mayor’s aide walked in. “You’ve tried nearly a thousand different things by now.”

Edison nodded, a sense of calm coming over him like it always did when he was explaining something. “Yes, and I have found a thousand ways it wouldn’t work. Tell the mayor I’m close. We’ll soon be safe.”

A shot rang out from behind Tom’s door. It was followed by a scream that quickly died away in a wet gurgle. The aide paled and backed further into Edison’s office. “T…tomorrow morning will be fine.” With a bracing breath, he rounded on Tom. “But this light bulb thing had better be what you promise.”

Edison smiled to himself as he turned back to his work. “Trust me Steve. It’ll change the world.”

If you liked this, please drop me a comment or share with your friends. Don’t forget to follow us here, or on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly fantasies I destroy my sanity to build for you. If you want, make sure you sign up for our newsletter and as a special thanks, you’ll receive a short story for free. And as always, I mustache y’all to stay fantastical.

Friday Flash Fiction 015 – Judged

I knelt in the open plains, my head bowed against the sun despite the large shadow cast by my umbrella. My trinkets glimmered and jingled in the breeze. I did not feel the wind, though, as my mask covered my face and beak.

West winds bring plagues they said. My feathers were already beginning to molt from the sun’s kiss. I could not afford a plague on top of it.

How will you get the plague in that mask?

My fingers curled around the amulet that hung from my neck. “It’s the very best. Kings wish for masks like this.” I coughed, despite my words, and retreated further into the shade of my umbrella.

Fatigue, weakness, headache, light headedness. I listed the symptoms of heat exhaustion first, mentally checking off how many I had. Nausea, fever, tender skin, boils. Next was the plague. No boils…yet.

You do not have plague. I have already told you I would never allow it.

Ignoring the voice, I distracted myself from my ailments by looking at the trinkets that hung from my umbrella. I counted and sorted each one of the eleven trinkets. “Gotta collect all twelve.”

I felt my the back of my neck tighten uncomfortably at the thought of the set being incomplete. My fingers twitched towards my belt where my purse hung. Almost enough for the last piece.

The feathers on the back of my neck rose, and I cocked my head to the side. Something was coming. The stench of wrong doing.

I rose and gathered my belongings. It was easy to pack, and I was quickly on my way. I followed the stench easily enough. There was little out here to block my senses.

As I drew closer, my amulet pulsed. I felt every pump in my soul as I felt the pump of my heart. Sure. Confident. True. Trust your heart, and you will be okay is what they say. It led me straight to the man dragging a chest towards small out cropping of trees.

“Halt!” I cried out as I approached.

“What the?!” The man spun about, hand going towards his waist until he saw me. “Get out of here kenku. This doesn’t concern you.”

My head cocked to the side as I looked at the man. “That’s not yours.”

“I told you to git.” The man waved his hand at me and turned.

My fingers curled around my amulet as I looked at the man. “By the gods of Astor, I beseech thee, bind this man so that he may be judged.”

As I finished the prayer, fiery tendrils emanated from the amulet and towards the man. He screamed, trying to run, but my heavenly restraints were faster. Soon, he was bound by wrist and ankle, kneeling before me on the plains.

“You are charged with violating the laws of this land. How do you plead?”

“N..not guilty.” His eyes were slightly wide as he looked up at me.

I leaned forward ever so slightly. “I knew you’d say that.” Leaning back, I began to pray again. “Lords of Astor, reveal his crimes.”

Above my head, a blazing eye appeared and turned down onto the man. I saw how he had snuck up on the carriage in the early morning and taken the chest while everyone still slept. When the vision diminished, he was weeping silently from the effects of my patron’ s ways.

“You have committed theft and have been shown to be…”

“Wait! Please!” The man was crying openly now. “My village is starving. This would keep us fed til winter. I didn’t hurt no body. This was for the greater good.”

I could feel the flaming eye descend over my face as red-orange wings erupted behind me. “The law is greater than good.” My voice echoed the booming mental command of my patron.

“You have been accused and judged before the gods. In their names, I declare you guilty.” My feathery arms rose towards the heavens. “Great lords of Astor, carry out the sentence.”

The man cried out as one of the fiery tendrils about his wrist heated and tightened. In a blink, his hand was severed from his arm; the wound was sealed shut by the gods’ fire and power. The remaining tendrils disappeared, as did the images of flaming eyes and wings surrounding me.

With the sentence carried out, I turned to leave. The man still held his wrist and wept behind me. I stepped off to the north. There was a village near by with a good collection of items I wanted to buy.

What about the chest?

“The law does not care about property after trial.” I shrugged at the thought and scratched my arm. “My skin itches. Did they look rashy? I feel a rash.”

Today’s image is from wanderinginpixels on deviantart. Go check them out. Also, don’t forget to check out D. L. Spartan and her post from the same challenge. Tell her #teamstash sent you.

If you liked this, please drop me a comment or share with your friends. Don’t forget to follow us here, or on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly fantasies I destroy my sanity to build for you. If you want, make sure you sign up for our newsletter and as a special thanks, you’ll receive a short story for free. And as always, I mustache y’all to stay fantastical.

Flash Fiction Friday 014 – Retribution

The sun set slowly over the city, staining the western sky with reds and oranges. L.A. sprawled out in a haze under the failing light. The harsh yellow of street lamps replaced the softer hues of the sun. Despite the transition between natural and artificial, traffic continued to buzz.

If there was one constant about life in a big city, it was that traffic did not care about sunsets or storms or natural disasters. People had places to be in L.A. and they would be damned if anything was going to stop them. It always made Azazial laugh.

Life in L.A. was like watching an ant hill. Everything crawled. Everything moved. Millions of tiny creatures hustled and bustled on pre-constructed routes.

But nothing fascinated Azazial more than watching them at sunset. Watching as they raged against the coming night. It was beautiful. Even Lucifer did not challenge God’s order the way that these people did every day.

He floated down from his heavenly hover, landing lightly on the streets below. The leather soles of his shoes whisked gently on the concrete as he moved. His deep, brown eyes scanned the shadows, searching.

After several moments, he found what he was looking for. Some tatted up man in a shirt two sizes too large was prowling the edges of the yellow light. These so called predators were always the most fun. They always had such a strong sense of entitlement.

Azazial moved to cross paths with the thug, barely giving him a glance as he moved towards the mouth of an alley. Like he expected, the thug couldn’t pass up the chance of attacking one dressed as finely as Azazial. Azazial didn’t even struggle as the thug grabbed him by the shoulder and forced him into the alley.

With his back pushed against the alley wall, Azazial watched calmly as a gun was leveled at his face. “Your money or your life!” The thug’s voice echoed off the nearby buildings.

Azazial laughed softly at the threat. “And just how are you going to kill me? With that Hi-Point? You’d be better off with a hammer.”

“Shut up and give me your wallet.” The thug placed his thumb on the gun’s hammer, cocking it back, but it started to shake lightly at the confrontation.

“Very well.” Azazial shrugged. He pulled his wallet from his pocket and held it out in front of him. The mugger grabbed it and ran off towards the far end of the alley, leaving Azazial standing in the shadows.

* * *

Mad Max ran for several streets before he finally slowed to a walk. Lighting a joint, he inhaled deeply before making his way back towards his crappy little apartment.

He kept an eye out for any cop cars as he moved. Sure he had quickly moved a few blocks away, but pigs always liked to try and mess with him. Self righteous bastards always thought they were better than the people down here.

Mad Max was pulled from his thoughts by the sounds of footsteps behind him. He ignored them at first. After all, it was a light sound, not the heavy thud of boots or Doc Martins. Two turns into his trip home, however, and the sound was still behind him.
He spun around quickly, hand going to his waist. “What do you want f..” Mad Max’s words trailed off when he saw no one behind him. “Cheap ass weed for me hearing things.”

He came to the run down building his apartment was in a few minutes later. As he was about to put his keys in the door, he saw something rushing towards him from the corner of his eye. Mad Max speed his keys and he turned, but there was nothing but shadows lining the walls of the building.

With shaky hands, he picked up his keys and stepped inside the bare apartment. He needed a drink to calm himself. Opening the fridge, Mad Max screamed as a thousand black bugs exploded from the inside the appliance.

He scrambled back away from the encroaching horde, hitting his head on the coffee table. The insects crawled up his legs and over his chest. They reached his neck… and disappeared.

“Christ!” Max was panting on the floor. “I’m never buying weed from Crazy Lou again.”

“It’s not the weed you need to worry about,” a voice laughed softly from the corner of the apartment.

Max jumped up and pulled out his gun. “Yo, you’re that joker I robbed earlier. How did you get in here?”

The man stood in the shadows of the room refusing to move or speak. Max nodded to himself as he tried to keep his hams from shaking. “Fine. I got something for you anyway.” He pulled the trigger several times but heard nothing but the click of a misfire.

The man laughed again as he glided towards Max. “I told you that you skills be better off with a hammer.” The ham paused a moment as he pulled something from his coat and raised it above his head. Max blinked as he saw the hammer hover above the horns on the man’s head. “Here. Let me show you.”

Thwack! Thwack! Thwamph!

If you liked this, please drop me a comment or share with your friends. Don’t forget to follow us here, or on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly fantasies I destroy my sanity to build for you. If you want, make sure you sign up for our newsletter and as a special thanks, you’ll receive a short story for free. And as always, I mustache y’all to stay fantastical.