Friday, December 16, 2011

Summer Gothic: Let's Do This Thing

Okay, now I'm worried. Yesterday was the deadline for submissions to Summer Gothic, the anthology of Alabama ghost stories that I'm editing. The stories are in, and on the whole they're good. This thing that so far has been nothing but a daydream in the back of my head is really going to happen.

Nervous? You bet'cha.

Of course, there's a lot still to come: Cover art, interior design, contracts, deciding for sure on which P.O.D. service to use - but most importantly, sending each story back to the author with notes for revision. The best experiences I've had with my own short stories is when editors have returned them with comments and requested another draft. Since Summer Gothic is as much a teaching exercise for the various writers' groups I'm involved with as it is an opportunity for publication, I'm going to "pay it forward" and do the same for this collection. I've had a committee looking at each story that came in (anonymous for now, I think of them as Ryan, Randy, Paula, and Simon) and I'm going to condense all their praise and criticism into a packet for each contributor who makes it to the next round. The story call website will shortly switch to a production blog so everyone can keep track of our progress.

So that's where things stand in the exciting country of "What the Hell Have I Gotten Myself Into?" If all goes swimmingly, this thing should see print in the spring of 2012.

And every one of you will buy a copy. Right?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - One for the Books

My gods, is it over? Can I come out now? May I actually watch TV without feeling guilty about it? Gee, whiz.

This was actually a pretty productive month. I didn't struggle as much to keep my head above water as I did last year, but I never got very far ahead on my daily word count either. At least the universe didn't conspire against me more than normal this time. Final word count: 52,135. This was a continuation of the novel I began last year, so I just pasted my new work onto the end of my previous installment, which brings draft 1 of The Ghost Cauldron (formerly The Wolves of Majadan) up to 103,926 words... and counting. I can comfort myself with the knowledge that I don't have another 50K to go until this thing is done - but there might be as much as 40K left to the end. After that, I can leave Majadan behind for a while and get on with something new.

My first year as Birmingham's Nano ML was exciting. We had a huge turnout for our kick-off party and a lively crowd for our write-ins, at least at the beginning at the month. Attendance at these things always dies off as November moves along, people develop plans, and the majority of writers fall gasping by the wayside. Nevertheless, Birmingham writers produced over 7.3 million words of fiction this year, which is quite an achievement.

Next November: (see, I'm thinking ahead) The Whisper - the love child of Clark Kent and Hunter S. Thompson meets a Fifties beatnik version of the Shadow to thwart the plans of a dastardly time-travel cartel to destroy the world for fun and profit.

Meanwhile the deadline is fast approaching for Summer Gothic submissions. Stories have been trickling in, but I've heard promises of many more to come in the next few weeks. Get those in by December 15!

Also, if you're in the Birmingham area this weekend, drop by the Birmingham Public Library for our annual Local Authors Expo. I'll be selling and signing copies of Dreams of Steam vol. 1 & 2 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Welcome, NaNoWriMos!

The annual month of noveling is nigh. If you cruise on over to the NaNoWriMo website, look me up under my nom de guerre, Tycho Brahe. This year the plan is to finish the first draft of The Ghost Cauldron, book three of the Majadan trilogy. I did the first half last year and made it across the 50,000 word finish line, then the chaos of my day job intruded and I never went any further. But hey, at least I don't have to worry about what to write this year. For next year I've got several ideas lined up. I'll just have to see which one strikes my fancy.

Anyway, since I'm also serving as Birmingham's municipal liaison, I'm going to be spending all my Internet time cruising the discussion boards and monitoring the Birmingham forum, so there won't be much updating of ye olde blog. However, since the stats show that I get a lot of traffic on this site during NaNoWriMo, I'll post a little present to help all you visiting WriMos procrastinate - a free story!

Also: Check out an excellent review of Dreams of Steam II over at The Horror Zine.


by Jared Millet

A wall of thunder slammed through the lecture hall.


The aftershock knocked Professor Weiss off his feet before he could finish. As he rolled to his knees and pulled himself up to his podium, his students stared back with eyes like ash on water. Seconds later, Weiss’s assistant burst through the classroom door.

“Professor, it’s the Khendaar. They’re here!”

Weiss closed a textbook that had fallen open and steadied himself. “Vhere are they, Brad?”

“One came down Mali. The other took out Topeka.”

Weiss excused his students, most of whom were already packing to leave or openly weeping, and made for the exit. Once outside, he dropped all decorum and ran for his lab. His T.A. reached it first. Brad had the build of an athlete, and Weiss often wondered why the young man was wasting his time in science.

Inside the lab, on an old television with a “Don’t Panic” sticker blocking the lower part of the screen, a cable newsman was holding back tears. There was no sound, the set’s speaker having blown a decade before. The scene cut to a shaky aerial video of an enormous glass crater that had once been Saharan sand.

“Vhere is it?” Weiss asked.

“Heading for the Atlantic. The other one’s going northeast. They’re both moving at twice the speed of sound.”

“I meant the translator, dummkopf.” He didn’t mean to bite Brad’s head off, but it just came out. “Ve should at least try to talk to them, jah?”

“Most of it’s in the storeroom, but the software is all on the server.”

“Vell, vhy isn’t it on the laptop? Get the equipment; I’ll transfer the files.”


Weiss’s colleagues in SETI had received their first extraterrestrial transmission over a year earlier. The signal from nearby Tau Ceti carried a cornucopia of technical data. It also gave a description of the Khendaar and a warning to evacuate the planet. Once the details of the message leaked to the press, however, the following societal meltdown made large-scale preparations impossible. Only a handful of institutions, such as Weiss’s university, were able to develop a fraction of the alien technology needed for survival.

Brad wheeled a device that looked like part of a rock band’s sound system toward the lab’s loading dock while Weiss drummed his nails on his laptop and waited for the last of the software to install. The translator had yet to be tested to his satisfaction, but it would simply have to work. There was no more room for error.

On the silent television, a prominent media personality shouted at an unseen audience. Behind the pundit’s pudgy face, a satellite photo displayed a chain of giant footprints across the Midwest, each half a mile from the next.

A VTOL jet collected Weiss, Brad, and the device from the university commons and rocketed into the air as soon as they’d shut the hatch. Brad held a radio to his ear.

“My God,” he said. “The African target is swimming the Atlantic. It’s moving so fast it’s plowed a furrow to the sea floor.”

“And the American one?”

“Ran right through Chicago and knocked over half of downtown,” said their pilot. “Now it’s wading up the Great Lakes. It looks like the aliens will meet up somewhere in Maine or Quebec.”

“Not any more,” announced Brad in a dead voice. He set the radio down. “The western Khendaar just flattened Toronto. Now it’s heading for New York.”


The alien crouched over the ruins of Jersey City. Its clustered heads swirled through the clouds like a mass of gargantuan snakes, and its twin tails cracked the air with repeated sonic booms. Weiss asked the pilot to land, but he declined.

A hundred-foot wall of water approached from the east in advance of the second Khendaar. The wave rolled over Manhattan and up the Hudson, tearing bridges apart like reeds. Half of the city collapsed into pillars of smoke and rubble; the few skyscrapers remaining leaned and groaned like drunkards. The inevitable back spill down the river would wash the rest away, but for the moment there was stillness.

Weiss demanded that their pilot put them down somewhere, and after consulting with his superiors he set down in the wasteland of debris that was Central Park. Weiss and Brad had just unloaded their equipment when the quake hit. Tremors rocked the earth with the rhythm of footfalls and a shadow blocked the morning sun.

To the east, a Khendaar rose on its hind legs. Sheets of Atlantic seawater slid off of its body in localized downpours. The other alien had crossed the Hudson, but was partially concealed behind the ruined skyline.

Weiss activated his machine and spoke through a microphone. “Please! You must stop this! Ve are intelligent beings! You are destroying our cities, our homes! Vhy are you doing this? Please, vill you listen?”

As he spoke, thunderous sounds in an alien tongue poured from the translator. Brad staggered to his knees from the force of the shockwave. Weiss gripped the edge of his device to keep his legs from buckling.

The alien to the east leaped into the sky and soared overhead, thunder crashing behind it like the voice of God. The other Khendaar tried to dodge, but its doppelganger tackled it, flattening a huge swath of steel and concrete. Giant words spilled from its maw as they wrestled, and a translation appeared on Weiss’s monitor:


“Professor!” shouted the pilot. “The radar station in Australia just spotted twenty more Khendaar out past the moon. They’re heading this way!”

Weiss didn’t hear. He stared dumbfounded at the translator, even as the battling titans rolled in his direction. Numb to the world, he never felt the foot that squashed him.

This story is copyright 2011 Jared Millet.

See also: Fire and Witch's Cross.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Now I've Done It

As of today, I've taken over the job of NanoWrimo Municipal Liaison for Birmingham, Alabama. No time for cold feet now. May as well mention the NanoWrimo Boot Camp to be held by Southern Magic on October 22 at the Homewood Library. I'll be one of the speakers, and I expect that I'll go over how to use Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method of plot outlining, which I absolutely swear by.

In other news, I finished and polished that psychological suspense story in twenty days - a new record for me. Now I'm just waiting for the rejection letter, and since I've never done non-SF before, I'm not sure where I'll send it next. I guess I'll burn that bridge when I come to it.

Right now, I've got three weeks or less to do another story, then on to getting ready for Part 2 of the nano-novel I started last year. Somewhere in all this, I need to revise yet another chapter of The Blood Prayer.

This would be so much easier if I could quit my day job. O Winning Lottery Ticket, where are you when I need you?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Story Call for Alabama Writers

So here I am, sticking my neck out.

If you're an Alabama writer (or just a writer who happens to live in Alabama at the moment) head on over to Summer Gothic for an open story call. What I'm looking for are ghost stories - specifically, ones set in hot, sticky, wet, Southern summers. The call is open until December 15, 2011 and the story length range is 2,500-7,500 words.

Why am I doing this?

Shoot on over to the website for the full spiel, but the short version is that I've got to know many, many writers in the Birmingham area over the last few years, mostly through Write Club but also through several other organizations, and the question inevitably comes up: "Why don't we put together an anthology?" Since I'm more often than not the ringleader (or at least co-conspirator) at most of the writing meetings I go to, the question is usually directed at me. Write Club cannot do an anthology, however, since Write Club is a program of the Hoover Public Library, and the library isn't in the publishing business.

However, I says to myself, why couldn't I do it on my own? Not completely on my own, mind you: I've recruited a panel of willing participants to help me put this thing together, but for the moment they're remaining safely anonymous while I stick my literary unmentionables out in the wind.

In summary: If you're a writer, if you live in Alabama, and if you feel like you've got a ghost story in you, pop on over to Summer Gothic and see if you want to play along.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Challenge: Accepted

So here's the question I ask myself: How fast can I write a story, from idea to end of draft 1? My earlier attempt this year to get a story done in a timely manner failed miserably, partially because I tried to "wing it," part because I lacked real deadline pressure, but mostly because I'm a lazy bastard.

Today, a friend of mine pointed me to a story call for an anthology to raise funds for the Edgar Allen Poe museum in Baltimore. The deadline is only weeks away, so if I'm going to have a shot at this I've got mere days to get draft 1 on (electronic) paper. I've got most of an outline and 1,000 words already in the bank, but still no idea how the damn thing ends.

Here we go.

Update: September 23 - Apparently, a first draft takes two weeks. An improvement, but I still have to work on speeding that up. One week to the deadline, but rewrites are so much easier. Let the polishing begin!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dreams of Steam II: Brass and Bolts

It's officially for sale! Go out and get thee a copy. You can buy it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or at the Kerlak Publishing booth at Dragon*Con if you're lucky enough to be going this year.

P.S. I may have lost my mind.

For a while I've been toying with the idea of editing and publishing an anthology of stories by the many writers in the Birmingham area (and Alabama at large) that I've met over the last few years through my activities with NaNoWriMo, Write Club, Southern Magic, and the BPL Local Author Expo. Well, as of last night, those plans reached the no-turning-back stage. I'll be updating this blog with the official Story Call soon.

Stay posted.

Sudden Update

My story "The Unwinding House," which started life as a flash fiction piece performed at the Hoover Library a year and a half ago, will appear in an online issue of Kaleidotrope in 2012.

I'm so excited I can barely keep from using exclamation marks.

Oh, what the hell. Woohoo!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dreams of Steam II: Cover and Contents!

It looks like Kerlak is about to unleash its next steampunk anthology, Brass and Bolts, into the wild. Apparently the original Dreams of Steam was so successful that this one's coming out in hardback, trade paper, and ebook formats, available for ordering soon!

Once again, the host of this party is the esteemed Kimberly Richardson. My own contribution is a semi-sequel to last year's "Dead Man's Hand." That piece was essentially a haunted house story (with robots), but "Jumping the Rails" is more of a straight out adventure in the turn-of-the-century West.

Here's hoping that this collection is even more fun than the last one!


Of Heroes and Airships - Victor Lorthos
Death With A Glint Of Bronze - Sean Taylor
For The Fear Of Steam - Missa Dixon
Dreams Of Freedom - Len Berry
The Real Magic - H. David Blalock
The Third Eye - Alexander S. Brown
In Tesla's Court - Robert Cerio
Commander Tesla Versus The Holy Roman Empire - Phillip R. Cox
Protege - Dwayne DeBardelaben
The Perfect Woman - Kara Ferguson
The Tale Of Lady Helvetica - Christopher Friesen
The Locked Door - Allan Gilbreath
Great Minds - Jeff Ollen Harris
Grass Elephant - M. Keaton
Cicada Summer - Jon Klement
The Big Golden Apple - Cindy MacLeod
The Automated Man - Alli Martin
Jumping The Rails - Jared Millet
Chilled Meat - J. L. Mulvihill
Steam Race - Herika R. Raymer
Winnet's Octavian - Laura H. Smith
The Devil's Children - Angelia Sparrow and Joy Coop
The Boys In The Boiler Room - David Tabb
Bedeviled - Nick Valentino
The Island Sojourn - Stephen Zimmer

Friday, July 1, 2011

Another Year, Another Sale

Doing a happy dance, since my story "Jumping the Rails" has been accepted for the anthology Dreams of Steam II: Of Brass and Bolts. The story is a follow-up to "Dead Man's Hand" but with new characters, so it's not exactly a sequel. As soon as I know more about the anthology, so will you. Congrats to everyone else who made it into the collection!

Status of Other Stories: My time travel story and my stupid, stupid cat story are currently floating out there in the wild; I eagerly await rejections. My kayaking story is still festering in its first draft compost heap - maybe I'll polish it off this month and fire it into the submission gauntlet. I'm finally back into The Blood Prayer - draft 10, I think - and it's going slowly, but well.

That's all for now. Have fun blowing shit up on the 4th!

Friday, April 22, 2011


Ooookay. If you remember, a couple months ago I posted here that I was going to start writing a new short story, and that I would finish the damn thing. I think I said something like "1,000 words per day, death before dishonor." Well, the title of the story is "River's End" and it's finally done. So how'd I do?

Feb 24 - Apr 22 = 58 days
Final word count: 6,675

Words per day: 115

Yeah. Not so much.

In my defense, I attempted a different writing style than I'm used to. In the past, I've always been an outliner, and this time I decided just to wing it. That didn't work out so well, and I ended up abandoning the story for a better part of a month and a half. Then, finally, when I was printing an excerpt to share with my writers' group, inspiration struck and I knew how to make it work.

It's kind of like when you look at a piece of art and can't tell what it is, then you turn your head sideways and suddenly see how it goes together? That's kind of what writing this story was like. Still, I'm happy with the end product. I'll set it aside for a couple of days, then polish it up and set it loose in the wild.

What's next? Well, Kerlak has a story call for Dreams of Steam II, for which submissions are due May 31. I have an earlier deadline than that, though, because I swore to another writing group I'm involved with that on May 5 I would present them with either a finished first draft or my own severed head.

That gives me just under two weeks. Better get cracking.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Flash Fiction Night - The Movie!

Flash Fiction - Open Mike Night 2011 from Hoover Library on Vimeo.

Featured Stories

"The Fourth" by Anne Breen

"The Button" by Sean DeArmond

"Freedom" by Phil Fishman

"The Road" by Emily Cutler

"Aiko, My Little Loved One" by Lisa Dolensky

"Bad Timing" by Denise Dupree

Poems: "Kay-as" & "Magus" by Carly Koenig

"The Tree of Many Leaves" by Larry Hensley

"Momma Said" by Carol Jolley

"Clara's Tail" by David Oser

"Fire" by Jared Millet

"Imaginary Stepmother" by Mary Rees

A few observations: The program went very well this year. (Last year it ran a little long.) All the presenters did a wonderful job.

We actually had two mikes on stage - one for the readers and one for the MCs. The MC mike doesn't show up in the shot, which is why it appears on video as if each author is being introduced by a disembodied voice.

I wish the mike had been able to pick up more of the audience noise. There were laughs and chuckles throughout (at appropriate moments, of course) that don't quite come across in the video. Also, I had no idea that the stage lighting would turn my green shirt brown. Next year I'll stick with red.

While I don't expect anyone who doesn't already know me to stumble across this video, in case that happens: That little grimace/choke/cough thing I do occasionally? Tourette Syndrome. Trust me, it used to be a lot worse.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


by Jared Millet

Quickly, everyone, come inside. Someone bar the door behind us. This old city may be empty of people, but I think I saw a wolf scouting us out a few blocks back. Where there’s one, there’s bound to be more.

Sweet Judas on a stick, but it's cold in here. Still, it looks safe to build a fire. That marble floor won't catch, and if we break that upper window it will act as a chimney. Let’s just hope some of the furniture is wood and not plastic.

But wait. Oh my god, look where we are. Forget the furniture, kids, we just hit the jackpot. Just look at all those shelves. All those dusty volumes. Row after row after row. I tell you what, we're not going to freeze tonight.

Did you know that paper burns at 451 degrees Fahrenheit? Says so in this book right here. Who's got the matches? We should only need one. Run it across the pages. Get the kindling going, then bring some more, quick. Places like this used to hand these out for free, you know.

Start with the skinny ones with all those bright pictures. Fan them open on the pile. If you’re quick, you can read them while the pages start to curl. Hey look, it's a banquet. Green eggs and ham. Piles of roast beast. Who's got the cat food? Open a can. Hey, let's celebrate. Go ahead and open two.

What's next? Ah, textbooks. May as well, no one ever read them anyway. You might think the world wouldn’t have gone downhill if people had, but who are we kidding? People are people. All the history in the world couldn't change that, much less the algebra. What's that... trigonometry? Oh please, burn it all.

Now this one's funny. The Perfect Resume for Dummies. Just imagine: somebody somewhere was the last person ever to read this. What was he thinking? I guess people still had dreams, right up to the end. I wonder if he picked the “work-based resume” or the curriculum vitae. Whatever. They both burn just as well.

Now we get to the good stuff. What'll it be, kids? Thrillers or romance? Adventures or mysteries? Comical pastoral or pastoral historical? Sorry. Shakespeare joke. We'll get to him later, just you wait. Oh, I know. Bring me the science fiction. You know, those books with the bright shiny futures on the cover. Burn the whole lot before it makes me sick. The fantasy too, why not. After all, there’s no wizard going to sweep down on a broom and save us, is there? May as well do us some good.

That reminds me. As long as we're on the subject, there's another fantasy department somewhere over in nonfiction. See if you can find it. Some of the books will have people with wings on the cover. They called those guardian angels, if you can believe it. I wonder if one of them will protect us the next time a storm hits, or a bear steals all our food. Throw them on the fire; maybe that will wake them up.

Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. I'm getting cranky in my old age. We should stay positive if we're going to keep strong and make it all the way south to where it's warm. But I'm saying, you don't know. You were too young. You don't remember the stupidity of it all. No one cared what was going wrong in the world, not even the ones who said they did. Everything was always someone else's problem. And you know what? I’m just as much to blame as anyone else.

Where were we? What's next? Home Repair and Improvement. Yeah, may as well. That won't be useful where we're going, not unless you think we’ll find construction equipment and power tools that work. Once we settle down, we'll have to invent the wheel all over again. If you find a book on that, you can save it. Just make sure it has lots of pictures.

It's finally getting warm in here. That's good. There's a lot of night left to go. What else have you got for me? Travelogues. Distant shores and foreign lands. 50 Best Diners on Route 66. Torch 'em. Antiques and Collectibles? Definitive Price Guide to Depression Era Glass. Light her up.

Politics. Oh, please, bring me politics. Anything with a picture of some screaming guy on the cover, those should burn the best. The writers should all be in Hell now; maybe the books will burn hotter. Sports almanacs? Burn 'em. Biographies? Burn. Poetry? Science? History? Burn.

Oh, here they are. The Philosophers. The Thinkers. The greatest minds in history, the ones who taught us how to be human. The ones who showed us how to live with purpose, with responsibility. How to not let the whole human race slide into ruin. Fat lot of good they did. Bring 'em on.

Plato. Socrates. Nietzche. Decartes.

Franklin. Jefferson. Einstein. Nobel.

Clemens. Faulkner . Dante. Angelou.

Homer. Aquinas. Luther. King.

That's enough. Keep it stoked and that blaze will go on until morning. We'll be out in the wild again soon, and we’ve a long, cold trek ahead of us. Let's take our rest while we can. If it doesn’t attract any wolves, we’ll remain as long as the fuel lasts. With luck, there'll be a break in the weather. But for a while, we can stay here, in the warm, cozy light of history.

Until the last

of the fire

goes out.

This story is copyright 2011 Jared Millet.

It was performed on March 22, 2011, at the Hoover Public Library Flash Fiction Night, sponsored by the Hoover Library Write Club.

See also: Witch's Cross, Flash Fiction Night 2010.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Flash Fiction Night 2.0, and a Review

It's that time again - time for my writing group, the Hoover Library Write Club, to put on another Flash Fiction Night at the Library Theatre. We've got about a dozen writers presenting this year, and it's always great to get your material out there in front of a living, breathing audience.

Last year I read two stories: a time-travel piece that I'm currently shopping around in a much longer version, and "Witch's Cross," which I posted online here. This year I'll be presenting a story called "Fire," which is either the most pessimistic or the most pretentious thing I've ever written. Probably both.

If you're anywhere near the greater Birmingham area, please drop by the Hoover Public Library (200 Municipal Drive, Hoover AL 35216) on Tuesday, March 22, at 7:00 p.m. You won't be disappointed, or your money back.

Also, it's free.

This just in: a good review of Dreams of Steam over at Steampunk Chronicle. Read it on their site. I'll be honest: it makes me feel a little bubbly inside that my own "Dead Man's Hand" is the first story singled out by name.

"So, Jared," you may ask, "how's that whole 'I'm going to wing a brand new short story, 1000 words per day, and damn the torpedos' thing going for you?"


It's coming. That word count goal didn't seem that ambitious, but apparently the 'wing it' approach doesn't work so well for me. I finished Act One of the story only to realize that it's really Act Three, and now I have to go back to the beginning and put a lot more stuff in so that The End is actually The End.

After that, I'll be tooling up a submission for Dreams of Steam II and getting back to work on The Blood Prayer.

Carry on!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Apparently, Writing is like Dieting

As in, once you fall off the wagon, it's hard as hell to climb back on.

It's been a long dry spell since the end of NanoWrimo, broken only by a one-night flurry of writing that produced the first draft of "Fire," the story I'm going to read at the next Hoover Library Flash Fiction Night.

Excuse #1: My day job has become a joyless, draining, soul-sucking slog.
So What #1: Tolkien worked on his Book of Lost Tales in the Allied trenches while fighting in WWI. Man up, Jared!

Excuse #2: Sitting on my writing to-do list are the Nth rewrites of "The Orbit of Mercury" and The Blood Prayer, both of which make my eyes bleed when I look at them.
So What #2: Get a wet wipe. The Work Must Be Done!

So here's the plan: I think I need to work on something new, so something new it is. I've been holding on to the characters from my aborted 2009 Nano in case a story came along that I could throw them into. Well, one has. I'm not sure where it's going, and I'm not sure how it's going to end. I've never done seat-of-the-pants writing before, but this time I'm just going to wing this bastard and see how it comes out.

The ingredients: Space travel documentarians. An impending supernova. An order of monks who won't evacuate. A liquid life form. Stalagmites of "glass coral." Rivers that run upstream. Shooting the rapids uphill by means of magnetic induction. 1,000 words per day. Death before dishonor.

Here we go.