JM Williams

A home for all things fantasy and sci-fi.

Updates, and Going AWOL (Again!)

Mar
09

Hello Everyone,

I might be AWOL for a long while. I will be heading off for about six weeks of legal and leadership training tomorrow. At this point, I am not sure what sort of internet connection I will have at my destination, nor how much free time I will have. As such, it could be some time before I have a chance to post again, so I’d like to put out some info before I depart.

First, I have finished the final edits for my novella The NightingaleNightingale - Frontwhich I will be publishing with Fantasia Divinity. The book is scheduled to release in late April, but the publisher plans to open up preorders around a month or so in advance.

What is The Nightingale, you ask? It is a traditional fantasy retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the same name. My story follows a young woman named Kari, who is struggling to make sense of her life when a fateful encounter with the titular bird changes everything.

Call-Of-The-Guardian-EBook

On the other side of things, I have finished the drafts of my first season of Call of the Guardian, which is being published by a Fiction Vortex. You can think of this as finishing the draft of the first novel in a two-part series. Somebody told me it was an accomplishment worth celebrating, and I agree! Now that the drafts are complete, I will soon go back and do revisions on the 10 episodes that are included in the season. When I finish the revisions, the episodes will start to go live on the publisher’s digital platform Fictionite. Shortly after, the entire season will be available as a novel, both digital and in print. I expect this all to start around May.

What is Call of the Guardian? High fantasy featuring dragons and unicorns! Here’s a short synopsis:

Draven is the last of the Guardians, that order of magical warriors created long ago by a small group of dissenting dragons who opposed the dark yearnings of their kin. As the feudal dragon lords dive further into perpetual war, the dissenters, and the humans they once guided, fall victim to their wrath. When his village is attacked by a new race of draconic slaves, Draven and his dragon mentor are forced to fight back. A tale of fellowship and struggle as true as any of the ancient legends of Soria.

* * *

On a totally different tangent, my blog was nominated for another award by the wonderful Richie Billing. For those of you who don’t know, he is a fantasy author and blogger with whom I interact with on a regular basis. He routinely writes on medieval history and key concepts, which are very useful for a certain type of fantasy writer. I would strongly suggest you visit his site, as there is a lot of good information there.

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The award in question is the Liebster Award, the rules for which can be found HERE. Since I recently posted another award, I will limit this one to responding to Richie’s questions, as I feel I owe him that much for nominating me. I will not, however, offer my own nominations this time.

1. Desert Island: You can pick 3 books to read on your desert island. What would you pick and why?

I’m going to cheat on this one and pick The Lord of the Rings Trilogy as my first book, since you can get it in one volume. I think my reasons for picking this one would be obvious, as it is one of the deepest and yet most engaging fantasy tales ever told. The second book would be a survival guide of some sort, maybe The Ranger Handbook. Last would be an empty journal, so I can keep track of the days and the crazy voices that I meet in my isolation.

2. Come Dine With Me: Which three characters from novels/stories would you choose to spend a night of dining with?

The first would be a hobbit, not sure which one, probably doesn’t matter. This is because they know how to eat. Second breakfast? Yes, please! Second would be Samuel Vimes, from my beloved Discworld series. Last, and again I will cheat a bit, would be my own Storm Hamilton. Though I’ve created the man, I still feel like there so much I don’t know about him. If you’d like to meet him, one of his stories will be published by Bards and Sages in July.

3. What advice would you give to any new blogger?

Interaction is the key to building a following, and to finding new friends. I am not as active as I should be, preferring to focus on my writing, and my following has suffered. Blogging requires a lot more time and effort than I first imagined.

4. Where’s your favourite place to write?

I don’t have a favorite place to write. I typically write sitting on my living room sofa, with my laptop on a TV tray. It is not very comfortable. But the room that used to be the computer room is now the cats’ main bathroom, so that’s out. Going to coffee shops can be fun from time to time, but I find the music and noise to be distracting.

5. An easy, or maybe a hard one to end with. Describe your current work in progress in three words.

Too many WIPs.

* * *

In other writing news, I am currently awaiting the results of the 1st quarter of the 2018 Writers of the Future Contest. In my humble opinion, I think the story I sent this time was one of my best and has a decent chance of getting some recognition. I’ve also got another story doing the rounds which got a personal response from the editor of Abyss & Apex, a near-pro SF mag, suggesting the story had almost made the cut. After some revisions, I sent it out again to another pub. Like the one currently with Writers of the Future, I find this story to be one of my best and most compelling. And speaking of Storm Hamilton, I recently wrote two new stories, one for a specific anthology theme. I’d love to break into the general mystery market with my hard-boiled SF detective.

Well that about covers it for now. I hope you all are being productive. At least the cold is gone! Wish me luck as I study military law in Virginia!

Thanks for reading.

~JM

Buy me a drink, beautiful?

Feb
09

I’ve added a new widget to my website. It looks like this:

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What this thing does is link to my Ko-Fi page.

If you haven’t yet heard of Ko-Fi, it’s a donation platform for small businesses and artists where each donation is roughly equal to the price of a coffee. Thus most buttons say “Buy me a coffee.” But to me, coffee is more than just a drink; it’s essential fuel to keep the writing engine burning. I’d use coal, but it makes me cough up black smoke.

If you’d like to support me as a writer, you could donate on my Ko-Fi page. Or you could just buy the book, too. But I know fantasy is not for everyone. I can’t promise I will use the money to buy coffee, though. $3 is more than enough for a bottle of soju, and sometimes that’s a requirement of the writing process, too.

If you haven’t already, I suggest you make a Ko-Fi account. If you need help adding a button to your webpage, just ask and I’ll show you how.

~JM

Sunshine Blogger Award

Feb
08

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Thanks to Douglas William Thurstan Smith  (that’s a mouthful!), aka DWTSmith, for compelling me to respond by nominating me for an award. 😀

I’m not a big fan of award chains on WordPress. They feel just like the post chains on Facebook that I avoid like the bitter cold outside my window. Seriously, why is it so damn cold out there? I also think the meaning is a bit lost when each round has 11 nominations. If Douglas had to pick only the best 5, or even 3, would I have made the cut?

But I do feel honored that Douglas gave me this little shout out. We’ve had many good debates on writing here and there, mostly on his blog where he does a Tuesday Discussion.

The rules for this Award chain are as follows:

1.) Thank the person who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
2.) Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you.
3.) Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
4.) List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

And here are Douglas’s questions for me:

Do You Keep a Diary or Journal?

No. I’m more of a brooder. Everything is in my head, until I really start going on a project.

Why Do You Write?

I’m a storyteller at heart. Ever since I was a child, I’ve always had countless stories in my head, begging to come out. I think I would be equally satisfied as a TV producer/creator, but until that happens, I will write.

What Challenges Have You Set for Yourself?

I probably say this too much, but my current goal is to sell a short story to a professional science fiction magazine. Also, I want to win the Writer’s of the Future Contest. Easy peasy, right?

What would be your ideal working environment?

A quiet, clean study with a comfortable chair and a powerful desktop. I don’t need much beyond the computer, but currently mine is a bit slow. Also, my “computer room” currently doubles as the cat bathroom, so I’m not working in there.

What Places in Your Past Do You Appreciate More Now, From a Distance?

I miss the places where I grew up, especially the elementary school I attended from 4th-6th grade, when I started writing. I was never part of the popular crowd in school, so I didn’t have much appreciation for the experience at the time, but I now see how much it shaped who I am today.

What Will You Remember Most From 2017?

Writing The Nightingale. It was my first novella, and now I have a deeper appreciation for the format. I definitely intend to write more. Also, I had a muse driving my the whole time and got the first draft done in only a few weeks. It was a thrilling experience.

What’s On Your Reading List?

I don’t really keep a reading list. I have many books in my Kindle at the moment, and many audiobooks waiting to be heard. I’ve been spending a lot of time on the science fiction side of the yard, so I think it’s time to move back over to fantasy. To that end, I will probably start with The Lies of Locke Lamora, and maybe reread The Mists of Avalon. Well, relisten. Those are both audiobooks.

Do You Have a Job, if so what is it?

I used to be an English language teacher, and still do that from time to time. I am also a paralegal in the army reserves, and have spent a good amount of time in the past year on active duty.

Does it relate to where you want to be in the future?

After 20 years the Army will owe me a pension, so yes, it does relate in a way.

What creative projects are you working on?

I am prepping The Nightingale for an April release. I also have one or two projects with Fiction Vortex that should be released in the coming months. The first is my serial Call of the Guardian, of which I am currently drafting episode 8 of 10. The second project is my first book In the Valley of Magic, the one that started this whole thing, which FV has shown great interest in publishing. I am just waiting on a contract.

What do you find the most frustrating aspect of blogging?

The time investment. And so far I have not seen much return for the time which has already been invested. But it is a requirement for an author these days, which is another frustration.


Well, that’s my response to Douglas’s nomination, and now here are my nominations. As I mentioned, I feel like 11 is too many. It lessens the significance of nomination. Also, with Douglas tagging so of the main blogs I read, I might not be able to come up with 11! So I’m going to pick 5.

My nominations are:

A Writing Life, a great place for discussions of writing and life.

A-Scribe to Describe, a reader and writer of spec-fic that has many interesting things to say on the genre.

Shawn Writes Stuff, a good place for funny, satirical stories.

Where Landsquid Fear to Tred, a great blog on the process of writing, with nice discussions.

Planetary Defense Command, a blogger who has much more experience with the Science Fiction genre than I do.

And here are my questions:

  1. When did you start writing?
  2. Which genre do you prefer to write? To read?
  3. Which genre do you actually write most often?
  4. What is your favorite piece of work and why?
  5. Where is the most interesting place you came up with a story idea?
  6. If you could win any writing award, which would it be?
  7. Do you associate with other writers? Are they at the same level as you?
  8. What’s one of your writing goals for 2018?
  9. Are you a plodder or a plotter?
  10. Where do you currently live, where are you originally from, and have you ever lived in a foreign country?
  11. If you could travel anywhere in the Universe, where would it be and why?

Well, that’s it. I’m looking forward to seeing what my nominees have to say.

Thank you for reading. Please check out the blogs I have nominated.

~JM

 

Slowing Blog Growth

Feb
02
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Why don’t you work?!

I’ve been noticing that the number of followers for my blog has been slow ever since moving to my new website. I’ve done some reading and have figured out a couple issues that have been causing the problem–one I can change and one I cannot.

First, I realized that my blog no longer had a basic follow button. This is a basic option for a WordPress.com hosted site, but not part of the general self-hosted WordPress.org package. I didn’t even realize it wasn’t there. Of course, I had the subscribe via email widget, but I’m sure there are a lot of people that don’t want to hand out their email address willy-nilly (despite the fact that I cannot see the email addresses of blog followers, only my RABBLE). But with a little Google-fu, I was able to add the button with an HTML widget.

So if you haven’t followed yet because you didn’t want to use your email, now you can follow directly.

The second issue is one I cannot change, and that’s the WordPress.com reader. Because my site is not hosted on WordPress.com, my posts do not appear in the reader. I did not realize just how important that is for visibility. It seems that many of my previous followers came via the reader. I don’t know what I am going to do about that. People who follow my blog, either by manually entering the URL in the reader or by using the new follow button, should see the posts in the reader. But not strangers.

I guess the best way is to just be more active in the blogosphere. I can still get folks to visit my site by commenting and following other blogs.

To my followers, can you confirm if you see my posts in your reader or not?

~JM

2017 in the Rear-View, 2018 Under the Tires

Jan
01
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2017 was mostly for my cats. I expect 2018 to be the same.

A PRODUCTIVE YEAR

2017 has been quite a busy year for me. I’ve done a lot of writing, and reading, more than I expected. While I wasn’t as successful as I had hoped, I did get a lot done.

Though I’m not exactly clear on the 2016/2017 divide, I think I wrote something like 40 short and flash stories this year, and received around 30 acceptances just in 2017. I finished the final draft of my novel In the Valley of Magic, started querying agents and publishers, though I haven’t received any positive replies. I finished a novella which will be published by Fantasia Divinity, though the release has been pushed back to April because the Editor-in-Chief has been going through some rough health issues. I’ve completed five draft episodes of Call of the Guardian, my epic fantasy series with Fiction Vortex, though we’ve also had to push back the release on that because our StoryVerse lost an author so the rest of the team has to cover the slack. Edits have started on my first and second episode, so hopefully we will go live in the next month or two. And of course I self-published my first book, The Adventures of Iric, though it has yet to sell. I need to get a few good reviews on Amazon, then things should pick up.

If I had to say where my center of gravity was this year, it was with short stories. Due to delays with my core projects, I spent a lot of time writing short stories, especially flash fiction.

If I had to choose my favorite, it would probably be “The Sorcerer”. This was one of the few stories I have written in first-person. I have written before how I think first-person should be a special case, not a default, and this story proved the perfect example. Unfortunatly, you can only read it by buying the anthology, The Great Tome of Magicians, Necromancers, and Mystics.

If I had to pick a favorite story that is available to read online, I would have to pick “The Performance of a Lifetime”. I really love this story, probably more than I should. I was disspirited that it didn’t make it into a higher-tier publication, but satisfied that I sold it for real money.

Which brings me to my biggest disappointment of 2017–no pro-rate, or even semi-pro sale. I thought for sure I would make a decent sale this year. Was it too much to expect to make it in a year? I’d love honest feedback from you guys on that question because I really don’t know how to feel about it.

I’ve got a few new stories I am wrapping up now. I think they are some of the best I have ever written. So maybe I can achieve my goal in 2018.

Which brings me to…

A FEW GOALS FOR THE NEW YEAR

There are many things I could set as goals for myself in 2018, way too many realistically accomplish. I think I will limit myself to five:

  • Read more. I didn’t finish as many books in 2017 as I would have liked. Part of the problem, at least in the past couple months, was slogging through Stephen King’s IT, which, despite being decent and despite my love of the story, just doesn’t keep me as engaged as other works. But I’ve told myself I need to finish it, so I will. Next in line will probably be The Lies of Locke Lamora, which I hope will read faster.
  • Finish Call of the Guardian Season 1. So technically, I only have a contract for the first season, but the StoryVerse head and I have already discussed a second, and my series is plotted for two seasons, so I fully expect a new contract with the current one is done. I can also already think of a few spin offs if this thing keeps going. What I’d like to see most is my book physically on the shelves at major bookstores. That is what Fiction Vortex does when the seasons are complete, and I’ve seen a fellow writer find his book at Barnes and Noble. That would be my first big release.
  • Write a Second Novella. I really enjoyed writing my first novella, The Nightingale, for Fantasia Divinity. It felt more reasonable than the novel, an easier beast to handle. I think I finished it in less than a month. It didn’t hurt that I was riding a muse the whole time. I already have a couple ideas for novellas tucked away. I think it will be better to try writing one of those than another novel, especially if I am working full time and also working on Call of the Guardian. However, I think I will shop any new novella around before settling on a publisher.
  • Get a Pro-rate Sale. One sale of a SF/F work at a rate of 6c/word or better is considered a pro-rate sale by the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA). One sale makes you eligible for Associate Membership, which opens up a lot of resources and also can be put on your CV and submissions. This is still my main writing goal, and probably will be until I achieve it. On the positive end, I have a couple new stories that I think have a decent chance of making it.
  • Take More Time for MyselfThe past year was a bit hectic. When I wasn’t working, I spent most of my free time doing the blog or writing. That left little time for me. I didn’t take any trips this year besides a quit trip home that was long overdue and necessitated due to my parents’ ailing health. It wasn’t a personal trip. Even another hop over to Japan would be nice. Heck, even a road trip across Korea would be fun. Haven’t done that in a couple years either. Writing is important, but I think I need to realize that this is going to take a lot more time that I expected. I am not going to become a household name overnight, so there’s no need to write myself into an early grave with stress and disappointment. I need a better rhythm. I need to take it slow.

A FEW PARTING WORDS

I’ve read a lot of the New Year’s messages from the blogger’s I follow. It seems everyone has had some successes in the past year, to varying degrees. It is nice to know there are other people out there working hard like me, and finding a win here and there.

For anyone who has engaged or debated me here, or on the Facebook page, thank you. It has been great talking with all of you! I think next year is going to be a good one. I, for one, am going to hit the ground running.

I am wishing you guys all the best in the Year of the Justifiably Defensive Lobster!

~JM

Going AWOL

Oct
17

I just wanted to let everyone know that I will be AWOL for a little bit. I am attending a legal symposium for the military–so I guess it’s the opposite of AWOL. But regardless, I am away from my computer.

Moreover, when I return in a week or so I will need to get hard to work on the next episode of Call of the Guardian and other projects that I have let slide recently. I am just starting episode four of that series, and our group has decided we need at least five episodes complete apiece before we even think about going live. I also need to finalize The Adventures of Iric for Kindle publication before December. The blog, and social media, have been a bit of a distraction lately, so I will be setting them aside for a while until I get caught back up.

So don’t take my silence to be anything ominous. It’s just a temporary shift of priorities.

~J.M.

Update on David K.

Sep
10

About a week ago I posted links to some of my favorite blogs. One of those was for blogger-mate David K. He has since moved operations to a new website, one that looks quite nice, in my opinion.

He still writes short fiction and poetry, and articles on writing. His new website can be found HERE.

A Few of My Favorite Blogs

Sep
04

I have not been keeping up with this blog as well as I should have. Sometime in the past couple neglected months, I passed two hundred followers. Knowing that I am not the most active blogger (understatement of the year), that seems like a decent achievement.

In the process of building this site, I’ve also discovered many other interesting blogs by follow fiction authors. So, I thought I’d take a moment to share some of them. Of course, it would not be possible to mention all of the awesome bloggers I currently follow in a single post. This is a just a tiny selection.

Fiction Blogs

Anyone who has followed my page for a while–and has seen the comments section–should know I have something going with writer David K. He was one of the first people I connected with when I started out on WordPress, and he has encouraged me constantly through my writing struggle. On his website, he posts great short fiction, writing tips–basically the same sort of thing I post about. Birds of a feather, I guess…

Another author and blogger I have always enjoyed is Shawn Cowling. I started writing seriously less than a year ago, after a years-long Terry Pratchett binge. So obviously, Pratchett’s humorous slant infected my sensibilities. I still find myself trying to write humor or satire into my work, though I can never be sure if it works. That’s the trouble with humor, everyone’s funny bone is different. All I can say is that Shawn Cowling makes me laugh. I think he does humor better than me.

Blogs on Writing

A lot of the blogs I follow discuss the writing craft and business. There are far too many to mention here. If you want to discover them the same way I did, use the tag “on writing” in the WordPress reader. There is one page I’d like to mention, though.

It should be obvious that I am big on fantasy. So I appreciate bloggers who discuss the mechanics of that genre. One of the best fantasy-writing bloggers I have found so far is Nicola Alter. Her site Thoughts on Fantasy is exactly what you’d expect from such title, a discussion of different aspects of the genre. She often examines genre tropes and suggests books that do them well. It just further proves that there is nothing wrong with writing tropes, as long as they are done well.

Flash Fiction Groups

There are countless flash fiction groups on WordPress. These sites provide a photo prompt with some basic writing guidelines. Then writers pen a story and link their page to the host page. This is a great way to meet new writers. I used to participate in several of these weekly groups, though I have not been able to keep up in recent months due to regular life rearing its ugly head.

My favorite of all of these flash fiction challenge groups, by far, has to be Three Line Tales. First, Sonya always chooses great photo prompts, which makes the writing easy. But the thing I like most about this challenge is the unique restriction. Most flash fiction challenges use word count as their key restriction, often 100-150 words. Word count limits are a great way to improve your writing. They force you to be conscious about word choice and efficiency. 3LineTales does things a bit different, though, namely the restriction is in the number of lines rather than words. Many authors who participate write poetry, which doesn’t interest me much, and others do not follow the line restriction as strictly as I do. I hold myself to three sentences, exactly three, no exceptions. The benefit of this is that I have been learning how to manipulate sentences in interesting ways, often with a lot of semi-colons, em-dashes and other funny punctuation. It lets you play with sentence length and paragraph flow in a very focused testing ground. I encourage you to give it a try, and to force yourself to only three sentences.

Best regards to all the other wonderful bloggers I follow which I could not mention here!

Are there any writing bloggers you follow that I should know about?

~J.M.

Look at This Shiny New Website!

Aug
08

Hello Blogosphere! I have finally transcended your little free world into the final dimension of full webpagedness!

As you can see, what inklings I had regarding minimalism with my previous blog have flared up to the maximum level. But I like it. This site–and myself by criminal association–is about writing, which is words, which are made of letters, which are those weird line things that make sounds, or at least we think they make sounds, but it’s really just us making the sounds as we please, really without much logic to the sounds we choose to make…

Sorry for my distraction. I’m just excited! My journey into this writing thing started just a little under a year ago. Now I am taking things to the next level. (Plus I got a great deal on web-hosting, 70% off for just not completing my order in like 2 minutes. Like what did they expect? Me not reading the fine print? That I’d be chomping at the bit to code?)

Apologies again. I’m not normally this humorous, I promise.

I’ve cleaned up my publications list. You can find it HERE. Look at all those stories! Now all I have to do is get a couple on there that actually make me money, then I’ll be in…the money, I guess.

I have made some feeble attempts at migrating my follower list to this new site, so hopefully all my old writing friends will get the notice and come by for a visit. If you do, you can sign-up for my newsletter, over there, lower right. I know you see it.

I have been quite busy lately with real work–yuk!–so I might not be posting that much in these initial days of new adventure. But I have a lot of things going for me right now. Several new acceptances have come in and many more are looking likely. Nothing pro-rated yet, but I’m only 10-months old. I speak damn good for a toddler.

If you’re wondering where the term “Rabble” is coming from, it’s ’cause of this guy:

It was an inside joke related to the too many of cats that I currently have in my tiny home. How many you ask? Too many. But “rabble” is such a great word. Why not use it for my band of rowdy followers?

So join my Rabble and come along with me! This is going to be fun!

Writing Updates

Jul
01

I’ve been pretty bad at updating this blog during the past few weeks. I’ve been on military orders and my work with the Army had been a lot more intense and rigorous than I expected. Add to that the deep academic nature of much of what I do, which tends to leave my brain melted at the end of the day. It’s an excuse, I know, but I haven’t yet figured out how to break through.

That’s not to suggest that things haven’t been happening with my writing. I have quite a few stories coming out this month in external publication. I’ve just seen the proofs for the two Bards and Sages issues I have stories in, and I must say, they look really nice. One is the July issue of the quarterly, which will feature one of my Iric flash stories. The other will be released in their Great Tome of Magicians, Necromancers and Mystics, and is related to my stone-age fantasy story that was published on Bewildering Stories. Both of the B&S works will be out in print.

I’ve received a couple more acceptances with publishers I’ve worked with before. Two stories will be published by Fantasia Divinity, one in their monthly magazine and one in an upcoming anthology. I also had another story accepted by Antipodean SF.

Speaking of Anti-SF, my story Webs was published in their previous ezine issue and will come out on the radio show a the end of July. I will post a link once the episode is out.

I’ve got another story awaiting a final read with The Centropic Oracle and some other stories pending with a few different anthologies. Nothing is set, but I have pretty good feelings about making most of them.

While a lot of things have been happening on the short fiction side of the fence, the book side is still a struggle. I haven’t received a positive reply from a single agent yet. I’ve queried about 50 agents in total, 19 are pending. It’s looking more and more like my innovative novel structure is too much for agents to want to take on. I might have to consider an alternate publishing route with this one. Maybe submitting directly to smaller publishers might be the better course.

My work with Fiction Vortex has also stagnated a bit. The Of Metal and Magic StoryVerse–which I am a founding member of–just lost an author. We’ve had to push back our deadlines and release plans, and this has taken a lot of the wind from our sails. Things are still progressing, albeit slowly. I have the first two episodes of my series Call of the Guardian drafted and plan to write the next soon, once I can get past this slump and get back into writing. The cover for my project is almost done as well, and I will be sharing that once I have it.

One of the cool things about writing for FV is that the company takes care of most of the marketing and publishing work. They get the covers made, provide editing services, and provide an app and website to distribute your work. They also have a marketting team that operates on various social media platforms. It really is a great place to work. If you are a sword&sorcery writer, why not submit a sample and try to join Of Metal and Magic? If our StoryVerse head lets you in, you’ll be working with me directly! If you’re interested, contact me on Facebook and I can help facilitate the submission process.

Well, that’s about all for now. I hope everyone is seeing progress with your writing projects. Keep up the fight!

~J.M.