JM Williams

A home for all things fantasy and sci-fi.

Throwback – “Clumsy Luck”

Jan
20

“Clumsy Luck” was one of the first stories I ever posted on my blog. Back then, I had yet to figure out what my blog was supposed to be, or what blogging was supposed to be. I had imagined it would be a space to market and develop the book I was working on at the time, my first. But the blog, and my writing adventures, quickly expanded beyond that.

This story was accepted for publication on The Story Shack, but I recently received notice that the site will be shutting down for some time, if not permanently. Along with the bad news, the editor said if he resumes work on the flash fiction site, he will publish those works already accepted. I have no urge to submit this story anywhere else, so if it gets published some day on The Story Shack, then that’s where it will end up.

I also wrote this story before I really understood flash fiction. That was something new to me when I started the blog, but proved to be a good fit for blogging. The combination of wanting to develop my book and to develop my flash skills, led to The Adventures of Iric, a 20-episode flash series. What’s striking about the story below is how well it works as flash fiction, despite having been written by a flash amateur.

I hope you enjoy it.

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CLUMSY LUCK

by JM Williams

CLANG!

Bjorn shuddered as the pan bounced off the floor. He rushed down to pick it up, forgetting about the long broom in his other hand, which pushed an opened carton of milk off the counter.

Bjorn stood in the white puddle, pouting. He berated himself for always making things more difficult. Now he had to wipe the floor, wash the pan, clean up the counter…cleaning the kitchen was taking him all day. He just wanted the house to be clean and neat by the time his mother came home from work. He wanted to give her a special birthday.

Bjorn hadn’t been able to buy her a present, having wasted his allowance on toys and candy. He had tried to make something, several somethings, but they all came out wrong. He had already ripped up a half dozen ugly pictures, and smashed a disfigured sculpture. The last thing he could do for her was to clean the house. But he knew she was the kind of person that would take such an act to heart.

After cleaning the kitchen, Bjorn’s next task was to water the garden and clean the bird feeders. He found the watering can in the backyard, along the back of the house and under the wide, wooden deck. The plastic can was large and orange, with a sunflower design on its tip. After filling it, Bjorn had to heft it with two hands, carrying it to the edge of the garden.

As he stumbled through the yard, he felt the ground squishing oddly under his feet. The water in the can swished, the weight of it throwing Bjorn’s small body from side to side. Suddenly, something caught his toes and Bjorn tumbled forward. He fell right on top of the plastic waterer. It shattered under his weight, splashing him with the  cold liquid. Bjorn’s head hit the ground and buried itself in a deep hole. Bjorn didn’t bother to get up; he just laid there and cried.

“What’s your problem?” came a gruff voice from deep down in the hole.

“Huh?” Bjorn mumbled.

“I said, what’s wrong with you kid?” Bjorn could start to make out a small figure silhouetted in the middle of a long tunnel.

“Everything is so wrong today. Everything is bad,” Bjorn cried.

“You look fine to me,” the little man said.

“But I broke my mother’s watering can and I spilled her milk and I dented her pan…and, and it’s her birthday! I just wanted to do something special for her.”

“Ah…I see,” the little man said.

“Who are you?” Bjorn asked.

“I’m Gim. I’m a garden gnome,” the little man said.

“A gnome? What’s that?” Bjorn asked.

“Kind of like a fairy, but one that lives in the ground. We help the plants grow. ” Gim smiled at the boy, then raised a finger excitedly. “Wait a moment, I have an idea.”

The little man disappeared down the tunnel. After several long minutes, he reemerged with something shiny in his hands. Bjorn pulled his head out of the hole, letting the light hit the tunnel in full. He saw what Gim carried. It was a brilliant, golden ring with a bright red gemstone cradled in its center.

“Wow,” Bjorn said, staring in wonder.

“Here, take this for your mother,” Gim said. “Birthdays are special things. She is lucky to have a son like you.”

Gim offered the ring to Bjorn with two hands. The boy giddily accepted the gift.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Bjorn said.

“Just don’t tell anyone you saw me, okay?” Gim said. “It will be our secret.”

“Our secret,” Bjorn repeated.

Bjorn said goodbye to his new friend and carefully filled in the hole. He picked up the pieces of the broken water can and put them back in their place. He would apologize for that later. For now he jumped around, thinking how lucky it had been for him to be so clumsy.

THE END

Thanks for reading.

~JM

I will soon be sending out my next newsletter, in honor of the new year. It will include an exclusive video of myself, talking Iric and future projects, as well as the usual publication highlight and writing tips. If you’d like to see all that, and be part of the “cool” crowd, you can sign up to join the RABBLE on the right side of the page!

The Color of Kings — 3LineTales

Dec
23
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photo by Emily Morter

The dark lord just did not appreciate good aesthetics–color and light in particular–no matter how hard Ur-Benu tried to convince her. Why must the sky always be a gloomy shade of gray or black, when purple was the color of kings? The orc concluded that his services would be better used elsewhere, and one day, left the dark tower for good.

*Written as a response to the Three Line Tales Week 99 photo prompt.

Author’s Note: I’ve been playing a lot of Middle-earth: Shadow of War these days. It’s a game where you recruit orc followers into your army. Here’s one of the warriors I captured, the inspiration for the tale:

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There’s something about his name, and the way the deep-voiced, melodramatic narrator says “UR-BENU!” every time I click on him. Sure, he looks scary with his size, and all the fire, but he’s just a softy at heart. A fiery machine destroyer…of expectations. He is terrified of Ghuls because they threaten his kittens. Lots of kittens. He is an EPIC kitten-cuddler, his little precious-es. You really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you know.

Hope you enjoyed the story. Happy Holidays!

~J.M.

A Miscalculation – 3LineTales

Dec
15

Caterina watched the majestic polar bears, frolicking on dirty ground that should be paved with ice and snow. Little did she know, these creatures were placed in the arctic by hyper-intelligence beings from a distant star–close enough to keep an eye on mankind, but far enough away to be safe from the effects of the apes’ habit of self-destruction. Well, maybe those beings weren’t so intelligent…

*Written as a response to the Three Line Tales Week 98 photo prompt.

It’s been a while since I did any writing on the blog. I’ve missed the past few weeks of the 3LineTales. I need to be more diligent!

Hope you liked my little story.

~J.M.

Unnamed Korean Military Thriller — My Writing Roots Vol. 4

Dec
06

In some of my past few posts, I have been sharing some bits of writing from my past. I started with my first full stories in elementary and middle school. I thought hard about what would be the best way to wrap this section up.

The point was to show how I got to where I am now. Even though I had been writing since childhood, I think my decision to try to be a professional writer was made when I was in college. That was when on of my lit teachers placed in the Writers of the Future Contest and had his story published in their annual anthology. That was when I set myself the goal of doing the same. That goal spurred me to start writing short stories, which in turn, led me to writing longer works and to building the relationships I have now with publishers.

So what fills the gap between middle school and college? I was still writing a lot when I started middle school, but near the end, and certainly by high school, I had all but stopped. There were more important things to do. I had to study, prepare myself for college. I had a part-time job, and demanding friends.

The next time I sat down to write a story was after I had been sent to Korea by the Army. I had chosen the assignment, and was rarely disappointed by the choice, despite all the extra field time and the curfews and the general shenanigans that went on there.

The story I wrote was not unlike “Deadly Creation.” At the time, I imagined I would be writing a whole book. And like middle school, I did not appreciate the scope required of such a project, nor did I have the diligence to finish it.

The story was a near-future sci-fi tale that was supposed to be about the problems with the reunification after Kim Jong-il is overthrown, in 2021. Of course, I had started the work while the old dictator was alive. That little detail quickly changed, and events did not pass as my “book” had presumed. Though, the concept might work even better now for his son.

Looking at it now, I think I could probably finish it, dress it up into a decent long story or even a novella, but I have too many other projects demanding my attention and time that I do not have.

Unlike the other stories, I wrote this one on my own computer so I still have the document file. I will paste the text below, rather than scans. I had to fight myself to not change anything, as there are many glaring mistakes and things that I don’t like. But for the sake of showing my growth as a writer, nothing has been changed except to take out some footnotes that didn’t really need to be there and wouldn’t copy over to this format well.

Well, that’s enough blabbing. Here’s the story.


Working Title: The Hydra Conspiracy (I don’t care for this title anymore)

All of the shops were bursting with customers, lines reaching out into the main walkway of the packed mall. The walkway was wide, dressed in sky-blue and white tiles, with thin transparent screens which rose halfway to the ceiling, dividing the walkway into right and left paths. The screens, whose picture could be viewed from either side, broadcasted news or advertisements shifting between English and Korean, for the various clothing and novelty shops nearby. Each shop lined the hall with walls of bluish, shatter-resistant glass and swift auto-doors that barely had an opportunity to slide closed, due to the extreme volume of people passing through or waiting in range of their motion sensors.

Yet even with all the bustle, the atmosphere was still rather calm for a Saturday afternoon. Couples walked hand-in-hand, to and from the various youth oriented fashion shops, while a few, well-aged old men laughed loudly at each other’s jokes on one of the synthetic wooden benches which were emplaced to help form the center divide of the hall, lying between and around the large screens. A nearby noodle shop overflowed with vendors, the summer heat overriding many shoppers’ urges to seek out the latest chic style, instead driving them to the refreshing rescue of cold naeng-myun.

A tall woman, dressed in grey jogging shorts and a light, short-sleeved hoodie of the same color, maneuvered in and around the various groups clogging the hall. Her complexion was slightly tinted by too much sun exposure and her shoulder length, black hair was lazily bound up in a ponytail. She was by no means physically imposing, but her erect and alert posture made her stand out amongst the crowd. She walked swift, but steady, white running shoes noiselessly traversing the polished tiles. Her age was difficult to determine at a glance, because she looked like she could easily be older than her features suggested, but if one had to guess, she might be in her late 20s.

If anyone asked, she was on vacation, no one needed to know anything more. She was very keen on privacy, and besides, just because she hadn’t come to a mall in over three years didn’t make her some sort of foreigner. She was here to shop, and nothing was going to get in the way of her holiday.  Yet she did feel slightly disoriented; technology advances so fast that one can barely keep up with the new tech from a year ago. She had come to this mall before, but even in just a few years, the designs of many of the shops had changed, not to mention that many shops she remembered no longer existed in this mall. She walked passed a Puma store she had shopped at before, but wouldn’t have recognized it if it weren’t for the logo and name dancing along the glass wall, flickering from English to Hangul. Reinforced glass with pictures floating in it, now that was a trick. As she peered into the store, a sweeper robot skirted past her legs. Last time she was at this shop, the robot nearly scared her out of her skin with that move, but this time she remembered about it.

She watched the little, toaster-shaped robot as it wheeled its way to the center of the hall, stopping at a small docking station at the bottom of a large rectangular waste bin. As it was preparing to dock, a young man in a black suit dropped a bit of trash into the top of the bin. Four robotic arms came out and divided the trash, depositing it into various holes that slid open. The man paid little attention, instead turning to face his three young colleagues, also dressed in black suits. The four men walked in haphazard formation about a man of obviously many more years, dressed in a suit that was obviously worth many more dollars. As the group walked on, the two men in front parted the crowd while the two in back chatted and looked over the premises. The woman outside the Puma shop tensed as she watched the men walk by.

Where the men had just walked by, one of the large screens was broadcasting a live news report. A young woman stared at the camera from behind a large desk, while a multilingual ticker ran across the top of the screen.

“…talks came to a standstill today at the annual East Asian Cooperation summit, hosted in Beijing, when Chinese and Korean delegates pushed Japan on its isolation policy in regards to the North Korean refugee crisis…”

She changed her view back to the men who moved steadily through the crowd. They moved passed a large laser-light equipped water fountain that stood centered on a four-way intersection. Two shops from there, on the left side of the main walkway, the group entered a formal wear shop. Obviously the man needed another fancy tie to go with his fancy suit, or maybe cufflinks, he looked like a man who wore expensive cufflinks.

For a moment the woman felt a delicate silence, nothing but a very heavy static energy in the air…

Chaos…

Blue-tinted glass filled the air like grapeshot, the shockwave of the explosion rippling through the hall, destroying the shatter-proof glass walls and crushing the parapet of high-tech screens bordering the other side of the path. Every person within fifty meters was thrown to the ground, the ones closer to the blast riddled with shrapnel, the ones inside yet to be seen.  Three of the men in black suits flew backwards through the air, their jackets flying open and their white shirts drenched in red. One of them was thrown all the way across the hall, smashing through the glass wall of an adjacent shop. All the while, the roar of the blast impacted on the ears of those who withstood the shockwave, bringing many to their knees. Smoke bellowed, bodies thudded to the ground, people screamed, sirens blared, fire extinguishers and sprinklers roared to life.

What in God’s name?!

The woman outside the Puma store took her hands from her ears and surveyed the devastation. The fire extinguishers were barely keeping the flames from spreading out from the destroyed shop, but by now fire-control robots had begun to arrive. Dozens of people rushed passed the woman as she slowly advanced towards the grim scene. As she began to regain her senses, she started giving orders to the people who remained. She grabbed a young boy who ran passed her, he arm trembling with fright, and directed him to a woman on the floor who was bleeding from her stomach.

“Get a rag, or a piece of cloth or something and put pressure on the wound. Bend her knees up too.”

The boy simply nodded and took to his task. She continued like this, guiding those whose wounds were small to aid those whose lives hung in the balance. She searched around the wreckage, but there was no sign of the rich old man. Just then, her foot brushed by something small and shiny on the ground. She bent down to pick it up and noticed it was a gold cufflink. She had been right about the old man. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a man in a dark hooded sweatshirt hiding around the corner of the walkway intersection. As soon as the man saw her looking at him, he ran.

The woman sprinted after him. Today was turning out to be one hell of a day, and the man made the mistake of trying to escape her when she had her running shoes on. Fat chance. The woman gracefully maneuvered the intersection, dodging wounded people and wreckage. Meanwhile the man bolted ahead, stuffing something rectangular in his pocket and pushing over an old man in his way. The woman, like a hurdler on a track, skillfully leapt over the old man as he started to come to his feet. She landed on the balls of both feet and kept running after the fugitive.

“Police!” she screamed, “Stop you bastard!”

The man came up to another intersection and shifted to take a right turn, just as a fire-control robot came around the corner. The man tumbled over the robot, arms flailing in the air, landing on his left shoulder with a loud thud. The robot continued on its way, ignoring the man on the ground or the woman chasing him. The man shifted to his right foot and dragged himself from the ground, holding his bruised shoulder.

Too late. A kick to the face brought the man to his feet. He raised his arms in time to block two rapid punches from both sides. The policewoman circled to the front of him. Her arms were raised in an attack posture. The man struck out with his fists. The woman blocked the left blow, then the right with upraised hands. She shifted to her right and kicked with her left foot. The man blocked the blow, inches from his head. He kicked at the woman’s right foot. She jumped back over his sweep and punched with her left hand. The blow crushed the man’s nose, drawing blood and staggering him backwards. She advanced with two more punches that the man managed to block by bringing both arms up to his face. The woman’s next kick slammed into the man’s left midsection, sending him a half dozen steps to the right. The woman charged, leapt into the air and thrust her foot at the man’s head. He dodged to the right, and grabbing the woman’s leg, threw her to the ground. Using the opportunity, he dashed away towards the exit.

The automatic doors quickly slid open for the criminal and his pursuer. Before he could make it past a car parked in the paved roundabout, the woman was on him. She grabbed his hood and jerked him backwards, ripping the clothing. Still holding on to the man’s hood, the woman slammed her knee into his stomach, stealing his wind. She slammed her palm into the man’s already broken nose, making him scream. Inside she broke into smile. She grabbed his collar with both hands and throttled the man who was already halfway senseless.

“You stupid son of a bitch! You thought you could get away from me?!” The young policewoman was in a rage. “What the hell have you done?”

A sadistic smile spread across the man’s broken face as he laughed, a dark, devilish laugh. He coughed up blood and glared at her, “I have merely set the kindling…”

The policewoman raised her fist to strike the man again, but was suddenly stopped by the screech of a car breaking to her right. A sleek, black car with black tinted windows stopped in the roundabout next to the pair. The passenger door flew open and a bulky man wearing a tactical vest and black cargo pants stepped out.

“Seo Saejin, Seojang, you and your playmate need to come with me.”


I don’t think it is very hard to see the improvement I made over all that time, though I clearly had a ways to go. This story seems to have seeded the action-centric style I have now, amongst other things.

That’s it. That’s really the final step bringing me to where I am now. Yes, I did study writing in college, but that decision was made even before I enrolled. I knew I was going to be a writer, though part of me imagined I would be 60 years old and retired by the time I actually started doing it.

Glad to see things worked out a tiny bit faster.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed sharing my writing journey.

~J.M.

Two New Stories Live

Nov
11

While I’ve been away working, I received notice from two publishers that my stories are not live on their respective sites.

The first is an original Storm Hamilton story I wrote shortly after finishing The Maltese Falcon. I’m sure the influence shows. It was published as part of Akashic Book’s new flash fiction series, Fri-SciFi. The story can be found HERE.

The second story is a reprint of an old Iric story on Eternal Remedy. Like the previous story I had published with them, they paired the story up with some odd pictures that represent their style, a style that I happen to like. I also like the clean layout of their website. Anyways, the story can be found HERE.

In addition to this good news, I’ve been working on the Iric collection. I have the ebook cover done and am just waiting for some final editorial comments before I put it up on Kindle.

I have to admit I am a bit excited to finally have a book for sale! Oh, and my next story with <a href=”http://www.centropicoracle.com/index.php” target=”blank”>The Centropic Oracle</a> is set to drop on the 15th of December. So much news coming in these days. Seems like things work out better when I am not paying attention, a watched pot as they say…

I’d like to say that I can now enjoy my weekend but, alas, I will be working through. Hope you guys have a fun break!

~J.M.

Final Bards and Sages Tome Out Now!

Nov
02

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My story “The Sorcerer” is now available for purchase as part of Bards and Sages last tome anthology, “The Great Tome of Magicians, Necromancers, and Mystics.”

You can buy the anthology here: PRINTKINDLE

~J.M.

Catching Cameron Ellis

Nov
02

My cyberpunk/noir/crime-drama flash story “Catching Cameron Ellis” is not live on Astounding Outpost. Go check it out.

This story will also appear in their Neural Nets, Uplinks, and Wetware anthology.

Sometime this month, Astounding Outpost will open up a voting page for readers to choose their favorite stories from the Neural Nets, Uplinks, and Wetware collection. I hope to earn your vote!

Anyway, why not go read my story? You can find it HERE.

~J.M.

New Story on Flash Fiction Magazine

Oct
31

I’ll keep this short, since I have things to do–like being horribly sick with a demonic head cold.

A new, unreleased story of mine entitled “Innocence Lost, Innocence Found,” just dropped on Flash Fiction Magazine. Just in time for Halloween!

I’ll let the story speak for itself. You can find it HERE.

~J.M.

A New Story Out in the Uprising Review

Sep
13

My newest story comes to you care of The Uprising Review, whose motto is “Write Fearlessly.”

Well, I did, and this story quickly became one of my favorites. Unfortunately, many editors did not share my opinion. After revising and resubmitting several times, I finally found a reader who shared my sense of humor and adventure.

This story is, after all, a humorous adventure story, a farcical little tale that begins to reveal my Pratchettosis.

I am very proud of this little story–if that is not already apparent–and I think Uprising took great care of it. They even found a wonderful cover image. I hope you will head over and check it out.

You can find the story HERE.

~J.M.

SHARE: A Seed in the Ground, by Shannon Fay

Aug
26

I’ve been a fan of Shannon Fay ever since I read her micro story “To Give You the Night Sky.” I’m not sure how to classify her as an author. She has several stories in professional publications but no book release.

(Many of these stories are with Daily Science Fiction, to which I am jealous. I have submitted several stories to them and got a rejection for each. Despite their supposed blind reading, it is growing more evident to me that they have a preference for authors they already know.)

I guess I would rate Fay as a lower-tier pro, the sort I’d like to be in a couple years. Maybe on the same level as Karl Gallagher, another rising author I like. As such, she’s a good role model for me as a new writer.

Anyways, to get back to the main point of this post, I’d like to share another great story by Fay. This one is a tragic fantasy piece with some very strong character and world-building. Really, the only fault I can find with this one is the title, which doesn’t really draw attention or encompass the story and theme of the work very well. As with “To Give You the Night,” this one deals with the emotional tolls of conflict. I really love the concept of the seed and how it is used, both metaphorically and biologically. I’d say more, but I don’t want to spoil the story.

Without further ado, here’s the link.


A Seed in the Ground

I was the one who told Rhiz about the Folx bush.

“It flowers in the spring, little pink blossoms that sit on thick, knobby branches,” I said, placing the seed in Rhiz’s hand and folding her fingers over it. “When you try and trim it, it just grows back stronger. Tearing one out of the ground is like trying to rend a full-grown oak. It’s hale and tough and beautiful, just like you.”…READ MORE