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Patreon Fiction: Mapmaker

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Hello Readers! If you follow me on social media, you may have seen that I’ve been making some upgrades to my Patreon feed lately. This includes weekly flash fiction and other goodies. You can visit patreon.com/hughjodonnell to have a look! Today I’m releasing a story here to give you a sample of what is going on every week in my feed for the low, low price of $1 a month! That’s like, a quarter a story!

Mapmaker

It has been a long time since Mapmaker was taken. He does not know how long. He has not seen the sun since then. He does not know where he is being held. He has only seen stone walls, dull, smoking torches, and the undead soldiers of The Necromancer.
Mapmaker prepared to return to the capital as soon as he heard of the invasion. He expected to be called out of retirement to help defend the kingdom. He had surveyed and drawn every inch of the land, and knew her down to the smallest detail. He had never married. How could one devote love to another, when all his energy went to his maps. He traveled to the palace, to lay battle maps for the king. The Enemy caught him first.
They tortured and interrogated Mapmaker regularly since he was brought here. The Necromancer’s generals and strategists, the ones he kept alive, wanted maps. Fortifications, barracks, ports. They wanted military targets, but those were not the maps he drew.
Mapmaker is a proud man. He never made a map he knew to be false, and he refuses to start now. Instead, he wastes the generals’ time. He maps peaceful villages, gave directions for forest paths far from the front lines. For every useless map, they punish him severely, but it another day lost to the Necromancer’s forces. It is all Mapmaker can do for his country.
Once, he stole a piece of chalk and tried to keep track of the days. He made a mark for every time the guards took him, each time he ate the strange food, each time he slept. He gave up when he ran out of chalk. Most of one wall is covered by the little tally marks, like a map backwards in time.
The guards never speak. Mostly, they are dead things. They move awkwardly, like puppets, and stare with sightless eyes. Occasionally, one is a living man, who watches his companions with mute horror. The price for failure in The Necromancer’s army is self-evident. He begs these living servants for information. How fares the kingdom, the war, and his apprentices. They dare not answer.
He was traveling with a pair of students when his coach was ambushed. He does not know what became of them. When he sleeps, he dreams. Sometimes he dreams they are killed in front of him, as a punishment. Sometimes they are pressed into the Necromancer’s service, and come to his cell as unseeing, stumbling things that do not recognize him. Sometimes he dreams they have all escaped together. Those are the worst ones. Mapmaker sleeps poorly.
His cell opens with the tooth-gritting noise of metal on stone. Two armored zombies enter to escort him. Mapmaker guesses they were made about two weeks ago. He has been imprisoned long enough to learn the cycle of the zombie guards. With so great a supply of bodies on hand, The Necromancer does not bother to prevent his guards from rotting, and they last about a month before they fall apart. These two are halfway through the process. Although they are covered in plate mail, he can tell by the stench.
The old man shrinks back from their outstretched arms. He is running out of safe places to map. He has drawn every safe place he can think of, and does not know what they will do. If they torture him today, perhaps this is the day he will break, or the day they will finally kill him.
The corpses lift him to his feet and march him out of the room. They are neither rough nor gentle. They move with a rote, measured steps. When he was a young man, under the old king, An inventor brought a mechanical elephant to court. It marched, trumpeted, and even bowed. It was decorated to almost look alive, with a hide covering and glass eyes, but there was something too precise about its movements. As horrific as they are, The Necromancer’s soldiers remind him of the elephant.
As they march him down the hall, he wonders what happened to the elephant. He has not seen it in many years. Perhaps it broke down, or is sitting forgotten in a dusty store room somewhere underneath the palace. It takes his mind off of what is to come.
To his surprise, they take him somewhere different today. After a few minutes of confusing twists and turns, he finds himself in a huge circular tower. The stone floor is marked by a chalk circle. Inside, soldiers are building something. Some set colored stones into the floor, Others lay down planks and spread papers on them, almost haphazardly. Others light candles at fixed points outside of the circle. Mapmaker tries to get a closer look, but the rotting guards push him towards a staircase ascending to a platform. Like a bucket on a chain, they guide him up.
The stairs spiral a long way to the top of the tower. By the time he reaches the platform he is winded and sweating. He aches from a thousand pains. He was frail when they brought him here, and this is the most exercise he has gotten in months. The Necromancer, in his black robes embroidered with gold thread, is waiting for him.
This is the first time Mapmaker has seen the leader of the enemy, but there is no mistaking him. He cannot tell how old he is, or even if he is truly still alive. Fear claws at the old man, and he simply wants to flee. The other guard stands on the stairs and prevents his escape. The Necromancer looks him up and down, purses his thin, dry, lips, and asks a question.
“Have you ever heard of sympathetic magic, Mapmaker?”
Mapmaker has not.
The wizard smiles. It does nothing to put Mapmaker at ease. “Sympathetic magic is one of the oldest forms, but quite powerful. Observe.” He take a little object, about an inch tall, out of his pocket and sets it on the railing. The doll made of wax and brass. A bundle of brown hair sticks out of the top. It reminds Mapmaker of a candle. The Necromancer picks it back up and without effort snaps it two. One of the guards blocking the stair collapses without making a sound. Mapmaker feels sick to his stomach. The Necromancer’s smile widens.
“If you wish to control a man, or learn his secrets, or kill him, there is a simple method.” The Necromancer recites as though they stand in a classroom. “Make a figure of him, fill it with his blood, or his hair, or the clippings of his nails. “Say his secret name, and he is yours, to do with as you wish.” The mapmaker trembles. He thinks of how much hair he has lost, how long his nails have grown, how often they whipped him until he bled. The Necromancer could have made quite a large doll of him, by now. Mapmaker finds his courage. He is a servant of the Kingdom, and he swears he will die before he gives up. He looks the Necromancer in his colorless eyes.
“Why are you telling me this? Are you going to kill me?”
“Kill you? Why, you are my best and most trusty servant! Look below you!” The Necromancer gestures out over the railing to the ground below. The old man turns and sees what the servants are doing. A new nadir of fear and horror strikes at him, filling his belly with ice. He understands immediately what they are making.
At this height, the circle takes on meaning. The red, black, and gray stones resolve into mountains. The green and brown become forests and fields. The blue stones become lakes and rivers. And set among them are the papers. From their locations he knows what them must be. He has been making them all of his life.
“Lovely, isn’t it? Your greatest work. We milled the paper from the trees of your forests. We made the ink from plants and stones we gathered here. We hewed the very earth of your little country to remake mountains. If you want power over a man, build his likeness in a doll. Bind it to him with his hair and blood. If you want power over a country, draw a map. The principle is the same.” Mapmaker stares in horror. He cannot look away.
“I never mapped a military target. Never once since you captured me.”
“Commendable. But you drew these instead. And they will serve me just as well.” The Necromancer spreads one hand out over the map. The candlelight catches on gold rings.
“What are you going to do?” Mapmaker whispers.
Below him is the most detailed and beautiful map he has ever seen, and it terrifies him. The Necromancer doesn’t answer.
A ball of poisonous green flame appears in The Necromancer’s hand. He holds it out over the pit for a moment, then lets it drop. It falls for a long time.

Patreon.com/hughjodonnell

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Ooorah!

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Good news, everyone!

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“The City: A Story in 140 Characters” won an Ooorah Award on Wattpad!
The Ooorahs are a community-based Science Fiction award on the site, and I couldn’t be more pleased and humbled by their support.
You can find a list of all the lovely winners HERE, and of course if you haven’t read The City yet, check that out HERE!
I’d like to say thanks once again to the Ooorahs team, particularly Red_Harvey, who contacted me and recommended I apply. Since this seems like the best place to do it, and I feel like I’ve neglected to say so elsewhere, here are a few more thanks.
First of all, I have to give a huge thank you to my husband Jeremy for his constant support, patience, and advice as I worked on this project. His insights and patient assistance with cover design were also invaluable. I’d also like to thank JRD Skinner for his encouragement, and also for being willing to blurb the project when it was really done. I’d also like to thank Jake Bible, both for blazing the Drabble-novel trail with Dead Mech and for prompting the book on his podcast. Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who has reviewed, supported, or even just read “The City.” I’m hard at work on the next book in the140 Characters series, and I hope you dig it.

Up At Patreon: The Shadow Over Ironwood!

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Now on Patreon: The Freelance Hunters: The Shadow Over Ironwood!

FINAL_freelance-hunters_MEDIUM

When Glory and Joachim save an Elf girl from an angry mob, she begs them to help her forest home. But The Ironwood is a deadly maze of traps and magical creatures that no outside has ever escaped alive, and the girl is pursued by implacable enemies. Can the pair of them get along long enough to save their own skin, much less save the day? And where has Bingo gone to?

Sunday Nights at my Patreon page, I’ll post a new chapter of this action-packed adventure serial novel for supporters of $1.00 a month or more. Don’t miss it!

2016 Roundup

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It’s a new year! The champagne has been toasted, friends have returned home, and the holiday decorations have been put away for another year. The only thing left to do is report back on my Page of Awesome results for 2016.
The Page of Awesome is the space in my notebook, and the widget on this page, where I keep track of my tasks for the year. And without further hedging, here are my totals:
Podcasts: 50
Blog Posts: 52
Short Story Submissions: 28
Patreon Posts: 17
Agent Submissions: 0
Self-published eBooks: 0
Compared to 2015, I stayed even on Podcasts. I had hoped to do better last year, but there were some lengthy absences on The Way of the Buffalo.  Some of these issues were technical, others were personal, and some were just me not putting enough time in the chair or prioritizing other projects. The good news is that I finally finished The Dark Wife, and am currently remastering it to submit to ACX. More on my podcast plans for this year below.
I fell way short of my expectations on blogging and reviews last year. Part of this shortfall came from bookkeeping. I reblogged a lot of podcast content here to create a new main podcast feed, but did not count these as new blog posts. I want to do more reviews and personal writing in 2017.
I also stayed about even with fiction submissions, and even had a few pieces published in 2016! Last year saw the publication of my story “A Woman of the Old School” in Andromeda Spaceways, after a delay due to technical issues. I also had a pair of pieces published on The Melting Potcast. The crew in the Disaster Kitchen are always a delight to write for, and I plan to continue writing for them in 2017.
My Patreon post count was lower than I would like, but I didn’t focus on Patreon as a major outlet or revenue stream last year, so I’m not particularly worried about it.
The last portions are where I really fell down in 2016. I didn’t finish any major editing projects last year. That means I didn’t send anything out to agents, and I didn’t self-publish anything, either. While a writing career isn’t a race, I know that editing is probably my biggest weakness. I need to focus on getting my butt in the chair and polishing manuscripts rather than chasing the latest shiny short story idea.
But 2016 is over! It’s dead! Time to move on!
reset-the-clock
So with the Page of Awesome reset to zero, what are my plans for 2017?
First of all, after finishing the last round of short fiction for The Way of the Buffalo, The podcast will be going on an indefinite hiatus. It may come back later in the year, or a new interview podcast may rise to replace it. I have some compelling ideas about what I want to do next with the format, but first, I need to focus on other projects. The City is going to get an audiobook edition in 2017, either on this page or through ACX. Maybe both. After that, who knows? I’ve been considering a gaming microcast, but the project might work better as a vlog.
I’d like to continue blogging as well, but it might take a backseat to other projects this year. I’ve set a simple goal of two blog posts a week, and will add more if time and workflow allows.
This year I’m going to up my game and get serious on story submissions. I recently joined a new writers group that is a mix of experienced and new writers, and their feedback has given me a lot more confidence in my editing. I’d like to double my output over the last two years.
Patrons will hopefully see a steady stream of early podcast episodes, and I will be releasing a brand-new Freelance Hunters novel chapter by chapter in my Patreon feed. I don’t think Patreon is a great model for growing an audience, but I hope to pull in more Patrons this year through marketing elsewhere.
One of those places is Wattpad! In late 2016 I started using Wattpad to rerelease The City, and Freelance Hunters shorts. I’m going to use the platform to try and grow an audience with more 140 Characters stories this year.
Those stories will also get eBook and maybe even print releases. I always start the year with ambitious plans for self-publishing, and I invariably fall flat due to my inexperience. This year I will reach out to experts, editors, and cover designers to make my work shine and make sure it gets out the door.
I also have some projects that I’m keeping close to the vest, but will hopefully see an agent’s inbox by the end of the year. I am doing prep work for second-round rewrites on a novella I began at the Smoky Writers retreat in 2016. I earnestly believe in the project, a YA Fantasy series set in later days of a crumbling empire. I’ll be blogging more about it as the year goes on.
And that about covers my look back at 2016 and the year ahead. Professionally, at least. Art and entertainment are torches in the night, and the world looks to be headed into a dark place in 2017. Keep safe, and keep making things.

Welcome to 2016!

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Happy New Year, everybody!  2015 is over and it is time to look ahead to the new year.  But first, let me consider and retire the Page of Awesome for 2015.  The Page of Awesome is the little tally in my notebook where I set my goals for the year and keep track of how I do.  And this year, my eyes were bigger than my productivity.
I put up a little tracker at the side of this blog, and as you can tell, I didn’t make most of my goals.  I wanted to publish over 400 blog posts, and I fell well short of that.  Partially that is because last year at this time I was working on “The City,” and I expected to release more daily drabble serials.  But after I completed the first one, I stalled out on two more.  In 2016, I might finish and release more of them, but if I do, I don’t know if a daily blog post is the best format.  And if it is, I won’t start until the work is finished.
I did better on podcast fiction, and even cleared my goal of 50!  I kind of slacked off on them in the later half of the year, though.  In 2016, I’ll be trying to collect all of my podcasts in one place for convenience.  The Way of the Buffalo, Freelance Hunters, and Chrononaut Cinema Review podcasts are all hosted in different feeds, and while I plan on keeping all of those going, I’m a bit jealous of my friends with Uber-feeds, and I’d like to have something here on this site.  That should be launching this week.
I didn’t write as much as I wanted to this year.  I particularly didn’t edit as much as I needed to.  As a result, I didn’t make either goal for short story submissions or self-produced ebooks.  I still have some things to get out the door, but if 2015 taught me anything, it is to not write checks my ass can’t cash.  I think it is better to be a mysterious author and leave you all in suspense rather than promise more than I can deliver.
Which is why I am NOT publicly making any goals this year.  The Page of Awesome will continue, and I’ll be making brand new and exclusive (for at least a little while) content for my patrons over at patreon.com/hughjodonnell, but I’ve been thinking a lot about goal-setting as a metric of success, and I’m not sure it’s good for me at this stage.  I’m obviously not great at setting goals, and failing to reach them made me feel bad, even though I didn’t do too badly.  I still had a lot of blog posts and story submissions this year.  I want to stay positive in 2016, and thus, I’m only announcing my results, not goals.
In the meantime, there will be a lot of cool stuff happening around here in 2016, and I hope you stick around.

Thanks for reading!  If you enjoyed this article, please share it, or support me on Patreon for more content!

Going beyond National Novel Writing Month

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Today is November first, and for the first time in ten years, I’m not starting a novel for National Novel Writing Month.  I’ve taken part in the 50,000-word writing challenge every year since I’ve heard about it in 2005.  I haven’t always won, and a few years I bailed on the project early when other things in my life overwhelmed me, but I always went for it.  But I haven’t done much of anything with the manuscripts, even the ones I thought had real potential.
I’m not sure where my fear of editing came from, but what kind of writer doesn’t finish what he started?  So rather than start yet another new project, I’ve decided to dedicate this year to editing.  If I can write that much in a month, I should be able to edit a good chunk of it.  My goal is to have a beta-ready draft of my 2014 NaNo project, “Fabulous Powers” to hand off to beta readers by the end of the month.  This might be a bit ambitious, but I want to try.
National Novel Writing Month has always been about quantity over quality, but I’ve taken the ethos a bit too much to heart, I think.  I’ve produced a lot of words, and never shown them off or polished them.  So I’ve put my formal announcement here.  Gentle reader, please hold me to account.  Notice the widget on the side of the page, charting my progress to 80,000 words.
And if you are an aspiring writer, let me urge you to take the plunge in my stead this year.  It still isn’t too late to sign up.  National Novel Writing Month is a challenge, and it isn’t an easy one, but it was the push that inspired me to write in the first place.  It gave me the opportunity to meet an incredible group of writers in my area, who gave me encouragement, inspiration, and companionship on my writer’s journey.  NaNoWriMo was the starting gate for my journey as a writer, and while I’m not as far as I would like to be, I’d have never gotten there without it.  See you at the end of November.
If you enjoyed this article, please share it!  Or, support me on Patreon for more content!

The Gamer’s Guide to Writing: An Introduction

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IMG courtesy of Gamefaqs.com

IMG courtesy of Gamefaqs.com

Like many genre writers, I enjoy playing video games, and I often complain that my gaming addiction is taking time away from my writing, and vice-versa.  But I’ve found that in some ways, my love of gaming has had a great impact on my writing.  Even in a genre that is generally panned for its presentation of script and plot, an observant writer can still pick up pointers about what to do, and what to avoid.  This blog is a look at some of the lessons I’ve picked up in my many years behind a game pad.
A game I’d like to look at first is “Final Fantasy IX.”  Launched in the U.S. in November of 2000, it is often overlooked because of the timing of its release.  It came out at the tail end of the Sony Playstation’s lifecycle, a full month after the blockbusting premier of the Playstation 2.  Even though the game pushed the console to its limits, it was competing against more dazzling technology.  It also has an awkward place in the franchise, between the panned “Final Fantasy VIII” the next year’s revolutionary “Final Fantasy X” for the PS2.
None the less, FFIX is an excellent source for writers looking at plot, structure, character, and theme.  Over the next series of posts, I’ll be drilling deep into the plot of the game, examining the presentation and hunting for literary gold, as Dave Robision would say.  Think of this like a very different sort of walkthrough.  Instead of looking for secrets to success in the game, I’ll be looking for hints to improve writing craft.  Spoilers obviously will be a part of this project.  So if you have an old set of discs gathering dust, or a few bucks of Playstation Network credit lying around, come join me as we examine how a classic game tells a great story.
Next week, we’ll look at compact character introductions, and what we can learn from the title screen!
Final Fantasy IX was originally released for the Sony Playstation and is also available as a digital download on Playstation Network.
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