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Everyday Drabbles – NOW ON FACEBOOK!

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So it turns out, I’m bad at marketing.
I started Everyday Drabbles as a daily challenge to myself in 2019, based on a friend’s ongoing Facebook group of daily writing prompt pictures. I saw it as a way to teach myself good habits as well as get my work out there. I’ve always liked drabbles. They’re quick and punchy, the four-panel comic of short fiction.
I originally started the project using Wattpad. I’d used it for my previous Drabble project, The City. And while that project did okay, I wasn’t getting much traction, and by the end of the year, I found myself out of space due to the platform’s two-hundred chapter limit. So I migrated over to my blog, and that has been going pretty well, but I am worried that the stories aren’t as visible.
So, I’m happy to announce that Everyday Drabbles now has a dedicated Facebook page!
Facebook.com/EverydayDrabbles
If you are subscribed to this page, don’t worry! Drabbles will still be posted here on the blog. I’ll just also be posting them on their dedicated Facebook page, so now it’s even easier to get your daily hundred-word short story, right in your news feed!
I’ve also created a dedicated Twitter account to send out these blog posts, so if that is your social media of choice, go ahead and follow twitter.com/everydaydrabble!
So pleas go like the page, and let me know what you think! I’ve got some other Everyday Drabbles plans in development as well, so please stay tuned!
Thanks for your support!

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The Year of Final Fantasy

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about THIS ARTICLE by Aidan Moher. I think it resonates with me because it echoes my own path into nerd-dom and ultimately to becoming a writer.
I didn’t read much of the Canon sci-fi and fantasy growing up. I loved Fantasy and Science Fiction movies and TV, but by the time I could pick my own books from the library, I was already reading thrillers and bestsellers. Once I reached high school I started really getting into anime, and my real nerdy gateway drug: JRPGs.
I didn’t have much of a game collection as a kid. We had an NES, and a much-loved game boy. What I did have was a burning jealousy of my friends’ adventures, starting from Dragon Quest and moving straight through Final Fantasy VII. I would hang out with them as they traversed huge worlds and fought monsters and robots in weird, strategy combat that seemed strange and wonderful to me.
So When my family got a computer, a friend gave me a floppy disc full of NES roms. I knew just where I wanted to start: With the original NES Final Fantasy and its two Japan-only sequels. True, the graphics weren’t as sharp as a PS1’s, and there wasn’t anything so eye-popping as watching Sephiroth descend from the sky to assassinate Aerith, (spoiler alert!) but the illicit glee of knowing that these were lost relics. These were a pair of games that had never (at the time) reached American shores, been digitally smuggled out and translated in the dark corners of the internet. It started an obsession, and I had to play more of them. I burned through the NES library of Dragon Warrior games, and played through Final Fantasy Legend and Pokemon on Game Boy. I sought out roms of stranger provience, and as the technology improved, upgraded from Nesticle, the most Nineties name for an emulator, to SNES9x. I burned through Final Fantasy IV: Hardtype like it was a fever, and got every ending in Chrono Trigger. I fought the Sinestriasl in Lufia and remade the world in Actraiser. I was full-on obsessed.
And that obsession pushed me to seek out other avenues to explore my geekery. Dungeons and Dragons, and other table top games, cheesy 80’s fantasy movies, and thick tomes of epic fantasy, both classic, and best forgotten. It was all great, but there was irritation there, things I saw on the page and screen that didn’t quite match the things I loved about the digital versions. Eventually, I picked up my pen and started writing my own stories, borne out of my own need to fill in the gaps.
It’s the distant future year 2020. And it’s a good time to look back as well as forward. So this year, I’ve decided to go back and play as much Final Fantasy as my time allows, and to write about it here. I’ve reviewed and written about a few of these games on my blog before, but this is something a bit deeper. I’m not sure what the final forms will be, probably a mixture of critical essays, reviews, creative non-fiction, and other strange beasts. Will my love of these early games still be there? Do these games hold up in 2020? Have things gotten better, or will I simply become an old fogey, complaining that these blasted kids with their three-dee graphics and full voice acting won’t get off my dang lawn? Will I discover hidden truths, or just some misplaced nostalgia that doesn’t bear anything to who I am as a writer today? Let’s find out.
As ever, the Crystals shed their light silently, waiting for us to embark on our adventure.

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Fiction: The Deal

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“Serve me, and you will be provided for. You and all your children, for all of time. That is what I am offering you. To not die in the wet and cold, to never again be starving and afraid. Always will you have fuel, and you will be tended to.”
“And the price?”
“A few menial tasks, nothing that you couldn’t do easily. Cook my food. Warm my home. Give me light to see by.” The human smiled. The smoke shifted, and the Spirit of Fire seemed as though it tilted its head, considering him.
“You have a bargain, human.”

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.

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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!
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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.

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