Writing these days

Got a newsletter recently from one of the Indie Writer groups I lurk around, asking if/how the Covid-19 lock down affected my writing. Have to say ‘Quite a bit” if I’m being honest.

It’s not just the Covid-19 though. That was tough. Weird. But do-able.

Nope. In short order, global pandemic was at the bottom of a pig pile of deaths, crises in leadership, international strife, economic uncertainly, racism, political and social animosity, demonstrations, looting*… and then I got sick and spent a month in an out of the hospital.

It felt like I was breathing smog. Gasping, every time I sat down at the computer. It was hard to think straight, let alone relax and get creative. “Flow Space, anyone?

I pushed on. No props to me, really. It was some combination of prayer, grace, and mule-headed desperation. Had to keep busy with something and I didn’t have the energy for anything new, so I stuck with the familiar.

Felt like I was clawing at granite with my fingernails but things got done.

At the top of the fiction list, the first portion of my post-apocalyptic fantasy saga was polished and kicked out the door. Finally. Beneath the Broken Moon. Shattered Worlds, Book One is currently available as an ebook at Amazon.

Rachelle Stewart Ramirez of the Story Grid and Leonora Bulbeck over at Reedsy were both invaluable. A debt of eternal gratitude to them both. I can only hope I did justice to their hard work and excellent advice.

Next, my second STALKER/METRO 2033 flavored short story, Strange Treasure is now available as an audio book as well as a Kindle read. For anyone other than me keeping count, that makes six audio books: Strange Treasure, Prayer to St. Strelok, Hard Kill, Sozo, The Stones Remember, and The Barrow Lover. A little light listening for your daily commute. You’re welcome.

While we’re getting post-apocalyptic, I should mention my writing for the table top wargame hobby is still going strong. Zona Alfa has been available since late January, courtesy of Osprey Publishing. (Thanks, guys) The S7 Facebook Group is approaching 800 members and is filled with some very cool, creative, and inspiring war game comrades. I’m quite grateful.

It’s not limited to a Soviet-style apocalypse either. Gamers from all sorts of interesting places also seem to enjoy my solo/cooperative cyberpunk skirmish game, Hardwired, and the expansion, Tsim Sha Tsui Expansion.

I was encouraged enough by the support to build on the same game mechanics to hammer out a set of Fantasy-genre, monster hunting rules. Titled, Nightwatch: Terror and Treasure in the Dark Corners of the World, it’s nearing completion and should (God willing) be out in August, 2020.

It’s been a slog, I have to admit. I feel like I’ve been tunneling out of a POW Camp with a soup spoon; cramped, sweating, panting in the dark, measuring progress inches at a time. Not quite the artist’s life I imagined, buoyed by a supportive community of like-minded creatives and a brisk, tail wind of the Spirit.

Erm… nope.

Still, stuff got done. There’s more stuff to do. Forward motion – even in inches – is still progress. We’re all going though it, getting through it. That’s the season we’re in. It’ll turn. Until then, we persevere and keep doing the next right thing.

I’ll leave you with a quote from a book you really should read: Robert MacFarlane’s Underland.

Dissonance is produced by any landscape that enchants in the present but has been a site of violence in the past. But to read such a place only for its dark histories is to disallow its possibilities for future life, to deny reparation or hope – and this is another kind of oppression. If there is a way of seeing such landscapes, it might be thought of as ‘occulting’: the nautical term for a light that flashes on and off, and in which the periods of illumination are longer than the periods of darkness.

That’s all for now. I hope and pray you are all safe and well.

Until next time, take care.

***

*what happened to the Murder Hornets? Are they still around?

Coming Soon: ZONA ALFA

Salvage and Survival in the Exclusion Zone

More hobby related news this morning.

I received an advance copy of ZONA ALFA from Osprey Publishing yesterday. I understood in my head it was happening but taking the actual copy out of the envelope was pretty epic. An Osprey Wargames ‘Blue Book’, ZA is done in their standard format 64 pages with original art and color photographs. Sam Lamont did an outstanding job capturing that STALKER, decayed Soviet post-apoc feel, and Lead Adventure was gracious enough to supply some great shots of their eminently suitable miniatures. Chris C and the team at Osprey wrangled with my scribbles and lists, transmogrifying them into a presentable set of war game rules. Alchemy with words.

My fiction projects have been on the back burner for the last year or so as I’ve been involved in a series of large commissions and restoration projects in my full time work, as well as bringing Hardwired, and the Tsim Sha Tsui Expansion to market, plus getting Zona Alfa ready for release.

Example of recent glass commission. Two lead and zinc construction Arts and Crafts door panels. For a private residence in Harwichport MA.

Writing for the war game industry has been a different sort of challenge, both oddly familiar and strangely difficult, making sure I translate what I’m assured of in my head into concise, understandable language. (Communication. Always useful) Not unlike writing a story but a bit more technical.

Speaking of fiction though, the first quarter of the new year is traditionally slow, so I plan on using Jan and Feb 2020 to bring the first portion of the Shattered Worlds storyline to completion. God willing, part 1, Beneath the Broken Moon, will be ready for release early next year. More on that as the story develops.

Work calls so that’s it for now. Art hard and have an excellent day.

Now Available: Strange Treasure

For those who enjoy their post-apocalypse flavored with AK-47s, vodka and salo, my latest short story, ‘Strange Treasure’ is available at Amazon.

Written with my upcoming war game rules – ZONA ALFA – in mind, Strange Treasure follows Zone Guide, Yuri Bonyev as he leads Russian mobsters on a search for prime real estate inside the world’s largest and most mysterious quarantined area.

Kindle only for now, I’ll add it to a print collection once I’ve accumulated several more shorts. Thank you all for your support. It’s very much appreciated.

Coming Soon: Strange Treasure

A.K.A. the short story formerly known as ‘The Vladivostok Kind’.

The adventures of Zone Guide, Yuri Bonyev, continue. In finishing and editing, it became apparent ‘Strange Treasure’ was a far more appropriate title. And with that came the need for a more relevant, engaging cover. So…

To finish what I started, I’ll post the final chapter at my hobby blog Stalker7.com this weekend. However, the full and polished story – “Strange Treasure. Another tale from the Exclusion Zone” – will be available at Amazon soon. Kindle only for the time being.

Thanks to everyone who read and commented. I sincerely hope you enjoyed it. Have an excellent day, comrades.



Settling into the reins

calvin-writing

Happy 2019.  Hope you’re recovered from the holidays and settled into the reins of a new year.

On the fiction front, Beneath the Broken Moon is currently under the editor’s knife at Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid. My previous experience with an Editorial Service was, to put it politely, disappointing. (I don’t appreciate being viewed as an ATM, strung along with vague promises of actual helpful suggestions for my MS if only I purchased the next tier of services… )

Now I don’t know a thing about Rachelle Stewart Ramirez , but Shawn Coyne’s, Story Grid is on my very shortlist of genuinely helpful books about writing, so he’s got street cred with me. That, and the fact he’s Steven Pressfield’s editor and business partner. If you’ve never read The War of Art or Gates of Fire, you need to remedy that. Right now.

According to the website, the manuscript evaluation includes:

  1. The 6 Core Question Analysis. Your Story Grid Certified Editor will read your manuscript and apply the Story Grid 6 Core Question Analysis to your work. This is a deep dive into your manuscript, analyzing what works and what doesn’t work.
  2. A One-Hour Phone Consultation. You will talk one-on-one with your editor, discussing your own questions and the editor’s analysis of your story. You’ll leave the call with a clearer global, big-picture view of your manuscript and its genre.
  3. A Story Grid Spreadsheet of Your First Five Scenes. Your Story Grid Certified Editor will provide a full Story Grid work-up of the first five scenes of your manuscript. This will give you a black-and-white, close-up view of which scenes are working and which aren’t—and why.
  4. Next Steps Recommendation Letter. Every writer is at a different place in his or her journey. Your Story Grid Certified Editor will provide suggested next steps you can take to level-up as a writer. This will include specific Story Grid homework to help improve your skills and your manuscript.
  5. Masterworks of the Genre Recommendations and Additional Resources. Throughout the Story Grid Diagnostic process, your editor will help you identify and refine your genre choice. Once that’s done, your editor will provide a list of Masterworks to study along with the Story Grid Genre Cheat Sheet for your genre.

All delivered within 30 days.

Nothing so far. Then again, it’s only been two weeks and I remain cautiously optimistic. After all, I need a good editor. I want a good editor. Learning what works and what doesn’t is critical to learning how to write better. More on that as the story develops.

In other writing news, ZONA ALFA is complete. For those who aren’t familiar, I’m a long-time table top war gamer and ZA is a set of rules for miniature wargaming in a Russian-flavored post apocalyptic setting. (Think STALKER and METRO 2033)

Turns out the fine folks at Osprey Publishing in the UK had seen my painted toy soldiers and battle reports at my S7 blog, and were crazy enough to ask me to develop the rules for them. There’s still a lot of Polish and Tweak to do, but this has been a wargaming nerd’s dream come true. My heartfelt thanks to them for the opportunity.

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ZA interior art and possible cover. Cool, eh?

In line with that, I’m currently hammering out another short Tale from the Exclusion Zone featuring veteran Zone Guide, Yuri Bonyev. (Vodka, AK74s and mutants… what can go wrong?)

And when that’s done, I’ll start in on the next installment of The Clar1ty Wars.  Been a long time coming but I assure you the shadow war between the Orbital Corporations and the Planetary Government is about to spill into the streets. The current working title for book 3 is Gun Monkey Rumble. Autonomous drones, genetically engineered agents, cyber-enhanced soldiers, criminal gangs, religious terrorists…  Our hero, black market pharma fence, Seeb Gilani, is going to have her hands full of flaming vials of nitro glycerin.

That’s all for now. My other job (stained glass work) calls. Have an excellent day. Live well. Art hard.

– patrick t.

 

 

End of the Year Tally

abacus

Closing out the year, I want to say ‘Thank you’ to everyone who took the time to buy/listen to one of my stories. Writing is a solitary endeavor, spent mostly in my own head with imaginary friends and enemies in made-up places, so your support and encouragement mean far more than I can ever fully express. I am grateful and humbled.

2018

I’m not ashamed to admit last year writing-wise was a slog. Felt like it was all uphill. In the rain. At night. I did manage to put out the Mil-SF novella ‘Enemy of my Enemy‘ . I certainly hope you enjoyed it.

Beyond that though, the lion’s share of the year’s writing sessions were spent battering  away at ‘Beneath the Broken Moon’, the first book of my post-apocalyptic fantasy duology. And it was ‘battering’, believe me. What I thought would be simple, dark fantasy piece turned into a major excavation of a broken universe. It was work. Every. Single. Time. And ‘Broken Moon’ is only the first half of the story!

There’s more blisters and sweat and frustration ahead, but it’s going to be worth it; I honestly believe Addas’ quest through the shattered worlds is some of my best work so far.

On another positive note, I was contracted to create a set of table top war game rules for Osprey Publishing in the U.K. I could call it ‘scale model tactical simulation’ but it’s really playing with toy soldiers, albeit in a slightly more sophisticated way than Greens and Tans in a sandbox. Military miniature war gaming has been a passion of mine for over 40 years and I’m excited to contribute something back to such a great hobby.

I’ll still need to shave and tweak, probably re-format some sections for clarity, but ZONA ALFA (working title) is done. Release is still a ways off and Osprey has a great team of artists and editors working to polish it to a high shine.  I’m very fortunate to have been given this opportunity and look forward to seeing the final product.

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2019

As of right now, I plan to re-focus on my first love: cyberpunk. The Clar1ty Wars series (1 and 2)  needs its next installment, (current title “Gun Monkey Rumble“) and there’s a stand-alone novella about a disgraced Spec-Ops Combat Medic that’s been simmering on the back burner for a while. (“Exit Wounds”)

I’ve been seeking agent representation for ‘Broken Moon’, hoping to release it through more traditional channels. Might not happen, who knows, but there’s the possibility I’ll have to re-visit Addas in the Shattered Worlds sooner than I anticipate.

Regardless, the stories keep coming so I keep writing. Thank you all. I wish everyone of you a happy, healthy new year.

Take care and art hard.

Patrick Todoroff

Cape Cod, MA.

PS… End-of-the- Year request: if you’ve read one, some, or any of my work, and haven’t had the chance to leave a review, I would hugely appreciate a few quick  – and honest – lines at Amazon and/or Goodreads. Doesn’t need to be a book report, a couple sentences are great. Every one means a lot and is a tremendous help. Click on the link below if you need.

Books at Amazon

And if you already have left a review, you have my eternal gratitude.

 

More Audio Book news

Narrator Madison Niederhauser has agreed to read ‘The Stones Remember’. His work on ‘Hard Kill’ was pitch perfect and I’m fortunate to have him do another of my short stories. Should be done end of September and I’m looking forward to it.

The-Stones-Remember

In case you were wondering, here’s HARD KILL at Audible. The eBook at Amazon.

Thanks. Have a great day.

 

Four Audio Books Released

New Titles Now Available at Amazon/Audible and iTunes

If you’re new to audio books, click on the titles below for more information and to sign up for a free trial at Audible.  Or simply log in to your Amazon or iTunes account and give them a look. Four quick listens. Well written, -if I do say so myself  – excellently narrated, and all at a good price.

The near-future short ‘Sozo’, included in The Crossover Alliance 2015 annual anthology. Narrator Steven Floyd’s weary cynicism is pitch perfect.

Audiobookcover4

The Celtic-flavored ghost story ‘The Barrow Lover’ about two small time treasure hunters who dig up more than they bargained for.  Narrator Daniel Purcell went above and beyond telling Declan and Paddy’s story.

THE_BARROW_LOVER_AudioCover

‘Hard Kill’, the ’15-minutes in the future’ action piece about a spec-ops team racing to stop an attack in the American Heartland. Solid narration by Madison Neiderhauser.

HardKill-Book-CoverAudio2

And ‘A Prayer to Saint Strelok’ – inspired by the Russian Sci Fi film ‘STALKER’ by Tarkovsky and the Ukrainian horror-survival video games of the same name.  Charles Cromer captures the mystery and terror of the Exclusion Zone.

AudioCover

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the stories and the narration. Or if you’re busy, leave a star rating. Every one helps.

Thank you again for your support and encouragement.

Take care and have an excellent day.

 

Audiobooks and the magic of story telling

how-to-read-a-book

I’m told all the Cool Kids are into Audiobooks these days, so I’m taking my first steps in that direction. I’m happy to announce the short stories ‘Sozo’ and  “A Prayer to Saint Strelok’ are now available at Amazon’s Audible and iTunes/Books.

The first is a straight-razor of a story about a combat vet returning to a broken, near-future America. Remarkably, it was included in The Crossover Alliance’s 2nd annual anthology in  2015.  (I note that of the three TCA anthologies, that year is the only one without a single review. “Coincidence? I think NOT!”) Sorry guys.

OTOH, ‘Saint Strelok’ is a recent short piece inspired by the Ukrainian post-apocalyptic S.T.A.L.K.E.R.  video game series. Set in and around the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, those games rank in my top 10 all-time favorites. They’re dark, brooding, terrifying, and wonderful. “Call of Pripyat” is the one you want. It’s the most accessible to the first-time stalker.

Back to audiobooks though… I have to say auditioning narrators and hearing my own stories read back to me was immensely sobering. ( I gotta keep at this. God help me.) But on a happier note, I was reminded  of how I used to read to my children – and now my grandchildren – and how there’s something truly wonderful about those hours that’s hard to express because the transaction of those moments goes beyond words.

Dr. Seuss to Tolkien, Kipling to Dahl, R.L. Stevenson, Lloyd Alexander, and a hundred more, reading out loud gets me thinking about the wonder of stories, the music of language, and what I think is a strange but essential osmosis of meaning.

Call me crazy, but I’ll go so far as to say that simple thing, more than any other everyday, ordinary practice in modern society, imparts not just parental/adult care and concern; it cultivates a sense of wonder and adventure. It feeds the imagination, exercises it. I think – depending on the stories- it’s how the core values of being a decent human being in the face of Life’s monsters and perilous journeys are transmitted to our kids.

Now some might label it frivolous but I say it’s a critical investment. Yes, STEM them chillun ’til they wins the Nobel Prize, but this is more than coding classes or the latest tablet/phone. This is heart, not mind, and I suspect this is probably one of the simplest but most profound investments a parent or guardian can make in a child. And all you need is a book. A library card. And an hour or two per week.

Now I’m not equating ‘St Strelok’ with Willy Wonka or Treasure Island. God no. I’m just letting folks know they can listen to two of my stories on their Kindle or phone or whatever device now. I think the narrators did an excellent job and I hope you will too. Please give them a listen or recommend them to a friend who likes my kind of stuff. Fire off a review if you can. It’s nice to get feedback.

Hard Kill‘ is next. My Celtic-flavored ghost story ‘The Barrow Lover’ should be available by September. I’ll let you know for sure when they’re ready.

Thanks for reading. Have a great day.

Note to self: find that hard cover copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales illustrated by Arthur Rackham.

*** Other Links

Click to see those two stories at AMAZON.

Sozo (Original Cover)    possible cover2

SOZO                                           ST. STRELOK