Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Posted: June 25, 2020 in Uncategorized

Scars by Mike Douton

They say every scar tells a story and I’ve got a mighty one. What’s the tale that’s left its mark on me? I’ll tell you, but the answer you get depends on the day you ask.

Monday I’ll tell you I fought a werewolf under a howling moon. A fight of cracked teeth and tarnished silver. Blood was shed upon the forest floor that night, but the witch down the lane says I don’t have the curse. Besides, the moon is only a quarter full tonight.

Tuesday morning is for a back alley swordsmith, oathbound to avenge their master. I swore to them I wasn’t that guy though. But an oath is a tricky thing. The words that bind will tangle blades and blood together faster than a wisp of winter breath.

Wednesday’s tale will only spill out halfway through a bottle. But only a bottle of golden hyacinth mead that will stir up half remembered scents of another tavern across the table from a god. We drank until the stained oak tabletop soaked up the dregs of our spilled cups. Which god? It will take another bottle for me to remember.

Ask me on Thursday and hear a tale of bone. Of sharp broken things left to rot, raised up again and again with a dark will. Except there is no darkness without light and the only light to reach my eyes that starless eve came from an old metatarsal and splintered pieces, emptied of marrow. Nine bones to slay them all, but only eight to be found.

A Friday doppleganger stole my face to breathe light into a crooked scheme. I stole the scheme and let my scars take the fall. So next time you see my face, check for the scars. Check that it’s really me.

Saturday scars come from the air and a falcon who cocked their head to the side and asked “Why are you such a fragile thing? Why does your blood stain my talons?” I have no answers for the creatures of air, only those of moonlight.

Sunday. On Sunday, the scars are fresh, barely healed and still hurting. Bruise sore and red raw. You don’t get to ask about Sunday scars. Keep your polite platitudes to yourself. Sunday scars are my scars alone.

Behind the Story: Payments

Posted: February 16, 2020 in Uncategorized

Payments,” as


Boskone Flash Fiction Slam. Photo by Brenda Noiseux

seen on this blog and the staff issue of Syntax and Salt Magazine, has a story behind the story.

That’s me in the picture to the left. Or above if it’s on mobile. I am in the middle of reading the story aloud at the First Inaugural Boskone Flash Fiction Slam a few years back. The number of participants was capped so when I saw the sign up announcement cross my twitter feed, I jumped on it.

Then I read the details of the rules.

The rules of the Slam had an extremely strict three minute time limit.

Did I have a story short enough to read in three minutes?

No. No I did not.

Three minutes goes by extremely fast unless you want to sound like that old school Micro Machines fast talking guy. But I took the whole thing as a challenge. In case you haven’t noticed before, my natural tendency leans towards the verbose. Novels are my natural length, especially back then. I’ve gotten better at keeping my storytelling tight for shorter stuff, but it’s a conscious effort and a skill I have to keep at. But you know? Challenge accepted!

The first draft of “Payments” was about 1k words. I felt pretty fancy that I got a proper story in such a short amount of space. At the time, the short stories I was shopping around tended to be in the 3-5k range.

Of course, reading it aloud wasn’t even close to three minutes.

I agonized over every word in that story and trimmed it down to 700 words so I could comfortably read it in three minutes with some wiggle room to spare. I agonized over every single words and cut that had to be made. I was harsh.

So on the day of the Slam, I read it. I’m a natural introvert but I can switch on Performance Mode when i need to. Which is a good thing what since my current day job is teaching people in the shipyard.

The story went over great.

You can’t see it in the picture but I got real into the reading. I scattered the pages about me as I went cause I was just in the zone.

Now it’s time for comments from the panel of judges. The judges consisted of Nancy Holder, James Patrick Kelly, Walter Jon Williams, and Paul Di Filippo.

The first comment from James Patrick Kelly is word for word burned into my brain forever. I remember exactly how he sat in the middle of the row and looked at the notes he made on a 3×5 index card.

“Bold move bringing a cyberpunk story to the guys who invented the genre.”

Oh snap. I knew who they all were but I didn’t put two and two together until that moment.

They didn’t just judge my story, it was a full on critique at a whole different level. I was the guy who wanted to play in the same sandbox they helped build after all.

So I didn’t end up winning but the whole thing was a great experience. Performing something you’ve written like that brings a whole different understanding of your writing and its flow, particularly if you rely heavily on dialogue.

A lot of people came up to me afterwards to say how much they dug the story.

Bonus points because that’s where I met Carrie Cuinn and Rob Greene aka R.W.W. Greene, who’s debut novel, The Light Years, dropped this week and I’m enjoying a lot.

Obligatory Year End Post 2015

Posted: December 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

It’s time for the Obligatory Year End Post!

My reading level has gone down this year because of the job I’m working and my time management is still lacking so I never get to write as much as I should. But I have read some awesomesauce books this year and this time of year is a good excuse to talk about said awesome things.

Favorite Book of 2015

I straight up cannot pick just one. I keep a whole Shelf of Honor for my favorite books in general because I can’t narrow it down too much. While the overall number of books I read this year is not as high as some years, almost every book I read was an excellent experience. However, two books stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen (aka Delilah S. Dawson)

Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley

Both of these authors are part of the Writing Role Model Voltron (along with Cole, Sykes, Wendig and McGuire) and I will put anything they write on my To Buy List sight unseen.

wakeofvulturesLet’s talk about Wake first. First of all, I love genre mashups. Weird West, a marriage of Lovecraft or urban fantasy with a Wild West setting, is a small blip in the grand SF genre map and that makes it fresh and new to me. I’ve read it a few times and actively seek it out now because I’ve enjoyed it each time. Dawson sets Wake in an alternate Texas where monsters are real, but not everyone realizes it. Dawson writes about the setting and the world and you can tell she is excited to be writing the book. Nettie Lonesome is one of the most badass characters that I have read in a long time. The book is marketed as YA because Nettie is a teenager, but seriously, people need to stop letting the term YA scare them. Nettie’s external journey through the wilds of Durango provide a road map for her to discover who she is and wants to be as a person. There’s nothing scary about that at all and Dawson writes Nettie with a deft touch. I recommend this book to anyone and the end of this book is one of the most perfect ending pages I have ever read. I eagerly await the chance to throw money at the sequel.

empireascendantNow let’s talk about Empire Ascendant. First off, this a Book Two. A Book Two is difficult and the more I write myself, the more I appreciate how difficult it is to write a Book Two. Book One in a trilogy tends to be stand alone-ish to rope in the readers and also from a practical point, often books two and three aren’t under contract until a publisher can see if the first did well. That means book two is in a thorny position of having to raise the stakes from the first book, but cannot really wrap up everything in a nice little bow. Kameron Hurley’s Empire Ascendant provides a platonic ideal of how to do the middle of a trilogy correctly. It’s right up there with Empire Strikes Back in “how to do this right”-ness. She puts her character’s through a friggin’ meat grinder. You have zero well being as a character in a Kameron Hurley book. I have no idea what kind of narrative wizardry she is going to pull in book three because the end of two leaves no easy answers. That is a fantastic thing because it makes sure each book has its own distinct identity. Hurley busts her ass to put out the best writing in the genre and levels up with each book she writes. You are doing yourself a disservice if you are not reading her Worldbreaker Saga.

Favorite Short Story of 2015

lightbrigadeI don’t read nearly as much short fiction as I should and I am trying to fix that. Short fiction is a great place to find SF that is pushing the boundaries of the genre so I think everyone should at least dabble in the form, both reading and writing.

My favorite short story of the year is… Kameron Hurley again for “The Light Brigade.” I read it as part of Hurley’s Patreon service, but the story was also reprinted in Lightspeed. In between writing three novels this year, Hurley is putting out some more of that envelope pushing short fiction via Patreon. The Lightspeed link is right above, so instead of listening to me yammer on about it, just give it a click and enjoy the story for yourself.

Related, I enjoy the Patreon service in general as a way to directly support rad people.

Favorite Short Story Collection of 2015

xenowealth Xenowealth: A Collection by Tobias S Buckell

As part of my ongoing quest to read more short stories, I got in on Buckell’s kickstarter to create this collection of short stories set in the same world as the series that began with Crystal Rain. The stories are all collected in one place for the first time and includes two new stories published for the first time. Pepper is one of my favorite characters in sci fi so I knew I would enjoy this collection. The kickstarter is long over, but the book is available to preorder now if you want in on it.

Favorite Comic Books of 2015

I read comic books like some people watch Netflix, binge it online six months after everyone else watched it new. The two best things that I have found in Marvel’s giant digital library are…

Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl

msmarvelsquirrelgirlKamala Khan and Doreen Green are the most fun super heroines out there right now. Everything about their comics is a total delight it is only a matter of time before I give in and start buying them all in dead tree format because I can’t wait until they show up on Marvel Unlimited. G. Willow Wilson writing Ms. Marvel in particular is what drew me into giving comics a shot again after years of mostly ignoring the genre. The writing she puts into Kamala Khan has more nuance and care than half the novels I’ve read this year. Amid all the shenanigans of the Hugos this year, Ms. Marvel took one home and I was more stoked about that award than any other award in the genre this year. Even if you’re a comic newb or lowbie, you should be reading both of these titles.

Famous People

Posted: February 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

This whole thing is an expansion on the comment I threw down today over on Jim C Hines’ blog entry called “Fame and Fanboy Fails..” He gave me some good thoughts and after I sent the comment, I had another thought and was all like “Hell I can get a blog out of it.” Make sure to look at the pictures he put in his superior blog entry. They’re funny.

Although in my head I never use the word ‘blog.’ It tastes bad on my tongue and I loathe using it. Thanks to twitter’s character limit, I’ll actually write it down now, but I try my damnedest to never say it aloud.

I always feel very weird when around famous people. I’m not the most extroverted person around new people and there’s always the question of “What the hell do I say?” How many times can I people hear “I love your [insert creative work here] and you’re just super swell!” Well… I guess you’d have to go backwards in time to hear someone say super swell. I once went to a Kevin Smith Q and A (which I highly recommend) and I felt I was in between a rock and a hard place. I knew enough to avoid asking newb questions, but I wasn’t such a ridonkulous fanboy to actually come up with an in depth question. I got a copy of A Visit from the Good Squad signed by Jennifer Egan. She was at the Ocean State Summer Writing Conference I rolled at last year. Standing there saying “Hi I enjoyed the whole point of view thing you did with your book. Can you make it out to Mike?” left me feeling like I had something odd growing out of my forehead and since I was probably the fiftieth person in like, seemed like an awkward situation all around. What was she supposed to say “Ayup, that’s why I won a Pulitzer.”

All the best stories of interactions with famous people happened to my dad who could walk into a room in a foreign country not speaking the language and find someone to talk random stuff with. Around 1980 he was hitchhiking and got picked up by Ozzie Osborne, who happened to be on the way to New Haven from Worcester. My dad rode for 20 minutes before the other guy in the car couldn’t contain it anymore. Back in the general vicinity of 2000 he sat next to Aaron Lewis from Staind. This was right around when they started being mega hits. On a Texas to wherever the hell my dad’s connecting flight was flight did they talk about performing or touring or classic albums or anything related to him being a star? Nope. Fishing. My dad hung out with with a rock star and talked about fishing. My dad knew who he was and was all like “Sure I’ll check out the album” but they just talked fish. For some reason I always felt this guy must have found it refreshing to have a normal person conversation.

The big thing Hines talks about with is blog is the disconnect between the famous person and the person. Seriously, go read it if you haven’t. But come back and read the rest of this. Getting into what I said in my comment, twitter has bridged that gap a lot. I’m gonna go copy and paste it so I don’t have to tab back and forth a lot.

In all honesty, this is part of the beauty of twitter. I dismissed it for a long time as hipster techno crap. My wife convinced me it would be fun to follow because Wil Wheaton is hilarious as a person. Mostly I follow authors and New York Giants players. Its refreshing to see these people as people. As someone who is working on being a writer while holding down a horrible day job, it is strangely motivating to see published authors deal with a sick kid. Not that I want their kids to be sick. It’s more of a “He’s a regular guy who is a dad ontop of everything else.” Logically I know authors don’t pull things out of their butts, but logic doesn’t always play nice when I’m staring at a blank page or am too busy to get the word I have written.

That said, when I was at Boskone I still couldn’t bring myself to go up to any of the authors I knew. Scalzi was busy each time I saw him and some woman looked like she was hitting on Myke Cole after the pannel. I didn’t want to be “That Creepy Awkward Guy” with nothing real to say nor did I want to be disrespectful while they were clearly doing something else.

So yeah. Being around writing helps me with my own writing and it sounds kinda dumb but twitter helps even with the writers never mention putting pen on page. It brings this craft down to earth a little bit. People can say how tough it is to get things finished all they want but its different when you can read how an author finished something for the first time in weeks just like me.

So next time you read a book you like, search for them on ye old twitter. They’re probably there, being regular. But they all seem to like a friendly hi now and again anyways.


Posted: February 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

And by Khaaaaaaaan! I really mean Con. And by Con I really mean Boskone 49. I’m going there tomorrow for day two. I said it twice, it must be true.

I’m really excited to be going. I’ve been to a few cons before, but they were nerdy affairs more than writerly affairs. I’ve been to ConnectiCon twice a few years back when I still existed in Connecticut and it was a practical thing. They were heavy on the anime. A few weeks ago on Friday Nerd Night, we were Frednapped and went to Templecon 12 which was an amazingly convenient mile from my house. They’re heavy on the steampunk.

As part of their steampunkiness, they invited author CJ Henderson. Holy crap he is a cool guy. We randomly found a reading and/or writing talk he was giving. Honestly I don’t think a single one of us had read his stuff before although I recognized the name. But multiple members of our party are up in here with writing so we had it. He read us some really sweet pieces including something brandy new no one else had heard before. He talked a lot about his writing process and to quote Jim, our party’s off-tank, “I don’t know what I’m going to do this semester because I just got more out of sitting here with you than I ever have in class.” He was realistic while still motivating. The next day was my most productive writing day in months. It was great.

That’s what I’m hoping for coming across at Boskone. The program is chock full of writing things. The guests are all people I want to be peers of mine. There are parts of me that want to run around like a dork highfiving everyone I can find and parts that want to throw up at the thought of saying hi. There are panels on character creations of all sorts like aliens or geniuses, DnD retrospectives, how to make your sci fi world consistently unstable, ebook production, steampunk world building and that’s just in the after lunch time frame. I want to be around writing. I want to learn some cool stuff. I want to discover new people and new books to read.

I’m not gonna like though… sword fighting demos.