I’ve never been terribly good at actually plotting out a story bit by bit. Mostly when I write, I have the basic idea of where I want to start and where I want to end up and largely let the story unfold as it deems fit. However, as an exercise in keeping my skills sharp and experimenting with new plots, I’ll sometimes take current events and see what kind of novel I could write from them if I had the time and didn’t already have one novel I need to edit, a novella I need to finish, and a pair of books to get going. And a couple short stories I want to write and have ready for submission. Who knows, maybe I’ll scrape out the time to write this sucker at some point.

Still, it’s a great exercise. So, here’s the newest idea, based loosely around the current creepy clown sightings that have been popping up. So what if it’s kind of been done, take the story and add your own twists to it.


Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988) was a documentary. Most people don’t realize this, but it’s true. Given the recent spate of clown sightings the world over, one would expect people to come to their senses and recognize the threat that’s smiling and holding balloons right outside their doors. For too long, people have been taken in by these comedic rapscallions, not realizing the smiles hide teeth and the balloons are filled with bad dreams and madness.

Rather than focus on the whole world, it’s best to limit the geographic range, so the story starts small with a few random sightings of clowns in a tiny town. They don’t even need to necessarily be creepy clowns, because all clowns are creepy. Just ask Too Much Joy.

At first, the town sees the clowns as kind of strange aberration, kind of like the sightings of people in black trench coats. Odd, but mostly harmless and largely ignorable. And probably the work of that weird kid on the other side of the tracks that listens to that horrible clown music. Soon, the clowns get more aggressive and as people start seeing them closer up, the smiles turn sinister. But the clowns always disappear before anyone can get too close.


Don’t mind me, I’m just hanging out in a park at night dressed like a clown. Nothing to worry about.

The small town is in New Mexico (or some other state. I choose New Mexico because I’ve lived in small towns here. Trust me, they’re inherently odd), and no one thinks much of the clown sightings until a clown tries to grab a young girl. That even finally pushes the people over the edge. They put together a posse and decide to capture a clown, just to prove it’s that punk kid down the street that listens to Insane Clown Posse and teach him a lesson. A little ass whoopin’ should nudge that kid back toward normalcy.

The posse will consist of one tough, but wise old rancher. He’s seen a lot and is fairly patient. He’ll be the hero of the story. For some reason, I’m convinced he needs to be named Jake. The rest of the posse will consist of Jake’s best friend from High School (Go Hounds!) and a few hot-headed hangers-on.

The posse sets out and finds a clown in the park late one night. In a fit of redneck power, they descend on him. The clown disappears and the group finds itself standing in the park wondering what happened.

That’s when the clown reappears and the posse gets its first look at the face of evil.


It’s a funny joke. Why aren’t you laughing?

The clown sets upon a random guy and tears his throat out with fangs. Guns are drawn, shots are fired. It should be a tense, terrifying scene. Imaging seeing the white face and black lips of the clown, hearing the bells on his costume jingling, but not being able to see him in the inky blackness.

The posse panics and bolts. Of the five people that set out, one is dead, one is missing, one has a nasty bite on his shoulder. The two unharmed guys – including the stoic hero (Jake) – hightail it to a jacked up 4×4. They scream out of the park and make their way to the parking lot of a local grocery store. Small towns are notoriously poorly lit and the Piggly Wiggly has a lot of light.

Safe under the buzzing sodium lights and bathed in the faint orange glow, they decide it had to be the punk kid. This time, though, he’s gone too far. They make their way to his place and find the door wide open. Inside, they find the kid in full Juggalo makeup with his chest torn open. On the wall, written in blood is a single word: Imposter.

Outside the door, a bell jingles. Everyone jumps. Guns are drawn. The bells jingle off down the street while a sickening laugh echoes. The clowns have just stepped up the game.


You bastards! You soaked it all!

With the punk kid dead, one friend dead, and another missing, the group makes its way back to their respective houses. Everything gets locked up tight and they nervously wait out the night while bells jingle in the distance.

In the morning, the bodies and all evidence of the night are gone. No one can find the kid anywhere, the dead member of the posse are nowhere to be found, the missing guy from the posse is still missing, and the kid’s house is clean. Everyone thinks the guys in the posse just had a few too many and everything will be fine.

That night, a young woman is taking a walk. It’s a small town, there’s no crime to speak of, and it’s highly unlikely the clowns are the real thing. She’s from a larger city and not given to giving into small-town paranoia. A shadowy shape appears at the end of the street. She remembers the city and panics. When she turns a clown is right behind her, holding a spinning coin.


Focus on the coin, not my face.

Just like Daphne from Scooby Doo, she falls under the clown’s spell. Unlike Daphne, she won’t just find herself in a leotard and riding a unicycle. In a future book, she’ll be our interface to the world of the clowns.

With the young woman gone, her would-be boyfriend goes to the head of the posse (Jake) and tells him he believes him. He also asks about old man Smith’s shack out in the desert (or woods, or swamp, or whatever). It’s a good guess and they head out to the shack. Inside is nothing but the young woman (Let’s call her Audra), tied to a chair and looking dazed.

They rescue her and eventually manage to her head back on straight. Audra tells them what happened and how there are dozens of clowns. They all went into the shack and disappeared. The last one left her alive and tied up because he thought it was funny.


Was there a Scooby Doo episode where Daphne didn’t get captured and tied up? Must be a bondage thing.

As the story progresses, the town slowly goes over the edge. The clowns kill seemingly at random and hypnotize other people. The mayor gets hypnotized and orders everyone to keep quiet about the clowns. They’re just some kind of mass hysteria and everyone needs to get over it.

The key to the story is to never reveal too much about the clowns. They’re an interdimensional species that revels in causing havoc. Eventually the heroes figure out the clowns’ entry point to our world is the shack and attempt to destroy it. A bit of dynamite flattens the place and they all pat themselves on the back for a job well done.


Always go for the guy with the biggest balls in a fight.

That night the full force of the clowns hits the town. Telephone lines go down, all communication is cut off and the clowns attack in earnest. Almost everyone dies. The boyfriend manages to save the young woman (or she saves him, either way works), but they both find themselves cornered by a clown. The hero of the story, the leader of the posse (Jake), intervenes. The clowns kill him, but he manages to save the young couple. The couple piles into the hero’s truck and spend the rest of the night running from clowns and generally trying to escape.

As morning dawns, the couple finds one last clown heading toward the desert. He walks to the remains of the shack, turns and waves at the couple, and disappears.

Of course, they pack up their things and get the heck out of the dead town. They settle in the big city and find the world thinks the town was killed by drug dealers or terrorists or some such. Eventually, after weeks of no clowns, the couple settles down and manages to convince themselves it was all just a dream.

Until they see a commercial on TV and realize it’s all about to start all over again.


Made from 100% organic, free-range humans.

Come to think of it, maybe I do need to write this sucker. I’ll be doing some character sketches later this week, so stay tuned to meet the cast.

Book Review – Enablers Anonymous by Nico Laeser

I really like Nico Laeser’s writing. He’s got a smooth, easy style that sucks you in and brings the story to life. I’ve already reviewed Skin Cage and Harmonic: Resonance and just like those two books, Laeser brings his trademark wordsmithery to Enablers Anonymous. Also, just like Skin Cage and Harmonic: Resonance, Enablers Anonymous is hard book to drop into a single category. That’s not a bad thing. Genre bending is a very good thing to see in a writer. Witness Kurt Vonnegut, a man who I still struggle to categorize, but whose works I absolutely adore.

Maybe that’s why I like Laeser’s books so much. Just like real life, they defy the petty attempts of humans to shelve them. As such, they’re best left on the coffee table for more people to read and experience.

Enabler’s Anonymous follows the life and times of a self described loser. A fuck-up who has few (if any) fucks left to give. Life being the chaotic maelstrom that it is, Jimmy winds up doing more than he ever thought he could. As the old song (and saying) goes, “Only cream and bastards rise”. Our hero fakes it until he makes it and finds himself standing atop a self-help empire and wondering not only how he got there, but whether or not he even deserves it.

It’s part Fight Club (without the fighting) and part Catcher In The Rye and part sequence of events that seem so realistic, you can’t help but wonder why this hasn’t happened to you.

Toss in an interesting group of supporting characters, including a group of fantasy gamers, the smarmiest boss on Earth, and a coffee cup that brings a delightful bit of irony, and you’ve got a cracking good tale.

“By now, everyone knows the name James King. 
They see me on top of this block-tower pedestal, and it seems they’re all trying to knock it down, scraping away the lies I used to glue it all together.
I went from warehouse loser, worst employee of the month, to self-help superstar and media flavor of the month, using the tried and tested method—fake it until you make it.
What I made was a media monster. Now, an angry mob is at my door, wielding pitchforks and flaming torches, screaming, “Down with the Placebo Messiah!”
Ignore what the critics, and my absentee shoulder angel, tell you—I’m not all bad. Come in and help yourself to the complimentary food, but go easy on the coffee creamer or you’ll be up all night. It’s time for me to confess the true version of my story—I’m about to tell all.*
*including where to find the tastiest breakfast wraps in town.”


Get your copy here

Follow Nico on Twitter

Nico’s also an artist and musician (which makes me feel humble and pretty boring)

Hear Me Now, Believe Me Later – Reading Your Own Work Out Loud

Back when my son was younger his favorite book was Dr. Seuss’s Fox In Socks. Now, for those of you without kids, that book is one gigantic tongue twister. There’s even a warning on the cover about the book being dangerous. The first time I tried to read it to him I stumbled all over the place. It was the literary equivalent of a rumble strip. It starts out pretty easy, but before you know it the book is repeatedly punching you in the teeth. After finally getting through the Tweetle Beetles part, I set the book down and swore I’d never read it again.

My son’s response? “AGAIN!”

Over time, I got really damned good at reading that book. It’s amazing what reading the same thing, night after night, will do for your ability to read something. In the end, I think I had it memorized. I found the flow, learned the twisters, and rolled with it. By the time my son was bored with Fox In Socks I was actually enjoying reading it out loud.

What does this have to do with writing? Funny you should ask.

There’s this theory in writing fiction that you should read your own work out loud. It helps you identify stumbling sentences and things that simply don’t flow like they should. Often times, while we’re writing, we tend to have and idea that sounds great in our heads, something that looks good on paper, but sounds like fools yammering when you read it out loud. Those are the things to keep an eye out for. It’s not just Seuss’s vicious tongue-twisters, it’s the clunky, kludgy speech that winds up on the page that kills otherwise good prose.

Dialogue is an especially difficult thing to deal with. The words characters speak – and how they speak them – need to feel real. Remember: there are grammar rules for the body of the text, but very few people actually speak in grammatically correct sentences. Dialog that follows true grammatical rules often times feels wrong and can make characters seem fake. Character dialog has to fit the character and that character’s place in the narrative or it becomes a huge, glaring error on the page.

So why reading it out loud help? I haven’t a clue what the scientific reason is, but I do know bad flow will stick out like a turd in a punch bowl when you read it out loud. Maybe by saying things out loud you force yourself experience the words differently; they gain a gravity that’s lacking on the printed page. Plus, when you hit that section on the Tweetle Beetles, you’ll definitely know it.

I’ve been working on the as yet unnamed sequel to Arise, as well as a few other things, and decided to put the theory to the test.

To make things more interesting, I decided to record myself reading so I could play it back later. This was kind of a mistake since I hate listening to myself talk, but maybe someone will get something useful out of it. At the very least you get to hear a chapter from a book that’s not even done yet and you get to hear my lovely voice reading it. I found a cheap microphone, a free recording app for my phone, and sat in my car reading a random chapter from Henchmen 3.


The experience was interesting and useful. I tend to write like I speak. In fact, I’ll be reading things in my head while I’m writing them. I did find a few stumbling points (which have been altered in the text), but for the most part was pleased with the flow. I was not terribly pleased with the performance, but that’s another issue entirely.

I may be taking a hard right from most people here, but I think the reading would have gone better in front of an audience. With an audience you’ve got someone to play to. Sitting in your car while people give you strange looks isn’t quite the same thing.

At any rate, if you’re interested the recording can be downloaded below. Remember, this was a completely cold reading of a chapter I wrote a few months ago, so don’t expect a high quality performance.

Check it here (right click and save as to download)

Rules of Magic? Magic Laughs At Your Rules!


Insert your own joke here.

A couple years ago I was working on a programming project and we were having issues. Our program manager let me know and I set to work on fixing things. One day, without any intervention from me, the problems stopped happening. When I explained what was going on, the PM simply said, “FM.”


Fucking magic.

Software, especially the multi-tier stuff I work on, has its own set of rules. It’s complicated enough that sometimes completely unforeseen issues creep in and disappear as things like network load change. There’s precious little you can do about some of those things. If the data ain’t getting where it’s supposed to go, it ain’t getting where it’s supposed to.

In my writing persona, some of my stories have dabbled in the occult and touched on magic, but with the Saxton series I’ve got a full-on bruja wandering around. For the uninitiated, bruja is Spanish for witch. Brujeria is witchcraft. Like all witchcraft, it’s an involved art, learned over generations of trial and error. I’m hardly qualified to speak to its efficacy, so we’ll just say it works.


Now, Renee McMasters is a bruja, and a very powerful one. If you’ve read The Clock Man, you’ve come across her, but haven’t experienced what she’s capable of. Save for the way she took over the bogeyman (kind of gave away a plot point there) and sent him after her enemies, she’s mostly just a woman who inspires respect in people. And tries to kill Saxton with poisoned flan.

In Uneasy Allies, which will be the first Saxton story, Renee gets to stretch her legs and readers will get a taste of her abilities. I wanted to make her realistic, show what and where her powers stem from, but realistic magic doesn’t flow as well in an action story. Perhaps later stories will explore those topics, but for now I had to break with the realistic side of magic and make her abilities work in a compressed narrative. She won’t have the time to spin a traditional spell when all hell is breaking loose.

This is not to say I didn’t study up on magic a bit. It’s a pretty common tool in fiction and there are those who do it well and those who do it poorly. In my research I found a bunch of rules for using magic in fiction.

  • Magic should be limited and not used a Deus ex Machina solution.
  • Magic should have a cost associated with it.
  • Magic shouldn’t be all-powerful.
  • Magic should be difficult to learn

And on and on and on and on. The general gist of using magic in fiction comes down to one very simple rule: don’t let the story be about the magic. Magic is just some stuff that happens, a tool for causing or resolving events; it’s like a gun but for magicians. And like a gun, magic isn’t the easiest thing to wield.


If you recognize who this is, you get a gold star.

Fictional magic is quite different from it’s more realistic counterpart, but both of them come down to hacking reality. That’s the genesis of Renee’s magic in the Saxton series: she’s basically got the ability to see and impact the world around her more than the rest of us.

Her cost for using magic will eventually be explored, but for now it’s not. She doesn’t have all the power in the world, but she’s pretty tough. And she’s the only character in the story who has that kind of power.

So, did I follow the rules? Kind of. For the most part. But, let’s face it, this is fiction and I didn’t get into this business to do what everyone else is doing. Sometimes you’ve got to make up your own rules and just make sure they work with whatever story you’re peddling. The last thing you want your audience to do is wonder what just happened.


When your readers get this look, you’ve lost.

Within certain confines, playing with magic and its abilities in fiction is perfectly acceptable. As long as it works, it’s all good. Besides, it’s fucking magic. Have fun with it.

Saxton: Uneasy Allies should be dropping early next month.