The Ruined Man’s Postmortem

I’m sharing the short story below, The Ruined Man’s Dream, because I’m done with it and somebody might enjoy a bit here or there. It deserves something, but not overmuch. The story’s story may be the best part of the story — I think at least there’s a chuckle in it for other writers.

A listing on Duotrope for a short story (under 2,000 words) based on a tale from the Thousand and One Arabian Nights caught my interest. I love fairy tales, tall tales, and interesting challenges. The deadline was two weeks. I can usually come up with a title in a fortnight, but that’s about it. Despite this, I committed and got right to work with research.

With so many stories to choose from, I finally settled on “The Ruined Man Who Became Rich Again.” Anything Aladdin or Ali Baba related seemed too obvious. And, considering the word count restriction, I needed something simple but punchy. Since the original title gives away the twist, I switched that up and moved the whole adventure from Bagdad to the inner planets of our solar system in the mid-future. This may seem risky, except an editor’s interview on Duotrope led me to believe a more adventurous interpretation would be welcomed. The timeline was tight, and I’d developed the locations and some characters in this story-world before in a couple different short stories and a novella — short-cut tip there =)

After a couple drafts I shared the story with my inner circle, pretty happy with it. The feedback wasn’t great. Maybe fast writing wasn’t for me? I had struggled with resolving the archaic story structure, which pivots on the inescapability of fate, with modern expectations for a character with agency. Even worse, it lacked tension and my main character came off flat. The interesting part came too late to be worth it. Ugh…

The deadline was a day away, and in the middle of the night it hit me — restructure the timeline and change the point-of-view. It would echo the story-in-a-story convention found so often in the original tales. Of course, that would solve everything.

Actually, it did. Mostly. The details of the reveal/twist at the end had to change, as well as the clues in the beginning paragraphs. Most of the story switched to dialog. I ended up with a fluid sort of first/third/second person POV that hopefully feels natural. In hindsight, the punctuation is anything but. It was a heavy lift, but I revised, edited, edited, edited, and submitted by midnight.

If you’re a writer, you know how the next part went. It didn’t. Not for weeks. After a bit, the publisher extended the deadline a month. Hmm. Maybe not enough submissions? Then after an expected sixty day wait… nothing. Another month down the road, and finally something definitive arrived by email.



Nope, the publisher went out of business.

No regrets here, it was really fun to take on as an assignment. I recommend it if you’re feeling stuck or uninspired. After I submitted it, I ran the story through my writers group and they found a bunch of things I wish I’d changed. The version below is what I submitted, so there are issues with it. I’d love to hear your take in the comments. Ultimately I think it is good for a two-week effort, but I really need it to be just good good, regardless of time restrictions. Next time!

Writer of the Future!

I keep forgetting to brag about this… my scifi/western novelette, Hundred Years A Day, was awarded Silver Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future Contest for the first quarter in 2020! Wooooo!

This story’s an odd fish, written in first person POV in fairly harsh vernacular. Gritty, dark, funny, sad. Not the most accessible thing I’ve ever tried to do. At 16,000 words it’s a funky length, too — far too long to submit to most magazines. I did find some publishers on Duotrope who take long short stories and novelettes, so I’ll do another edit, maybe add in a couple scenes I originally cut for length, and see what traction the story can find. If not, I’ll self publish with some cool artwork. Not quite a graphic novel, but ink illustrations along the way like an old John Carter edition.

My greatest regret is that I couldn’t quite scrape into the next tier, Runner Up. Along with getting published, these folks get a professional critique and a fancy dinner along with the GIF.* It’s the missed critique that haunts me…

* Full disclosure: the above image is actually a JPEG. ‘GIF’ is more impactful, don’t you think?

You only get to write one first novel…

This one’s mine:


It’s young adult Fantasy/Science Fiction, subcategorized as Weird Western and Steampunk. The blurb reads:

Seven strangers shipwrecked on mysterious Circle-X Island band together to defend a dying village from an ancient reawakening evil.

Of course I appreciate your support, feedback, and reviews!

This was a spur of the moment decision to write, and I never had written so much as a complete short story that I can recall. In fact, the source material was in service of a role-playing adventure I was designing. My background is in game design and entertainment, so this was not unusual. But, as I continued to develop the concept I realized I was much more interested in the story than the game.

I woke up November  1, 2014 to an email from NaNoWriMo telling me it was time to start writing my novel. It was the first day of National Novel Writing Month.  This event and organization had captured my imagination not long before, and I stuck my name on their mailing list.

Humans can write a novel in a month?

Well, if someone out there can legitimately pen a novel in a month (50,000 words — not War and Peace, but it still counts,) I figured I could do it in two or three. I already had a solid outline, characters, and the feedback from running beta tests of my game concept. That left only having to learn the entire craft.

Many revisions later, including a professional content edit, and at least a year down the road, I figured it was done enough. I could open to any page and not actively cringe. People I don’t know have bought, read, and liked it. Weird, but I have to say it’s been more successful than I expected.

It’s published under a pen name, Archer Diman. The letters share an eerie similarity to those in Eric Hardman. I wanted to be able to experiment with the self-publishing process without using my professional name, and also to insulate the feedback from anyone who might know me and have a bias. This has worked out really well!

My experience with Amazon publishing has been mixed, but mostly positive. This book has been atop numerous Amazon lists in the US and UK, like #1 Young Adult Steampunk. Yet that status is entirely tied to Amazon promotions that I can only run once a quarter. In between promotions it seems invisible, languishing. Getting it up and running was super easy, though, and their publishing experience itself has been solid. It’s even available in on-demand paperback.

I’ll put out a second edition sometime this year with a new cover, dedications, etc. If there’s ever demand, I’ve a couple more short novels in mind for this cast and location, too.

I’ve written way better short stories and an epic fantasy novel since, but you only get one first novel. It was never going to be my best unless it was the last.

All told, I’m a proud poppa =)