Tag Archives: Online Writing

Coming Soon: Sons of the Damned

Life in a small town sucks no matter who you are. But for Vinny, grossly overweight and chronically underemployed loser, it sucks harder than a souped up Hoover.

But as bad as Vinny thinks he has it things are about to get a whole lot worse. Because the one friend he has in the world, the excesively paranoid and possibly crazy Regis Emanuel Lightbringer Camden (or Frog to his friends), has just started acting even stranger than usual.

And when Frog disappears in a set of bizzare circumstances Vinny finds himself thrust into a labyrinth of sinister characters and unearthly forces, caught up in a struggle he can’t begin to understand. If he’s going to survive Vinny will have to overcome the fear and self-doubt that have followed him all of his life. And if he’s going to save his friend, he just might have to save the world in the process.

So this is it. I’ve been working on the upcoming serial “Frog Got Bit” (now officially titled Sons of the Damned) for the past few weeks and I think I’ve got a handle on the shape, tone, and theme of the story. Which means that next week I’m going to take the plunge. The first chapter will be posted on Tuesday, May 8. Mark your calendars.

I’m excited about this one, guys. I’m really thrilled with how Frog and Vinny have manifested themselves as characters and I hope you’ll enjoy their journey as much as I am.

Stay tuned…

Flash Fiction February FAQ

1. So what’s this all about then, eh?

Exactly what is says on the tin. February is coming up and I’ve thought for a while it would be interesting to write a new flash fiction story every day for an entire month. But then I figured, why should I have all the fun? (Well, besides the obvious fact that I’m completely awesome I mean.) So I’m inviting you along for the ride.

2. Okay, but what exactly is flash fiction?

Flash fiction is a form of short story with the specific limitation that the story must be told in less than one thousand words.

3. Sounds like fun! So what are the rules?

Well, rules sounds a bit harsh. Lets call them guidelines. The general idea is that you write one story for every day of the month.

You don’t have to write a story on every day of the month. You can skip a day and write two stories the next day. You can hammer out twenty-nine stories in a row on one glorious unhampered day of writing if that’s your style.

4. What happens if I fail?

Nothing. Well, maybe not nothing. I mean it’s possible you won’t be able to live with yourself as a human being, forever haunted by the knowledge you couldn’t do it, and that with your dying breath you will be filled with one singular burning regret: that you didn’t finish Flash Fiction February. But probably…nothing.

This is about challenging yourself. If you fail the challenge you have only yourself to answer to.

5. Why February?

Because I’m fundamentally lazy and February has fewer days than the rest of the months in the year.

6. Come on, admit it, you’re just into the alliteration aren’t you?

Okay fine, you caught me. But can you blame me? Does Flash Fiction October really have the same ring to it? No. No it does not.

7. Is there a minimum story length?

Nope. If you want to tell a story in a hundred words or in three sentences or by painting pictograms of your own design that is totally okay. I reiterate, this is a personal challenge. No prizes for completion, no penalties for failure. You set your own standards. No one is going to hunt you down and scream at you for doing it wrong. Probably.

8. What do I do with my stories when I’ve written them?

Again, this is all up to you. If you want you can post them to your blog as you write you can do that. Or you can them or keep them all to yourself. Personally I plan to post maybe one per week (assuming I have at least one per week that’s any good), because much more than that would overload my blog feed and I don’t want to turn away readers. But that’s just me.

9. This sounds like fun! How can I help?

By spreading the joy. If you blog, a short post explaining the concept of Flash Fiction February would spread the word far beyond the limited reach I can achieve as a single voice. Also, if you post updates on your progress or want to talk about the project on twitter use the #flashfictionfebruary hashtag.

Beyond that, just have fun: expand your horizons, fiddle with genre, push the limits of fiction without fear. Because if it doesn’t work out today, you can start all over again tommorow.

Good luck. And happy writing.

FREE STUFF! (for which you can also pay, should you be so inclined)

Hey kids! It’s that time again! That’s right! Time for me to flog yet another literary product of my diseased mind.

Wow, that didn’t sound so good. Maybe let’s start over.

Who doesn’t love them some good ‘n crunchy flash fiction? I still remember the first day I stumbled onto the art form as presented by a little webzine called Flash Fiction Online. My first forays into the flash fiction arena were actually submissions to this magazine. I didn’t get them published. But they did get me rolling with a new way to tell stories.

Over the ensuing years I’ve cranked out quite a number of these things, and I flatter myself that I’ve gotten better at it with practice. But what to do with all those little less-than-a-thousand-words stories I’ve accumulated over the years?

How about this?

It’s ANTHOLOGY TIME!

Huh, that sounded way more epic in my head.

Anyway, the stories included in this anthology are stories you can already read on my website, edited and polished up from their original versions, and bundled together for your convenience.

“But Albert,” you say. “Aren’t you really just asking us to pay for stuff we can already get for free?”

Nope. Well, okay I am asking you to pay for it.

If you want to.

If you don’t want to, I’m making a PDF version of the same thing you can download from Amazon for 99 cents available for FREE right here, right now, for all you lovely visitors to my blog.

If after you read these stories you think to yourself, “Hey this Albert Berg has provided me with at least 99 cents worth of entertainment, and I am more than happy to show my support of this wonderful, physically attractive, and vastly under-appreciated author by purchasing his book from Amazon,” then hey, I wouldn’t say no to that.

Not sure if this compilation is for you? Here’s a short list of the stories included with a brief summary:

The Finger: in which a man vomits up a human finger and cannot remember how it got there.

Salt of the Earth: in which a man tells his daughter about the world before the Green.

Play Date: in which a woman living in a house filled with empty doll’s heads turns out to be something more than she appears.

The Life and Times of Casey Jones: in which an unsual resident of a prison cell witnesses the end of a human tragedy.

Morgellon’s Man: in which a man afflicted with a strange disease takes matters into his own hands.

The Ghosts of Houses: in which a man is haunted by a dead building.

Grey Area: in which a laundromat becomes a sinister battleground of the soul.

Living Dead: in which the zombie apocalypse cannot come soon enough.

All that Remains: in which the last human tries to find meaning in a chaotic universe.

How the Other Half Dies: in which you are killed by zombies.

The Stone Saucer: in which an alien artifact carries the memories of a dead world.

If these sound like your cup of tea, then head over to Amazon and get this puppy for your Kindle, or better still, stay right here and download it for free.

Remember, all you have to lose is your sanity.

The Musical Fruit

I’ve never been good at tooting my own horn. And don’t get me wrong, I try. My parents even had me taking lessons for a while. Maybe its the fact that my lips get tired after a while, or maybe emptying my spit valve is just too disgusting for me to think about. I don’t know what it is, but after years of trying I’ve decided that becoming a professional trumpet player just wasn’t in the cards.

So I decided, “Hey, I’ll become a writer. No tooting of horns required there.” Only I was wrong. The horn of need follows me, it HAUNTS me. It lives in my dreams, and I am forever falling into the darkness of its terrifyingly smooth and circular mouth.

That’s right. Because as a writer, I have to do a little something called, (gulp), self-promotion.

I have to get out there and tell people, “You know that money you were planning on spending a deep-tissue massage for your gerbil? Well maybe you should take some of that money and spend it on my book instead.”

And it terrifies me.

Why? Well for one thing there’s that tiny nagging fear at the back of my mind whispering that I’m really not that good. It doesn’t matter that I’ve had a number people who are not my mother read my story and generally conclude that it is of acceptable and even admirable quality. I still can’t help thinking of myself as a hack. A wannabe.

And that’s a terrible place to be. Because what self-promotion is saying is, “There are people out there who would love to read what I’ve written, and it’s my job to make sure they know about it.”

Wow. Just writing that sentence was hard. In fact, you know what? Writing this whole blog post has been difficult for me. I’ve been dithering away the morning by doing chores and finishing a book I’ve been reading all because it’s become increasingly apparent to me that I’m not good at this self-promotion thing.

That has to change.

It’s not that I need to become some egotistical windbag, constantly spamming my Twitter feed with how great my work is, but there’s no point in putting the work into writing the book if no one ever reads it. Otherwise I might as well stuff it in a trunk somewhere.

Because the truth is, if I’m going to have the balls to sell my work at all that means I have to believe that you want my story more than you want your dollar. That you will, in fact, find my writing to be worth more than many of the other things your dollar might have bought you.

Still, it isn’t easy. This isn’t an instruction guide. It’s not me telling you that I’ve solved the problem and here’s how you can too. But maybe just recognizing that I’ve got some issues is a good place to start.

If you’ve got some advice to share I’d love to hear it.

In the mean time, this might be the proper place to announce that I’m giving one of my short stories a nice official roll-out announcement on this blog tomorrow. I’ll be wincing at my keyboard as I try to say nice things about my own writing. So stay tuned for that.

The Beauty of the Blank Page: Tips for Defeating Digital Diversions

I have a lot of respect for the writers of the past. It’s not so much their style that impresses me, because, let’s face it, people in the old days produced plenty of crap too. But when I think about the fact that for thousands of years writers had to actually physically write down their words onto paper it makes me a little awestruck.

Can you imagine the editing process? Or worse yet, the rewrites? Having to physically re-copy the entirety of a manuscript by hand? Can you imagine the day when “cut and paste” involved actual scissors and actual glue?

So yeah, computers are awesome. But like most awesome modern things they come with a price.

Because in a way, computers are too awesome. Not only do they come with wonderful word processing tools to help you make your writing the best it can be, but they also can connect to a million different diversions and distractions through the internet.

Maybe you’re stronger than me. Maybe when you sit down to write your words for the morning, it never occurs to you that Linkara should have posted a new comic review today, and it’s only like, thirty minutes long, so you’ve got time to bop over there and see what’s going on with that. Okay, so that one probably hasn’t happened to you, but you get the idea.

Distractions are the curse of the internet.

So what do you do? Well of course there’s always good old self-control. You can tell yourself to wait for that reward until you’ve finished writing. You can even switch off your computer’s internet connections for a while. But maybe you need a little extra layer of protection from all those temptations. Wouldn’t it be great if you could shut out all the rest of that stuff and focus on the page?

If that’s your dilemma then it’s time for you to meet my good friend Dark Room.  Dark Room is a fantastic little program that completely fills your screen with nothing but the empty page, waiting for you to fill it with your words. Of course it’s still possible to minimize it and get to other stuff on your computer if you need to, but I’ve found that often, with the visual distractions removed I’ve been able to focus more on the words I’m writing.

Dark Room is a fairly minimalist program. It has no spell check function. In a way it’s like installing a typewriter on your computer. What you type is what you see and nothing else.

The color scheme is adjustable so if neon green letters on a black screen aren’t your thing you can change it to something a little different. You can even change the font to Courier New to give it a real typewriter look.

Overall this has been a fantastic tool for me. I don’t use it all the time, but when I hear the siren song of digital distractions I open it up and indulge myself in the decadence of a truly blank page.

If any of you struggle with the endless distractions of the internet I highly recommend you try this little program. It’s free and simple to use. And it may just help you accomplish something wonderful.

The Dark Room program can be downloaded here.

Variations on a Theme

If you’ve been a writer for any length of time at all, you’ve had this happen to you.

You tell someone “I’m a writer.”

That someone says, “Oh yeah? What are you writing?”

So you tell them about your story. But about halfway through your synopsis it dawns on you. This story sounds frighteningly familiar. Why if you didn’t know better…but no. No, this is your story. You didn’t steal it from anyone else. You certainly didn’t steal if from that award winning movie that approximately everyone has seen.

Only now that you think about it you story about the girl with the magical ring who trains a dragon and falls in love with a vampire? It sounds just like that other story.

So what do you do? Naturally you go into full panic mode. You shout out “Heavens to Betsy, it’s all in ruination!” and run away from that slack jawed stranger as fast as you can. Or maybe that was just me.

Okay. Calm down. Just…deep breaths. That’s right…in…out…in…you can do this.

Alright, back with us again? Here’s the thing. Originality is a myth. Seriously.

Try to think up a story no one has ever thought of before. Go ahead, think. Come up with something completely original.

Nope, been done. I don’t care what it was you thought of it’s been done somewhere somewhen before.

The truth is you’re never going to make up an original story. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be creative. And it certainly doesn’t mean you should throw up your hands in disgust and start cribbing directly from someone else’s narrative.

But what it does mean is that you can’t let that fear of being unoriginal stop your progress.

The first story I ever wrote was about a girl who finds a magical ring and is chased by an evil presence who’s very existence is linked to the ring. And when you boil it all down like that it sure sounds a whole lot like Lord of the Rings which is pretty much the greatest fantasy story ever written.

That used to bother me a lot. But it doesn’t bother me so much any more. For one thing I know much of the rest of the book is nothing like Lord of the Rings. The rest of the book involves a group of rebels striking from a hidden base against the oppression of an evil empire, and that doesn’t remind me of anything else at all.

So what’s a writer to do? The bottom line is balance.

“Balance again?” you say.

Yes, balance again.

On the one hand you really may have created a story which is too similar to another more famous story. That isn’t wrong persay, but it might very well mean you’ll have a hard time getting it published.

On the other hand, stories are all connected to each other in weird and wonderful ways. Let’s face it, without other stories to inspire us we’d be in a sorry state as writers. We can’t work in a vacuum. And that means that no matter how hard we try some elements of our story are going to line up with other elements in other stories.

It’s okay. It’s not plagiarism. Let’s call it…inspiration.

So if your story ends up sounding like something someone else has already written, take heart. Chances are they were inspired by someone else too. And that’s completely okay with me.

Bizzaro Book Review: The Devil in Chains by Adam Christopher

Today’s book review comes with something of a caveat. I started doing this weekly feature in order to showcase unusual types of stories, as well as quality self published works. However when I read The Devil in Chains by Adam Christopher I was faced with something of a dilemma.

The problem is this. I do not love this book. That’s not a snide way of saying that I hate it. It’s just a simple statement of fact. The problem is I’m a little squeamish about being critical of self published works. After all, these authors don’t have the luxury of a fat paycheck to cushion the blow of criticism. I’ve felt the sting of criticism myself and I know how badly it stings.

I could take the “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all,” way out, but that feels somehow disingenuous to me. The thing is, there were some things I did quite like about this book, and I want to be able to tell both the good and bad, and let you decide for yourselves. So here goes.

Starting with the bad.

If I had to sum up my main problem with this book in one word it would be this: flat.

The main character for instance seems to be something of a puppet, a mannequin being moved through the various plot points on a track the author had set up for him. He is given a history within the story, but only as an explanation for his knowledge of the dark arts. There is one moment when the protagonist experiences a flashback to a darker time of war and death, but it is a tiny island of color in a still gray sea.

The book is narrated in a very Victorian style of prose which is beautifully executed. However the detached style serves to distance the reader from the plot. For instance when the protagonist is fighting his way through the dark cave to face the eponymous devil in chains he is set upon by a great swarm of insects. While the idea of such an attack is terrifying enough, the calm manner in which it is related feels completely at odds with the true terror of the situation. When reading this passage I found myself wanting to hear the air thrumming with the wings of the cicadas. I wanted to feel a thousand insectile feet crawling across my skin. But instead I was left with a bare description of the facts.

The book is set in a fairly standard steampunk universe which is rendered well enough, but in by end I was asking myself, “Why?” The setting did not appear to be truly central to the plot in any way. In a way it detracted from the terror one might feel if such a story were told in a more familiar and believable setting.

It also had me scratching my head a bit. The story is set in an alternate universe in the year 2001. However every aspect of the culture is a carbon copy of the Victorian era. This left me asking myself, “How is it that the culture could have stagnated for two hundred years while so many technological advances were being made?” I contend that it would have been far more fascinating to see classic steampunk technology set in a world with a society similar to our own.

Now, for the good.

This is not a bad book. I am sure that statement may sound dubious after reading the previous paragraphs, but it is completely true. The author’s command of his prose is both masterful and polished. Despite my problems with the detached feel of the Victorian style prose, the fact that the author was able to slip into that mode so completely is a testament to his skill.

Likewise, the story was enjoyable on the whole. In spite of my earlier complaints about flat characterization, I found the actual events of the story to be completely engrossing. In particular I found the supernatural antagonist’s ability to create an army of facsimiles from the bodies of the newly dead villagers to be terrifying on a very primal level. One of these facsimiles, the Lambert-thing, may be one of the most unsettling villains I have yet encountered in literature.

In summary, in spite of its failings, The Devil in Chains is a truly unique variation on classic horror themes and it deserves to be recognized as such. At only 25,000 words it is a fast and engaging read. And since it is available for free download from the folks over at Smashwords, the price in unbeatable.

I give it ^ of ! stars. Go and check it out and decide its merits for yourself.