Trajan’s Arch Blog Tour – On Mythic Fiction

On Mythic Fiction

Among the intriguing things said by my remarkable Classics professor back in grad school, the one that stuck with me the most was that Greek religion had been invented by poets.  The wedding of story with profound mysteries and truths makes for the best religion and best fiction, I think, and as a writer, even of more realistic (or quasi-realistic) fiction, I like for my work to have a kind of mythic resonance—a feel and structure that deepens the emotional and imaginative feel of a piece.

It’s a quality that I find as well in a lot of fiction I like to read.  Sometimes I can recognize the writing’s specific connection with ancient and powerful sources, but far more often it comes in the hint of the story’s connection to older stories, older patterns—a signal that its intent is to brush up against primal, eternal questions and truths, and more importantly, to treat those truths in all their nuance, complexity, and contradictions.

If part of fiction is, indeed, exploration (and I think it is), tapping into mythic suggestion and pattern can be part of the process of exploring.  Joyce’s Ulysses and George Lucas’s Star Wars films (the early trilogy, and I think the best of them) adopt the structure of myth in very different ways, but all of them brush against profound currents of story, letting us know that the issues they address are common to all of us, complex and deep in their experience.  I think that writers can ready their fiction to enter that kind of realm by listening to old stories, old patterns; so I like to play with myths and structures in the process of inventing stories of my own.

The easiest way to do this is to re-position or “translate” a myth from its world to the one in which your story is set.  I don’t mean a retelling of (or reflection on) the myths (though Canongate’s series contains some remarkable writers), nor do I mean Percy Jackson stories in which mythological figures appear as characters—the Riordan books may be good, but I haven’t read them.  I’m thinking of 20th century novelists like Joyce, Robertson Davies, John Banville, who use myth to underpin stories set in more contemporary realities, lending otherwise realistic stories a kind of evocative feel and intent.

How does a lesser writer get at these qualities?  How do I allow my stories to brush against mythic worlds, to allow opportunities for me to re-examine my otherwise simpler story with an eye toward its larger, wider, and deeper implications?  How do you bring the magic to the mundane, the profound to the everyday?

The easiest way is to “translate” the myth—reset the Odyssey in 20th century Dublin, as Joyce does in Ulysses, or the Orpheus story as that of an Indian rock star, as Salman Rushdie does in The Ground Beneath Her Feet.  This kind of activity asks you to consider everyday life as the stuff of myth, because modern people are still mythmakers, still hunger for rapt and meaningful story, and story set in our own surroundings. In my own novel, Vine: An Urban Legend, I recast Euripides’ Bacchae into a story about a group of amateur actors, working in a small mid-Southern city, set on performing…of all plays…Euripides’ Bacchae.  As the original Greek tragedy did millennia ago, my own story becomes dark and bloody, addressing issues that strike me as large and eternal questions.  Trajan’s Arch combines elements of The Odyssey and of the myth of Orpheus with archetypal patterns of coming-of-age, set in a plausible, even realistic span of the 1970s and 80s.

But the story doesn’t have to retell a myth to recapture the mythic.  There are famous maps and patterns, largely outlining the stages of a hero’s journey, which underlie a number of modern narratives.  Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, Vladimir Propp’s outline of Russian folk tale, Walter Otto’s hero’s journey, the Native American myths of immersion and concealment that are found in women’s rituals of initiation—all can be adopted as story patterns that, if used flexibly and inventively, can give a story depth and universality.

In short, read myths and books about myth.  I’d advise Campbell, Karen Armstrong’s Short History of Myth, and spending a week in the worlds of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  If you don’t emerge with new and transforming ideas for your stories, this exercise is not for you.  I know simply that it is for me, a never-ending and fascinating resource in the craft.

Book Synopsis for Trajan’s Arch:   Gabriel Rackett stands at the threshold of middle age. He lives north of Chicago and teaches at a small community college. He has written one novel and has no prospects of writing another, his powers stagnated by drink and loss. Into his possession comes a manuscript, written by a childhood friend and neighbor, which ignites his memory and takes him back to his mysterious mentor and the ghosts that haunted his own coming of age. Now, at the ebb of his resources, Gabriel returns to his old haunts through a series of fantastic stories spilling dangerously off the page–tales that will preoccupy and pursue him back to their dark and secret sources.

Michael Williams

Michael Williams

Over the past 25 years, Michael Williams has written a number of strange novels, from the early Weasel’s Luck and Galen Beknighted in the best-selling DRAGONLANCE series to the more recent lyrical and experimental Arcady, singled out for praise by Locus and Asimov’s magazines. In Trajan’s Arch, his eleventh novel, stories fold into stories and a boy grows up with ghostly mentors, and the recently published Vine mingles Greek tragedy and urban legend, as a local dramatic production in a small city goes humorously, then horrifically, awry.

Trajan’s Arch and Vine are two of the books in Williams’s highly anticipated City Quartet, to be joined in 2018 by Dominic’s Ghosts and Tattered Men.

Williams was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and spent much of his childhood in the south central part of the state, the red-dirt gothic home of Appalachian foothills and stories of Confederate guerrillas. Through good luck and a roundabout journey he made his way through through New England, New York, Wisconsin, Britain and Ireland, and has ended up less than thirty miles from where he began. He has a Ph.D. in Humanities, and teaches at the University of Louisville, where he focuses on the he Modern Fantastic in fiction and film. He is married, and has two grown sons.

Prowling the Darkness Blog Tour – The Strengths of the Novella

When I embarked on the first Rayden Valkyrie Tales and Ragnar Stormbringer Tales, my desire was to create novella-length, stand-alone stories for my readers to enjoy on a regular basis as they awaited the longer novel releases.  Each of the stories ends up telling a part of the lives of the Rayden and Ragnar characters, and as more of them are created the reader will also discover there is interrelation between them and the novel-length stories. 

Having written many novels and short stories previously, these projects represented my first immersion into the novella format.  Looking back, I have to say that I have really come to enjoy writing novellas for a number of reasons. 

At around 20,000 words and higher, the novella format does take too much longer than a short story to create, but it still involves much less time than a novel project.  This allows me to write more stories from the lives of Rayden and Ragnar that I would not likely have been able to tell if I only stuck to short stories or large novel projects.

The novella allows for me to go a little farther beyond the limitations of most short stories.  There is more space for character development to take place.  An additional few scenes can make all the difference in bringing out the full scope of a given character.  For my purposes, that is a wonderful benefit as the novella being read could well be a reader’s first encounter with Rayden or Ragnar, and I do hope that the reader likes them enough to enjoy the other novellas, novels, and short stories involving them.  

Additionally, I have much more space for developing supporting characters, even to the extent that I can have a small and solid ensemble cast included in a given story.  This broadens my storytelling possibilities as I can have some of these characters appear in other tales, or even have a loved supporting character from novels like the Dark Sun Dawn titles be featured heavily in one of these novellas.  

A reader will also allow more room for a story to build in a longer format.  An effective short story must connect with a reader fast and there is not a lot of room to deviate from a core plot to reach a conclusion that is satisfying to a reader.  The novella, on the other hand, does allow for more of an expanded plot, and even subplots, along the way to the finish line. 

While having a longer format than short stories comes with some additional storytelling benefits as illustrated above, the novella also benefits from being smaller than a novel. 

A novella’s prose, versus that of a novel, cannot get away with a lot of fluff, resulting in a leaner economy of words and narrative.  This can be very beneficial for maintaining the kind of pace and hooks that will compel a reader to finish the story in one sitting. 

This is also helpful for the genre that these stories are in.  Being action-driven sword and sorcery, a faster pacing can strengthen the narrative.

The novella is a really wonderful format for storytelling in a genre like sword and sorcery or fantasy.  I can use many of the strengths of a novel in my storytelling while also being able to produce a larger number of tales for my readers. I am enabled to give them even more stories of characters they love and provide them with greater exploration of the world that they live in. 

It is a true win-win for the author and for the reader, and I look forward to writing many more of them in the future! 

Take a journey east with Rayden Valkyrie as she undertakes one of her most harrowing adventures yet! Prowling the Darkness is the latest release in the Rayden Valkyrie Tales!

A return to hard-hitting, gritty sword and sorcery with an iconic and inspiring main character, the Rayden Valkyrie Tales are a growing collection of stand-alone novellas that will elate fans of the genre!

The Prowling the Darkness Blog Tour features reviews, interviews, guest posts, video, and top ten lists!

About the author:  Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based out of Lexington Kentucky. His works include the Rayden Valkyrie novels (Sword and Sorcery), the Rising Dawn Saga (Cross Genre), the Fires in Eden Series (Epic Fantasy), the Hellscapes short story collections (Horror), the Chronicles of Ave short story collections (Fantasy), the Harvey and Solomon Tales (Steampunk), and the forthcoming Faraway Saga (YA Dystopian/Cross-Genre).

Stephen’s visual work includes the feature film Shadows Light, shorts films such as The Sirens and Swordbearer, and the forthcoming Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot.

Stephen is a proud Kentucky Colonel who also enjoys the realms of music, martial arts, good bourbons, and spending time with family.


Book Synopsis for Prowling the Darkness:   Dark rumors and whisperings of unholy sorcery bring Rayden Valkyrie to the remote city of Sereth-Naga.

There she finds a populace cowering in fear of the city’s ruthless, mysterious rulers, who remain behind the high walls of their citadel.

An even greater mystery surrounds the city.

Something is prowling the darkness.


Something that has kept the enigmatic rulers for centuries from escaping Sereth-Naga to spread their wickedness to other lands.

Prowling the Darkness is a stand-alone novella that is part of the Rayden Valkyrie Tales.


Author Links:


Twitter: @sgzimmer
Instagram: @stephenzimmer7



Tour Schedule and Activities

8/7      Armed with a Book Review

8/7      I Smell Sheep        Guest Post

8/7      Fragile Winds      Guest Post

8/8      The Most Sublime   Review

8/8      Breakeven Books           Guest Post

8/9      Armed with a Book Interview      

8/10    Horror Tree          Guest Post

8/10    Sheila’s Guests and Reviews     Guest Post

8/11    Speculative Fiction Spot         Guest Post

8/12    Literary Underworld          Guest Post

8/13    Jazzy Book Reviews Video Interview

8/13    The Book Junkie Reads Guest Post

8/14    Stuart Conover’s Homepage     Top Ten’s List

8/14    Bookish Valhalla  Review



Links for Prowling the Darkness

Kindle Version:

Barnes and Noble Link for Prowling the Darkness:



10 steps to start writing a book

So many books and so many writers in this world. What defines their success and how can they become actually read authors? The truth is that they started from where everyone starts, a blank page and probably multiple ideas flowing in their mind. The hard part of writing a book isn’t getting published but writing it. This is a process which can take a short or long time and that usually happens in three stages. Beginning, not giving up and finishing.

In the beginning, you have to start writing something. This may seem obvious, but it also may be an overlooked step along the way. You write a book by deciding first what and how you are going to write. Once you start writing, staying motivated and not giving up it is crucial. You will face self-doubt and you will feel overwhelmed. Knowing before this situation can help you prepare for it. Finishing is the last step, and no one cares about a book you almost finished. Be sure you actually do it. What makes you a writer is the ability to complete a project.

However, writing is a big process and here are 10 steps to make it easier to achieve your final result of reaching “The End.”

  1. Decide what the book is about

Writing is always about something. If you need help in fleshing your idea out, one method is to start by the concept of the book in a sentence, stretch that out to a paragraph and then to a one-page outline. After, write a table of content to help guide you in your story. Break each chapter into sections and think about the beginning, middle, and end. These are important tips for you not to get lost.

  1. Daily word goal

Think the task is daunting? Writing a page per day will mean you have a full length novel within a year. Hopefully, time and creativity will allow you to jump past that even quicker. Make yourself write each day and set daily goals to yourself. A page a day is only about 300 words. Set realistic goals though. Write often, not necessary a lot.

  1. Set the time to work on the book

People normally have more things to do besides writing a book. Even if you can afford to be a professional writer, you might have children or other duties. Don’t expect horse racing results, because you are just human. Consistency though, makes creativity easier and it will appear with a daily basis process. Schedule the time of the week you are going to write, according to your other responsibilities.

  1. Write in the same place

Make your writing location a special and unique place, wither if it is a kitchen table or a library. It is important to distinguish your tasks and writing should be apart from the others. When you enter that space, you are committed to your goal.

  1. Set a total word count

Begin already with the end in your mind. Once you start, think about the total word count for your book. Break each chapter into equal lengths and think in terms of 10-thousand increments. A short e-book has 20,000 words, a standard non-fiction book has between 40.000 to 60.000. From this number further, all will fit the category of a long book.

  1. Get feedback once in a while

Let someone look at it and listen to people’s opinions. You are writing for people so make sure you let a few of your trust read before you need to rewrite the book. You can show it to friends, editors or family. Find someone who is honest and will make sure you are heading in the right direction.

  1. Weekly goals

Besides the daily goals, weekly goals are also a must. Always be honest to yourself about how much you still have left and celebrate your progress. Deadlines followed strictly are the way to get your work done. Make a plan for your tasks and go for it.

  1. Commit to delivering it

No one really knows when a book is finished. However, after writing all you think you needed to write, there are still a few things to do. First, deliver the book and never close it in your drawer. Send it to a publisher, check some online competitions for new writers, release it on your social media. Present it to people, no matter how. The worst thing that you can do to yourself and your project is to give up when the book is written. Remember your initial goal and the hard process of making it. Don’t go backward now.

  1. Failure is normal

Be okay with failing, give yourself grace and embrace it. As soon as you approach the end of the book, know that it will be hard. Determination to continue is what will sustain you.

  1. Think about the next book

The majority of the authors are embarrassed about their first books. However, without that first one, no more can come. The first book is a lesson, either if you fail or succeed. Practicing is getting better each day and for that, you must keep writing. Every great author started somewhere, somehow.

The reason for a lot of books never have seen the daylight is behind the attitude of the authors: they gave up. Remember how many times Stephen King and J.K. Rowling were denied? Nevertheless, remember: before you can launch a bestseller, you have to write one!


Ines Marinho

5 Unorthodox (And Spooky) Places To Find Inspiration

We get it: sometimes the muse just doesn’t want to come, no matter how earnestly you’re trying to bribe it. So, instead, you’ve turned to writing prompts, which aren’t working. You’ve devoured every single book in your genre (and outside of it). You’ve gone on ten-mile walks, hoping that an idea will strike you around the five-mile mark.


When all of these tried-and-true methods for writing inspiration have failed, it might be time to turn to some more, well, unusual methods. Here are five unorthodox places that you can go to find writing inspiration. Warning: they might just turn out to be the spooky jolt that you need!


1. An art gallery

A surprising number of writers counted themselves as painters. Sylvia Plath drew in order to inspire her to write poetry. John Updike, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Flannery O’Connor were cartoonists. True to form, Jack Kerouac painted using only spontaneous brushstrokes. Throughout history, visual art and literature has gone hand in hand, inspiring authors onwards.


If you’ve never dabbled in art yourself, you can simply drop by the nearest art gallery to view it. Overlooked by many a passerby, an art gallery is nevertheless a place that practically teems with stimulus. Walk into your local one and situate yourself in front of one of the paintings. Try and come up with a backstory to explain what’s happening in it. Or perhaps observe your fellow spectators in the gallery and create character profiles for them.


Spookify it: Specifically go in search of some of the eerier works of art out there. Perhaps tack on a museum with a creepy exhibit to your local art gallery tour. Do any museums nearby, for instance, happen to have mummies on display? Perfect. 


2. The swimming pool

This one is for you if you find that you often get “Aha!” moments in the shower. For many people, the simple spray of shower water goes a long towards churning their creative gears, so why not go and find more water in which to submerge yourself? Bian Li, author of the The Hungry Lab, reports that she solves all of her problems underwater in a pool: “No phone. No internet. No talking. No noise pollution. Just the sound of breathing through my regulator, the calming lull of the ocean and my thoughts.”


Don’t fret if you don’t live near a swimming pool — simply get a humongous bath tub, as Dame Agatha Christie did. When she was renovating her mansion, she only had two demands. She told the architect, “I want a big bath, and I need a ledge because I like to eat apples.”


Spookify it: Swim (safely) into the deep end of the pool. Then dive as deep as you can go, until the water turns dark-blue and the light above the water at the top is dim. Imagine that you’re not in a recreational pool, but an ocean. What monsters might lurk around you here? 


3. The airport

As Benjamin H. Bratton wrote in The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty, “Airports are not simulations of cities; rather cities are simulations of airports.” (And, as Love Actually testifies, you won’t be able to find anywhere else that provides as many heartfelt embraces.) When you walk into an airport, you enter a space where people are just about to step on a plane and begin a new chapter of their lives — and what better inspiration is there than that? There’s a story behind every departure and arrival: it’s just up to you to imagine it and fill in the blanks.


Spookify it: Visit the Denver Airport in particular. It has some eerie rumors floating about it, and the conspiracy theories about its strange oddities certainly don’t help its case.


4. The graveyard

Even if you don’t kill off your characters at the same rate as George R.R. Martin does, a graveyard can be an unexpected source of inspiration. Whether it’s an engraving on a tombstone or the thought that you’re walking amongst history and people who had led rich lives, it might be just the sort of thing that will get you thinking.


Incidentally, a graveyard is also a powerful creative wellspring when it comes to character naming. If you find that a character name generator isn’t working out for you, do what other famous authors have done and step into your local graveyard. It’s said that J.K. Rowling came up with the names for Alastor “Mad Eye” Moody and Minerva McGonagall in graveyards. Meanwhile, Charles Dickens was visiting a cemetery in Edinburgh when he came across the name ‘Ebenezer Scroggie.’ He turned it into the now iconic ‘Ebenezer Scrooge’ — a character from the classic A Christmas Carol.


Spookify it: Go at night. If you want to make it extra unsettling, bring a flashlight and a horror book to read while you sit against a tombstone.


5. An empty room

By “empty,” we mean completely bare. No desk. No phone. Only bring yourself, your mind, and the few select items that you absolutely wouldn’t be able to write without. Without any distractions, your mind is free to roam and make its own connections between ideas.


This is, by the way, Maya Angelou’s strategy when it comes to writing inspiration. She writes in complete isolation in a hotel room, even requesting that the walls be stripped of adornments. Only yellow pads, a dictionary, a thesaurus, a Bible, and the occasional sherry could be brought into the room. These were measures that she took in order to ensure that she wouldn’t be sidetracked, for inspiration, in the end, comes straight from your brain — not your surroundings.


Spookify it: Extra points if, instead of a hotel room, you walk into a house nearby — that has a reputation for being haunted.



Emmanuel Nataf

Emmanuel Nataf is the founder and CEO of Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers and marketers. Emmanuel dedicates most of his time to building Reedsy’s product and is interested in how technology can transform cultural industries.

WIHM: Honey, I Teleported the President

Honey, I Teleported the President Or When Trump Changed: The Feminist Science Fiction Justice League Quashes The Orange Outrage Pussy Grabber Fights Horror Fiction With Horror Fiction

By: Marleen S. Barr


            Once upon a time the president of the United States bragged about pussy grabbing. It used to be logical to read this sentence as a feminist horror story’s opening line.  This particular horror story, as we are all aware, has become real. Trump habitually simultaneously turns what was categorized as fiction into reality and lies to distort reality. He routinely disturbs the space-time continuum which formerly defined the demarcation between fiction and reality. Since his discourse disruption is stranger than fiction, realistic literature does not provide the most useful method to counter it. Doing so is a job for science fiction. The science fiction subgenre I have defined as “Trumppunk” provides the best means to diffuse the prevarication which profusely emanates from what Stephen Colbert calls Trump’s “mouth hole.”  With this point in mind, I wrote When Trump Changed: The Feminist Science Fiction Justice League Quashes The Orange Outrage Pussy Grabber, the first single-authored Trump-focused short story collection. My intention was to fight his misogynistic horror fiction with satirical feminist horror fiction.

            When doing so, I tried to translate the ridicule Mel Brooks brandished in The Producers into feminist Baby Boomer mode. The fact that I hail from Forest Hills, Queens– a neighborhood located a stone’s throw away from Trump’s Jamaica Estates emanation point– facilitates my translation efforts in that I speak with his identical “New Yawk” outer borough cadence.  What his mouth hole throws out, I can immediately echo back.  Or, in Brent Stephens’ more august words, “in an era in which the president is constantly trying to impose his fictions on reality, it’s incumbent on the rest of us to keep the two separate. Understanding what fiction is, and all the ways Trump seems to spring from it, is a good place to start” (New York Times, December 28, 2018).  As someone who has dedicated her professional life to being a feminist science fiction scholar, I understand what feminist science fiction is, all the ways Trump’s discourse springs from horror fiction, and how feminist science fiction provides cognitive estrangement to becoming inured to Trump’s lies. When Trump Changed uses exaggeration to separate his horror fiction from women’s reality.  

            I take what Trump really says and turn it into fake news which is unreal to the extent that it could never be actualized. For example, after Trump used the phrase “the local milk people,” I wrote “Trump Uses ‘The Local Milk People’ To Lure Pussies Out Of the White House Basement,” a “trouble with tribbles” scenario in which feminist extraterrestrials from the planet Mammary deliver milk to the White House to control the pussy plethora (I refer to baby domestic felines) inhabiting the building’s basement. And in “Just The Two Of Us Or Trump Comes On to Comey,” I imagine that after Trump actually sexually propositions Comey, Bella Abzug and Ethel Merman, New York women whose mouths are louder than Trump’s mouth, save the former F.B. I. director’s honor. “Springtime For Trump Or Feminist Extraterrestrials Eventually Produce A Woman President” is self-explanatory.

            Okay, Trump bring on your misogynistic horror fiction. Anything you can make fake I can make faker. I can make anything faker than you. Yes I can. Yes I can. Yes I can. Feminist science fiction, which functions as horror fiction from your perspective, can teleport you to a galaxy far far away.           


Marleen S. Barr

Marleen S. Barr is known for her pioneering work in feminist science fiction and teaches English at the City University of New York. She has won the Science Fiction Research Association Pilgrim Award for lifetime achievement in science fiction criticism. Barr is the author of Alien to Femininity: Speculative Fiction and Feminist TheoryLost in Space: Probing Feminist Science Fiction and Beyond, Feminist Fabulation: Space/Postmodern Fiction, and Genre Fission: A New Discourse Practice for Cultural Studies. Barr has edited many anthologies and co-edited the  science fiction issue of PMLA. She has published the novels Oy Pioneer! and Oy Feminist Planets: A Fake Memoir.  Her When Trump Changed: The Feminist Science Fiction Justice League Quashes the Orange Outrage Pussy Grabber is the first single-authored Trump short story collection.

Link to the book’s web page which contains a picture of the book: 

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