Archive for the 'Working Conditions' Category


Fantastic Races and Why To Change Them

It’s safe to say everyone has read a fantasy novel at some point, right? We know all about orcs, goblins, dwarves, elves, dragons and the like. When we read or write in the genre, we’re aware of certain tropes and styles, and by and large, we conform to them.


When one says “elf,” one tends to think “willowy, long-lived, magical, pointy ears, forests.” There’s a lot of wiggle room in there, but we almost always end up with Legolas. There are other options, other ways to fill that racial niche.

Dwarves. Mining midgets with Scottish accents seem to be the most popular. Dragon Age turning them into political schemers and less-than-scrupulous merchants was brilliant, in my opinion.

When you say “vampire” to an older person, you usually get the Dracula or Lestat motif. Sexy, predatory, dangerous, tragically romantic. When you say it to a younger person you either get the modern variant of that (like Vampire Diaries or True Blood style) or you get Twilight. Much as I hate Twilight for being garbage, the sin isn’t in “what it did to vampires.” Trying to do something different isn’t a crime. Doing it really, really, really badly is. But that’s just me.

But why aren’t there more rule-breakers out there? When I was still working on my Milefront pen-and-paper setting, I decided I didn’t want any elves and dwarves… but I knew I still needed things that fit their tropes. So instead of elves, there were blood-drinking immortals born from a tree, who preferred to hide in their heavily-canopied lairs away from the angry eye of their mother the sun goddess. They were older than other races present in the world and had once ruled the land, but things went south when they pissed off mom, so now they’re dwindling and reclusive, but still magically potent and possess arcane knowledge no one else has access to.

I’m not too down with dwarves, so instead, I had a tribe of dark-skinned giants who crawled from the bowels of the earth, fleeing chthonian horrors and digging uncountable pathways through their mountain homes to confound and capture their pursuers.

Maybe those were stupid changes. Maybe I should have just had elves and dwarves like normal people. But I didn’t want to. I wanted to do something a little different, and I don’t think that’s a sin.

I’d like to see more folks upend that applecart. I want more goblins who are actually corporate bureaucrats keeping slave labor forces forced to push technology further and further. I want dragons who are deified humans who roar with the authority of the gods of old. I want orcs to be a warlike band of lepers and freedom fighters, pushing back against aristocratic and caste-system following elvish nobility.

I want some variety. How about you?

What kind of fantasy tropes have you upended, and how and why? Any good recommendations for fantasy novels that don’t just follow the Tolkien and D&D blueprint? Let us know down below!
KA Spiral no signature


Snippet: Chrysanthemum Graves

I don’t know why I seem to like sharing the weird segments of this story that involve The Thirst, but it is what it is. Let me know what you think!


The thirst had returned. As before, it came first, then other sensations. Unlike before, vision wasn’t merely a red cloud. Other colors were present this time, though all of them were muted, as though being seen through a piece of murky gauze.

The sound was duller than previously, and the consciousness that hung from the thirst like some barely-glimpsed parasite found there was room for emotion: gratefulness. Things had been far too noisy during that previous period of waking, and now it seemed more normal. The bugs in the walls and the hum of every piece of electronic equipment was gone, as was the thrumming of the man’s heartbeat.

There were voices. Coming from somewhere in the house. A thought, and they drew close. Three voices, three men. Two large ones, one the man from the night before. The larger ones were speaking rapidly, angrily; the other was responding with an apparent calm that seemed to stoke the rage of the two argumentative ones.

The thirst knew they were speaking, and could taste the flavor of the emotions contained in the words, but was unable to make out the words themselves. It might have thought this was odd, if it were capable of thinking as such. As it was, it was only interested in the flares of color and scent that burst around each of the men as they threw their words at each other like weapons.

There. The one with the longer hair. A splash of black across his torso, as though ink had been spilled. A rotten scent, the stench of sewers and backed up disposal units. Something wrong with him.

Cancer, maybe? The consciousness that piggybacked on the thirst asked, with the tentative voice of a little girl raising her hand for the first time in class, prepared to give an answer she was unsure of. The thirst didn’t know, and didn’t care. All it knew is that the one with the long hair would be foul tasting and unlikely to provide much in the way of sustenance.

The other one, who seemed to prefer being quiet except to punctuate his apparent friend’s statements, had no similar blemishes. He was surrounded by a faint green glow, and smelled of fresh grass.

Not here, the mind behind the thirst cautioned. Not now.

The thirst pulsed with rage for a moment, but subsided. That inner voice was right. It wasn’t entirely able to resist its urges, however; the thirst blinked, and found itself tangled around the long-haired man, breathing in that scent and relishing the smell that was underneath it. Something red, thick, metallic. What the thirst really wanted, what it needed. Something about this one was almost as appealing as the man from the other night, scratching an itch that the thirst didn’t understand it had.

There was a gap in the man, something missing from him in a fundamental way that the thirst could see but not explain. It knew what to do, how it would get what it wanted. Slipping into that metaphysical hole in his being, merging into it and settling in like a bear into a den, the thirst waited.

It didn’t know what it was waiting for, only that it would know, given time. This was what it was supposed to do. Something inside said so, just as it had said to wrap around the man from last night’s throat, just as it had whispered to awaken and see this man here. Something was guiding the actions of the thirst, something beyond or above the faint traces of a mind that it still possessed. Whatever guidance was being provided was nearly of the highest importance, second only to the thirst itself. The thirst, having been sated previously, chose to follow direction.

Curling within the man, the thirst saw a multitude of images flickering by, mostly of violent actions. Again and again this man had abused, broken and stolen people and things. That mattered little to the thirst; it was a slave to its own nature, and understood. What puzzled it was the apparent pleasure the man took from it. He did those things not because he had to, but because he wanted to.

Then one image froze. The mind behind the thirst gasped. Red began to seep back into everything, fury driving out other concerns.

It saw, just for a moment, the man standing above a bathtub in a tiled room that was both alien and somehow familiar. In the tub, eyes bulging, arms hanging limply over the sides, gouges torn into the wrists that turned them into lipless mouths that grinned death and spoke blood, was a woman.

Something about this woman fueled the thirst’s anger, made it determined to kill the man it found itself hiding within. In the image, the wrists of his red sport coat were wet. His fingers were pruny. In his left hand he held a pocketknife stained with rust and fresh blood. The sense of satisfaction in the image was almost a physical thing. The thirst could practically hear the man muttering to himself about a job well done. He had killed this woman, and had enjoyed it.

The red haze grew stronger, overtaking the image and leaving nothing but a crimson void. The thirst wailed, wanting more, but knowing it was powerless against the forced slumber that was coming.

But, as before, there would be a period of waking to follow. Retribution would follow that. The thirst demanded it.


KA Spiral no signature


NaNoWriMo, Week 2 — Ham ‘N Eggs

The diary of someone else’s NaNaWriMo journey; stop by and show some support, eh? (Comments are disabled here; please visit the original post.)

Friday started out pretty rough. I only got 800 words, and since I have been pounding out over 1000 a day typically, I was feeling discouraged. I sensed a wall coming, one I wouldn’t be able to break through, and then came Saturday and my kiddos. I was concerned not much writing would get done […]

via NaNoWriMo, Week 2 — Ham ‘N Eggs


Drowning in Social Media

How many social media accounts is “enough?” How many is “too many?” How many is “oh my God, are you some kind of hermit who wants to die alone?”

I don’t know. I don’t think there’s a hard answer to that for everyone. But I do know a lot of us end up with sign-ins to dozens of sites, frequently ones we never use, don’t know how to use, and potentially don’t even remember signing up for.

How many are required to raise awareness of your brand of creative output? Which ones serve that purpose? Which ones are just dead weight that make anyone who stumbles across it assume you’re dead or stopped producing things?

I don’t know that, either.

What I do know is that I have this site, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Twitch, and try to use them fairly regularly. I have no idea why I have a Pinterest, I just do. Stop judging me. There’s a Facebook Page out there somewhere that I can’t log into and used to be linked to my Twitter and this site, but I have no idea if it still is or what’s going on over there. (The last time I saw anything actually go there when it was supposed to was when Friday the 13th for PS4 came out and I was complaining about the long wait times to get into a game, so that was in May or June of 2017.) I have an account on Nimses, but don’t understand what it’s for or how to use it, and haven’t logged into it since… February or so? I think?

Pretty sure I had a Yahoo Answers, Quora, and Yahoo Groups membership… but I don’t know what the logins were or if I even care. I’m sure there are others I’ve forgotten.

What about you out there? What social media do you use, what do you have accounts for that you don’t touch, and are there any dusty ones you’ve forgotten you ever used at all? Let us know down below!

KA Spiral no signature



Chrysanthemum Graves decided it wanted to do it’s own thing. A character who wasn’t supposed to exist (except maybe as background decoration) butted in and said “Excuse me, but I believe I am the villain of this piece.”

It was supposed to be a struggle between one ex-Yakuza and the ghost of his dead fiancee. Now the father of that fiancee has gotten involved, is probably the reason she’s haunting anyone at all, and is a bigger tool than one thought possible.

Now I’m torn. Do I try to force it back to where Akane was the only villain (reluctant, cursed, or otherwise), or do I let Arai run rampant, potentially to the level of laying a smackdown on my MC when he thinks he’s safe?

I can’t decide. Thankfully, I don’t need to come back to either Akane or Arai’s POV for a little bit, so they can simmer in the back brain and argue over who’s the actual antagonist of the story.

Anyone else have this issue? Have your supposed villains stepped aside without planning to reveal someone else as the bad guy? Do your antagonists argue with each other over who’s actually the baddest of the bad? Share your stories below!

KA Spiral no signature


How to Find Your Way Back to Writing #WritingCommunity — BlondeWriteMore

Some things anyone lost in the forest of writer’s block might need to hear. (Comments disabled below; please visit the original post.)

Ever since I published Instructions for Falling in Love Again I have struggled to find my way back to writing. Soon after my debut novel launched I threw myself into my second book; working title Heartbreak Cafe. This is a story which has been through six drafts and the Romantic Novelists New Writers Scheme. I had […]

via How to Find Your Way Back to Writing #WritingCommunity — BlondeWriteMore


Snippet: Chrysanthemum Graves

Despite my previous complaints, I am still slamming my head against the wall, hoping to get as much of Chrysanthemum Graves done as I can during the month, even if I don’t hit the 50k. We’re riding in not quite at the 5k mark right now. That may be sad, but it’s also more than I’ve managed to put on a manuscript in months… maybe years. So… progress?

I’ve also managed to post something here every day for 100 days in a row. That feels reasonably accomplished. I’m trying.

To celebrate, I thought I’d share a chunk of Chrysanthemum Graves. Let me know what you think. If you want to be buddies for NaNo, I’m listed as Kaine Andrews over there, too. Or you can stalk me on Twitter. And, usual shameless plug, if you like what I do and want to help me keep doing it, you can drop by my Patreon or drop a dime in the bucket for my surgery GoFundMe. Thanks, and enjoy!


The thirst came first. Desperate, gnawing, unbearable thirst. The entirety of existence was akin to the Mojave, with no respite in sight.
Sight. That was next. Darkness, brightening to white as though someone was toying with the options on a television remote. Then scaling back to a happy medium, where shapes and colors were recognizable, though all tinged with a blue-gray haze. Then, as though that invisible hand upon the remote was continuing to press buttons, the blue darkened to violet before brightening again to red. Everything looked as though it had been soaked in blood or seen through a rage-tainted lens.
This brought back the thirst. It was a physical thing, clawing and biting inside. For what remained unknown, but it had to be fed.
Hearing came after that. The rustling of something burrowing into the suede couch that sat directly ahead. The skittering of a spider somewhere in the wall, a violin melody of webs being spun and woven. The rush of water and hiss of air running through the pipes.
The water in the pipes stank, awakening the sense of smell. Nothing about it was appealing, even when propped against the monstrous thirst that threatened to consume everything. Cold, clear, filled with purifiers and minerals and small bits of the metal tubes through which it traveled. The taste of it was even worse, burrowing inside like a noxious worm seeking only to destroy and corrode everything it touched.
Recoiling in revulsion, the thirst caught wind of something else. A smell that matched the colors, that called to the thirst with a sweet song of relief. There. The other room.
As though the thought alone was sufficient, the bed appeared. A figure, sleeping. The smell was heavenly, ambrosia to the soul. Sweat, tinged with the salts and hormones of deep fear and deeper grief. Warm flesh, upon which hundreds of tiny hairs could be seen standing at attention. Beneath both, a glorious red smell, pushed outward with each of the figure’s sighing breaths. This is what the thirst wanted.
The figure’s throat, throbbing with the pulse that called those red rides and kept them flowing. This is what the thirst wanted most.
The thirst demanded it. Tangled itself around that fragile neck, tightening like a noose and lapping at the flesh like a timid but eager lover. Beads of blood seeped through the skin, and as the thirst drew them in the feeling was orgasmic.
The body thrashed, pulling away. The thirst, not sated but only growing, tried to tighten its grip. Whatever force animated it refused to obey. Weakness rippled through it, taste and hearing fading away, sight dimming.
The thirst cried out, still craving the life beneath it, but those words were echoes of echoes at best, unheard and useless.
Nothingness claimed it, and the thirst slept again. But this time, there were dreams… and they were red.


KA Spiral no signature

Show your support

Adopt an Artist

Take pity, and eternal gratitude will be yours; helps keep this site running and the words flowing.

PayPal Donate Button


Follow Insomniac Nightmares on