Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Special

For all books bought directly from the MuseItUp Bookstore, get 25% off any purchase from today until December 10th. Including, of course, my book, "The Ghost of Grover's Ridge."

Use code: HC2010D at checkout in the discount code box before going to Paypal.

From all of us at the Muse,
we want to wish you Happy Holidays!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

New Christmas Anthology (with my story in it, of course)

Whortleberry Press has just released a new Christmas Anthology, "Christmas: Peace On (All The) Earth(s)" with my story, "Peace Corps," in it. It can be gotten at

Incidentally, if you missed last year's Christmas Anthology, "Christmas in Outer Space" with my story "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Offog" in it, that is still available at

Monday, July 19, 2010

Free Range Fairy Tales anthology

Whortleberry Press ( announced the publication of its new "Free Range Fairy Tales" anthology, including a story "Hansel and Gretel" by Muse's own SF/Fantasy author James Hartley.

Anyone who remembers the Fractured Fairy Tales on the old Bullwinkle show has a good idea what's going on. If not, well, all we can say is "These ain't your Grandfather's Fairy Tales"

Friday, July 16, 2010

How I Write a Novel (or Anything Else)

Digging through some old stuff, I found the following article. Someone asked me to do it for their 'zine, but then never used it. So I figured, what the heck, put it on here. Enjoy.

How do I write, let me count the ways ... There are a lot of
different ways to write a novel, or a short story, or anything
else. I do more short stories than novels, but the principles
are the same.

It would seem that the easiest way is the classic "start at the
beginning, go on until you come to the end, then stop." This may
work for some people, but not for me, at least not for a novel,
or even a fairly long short story. It can work OK for flash
fiction and really short short stories.

No, for longer works I have found the way that works best for
me. I write the beginning of the story, to make sure the thing
is well launched. Then I write the ending, so I know where I'm
going. And then I go back and fill in the middle. Sound strange?
Maybe it is, but it seems to work. Of course, by the time you
have the middle done, you'll have to go back and rewrite the
beginning and end. But you're going to have to do that anyway,
so don't worry about it.

Back in prehistoric times when writers used primitive tools like
quill pens or typewriters, it made sense to write a first draft
all the way through, then a second draft all the way through,
and so on. The only way to edit was to cross out mistakes with
your quill pen, then retype the whole thing. And if you were a
terrible typist like me, you might end up having to pay for
professional retyping before submitting.

Wake up, gang, we have computers and word processors now. Fixing
a typo is simple, even if you're a rotten typist. And changing
things is easy. You just decided that "Chapter 7" should go
after "Chapter 3"? Move it. You suddenly get a great idea that
goes somewhere in the middle? Put in a new chapter in the
appropriate place. Hung up on what to call the evil wizard?
Don't break your concentration trying to think of a name, call
him Zamboni (yeah, the thing on the ice rink) and keep on
writing. Later one single command will change every "Zamboni" to

I hope I don't have to tell you to save your work often. But
when you get to a significant milestone in the writing, do a
special save. If your story is in file "fledermaus.odt," save a
copy in a special "drafts" directory as
"fledermaus_draft_062508.odt." Oh, by the way, that ".odt" thing
... I use a free office suite called "" which
saves as ".odt" by default. I highly recommend it.

As you're working, stop and read through what you have already
written once in a while, picking up both errors and better ways
to say something. Maybe read it out loud, sometimes you can hear
something that grates on the ear where you wouldn't see it in
print. But please, please, please don't wait until you're done
to start revising. At least if you're using a computer; if
you're still writing on stone with a hammer and chisel I don't
know what to suggest.

I will also mention that I don't do formal outlines. You can use
chapter stubs with a sentence or two in them as sort of an
on-the-fly outline, sometimes that's helpful. Some people like
outlines, so feel free to use them if they make you comfortable.
But they are not required.

* * * *

Then of course we have to worry about "Ideas." Where do you get
them? Everywhere! Any time you think of something that might be
an idea, write it down. Put it in a file in your computer and
never, never discard it. Review your idea files periodically.
Some ideas will never go anywhere, but some will ... and you
never know which is which.

I looked back in my notes file and found a line that read "A
girl named 'Ontario Higgins'." Where the heck did that come
from? I have no idea, and I may never use it. Or maybe I will, I
have this vague feeling that she's a starship captain.

Taking another look back, I found a short entry about a girl
with black hair and a white forelock, in a white jogging suit.

Yeah, I remember that one. The jogging suit vanished, the girl
became a vampire, and the story was published as "Bloodbank
Encounter." So keep all those ideas!

* * * *

You have to market your stories. You'll never sell anything
that's sitting in your desk drawer. When a market rejects a
story (and believe me, they will!) you should immediately send
that market another story, and send that story to another
market. Keep them out there, circulating. And always look for
the chance to submit to a higher paying market where possible.

But, never pay a reading fee! I just ignore any market that
charges a reading fee. That goes for contests, too. I will only
enter contests that do not charge an entry fee. The idea is that
you want them to pay money to you, not have you pay money to

And one more thing, don't send snail-mail submissions unless the
market is a top-paying one, like five cents a word or better
(Analog, Asimov's, ...). It just isn't worth the cost of a
snail-mail submission to a market that pays a half cent a word,
or copies, or exposure.

* * * *

So there you go, gang, that's how I do it. If you're just
starting, you might want to follow some of these suggestions. If
you've been at it for a while, you may still find some helpful
tips. Now get out there, boot up your word processor, and get
busy writing.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Rejection ( a free flash story)

Megan didn't realize how loudly she had been chanting until her
husband Phil poked his nose into her basement workroom.
"Something wrong, Hon?" he asked.

"No, sorry. I was just casting a spell on this manuscript before
I mail it in."

"Casting a spell on a manuscript? I never heard of that, what
does it do?"

"This is my new story, and I'm sending it to Ultra Fantasy. They
keep sending rejections, and I really want to sell something to
them. Having something published in Ultra Fantasy has been my
dream ever since I started writing." She paused, then licked and
sealed the envelope, and inscribed a pentagram across the edge
of the flap. "This is sort of a love potion mixed with a zombie
spell. They'll never be able to resist publishing it,"

"I hope," Phil frowned, "that you know what you're doing."

* * * *

Megan was a witch. In fact she was a very good witch. She could
cast a spell or brew a potion with the best of them. But she'd
been bitten by the writer's bug, she desperately wanted to
write, and to see her writing in print.

The problem was that she was not a very good writer. Oh, she
could spell, her grammar was good, her sentences parsed
perfectly. It was on coming up with ideas that she was sadly

When she first started, she got a book on writing. It made a
point of "write what you know," so she did. What she knew was
witchcraft and magic, so that's what she wrote. She depicted the
practice of magic in loving, painstaking detail. Too much
detail. Much too much detail.

One rejection slip read, "Try submitting this as a 'How-to'
piece for Popular Witchcraft."

Megan showed it to Phil and asked his advice.

Phil thought carefully about his answer, remembering once or
twice when he had been frozen for a week when Megan didn't like
his advice. Finally, he said, "Try branching out. Use a little
magic, and some nonmagical stuff. Sort of cross-genre."

Megan tried his advice, but it didn't help much. Not only did
Ultra Fantasy refuse to buy "Gunfight at the Orc Corral," but
the story was also rejected by Lassos and Lariats.

And she was rather upset at some of the remarks made by the
editor of Spaceward Bound when she sent him "Cauldron to the
Stars," a tale of a flight to Tau Ceti. She had the spaceship
able to exceed the speed of light by using a magic potion as

Oh, she sold a few stories to the quarter-cent-a-word markets,
and to the pays-in-copies markets. But she got nowhere with the
big magazines, especially Ultra Fantasy. She finally decided to
cheat, and she cast a spell on her manuscript before sending it

* * * *

Phil was watching football on the TV when Megan went out to get
the mail. He hadn't moved a muscle when she came back in, so she
stopped to check that she hadn't accidentally frozen him. But a
quick look at the screen reassured her; it was the Giants-Jets
game and he was self-paralyzed from trying to decide which team
to root for. She went on down the cellar with the mail.

Her screams were enough to rouse Phil from his dilemma, and he
went down the steps three at a time. Megan was sitting on the
floor, tears streaming down her face. An open envelope was on
her lap and the rest of the mail was scattered around. Something
small and red, with wings, horns, and a tail, was buzzing around

"What's the matter, Megan? What happened? Are you OK?" asked
Phil anxiously.

"Oh, Phil," she sobbed, "remember that story I put a spell on,
so they'd have to buy it?" Phil nodded. "Well, they sent me,"
she sobbed harder, "they sent me ..." She batted futilely at the
little red thing, and her voice rose almost to a scream, "They
sent me a rejection demon!"

New Blog

Hi, gang. James Hartley, author of "The Ghost of Grover's Ridge" and other works, soon to be published by MuseItUp Publishing, here. Just giving this thing a try, feel free to chime in. If you'd like, you can also take a look at my website.