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Going Down the Grimdark Road of Conviction

June 14, 2015

Now that Aconitum is complete, it’s time to tell you about my next serial. First, here’s the cover:

ConvictionI decided to go for something very different from my last one for this and feature the main character on the cover instead of something simple and symbolic.

Conviction takes place in the same fantasy world as a few of my other stories. In fact, one of the characters in it is the protagonist of a story I wrote ten years ago, and he has popped up in two other novels since then. None of them have been published, but perhaps I will get back to working on his story after Conviction.
In any case, Conviction is a complete work in itself, so even though it’s set in the same world as other stories, it’s entirely independent (and I hope that if I someday publish the others, the crossover characters will be little easter eggs for readers to enjoy if they notice).

I wrote the first draft of Conviction in the autumn of 2013. That’s a year after Aconitum, and between them I wrote a middle grade fantasy story (which I’m still working on). I’ve hoped to publish Conviction since its main character showed up in my head, but my main concern was that it was too short. At around 30K words, I felt it was fairly complete, but that’s nowhere near novel length (in comparision, Aconitum is just over 90K words).

Well, then something happened a little while ago. I learnt that the publisher Black Hill Press has teamed up with JukePop for a novella competition, and I realised that Conviction is actually a novella. It has more scope than a short story (and is a lot longer), but its focus is on only a few characters, and the timespan of it is short compared to most novels. So I’ve been working hard those past few weeks to get the first chapters ready for serialisation. The first one went live only a few minutes ago.

So what’s it actually about? Well, have a blurb:

In a world where wizardry is an integrated part of warfare, some kinds of magic are considered too dark and destructive to be acceptable even for military use.
Iliya Radov awaits his sentence for war crimes, and it soon turns out that his fate is in the hands of one of the continent’s most influential men who insists on hearing Iliya’s side of the story before the trial.
Conviction is a tale of courage and carnage. It is a universal story of poverty, education and ambition, of scars on the human soul and of decisions of life and death that no one wants to make.

Three winners will be picked for paperback publishing and the judges will look closely at the novellas’ analytics. In other words; if you are just a tiny bit curious, I would be super happy if you headed on over to take a look at Conviction. It’s 100% free and If you like it, you can support the novella and help me a great deal by voting for it (you can vote once for each chapter).

Nerdy Necklaces

June 10, 2015

I admit it: I love nerdy accessories and clothes with a stylish design. You know, a bag with a discreet Star Trek reference that people who aren’t familiar with Star Trek will just think of as a cool logo. That sort of thing.


I have a few nerdy necklaces of the writing and reading related kind.

One is shaped like a pencil (I bought it before NaNoWriMo a few years back).

Another is Holden Caulfield’s hat (you know, from J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye).

When I started serialising Aconitum, I got the full moon since werewolves are strongly associated with full moon.

The silver bullet was a birthday gift from a friend, also in honour of Aconitum and the protagonist who is a werewolf hunter.

Sometimes I feel extra inspired by wearing one of those. It’s a bit like saying, “This is something that matters to me. It’s something I want to do.”

Do you have any writing or reading related jewellery or accessories?

The End is Nigh

May 31, 2015

It’s not as ominous as it sounds, I promise. But to me, this is a pretty big deal.

You see, there is only one chapter and an epilogue left of Aconitum to be posted on JukePop (on June 4th and June 6th respectively). The whole novel will stay online, at least for a while, but if you’re interested, it would be super awesome if you headed on over to read or catch up. Aconitum has been in Top 30 every month since September last year, and I would absolutely love to stay there for June as well (because then I get to keep the nifty little banner forever.)

“So what happens now?” you ask, excitedly. I don’t know if you really do, but for the sake of this post, I’m going to pretend that you do. And I for one think it’s a pretty good question.

Hector Rothenberg

Hector Rothenberg as I imagine him in all his scruffy glory.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. But I’m excited. It’s been an amazing ride. When I submitted the first chapter to JukePop, I didn’t know if it would be accepted, and I certainly did not expect to get so many people checking it out, voting for it, following it every week and giving feedback. Knowing that readers are waiting for the next chapter has been very encouraging, and seeing people’s reactions to the events of the novel as they unfold has been extremely valuable to me as a writer. Because of that, I do know two things: 1) It’s not going to be the end of Aconitum. And 2) It’s not the last time I serialise a story.

I have not made up my mind as to what happens to Aconitum next, but I would love to see it on paper. As of now, I’m leaning towards submitting it to international or Danish publishing companies whose profiles are a good fit. But first I will go through another round of editing and add some chapters that are not in the serial.

I’m also planning on treating my readers to an extra short story or two at some point. And Hector just may appear in a joint venture I’m brewing up with another writer. Whether there will be an actual sequel to Aconitum is too early to say, but I’m not ruling out the possibility.

As for my next serial … Remember I spent April writing the first draft of a MG or YA fantasy novel? I had a lot of fun with it, and I really thought that was going to be the next story I wanted to share, maybe after a few months’ break from serialising. But then something else happened.

JukePop and Black Hill Press are teaming up for a novella competition over the summer. The winners will have professional covers and be published as paperbacks. When I read about the competition, it occurred to me that I actually have a complete first draft of a novella that I’ve wanted to work on and eventually publish. So why not give it a try? That’s going to be my next serial. It will be published on JukePop between the end of June and August in weekly installments, but since I have a lot to say about it, all that will go in a different post.

So … those are my plans for the near future. How about you? Do you have any publications coming up or exciting new projects to work on?

An Ode to Notebooks

May 10, 2015

Here’s the thing: No matter how small and handy laptop computers and tablets are getting, I love physical notebooks. You know, the ones with paper pages that you write on with a pen? Yeah, those.

Some of my writing notebooks

A selection of my writing notebooks. Some are for one specific project, others contain various short stories and ideas.

Whenever I get an idea for a new story project, I like to find a suitable notebook for it. That way I can assign pages to the plot, descriptions of the world and the characters and to random thoughts and ideas related to the project (sometimes I do have notes for two or three stories in one book, though).

Writing notes in a book is somehow rewarding. As much as I love writing and editing novels on my computer, there is something almost intimate and inspiring about flipping through pages of handwritten notes.

A funny trend I’ve noticed in myself is switching from A4 sized notebooks to smaller ones (my current one is A6). I think it’s because I used to take them with me for actual story writing in cafés and at write-ins with my critique group, but now I have a laptop for that, so it’s more practical to have a small notebook that I can stuff into a little bag and bring with me anywhere I go. That way, I can always jot down ideas.

Do you keep a physical notebook? If you have one, do you write stories in it as well as ideas?

Gearing Up for Rural Fantasy: Dartmoor Inspiration

March 18, 2015

With CampNaNoWriMo around the corner, I’m doing a bit of research for my project, but some of it I did years ago without even knowing it.

A while back my computer malfunctioned. Luckily I had backupped (phew). Unfortunately, my external hard drive broke before I was done transferring everything (argh). I didn’t lose any of my writing (double phew), but I thought I’d lost a bunch of photos until the other day when I managed to salvage some of them from an even older computer (triple phew).

Some of the pictures were taken on a trip to Devon, England (visiting friend and fellow writer Mike), where I saw the beautiful Dartmoor. Incidentally the story I’m about to start writing takes place in that area, so I thought I’d share a few of my inspiration photos.

I hope you’ll enjoy them!



Tea (an Aconitum short story)

February 24, 2015

Aconitum passed 1000 votes on JukePop Serials! I’m so excited and grateful! To celebrate, I’m having a small contest over at my Facebook page.

I’m also going to share this short story with you. It’s very special to me. You see, it was the first thing I ever wrote about Hector and Peter (it was a small test run before I started writing the actual story). I only did minimal editing to it because I wanted to show what the original idea looked like, so a few details have changed, but overall, the world and the characters are the same. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Disclaimer: This short story contains spoilers for Chapter 13.


“Tea?” Hector looked enquiringly from the teapot on the table to his friend.
Hector retrieved two cups from the cupboard and put them on the table. They were a little worn at the edges, not dirty, but showing evidence of having spent a lot of time on the road and been knocked around quite a bit. The cups had seen better days, too. A faded pattern was just visible, and they had chipped in places. Hector poured the tea, then added milk to his friend’s and a great deal of sugar to his own.
“Thank you, Hector,” said the doctor and accepted the cup. His hands were steady as every surgeon’s needed to be, his fingers long and his nails always clean. The cup seemed to belong better in those hands than in Hector’s. None of them wore a ring. Once the doctor had. Hector never had. “What caused that?”
Hector followed his friend’s glance to the half-healed gash on his own left hand and grinned. “Who knows? No, don’t worry, it was a knife.”
“Hm. Why?” asked the doctor, suspiciously.
“Turned out to be a cattle thief. He did not want to be caught. I handed him in to the authorities afterwards,” Hector explained and lifted the tea to his lips. It was hot and bitter sweet in his mouth, a concoction, his scholarly friend had assured him, that would keep one in good health and help the muscles relax. Personally he used a few mouthfuls of brandy or whisky for that purpose. He reached across the table and picked up his pipe. “Naturally they suspected something else.”
“Yes,” said the doctor, then half changed the subject. “How long are you staying for?”
Hector lit the pipe and inhaled deeply. He knew better than to ask the doctor if he would like to smoke. “A few days at least. I will stay with you as long as I can.”
A thin, but grateful, smile crossed the doctor’s face. “Thank you.” His physique was nothing like Hector’s and probably never had been. He was a scholar first and foremost and had never had to do much manual labour. Still, he was now a distinguished and quite handsome man, and he had a calm, intelligent face.
There was a series of screams from the street below, and both men instinctively turned. Hector’s hand sought the gun holster that was currently not strapped to his waist, but had been left in his own room with the clothes that needed to see a tailor for repairs.
“What is going on?” the doctor asked.
Hector had gone to the window and peered down. It was not yet dark, but the sun would set and the moon would rise soon. “Only a broken barrel and someone who tripped on the contents,” he replied. “Hardly an emergency which requires our expertise.”
His friend laughed, but there was a clear strain in his voice.
“When?” Hector said and returned.
“Not long now,” said the doctor. He took another sip of his tea, then held out the cup for Hector to remove it. “Thank you.”
Hector took the cup and put it back on the table. “Can I do anything more for you?”
Their eyes met. “No, I don’t think so, my friend,” the doctor said. “Please stay well out of reach and forgive me. And … please check the lock once more.”
Hector nodded. “I find none of these things hard to do, as you know.” He reached out and took hold of the lock to the part of the doctor’s room which was separated from the rest by solid metal bars. He pulled at it. “All well.”
“Thank you.”
Hector gave him a smile. “I will see you again in a few days.”



Interview by Joyce T. Strand

February 17, 2015

This isn’t a blog post … Well, it is a blog post, but it isn’t mine. You see, I’ve been interviewed by mystery fiction writer Joyce T. Strand on her blog today. So if you’re curious to hear a bit about my thoughts on heroes and villains, werewolves, writing a serial novel, future story plans, writing in a foreign language and how being a visual media translator impacts my writing, please drop by Strand’s Simply Tips.
Any questions or comments? Feel free to add them on Joyce’s site or here.

interview with m.howalt on joyce stand's blog


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