My first attempt at some sort of traditional publication has ended in rejection, sadly. I wrote a post-apocalyptic short story entitled When The Last Soul is Claimed about the Grim Reaper’s fate after she claims the final soul on earth and submitted it to Tor, the short fiction imprint. After about three months of waiting I received a reply yesterday:

Dear Mx. Stocking,

  Thanks so much for submitting to, and for your patience while we evaluated your story. Unfortunately, “When The Last Soul is Claimed” is not quite right for us. I wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere.

Best, Submissions Staff

I’m fairly certain the “Mx” was a typo.

Admittedly, I was somewhat confident that my short story was good enough, and due to the volume of submissions they get I’m quite sure they really aren’t able to provide any feedback. That being said, I still kept the idea of rejections as a prevalent outcome of this endeavor, and I’m certain that’s one of the reasons why receiving the email wasn’t soul crushing, nor was it painful. In fact, it provided me with a surprising amount of inspiration to get back to it, to move on, and shop my story around elsewhere. I made significant work on Wasteland Gods yesterday, and even surprised myself when one of my favorite characters met an untimely demise.

I’m ultimately surprised at my reaction to my first rejection, and I’m somewhat excited to hang the letter above my desk where I have no doubt others will join it. Rejection is an inevitable part of this business, and while self-publishing has reduced both the amount and severity of rejection I’ve received–so far, anyway–I’m confident that I’ll be able to land something somewhere as I work on transitioning to more traditional publication attempts.

All it Takes is the Right Story (Oh, and a Ton of Hard Work)

I’ve been told on several occasions that all it takes to “hit it big” is to tell the right story.

“All you need is the right story and you’ll be famous,” they tell me.

“All you need is the right story and they’ll make it into a movie,” they said. “Then you’ll be rich and famous.”

As if it’s just that easy. Bang out the “right” story and you’re golden. No, literally. You could have a gold statue of yourself made because you’re rolling in book and movie money.

That has me wondering: what is the “right” story? I mean, I’ve published several novels and no one has offered me butt loads of money or a movie deal, so does that mean I’m writing the wrong stories? Does that mean my stories aren’t good? My characters are weak? My themes are rotten?

You know what? It’s beginning to sound like this writing thing has a bit more to it than just telling the “right” story. It sounds a bit like it takes time and effort to carefully craft brilliant characters, a perfect story line, suspense, action, adventure, romance, danger. And, in the end, you may only end up selling ten copies. It’s perfectly plausible that you may write the “right” story and still end up on your ass with no money.

In fact, sometimes–and I really do mean sometimes–it seems like you will inevitably end up on your ass with no money, no matter how hard you worked on that book.

Before I became a writer, I would read a book and have no idea how much work went into it. How many months–sometimes years–went into the writing, editing, revision, publishing, and marketing process. I just read the words, enjoyed the book, or not, and went on my way. Granted, I’d done my fair share of writing. But I’d never completed a book, nor had I looked into what sort of process it took to create a finished product and distribute it to the masses. As far as I knew, the author just hammered it out, gave it a once over, and off it went to the world.

I was one of those people who believed you just wrote it, and if it was good you were set for life. I understand where people are coming from when they think all it takes is the “right” story to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. And yet that still doesn’t make it any easier when people say it to me now. Maybe it’s just the human condition to get aggravated when someone makes light of the writing process–of my dream career–or maybe it makes perfect sense. Whatever the reason, I understand that it takes really getting into the craft of something to fully understand how it works, and the complexity of every part of it.

People are so quick to generalize something or write it off because people are successful at it. As if it’s the easiest thing in the world. When in reality it takes much more hard work than people think, and even after all that hard work it seems as if luck plays the biggest role out of all of it. Sometimes it takes the right person seeing it, the right cover, or the right description. But I believe that “right” stories are written all the time. Just as “right” covers, descriptions, and people play roles in the book process and even then sometimes nothing, or very little, may come of it. But it’s become clear over the years that writers don’t write for the fame or the money, they write because they have to. Because they don’t want to stop, no matter how many terrible reviews they get or how famous it makes them. Writing is fun. It’s exciting. It’s exhausting. It makes me want to scream. But I love looking at my bookshelf and seeing my name in print next to so many others, and it just further reminds me why I keep at it.


It’s interesting how much things can change when writing. For those of us who don’t plot out our novels–and I’m sure that even for some who do–things can change in a flash as the story unfolds. Character motivations can change. Characters themselves can change. Plot, personalities, history, everything can change so quickly, and sometimes that requires us to change things around.

This realization that something needed to change has been growing for a few days now. I was telling my wife about the recent happenings in my current work in progress, DEADGOD. I told her about some characters’ plans and their roles in the novel, along with what they’re going to eventually come to realize. How they’ll change, or arc, if you will, and what they’ll learn. She then said to me, “I don’t think that title fits anymore.” And me, still enjoying the name DEADGOD, tried to find a way that the title still fit the book. Mostly because I’m so horrible at coming up with names that I didn’t want to go through the pain of trying to think up a new one. However, as I was thinking about my characters and their current situations yesterday, I eventually came to realize that, once again, my wife was right. While DEADGOD fit one of the characters, it didn’t fit the overall theme of the book, nor did it fit the other two main characters’ personalities.

That’s when the struggle began. My characters had morphed into something I didn’t think they would. As their roles in the novel became more apparent, their actions and beliefs changed, and somehow I had to think of a title that encompassed all of it, along with a brand new cover to go with it. I tossed around this name and that name, writing it down on the old cover to see how it looked, trying out various fonts and colors in the editor to see how it blended together. And, finally, with the help of my friend, Karen, I settled on a name that I really enjoy, and I hope you will, too.

So, at long last, feast your eyes on the brand new cover and title of: Wasteland Gods


Click to view larger

There is no hope in the unforgiving wasteland. Only the starved, withering Insurgents. The insane, cannibalistic Roamers. Slavers, Raiders, and death await in the sweltering heat.

The Koval Republic, a utopia filled with clean water and food, shelter, and protection. A land saved by politicians, greed, and ignorance. A republic that looks down upon the Insurgents, offering no help or remorse. Instead, they lay siege to the Insurgent’s meager settlements, hoping to wipe the mongrels from what remains of the planet.

Anton, a religion-hating Insurgent in a world void of faith who only hopes for salvation from the wasteland seeks freedom and fairness.

Claire, a soldier of the Republic, banished to the wastes, struggling to survive. Begging to return to her old life.

Roland, a soldier like Claire, taken in by bloodthirsty slavers who aim to bring democracy and the people’s voice back to the world.

Who will live long enough to see if redemption can be brought to the wasteland, and who will buckle beneath the crushing force of the Koval Republic, and the crippling dangers of the wasteland?

Coming 2015!


Monday Recap: Rejection, Sales, Expansion

It’s interesting how sometimes, after receiving bad news, a whole lot of good news comes through.

I interviewed for a staff writer job at the newspaper I freelance for, and I found out yesterday that I didn’t get it. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, seeing as how I’ve been writing for them for close to a year now, but I guess the powers-that-be at that newspaper have decided I wasn’t a good fit, but I’ll continue working as a freelance correspondent. So, not terrible news, but not good news, seeing as how I still have this degree and I’m not using it to its full potential.

However, yesterday some pretty cool things happened that seemed to outweigh that bad news, at least for now, anyway.

First, I sold some books, which  always makes my day better. Knowing that someone was interested enough in what I had to say, and knowing that I potentially have the chance to get a new fan, make someone else’s day better, and, who knows, maybe even change a life, is fantastic.

Second, selling books bumped up one of my Amazon sales ranks!

crimsonappletop100Not long after that, I discovered that both The Rotten Apple and Black Powder Brigade are available on the Barnes and Noble Website!

And, finally, this morning I discovered that I sold more books, bumping up my sales rank for The Crimson Apple even further.


Overall, what started off as a day that promised to be less-than-hopeful turned out to be not so bad after all. So, thank you to all my readers, to everyone who has bought, checked out, glanced at, and given my writing a chance. It’s because of you that I continue to do what I do, and that I will keep at it until I no longer can.

DEADGOD: Understanding the Theme

Progress on my current WIP, DEADGOD, has been pretty slow as of late. I’ve really only been working on it about once or twice a week, maybe contributing 300 – 1,000 words on any of those days. I used to attribute it to my large course load during my final semester of college, which had me writing a lot of pretty big papers and reading a lot of texts. But now I don’t have any of that. I have my degree, but I’m still working on getting a full-time job. I have an abundance of free time, which also means I’m not making much money (Although, if you’re inclined to help me out then click on one of the book covers to your left and pick up a copy of one of my books!)

However, I’ve had what appears to be some sort of revelation the past few days. When I started DEADGOD I wanted to write some kind of book about cultural, religious, and social tolerance. I wanted to make a social commentary on American culture, seeing as how that’s the one I’m most familiar with, and show how intolerance can shape the world into an awful place. In order to do that, I created a religiously intolerant character in a world with one remaining religious man. I had a concept, and I knew how I wanted this religiously intolerant character to arc and learn from his behavior, but there was just something missing on my part. Something wasn’t driving me to tell this story. Part of it was because I really wasn’t pushing myself to sit down and write, which I can only blame on myself. But I think I’ve realized that I had a basic idea of the theme I wanted to convey in this novel, but I hadn’t really figured out how I was going to show it.

Now, as some of you may know, I write a column entitled Maglomediac in which I study and analyze various media. I think this has really helped me to understand the themes I want to tell in this novel and nail them down. When people think of the word media, most often they think of the news, meaning that I’ve been taking a look at it more on a cultural level–why it’s happening, to whom it’s happening, is it a result of some kind of social stigma? pseudo-environment? and things of that nature–which has allowed me to see it on a deeper level and apply it to my writing.

I now have some of the tools to be able to show the ideas and themes I want to portray in this book. By showing religious intolerance, political and religious zeal, and some of the concepts and ideas that are common today, which one could argue are contributing to a sort of devolution and backwards thinking in society, I can show why we need to correct these behaviors. Or, at least, I can show why I think we need to correct these behaviors.

After finally unearthing the deeper ideas about what exactly I want to show with this novel, not only have I been motivated to create the characters and world needed to show the themes I want to convey, but it has definitely made the writing stronger, too. It has given me a further look into the characters motivations and beliefs, and I can see much more clearly now why these character think, act, and speak the ways in which they do, and I think it’s making my novel really strong, and when it’s finished it will certainly

GUEST POST: J.S. Collyer

10382262_661343403958476_7130056436231839549_oI have an awesome guest on my blog today. I don’t recall exactly how we connected on this massive blogosphere. I suppose chance is the best explanation for it. Either way, she has grown immensely over the time I’ve known her, and now she’s here to talk about her debut novel, ZERO.

I want to start off by offering my thanks to Chris for giving me the opportunity to do a post for his blog. Chris Stocking is one of the first writers I ever started following on WordPress and his drive and passion really encouraged me to keep on striving toward my own goals.

I’m thrilled that I have reached the first of these goals: my first novel, Zero, a SciFi story of one crew’s fight for freedom and survival in an uncaring universe, is being released by Dagda Publishing 16th August 2014.

The full synopsis can be found on my my WordPress, along with a link to a Crowdfunding campaign that is doing very well raising money for the marketing which also gives readers a chance to pre-order signed copies and more, and the book launch is going ahead at UK’s Fantasticon – a SciFi and gaming convention in Hull.

So it really is all happening. I’m so pleased but also, in my quieter moments, I’m still a little scared and also a little unbelieving. The biggest thing preying on my mind is: what’s next?

I’ve got this far…but there’s so much further to go.

Lots of writers, myself included, when they start out only plan towards writing that first novel. It’s a major challenge, there’s no doubt. It has taken me a long time to get to the point where I had the confidence, the experience and the deadline to write a book. When those three things all came together, the first draft took me a measly 4 months. 4 months of very hard work, and it has since seen upwards of three brutal editing sessions which have taken the same time again and more, but still…I did it. I proved to myself if can be done. But now I just have this feeling that the first novel is just creating more and wider opportunities that need to be taken.

So what now?

Well, the answer is I need to write the next book. And so that’s what’ I’m doing now. My draft of Haven, Zero’s sequel, currently stands at 40,000 words and I want the draft done by the end of this year. It’s taking longer than Zero did, as I’m also juggling marketing & promoting Zero with a full time job and maintaining my blog. But if you want something enough you make the time and you don’t give up.

Zero got a publishing deal simply because I never stopped trying. I wrote other things, started other novel, only to leave them half-finished and half-forgotten in the recesses of various hard drives. But the whole time, I was keeping in touch online with the writing and publishing world, reading posts by people like Chris and many others and their experience with publishing and writing to keep my engaged and keep me going.

That’s how I found Dagda, who at first only released poetry but then branched out to fiction. They accepted first one then another of my short stories for their science fiction anthologies Tuned to a Dead Channel and All Hail the New Flesh. And then they looked to branch out into novels…

I already had an idea for a science fiction story in my head so I knew I had to seize the opportunity and capitalise on their interest in my fiction. I pitched the story and they wanted the draft. They read the draft and wanted the novel. And so it happened.

But this is only the beginning. I’m still networking, still researching, still writing. That last is the most important. Keep writing. Even if you’re tired, even if you’re busy, even if you’ve scrapped three novel drafts already (like me), if you want to get somewhere, just don’t stop.

It may, no, it will take time, effort and commitment, but keep at it and keep enjoying it. You’ll be amazed at how opportunities come together when you leave yourself open to them.

J. S. Collyer is a SciFi and Speculative Fiction Writer from Lancaster, UK.

‘Like’ her at or follow her on Twitter @JexShinigami.

Fiction and blog found at and the Facebook event for ‘Fantasticon’, SciFi convention which will be Zero’s book launch, can be found here:

Maglomediac – My New Column about Media

As some of you may know, I write for a pop-culture, op-ed magazine called Maglomaniac. Some of you may also remember that I used to have a column called Mr. Write in which I talked about general writing stuff, the writing process, and things of that nature. Well, during my last semester of college I took on a huge course load, which meant I really didn’t have a lot of time for anything else. I had a lot of really large papers, one of which was especially large, so by the time I got done working on all of that I had little energy for writing of any other kind. My column fell to the way side as I focused the bulk of my energy on schoolwork.

Photo by Jim Danvers Photography

After several papers, tests, and tons of readings, I finally finished my last semester of my undergraduate degree! As long as I receive a passing grade on all my classes from last semester I’ll have my bachelor’s degree, which is exciting and a little scary, I suppose, now that I really need to find full-time work, or start selling more books (hint, hint!)

However, I’m at another sort of transition in my life. My degree is in journalism with a minor in English, and I used to be all about working for a newspaper (until this author thing starts paying off a little more). But, now, after doing a little freelance work and checking out a few other options, I find that I’m getting more into marketing and studying media and communications. I don’t want to work at a newspaper, partly because they’re dying, and pretty much all of the guest speakers who came to talk to my classes over the past three years told us how little money there is in journalism and how hard the work is. I don’t want that anymore. I’m not afraid to admit that I want to do more lucrative work. I want to have a comfortable lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to work hard. As many of you know, writing in and of itself is extremely hard work, paired with the struggles of everyday life.

After a fair amount of contemplation, and after writing my longest paper on the effects of advertising on American culture during the Cold War, I decided I want to get my master’s degree at some point, but not for a few years. Right now I need to focus on establishing a decent income. I still have a long time to get my master’s, and I’d like to do something else besides be a student right now.

However, I find I still have a large interest in media despite being out of school. So, that puts me at the point of this post: I’ve started a new column at Maglomaniac entitled Maglomediac in which I analyze and discuss various aspects of the media from news, to television, to books. It’s something I’d like to focus my master’s degree around if possible, so I figured why not start now? I have access to databases to find academic articles, and I made friends with some professors with whom I plan to keep in touch who can help me as well. This should be a really exciting new venture, and I’m looking forward to writing up a new post each month. Because media is so huge and is constantly changing, there will certainly be something new to write about all the time.

In fact, my first column went live today! You can check it out here. Give it a read, and I’d love some feedback!


My final semester of college is winding down to completion, so I’m starting to get some of my creative energy back. This is one of the most writing-intensive semesters I’ve had during my college career, and it’s been draining. But it’s also a semester during which I’ve learned the most about how people operate in regards to the media. I’ve learned a lot of communication theories and been a part of several discussions about why people react to and interact with the media in the ways they do, which I think will not only be beneficial to my professional life, in that I believe I have a better understanding of how to potentially operate a company’s brand based on what I understand of consumer reactions to marketing and media, but also in the sense that it will make my characters more real. It will help to add to that third dimension that is so crucial to characters.

I think I’ll be able to craft a better novel with some of the information I’ve learned this semester also because I think I’ve learned how to better analyze society. I can look at an event and see different reactions and potentially come up with an idea as to why certain people reacted that way, be it gender or sexual bias, a matter of religion, or some form of communication theory as a result of whatever is currently being portrayed in the media. This is a good thing, and it’s also why I’m excited to officially reveal my next project:


A preliminary cover for DEADGOD


I know my last post indicated that I will be attempting to traditionally publish my next novel. That I will be attempting to land an agent. However, that’s really up in the air right now. Having some time to reflect since the release of The Rotten Apple, I like having so much control over my work, and DEADGOD has a lot of my personal viewpoints on society and religion–exaggerated to some degree–placed in a post-apocalyptic world that I think I really need a lot of control over. That being said, I may attempt to submit it to some smaller indie presses. But for now, allow me, if you will, to give you a sort of synopsis/description of what is turning out to be DEADGOD.

God is dead. Nuclear fallout has destroyed the planet, save for a chunk of  northeastern United States: An expanse of barren land surrounding a utopia owned by Koval Unlimited Security Force’s president, Tai Koval.

In the wasteland, the Insurgents live in the ruins of the cities, fending off Roamers–those men and women unlucky enough to have been poisoned by radiation, turning them into raving lunatics, feeding on living flesh.

There is no hope for salvation. There is no hope of a savior. Only one man still believes, still has faith in God. But that one man is shunned. A fool named Milton living among the Insurgents, never to have the respect of anyone.

The Insurgent pseudo-leader, a broken man by the name of Anton, leads the charge against Koval Unlimited, hoping to bring down the tyrannical government which has been plaguing them since before the fallout.

A world already corrupt beyond destruction falls deeper into chaos as a new war rages. As Milton begs for faith in God and Anton struggles to fight tyranny from government and religion, it seems as if what life remains is destined to crumble in his grasp…

…And perhaps it will.


As always, let me know what you think!

Imminent Change – I’m Going Traditional

I’m learning self-publishing may not be for me.

I’ve been a self-published author for close to four years now. I’ve handled the writing, most of the editing, the formatting, and the marketing essentially all on my own, with some help from some writer friends. I like to think that I’ve really honed my skills over the years, and, well, it’s just not working. I love the writing and the freedom of self-publishing, but the sales just aren’t there. This isn’t to say I’m only doing it for the money, but I’d like to receive some monetary compensation for my work. And, well, I just don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Blogging, social media, and conversation, and I’m just not seeing the results I want. I’m not where I want to be. I’m not where I should be right now. I’ve published nine works in these four years, and I feel that I should have more than I do. I take this writing thing seriously, and I want to make a career out of it, and so far self-publishing isn’t the way it’s going to happen.

So what’s next?

I’m writing, of course. I’m working on a post-apocalyptic novel which has a working title of Koval Unlimited. I like the way it’s turning out so far. It’s dark, and everything has a matter of life and death to it. It also has a lot of my personal views on religion to it–in that I don’t believe in a higher being–which is something I don’t often discuss in any aspect of my life. Because of that, I think it has a really provocative allure to it. It’s still in its early stages, though, so we’ll see how it turns out.

When it’s done, I plan to begin querying agents. That’s something I’ve been putting off for a few months now, but I just need to do it. That’s the only way to get it done and find out if I’m a real contender in the writing world.

More details will follow as things progress, and I’m still getting in the frame of mind that this is something that isn’t easy and could take years to accomplish, but I think I have the drive for it. If I can do as much as I have in these past four years, I know I’m capable of doing this.