Behind the Scenes of “Blood Hunter”

Yay! My newest flash fiction story, “Blood Hunter” is available to read on Havok.* It’s a Western about a werewolf bounty hunter whose lycanthropy gives him the ability to track prey by taste. Here, I wanted to share a little about how it took shape.

Like every story for Havok, this one started with the month’s theme. During this fourth season of Havok, each month’s theme is based on a sense. For August, that sense is taste. So I knew taste needed to play a prominent role in the story.

I didn’t have any particular flavors in mind, but I thought it could be interesting to do something with the taste of blood. Of course, I thought it might be weird to have a normal human making a habit of tasting blood, so I thought it would be cool to introduce a werewolf character—which offered reasons for both heightened senses and an interest in blood.

As for the setting, I recently got it in my head that I wanted to do some sort of Western-mashup story. I have no idea what prompted this, but this story seemed like a good opportunity. Werewolf cowboy, anyone? (Because of the weird-West setting, I can imagine this story taking place in the same world as “The Exomaton of Panner’s Bend,” though there isn’t any crossover.)

In terms of the writing strategy, I knew I wanted to retain a strong connection to the taste theme. I was afraid of mentioning it a couple times but otherwise ignoring it. Because of this, one of the earliest beats I imagined was a moment where the werewolf character describes a series of tastes in quick succession. This developed into the middle scene, which ends with Lemuel describing the different things he can taste to McKinsey.

That scene, in fact, is the main reason McKinsey is in this story. In my head, it didn’t make sense for Lemuel to just think about each of these things—he needed to say them out loud. So I developed the concept of Lemuel being recruited by the deputy and them hunting Coyote Sam together.

At that point, I thought McKinsey would be the main character. I envisioned his arc would begin with him being suspicious of Lemuel (because of his werewolf nature), and end with him respecting the bounty hunter. I wanted to portray Lemuel as a misunderstood, mysterious, yet honorable outcast who was doing his best with the hand life had dealt him.

But I quickly realized this story would not fit into 1,000 words. And since the core idea of my story placed the heaviest emphasis on plot, I ended up letting go of things irrelevant to it. This ended up moving the point of view closer to Lemuel’s perspective and eliminating McKinsey’s character growth. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices for flash. Even though McKinsey’s role may be diminished in the final piece, his role still accomplishes what it’s meant to, functioning as a pseudo-foil to Lemuel.

The final scene also involved compromises for the sake of word count. In an earlier draft, I toyed with the idea of Coyote Sam’s gang hiding out in an abandoned coal mine, where the taste of the air would affect Lemuel’s ability to track them. That detail, and a more drawn-out fight scene, had to be trimmed to keep things within 1,000 words, but I’m still happy with how the story turned out.

And I hope you’re happy with how it turned out, too! Taste was an interesting theme, and I appreciate the way it pushed me out of my comfort zone to write “Blood Hunter.” Thank you for reading it, as well as this behind-the-scenes post. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or on the original story over at Havok 🙂

*Since I’m a volunteer editor, this story is published as a Staff Saturday post, which means it’s always available to the public! If you want to read my earlier Havok publications, or hundreds of other flash fiction stories, you can always become a Havok Horde member. As a member, you can also vote on stories and influence which ones are selected in anthologies.

Behind the Scenes of “The Exomaton of Panner’s Bend”

My latest story, “The Exomaton of Panner’s Bend,” has been out for almost a week now (in print and on Kindle), so I thought this would be a good time to write a follow-up post about how it came together.

This was one of those rare prompts where I developed an idea pretty quickly. Especially because this was a contest issue, I knew I wanted to put a unique spin on the theme. The steampunk aesthetic jumped out to me, and I figured that would help the story stand out. After settling on the steampunk angle, a wild west setting seemed like a natural fit.

The theme also meant jumping into the action as quickly as possible. Readers don’t pick up a kaiju story looking for long soliloquies about where the monsters and robots came from—they want action! In my earlier beginnings, I tried introducing the exomaton through its inventor, or framing the story as a newspaper story. Ultimately, these (and a couple other starts) took too long to get to the actual fight between the exomaton and the monster. By shifting the perspective to one of the pilots, I felt more comfortable starting right as they’re all loading up to protect the town.

But even then, you’ll notice that describing the exomaton takes up a lengthy third paragraph. This description was one of the first things I wrote, and is largely similar to its original draft. Combined with the description of the ridgeshaker (which was also one of the first things I wrote), that’s about 120 words already accounted for.

After realizing this, I decided to not limit the story to <700 words. This is what I usually aim for since Splickety typically just acquires a couple stories longer than 700 words. But since this was a contest entry, I opted not to constrain myself if I thought it would make the story stronger.

The action of the story flowed naturally after getting to the battle. Rather than narrating the fight blow-by-blow, I focused on a few key moments to convey the idea of destruction without using too much word count. And even though the image of two giant beings fighting is really cool, I wanted the climax to be a more personal scene, which is why the main character is able to scare the ridgeshaker away with the steam. In another stroke of serendipity, the steampunk angle presented a great reason for the combatants to get stuck close together for a period of time.

In terms of names, “exomaton” is a riff on “automaton”—which has a loose steampunk connotation, but wouldn’t accurately describe something that needs to be piloted. “Exo” seemed like the perfect prefix to convey that people needed to be inside to run, but also provide a sense of scale. For a long time, the town had the placeholder name Golden Springs, but that felt way too tropey for a wild west town. After toying with the idea of the town being named after the panners who lived there rather than the gold they were finding, I settled on “Panner’s Bend.” Once both of these were settled, I put both in the title to clue readers into the fact that this wasn’t the usual kaiju setting.

And that’s how “The Exomaton of Panner’s Bend” came to be! I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into how I wrote it—not to mention the story itself. If you have any other questions about the story (or the world it takes place in), feel free to ask in the comments!

“The Exomaton of Panner’s Bend” Published!

Yay! My latest flash fiction story, “The Exomaton of Panner’s Bend,” has just been published in the latest issue of Havok. And since this is a contest issue, it means this is the first time one of my stories has been a writing contest finalist. Woohoo! Check it out here.

This month’s issue of Havok is called Rampage! Monsters Vs Robots. Think Pacific Rim or a Godzilla vs. Transformers crossover. But instead of setting it in the modern day or near-future, I wanted to explore how the prompt might look sometime in the past. What resulted is a pseudo-Weird West alternate history where pioneers have developed enormous steampunk robots piloted by volunteers to protect themselves from gargantuan monsters that roam the prairies. If you like action on a grand scale (… pun not intended), this story is for you. I really enjoyed writing it, and I hope you enjoy reading it.

Get contest finalist “The Exomaton of Panner’s Bend” and nine other epic kaiju stories in Havok’s July issue, available now!

Hard copy & digital:

Kindle edition: