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If Walls Could Talk: Middle Blues

M.H. Norris

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about how I love new projects because the empty page is full of untapped potential and the ideas are flowing and anything happens.

I stand by that statement. Beginnings are a fun stage in any story. But then, you get to the middle. The other day, James asked me how my All the Petty Myths story was going.  Here was my answer:

“It’s the part where I’ve done the edges of a puzzle, but now have to do the middle and no idea how to make it work.”

Welcome to the middle of a story. It’s hard and it’s often a place where you might doubt yourself a fair bit. The end is starting to come into the horizon but you know you have a lot of ground to cover.

And for a mystery, there are so many pieces in place. Did you introduce your UnSub? Did you lay enough clues? Did you give your protagonist a chance to find it? And, if you are in the mood, did you sneak enough red herrings in so that your readers are guessing until the big reveal?

With Notches, I got mixed reactions to the end of my book. A few people saw the killer coming from pretty early on in the book. But then I also go a lot of people who said they didn’t see it coming until I revealed it about three chapters from the end.

I’ll admit, it was satisfying to hear that people didn’t guess my ending. But here, in my second mystery, I doubt if I can pull it off again. And I can help but wonder if I can up my game for those who saw it coming.

Middles are hard. You’ve got the setup, which you may or may not be second-guessing, and you’ve got a vague (or maybe pretty solid) idea of where this tale is going to end. You might have some clues to find, red herrings to plant, suspects to name and then dismiss, an UnSub to introduce, and a variety of other things.

Yet, with all these pieces you might find yourself with no idea of where to go.

“How hard can it be?”

That’s a question I ask myself all to frequently in this process. I know where I need to go but I have no idea to get there.

They say the middle of a story is the hardest. It’s where you have to bridge the gap from your set up to your climax and resolution. It’s crucial because this is the body of your story, the meat in-between the beginning and the end.

In other words, no pressure.

That’s where I’m at, stuck in the middle blues. Suddenly, everything else is more fascinating. I’ve watched all thirteen episodes of Fuller House, the first three Pokémon movies, and docked a fair amount of hours in Alpha Sapphire. I’ve stared in envy at things like The Curious Case of the Clockwork Doll and The Door of Eternal Night, because Heidi and Josh make it all look so infuriatingly easy.

And that was just this weekend.

It becomes hard to manage to write when you hit the middle and you feel as if you have hit a brick wall. You try trick, yourself, then try bribing yourself, and nothing seems to work.

But, you tell yourself you’ll figure it out and the story will get written. Eventually, you’ll find the crucial pieces of the puzzle that makes the rest of the story fit together nice and snug.

And it will.

Eventually, you’ll get the story written, the gyms beaten, and the Elite Four conquered. Sorry, I’m still on a Pokémon Day high–so those analogies seem to just keep coming.

Take a deep breath, maybe a break, and then come back to the story. You can do it!

The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia: Andy Barker PI

Join us each week as we share a new excerpt from Robert E. Wronski Jr.’s book, The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia, now available in print and digital editions!


Release Date: March 15 – April 14, 2007 (Contemporary Setting)

Series: Andy Barker

Horror Crosses: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The Story: Andy is an accountant who is mistaken for a private detective and ends up reluctantly taking a case. He finds he enjoys it so keeps doing it. Well, for a month.

Notes: Though this show only lasted a month, it made its mark on the Horror Universe. One episode centered around a fictional fast food franchise called the Double Meat Palace. Buffy Summers (the Vampire Slayer) was an employee of the franchise, which first appeared on her show.

If you’re dying for more, you can find The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia on Amazon, and more of Robert E. Wronski Jr.’s work on The Television Crossover Universe. You can listen to Robert’s crossover podcast right here.

The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia: Hack/Slash Vs. Chucky

Join us each week as we share a new excerpt from Robert E. Wronski Jr.’s book, The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia, now available in print and digital editions!


Release Date: March 2007 (Contemporary Setting)

Series: Hack/Slash; Child’s Play

Horror Crosses: A Nightmare on Elm Street; Friday the 13th; Halloween; Zatara

The Story: Cassie Hack teams up with Chucky for a mutual cause.

Notes: In the story, Chucky compares himself (as being better) to Freddy (Krueger), Jason (Voorhees), and Michael (Myers). Cassie once again meets Laura Loch, who says her spells backwards just like John Zatara and his daughter Zatanna from DC Comics.

If you’re dying for more, you can find The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia on Amazon, and more of Robert E. Wronski Jr.’s work on The Television Crossover Universe. You can listen to Robert’s crossover podcast right here.

Friday Inspiration: “Patriot Act”

As we move into the second full month of After Avalon submissions, we have a special inspirational treat culled from the depths of YouTube: the Justice League Unlimited episode “Patriot Act.”

This is one of the finest depictions of an Arthurian character in the modern world. Shining Knight is tested by the modern world, but he does not break. Indeed, Camelot’s light is presented as the solution to the world’s moral disease. If anything is to be regretted, it’s that Shining Knight plays such a relatively small role.

But if you’re in search of a tone to strike with the character you write escaping from the fall of Camelot, this is an excellent inspiration.

You can watch it on Netflix, or on YouTube here.

NEW RELEASE Josh Reynold’s The Science of Deduction: The Door of Eternal Night

book cover the door of eternal night_Final

In the heady days of the Jazz Age, Sherlock Holmes has retired to his bees. But other, stranger detectives watch London in his absence.

Chief among them is Charles St. Cyprian, the current Royal Occultist and heir to a tradition reaching back to Elizabethan England. He, along with his apprentice Ebe Gallowglass, protect the Empire and sundry from That Which Man Was Not Meant to Know—including vampires, ghosts, werewolves, ogres, fairies, boggarts and the occasional worm of unusual size.

Tonight, St. Cyprian’s night out has been interrupted by two very important men, Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The escapist and spook-buster has a problem–a spook haunting his hotel room, a spook he can’t quite bust. And it seems this particularly ghost has a baring on a case Sherlock Holmes failed to solve, and may solve yet, if St. Cyprian doesn’t untangle the mystery first.

A new novella by Josh Reynolds, part of The Science of Deduction—a twelve part novella series, releasing a new volume on the 15th of every month through 2016. Available on 18thWall Productions own website and Amazon.

If Walls Could Talk: Writing Slump Confessions

M.H. Norris

I’ll admit that my latest project has slowed to a crawl lately and no matter what I do, I can’t seem to figure out how to get myself out of the writing slump I find myself in. Whether it’s the winter blues (January is a notoriously tough month for me writing-wise) or Second Book Syndrome (it’s a thing, look it up, I promise) but my All the Petty Myths story is kicking and screaming it’s way to completion.

Which then leaves me feeling frustrated and then I feel pressure cause I need to get it done and it’s not getting done and it’s a vicious cycle.

I have pages and pages of notes: suspects, clues, the UnSub (Unknown Subject or the culprit), my main character, and a variety of other things.

Yet, with all of that I still find myself struggling to get the story written. Anything and everything is more fun, more exciting than writing this story.

Writers all the time tell you that you should write every day and I’ll admit that I do feel better when I manage to get into the habit and stay there. But sometimes it’s hard. Yesterday, for example, I worked a 16 hour shift. There was no time for writing.

And then, I kick myself because I didn’t write. Or I give in and let myself play Pokémon instead of writing after work. Sure, I justify it by saying that it was a long day at work and I deserve the break. But…

Those multi-day stretches where I work add up. There sits the story, not getting done…

Like I said, it’s a vicious cycle and even my “let me work on multiple projects” idea isn’t helping the cause…

Normally, when I use the wall to talk, I give advice. But this time, I’m doing something a bit different. I’m asking you guys to give me advice. Throw me a message on Twitter or Facebook and tell me what you do to get out of your writing slump.

The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia: Sherlock Holmes and the Plague of Dracula

Join us each week as we share a new excerpt from Robert E. Wronski Jr.’s book, The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia, now available in print and digital editions!

Sherlock Holmes and the Plague of Dracula


Release Date: January 15, 2007 (Setting is during the events of Dracula)

Series: Sherlock Holmes

Horror Crosses: Dracula (novel)

The Story: Holmes meets Dracula for the first time again.

Notes: I would say that any of the first meeting stories could be canon, while the others go to divergent timelines, and which one doesn’t matter. However, this story also alters the canon of original Holmes stories, and so it is definitely an alternate timeline.

If you’re dying for more, you can find The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia on Amazon, and more of Robert E. Wronski Jr.’s work on The Television Crossover Universe. You can listen to Robert’s crossover podcast right here.

The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia: Superman and Batman versus Aliens and Predator

Join us each week as we share a new excerpt from Robert E. Wronski Jr.’s book, The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia, now available in print and digital editions!


Release Date: January 8 – February 14, 2007 (Contemporary Setting)

Series: Superman (Modern Age/Post-Crisis); Batman (Modern Age/Post-Crisis); Alien; Predator

The Story: When a mountain climbing crew disappears in the Andes, the World’s Finest team investigates and finds Predators whose ship has been stuck there since the Ice Age.

Notes: If these are the “Super-Sons,” Clark Kent Jr. and Bruce Wayne Jr., they must be in their 50s at this point. But the story implies that the previous encounters Superman and Batman had individually with the Aliens and Predators were all of the same version of Superman and Batman. Perhaps this story takes place several years prior to the release date, or else the Super-Sons aged well.

If you’re dying for more, you can find The Horror Crossover Encyclopedia on Amazon, and more of Robert E. Wronski Jr.’s work on The Television Crossover Universe. You can listen to Robert’s crossover podcast right here.

Friday Inspiration: Did Kitchener Wield Excalibur? Was He Reincarnation of King Arthur?

Today we bring you a 1916 newspaper article entitled “Did Kichener Wield Excalibur? Was He Reincarnation of King Arthur? Growing Belief that Kitchener Fulfilled a Prophecy.” It saw print in The Boston Daily Globe, author unknown.

This article has the sense of resurgent glory After Avalon is seeking; it has the sense of Arthurian characters emerging into a post-Camelot world. It also has the idea of Arthurian characters coming about again, in new contexts and worlds. These are all excellent ideas or foundations to use in your After Avalon story.

Submissions close on April 2nd.

Did Kichener Wield Excalibur? Was He Reincarnation of King Arthur? Growing Belief that Kitchener Fulfilled a Prophecy

“Yet somme say in many partyes of England that yng Arthur is not dead. But had gone by the wylle of our Lord Jhesu in to another place, and men say that he shal come ageyn and he shall wynne the holy crosse.” Malory.

“And afterwards I will come (again) to my kingdom, and dwell with the Britons with much joy.”—Arthur in Layamon’s “Brut.”

In England the belief finds growing credence that Lord Kitchener was the reincarnation of King Arthur. Merlin’s prophecy that he should live again and Arthur’s own words as he lay dying are recalled. The manner of his death, the mystery of the man, his aloofness and his isolation all lend color to the belief.

So much was Lord Kitchener the object of speculation when he lived, so greatly did Britain depend upon him for her salvation, so startling was the tragedy of his death, it is not strange that the imagination and the heart of the people are quickened to a belief that this man was not as are the others of his day and generation, but that he came forth from out the vast mystery of power and space to save his people in their hour of peril, even as King Arthur in the long ago had issued from the unknown, a shining personage, to free his people from their enemies and make his Nation age-renowned.

Some one, seeking for the right word to describe Kitchener, hit upon “ruler” as the one that suited him best. It was written in his mien and lineaments and in his mind that he was set apart for a high purpose, to rule men and to overrule the decisions of many in high posts of authority.

Recalling his march to Khartoum, his domination in Egypt, his reorganization of the forces in India and his last and greatest service of gathering into his hands the lines of scattered, diverse and conflicting authorities in regard to military affairs in Great Britain in the early, critical days of the present war, it is not strange that the minds of many persons turn back to those dim pages of legendary history for a parallel or a prototype; to the days when King Arthur, through the institution and puissance of the Round Table, drew all the petty princes under him and as their head made a realm.

The first view of the romantic figure of Arthur is as a plain knight, “riding a simple knight among his knights, and many of them in richer arms than he.”

Doubts and questionings concerning his origins ran around the court, but King Arthur continued unmoved to work for the good of his country, smiting his his foes with Excalibur, that mighty, cross-hilted sword which the Lady of the Lake, “clothed in white samite, mystic and wonderful,” had given to him. On one side of the blade, “so bright that men are blinded by it,” in the oldest tongue of the world, were graven the words “Take me,” suggestive of Kitchener’s brief motto, “Thorough.” On the other side, in King Arthur’s speech, was “Cast me away.”

Sage Merlin counseled him to take the sword, saying that the time to cast it away was far distant. He also swore King Arthur should not die, but pass, to come again.

“The King will follow Christ, and we the King, In whom high God hath breathed a secret thing,” sang his knights, and like an antiphonal response were the bravely defiant words of King Arthur: “The old order changeth, yielding place to new.. . . No tribute we pay.”

Out of obscurity came Kitchener of Khartum. His father was an English gentleman and soldier, who, having settled in Ireland, lived unpretentiously and educated his sons to be loyal to their King and country. Horatio Herbert was not a brilliant lad, but he had a fine physique and the quality of thoroughness in all that he did. Already he seemed to have a vision of the time when Great Britian would need his services. His time, his efforts were devoted to the training for the Army. That he should have fought for France in his youth seemed, too, to be prophetic. Fate had him in her hands, and when the old Duke of Cambridge took him to task for having joined the French Army he replied that he did not like to be idle.

There was no time for idleness in the routine of the man who had set before him as his goal the greatness of the British Empire and had devoted his sword and his life to helping its achievement. When he marched to Khartum the British public followed him with awe. He was referred to as the man who had made himself into a machine. As King Arthur had fought in great battles and overcome the heathen hordes, so did Kitchener pulverize the dervishes, smash the Mahdi’s tomb and make England feared and respected.

“He has no age but the prime of life,” wrote one who knew him well, “nobody but one to carry his mind, no face but one to keep his mind behind.”

He had not intimate friends; until late in life no home; there was no Guinevere.

Yet with this machinelike personality, this cold, exacting precision, his presence worked like magic with the men under him. Their unbounded confidence in him served as a tonic. He made enemies because he would not yield, because he was “the ruler” whose will must be obeyed, but he never wavered or changed his policy because of what even the greatest and most influential might think. He acted imperially, not seeking popularity.

Such as came to him was because his achievements for the Nation demanded recognition. The man in the street and in the fields believed that he could do anything. He stood in the popular imagination for the Empire as truly as the Kaiser stood for Germany. When the war broke out there were those in official positions who would have willingly sent Kitchener abroad, but men who were both wise and patriotic knew that Kitchener must be in command. The writer, passing through Whitehall during those first apprehensive days, saw the crowds waiting by the hour at a certain door of the War Office in London. The were hoping to see Kitchener emerge, but he had no fancy for cheers, and was almost always able to escape by some other door than the one that was being watched.

The army that was built up to meet the foe was Kitchener’s army. That appellation made it seem more formidable; it was a presage of victory; and when young officers and stupid statesmen, of whom there were not a few, talked of the war being over in a few months Kitchener’s stern statement that it would last at least three years and that millions of men would be need to insure victory made the people know that it must be so, shattering as the idea was to their complacency.

Kitchener’s work for Britain was accomplished. He had a mission to perform, however, a detail of sufficient importance to require his personal service. Aboard the Hampshire he set forth, unknown to all but a few deep in the counsels of the State, on rough northern seas. It was his passing from earth. His agony, if such there was, was shrouded from mortal gaze. The deep claimed him. As when King Arthur passed from sight of Guinevere:

“The moony vapor rolling round the King
Who seemed the phantom of a Giant in it,
Enwound him fold by fold, and made him gray,
And grayer, till himself became as mist,
* * * moving ghostlike to his doom.”

Perhaps Lord Kitchener remembered, as King Arthur did, the deeds of his mighty prime, perhaps a white arm, “clothed in white smite, mystic and wonderful,” once more held up Excalibur. Perhaps even those three queens came in their barge once more and took Lord Kitchener to Avalon, chanting:
“From the Great Deep to the Great Deep He Goes.”

[Text courtesy of The Camelot Project]

If Walks Could Talk: Weaknesses

M.H. Norris

Before I get started today, I want to take a second to thank Robert Wronski and the crew over at the Television Crossover Universe Podcast for their kind words about the blog here at I appreciated it, guys.

When I was a young writer, and to be honest this phase lasted until about half-way through my first year of college, I thought I was a great writer.

These days?

These days I laugh at how little I knew and how much I thought I know. But I think that’s a curse on new writers who haven’t quite gotten a wakeup call. That call can come in a variety of ways and for me it came from a couple of writing groups who were honest and told me where I could improve.

This came to mind along with a conversation I had with someone a few months ago about writing. There was a bit of the conversation where we were arguing about writing preferences and they pointed out that I didn’t know everything about writing.

I’m going to be real honest with you all right here. I do not know everything about writing nor do I claim to. I’ll admit I’ve spent a considerable amount of time studying the craft but I have a ways to go.

Malcolm Gladwell is known for saying that it takes roughly 10 thousand hours to master a skill.

That is 416 days’ worth of time.

I turned around and said to the person, “I’ll admit that I don’t know everything—but can you admit it?”

And they refused, claiming they knew what they were doing.

Confession time with Mary Helen. Half the time, I can’t read my stuff when it comes out because I tend to see the flaws in my writing.

While I was snowed in this past weekend, I was looking at my All the Petty Myths story and comparing it to Badge City: Notches. I was trying to figure out what I did wrong in Notches that I could avoid in my current project.

I spent a couple hours thinking over my weaknesses and trying to find ways to improve them. And I’ll tell you right now, that’s not an easy task. As a writer, you’ve got to be not only your biggest cheerleader, but also your biggest critic. And I struggle with being the former.

Week after week, I’ve sat here and talked to you about various aspects of writing, giving you my thoughts and muses on whatever topic I happen to pick that week. And I do enjoy getting to sit down and type out my thoughts.

I’ll admit that B-stories are a weak spot of mine. I see the potential they have to enhance a story but I struggle weaving one into my own work. That might help me to meet word count goals because at times I struggle to find words and reach the reasonable margin that is within what someone wants for a project.

For my All the Petty Myths story, I’ve been playing with a couple ideas, weighing the pros and cons of each option while looking at how it best would fit into each story.

And it’s a struggle, but I’m forcing myself to fight that uphill battle because I know that facing my weaknesses head on will help me to get where I want to be. Someday, I want to be on the bestsellers list.

To do that I have to face the weak spots in my writing head on.

So here’s my challenge for you this week, and I’ll admit, it’s not going to be easy.

But take a look at your writing. Find your weak spots and make a plan to work on them.

Writing is a craft where you have to be constantly learning, constantly improving. Isn’t that the half the fun?

Good luck.