Saturday, March 6, 2021

Throwing a Short Story at the Wall

I just submitted my short story "A Drink in Toulon" (A Kip the Quick Story) to Deep Magic magazine.

I've rarely attempted to Trad Pub anything, more interested in writing my epic fantasy and toiling away for more hours than I can count, but after talking about Kip the Quick's sequel with writing friend Steve, he suggested sending something in. And an idea was born.

Kip spends quite some time in the sprawling city of Toulon between the first and second book so it seemed like a good opportunity to delve into what happens there and touch on some of the peculiarities of noble life and how magic intersects.

Crossing my fingers.

Here's a tease of the opening...

(If you like it, check out the first novel in the series. The sequel is coming soon.)

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Poem: One Voice

A lone man stands in the midst of chaos.
His voice sole and separate,
unheard by the rest.

He seeks to change,
to fix,
to heal.

But no one will listen amidst,
the peal.

Of old thoughts,
and apprehensions.

He does it not for fame,
or fortune,
or prestige.

He does it because he cares,
and wants to make a change.

© 2021 Clifton Hill, all rights reserved.

This was originally written in 2015 and inspired by a photo. Sadly I didn’t keep that photo, so I have no idea what spurred it on. But when I ran across this I was inspired to share, for this seems to resonate for me when looking back at the last couple years. It can be hard to have some knowledge that is not commonplace and you want to share it with everyone, the ones you love and know the most, but really you want everyone to benefit, for it is so important to you, individually, that it seems impossible for it to not hold value for others.

And yet, your voice falls on deaf ears.

What does this make you think of?

Friday, February 26, 2021

The Disappearance of Clifton Hill

Not to be confused with the creepy looking movie with my name in the title, rather this is a post of: What have I been up to?

No shooshing, one-eye.

I realize that I have been awful quiet. Life does that sometimes, but the writing has never stopped. Just my ability to go outside of the writing and do book reviews to my expected level of quality, or to wax on about the craft of writing has become surprisingly challenging. Truth be told, I have become highly concerned with government overreach into our lives, sticking their hands increasingly into the realm of the education of our children, mandating what people can or can not do, and privacy concerns with Big Tech as well as censorship of lawful speech. If this all continues, then I question how we, as a nation, will continue to be a Free people. For that matter, as world events continue, that concern extends to all corners of the globe.

But getting deeper into that here is not my intent. (Check out my Twitter feed if you are of a mind—assuming it isn't censored by now.) These world events have taken much of my time and thought over the last couple of years, and I really need to take a break and explore my writing and genre fiction, to find the joy that is there in the written word, and share that joy with you.

It's nice to sit down at the keyboard and compose my thoughts and convey them out into the ether for those that find such things to be of interest. All...two of you? I haven't blogged for quite a while, and while I've spent more time on social media than I should have, I haven't found the enjoyment there that I may have once had.

So, suffice it to say, I have been busy, but the work of writing has continued. Kip the Quick's sequel is finally at long last done. At over three times the size of the first book, clocking in at 178k words, Kip's Return is a sizable story, but then the consequences set in action by the first novel have scope and depth that Kip must unravel in his desperate attempt to escape the dread result of his actions.

It's an exciting book, thrilling, full of Kip's wit, and we also explore two other characters that have their own sides of the story to tell, so the POV is expanding. When I realized that the book needed more than just Kip's POV, I had to ask myself if it was really appropriate for multiple first-person POV's. And in the end, it wasn't. Kip's voice is unique, and he IS the story. Someone else with a first person view just wouldn't have worked. So I went third person POV for the other two characters. And in the end, I think it worked our marvelously.

We also get more into the magic of the world; there is a lot of fun mystery here and for the attentive reader there is much to learn, hidden in the text.

So, where are we with the actual deliverance of this book into your hands? Well, it's with my copyeditor, and unfortunately she became very popular at some point between later last year and when I finally got her the manuscript, so unless her schedule frees up, I won't have the book back from her until late 2021, or early 2022. This will mean the book will take till 2022 to actually be in stores. This is, as you can imagine, disappointing. It has already been nearly 5 years since I released book 1.

And I think I've learned some things along the way.

So what do I do between now and then? Well, I'm nearly done with a Kip short story that takes place between book 1 & book 2 that I'll be looking for a magazine publisher for, and there is a middle grade story idea that I really want to tackle to share with my kids (and one day soon, you.) With the time available, it would make sense for me to write as much as I can of the last book in the Kip the Quick trilogy, but I need to take a bit of a break first.

I'm also undertaking the beginning of a podcast, this is just the soft launch, when I get things all squared away, we'll have a grand launch. Red carpet, local know, the works!

Well, that or I'll just make a blog post with pictures of all of the above and call it a day.

Fond wishes that you are finding positivity and joy in 2021.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Children Reaching for the Heavens

Throughout history mankind has been plagued with discovery that we know less than we thought; from discovery of new lands across an "endless" ocean, to discovering a world of subatomics, finding dangerous carcinogens in our homes with asbestos and lead, "discovering" fat was bad, then finding the substitute of sugar was worse, to finding harmful BPA and Pthalates in the plastic that surrounds us and our children. Science and common thought was that we knew it all, that our ingenuity and knowledge knew no bounds, our logic knew no error, and the end of each day or year, we are proven wrong. A new advance is made, an old truth has been disproved and a new truth has risen.
And yet every day, every year we are certain, nay arrogant, in our knowledge, that this time we know it all, that this time we have nothing further to learn. And in an era of the uber wealthy and the democracy throttling mega-corp, we run into a time when it is not just arrogance that stifles introspection, it is the corporate bottom line: the need to answer to Wall Street that limits our scope. For when science and creative thought run wild, things change, there is disruption, and this can not be, not for Corporate America or Corporate Earth; for they have reports, they have investors. And thus we live in an age of the savvy marketer. Where facts run wild and loose, where sound bytes rule, and scientific curiosity is squashed in favor of the profitable pursuit.

We are not unique, we have not learned it all, we are but children reaching for the heavens, trying to grasp for the stars. Today you know everything, but tomorrow you will learn something new. The science isn't settled, it is always moving.

Never cease asking questions, and always look to who may benefit most from an argument, and if a person or industry has no check, no balance, then maybe they have no reason to tell you the truth, and every incentive to lie for gain.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: The Core (Book 5 of the Demon Cycle) by Peter V. Brett

The Core is a wild ride and one hell of a Finale to Brett's Demon Cycle. This man does not mince words (well, he might other books), the story runs quick, though it is a BIG book.

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*4.5 STARS*
Dark/Epic Fantasy/Grimdark | October 2017 | Del Rey | 783 pages

The demons are getting ready to Swarm. The hive lacks the leadership of the Demon Prince, Alagai Ka. And while Arlen and Jardir sought to capture the leader to discover the secrets to destroy the demon threat, it has only set a deadly timer in motion that could decimate the human population in a feeding frenzy that man has not known for ages. So, as story threads come together, the demons rise in increasing organization, and the various human settlements are tested to the limits of their ability and far beyond.

Highly enjoyable for a fan of the series, Brett answers questions, showcases incredible new powers as both Arlen and Jardir push their own limits of understanding. My only complaint, at times, is this novel could have easily stretched to two... (And perhaps I wanted it to.) But Brett achieves the impossible by pulling off a satisfying close to an epic series, doing it timely, and sticking to one book.

Which, when you compare it to other series... What is there really to complain about? But there are story threads that are not so much tied off, as hacked short. Leaving potential there hanging, and a reader wondering. I would have liked to see them resolved, and certain storylines truly lacked a satisfying, well though out resolution.

In the end, The Core is an amazing book that delivers, and my complaints could be so much hot air, if that which is unresolved ends up as a spin-off series or one-off novels.

Monday, November 13, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Too much geeky fun.

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Science Fiction | June 2012 | Broadway Books | 400 pages

A nerdly smorgasbord of pop culture references from the 80’s and 90’s, Ready Player One is a heady view of a future of Virtual Reality in a dystopic world ruled by mega-corporations ready to kill to defend their bottom line. And only a lone hero, deft and adept as his Avatar, obese and socially inept in his own skin, can stave off a push for corporate dominance that threatens the freedom of the world that he loves.

Geeky to the extreme, the book was a joy, the battles tremendous, and heart-warming as our hero discovers love and steps out of the self-made shell to experience real life and friendship.

Where else can you become Ultraman, towering over a hundred feet in the air, play Pac-Man, and relive old TV serials?

My only real complaint is sometimes the story gets bogged down in needless fandom detail. But some may say this is just one more fantastic tidbit.

If you love computers, VR, and played any of the old videogames, Ready Player One is a great ride.

Word of the Day: Haptic

And perhaps you shouldn’t listen to me, maybe you should just check out the Teaser Trailer for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming movie. Yeah…Spielberg. I’m kind of excited.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Macmillan. Books Without Pronoun

Did you hear? Just a little over 1 year after acquiring, Macmillan pulls the plug.

(tombstone graphic from
Pronoun may not have been a household name, but they were a clever new entry into the multiple ebook retailer distributor ring with Smashwords and Draft2Digital. One thing they somehow managed that no one else could was to publish to Google Play for those of us not already an Approved Partner. Their site was slick and easy to use and I was looking forward to putting the rest of my library onto Google Play.

I guess I waited too long.

While there is certainly a story here about the publishing industry making odd decisions as a whole (refusing to admit that ebooks are the wave of the future, for one), I'm left stymied as to how Pronoun managed to get new work into Google Play, and why D2D or Smashwords can't do the same?

Google Play is on every Android phone out there. All billion+? That seems like a pretty big market.

This is what I got by e-mail from Pronoun:
Two years ago Pronoun set out to create a one-of-a-kind publishing tool that truly put authors first. We believed that the power of data could be harnessed for smarter book publishing, leveling the playing field for indie authors.

We are proud of the product we built, but even more so, we’re grateful for the community of authors that made it grow. Your feedback shaped Pronoun’s development, and together we changed the way authors connect with readers.

Unfortunately, Pronoun’s story ends here.

While many challenges in indie publishing remain unsolved, Macmillan is unable to continue Pronoun’s operation in its current form. Every option was considered before making the very difficult decision to end the business.

As of today, it is no longer possible to create a new account or publish a new book. Pronoun will be winding down its distribution, with an anticipated end date of January 15, 2018. Authors will still be able to log into their accounts and manage distributed books until that time.

For the next two months, our goal is to support your publishing needs through the holiday season and enable you to transition your books to other services. For more detail on how this will affect your books and payments, please refer to our FAQ.

Thank you for the time and attention you’ve contributed to this experience. It has been a privilege to publish together, and we look forward to meeting again. #keepwriting


Macmillan Publishers

Monday, October 30, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Present day. United States. A young land where the beliefs of old withered amidst the speedy rise of capitalism. A land where time was money and there was no time for antiquity. The old gods grow restless as the new ones of Technology and Media grow powerful and ambitious. It may result in war, and at what cost and with whose lives? At the center is an unlikely protagonist: Shadow.

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Dark Fantasy | Re-Published: June 2011 | Harper Collins | 674 pages

Large, burly, slow to speech, Shadow is not slow of thought. A tangled youth and a complicated life send him down the wrong path, made worse for the loss of the one he loved.

How does one even begin to review such a tome? It is literary, fantasy in a contemporary setting; skating the line between magic and magical prose. This is no slugfest of the gods, but a deep question of who we are, and what we stand for.

Along the way we meet with a medley of characters you half know from legend, scraping by in a land that has forgotten them, their powers diminished. But there is a gathering, a last battle; one where you don’t know if it is for good or ill.

At times Shadow makes the oddest of choices, always furthering the book and intriguing, but not always consistent, but then, here is a man embroiled in turmoil that I can hardly conceive. If his decisions seem unlikely, so is his predicament.

The one failing I felt for the book was an unfulfilled expectation. All along I expected the gods to battle, for magic to play a greater spot in this struggle. It does and it does not. Most of it is behind the scenes, alluded to with finesse and skill. It does not take from the book, only from my expectation. Which, coming from a love of epic fantasy, it is only to be expected that I would harbor desires of epic confrontations with visceral results. Instead the struggle is beautifully portrayed in prose that flirts and holds hands with the literary, but rarely feels overdone. This is a book to enjoy and one to make you think.

While I haven’t seen the new TV series, I hear good things. Have you seen the new show, have you read the book? And what do you think of the adaptation?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Gunslinger (Book 1 of the Dark Tower) by Stephen King

An evocative literary mystical journey…

But one that doesn’t really go anywhere. Book one of the Dark Tower sets the stage, introduces the character, his protagonist, and asks a lot of questions.

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Dark Fantasy | Re-Published: January 2016 | Scribner | 340 pages

The Gunslinger is a story of a man on a journey, one he has been at for countless years; pursuit of a man in black, a man he knows nothing about, but suspects much. This man must answer for crimes, but those are oft unclear. The Gunslinger will travel to the ends of the earth, though, and stop at nothing to reach his journey’s end.

While King fashions an interesting world that is part nuclear, far-flung dystopia, part wild western showdown with a tall-walking hero, there is little to connect with as the Gunslinger’s journey is one of grave solitude. This is a story of remembrance, of old haunted (sometimes tormenting) memories. If anything is achieved here it is in laying a groundwork, a solid character we can sympathize with even if we do not wholly understand.

Much remained a question, left me wondering if what I read was “real”, some figment of a dying man’s last breaths, a conjuring by the mysterious sorcerer, or deeply buried allegory that never came back up for air.

The Gunslinger is a lonely man and the book is a lonely book. There was little grounding here, the side characters were superfluous, there to serve a means, and time seemed to mean nothing in this universe we are still coming to grips with.

I would have liked to have had more connection with the characters, to understand more of the Gunslinger’s journey, and when it started, to know what grave offense the man in black committed, the list goes on…

These and many more are questions brought up and never answered. There are allusions, and the ending brought a level of satisfaction, then twisted right back upon itself to make you question the reality created.

And why would the Gunslinger linger so long in that old western town while the outlaw continued on the run; and what about the child? The child! I should stop here.

It all seemed a literary experiment to blend and mash up your brain, leaving me unsure if the story would ever go anywhere in particular, or at least anywhere particularly interesting. I’d rather it had been more literal and less literary. That said, the ending brought light to some questions, ramped up the interest, but then trod upon my expectations with one last twist.

Will this amount to something in Book 2? I hope so. As a standalone story I rate this as 3 spent lead slugs (out of 5). Strangely appealing, though it is in desperate need of some answers to draw out my interest.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

50+ Free Fantasy Books

Fill Your Bookshelves to the Brim!

Looking for some free books to try? InstaFreebie has a ton.

Click Here!

Try Rotten Magic, the beginning intrigues and the author has a way with the character's voice that made me want to read more. Or Trials of Magic where the opening scene has a nurse and a patient in a hospital where magic is used to cure. There are over 50 stories in all, each one is available for free on InstaFreebie.

What is InstaFreebie you may ask? Well dear reader, I am just feeling super helpful today: It's a service that offers free books if you provide your e-mail address to the individual author for each book you choose and sign up for their newsletter. This is just a way for readers to find new authors that they may (or may not) fall in love with. No commitment needed, every author taking part should remove you from their list immediately upon request, or fear terrible retribution. I've been using the service myself to help get the word out about Seeking the Veil.

And check out some of these beautiful covers: Click here to support the authors, download some today, and have a Fantasy-tastic week! (Yeah, ok, pretty cheesy, I know. But, what can I say? It makes me grin.)

And a final thanks to author, Devyn Jayse for putting together the giveaway (and for including Seeking the Veil!) She's a new author and certainly has a fine sense of style.