The Space Cantina – Upcoming Fiction: 36 Hours

Just a quick note gang, the next piece of fiction I’m doing is entitled “36 Hours.” Some of you know about the old version, but this will be a NEW version! And it’s steampunk! I’ll be posting the first part on Wednesday I think…

Also I may only post once a week since the sections will be much larger than Icarus’s were. Hope you guys like it!

/Hackett Out.


The Space Cantina – Dreaming in aether

My first introduction to “steampunk” is hazy. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was my first exposure to the forerunners of the genre, but it wasn’t literature that first got me into it. I’ve been attending Dragon*Con for almost a decade now and it was the culture of steampunk that influenced me. The people all dressed up in brass and steam vented tech hooked me deep and I never resisted the line. That was a horrible metaphor, I should really apologize for that but I won’t. See? Punkness.

My creative outlet for anything steampunky was roleplaying at first. I played Changeling: The Dreaming and Mage: The Ascension by White Wolf Studios. If you know anything about those old games you might understand what I mean by that. I’d invent my head off with a Son of Ether or create some awesome gear-operated armor for my Nocker. Even WoW had the Gnomes. I love me some gnomey goodness. FOR GNOMEREGON!

In 2009 I participated in NaNoWriMo and it was a fantastic experience. 50,000 words in one month was a challenge but it wasn’t nearly the impossible climb people told me it’d be. I just wrote everyday. That was it. I wrote about a victorian-esque world where mages were hunted down by religious zealots called Paladins and had to fight off these horrid creatures I called…. horrors. Okay, not my most brilliant name, but it didn’t matter. When I finished writing that, people read bits of it and told me “I love steampunk!” But… I didn’t set out to write a steampunk novel. Actually what I felt I’d created was “MagicPunk.”

That book died an early death just after NaNo. I just didn’t have the outline solid enough to keep it going. One of my two main characters got stabbed in the face right in the middle of the story, so that didn’t help either. It went into the drawer and I wrote a bunch of science fiction stories for a while. Still, my fascination with victorianesque worlds and magic continued to brew, bubble and boil. Several months ago I dug out my notebooks (I have a marble black/white notebook for every story I write) and read the notes for my novel from graduate school. This novel (my thesis) involved the conventional fantasy trope of a young group of heroes trying to fight off a great evil. I LOVE this story trope, and I will never grow tired of reading its many variations. But that story, much like the NaNo novel, died an early death as well. In reading my notes, I grew misty-eyed and nostalgic.

I also slapped it ontop of my NaNo notebook.

MagicPunk lives. It wasn’t what I ultimately did with the story, but a great deal of ideas came together when I looked at them together. I stole elements from both and even stole the seed of a novel concept I’d been keeping for a rainy day and threw that in. In stewed like … well, stew, in a crockpot, and came out smelling and tasting not at all like crap. I then set to work on massaging out overused tropes, cliches and adding conflicts, characters and seeds for the story’s future. What came out of it was something I’m tentatively calling my “Aether Dreams” cycle.

It’s steampunk, edging on dieselpunk with a heavy feel of World War I tech to it. Added to this world is Aether, a mysterious substance that is both a powerful fuel and a heretical substance. Those who chose to study and manipulate aether go mad, grow sick or kill themselves with their experiments… except for those who learned to control it, and those who did are capable of fascinating technology. Unfortunately their research was cut short by the untimely demise of their king, the overthrow of their kingdom and subsequent subjugation by a technocratic, heavily religious Empire.

I’m not going to go into much more detail about any plot elements yet but this world really got me thinking and writing. I love it and with the story I’m plotting, I hope some readers do too. Some of you know that I’m fascinated by military history and there is plenty of that influence in my story. I’m not talking about cold, detailed battles where I describe who ordered who, who shot who with which volley… no. I write about characters and about the conflicts that hit close to their hearts.

I know this wasn’t a fiction post and more about my writing ideas, but I’m glad you stuck with me so far. Next week I should be getting the first bits of 36 Hours up. Yay, more fiction!

/Hackett Out.

The Space Cantina – A reflection on Icarus, a brief interlude and a steampunked 36 Hours

So Icarus has come to an end. The story was much longer in execution than I’d originally thought it would be. This wasn’t a “story that grew in the telling” exactly. It was the author still feeling his way through this new media, trying to figure out a formula for posting 3 times a week in short, but whole chunks. After a time I ended up with a 3-post arc for each week. They are hard to see but I knew I wanted to accomplish 1 thing each week and split it into a rising action, climax and aftermath, or variations thereof. I also wanted to weave two complete stories into one, though I doubt it was obvious.

This is not me claiming that I’m some super genius and no one can possibly understand the webs I weave. Please. I can hardly understand what I think up. I wanted to tell a story where you are left with your own interpretations of events, but also a pretty clear understanding of what was going to happen in the future based on those interpretations. I’ve foreshadowed quite a bit but this form, posting 3 times a week over a great period of time, does not allow a reader the luxury of absorbing it all at once. You read the foreshadowed event 5 weeks ago, only to have the event come to fruition when you’ve already forgotten it.

Small problem. I will have to think on how to avoid this in the future.

Anyway, I’m rambling. For those who read this story, I’d love to hear what you thought of it and what you imagine would happen in the future of this world. What did you get out of it? Did you like the format? Did you even like the story? If not, really, that’s okay. I’ve got plenty of strange tales yet to tell.

In other news, I just wanted to let you all know that I’m going to be taking a week off. My brother, sister-in-law and my two young nephews are visiting and I rarely see them. We live states upon states apart. I plan to come back with a re-telling of my “36 Hours” story, this time set in my own steampunked Civil War. The premise of this being an age-old theory of what might happen had Lee won Gettysburg. Historically, Lee was to march on Washington and sue for peace and recognition from the Union. Well in 36 Hours, that didn’t go so well. Washington is now in Confederate hands and Baltimore is besieged.

Here’s a little work-in-progress for its “pitch.”

When Thomas Adkin signed up to go to war, he never imagined the horrors awaiting him.

The Confederate Army has captured Washington and have pushed further into Maryland, desperate to capture the port of Baltimore. It is here that the remnants of the Army of the Potomac makes its last stand below the Dixie Line. Below the battered walls of the city lay miles of blood-soaked trenches where Thomas and his four closest friends must withstand unfathomable barrages by enemy artillery, unceasing advances made by an enemy resupplied by England and the slow, unending toll of death and shell shock. Confederate President Jefferson Davis has sued for peace, and while the Union government deliberates over the next 36 Hours, they will stop at nothing to capture this last city and push the negotiations evermore in the South’s favor.

36 Hours is a steampunk alternate history novella inspired by the works of Erich Maria Remarque’s gut-wrenching novel “All Quiet on the Western Front.” It examines the question of friendship and loyalty during a time of utter madness and certain death. Its author is a long time history buff that is both fascinated and horrified by what mankind has done to itself over the last two hundred years.

The Space Cantina – Holy Crap! Did you say nomination?

So last night I was informed that the beautiful and talented Naomi Edmondson put me up for the “Beautiful Blogger” award. This is the first nomination I have ever received for my blog and I am extremely honored by it!

I also wanted to take this opportunity to say “Holy Crap!” in a post title. See what I did there?

As stated in the rules of participation for this award I must divulge 7 facts about myself that you neither know nor care to know. You get them anyway.

1. I was both a nerd and a jock in high school. No lie, I was an ice hockey goaltender for 13 years. See? Look at that dashing face.

2. I started out as a Fan Fiction writer. You’ll never hear me bash Fan Fic, nope.

3. My favorite authors are George RR Martin, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Scott Westerfeld, Erich Maria Remarque and Joe Haldeman.

4. I’m an avid MMO player, though I’ve become a “casual” one lately. My current game is Star Wars: The Old Republic.

5. I took lessons in german longsword fencing

6. Coffee is the only reason I am still passable as a human being

7. I am an amateur World War I historian and my great-grandfather fought in France during 1918.

And now…

Rules of Participation

1. List seven things about yourself

2. Nominate seven other bloggers

My Nominees








If you all haven’t seen any of these blogs, they are a wide and varied list of interests. Go forth! Kitty COMMANDS!

(I’m allergic to cats, so seriously go before he “visits” me.)

Fan Fiction Monday – Red Squadron

It’s been a bit since I managed to get one of these up! Well it’s time for another Fan Fiction Monday and this week I’m going to reach into my past. I’d like to tell you all about a group I’ve been involved with for well over fifteen years. Back before I knew anything about Roleplaying Games, Fan Fiction or the Expanded Universe of Star Wars, I played X-Wing and TIE Fighter. Through the magic of our 14.4 bps modem, I found a group of guys (and girls) who played the same game and started up a fan group for it. We organized ourselves into “Squadrons” and challenged one another to beat certain missions at record times, find new ways to destroy an Imperial Star Destroyer and race around the galaxy with only laser cannons and some luck.

Before long we started doing a IRC chats and e-mailing around a newsletter with all our newest achievements. In those newsletters we also had fiction pieces about our Squadrons available for everyone to read. It was a way to see our adventures on the page, catalog them and save them for future use. I’d never even heard of Fan Fiction then, but that’s where I wrote my first words. In a way, I owe my current desire to be a writer to those early Squadrons. Without their support and eagerness to read what I’d written, I’d have never kept doing it.

Fast forward 15 years and some of those Squadrons still exist. I’m not kidding you. In fact, I’m still part of one. We’ve moved beyond playing X-wing and TIE Fighter (only because they no longer work on our new PCs) but the fiction remains. There is a treasure trove of Star Wars fan fiction stored within the old, hallowed halls of this group. They’ve kept it hidden too long and so I’m busting the doors open. I encourage all of you to visit their website, explore the “Lounge” area (6th link down on the left) and read some stories in the “Point of View (POV)” department. There’s enough there to keep you busy for a week, or more.

And, if you are so inclined, stop by the Comm-Net and say hello. We’re a very friendly bunch. And, if you are truly daring, considering signing up and make some stories of your own!

And now, the link. Visit Red Squadron aboard the CRS Morning Star. You’ll be glad you did.

To visit the forums (Comm-Net) go here.

The Space Cantina – Argh! Chewie, lock in the auxillary power!

Okay, with the exception of a few twitter and Icarus posts I’ve been quiet this week. Tonight I’m just going to talk because I feel like I have to. For those who will subscribe to the “tl;dr” doctrine, don’t worry you won’t miss a thing.

Book progress, how is that going? Well Mike, I’m glad you asked that. It’s going… well it’s going. I hit a point in the book where I finally sat back and said, “yeah, okay, I need an outline to finish this.” So I created a book guide, or began working on a book guide. I told myself I would take one week and just hammer the thing out. The world I’m creating requires a bunch of random knowledge that I can’t simply make up on the fly and have it come out straight.

So I’ve spent all week on it so far and I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing. Zero. The bagel. I’ve discovered a lot of my plot, written it out, interwoven the various plots to make sense together and even developed an entire 4th Class Wing of cadets. Yet, despite this, words were not being written on the book itself and I feel like I haven’t made a single bit of progress. Has anyone else had this problem? I tell myself that once this is done, I can push forward much easier and even write out of order if need be. It’s true, I can.

The Book Guide is more than just an outline though, it contains my Setting and Character guides too, from descriptions of characters to cadet life. I need these things, which are much like encyclopedia entries, so I don’t lose my way. What have we learned? Do this BEFORE you start your book. I won’t make this mistake again. I am not a discovery writer and never was. I’m sure this is why I have roughly 6 or 7 unfinished manuscripts totalling over 1000 pages on my hard drive. Ladies and gentlemen, I write a lot. Not a few words a day, thousands of words a day. I have the writing work ethic that my father wished I had in every day life growing up. If I’d had this kind of working drive when I was a teenager I might have mowed the lawn, weeded the garden, powerwashed the porch AND made dinner every day. But no, it is only this that I am passionate about.

So what’s eating me? The lack of progress yes, but it’s also the fact that this discipline I am so proud of wavered this entire week. I played video games and goofed around on the internet. I said to myself, “self, this outlining business doesn’t require your whole brain, you can do this AND goof off.” Wrong. If I want this to be my job, then I need to treat it like it’s one.

Starting tomorrow (can’t tonight, my eyes are officially bloodshot and so full of sinus pressure I can’t see very well) I’m kicking games to the curb and writing from the time I finish work until it’s time to power down the laptop.

Note: If you are sensitive to bad language, stop reading here.

Okay. As my Creative Writing Professor in Grad School, Beth Goldner, said: “If you want to be a writer, then fucking write.” I’ve never forgotten Beth, not the fire she had when disciplining me for my lack of motivation, not the way she stood on her desk and told us that being ‘busy’ wasn’t an excuse and certainly not the way she stole my goddamn pens. If I ever have to point to one moment when I turned my life around, it was in Beth’s class. I learned one valuable lesson: Writing is not magic. It comes from working. You sit your ass in the chair and type. It took me years to understand this. I wish I’d learned it sooner.

So, thanks Beth. Wherever you are, you’re my personal hero.

The Space Cantina – Novel, gaming, brain melting

If I don’t stop this incessant posting in the Cantina, it will become a habit. Won’t that be a ridiculous turn of events?

Unlike last night’s post, which was brought to you by a bottle of red wine, today shall be a little more coherent. Almost. I just wrote 3100+ words on the novel after working 9.5 hours formatting 5pt text at work, so my eyes are a little bloody and cross-eyed. Don’t judge me. Actually go ahead, just judge me with AWESOME. Or candy. Or wine. Wine gets more posts.

So today I had one of those writing days where the chapter I was working on just didn’t come to me as easily as the rest. I knew what needed to happen in this chapter but starting it felt awkward to me. I actually wrote two beginnings this afternoon, the first being cut and transferred to the chapter before (roughly 500 words of it anyway). Then I began again once I found my pacing and starting point. Almost every Chapter of this novel has a small storyline of its own, crossing through its own arc and resolving one small detail at a time. It’s a lot harder to do than simply flowing from one to another and I’m not sure I pulled it off.

As a first draft, I’m really not worried about it yet. On the second draft I’ll make sure to cut all the stupid fat and find where to streamline the story. For anyone reading this who is convinced every single word you write is precious, they aren’t. You’re a writer. You write words. You can write more. Cut the bad ones and make way for the better ones. “Kill your darlings” and all that jazz.

On a musical side note, I’m currently listening to the wonderfully talented Julie Fowlis. If that name sounds familiar, perhaps you saw the movie “Brave.” She sung two of the songs in that movie, but she generally sings all in Gaelic. It’s haunting and gorgeous and makes me want to write Fantasy again, even though I’ve left for the stars. I’ll be back though. One of my novel concepts is a gritty low-magic Fantasy, so I can’t let it go.

Before I go, I do want to mention to all my gaming followers that I’m now working with a new fansite covering the still-unnamed “Project Titan” from Blizzard. It’s called Titan Everything and is headed by my friend Andy (also from if you remember us there) and Bill from You can find us here. We’ll be covering up-to-the-minute news and breaking stories as best we can. Currently we have a news and rumors column that has everything you could possibly find on the subject. Go read! Now. Like, right now. For it is full of awesome and win.

Just ask Spock.

See? Make it so.

The Space Cantina – Thoughts, there are thoughts in my brain

Okay, because my little reader base here is still very small I get to get away with all kinds of stupid things. Example number 1, changing my header whenever I’m inclined. And so, I’m inclined.

I decided to do this because I’m getting pretty serious about this whole blogging fiction business. I enjoy it, I love having people come here, read my schlock and come back again for more. That is insanely cool. I don’ t even think insanely cool is proper diction. Doesn’t matter.

My name is Michael Lee Kern, and I’m a writer. I liked the sound of Michael Lee as a pen name but there’s about… a hundred million of us. So, I’m just going back to Mike Kern, which is what everyone really knows me as. I know, it’s a rough transition, but we’ll all get through this together. That is what teamwork is about. Getting me through things.

Okay enough yammering. This is also because I’m preparing to take my blog off wordpress and host it myself. For those inclined to prayer, please say one for my sanity?

The Space Cantina – Upcoming Blogcast?

Okay so I just wanted to post something quick about this. For the past few days I’ve been considering doing a mini-podcast for this blog to talk about what I’m working on both on and off the blog. I thought I could expound a little on the books I’m reading that you all might find interesting and maybe, if I’m feeling egotistical, chat about video games a bit.

I also thought I might talk about what it’s like to be a writer with a few credits to his name, trying to break into the market full time. I want to be a novelist first and foremost as telling stories has always been what I enjoyed most. To that end I’ve been recording a few casts to try and get the whole thing right and found out a few things that suck.

The major one is: where can I go to get some decent free music to use as an intro? I use a PC, not a Mac so I don’t have Garage Band or anything like that. Every site I go to wants you pay so much per cast per minute. It’s crazy! So I put the question out there: does anyone know a good place to get Free Use music from?

The Space Cantina – For You Guys and What I’m Working On

It’s been a little while since I did a generic post about writing. Tonight I’m just going to ramble a bit about my world, so if that interests you pull up a chair here at the bar and have a drink. If not, well that’s okay. More ships will be coming in to dock soon with fresh stories.

Let me start with talking about this blog. Until the beginning of this year, I was kind of a blog-newbie. I had a live journal account a very long time ago and I used it to write about nothing. Literally. I wrote about my day and how things were going for me in the big ol’ University so long ago. It didn’t do anything for me and I stopped writing in it when it became just one big virtual bitch session. No one was going to read it, that’s for certain.

About a year ago I started working for, a fantastic fan site that followed Star Wars: The Old Republic, Bioware’s big MMO. I learned just what blogs could do, how social media can be leveraged to generate interest and how it can all come together in a community of like-minded people. It was a lot of fun to work on and I met a lot of fantastic people there. My experienced there led me to believe I could use all this new-found knowledge to help me do what I love: write. At I was the resident fan fiction writer (see 36 Hours) and I gained a pretty substantial readership. I was floored. People wanted to read my stuff. My stories. It was a dream come true.

I need an audience and without you guys, the ones who come to this little corner of space and take the time to read my words, all of this is just shouting into the ether. I do it because I love when people come by and read my stuff and enjoy it. Thank you guys, every last one of you who comes here and reads Icarus or Darkest Hour or any of my archived stories. You rock.

Now, what am I working on?

Obviously Darkest Hour and Icarus are posted here on the site. Those two are obvious projects for you all to know about and read. What you don’t see are some of my biggest projects to date. For the past three years or so I’ve been working on a Science Fiction universe of my very own and I’ve written one novella in it already, and two are being edited into it. I would imagine that in the next few months I will have three novellas set in this universe to share and I’m very excited about it. I’m not sure where I will publish these, but I’ll be striving for some paying magazines first and I will definitely post about it on here.

What I’ll say about the universe is this. It’s big and it’s got a huge history. I have roughly four periods in time laid out to write in, all of which are hundreds if not thousands of years apart. I like to think of it as Game of Thrones meets Star Wars meets Dune with a healthy bit of Freespace flavoring it. I think you guys will like it, I really do and hope that you’ll give the stories a look when they’re finished.

In addition to those novellas I’m working on my very first novel as well, which is also set in my SciFi universe. This novel is part 1 of a 2 book series, though it could be longer if I’m not careful. It has a definite Lords of Discipline meets Battlestar Galactica feel to it. That’s all I’ll say about it right now since it’s very early in the process.

All right I’ve rattled on a bit long, so until next time – happy travels and may you always have stories to share!