Category: Stories (Page 2 of 8)

The Citizens’ Police Academy – My Experience

First hand research is a must. Nicole Wilson, a thriller author, recently went through the Citizens’ Police Academy and learned what it takes to be a police officer — and got a ton of great writing research. Here, she shares here boon.

For the last nine weeks, I have had the opportunity to be a part of a program with the Houston Police Department called the Citizens’ Police Academy. It has been an incredible experience, both from a personal and a writer’s standpoint. I’ve been exposed to new people and situations, seen buildings normally locked down to civilians, and ridden along with police officers. It has given me a new respect for the officers and what they do.


For those that don’t know, the Citizens’ Police Academy is a ten week program that teaches civilians about different divisions within a police department. The goal of the academy is to educate the public on the inner workings of the department, so they can act as a public representative within their communities. Police these days get lots of bad press, and it’s easy to forget that, most of the time, only the bad get media attention. More often than not, the outstanding things they do aren’t publicized. This program gives civilians an inside look at what they do and why they do it.

One day a week for three hours, they give lectures, hands-on demonstrations, and field trips to the various units. Each week is a different topic, and for every topic, they bring in experts to talk to us, show us what they do, and, in some cases, teach us how to do it, too. Basically, we get to learn all of the things the cadets do in the academy, but without the homework, sweat, and tears (and the badge and gun– we don’t get those either). This program is not limited only to HPD; several students in my class have done this program around the country.


Week 1 – Orientation/Tactics

Orientation was just what it sounds like: introductions all around. But then they took us out in the police cruisers and had trainers drive us through the precision course (the driving course with all the orange cones around). Talk about an adrenaline rush! We hit 50 MPH a couple of times on a very short track. Then, they showed us intermediate weapons: OC spray (mace), batons, and tasers. They even let me shoot a taser! At a paper target, of course.

Fun fact I learned this week: Chevy Caprices are favored by some officers as their car because it’s lighter, more maneuverable, and has better handling than the Crown Vics.

Read the rest…


Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at


Finding (A Writing) Community

Nicole Wilson, a thriller author, has written about the importance of writer’s groups several times. Here is a fantastic post about getting involved in writing communities.

We, as a people, are social creatures. That’s how we’re built. Sure, there are personality differences that change the level of interaction needed or desired, but we still need others. Especially when your chosen craft is as solitary as writing is. It’s a lonely sport. We sit alone at home (or in a coffee shop), we outline (maybe), we write, we revise, and we edit. All of that, for the most part, is a solitary activity.

It’s also a difficult path to pursue as a hobby or career. There isn’t a guarantee of money or fame, but those are the goals a lot of us work toward. In the wake of the loneliness, these also bring heartache, discouragement, and pain. Between the length of time it takes to finish a project (start to finish, it took me 16 months to finish Deception) and the rejection letters from agents and the poor sales numbers on self-publishing sites, the heart can only take so much.

This is why community is so important. While the craft itself is fairly solitary, there are opportunities to interact with other writers. It’s important to find others to help you grow, encourage you, and to help you persevere during the inevitable lows. And there are so many existing places to connect! They can be in person or online, and most of them are free!

Some examples include writing groups (also called critique groups or critique circles), online communities, and social media. They can provide you with encouragement, answers your questions, help you make other connections, critique your work, and suggest ways for you to grow. And the best part: they’re writers just like you! They know the struggle of sifting through rejection letters. It’s not an empty “I’m sorry” but a heartfelt “I’ve been there and you’ll make it through.” (Not that those who aren’t writers can’t offer support and encouragement. It’s just different.) They have the same goals as you, so they understand when you text “can’t talk – in a writing streak”.

Read the rest…

Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at



A Wolf of Steam and Fire: Part 12

This is part of an ongoing steampunk fantasy story. See the introduction to get at the story from the beginning.

Next on the agenda was to kill the guards. But then what? I had no idea where I was. With my serpentine gone, I couldn’t signal for help.

Again my instincts pushed against my training. A good soldier would sneak out and search for her serpentine. If that didn’t work, hide in the jungle. I could find the path we’d come on. There must’ve been Ilsan patrols in the area.

I would most likely get lost and die in the jungle.

Besides, all I really wanted to do was kill Rat.

Voices rose outside. A guard change? Shit, someone’s coming inside.

I scrambled back to the post and pretended to be bound and asleep. A second later, someone entered my tent. Breathe normally, I whispered to myself.

I heard the intruder set his rifle down and approach me.

I sprang into action, swinging my rope-blade. He dodged effortlessly, but hitting him wasn’t my goal. I used the distraction to grab his weapon. In a flash, I trained it on him.

Andrew. The traitor.

My fingers curled to a fist as the rage returned. Flashes of the other prisoner’s fate. I hated Andrew as much, maybe more than the Rat. He was Ilsan. He should know better.

His expression was blank, though. “You’re good, but if you were better, you’d notice the gun isn’t loaded.”

He was right. It was too light. “I should have known you wouldn’t make that mistake again.”

“I didn’t make that mistake the first time. I wanted you to get my rifle at the sacrifice.”


“To kill the sorcerer. You missed.”

“I hit my target.”

“Then, you’re a fool. The prisoner was already dead. The sorcerer was the threat.”

“I couldn’t let him suffer. Not with all that majick.”

“Small-minded idiot. Now the sorcerer will do the same to you.”

I forced myself not to react. “Why are you here?”

“To rescue you.” He chuckled. “I guess you don’t need help.”

“That’s right.”

“Where will you go, then?”

I paused.

He continued.  “So you do need me.”

“I don’t need a traitor or a majickian.”

His eyes flashed. “I don’t use majick! And I’m not a traitor.”

Even with the little I’d observed of Andrew, I knew he prided himself on self-control. There was so much emotion behind that outburst. Could it be real?

He didn’t pause. “I’m undercover. A Grey Wolf. That’s why I gave you the chance to kill the sorcerer. Do you want another?”

“How do I know this isn’t a trick?”

“Because there are no Ilsan traitors. Loyalty is in our blood. And because I’m going to tell you how to get out of here.”

I narrowed my eyes.

He casually reached into his pocket as he knelt. “The sorcerer’s name is Quetzan. He was a local until we drafted him into the Ilsan Mechinicians Corps. Grew up in Valin City. Smart boy. Terrible temper. Not sure how he ended up here, but I know what he’s doing.”

Andrew removed his hand from his jacket and  dropped half a dozen small marbles onto the dirt floor.

My rifle point lowered. Not marbles. “Cartabugs?”

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A Wolf of Steam and Fire: Part 11

This is part of an ongoing steampunk fantasy story. See the introduction to get at the story from the beginning.

Majick – two ways to use majick. Beasts used Wild Majick by instinct, like the dreamstealer. Humans could control majick by the Treatus: spells bound to letters of an ancient language. I didn’t know much about majick, only that it was irrational and dangerous.

Mouse’s fingers danced through the air. Green trails of light followed from their tips, weaving into long tendrils of liquid-light that slithered around the prisoner, the dreamstealer carcass and the pillar.

Treatus Majick.

Then, Mouse began to sing. I couldn’t hear the music, but I felt it – tasted it – and knew what was happening. 

Darker sorcery. Something else, beyond the Treatus. Something I didn’t understand.

A chill crawled through the muggy air. Mouse sunk the blade into the dreamstealer’s skin. The same oily, black blood oozed and covered the knife. He turned to the prisoner, his expression lighting up like a glowing automaton. Deranged. Mad.

Music rose on its own now, though I couldn’t say where came from

I realized what was happening a second too late. Mouse plunged the dagger into the soldier’s chest.

My scream was lost in Mouse’s bloody howl and the shout from the prisoner and the shriek from the majickal music.

Quick as a shot, I stole Andrew’s rifle and cracked the gun’s butt against is jaw.

On the platform, the prisoner fell.

I took aim.

The shot broke through the music. Right on target.

The soldier fell away, a clean hole between his eyes. A quick death. An Ilsan death.

Next, I took aim on Mouse, but froze in the same breath I was going to fire. He looked at me – inside of me. He worked his fingers into a Treatus Rune in the air. I couldn’t fire. My hands wouldn’t let me.

Rage flashed in my vision. Hatred.

I lunged forward, bent on tearing Mouse apart if I couldn’t shoot him, but Andrew tackled me.

Mouse cackled. He turned back to the soldier and tore the knife away. He finished the spell by smearing the dreamstealer’s blood and the prisoner’s blood on the blank pillar. Cracks spread across the stone, spider-webbing from the bloody smear. The cracks twisted into pictographs and symbols. The top of the pillar flexed. Bits of stone flecked off as if it was shedding skin. Finally, in one last split, the pillar settled. Now, like the others, two faces stared in opposite directions: one panther, one human.

Not just human – the sacrificed soldier.

I buried my face in the dirt. Not only had this Mouse – this Rat – killed a fellow soldier, he had defiled an Ilsan citizen with majick. The soldier could never rest now. Never find peace.

Andrew was silent as he led me to a small tent in the center of the camp. Two guards were posted outside, but he took the precaution of binding me to a post in the center of the tent before leaving. I lay down and closed my eyes. I was alone in a prisoner tent, trying not to shake, begging to forget what I had seen. Praying I could kill Rat before he did that to me.

Eventually, night fell and the guards outside stopped their chatter. Probably asleep. Now was my moment. I slipped the towel the nurse had given me from my pocket and retrieved the razor blade. With it, I cut myself free, then weaved threads from the rope with the frays of the towel. Lastly, I tied the razor to the end.

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What I Learned From My Second Manuscript

Nicole Wilson is back with more of her sage advice. Previously, she shared her lessons from writing a first manuscript. This time she talks about her second.

Late last year, I wrote a blog post on what I learned from writing my first manuscript. Since then, I have gone through most of the editing process for Deception–the manuscript that blog post is based on–and begun the marketing process (query letters, synopses, sample chapters, oh my!). I’ve also written the first draft of my second novel, The Grudge. Here are a few things that I’ve learned in writing that second manuscript.

Writing well is still hard. Sigh Deep down, I think I’d hoped that after conquering that first manuscript, magical words that would make agents and editors come knocking my door down would flow from my fingertips effortlessly. Sadly, that is not what happened. I haven’t had one single agent or editor even say hi. In fact, I think writing The Grudge was harder than Deception. Probably because I expected it to be easier, and because The Grudge is about 20K words longer than Deception was at this stage. That’s an extra full month of writing for me. Long time to gruelingly trudge out every word.

Character outlines are a God-send. I wrote a blog post on the importance of character profiles, but I didn’t start using character profiles until halfway through Deception. Oh my gosh. Writing the full manuscript with a simple packet for each character made life so much easier. No more game-time decisions that affected other parts of the manuscript.

Research first. I don’t typically do a lot of research for my stories (none of my short stories required any research), but The Grudge dealt heavily with a lot of topics I wasn’t familiar with: Volgan Germans, Unmanned Ground Vehicles, and robotic tanks are just some of them. Before I started writing, I did internet research on all of them, printed out several pages, and had them handy for my writing. That way, I didn’t spend thirty minutes searching for the right information and another two hours getting lost down the rabbit hole of clicking on links that looked interesting.

And, if you do nothing else before you start writing, back up your outline! Back up your outline. Oh yeah, and back up your outline. I had one of the worst days of my writing career when I misplaced my scene cards. I keep a stack of an index card per scene, handwritten, bound with a binder clip while I’m writing. Not very big. Easy to lose, I learned. I couldn’t find them in my backpack one Friday. Convinced I’d left them at work, I didn’t think much of it until I got to work on Monday and couldn’t find them there either. I was devastated. Over halfway through with my novel, I’d lost about 25 cards that I hadn’t yet typed. That’s a whole lot of lost words. I was lucky. My husband found them under our stove (courtesy of one of our cats). But I went straight home and scanned them all into my computer. Lesson learned.

Read the rest…

Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at

A Wolf of Steam and Fire: Part 10

This is part of an ongoing steampunk fantasy story. See the introduction to get at the story from the beginning.

We skirted the base of the smaller pyramid and came to the other side, now directly in front of the large temple. To the left spread a field dotted with hundreds of skinny stone pillars, each about the height of a man. Two faces adorned the top of each pillar: one human and one animal. Writing and pictographs clung to every inch of the stone, running in spirals. Behind the stone pillars were more stone figures, several dozen. These were also about the size of a man, but were sculpted to look like ogres, or something equally terrifying from some Spectre Tale.

To my right, another field, this one as smaller with a platform. We stopped about twenty yards from the center. Stone pillars circled  the platform on the ground, and three half-finished ogre sculptures sat just behind them.

Mouse was on top of the platform with one unfinished stone pillar. Skinny and pale, his long black hair had been tied back into a sort of ponytail. In one hand, he held a long blade. His other hand was free to stroke the one stone pillar on the stage with him. There were several workers around, but he didn’t look at any of them. Mouse just stared at the ogre sculptures as if they were an audience begging for an encore. His slimy smile sent nausea into my stomach.

Two workers dragged the carcass of the animal I’d killed up onto the platform. Next a couple of the rebels led a man onto the platform before Mouse. The prisoner was about my age, or maybe twenty and wore a black and crimson uniform with a tortoise shell helmet. Ilsan Infantry, Telim Division by my guess. He looked like he’d been a prisoner a long time. The rebels forced the soldier to kneel in front of Mouse. 

The soldier resisted. Ilsan pride swelled in my chest. We were better than these savages. At least the prisoner hadn’t forgotten that.

The rebels tied him like a swine and left him with alone with Mouse. Mouse closed his eyes, stock still, drumming his fingers on the stone pillar at his side. Then the drumming changed. He moved his fingers back and forth in patterns as if drawing on the stone. His breathing became deeper. The prisoner seemed to settle.

Mouse opened his eyes in a flash. They had gone yellow, entirely yellow. He grinned and his cheek bones seemed sharper. His demeanor tighter. No longer a pale boy. Not even a human. Mouse had become something else. Rabid hunger swam in his gaze when he looked down at the bound prisoner.

He removed his hand from the pillar and slowly touched the soldier’s shoulder.

Mouse’s lips twitched like a feral animal. The soldier closed his eyes, fighting no more.

What happened next, I’ve tried to forget.

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A Wolf of Steam and Fire: Part 9

This is part of an ongoing steampunk fantasy story. See the introduction to get at the story from the beginning.

I fumbled with the towel and dropped it on the table, right on top of a razor blade. When I scooped the towel up again, I grabbed a blade, carefully wiped my tears and crammed them both into my pocket.

When we finished, Andrew led me away. I figured we would we’d go to prisoner barracks or straight to interrogation. I was ready for those things.

I wasn’t ready for the Stone Forest.

We walked through the empty camp, past the perimeter and into the jungle along a makeshift path. For a moment, we were alone and I considered attacking him, but the path spilled suddenly into a much larger clearing.

Ruins: towering and alive.

These savages were carving an ancient city out of the jungle. The path we were standing on turned into the main road through the site. Two pyramids, one twice the size of the other, dominated the scene. The largest one was at the end of the road. The smaller was halfway down on the left. Dozens of other structures rose, half-reclaimed from the forest: small homes, theatre platforms, even some sort of arena. Hundreds of men were hard at work prying buildings, stone paths, covered sinkholes and the smaller pyramid into view. Elaborate carvings covered almost every stone surface. Pictures of forgotten priests on vision quests, warriors returning from battle, and people appeasing feathered serpent gods were everywhere.

Intricate writing snaked between the scenes. I recognized the lettering from school: the ancient Teth language that had been used to create the Treatus Runes, now outlawed anywhere Ilsa had influence.

I asked Andrew, “Is this from the First Teth Empire?”

“Older,” he answered. “This ruin is from before the Emperor united the tribes in the Second City. This is all from the age of the First Lords.”

“Of course,” I scoffed. “A traitor gone native would believe boogey-man fairy tales.”

Still, my skin twitched. The stones were worn and colorless, but I couldn’t help picturing them vibrantly painted. Whispers of those who walked these paths four-thousand years ago followed me. We trudged down the road toward the larger pyramid. Painted down the sides of the pyramids were scenes of sacrifice, bloodletting and death.  High now, the sun blazed through the cleared canopy and jungle sounds were distant.

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Obscure Folklore and Inspiration

One of my favorite quotes goes something like, “a writer is just someone who has trained his mind to misbehave.” I love that. Storytellers take bits and pieces from all the things we know and mash them around to create something new and cool.

For those of us who write fantasy, this means we have a wide buffet to choose from. Still, it can take some work to find those little-known bits of awesome. I’ve done some of the legwork for you. Here are a couple articles about obscure fairy tales and mythological creatures.


Share your own in the comments below.

A Wolf of Steam and Fire: Part 8

This is part of an ongoing steampunk fantasy story. See the introduction to get at the story from the beginning.

Tiny gritted his teeth and narrowed his eyes. Like the piston of a steam machine, an artery pulsed in his forehead. “I’m going to secure the perimeter.”

“Better hurry,” I pushed. “A squad of Ilsan cadets could take this place.”

Tiny shot another look to Mouse, but Mouse just waved him away. The big man grunted and left. Tiny, Peacock, and the Traitor. Savages and rebels. I could handle them. Mouse, however, wasn’t like the rest. Not even a man.

What was his function? Why was he here?

Mouse turned to the Traitor. “Andrew, take care of her.” He jabbed his finger toward me, then ordered the rest of the men to get the “dreamstealer to the platform.”

Dreamstealer. Part of me shuddered and part of me thrilled. Apparently the monster I had killed was called a dreamstealer because it lures its prey by using majick to create waking dreams like the one I had had about the rebels chasing me. The thing had gotten inside my head.

That’s the part that made me shudder.

That I had beaten it gave me the thrill.

The Traitor approached me.

Andrew, I thought. A strong Ilsan name.

He took my shoulder roughly, sending a surge of pain. I jerked away, but he gripped tighter. He was strong and quick. Clever, too. I could sense that in his eyes.

Andrew led me to a half-covered hovel that passed for their aid station. Inside were just a few cots occupied by ill natives. There was no sanitation basin or clockwork dioramas. Only a pile of dirt- looking bandages and jars of local medicines. A dark-skinned woman sat me on a cot and pulled a small table between us. On the table sat three bowls of fowl-smelling goop, water, bandages and several sizes of razor blades and needles for removing shrapnel and such.

My shoulder wound was turning yellow. I’d learned about gangrene and the danger of infection. These savages didn’t even have proper medicine, just ground up tree shit, but I guessed it was better than nothing. I refused to cringe when they applied the balm.

I had seen combat half a dozen times since I joined the army, but I’d never been wounded. Never captured. I’d probably been declared dead by now.

My throat tightened at that thought. They’d be sending a letter home to Angela Davies’ family. Not that she really existed. With the connections that come with the name Cabbot, it had been easy to invent a person.

As the savage medicine began to numb my wound, I allowed myself a precious moment. If the army had known who I was – if they knew I was from a disgraced House – would they bother to send a letter? Who would it go to?  No one left in the Cabbot House would care.

My eyes stung, tears creeping forward. Damn savage medicine, I choked. Stench is terrible.

The nurse gave me a towel for my tears.

I seized the opportunity.

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Resources for Artists: Be More Productive

We’ve all been there, needing that extra nudge to actually get something good done. Twitter and Facebook can suck you into a vortex and never let you go. We, as artists, need inspiration, tools, resources, and help with things we may not do so well (like social media marketing).

The good folks over at Creative Shrimp have put together a wonderful, catch-all list of 19 Useful Resources to Help You Get More Productive at Art. I use several of these regularly. You should really check it out.

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