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My Path to Becoming a Writer and My First Published Story

Hi, my name is Matt Mitrovich.

I have been an avid reader most of my life and like most book worms I had the desire see my own name in print one day. I wanted to witness my ideas and characters come to life.

I didn’t take orthodox route in becoming a writer. I studied history at Bradley University and law at The John Marshall Law School. I would often write down my ideas, but they were just brainstorming sessions not real writing. I talked about writing a lot to the point where everyone knew about my dream to be an author. It took a co-worker, however, who asked me if I had actually written anything to make me realize I wasn’t following said dream.

In fact I really wasn’t in a happy place when I started writing. Two years ago I worked as a contract attorney, doing temporary e-discovery assignments for companies and firms around the Chicago area. It certainly was not what I expected to be doing out of law school, but with the economy being as it was, I was just grateful to be paid while still working in the industry. Nevertheless, I felt like I had little control over my own life. My wife said there were days when I came home irritated, depressed and generally miserable. I needed to do something just to stay sane.

So I decided to take charge and write something. Thinking of something to write about, however, seemed like a daunting prospect. I didn’t have any ideas for stories. I wanted to write alternate history, my favourite genre, and thought I could post short scenarios and see what people thought. I would post it to my own blog so I could make the rules and not be under the thumb of a moderator or administrator.

Turns out blogs like that are a dime a dozen. I wanted something different and unique. I thought hard and realized something important. There was no single place to get information about the genre itself. Most SF websites will cover an alternate history work at some point, but it is rare and they are often ignored by most genre fans. Even worse, the forums and wikis alternate historians congregated at seemed to be full of people who professed a love of the genre, but were ignorant of the authors, works and history of the genre itself.

So I set out to rectify that problem. I wanted to keep people up to date, but I wanted to start slow. I decided to post a summary of the week’s alternate history news every Monday. It wasn’t a stretch after that to call it “Alternate History Weekly Update”. Afterwards, I was amazed to discover how easy it was to write an article once a week. Last June I was writing 10 articles a week. Now, however, I have found a more sustainable goal of 5 articles. This allows me to turn my attention to other projects…and keeps my wife happy.

Two years of constant blogging and I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunities it provided. It introduced me to wonderful and intelligent friends and it helped me enter the larger world of fandom with my new gig blogging for Amazing Stories. More importantly, it finally allowed me to get the confidence to write my own fiction.

In 2011, I finished my first short story, “Collapse Theory”, which has sadly never seen the light of day. Still your first try is usually not that good and I have had more success with follow-up works such as “A Perfect Hell on Earth” and “Revenants in Warfare”. Those stories were with amateur publications, but to truly feel in my heart that I was real writer, someone had to buy my fiction. I realize not everyone thinks the same way, but it is how my neurotic mind works.

once upon a clockwork taleTurns out my path to my first professional publication started off in rather silly manner. After attending a live Rifftrax showing of Jack the Giant Killer, I did what I always do after seeing a bad movie: tried to make it better. At first it was just a jumble of thoughts in my head with nowhere to go, until I saw Echelon Press was looking for queries regarding steampunk retellings of classic fairy tales for an anthology titled Once Upon a Clockwork Tale.

I’m going to tell you something even my editor doesn’t know. I didn’t actually have the finished story when I wrote my query. I had an idea and I certainly must of convinced them because they emailed me back saying they wanted me for the anthology…and I had less than two weeks to submit my story. I had no idea they would accept my query. Honestly I had just wanted practice in writing queries since I had never done it before. I was not, however, about to let an opportunity like this pass me by. When I wasn’t working, I was writing, and somehow I manage to string together a story that the good folks at Echelon thought was worthy of Once Upon a Clockwork Tale.

The story is called “The Enchanted Bean” and as you can probably guess it is a steampunk retelling of “Jack and the Beanstalk”. Here is the description from the back of Once Upon a Clockwork Tale:

How do you reach a fabled land of giants without any magic beans? Build an airship, of course. A British adventurer takes to the skies seeking wealth and glory, instead he finds ancient gods ruling an oppressive flying kingdom. With the help of their allies, these former masters of men want to replant the World Tree and rebuild their war machines. To stop the sky from falling, our hero will have to do more than chop down a beanstalk.

I really enjoyed writing this tale. Although it is more “pulp” than “punk”, I think readers will enjoy this adventure tale that pokes fun at some of the common steampunk tropes. I also gave some nods to Norse mythology and a couple pop culture icons. I hope you check it out and enjoy it and all of the other stories contained therein. You can get your copy from AmazonBarnes & NobleCreatespace and Smashwords.

Writing has been an incredible journey so far and I am not through yet.


Update on “The Enchanted Bean”

220px-Jack_and_the_Beanstalk_Giant_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_17034Sorry for not posting recently. If you follow Alternate History Weekly Update you would have read my announcement on Monday on why I have been so busy. Good news, however, on my short story “The Enchanted Bean”, scheduled to be published next year in Once Upon a Clockwork Tale. My editor at Echelon PressKaren L. Syed, is moving ahead to the next round of edits. I just submitted my bio and brief description of the story for the jacket copy. Check out the first drafts below:


Matt Mitrovich is a misplaced refugee from the multiverse. As he tries to find his home timeline, he passes the time by editing Alternate History Weekly Update, a group blog he founded dedicated to news and reviews on alternate history, and contributing as a blogger to new electronic version of the classic SF magazine, Amazing Stories. Sometimes he writes fiction about the worlds he visits, like “A Perfect Hell on Earth” from Jake’s Monthly Anthology, which is based on a diary Matt found in a France torn apart by a century long war. Regrettably this Earth requires you to be a “productive citizen”, so Matt became an attorney to fulfill this social obligation while his search continues. He was lucky enough to take a native of this timeline as a wife and believes she is most beautiful when she becomes frustrated trying to convince him there is no such thing as parallel universes.

Jacket copy:

How do you reach a fabled land of giants without any magic beans? Build an airship, of course. In “The Enchanted Bean” a British adventurer takes to the skies to find unimaginable wealth and glory, but instead finds ancient gods ruling an oppressive flying kingdom. With the help of their Russian allies, these former masters of men want to replant the World Tree and rebuild their war machines. To stop the sky from falling, our hero will have to do more than just chopping down a bean stalk. He will need to get over his own fears and accept help from an eccentric American inventor and an unladylike noblewoman. Who would have though finding a golden goose could be so hard?

“Revenants in Warfare” is clawing at your front door!

Just in time for Halloween, “Revenants in Warfare” has been published in the “Issue 5: The Historical Undead: Alternate History Zombies” of The Were-Traveler. Fans of zombies and alternate history can enjoy this “fake excerpt” from the introduction of renowned historian Jorge Roman as he gives the definitive account of the use of the dead in war.

Thanks again to Maria Kelly for giving me this chance. I hope you all enjoy my first foray into zombie literature and remember…GET BACK IN THE HOUSE CARL!!!

“Revenants in Warfare” shambles toward publication

After less than a week since my last announcement about a publication, I now have more good news. Last night I was contacted by Maria Kelly from The Were-Traveler. She loved “Revenants in Warfare”, my flash fiction piece which she described as a “meta-faux history article”. It is a “fake excerpt” from renowned historian Jorge Roman’s new book. The preeminent historian of the dead has broken new ground by detailing the history of the dead in warfare. Learn about the bloody genesis of modern society.

I had fun writing this story and I hope you will enjoy reading it as well.  Originally it was longer, but after several rewrites I shortened it to fall under your flash fiction category. This is one of my first forays into zombie fiction, despite being a huge fan of the genre ever since I stayed up late at a slumber party to watch Night of Living Dead.  While everyone else passed out, my eyes remained glued to the television as I absorbed Romero’s masterpiece.

The story will be appearing in Issue 5 of the magazine and will be published on October 29th or 30th, 2012, just in time for Halloween.

With a new short story coming out I decided to create a new bio to use a signature blurb. Check it out:

Matt Mitrovich is a long-time fan of alternate history, founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a volunteer editor for Alt Hist magazine. His fiction can be found at Echelon PressJake’s MonthlyThe Masquerade Crew and his own writing blog. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter (@MattMitrovich).

Excerpt from “Collapse Theory”

As promised, here is excerpt from my yet to be published short story “Collapse Theory”. Enjoy:

The air felt warm for October and the patron’s of O’Hare’s Pub obviously approved. The bar looked half-full with the usual crowd of this working-class, smoked filled watering hole. Poor laborers blew away their weekly salary and proles spent the dole President Loeb’s Social-Democrats provided to the unemployed masses.

The Cubs were losing to New Orleans, once again on the barside television. One of the patrons swore loudly after another Cubs player struck out and his friends ridiculed him for his mistaken faith. The farside wall screen ran the local news channel, showcasing the death of six Yugoslavian UN Peacekeepers in Arizona while discussing the continued threat of the Pacific Socialist States or Texas intervening to end the Arizona insurgency.

Angela swung away from the farside screen, sleeking down her short black hair with a slight moue at the amount of smoke. The fifth, or was it the sixth? leering patron walked too near her, but had enough sense to stare at her eyes instead of her breasts. She looked him in the eye; indifference and the lazy unconcern of somebody easily able to defend herself gave him pause. He hesitated and then swerved for the bathroom.

Angela gave a sniff of disgust as he retreated, and immediately regretted it. Whatever happened to the Anglo-American Timeline prejudice against smoking tobacco?

A light haze of cigarette smoke interfered with Angela’s vision. It almost looks like the haze from…No! Do not go there! Just stay by the bar. The contact is expected to find a woman seated at the bar watching the news.

The news channel played part of a speech by the President of the Union of Soviet Sovereign Republics, promising to increase financial aid to the United States if they allowed UN weapons inspectors back into the country. The crowd booed and hissed. Barbarians. Their timeline is on the verge of Collapse and all they care about is their petty feuds. She shook her head internally as she observed them with their coarse language, shabby clothes and vile liquor. Maybe we should unleash the Psych Bureau on this timeline. Long stay in a reeducation camp is what these animals need.

The chimes over the door interrupted her thoughts. She looked over and forced herself not to scowl.

She knew the arrogant young man in a faded leather jacket and jeans standing in the door. The white smudge lines on his left sleeve marked him as Angela’s contact. A five-o’clock shadow and small scar just under his lower lip did not disguise him from her. He waved at some men who greeted him, but scanned the bar. Spying Angela, he sauntered over to her.

Crap. Control should have warned me it was Jake. She stayed in character, tossing her head and giving him a cold shoulder. To calm herself she recited the Technocratic Creed: I am a cog. I am a piece of the machine. I work for the greater good.

“Hello, Angela,” the man said, smirking. “It’s been a long time.”

Angela sipped from her glass. “Do I have to say, it’s good to see you Jake; but you could have shaved. Or are you trying to hide the scar?”

Deliberately she traced the scar with her index finger. Her smile cruel and her eyes hard. Jake flinched and Angela continued to smile. Good, as long as you remember who put it there. Maybe we can get through this quickly . . . without your stupid nonsense.

Jake turned to the bar and quickly ordered a beer. Angela watched as he took the mug and felt her eyes narrow in satisfaction at the carefully controlled grip, the tremble that didn’t quite make it out. He gestured with the mug and she shrugged and walked to an empty booth at the far end of the bar. She noticed the men who’d spoken to him coming in watching them. They didn’t know if Jake had scored or not and she felt some grim satisfaction. Jake liked to build on a reputation of being the “Slavic Sensation;” the man who could take any woman for a ride.

“So when did you get in?”

“Two hours ago,” Angela replied. “I broke the brane in a clearing over on the Eggers Woods forest preserve. A parallel of it actually exists on 01-02-1891 so the transition was easy.”

Jake nodded and took a healthy swig. He took a moment to look at Angela. “You still look beautiful by the way.”

“I will castrate you, Jakub Tillich.”

He flinched for a second time and laughed uneasily, covering his momentary lapse. “You still don’t swear like a normal person. Crap, when we broke up . . . you were so much the model technocrat; I didn’t really believe you.

Jake fingered his scar. “Well . . . until the end.”

“I do not have time for this,” Angela said. “Remember that cultures can be wildly different. You tripped over a hidden trap and nearly died in it. Bait me and you could still die.”

She took a moment to let her threat sink in then continued. “This is business. The Time Stream Protection Task Force has assigned me a clean-up mission in this timeline and if you are not going to help me I am sure Odin’s Hell Hole would love to have a new inmate.”

Jake held up his hands. “Sorry, you are right…as usual. You do not have to threaten to feed me to the Vikings. I promise to cooperate.”

Jake leaned forward and put his hands on table. “Also I had nothing to do with us being paired again. I just passed on what I learned and then got orders to meet an agent here. So let’s forget about our . . . past relationship and get on with this.”

Angela searched the man’s face, but she could not catch any of the tell-tale signs of deceit. Her face became fractionally more sympathetic. “Did you ever go back home and find her?”

Jake looked away. Angela momentarily regretted bringing up mention of the woman from Jake’s childhood.

“Yeah, I did, after we broke up. She’s dead. The most excellent government of Vendia was kind enough to provide a pinewood box before dumping her in an unmarked grave.” He spit on the already filthy floor of the bar.

“I am sorry. She sounded like a wonderful person.”

Jake waved Angela’s comment away and his usual jovial voice returned. “No worries. I made sure to lodge a complaint with those responsible. It was good to see someone get cut up beside me for once.”

Jake chuckled as he unconsciously fingered his scar again. “Now I have been rewarded with a date with my crazy ex-girlfriend and a chance to rat out another criminal and hopefully move in on his territory. Good times.”

Jake quickly chugged his beer and waved toward the bartender for another. Angela just recited her creed again to calm herself before continuing.

“Do you have any information for me?”

Jake reached under the table with his right hand and placed a tiny plastic zip drive, which Angela quickly pocketed.

“Let us get on with the business at hand. I have been briefed and I will review this intelligence later, but I want to hear your opinion about this world and what is happening here.”

“I heard about what happened on 07-113-1558. Grade-A clusterfuck if you ask me. You were lucky to get out alive.”

Angela face became set in stone. “That is irrelevant to the mission.”

“I heard the Community is calling it ‘Gehenna’. You know…the Jewish hell.”

Angela stared daggers at Jake, “The situation, please?”

Jake gave a slight chuckle, “I was contacted about two months ago. They told me there was a job on 04-190-1945, but it was dangerous. The natives here a restless, you saw the news.”

A waitress arrived with Jake’s new beer. He thanked her and took a healthy swig from it. “At first I didn’t believe what they were asking. Turns out condoms and other birth control are illegal here. I almost choked on my beer when I heard it, but the guys who run this shit-hole had to make a deal with some religious nut-jobs to keep them from shooting up every tax collector who came knocking.”

Angela nodded and Jake continued. “So standard procedure, we bought wholesale on Santamaria…”


“Whatever. Like I said we bought wholesale, transferred it to this abandoned steel mill, jacked up the prices and raked in the profit. I got my share and everything else went back to the group running it from Santamaría.”

“So what went wrong?”

“I got suspicious when my ‘partner’ showed up. Said his name was John. They told me they wanted one of their guys working with me just to be sure I kept our bargain.”

Jake took a large swig from his beer. “Can you think of a better way to insult a smuggler?”

“A few. Tell me about this other smuggler.”

“He wasn’t a smuggler; I figured that out really quick. Almost blew our cover when he got into a pissing contest with a potential buyer.”

Jake took another drink from his beer before he continued. “He also kept me from looking at all of the products . . . well tried to anyway. Did you know assault rifles are considered contraceptives?”

Angela rolled her eyes. Jake hesitated and stared at his half-empty beer for a moment. “He had a look in his eye as well.”

“What look?”

“The one that says I have seen some deep shit. You have a little of it yourself.”

Angela sighed. She began to understand her adversary. “Soldier?”

“Yep. Called in a couple of favors and found an ID. Julius Williams, New Afrikan.”

Angela unconsciously rubbed her left thigh as she spoke, remembering the time she broke up another rogue New Afrikan operation in the Confederate States of American on Earth 04-020-1861. “I have experience with them on another timeline. Let me guess, trying to export their revolutionary ideas to the local black population?”

Jake nodded. “Blacks got it rough in this timeline. There was a lot of fighting in the 60s after they came back from their war in Cuba and still found whitey lording it over them. Now it looks like they found a sympathetic ear from the New Afrikans.”

“Tell me more about Julius.”

“Veteran of the Liberian Civil War on Santamaria and participated in some of their other interventions there until the powers that be put a lid on such . . . extracurricular activities.”

A waitress approached them and Jake ordered another beer. “Does he have any accomplices?”

Jake took another long drink and finished his beer. “You sure are talkative tonight. Not from his timeline, but he has several local boys running around. Five or six of them, young hotheads eager for the revolution.”

Angela nodded. “This United States is unlikely to hold out for long. If the New Afrikans are attempting to arm the local black population then they have very fertile grounds to work with. My briefing said they have been second-class citizens for generations and they have not attempted any significant acts of social engineering to placate the populace.”

Jake rolled his eyes. “You technocrats think you can solve every Earth’s problems by walling everyone up. When was the last time your Technocracy created a painting or film anyone liked? Your culture has been stagnant for generations.”

Angela felt an old surge to argue with Jake, but suppressed it. “As much as I would love proving you wrong again, how about we just focus on this Earth. I plan to move in a few days, be ready.”

“Just go after Julius and try not to shoot me or my boys in the process.”

Angela said as she gave her first genuine smile. “No promises.”

Writing Update 9/28/12

I know I say this all the time, but I need to get better about updating this blog. New goal is at least once a week.

Alright big news: Down in Dixie is coming along nicely, but I have decided not to submit it to Abaddon Books. I wrote it as a love letter to the alternate history genre and it is that indeed. Sadly I doubt anyone would actually be interested in publishing such a reference-heavy story set in a niche market. So instead I am going to spend more time on it, flesh it out and making it novel length. I might actually submit it to a publisher, but I will most likely be self-publishing this bad boy.

Speaking of self-publishing, it has been over a year since I wrote “Collapse Theory” and I have yet to find a publisher for the story. I like the tale too much to shelve it so in the near future (hopefully this October) I will be self-publishing it. It will get me acquainted with the process, which will only help me when I finally decide to publish Down in Dixie. Stay tuned for a brief excerpt from the short story just so I can hear from you whether it is a good idea or not.

I just submitted my new short story “Road Trip” to The Masquerade Crew for their upcoming time travel anthology. Wish me luck! In the meantime I am starting working on a really short story (max word count is 2k) for The Were-Traveler’s anthology featuring zombies in alternate history settings. My tale is tentatively titled “Revenants in Warfare” and will be a short excerpt from a much longer scholarly (and, of course, fictional) tome. I am really looking forward to writing this tale. Those who know me or else have read some of my fiction, will understand how much the zombie genre has had an effect of my writing. Ever since I stayed up late during a sleep-over to watch Night of the Living Dead I have been obsessed with the walking dead. Hopefully the lead up to Halloween will put in the right mood to write this horror story.

A new novella?

So last writing update I mentioned a new setting for my first novel. After learning that Abaddon Books was calling for 30k-40k novellas in honor of their birthday I decided to take a shot at it using my new setting.  The working title of the novella is Down in Dixie and in the spirit of Newman’s Anno Dracula and Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen you will find a lot of references to fictional universes and characters.  I hope you guys enjoy all of the easter eggs, but just be ready for it to be fast, tense and dark.

I will keep you updated as the novel progresses.  I have just written the first 3000 words and I hope to have the manuscript ready to be sent to Abaddon by mid-September.  While I hope they accept it, I am tempted to self-publish in case they don’t.  I guess we will all have to wait and see what the future brings.