Saturday, January 3, 2015

Even More Reflections (and Some Shit)

So 2014 passed into the rainy, rainy night with much noise and annoyance. Despite that, I think I'm in a better mood than last year--aside from living in this craphole known as South Texas. If you ever want to see the height of human incompetency, just come down here. Fortunately, I won't be staying here for much longer.

Made some nice pro-rate sales, won one of On The Premises contest, had a lead story in an anthology, and closed the year out with a sale to Phobos Magazine--a weird little zine that I've had my eye on for quite some time.

No SFWA sale, because once again I don't write what the editors want at the moment. (Rez and I have a theory that editors don't know what they really want, which accounts for why a magazine will publish both amazing and absolutely dreadful stories.) The weep-woe trend is still going strong, or stories that bend over backwards to deliver that contrived emotional punch. Or the worse: stories where the fantastical elements are window dressing for a mundane tale.

I want to give props to Tor.com for publishing enjoyable fiction. I usually only read stories from markets when I stop by their site to submit, and often come away uninspired (coughstrangehorizonscough). Not the case with Tor.com. Granted, I didn't read every story of theirs, as I'm sure they published some stinkers, but overall there was some really good stuff. Even when I felt so-so about a particular story, I could see the merit in the story, why an editor would pick it. I like how they haven't forgotten that stories are supposed to be entertaining, that characters aren't always victims, that characters have drive and emotion and don't just whine into a puddle of their own tears, that the reader may question the morals or sanity of the character, that things happen within the story. By Beetlejuice! Where have these story elements been???

And Tor.com is cool enough to publish stories that don't climax with an epiphany or some profound reveal, like "Where the Lost Things Are ", which is just a silly adventure about old people shrinking themselves to find a lost pill. Again, I feel like that's something a lot of publisher have forgotten; I can't recall too many fun stories from other publications.

Now that I look back on it, it was a very odd year for short fiction. Thanks to some delusional old fart on the SFWA forums saying women were ruining science fiction, some editors took the initiative to prove the guy wrong, thus Women Destroy Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror. There's been a few additional Women Only anthologies and podcasts throughout the year as well.

I'm not exactly fond of the Women Destroy X Genre issues; I don't think they're going to change the mind of any fossils who must've been residing under a rock for the past 40 years. If anything, the issues seem gimmicky to me. The potential was squandered on lackluster stories, rather than doing a compilation anthology, taking stories from the great female sci-fi writers in the past, current successes, and future "fresh" voices. Now that would be awesome. Chronicling what women have done for the genre and will continue to do, with no signs of stopping. Of course undertaking such a project would eat a lot of time and money, but seeing as quite a few people got behind the idea of Women Destroy X Genre, I think it's entirely possible.

I do fear, in editors' attempt to make things "right" in the world, editors will go out of their way to publish more stories from women. That's not how it should work. The duty of any editor is to buy the best possible stories out there for publication. Keyword: stories. It's not about whether the author is male or female, black or blue, has green hair or pointy teeth, because those things are irrelevant to the story itself, and stories should sell themselves. You don't want editors getting into the habit of judging a story based on the author (ignoring that they already do this if you're a Big Name), instead of the story's own merit. Also, it doesn't help self-esteem if a woman realizes the only reason her story sold was because of her sex.          

In the end, we'll just have to see. As for me, I'll keep chugging away, and hopefully continue to sell stories, though I'm thinking it might be time to go back to longer works of fiction. Short fiction is great and all, but it has never been a popular form of fiction, and as the word counts get shorter, you start feeling that crunch. I've seen authors gouge out their short stories to fit the the word limit, and it ain't pretty. Or who knows, maybe I'll land an awesome job writing for video games. One can wish.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Podcast Inc.

Looking to listen to something that isn't dripping with holiday cheer? Well, you're in luck!--for I have some awesome podcasts to share.

Tina Connolly of Toasted Cake did a fantastic reading of "All I want for Christmas..." Really enjoyed Santa's faltering and Abbey's obnoxious kiddie voice. This is one to check out if you like a little dark humor in your holiday spirit. Big, BIG thumbs up to Tina for pronouncing my name correctly. :)


And from Third Flatiron, a reading of "Blade Between Oni and Hare" Unfortunately, I can't vouch for the pronunciations of some of the Japanese words (I'll be honest, it pained me to hear katana mispronounced), but it's still a decent reading if you can put that aside.  

There's also a Q&A with me if you're interested in that.

Enjoy! And Happy Holidays, folks!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Good Stuff!

'Tis the season for eggnog, corny holiday music, Amazon shopping, and forgetting the blog. I actually had to do real holiday shopping this year. I don't wish to repeat it.

But fear not! There are goodies to be had, and some awesome stuff to check out.

The cover looks MUCH nicer in physical form, trust me.

Some time ago I received a complimentary issue of Saturday Night Reader magazine--yes, a real magazine that you can hold and read and turn pages 'n stuff! A very nice magazine, too! It's big, has nice thick pages (so no fear of accidentally ripping a page), and colorful pictures and backgrounds for each story. It contains fifteen flash stories from various authors published on SNR's site, including my piece, "A Beastful Hunger."



Also, I didn't know Saturday Night Reader was a Canadian publication, haha.

If you like flash fiction and well-made magazines, and maybe you're Canadian, or have a hankering for noir and fast food, then I think it's worth picking up from SNR's store. Some of the magazine's proceeds goes to the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and Cystic Fibrosis Canada.

The long, long awaited W1S1 anthology, "Drunk on Writing," is out!


This anthology contains a whole slew of W1S1 participants, and includes my story, "The Ungreat Escape"--which sadly, this is the only place now you can read the story, because Cosmos redesigned their website and axed all their short fiction. 

And best part is, it's free! Pick it up as a PDF, MOBI (Kindle), or EPUB

Friday, November 21, 2014

Whiney Pages

This may be old news, but not too long ago, Pithy Pages for Erudite Readers (my, what a title!) closed their publication, after only being in business for about 4 months. This is pretty common for the short story publishing world; in fact, I'd say close to 80% (hell, it's probably higher) of new short story markets fold within their first year.

But why is this particular market worth mentioning?

If you had submitted to this market, you would've received a free subscription, like I did. In their final issue, there was a publisher's letter explaining why they were closing. But, it didn't stop there. It went on to something a bit more passive-aggressive. Fourth paragraph in the letter reads:

Publishers too, would like to be paid for their time and effort. To do this each publisher must decide to work as a profit or non-profit company. Pithy Pages chose the former because our publishers believe that the literary public, rather than government or some wealthy foundation, should support the publication of the short fiction they read or write. That being said, there are two ways to generate revenue from a publication: subscription fees and/or advertising. We tried both with dismal results. It turns out that there is more interest in writing short fiction than in reading it. It seems that the only people left to support the publication of short fiction are the authors working in the genre. Unfortunately, short fiction authors are under the incorrect assumption that people are lining up to read their work … They should be (it is really, really good) but they’re not, preferring the latest full-length novel (now showing as a movie).

There's quite a few problems with this, not to mention the gross assumptions made about the short story marketplace. So your publication wasn't making the $$$ that you expected, therefore, it must be the fault of writers and the literary public for not supporting your publication. Nothing to do with the fact that you were in existence for a very short time, or that your first issue was none too great.

Hard fact to admit, but people only tune in if you've got something worth while to read, or if you've stuffed your first issue with a bunch of well-known writers, as Uncanny has done. I understand Pithy Pages gave submitting writers free subscriptions in the hope they'd spread the word, but again, you need somewhat decent stuff. First issue of Pithy Pages only contained a public domain reprint and two originals stories; one flash, one longish short story--and the short story was pretty much what I made fun of in Twisty; it puts a twist on a twist, like you would wear a hat on a hat. The flash piece was just forgettable.

Given some time, this publication could've bounced back from a poor first issue; it's certainly happened before. But I suspect these guys were never prepared to support Pithy Pages on their own dollar; another misguided assumption on their part.

A cautionary tale, but one that leads to some unnecessary blaming. Oh, but wait! Pithy Pages has a solution!

Without the direct and active intervention of the writers of short fiction the genre will continue to be a quaint, underpaid, and unappreciated art form. We, therefore, offer the following solution. Every author and aspiring author of short fiction should set aside ten dollars a week to support the publications of short fiction. When this is done, publishers will be able to sell enough subscriptions to stay in business and to continue to offer a decent payday for those authors selected. When those same authors encourage their friends and family to subscribe or advertise in short fiction publications, pay to authors will increase … as will the number of publications. Eventually, short fiction will rebound as a genre to everyone’s benefit.

Fuck you.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

You are now entering Yakuza Territory

Milo James Fowler's latest book, Yakuza Territory, is now available from Musa Publishing.


World-weary detective Charlie Madison has seen more than his share of war. When he stops by the 37th precinct late one night to check on his old friend Sergeant Douglass, the place is as quiet as a morgue. The last thing he expects to find: half a dozen Russian gunmen with a score to settle.

What starts out as a vicious Alamo-style battle soon evolves into something more sinister as Madison's past comes into play. Will his ties to a branch of the Japanese mafia be a help or a hindrance? And who is the strange man in holding? Why are the Russians determined to break him out?

Struggling to survive the night, one private eye must rely on his wits to solve a mystery where he's outnumbered, outgunned, and trapped inside a police station with a soulless killing machine.


Sounds exciting, right? And if you're familiar Milo's work, you know he never fails to bring on the action.


If the summary wasn't enough, here's an excerpt from the book:

Maybe checking in on Sergeant Douglass late that night hadn’t been the best idea. I should have paid more attention to the warning signs right off; things weren’t exactly business as usual at the precinct. The pencil-necked clerk wasn’t at his post, and an eerie quiet held the foyer as still as a morgue. No cops, uniformed or otherwise, to be seen. In a city that never slept, one expected its law enforcement personnel to share the same god-awful insomnia—graveyard shift or no.

The vacant front desk didn’t sway me from my course, though. Little glitches out of the ordinary seldom did. I’d trained myself over the years to file them away, but not focus on them too much. As a detective, it was easy to get distracted by particulars while going after the big picture. Besides, I was suspicious by nature. I questioned everything as a matter of course. But as far as I knew, everybody on duty was partying in back, throwing Douglass a well-deserved soirée after his recent ordeal and return to the land of the visible.

I paused at the unlocked door leading into the bullpen—an open-concept area with clusters of desks for everybody ranked lower than lieutenant. Access into the station’s inner workings wasn’t usually so free and easy. As I quietly stepped inside, I knew without a doubt something was amiss.

The whole room lay empty except for five guys standing in the middle with assault weapons slung over their shoulders—AK-12s and SIG MPXs by the looks of them. Not what your average citizens usually carried around concealed on their person.

“Hey.” I saluted the first one to notice me. “Am I late to the party?”

He glared my way, and I couldn’t help feeling like I was back in high school; once again, I’d forgotten the beer. They weren’t in uniform—unless black nubuck jackets and jeans counted, not to mention the scruffy stubble, slick hair, and stocky frames. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much the look of your standard-issue thug for hire these days.

“Charlie—get down!”

I would have recognized that Scottish brogue anywhere. I’d already assembled a good enough picture of the situation to know it was in my best interest to hit the floor a split second before the deafening staccato of weapons fire and a hail of bullets headed my way. The rounds blasted straight through computer monitors and potted plants on desks; sparks flew upward along with shards of clay and clouds of potting soil. Chairs disintegrated as I cringed behind a solid steel desk and drew the snubnosed Smith & Wesson from my shoulder holster.

“Sarge, you all right?” I barely heard myself over the stampede of slugs plowing into the steel that sheltered me. The rounds were making some serious dents, but none had punctured through—yet. It was only a matter of time.

I wouldn’t be able to stay put for long.


The man behind the book:

1. When did you start seriously pursuing writing as a career?


I've been writing since I was a kid, but I started submitting my work for publication in the summer of 2009. I'd always thought I would pursue publication at some point—probably after I retired from teaching or turned 40. My first story was published in January 2010, and I've had another 96 accepted for publication since then. I won't turn 40 for a couple more years, and I'm still teaching full-time. Doesn't look like I'll be retiring anytime soon!

2. How did you create the character Charlie Madison?

When I was a kid, I learned to type on an old-school manual typewriter. That's where I learned to write, too. My first novels were messy, full of typos and plot holes. But they were fun. And at age 15, that's what it was all about for me. Private eye Charlie Madison was one of the first characters I created, based on Box 13 and Dixon Hill, and The Double Murder was his big debut. By the end of it, I had over a hundred pages of snappy banter, mob hits, double-crossing dames, car chases, and even some alligators on leashes. It was a horrible parody, and I knew it.

Halfway through Write1Sub1 2011, I came up with the first Charlie Madison story I'd written in decades: Girl of Great Price. It wasn't anything like his original case, but he was the same quick-witted, intrepid detective I'd known before. I transplanted him into a more serious and gritty "future noir" sci-fi setting, and once I'd envisioned that world, I knew I'd be back. Immaterial Evidence soon followed, and Yakuza Territory will be available from Musa Publishing on November 7th.

3. Are you working on more Charlie Madison stories?


I'm outlining the follow-up to Yakuza Territory, and it's going to be full of assassinations, kidnappings, killer robots, and maybe even a mad scientist. The working title is The Gifted Ones, and it follows the origins of the mysterious suprahumans who have appeared in all three Charlie Madison detective stories so far.


Milo James Fowler is a teacher by day and a speculative fictioneer by night. When he's not grading papers, he's imagining what the world might be like in a dozen alternate realities. He is an active SFWA member, and his work has appeared in more than 90 publications, including AE SciFi, Cosmos, Daily Science Fiction, Nature, Shimmer, and the Wastelands 2 anthology.

Visit www.milojamesfowler.com and join The Crew for updates about new releases as well as exclusive promotions.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Abbreviated Epics is Out!

From Third Flatiron comes their 10th anthology, Abbreviated Epics--and as the name suggests, it's 19 tales of adventures, betrayals, death, sword fighting, and more! Included is my story, Blade Between Oni and Hare, inspired by the Japanese fable "White Hare of Inaba". You can actually check out the story in the Amazon preview function or, you know, just buy the anthology from Amazon or Smashwords.

This is the first time something of mine has led the forefront in, well, anything! Not only that, but a manga-style cover inspired by my story--how epic is that? (Maybe this is bias, but this has to be one of my favorite covers.) 



Blade Between Oni and Hare is actually my second-written tale of Kazuko--the chest-eyed, rogue samurai. And no, not rogue in the D&D sense. (I had one editor think that. Sheesh!) I call her "rogue" because she falls outside samurai tradition (she's a woman and not even of the samurai class), and depending on how you look at it, isn't the most honorable person. Despite all that, she likes to think of herself as samurai, wielding the classic katana--symbol of power and strength.

Hopefully her other story will eventually see publication, and hopefully more will be written. Japanese folklore is a minefield of monsters, both fun and unusual; and while Kazuko transverses Japan, looking to slay fukakimonodomo (Deep Ones in Japanese), she's bound to run into a lot of crazy shit.

Friday, October 31, 2014

SpooOOky Stories to Read

You might be too old to run a muck in a costume, and are likely serving the next generation of ghoulies their sugar feast, so why not serve yourself a little something? Here are some recommendations that may cause the possible side effects: excessive squirming and cringing, covering of the eyes, heighten sense of paranoia, and enjoyment. Thank your sanity, for these stories have none.

Brimstone and Marmalade by Aaron Corwin - Every young girl wishes she could have a pony, and Mathilde is no different. But in order to prove she can take care of a pony, she must first take care of a little demon pet. A cute, heart-warmingly bizarre tale, one of my very favorites.
  
The Oregon Trail Diary of Willa Porter by Andy Marino - If the Oregon Trail had been mixed with a very heavy dose of acid, this would be the result. Good build-up, creepy imagery, though the ending doesn't quite live up to the potential. Still, a decent read just for the uniqueness in setting.

The Mothers of Voorhisville by Mary Rickert - I did a story analysis of this one, but still worth recommending again. The many perspectives and the slow dissolve of all sense and reason among the mothers, will have you watching out for any strangers driving around in a hearse.

Headache by Julio Cortázar - Our narrator(s?) complain of a headache and other side effects while caring for the mancuspias. Things soon go haywire. What or who is going on? Does anyone know?! Psychedelic horror open to many interpretations.    

Imaginary Friendships Aren’t the Easiest to Break by Milo James Fowler - Because the imagination can be a scary thing, but even scarier when it's giving you a neck message.

Another Mouth by Lisa L. Hannett - Maura's husband is in a deep depression after the death of their adopted son, and without his fishing hauls, they have little food for themselves, let alone the strangers that come scratching at their door. A good solid character-driven piece with excellent language, and one of the better horror-endings I've read.

The Black Veil by M. Bennardo - Constant Sterry, a judge who once sentenced women to hang for witchcraft, rides to his final destination. Ill and conflicted, he hopes to find answers--will the Black Veil provide them? Another excellent tale of dread with a, shall I say, veiled ending.