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.

Friday, October 17, 2014

New Flash Fiction: A Wizard's Day Journal



Some fun for your Friday (in case it wasn't fun enough already), I have for you "A Wizard's Day Journal" over at Grievous Angel. Free online, so you can check it out whenever.

Every story has a story, or at least a trail of rejections in its wake. Normally I don't post about rejections, but I think this is a special case, because I find it a personal victory that this story got published (with pro-pay, I might add) despite some ass-hat accusing me of ripping off "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" from Disney's Fantasia. I would hope anyone with eyes could see it's not a rip-off, but a running joke. Wizards/sorcerers just seem to have a bad handle on brooms.

So here's the comment in its entirety from a slush reader over at Every D@y Fiction. The rejection itself is nearly a year old, and obviously there have been changes made to the story. Emphasis mine because the guy wrote too damn much.

I got some good chuckles out of this (my first time reading). There are a few good threads in this, though none of them really make it all the way through (as we would like to see in a plot for EDF) except the broom. And the problem with the brooms was that I saw it as a direct rip off of "Sorceror's Apprentice", the "Fantasia" broom scene where as brooms are destroyed, they come back in multitudes from the shattered parts. My other main problem here is, I'm afraid, the overall premise: this isn't a Day Planner, it's a journal. The Wizard is writing things down as they happen, not as pre-made appointments (I have never kept a day planner to jot down everything I had already done). Perhaps making this have a he-said she-said vibe where the Wizard tells us the plans for the day in the first half and then writes in his journal that night would work better? In that way, we could see the "before and after", lending even more humor to the "after" segment as things go wrong. Writing in a journal might also work better with this ending, the poor MC sittign in a motel doubting his whole occupation. Technical issue: I wasn't sure what this meant: "...must cash it in later in case it bounces." Wouldn't you want to cash a potentially-bouncing check ASAP so as to go back to the debtor and get your money? How would ashing it later make more certain it doesn't bounce?
-- Joseph Kaufman  

Now this was a rejection to a rewrite request, but EDF has a very odd policy of having completely different people view the rewrite, which I dislike. You have one person offering you suggestions on the first draft, then another person disregards those suggestions made on the second draft, telling you you should've done something else. Frustrating? Yes! See my post about rewrite requests for more on the topic.

On top of that, you got a slush reader who has no concept of etiquette. There's a lot, and I mean A LOT, better ways to convey the idea that the story is too similar to something without accusing the person of ripping off anything. For example, when I was on a forum critiquing another writer's story, I noticed the story had many of he same elements as X-Men: there was violent conflict between humans and mutants, and the main character had diamond-hard skin, like Emma Frost. So I asked the writer if she were a fan of comics, because the story reminded me of X-Men (and to some extent, Spider-Man). Writer said she didn't read comics or watch the films. So despite similarities, it was more coincidence than rip-off.

I did contact the editor at EDF about the rejection, but I didn't specifically point out the rude slush reader, which in hindsight, maybe should have. I just thought the editor, who made the rewrite request in the first place, should see it. Well, she wound up agreeing with the slush readers. She did make an offer that I could, after making major changes, query and resubmit. But if I was going to put that kind of effort into a story (again), I expected more than three measly bucks.

Interestingly enough, I haven't submitted to EDF since then. Probably because my flash stories sell to better paying markets.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Back! --and with new story

Yes, another hiatus from me. Was in Ireland for the latter half of September, and finally got the pictures off the phone, so I'll be posting about that soonish. Didn't catch a leprechaun, but did catch a cold on the returning flight, so had been out of it. Better now (yay!)

First off--new story, "Neither Heaven Nor Hell" from Bards and Sages Quarterly. Can grab the October issue here from Smashwords (because they're so much better than Amazon). If you're subscribed to Bards and Sages newsletter, you actually receive the issue for free.

A wee excerpt of the story:

She smirked. The skin around her mouth crinkled, as though it was a mask that didn’t quite fit right. She held out her hand; all she cared about was the coin.

I nodded and handed it over--thick and heavy, one of the old coins. She took the coin, held it up to her eye and... Where did it go? Just vanished! She didn't put it behind her eye, did she?


“Okay,” she said, “you’ve got half an hour. Then we’re back here.”


“Wait--the coin--”
She jerked me off the stool, and the bar whited out.

If you're familiar with Bard and Sages, then you might be thinking: "What? This is 1st-person! B&S doesn't publish 1st-person!" And you'd be correct. Originally the story was written in 3rd-person limited, but that was apparently confusing (I don't believe so, but eh), so the story was switched to 1st-person. If you wanna know what it was like originally, just replace all the "I's" with "he". That's all I did, lol.

Also, first time I get to share TOC space with fellow W1S1er, Milo James Fowler. Yay!

Other news ... "Blade Between Oni and Hare" was accepted by Third Flatiron, second story they've bought from me; first time was in Universe Horribilis anthology. First time Kazuko, my chest-eyed rogue samurai character, will be in the spotlight, and first time I get to be the lead story with cover artwork. How cool is that? The cover is pretty epic as well.


TOC for the Abbreviated Epics anthology (and once again, sharing space with another W1S1er)

Blade Between Oni and Hare by Siobhan Gallagher
HMS Invisible and the Halifax Slaver by Iain Ishbel
Beyond the Turning Orrery by Deborah Walker
Heart-Shaped by Manuel Royal
A Wolf Is Made by Jordan Ashley Moore
Through an Ocular Darkly by Martin Clark
Damfino Plays for Table Stakes by Ben Solomon
The Committee by Margarita Tenser
Rain over Lesser Boso by Gustavo Bondoni
The Perfection of the Steam-Powered Armour by Adria Laycraft
Assault on the Summit by Daniel Coble
Fortunate Son by Steve Coate
Odin on the Tree by Jo Walton
Refusing the Call by Elliotte Rusty Harold
The Blue Cup by Marissa James
Toward the Back by Jake Teeny
The Lost Children by Alison McBain
Great Light's Daughters by Patricia S. Bowne
Qinggong Ji by Stephen D. Rogers
On a Train with a Coyote Ghost by Robin Wyatt Dunn

Thursday, August 7, 2014

New Stories! "Zeitschatten" and "A Beastful Hunger"

The month of a July was a dry one in terms of publications, but now I've got two new juicy stories out.

First off, a wee 100-word piece (that's 100 words exactly), "A Beastful Hunger", from Saturday Night Reader. The website also has optional rain effects, to give you the ambiance of sitting at home on a rainy day; kind of neat, I think.

Secondly, my sci-fi horror "Zeitschatten", from Wanderer's Haven Publication (free to read). Quick excerpt:
Cold pressure. Nerves on fire. Sick sensation in her stomach, as if something reached into her very soul and torn a piece off.

She squeezed her eyes shut against the pain, prayed. Please God make it stop. Make. It. Stop.

This is a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Shadow", which I really enjoyed but it lacked an Event which would cause the narrator's shadow to separate; it just sort of does. So I fixed that, plus it's written in my awesome style, haha.

As for the title, it means "shadow time" in German. I know Hans Christian Anderson wasn't German, but zeitschatten sounds so much cooler than its English translation. Also the issue of trying to give horror stories interesting titles that won't give away the meat (or nasty lil' giblets) of the story. If you've noticed, horror stories tend to have the most mundane titles of all.

So watch out for those shadows, you never know where they may go off to.