Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Year Looking Back, And 2012 Goals




T
he clock is winding down on 2011, but it was a good year on the writing front.  A great year, really.  And from what I can tell I certainly wasn’t alone.  Many of my writer and publisher friends and acquaintances also had productive years.  Some sold a boatload of new stories; others got the green light to write novels.  Others built upon previous successes and seem poised to climb the next step on the great pyramid of writing success.

I sold a number of new horror and SF stories, and saw several reach print.  A couple of older stories were reprinted.  I completed my first commissioned novella, which I’m eager to see move toward publication next year.  I was very excited to sell a story to Black Static for their August #24 issue.  Andy Cox and TTA Press publish perhaps the most beautifully designed, full-size print genre magazine in the market, sister to the equally stunning Interzone.

I successfully pitched an idea for a novel to a respected indie book publisher, and I’m working away to complete it before the first of the year.  Canadian editors seem to like me, and two sales were made to UK markets.  I love Canada and Great Britain right back.

I sold a couple of new stories involving the undead (one also featured my interpretation of Mothman), a werewolf tale (coming soon), and a “hard SF” story to an anthology due next April.  I also got to meet and get to know a lot of fellow writers I respect, like Gary McMahon, Peter Straub, John Everson, Weston Osche, Joe Hill, Scott Edelman, RJ Sevin and his wife, Julia, Colleen Anderson and the ChiZine bunch.  I also reconnected with older pals like John Skipp.  World Horror Con in Austin was a blast, and I’ve already made plans to attend again next spring in Salt Lake City.  There’s a long list of friends I’ve made by web and email that I’m hoping to meet in the flesh in ’12, including Jason Sizemore, James Roy Daley, Maggie Slater, Andrew Clark Porter and Eugene Johnson, to name a few.

So the hard work to write more often and push myself seems to be working.  So it’s time to set some goals for 2012:

  1. I want to finish the first draft of WILDFIRE soon, let it rest, and then complete a second draft so I can float it to the interested publisher.

  1. I have two competing ideas for a second novel, one decidedly horror and one a blend of contemporary SF and horror.  I should prepare a solid outline and pitch at WHC 2012.

  1. Sell another story to Black Static.

  1. Sell a story to Shock Totem.

  1. Sell another story to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.  I sold four or five stories to AHMM in the ‘90s and I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for this venerable mystery digest.

  1. Write and sell more science fiction.  The sale to ROCKET SCIENCE has given me a boost in confidence that I can break through with some of the SF markets like Asimov’s, Interzone, Analog or Lightspeed.  So my goal will be to sell at last one or more new SF stories next year.

  1. Continue to network and get my name and work out there so I hopefully get more private invites to submit to anthologies and projects not generally open to all submissions.

  1. Target and attend at least one Midwestern or East Coast con so I can meet some of the folks in person that I mentioned.


Maybe I’m biting off more than I can chew, but I’m a firm believer that you should set your goals a bit high, and forge ahead.  Happy holidays to all!

Simon


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bad TV Saves the Day, or, New Sales and Summer Heat




M
y only excuse for being so tardy in blogging since May is that I have been busy writing.  I think that is the best excuse, really.  Unless you’re unemployed or you never sleep, there are simply not enough hours in a day to write two-thousand words of new fiction, edit or polish the latest chapter or story, tend to your Facebook peeps and still Twitter away.  And now folks want me to jump on Google +.

Not unless you’d like to land in divorce court.

Fortunately for me, summer television is a savior.  While my wife and kids gorge themselves on the voyeuristic pleasures of “MTV Teen Moms,” “The Bachelorette” and “Wipe Out,” I can slink away in the shadows to tippity-tap-tap away.  If you’ve watched the hapless adventures of the contestants on “Wipe Out” (an Americanized version of popular Japanese shows), you know the title should really be “Nut Busters” or “That’s Going to Leave a Mark.”

OK, I’m not going to lie.  I’ve made the mistake of pausing for a moment with coffee cup in hand, plopping down on the couch, and having thirty minutes stolen from me by the always mesmerizing (snort) Chris Harrison.  That dude is an android, I’m telling you.  They are among us.

Since May I have kept my nose to the grindstone.  I finished a new spec story that didn’t make it into the latest John Skipp anthology, but Skipp was kind enough to provide some very helpful suggestions to make it stronger, and it is out making the rounds.  I had near misses with two SF stories at Redstone SF and at Strange Horizons, and another urban fantasy/SF hybrid is in final consideration at Realms of Fantasy.  Fingers crossed. I received official word from James Roy Daley that “The Boys in Company Z” will appear in the Books of the Dead Press anthology ZOMBIE KONG, and we all saw the way-cool cover painting by Daniele Serra in June.

I sold another story, “Still Life,” to Andy Cox at TTA Press in the UK for Black Static magazine They also publish the award-winning SF magazine Interzone and Crimewave.  They use some amazing artists and their magazines and books are incredibly beautiful showcases for speculative fiction.  Andy sent me a scan of the spread art for my story a week ago (a million thanks to David Gentry, the artist), and it rocks.  The story is slated to appear in the August issue.  If you like the looks of that, be sure to visit TTA Press at http://ttapress.com and you can see more of David’s terrific visions at http://www.sixshards.co.uk.
 
I also sold another short story, “Jesus When The Sun Goes Down,” to Carolina Smart’s BEST NEW WEREWOLF TALES, edited for BOTD Press. That story came very fast and naturally, and was a fun trip down memory lane.  It also had to come very fast and naturally because I waited until nearly the submission deadline to write it.

At this year’s World Horror Convention in Austin, I pitched a novel to a couple of indie publishers and there was interest to see samples.  I completed 11K words of Wildfire -- the prologue and six chapters -- and one of the publishers has asked when I can complete the entire book.  I’m shooting for September.  Wildfire is a love letter of sorts to the late Michael Crichton and a blend of very near-future SF, medical thrillers, horror, and hopefully a new take on how zombie-like creatures (us) might refashion the world.  A million thanks to Rhodi Hawk, the talented novelist who ran the pitch sessions at WHC.

I also completed a nearly 20K novella commissioned by Roy Daley at BOTD.  There are a handful of talented writers involved in this book project, which is going to be so much fun once Roy stitches all the interconnected stories together.  I loved writing each tight little action-packed chapter and cramming as much bizarro fun as possible into each one.  It felt a lot like scripting a graphic novel; maybe someday the book can be adapted into that format.  It is worth mentioning that for a small indie press founded in 2009, Books of the Dead Press is rocking along with a number of collections released and something like eight books in the pipe, including beautiful reissues of Gary Brandner's The Howling series.  Best New Zombie Tales Volume 1 (containing a reprint of my story, “Connections”) has sold thousands of copies to date and is still trucking. Check them out at http://booksofthedead.blogspot.com or on Amazon, Smashwords, etc.  Roy Daley is a novelist and drums in a band (High Heels LoFi http://www.highheelslofi.com).

So it’s been a busy but amazingly fun spring and summer.  It’s blazing hot here in Tulsa -- we’ve had triple-digit heat for several weeks -- so not great for the flowerbeds and grass, but good for the fiction growing out of my ears.

Cheers.

Friday, May 20, 2011

World Horror Con and Other News




S
o a long overdue blog post.  It’s been a busy month on many fronts.  My wife and I drove south from Tulsa to attend this year’s World Horror Con in Austin, Texas, a seven-hour drive.  The Mustang got surprisingly good mileage cruising in sixth gear.  We also broke in a new GPS that proved very handy (as long as you program in the location of the correct hotel).

In Austin we met a number of old friends and new ones, including Gary McMahon and John Everson (two terrific writers involved in a book-length project I’m also contributing to), the legendary Peter Straub, Jack Ketchum, Gord Rollo, our old pal John Skipp, who bought my first short story years ago, Scott Edelman, Ian Rogers, the crew from ChiZine books and online magazine, and R.J. Sevin and his wife, Julia, both writers and publishers of Creeping Hemlock Press and the new zombie imprint, Print Is Dead.
 
I bought too many books (an oxymoron if I ever heard one), including the latest David Nickle novel and the first volume of Joe Hill’s graphic comic series Locke & Key.  We spoke with Joe for a bit and attended a comic book writing panel.  Joe is a very well-read, intelligent, funny guy and a talented writer.  I’m finishing his second novel, Horns.  I highly recommend it.  Here’s a guy who could have cashed in on his father’s name years ago but wisely decided to go it alone under a sort-of pseudonym.  He wrote several books that were rejected everywhere, learned his craft and developed his own voice, and today is turning out terrific stories.

There was a side-splitting edited video shown at the opening of the Mega Zombie author panel on Sunday morning, with great clips from favorite films and several book covers from anthologies containing my stories, which made me smile.
  

Plus, Scott Edelman warmed up the crowd by hurling glow-in-the-dark zombie finger puppets like Mardi Gras doubloons.  We now have several adorning our bookshelves.

The late-night parties were fun and the many choices of food in downtown Austin kept our bellies full.  The hotel was also hosting about 500 frat boys and their Barbie girlfriends, and their late-night antics kept Scott Edelman entertained throughout his stay.  Thankfully they were not rooming next to us.

While in Austin I took advantage of a unique opportunity to pitch a novel I had been researching and outlining to two independent publishers (many thanks to A Twisted Ladder author Rhodi Hawk for donating her time and energy to run the WHC Pitch sessions).  Both parties asked to see sample chapters, which are nearing completion.  With luck, that project may find a home.

I came away from WHC with the firm impression that there are several independent book publishers out there attracting top existing and new talent, and turning out astoundingly nice books.

Back at the ranch, I had a new story accepted for an upcoming anthology from Apex Books, “Lifeboat” appeared in its Kindle and softcover edition from Apex’s The Zombie Feed imprint, and I received official word that “The Boys in Company Z” will appear in Zombie Kong from writer/editor James Roy Daley’s Books of the Dead Press.  The reprint of "Night of the Living Dead Bingo Women" is out in the Kindle edition of Best New Zombie Tales 3 on Amazon and Smashwords.  I’m also working to complete my novella contribution to another BoTDP project.

Justified season two ended, so I’ve got the time.


Friday, April 15, 2011

"Lifeboat" Excerpt: THE ZOMBIE FEED VOLUME 1





"S
omething clanged against the hull. A moment later a large ugly four-pronged hook landed on the decking a dozen feet from where Jack stood.
It was drawn swiftly back on its chain until it caught on the railing; the crew of the Destiny was preparing to board them.
 Pops of gunfire erupted but it was impossible to tell from where. Men appeared along the Destiny’s open lounge deck, extending makeshift gangplanks. Jack expected them to scramble across, but the men turned and swiftly climbed the narrow metal access ladders up the sides of the ship’s superstructure. Then the big tinted glass doors in the center slid open, and a wave of infected poured out. Within seconds the huge open space was a sea of jostling bodies and blank pale faces.

They were the boarding party."

-- "LIFEBOAT," The Zombie Feed Volume 1 

If you want to read more...

http://thezombiefeed.biz/tzf-store/the-zombie-feed-vol-i/


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Don't Make Me Be a Jerk ; )



S
o the good news: you get to read a new story, and hopefully you’ll enjoy it.  It’s one of the longest stories I’ve sold to date (7,000 words), longer than the average People Weekly article, so you may or not be able to read it in a single sitting if you get my drift.  But here’s the bad news: you really need to buy an e-book version for your Kindle or other reader, or preorder a softcover physical book. 

How many of you have read “Quitters Incorporated” by Stephen King (Nightshift) or “The Monkey’s Paw”? 

Well, here’s the deal.  It’s a tough, heartless world out there for genre writers and independent publishers like Apex Books and their Zombie Feed imprint.  Quality is high (I’m talking about the people they’ve published to date, not me) but it’s an uphill battle to win new readers and make ends meet.  So drastic measures are sometimes justified.

So come one, man, spit it out – yes, yes I will.  It’s just hard, OK?  Like holding a cocked gun on a basket of kittens.

I need all of my friends, family and readers to really consider buying a copy.  If you like what you read, maybe drop a brief review on Amazon for the book?

For everyone who does, I am going to insert you by name as a character right into a new story, novella or novel (and there are plenty under construction in the factory).  I’m offering a small slice of immortality here, people.  Your name in print.  You’ll recall it made Steve Martin pretty damned excited when the phone books were delivered in “The Jerk.”

So what happens if you don’t buy a copy? (And we have our ways of knowing, bwa-haa-haa.)

Well, I’ll put you in a story or novel anyway.  Sure.  But this time I will be forced to make you an evil, reprehensible character.  Probably someone who molests hamsters or steals elderly people’s Social Security checks or never puts the toilet seat down.  Maybe never flushes.  Your name and physical description, natch.

I know, I know, that’s terrible.  Worse than anything Dr. Doom (or Dr. Horrible) has served up.

Sigh.  Please, people, help me here.

Love, Simon

P.S. – Here’s how to buy the e-book today or preorder the physical book; if you order the softcover you get a signed copy.  Bless you all.

The print version is a couple weeks away, but the digital versions are complete and ready for purchase.




Wednesday, March 16, 2011

So Long, And Thanks For All The Brains


E
ver wonder what happens after zombies take over the world and eat all the brains? Of course you didn’t, but horror genre writers think about stuff like this all the time.  So did at least one The Zombie Feed / Apex Books reader, and this question recently won a contest staged by the publisher’s marketing manager to generate buzz about their first anthology of stories.

So once they chose a question from the dozens they received, they asked all the authors to come up with creative answers – and boy howdy did we.

The winning reader question:
“Fast or slow, flesh eaters or those who only eat brains, zombies are always pretty fun. Let’s look at them when they aren’t massing and trapping the last bastions of humanity and reducing them to red smears.
What do zombies do when there isn’t prey to motivate them? Say “World War Z” level of infestation goes ahead and wipes out humanity, do zombies establish a society? Do they take jobs? Set up daycares? Worry about 401Ks and health insurance? Or do they just sort of sit around and rot away?”

To see all the answers by going here:


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

More On The Rise of Self-Publishing



T
he tsunami that toppled and transformed the music business is capsizing the traditional book publishing industry.  Each day more people buy Kindle readers or similar tablet devices.  Apple is launching a new iPad.  You can buy and read books on your smartphone.  Printed books aren’t going away, but sales of e-books are increasing rapidly.  

If you write short stories, novellas and novels, you have more choices and control, too.  Twenty years ago when I began writing and selling short fiction, genre and “literary” writers aspired to sell a novel to an established New York City publisher, bask in a decent marketing campaign, connect with readers, and sell a series of lucrative books.

Today the major print publishers are pulling back, spending less on writers and marketing, and trying to decide how to market e-books.  There’s a lot of uncertainty.  Agents are fleeing the business as it contracts.  Large booksellers are filing for bankruptcy protection.

I keep reading about writers who have decided that they can earn more by working with independent publishers – or in some cases, by publishing and marketing their own books.  And we're not talking about the seamy world of vanity publishing.  Many of these writers have worked with or are working with print publishers, but they're publishing additional titles or their backlist themselves.  And it appears that they earn a lot more net income than by selling novels to the traditional NYC publishers.  As more experienced writers go this route, a small cottage industry of copy-editors, book designers and cover artists are selling their services.  So if you’re a talented writer and you have editing skill, and you hire someone to create professional and compelling cover art, it’s possible to bypass an agent, editor and publisher (and the sales and marketing department) and self-publish a book that with work and determination could easily earn more in royalties than a traditional hardback or paperback original.

No guarantees, but it is being done.  Read this blog and others; the revolution has already begun….



Monday, March 7, 2011

Question: Why Did The Zombie Cross The Road?

T
o win a free book, silly!  And maybe to eat someone's brain.  The Zombie Feed will be releasing its first anthology of new undead fiction in a month or so, and they've announced a fun little contest to give away some books and acquaint readers with the authors, including yours truly.  Readers and zombie fans are being asked to submit the one burning question they’ve always wanted to ask the warped, deranged chroniclers of the Living Dead.

There are no rules, so it’s hard to disqualify yourself.  “Make it scary or make it hilarious. Make it sophisticated or outrageous. Entertain us and you will be picked.”

I will give you one pretty solid hint.  There's one question you must at all costs avoid asking a writer: “Where do you get your ideas?”

We don't know, and we're only going to make up something stupid if you insist on asking.

Leave your question at The Zombie Feed site (link below) as a comment under the post. TZF editors will sift through all the questions and select their favorite, then post answers from all the anthology contributors.  The winner will receive an autographed copy of the book from editor Jason Sizemore.  So go ahead and ask me anything, and let’s keep it clean, people.

Actually, no matter what the winning question is, I think I'm going to answer with the opening line from Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

The contest ends on Thursday, March the 10th at precisely 23:59 EST.

http://bit.ly/ffJhja

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No Agent Required: Del Rey / Spectra Launches Contest for Novelists


I
n the footsteps of Angry Robot, the editorial staff of Del Rey / Spectra (imprints of Random House) have announced the Suvudu Writing Contest for aspiring novelists of “science fiction, fantasy, horror, or paranormal romance” with a completed manuscript but no literary agent.

Most New York publishers do not accept submissions except from literary agents so they don’t have to staff for the arduous work of delving through roomfuls of slush.  The Del Rey/Spectra staff will accept submissions from now through March 18, 2011.  Entries must be previously unpublished manuscripts of 50,000 to no more than 150,000 words.  If you have self-published your novel via Smashwords or other online site, those works do not qualify.

Submissions will be judged on the basis of originality, creativity, and writing style.  Judging period is described as several months.  The winning submission will receive a full edit by Betsy Mitchell, Editor-in-Chief of Del Rey Publishing, and the novel will be considered for publication.  So not a guarantee, but it’s likely that Ms. Mitchell isn’t going to do all that work and reject the final book.  No details are given regarding advances and pay for an accepted novel, but the fine print of the rules lists the grand prize "value" at $2,250.  It is not clear whether that is the estimated value of the full edit by Ms. Mitchell or the Del Rey advance if the novel is published.  Three runners-up will be awarded sets of books from the Del Rey/Spectra line.

Submissions are to be sent electronically – see the first website link below.

Winners will be announced on May 18, 2011.

The contest is open only to legal residents of the United States (a little odd since there are lots of talented new writers in Canada and around the world), excluding Puerto Rico, who are age 18 and over as of January 18, 2011.




http://bit.ly/dMimP8

Full Contest Rules:

http://suvudu.com/edreview/rules.html

Monday, February 21, 2011

THE ZOMBIE FEED Available for Pre-Order (and a Signing Offer)



W
hat would you do if a zombie plague were unleashed upon the world while you were on vacation, a passenger on one of those mammoth new mega-cruiseships James Bond would have felt at home aboard?

That was the thought I had last summer while my wife and I sailed through the Caribbean on our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.  How would the crew and passengers survive?  Could order be preserved?  What new social dynamics would emerge?  What threats?  If given a choice to remain on the ship -- a new ark of sorts -- would you stay, or disembark to take your chances?

Late last year I wrote the story, “Lifeboat,” and happily it will be appearing soon in a new anthology by Bram Stoker Award nominee and writer/editor Jason Sizemore, THE ZOMBIE FEED Volume 1.  I saw an announcement today that they are taking preorders now, and those who order early will receive a signed copy from Jason.


My signature’s not about to get the folks at Christie’s Auctions excited, but anyone who buys this book and would like my autograph, I will be glad to oblige (it would be my honor).  Contact me via email or Facebook, and mail me your copy.  I will sign and pay for the return shipping as a thank-you for supporting my work and Apex Books / TZF.

There are a lot of zombie novels and short story collections available right now, so the trick is coming up with new interesting settings, characters and twists.  Besides an isolated life on the high seas, I had been thinking about the source of the infection.  I decided that for this story, a runaway bloodstream nano-machine swarm coupled with a bioengineered virus intended to fight dementia and Alzheimer’s disease might be interesting.  I plugged that concept into “Lifeboat” but didn’t really delve into the details.  But I am working on a novel, “Wildfire,” where this concept is central and I delve into the science and physiological impacts pretty extensively.

When the book is completed I will hopefully find an interested publisher!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Write, Therefore I Revise


V
ery interesting series of blog entries about revising fiction over on WRITE NOW, Steven R. Boyett's blog about writing and a zillion other things.  We writers spend hours and hours (and drafts) poring over our latest novel or short piece, trying to refine it and make the finished product come even close to that radiant vision that flashed through our imagination.

You edit for spelling, typos, grammar and style.  You edit for tone and the voice of each character.  You edit for pacing and crispness of dialog.  You omit needless words and prune "the fact that" as often as possible to appease the ghosts of messrs. Strunk and White.  You drive a stake through the undead heart of the passive voice.

You edit, and edit and edit.  Isaac Asimov once claimed in an interview that he never edited his multitude of stories and novels.  Just wrote them and, bam, done.  I tend to believe this was a bit of self-PR.  Or perhaps my memory is bad.  It’s hard to imagine someone able to do that.  Gort, maybe, or Kal-El.

Steven Boyett is an accomplished short story and novel author, well worth checking out.

God Lost a Hubcap

Highbrow Zombie Humor (Sort Of)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I Vant To Read This New Anthology




B
ooks of the Dead press has released a terrific compendium of classic and hard-to-find vampire tales, Best New Vampire Tales.  It’s available on Smashwords for the e-reader and iPad crowd, and should be available soon in physical book form. I love the cover art.

This tome includes a stellar list of authors, including some folks (Matt Hults, Alan Smale and others) you should read if you’re not familiar with their work:

Bram Stoker Award Nominee, Michael Laimo
Bram Stoker Award Winner, David Niall Wilson
Authorlink New Author Award Winner, Tim Waggoner
Bram Stoker Award Winner, John Everson
International Horror Guild Nominee, Don Webb
British Fantasy Award, Science Fiction Award Nominee, Jay Caselberg
Speculative Literature Foundation award nominee, Colleen Anderson
Bram Stoker Award Nominee, Alan Smale
Arthur Ellis Award Winner, Nancy Kilpatrick

The complete TOC:

Michael Laimo - Banalica
James Newman - The New Racism
Steve Vernon - Moving Lines
Tim Waggoner - Preserver
John Everson - When Barrettes Brought Justice
Donn Webb - 13 Lines
John F.D. TAFF - Cold Calls
Barbara Roden - Endless Nights
John L. French - A New House
Fredrick Obermeyer - The Verbpire
William Meikle - Morning Sickness
Scott Harper - Flotsam
David Niall Wilson - A Candle Lit In Sunlight
David M. Fitzpatrick - Sabbatarian
Alan Smale - Bridges
Jay Caselberg - Window Across the Street
Rycke Foreman - A Sunset so Glorious
Matt Hults - Through the Valley of Death
Colleen Anderson - Lover’s Triangle
Nancy Kilpatrick - Farm Wife
Preview: Matt Hults - Husk
Preview: James Roy Daley - Terror Town

Wish I had a story in there, but I think I’ve only written a single vampire story ever, and it wasn’t the greatest.  But hat’s off to these fine writer for sure.  If you’ve enjoyed the stellar anthologies from Ellen Datlow or the eclectic mix of older releases like The Ultimate Dracula, you'll enjoy this collection.  As a bonus you get a preview of Hults's Husk and Roy's novel, Terror Town.

Best New Vampire Tales now on Smashwords! http://bit.ly/hcTqAt

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Becoming a Zombie for Your Art





W
hen things are rolling and the words are flowing, you don’t want to stop writing.  Even if you’ve been at the Mac for two hours and counting and you’ve missed all the drama on “The Bachelor” and you’ve provided zero encouragement to the poor bastards being tortured for our voyeuristic pleasure on “The Biggest Loser” (“Pull harder! That 737 has barely moved!”).

When you’re in the zone, you don’t want to stop.  Writing fiction is a terrific natural high (when things are going well), and you’ll have time to feel guilty later when you realize you’ve neglected your beautiful wife and your kiddos again – though ours have grown to be full-scale crazy humans.

Last night I sat down to finish the final scene of a new story while the iron is hot, and when I was done (and finished entering some edits), it was one in the a.m. on a weeknight.  Yikes.

But until that story draft or chapter is completed, you’re compelled to keep at it, because if you get lazy (“Pull harder, that semi has to go all the way up the hill!”) the images and voices in your head start to grow hazy and dissolve.  If you don’t keep pecking away, the whole terrific idea can fade, lose its jazz, maybe never to return.

That’s a hundred times more frightening to a writer than the next rejection slip.

Thankfully, though she rightfully grumbles, my wife supports me and lets me get away with the occasional murder (of our free time together).  Kids are the same, though they don’t always like me hogging the Mac.  Here’s hoping that you have the same support system.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What Does a (Living Dead) Book Publisher Look For?


Y
ou can probably guess the answer -- a terrific story, characters that readers will grow to care about, and a good sense of pace.  Strong, spare writing and unpredictable plot twists are nice attributes, too.

Whether you’re new to the profession or a veteran fiction writer, your toolkit had better include determination, a thick hide, and the humility to absorb criticism and rejection with a positive attitude.  Check your ego at the coat closet (and tip the hat girl a few bucks).  Most of all have fun and give every story your all.  If conjuring up new tales is torture, you need a different hobby.

The great fiction editors work their asses off and pour their passion into every project.  They’re not content to treat their books and anthology projects like hack-work.  Each one is like a child.

Follow this link to editor/writer James Roy Daley’s blog about what editors seek in professional writers -- and what drives them nuts.  Some solid advice here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

One Door Closes, and Another Opens



T
his afternoon while working on my novel, I received a rejection email from Asimov’s Science Fiction for a story (“The Cristóbal Effect”).  Certainly not the first I’ve received from the kind Sheila Williams, and I will not relent in my mission to sell her a story.  All roads lead to the Tower.  While I was preparing that story for submission to another science fiction magazine (you have to snailmail a hardcopy manuscript to this one), I received another email from bestselling writer-slash-editor-slash-screenwriter-slash-filmmaker John Skipp.  John was kind enough to extend an invitation to submit a story for consideration in an upcoming anthology of new and reprinted fiction he is editing for a themed October 2011 publication.

If you write fiction as a career or at night after your day-job, like me, you must maintain a positive attitude and work ethic.  You are going to receive your share of rejections (no matter how many professional sales you've racked up), but. . .another opportunity will avail itself.

If you’ve read Skipp’s recently released Werewolves and Shape Shifters: Encounters with the Beasts Within and last year’s successful Zombies: Encounters With The Hungry Dead, both published by Black Dog & Leventhal ( http://bit.ly/gNy5aQ and http://bit.ly/h8mqQE ), the new anthology promises to be an amazing collection, and I was thrilled to be even given the opportunity to submit a story.  The book will undoubtedly be chockfull of superb talent.  I’m excited!

But like the last themed anthology I wrote a story for, I wondered, as I read the detailed guidelines, can I come up with an idea exciting enough to fire up the engines?  Within thirty minutes I had my “what-if” idea, main protagonist, working title and a story arc.  The little guys in the basement who kick up ideas are at DEFCON 1 alert these days, and I am very, very grateful for that.  The deadline to submit a story for this book is tight, but I’ve already started.  I’ve got an even shot if I work hard, and that is all a writer can ever ask for -- the opportunity to contribute.  The rest is up to me.

If you aren’t familiar with the work of John Skipp, get your hands on a copy of Spore (his latest novel co-written with Cody Goodfellow).  You can even order a signed slipcase special edition for a very reasonable price ( http://bit.ly/gXOyPO ).  Skipp’s classic novel of ecological horror, written with Craig Spector, The Bridge, was also recently re-released (I re-read it and it is well worth the dough), along with The Light at the End ( http://amzn.to/dIm42u and http://amzn.to/gwNnYu ).

The multi-author novel I mentioned a couple of weeks ago with Books of the Dead Press is gearing up, so my writing plate, happily, if overflowing. 

More news on this project as things unfold.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Don't Ignore Quality Independent Book Publishers




W
riting the next great novella or novel-length tale of the zombie apocalypse?  Apex Books’s micro press, The Zombie Feed, is looking for manuscript samples for publication.  New guidelines and payment details are via the link below.

TZF is testing the digital publishing waters like a lot of other web-enabled start-ups vs. the traditional NYC publishing machine.  In the 1990s a favorite over-used dot.com expression was “paradigm shift.”  Back then, paradigms were shifting like the San Andreas Fault.  I wanted to print and sell bumper stickers that read: I BRAKE FOR PARADIGM SHIFTS.

But publishing really is undergoing a huge shift in how books come to the market and how much authors earn.  My thoughts as I learn more:

Assuming you have talent and a cracking good story to tell, your chances of being published are better today than in the past quarter century.  The “Print On Demand” manufacturing model (POD), consumer adoption of web-enabled bookselling (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, etc.), and growing number of quality independent publishers mean that you don’t necessarily have to be the one-in-a-million lottery winner at a major NYC publisher.


Time, Shelf Life and Money

With independent publishers, the time it takes for your book to move from manuscript to the printed page is dramatically reduced.  The timeline to see your accepted novel arrive in a bookstore is 1.5 years or longer at most NYC publishers.

Possessing an agent is not necessary to sell your novel.  At all major legacy publishing houses an agent is required, because major imprints no longer want to expend capital and manpower to read slush.   But if an agent shops your novel they will stop to read it.

What about the imagined prestige, and huge distribution machine of the NYC publishing house?  Well….  Sure, you always dreamed of seeing your novel as a handsome jacketed hardback from Simon & Schuster or Harper Collins.  Who wouldn’t?  But many independent publishers create beautiful, professional editions (Cemetery Dance, Apex, Books of the Dead Press, Subterranean, etc.).  And these days, new hardbacks and paperbacks produced by NYC publishers don’t stay on shelves very long at all.  A new novel may be here and gone, “out-of-print,” in a very short period of time.

But if you sell your novel to a quality independent publisher, your book may never go out of print.  Interested readers can buy it online for months and perhaps years to come.  That is a huge change over the legacy model!

And then there is the money.  Many first-time novelists are thrilled when their book is purchased by the NYC publisher, but the pay is very low.  That novel you took six months or a year (or longer) to craft pays $2,500-$3,000 advance against royalties.  No adjustments for the past 15 years of inflation.  And you get paid in installments as it creeps toward publication.  And odds are you’ll never see any royalties. And despite it vanishing from shelves almost immediately after it arrives, if your first two or three books don’t earn out, the publisher may drop you (it’s happened to friends).

Many reputable micro and independent publishers pay very small advances, but the writer earns a better share of royalties for every book sold.  And if you’re not kicking back 15 to 25% or more to an agent or packager, you might end up earning the equivalent of the NYC advance or more.  You will receive X% of royalties on physical books ordered and ~40% of all electronic sales (Kindle, Smashwords, etc.).  And those dollars come straight to you, not via quarterly royalty statements from the finance department of a major publisher.

I’m doing a lot of reading and research, but so far, this is what I’m finding.  If you write fiction it truly is a Brave New World.