Jeff Miller has left a very fantastic review of my latest science fiction and fantasy anthology, Between the Wall and the Fire. A few excerpts that particularly humbled me:
The collection starts out very strong with “Edge” by Russell S. Newquist. The story starts with some explanation of motorcycle physics and introduces the main character a P.I. You start to get the feeling of some SF noir and then the action ramps up, and ramps up again. The situation gonzo as you start to find out about the inhabitants of this world. I really enjoyed how this was layered and that for a short story a definite beginning/middle/end. Like most good short stories you are satisfied with it while at the same time wanting more. In this case I could not have thought of a better ending. Just perfect.
I’ll have a post later this week about how that particular story came about. It was an incredibly fun one to write, and I’m glad that people have enjoyed reading it. Also this:
“Knight of the Changeling” by Rusell S. Newquist was another one I greatly enjoyed. What happens in the genre of urban fantasy when a changeling is discovered and you try to recover the switched-out child? First off I just loved how the changeling was detected. Mostly I enjoyed the dangers of fairy land and then how it was all resolved.
This story, on the other hand, was a giant pain in the rear from beginning to end. I had thought that the theme of “family” would make for an easy Peter Bishop story. That was not the case at all. Even coming up with the concept for this story was like pulling teeth. So I’m very glad that people enjoyed the final product!
Jeff also has some really wonderful things to say about my fellow co-authors on this anthology, and you should definitely take the time to pop over and read the whole thing. On behalf of all of those co-authors, we thank you Jeff!
Yesterday my friend S.D. McPhail and I set up shop at the second annual Catfish Literary Festival at the Athens-Limestone Public Library. We got lucky – they gave us the table right by the door! We had a good number of people come by. We sold a few autographed books and gave away a few, including five pre-release advance review copies of Susan’s upcoming novel, Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key with a special collectible cover.
Susan and I also had a chance to sit on a science fiction and fantasy panel. We got to discuss some of our writing processes, influences, and thoughts on the genre. We also got put on the spot trying to convince one audience member who had never read any science fiction. I thought my case was strong, but I have to confess that Susan got in the better answer!
I also managed to entrench my foot firmly in my mouth with the leadership at my church not once but twice yesterday. First, I completely failed to recognize Deacon Dan’s wife, even after she recognized me! I’m quite sure it’ll take me a decade or more to live that one down. Second, when Deacon Dan opened up a copy of Between the Wall and the Fire, literally the first page he turned to happened to be at the beginning of my story “Knight of the Changeling.” That would have been fine, except that I had chosen to name the deacon character after one of the deacons at our church. One that wasn’t named “Dan.”
I have now promised Deacon Dan that he will be written into a future story, so keep an eye out for him in future installments of The Tales of Peter Bishop!
Finally, I had a great time chatting with everyone who came by our booth. We look forward to seeing all of you again next year!
Back in October, I was sitting on a panel at the Rocket City Lit Fest discussing traditional publishing vs self publishing. It was a fun panel, and I enjoyed the discussions with the other authors at the table. The audience also asked a lot of great questions. But it was what happened afterward that really stood out.
I was approached by a stranger named Susan who asked if we (Silver Empire) were taking submissions. At the time, the answer was pretty much “no.” I wasn’t ready to deal with them yet. I had enough on my plate, and I just wasn’t ready to deal with it yet. Then she described her book to me. She said she had a “third century Persian historical science fiction novel.” I’d never heard of such a beast – but I was intrigued. I asked her to send it over, and told her plainly that I definitely wanted to read that.
Now, maybe you get it and maybe you don’t. If you don’t, my explanation probably won’t help – yet here it is anyway. I love scifi. I love history. I’ve read some great historical fantasy (the Tales of Alvin Maker and The Once and Future King come to mind), but I’ve never read much historical science fiction. And third century Persia? That’s definitely not a place that westerners write about very much. But I wanted to read it, so I asked her to send it over.
I was nervous, of course. It was my first unsolicited submission. And even though I hadn’t had others yet, I very much knew what would later be proven to be true: an awful lot of submissions suck. They’re just plain unreadable. On top of that, Susan had informed me that her family thought it was a romance – despite her insistence that it wasn’t. Now, nothing against romance, but it’s definitely not my genre (I wish it were – romance novels sell). So despite my interest, I didn’t have particularly high expectations – but I had hope!
As it turns out, the book was fantastic. Susan told me she’d spent a lot of time shopping it to publishers, with a lot of rejection. I told her that even though it was fantastic, I could see why. Traditional publishers, I said, would have no idea how to market this book. I also had to tell her that I had no idea how to market it, either! But unlike the traditional publishers, I was willing to try!
We made a few more edits to the book and made it even better. And today, I’m pleased to officially announce Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key by S.D. McPhail. I can honestly tell you that it’s the best third century Persian historical science fiction sword-and-science novel I’ve ever read. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what other readers have said:
“The Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a stunning debut novel from an author to watch. McPhail’s creation is packed with tension and excitement, from the political machinations of the empire to the almost Atlantean history of Dodrazeb and mythical Anutupi. The imagery is enchanting, but the adventure is mesmerizing.”
–Ashley Chappell, author of the Dreams of Chaos series.
WOW! Add Susan McPhail to your must-watch writer list! Her debut novel, THE TEASURES OF DODRAZEB: THE ORIGIN KEY delivers! Suspenseful and intriguing, McPhail manufactures an elusive world amid ancient Persian historical truths. Rasteem, the protagonist, is a warrior prince, hell bent on revenge. Plot twists and turns make this imaginative story come to life. Truly a force majeure, this story alone will parent a new genre!
– Dana S.
The Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is the unlikely combination of fantasy adventure with some science fiction thrown in. The elements of mystery, romance, politics, and magic all swirled together make this a rich and exciting experience from beginning to end.
– Lucy C.
Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key will be available on July 30th in eBook and paperback formats. It is now available for pre-order directly from Silver Empire, and will be available for pre-order soon from other booksellers.
One author has already sent me half of a rough draft, while several others have made verbal commitments. Let your imagination go crazy – the more wildly different the stories are, the better!
Back in the day (say, pre-1965), anybody who wanted to become a writer had a fairly clear place to start. Write short fiction and submit it to the magazines. If it didn’t get accepted, write some more. You’d hone your skill, get practice, maybe entertain your friends, and have a nice collection of stuff that could eventually get published once someone finally recognized your talents. Short fiction is a lot easier to write than novels, and a lot faster. So if something didn’t get published, hey, no worries. At least you hadn’t wasted a lot of time with it. Even better, in those days you could actually make a living by writing short fiction. Maybe not the greatest living ever, but you could do it.
In 2016, the market for short fiction is dead.
OK, maybe it’s only mostly dead. You can still go through its pockets looking for loose change and sell the occasional short story on Amazon for $0.99. But for the most part, they don’t sell very well – and Amazon royalties on $0.99 e-books are crap, too. There are a handful of folks who have made series of short stories work. John Hartness seems to have done well with the Bubba the Monster Hunter series (which are excellent, by the way). And you can do OK with anthologies, as we’ve done at Silver Empire.
But the old school path that really made money – the magazines – has been dead for some time. They pay has sucked for decades. Until a few years ago, if you could manage get published in one of the magazines, the pay scale (three to five cents per word) hadn’t changed since the 1960s. There’s been an awful lot of inflation since then. If you could get published. That was getting dramatically harder, too. For one thing, more people were trying – the competition got steeper. But the bigger problem is that the magazines were all going out of business. Today they’re pretty much all gone. Locus still hangs around, and one or two others. But all of them are struggling.
Magazines are dead, and they’re not coming back.
This isn’t a problem unique to the short fiction market. Magazines in general are dying, of every kind. When I was a teenager, Time and Newsweek pretty much ruled the news magazine market. Time only survives today because of the massive corporation that owns it, and Newsweek has been barely kept alive by mega-rich owners who want it as a vanity project. The readership that used to support their advertising model is gone. They’ve all moved online.
Online magazines aren’t doing much better – and they’ll probably die off soon, too.
Simply moving the business model of magazines into an online space hasn’t worked – and it never will. There’s too much competition out there, and too much of it is simply free. There are a handful of “online magazines” of various kinds that are working – but all of them are struggling, too. Politico just killed its last paywalled section. Expect to see more trouble from them soon. The New York Times has struggled since it went with a paywall model. Only magazines such as the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg which offer specific information that helps their readers actually make money have really thrived.
In the fiction world, things haven’t been much better. I couldn’t name a single online science fiction or fantasy “magazine” that has any kind of clout or significant readership. There are some respectable ones out there, such as Sci-Phi Journal, but they continue to struggle just to exist.
And today this rolled across my feed. I stumbled across the link from Twitter:
Well, this is getting absurd. First Cirsova magazine closed for submissions till 2017, now Pulp Literature just closed for submissions. Obviously, there is a serious dearth of high quality adventure fantasy publications for fantasy short stories. One can probably count those now accepting stories on one hand, and maybe have fingers left over: Hfq Ezine, BCS (which wants a very specific style), Grimdark (which wants a very specific vibe)…?
It’s a real problem, and not just for aspiring authors. There’s nowhere solid left for up and coming authors to really practice their craft – and the readers lose out just as badly. How much more wonderful sff stories would we have if that one author you’ve never heard of had been able to publish that one story and just hadn’t given up? But there’s nowhere left for him to start. So maybe he’s doing something else.
But Mr. Szeles’s solution is no solution at all:
Could I get the support needed now (professional and financial through Kickstarter) to edit and publish such an anthology, pay pro rates, put in the time, work, and love needed to create something magnificent?
The answer? He could probably raise enough through Kickstarter to get the project off the ground. And in a year or three it would probably die a slow lingering death, just like every other online magazine. The problem isn’t the magazines themselves. The problem is that the business model is outdated – and it’s never coming back.
But all is not doom and gloom. At Silver Empire, we believe we’ve found a solution. We’ve come up with an innovative new business model that we think is more in tune with the times. Or, more accurately, we’ve borrowed a business model that’s already working in other fields and we’re going to apply it to the short fiction market. And that’s why we’re creating Lyonesse – we want to Make Short Fiction Great Again.
Will it work? I can’t promise it – all business contains risk. But I believe strongly that it will work, and that it will work well in the modern age. I believe that we’ll be able to pay authors rates that are at least comparable to the rates the magazines were paying before they died – and I think that we might actually be able to pay far better than that.
To that end, we’re looking for lots of science fiction and fantasy short stories – and I really mean LOTS. We’ve already gotten a fair number of submissions. I haven’t been able to comb through all of them yet, but some of them are pretty darn good. But we’re still looking for more. My answer to Mr. Szeles is, send them over. We are accepting submissions. Details on submission requirements are available here. And if you’ve already submitted and haven’t heard back from me yet, don’t fret – I’ve got a bit of a backlog right now because we just finished up Between the Wall and the Fire (speaking of short fiction, check that one out – some of the stories in it are damn good).
We’re not ready to share the details yet, but we’re hoping to have the whole thing up and running by late fall. So stay tuned. It’s going to be quite a ride!
I will be appearing at the second annual Catfish Literary Festival on June 4th at the Athens-Limestone County Public Library in Athens, Alabama. Silver Empire will have a booth at the event and author S.D. McPhail, author of the Treasures of Dodrazeb series, will be joining me for book signings. The Catfish Festival will be your first chance to get copies of our upcoming anthology, Between the Wall and the Fire, and we’ll have a limited number of advance review copies of Ms. McPhail’s upcoming novel, The Origin Key. Ms. McPhail will also be joining me for the fantasy/sci-fi panel at 12:20. Come on out and see us!
“When we step into the family we step into a fairy-tale.”
– G.K. Chesterton
Vestanji thirsts for revenge when he feels slighted by his brother. A young boy takes his sister on an out-of-this-world adventure. An old man recounts the story of his life – and his wife. A father tries to stop his son from sacrificing all for their world. Maw Maw Nat fights the evil that lurks in the bayou behind her home. Rel goes to great lengths to bring home something pretty for his wife. Joseph has lost his family – now he’s losing his home as well. Joel fights the system to grant his grandmother’s dying wish.
Between the Wall and the Fire – A collection of superversive science fiction and fantasy stories celebrating family devotion, including the stories:
Supplies are limited. Preference will be granted to those who have left reviews in the past. We expect all reviewers to leave 100% honest reviews at one or more of the following forums:
I am pleased to announce that our next anthology of superversive science fiction and fantasy stories will be released on June 4. Between the Wall and the Fire features stories from myself, Ray Blank, Verne Luvall, S.D. McPhail, Morgon Newquist, K Bethany Sawyer, and Joshua M. Young.
I can also say that I was very pleased with the new authors we’ve added for this anthology. Ms. McPhail’s upcoming novel, “Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key” is the best third century Persian historical science fiction sword and science novel of the year. The stories in this anthology, set in the same world, are just as intriguing. And I can honestly say that Mr. Young’s piece for this anthology, “Negev,” is the best piece of short fiction that I’ve yet had the privilege to publish.
The returning authors don’t disappoint, either. Ms Sawyer’s piece is the best of her works that I’ve yet read. My wife Morgon’s School of Spells & War series continues to be a joyous sword and sorcery romp. As for my own stories, I leave that up to the readers to decide.
Pre-orders are available direct from Silver Empire for a special early price of $2.99. It will be available soon from other retailers.
Silver Empire is now accepting open submissions for an upcoming project that will revitalize the marketplace for short fiction.
We’re looking for another 20-30 fantasy and science fiction short stories. We’ll be taking submissions through the summer. Submissions should be: