Sunday, June 25, 2017

Zen of Ebook Formatting by Guido Henkel

Zen of Ebook FormattingZen of Ebook Formatting by Guido Henkel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is pretty much the bible of hand-coding your e-books. If you want to indie publish and you can't afford Vellum (and a Mac to run it on), or if you just prefer having complete control over what your book looks like, Guido Henkel will teach you how to produce great looking books.

Table of Contents:

Chapter One: The Road to Right
-- Understanding eBook readers
-- Why you should not use a word processor
-- The Road to Right
-- Tools of the trade
Chapter Two: Data Structure
-- CSS
-- Prepping your style sheets
Chapter Three: Cleaning Up the Manuscript
-- The Power of Em
-- Time to clean up your manuscript
-- Fixing up styles
Chapter Four: From Word Processor to Programming Editor
-- Nice, clean and predictable in HTML
-- Paragraphs are the meat
-- Fleshing it out
-- Dealing with special characters...the right way
-- A word about fonts
Chapter Five: General Techniques
-- Centering content
-- Images
-- Image file format
-- Image resolution
-- Chapters
-- Typography and Layout
Chapter Six: Advanced Techniques
-- Chapters
-- Initials
-- First-line capitalization
-- Formatting inserts and notes
-- Image blocks with byline
-- Custom fonts
-- Linking to the outside world
-- Lists
-- Backgrounds and color
Chapter Seven: eBook Generation
-- eBook formats
-- Meta-Data
-- The Cover
-- The TOC in the digital world
-- Calibre
-- More control with XPath
-- KindleGen
-- Error-checking
Chapter Eight: eBooks Outside the Box
-- A Word about Fixed-Layout Books
-- Preparing for Smashwords
-- Going to Print

This book assumes that you've written your book, had it edited, and that it's ready to go into production. This isn't a writing book, or even a book about how to prepare your manuscript for the production process at the level of editing and copyediting and proofreading, any of that sort of thing. This is purely about production -- turning your manuscript into an e-book.

Henkel starts out in Chapter One with a discussion of why good formatting is important and some common problems before launching into the how-to. He explains the format coding you'll be using, talks about what tools you should (and shouldn't) use when coding your file, and shortcuts to make this less laborious.

Chapter Two explains the basics of HTML, what it does and how to use it. I imagine most people who have a blog know at least the basics of HTML, but plenty of writers don't have blogs these days, so this section is useful. It's worth at least scanning, even if you think you know what you're doing. :) This chapter also explains Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), which isn't quite as common a skill. Chapter Two is basically a set-up, giving you the basics before diving in.

Chapter Three is about prepping the manuscript. It explains things like why to use the "em" as a unit of measure rather than the pixel, and how to use Search/Replace to add in things like curly quote and proper em-dashes. Learning how to automatically turn all your italic text into <i>italic text</i> with one operation, rather than having to go through the file by hand (and by eye, and inevitably missing a few) is IMO worth the cost of the book right there, if you're hand coding. Chapter Three provides screenshots of the tools and controls used are included, making it easy to go step-by-step.

Another useful trick Henkel explains is why it's best not to call out specific fonts, and how to go about it if you feel you have to. Print books have an advantager here, from the point of view of the writer and publisher, because a print book can be published to look however the producer wants it to, with whatever combination of fonts and font sizes they prefer to get across the feel or mood they want associated with the book. This isn't always ideal from the reader's point of view, though, as when a reader prefers a plainer or larger font for the sake of readability. Part of Chapter Four shows you how to call out a specific font, with back-up fonts if you want, and how to let the display fall back on the default font called out in the reader's particular device if necessary.

Image files are something I've always found a bit intimidating. I've never played with images much (as you probably know if you've been reading my blog for a while) and even figuring out what to Google to get help can be a headache. Chunks of Chapter Five provide some great explanations, along with sample code to help you get images neatly into your e-book. One trick I particularly like is how to specify an image size such that it'll fit well on an e-reader, a tablet or even a phone. That's something I wouldn't have thought of even researching, but it's a great tool for making your books look professional.

Chapter Six has some cool advanced techniques, such as how to do fancy chapter headers using images instead of just fonts, how to use small caps in the first line of a chapter's text, and how to use fancy initials for the first line of text. Again, this helps your book look more professional (and just cooler), and Henkel gives sample code to show you exactly how to do it.

Another technique he explains here is how to include links to locations outside the book itself. This is great for including, say, buy links to the next book in a series, or links to the page where readers can sign up for your newsletter.

Chapter Seven gets into the meat of producing an e-book file. He explains how to create different file formats to serve different reader communities. He also discusses which formats (which the tools he recommends will allow you to produce) are obsolete and safely ignored. It also explains what meta-data is, what it's for, how it's used, and how it might be used in the future. (Its full potential isn't utilized by vendors yet, but hopefully they'll get their act together soon. I've ranted before about the kinds of searches e-book vendors should be able to do but can't yet, so I won't repeat myself here.)

This is also where Henkel discusses the cover. A lot of writers have problems producing, finding or acquiring a decent book cover. He talks about how a book's cover impacts its perceived value, and how that affects how your book sells. I agree with him that it's worth making some investment of time or money or both to get a decent cover, but only up to a point, at least in the area of time. If you can put a book up with an okay cover now, or a great cover a year from now (because that's how long it'll take you to save the money to get a great cover) then IMO you're better off putting the book up now. It's true that you only have one chance to make a good impression, but you make a good impression individually for each person who comes across your book, and your book will be making impressions -- good or otherwise -- on readers who've never seen it before for as long as you have it up for sale. That said, I agree that a good or great cover is best. He gives some suggestions for how to get a cover you can be proud of. He also discusses how cover art affects file size, and what that does to the loading time and the delivery fee you're charged by the vendor.

Chapter Eight goes beyond the basics, and includes a brief discussion of doing print books. Don't buy this book if you just want to know how to prepare a file for submission to a POD service; there are only a couple of pages here, and it's all theoretical.

On the whole, this is an excellent book for a newbie (like me) who's never produced an e-book before. I know other writers who've had great luck with the instructions in this book, and gone on to publish great looking e-books. If you're looking for help indie publishing your work, this book is a valuable resource. Check it out, and good luck!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Business Plans: The Writer's Busines Plan by Tonya Price and Business Planning For Professional Publishers by Leah Cutter

The Writer's Business PlanThe Writer's Business Plan by Tonya Price

My rating: 4 of 5 stars for more business-oriented writers

Business Planning For Professional PublishersBusiness Planning For Professional Publishers by Leah Cutter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars for less business-oriented writers

I'm doing something different this week. I've read two books about business plans for writers. Both are good books for the right audience. And in actuality, I think every writer should read both books once. You'll probably be drawn more to one, and want to revisit it periodically, but I think the other will give you some insights and things to think about.

Tonya Price is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction. She publishes her own work, and also has an MBA and considerable experience in business beyond her writing and publishing. She approaches the creation of a business plan from the point of view of someone with that background and degree.

A Writer's Business Plan is a thorough explanation of how to produce a business plan, without any extraneous clutter. Some "business plan" books for writers only discuss the marketing plan, which is only part of an actual business plan. Or they go into great step-by-step detail about how to go about indie publishing a book (how to format, how to create a cover, how to upload the book, etc.), which is outside the bounds of an actual business plan. Tonya gives you what you need and only what you need.

Tonya's book is organized as follows:

Chapter One: Every Quest Has a Mission
Chapter Two: Plotting Your Writing Success
Chapter Three: Market Analysis
Chapter Four: Marketing Plan
Chapter Five: Your Financial Plan
Chapter Six: Your Business Strategy
Chapter Seven: Your Business Plan

Each chapter comes with one or more worksheets, which make it that much easier to get your ideas down and organized. She talks about mission statements, business organization, insurance, and why you need a lawyer and an accountant. She also discusses financing your business.

She explains how to set goals. Many people have goals which aren't actually goals -- they're too vague, the win condition isn't defined well enough, they aren't achievable by the person who set the goal through their own efforts, etc. Tonya describes the SMART system, devising goals to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timeframe Defined. This is a good system, and will keep you from writing, "Have a bestselling novel out before I'm thirty-five" on your Goals List, and then spinning your wheels for years before you figure out you can't control whether your novel is a bestseller. (Yes, I've heard a lot of writers say they have that kind of goal. That's a wish or a dream, not a goal.)

There's a lot of valuable information here, including commentary about when things aren't necessary. You don't need to go whole hog when you're just starting out, and probably can't afford to do so. Figuring out what you absolutely need, and what it's going to cost, is a valuable skill, and Tonya talks about separating the wants from the needs.

This book is set up so you can work on your business plan for a couple of hours a day, filling in the worksheets, thinking about the questions and finding answers a bit at a time, and end up with a business plan that a modern businessperson would recognize. And she says right up front that a business plan is not a static document; it's expected that the plan will change over time, as you spot problems, fix mistakes, discover more efficient processes, grow (or shrink) your business, or reach a point where you can now afford some of those nice-to-haves that you couldn't justify when you started out. A business plan isn't a trap or a permanent committment; it's a way of noting down what you plan to do and how you plan to do it, so you can figure out later on whether you're on track.

Even if you're not terribly business-minded, I recommend you read this book through once. I don't come from a serious business background, and although I want to conduct my writing and publishing in a businesslike way, this is maybe a bit of overkill for me. But while reading the book, I had a lot of little "Huh," moments -- things I hadn't thought of, things I didn't know to think about or plan for, things that don't apply to my business right now but might in the future. These are good to know about.

For example, I don't remember ever hearing about someone who was indie publishing doing a market analysis. That was a major, "Wait, what?" moment for me while I was reading. It won't change what I decide to write, but it's good foundation data for marketing efforts. Which I also won't be doing much of for a while, but it's something to keep in mind for the future, something I hadn't thought of before now. Unless you have a business degree yourself, you'll probably find at least a few similar "Huh," moments that make this book worthwhile.

[Note: I rated this book four stars instead of five because my copy is frankly riddled with typos and similar small glitches. They're easy enough to read around, and they don't affect the usefulness of the information, but they're distracting. A decent copyeditor could've done some good here.]

Leah Cutter is a writer and publisher. She owns a publishing business, which many writers can say these days. But Leah publishes other people as well as herself, which means she has complexities to deal with that your average indie-publishing writer doesn't have, and she's done them very well for some time. Leah is an excellent businessperson, but her background isn't in business per se.

Business Planning For Professional Publishers is written from the point of view of a writer/publisher who's read books like Tonya's, and wanted to swear and beat her head against a wall. Blaze Ward says in the Editor's Note:

What artists need is a book that breaks the MBA-blather down into terms an artist can understand, because, frankly, they are two entirely unrelated languages that both share English as a common tongue.

I enjoyed this read. It's a very voicey book, and Leah's personality shines through on every page. It's much more casual than Tonya's book, less "businesslike." And her frustration and anger at how poorly that sort of book fits the personality of so many writers is clear throughout. (After I read this book, I saw Leah and did the "Hey, loved the book!" thing, and we talked about it for a minute. As soon as I brought it up, she got very intense and I saw a reflection of those emotions I'd felt through her writing. I think her eyes started glowing with wrathful flames, just a tiny bit.) But seriously, there's some swearing in this book. If that offends you, well, read it anyway, but grit your teeth.

Leah's main realizations here are that 1) you can create a business plan for whatever period of time makes sense to you, and 2) a business plan is (mostly) "just a big f@#$%g to-do list."

Everything else builds on that, thus:

Chapter One:
-- The Differences
-- The Meat Of The Plan
-- The Pieces
Chapter Two:
-- Problems Planning
-- Beyond Merely Writing Shit Down
-- Control
Chapter Three:
-- Goals
-- Editorial Goals
-- Living Documents
Chapter Four:
-- Production Goals
-- Publishing Goals
-- Business Goals
Chapter Five:
-- Marketing -- What Is It?
-- Passive Marketing Goals -- The Beginning
-- More Passive Marketing Goal Planning
-- Passive Marketing -- Learning Sales Copy
-- Passive Marketing -- Reader Samples
-- Passive Marketing -- Pricing
Chapter Six:
-- Active Marketing -- The Beginning
-- Active Marketing -- Next Steps
-- Yet Another Caution
-- Choosing A Marketing Strategy
-- Succeeding Regardless
Chapter Seven:
-- Conducting Sales
-- Perma-Free? Or Not?
-- Bundles
Chapter Eight:
-- Patreon
-- Online Ads
-- Bigger Goals
-- Cooperative Marketing
-- Merchandising
Chapter Nine:
-- It's All About The Money
-- Publisher Mission Statement
-- The Vision
-- What To Do With Your Mission And Vision Statements

As you can see, this is more detailed in some ways than Tonya's book. It's not just a book about how to write a business plan, because Leah's not really into business plans per se. It is a book on how to look at what you're doing, figure out where you are, make plans for the future (however far in the future you're comfortable projecting) and make to-do lists to help keep your business on track. Which is basically what a business plan is for.

One point Leah brings up is that formal business plans are largely produced to be shown to other people. If you want to start a business, or want to expand your existing business, and you want a bank or other institution to loan you money, if you want to attract investors, if you want to persuade someone who has skills or resources your business needs to go into partnership with you, the first thing you do is give them a copy of your business plan. Having a good, thorough, well organized business plan with all the right topics and terminology in it helps convince other business people that you're at least worth listening to for five minutes. You speak their language, you've done your homework, you have some business expertise to bring to the party.

Indie publishing writers don't need any of that. We rarely seek loans, we don't want formal investors, and anyone we'd want to work with probably thinks like we do, not like the MBAs do. To a writer, your business plan is purely for you, something to help you figure out what you're doing, what you want to do in the future, and how to get there. It's something to help keep yourself on track. It doesn't have to be structured like the plan a marketing or electronics entrepreneur would come up with, and it doesn't have to be written in formal business language. You'll probably never show it to anyone, so it can be written and structured in whatever way suits you.

If all you want is a big f@#$%g to-do list, then that's all it has to be.

To someone who does have a business background, I imagine the thought of being this loose and disorganized is pretty appalling. If you're comfortable with spreadsheets, and making detailed plans for the future makes you feel like you have a firm handle on your business, then you'll probably like Tonya's book a lot. But read Leah's book anyway; she has a lot of great ideas for staying organized on a day-to-day level that even someone who prefers a more formal business plan might find useful.

These are both great books. Which you'll prefer depends on your background and your preferences for how to plan and operate. Leah's book speaks to me more, and I've been using a big f@#$%g to-do list ever since I first read it, but I'm glad I read Tonya's. Try them both, and see which one resonates with you.

Friday, June 16, 2017

On Creativity and Judging Quality

Professor Dean Simonton is an academic who's been studying creativity, and has come to some conclusions that'll surprise a lot of creatives. My favorite quote:

One of the attributes of creative people says Prof. Dean Simonton – a University of California academic who’s been researching creativity for over 40 years –- is that they have an extraordinarily poor sense of whether the thing they’re creating, inventing or making is any 'good' or not.

In fact, Simonton thinks that it’s virtually impossible for anyone involved in a creative project to know for sure whether they’re making a masterpiece – or just a mess.

And when they do feel 100% sure –- they invariably get it wrong.

Dean and Kris have been saying this for years. A writer is the worst judge of their own work. Keep writing, keep submitting and/or publishing, write the next thing, submit or publish that, and keep going. Don't stress out over whether something's good enough or not; you don't know. No, really, you don't.

Remember, Shakespeare thought his plays were popular crap, and was very bitter that hardly anyone paid much attention to his poetry, which he considered his real art, the good stuff. If he couldn't tell which of his writings were masterpieces, fated to be beloved by millions for centuries, you and I have no hope. Which is good! No point worrying about it, just keep writing and putting stuff out there!

Thanks to Rob Cornell for the link.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Anthology Markets

If you've just wandered in off the internet, hi and welcome. :) I do these posts every month, so if this post isn't dated in the same month you're in, click here to make sure you're seeing the most recent one. If you want to get an e-mail notification when the listing is posted, get the list a week early, or get a full listing of everything I've found (as opposed to the two months' worth I post here) a week early, you can support my Patreon.

Markets with specific deadlines are listed first, "Until Filled" markets (if any) are at the bottom. There are usually more details on the original site; always click through and read the full guidelines before submitting. Note that some publishers list multiple guidelines on one page, so after you click through you might have to scroll a bit.


30 June 2017 -- Welcome to Miskatonic University -- Broken Eye Books

Miskatonic University is still going strong in the Arkham Valley (and in various satellite campuses and research stations around the world). Resilient and forward thinking, few institutions can weather the times and adapt like good ol' MU. It's a strange brew of conservatively reaching into the past while progressively marching forward. And it's a hotbed for the weird and the wonderful!

So what might a modern MU look like? What might student life be like today? These tales combine college life and the cosmic weird. Of course, there's beer, sex, and parties; study groups and all-night cramming; campus activism and impassioned discourse; vital research and faculty struggling for tenure. But also, you know, gruesome and psychedelic cosmic weirdness.

What avenues of study has the university sanctioned either publicly or privately? Where are they getting so much funding? The university's been around the block and are at the bleeding edge of certain realms of research. Occult studies have seeped, seemingly innocuously, into various branches of nearly all academic departments and inform everything from quantum physics to computer science, sociology to modern American literature. Library studies is hands down the best, most advanced in the world, likely one of the most well funded of sectors at the institution with ever-evolving safeguards and best practices.

But there's bound to be lingering effects from all the occult activity, like "sensitive" people and locations with breaches to the "other side." People disappear all the time; sometimes they even come back. Entire wings are off limits to humans indefinitely. As a whole, this anthology is about the angst and drama of college life, the promise of big occult ideas, and the terror and dread (and headfirst exploration) of the unknown, of the forbidden. And some dark humor would not be misplaced.

We want diverse stories with modern sensibilities from many different voices that show the immense and diverging possibilities ahead for the weird. We want to forge ahead and explore the new and the strange. We are actively seeking submissions from writers from underrepresented populations. (This includes, but is not limited to, writers of any race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, class, and physical or mental ability.)

== We want weird fiction set in a modern-day Miskatonic University. Stories should be set within or be inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos. We want to see the Mythos continue to grow and evolve, to expand as a shared literary world and not be tied to outdated and limiting sensibilities. We are not interested in stories with bigoted views on race and gender.
== Subversive or experimental stories are welcome.
== No pastiches of previous eras.
== Original, previously unpublished short stories (3,000-6,000 words) and flash fiction (1,000 words or less).
== Pay rate of 8 c/w for first rights to digital, audio, and print formats in English.
== Simultaneous submissions are welcome, but please, let us know as soon as possible if your submission has become unavailable before you hear back from us.
== Only one submission per author.
== We seek both rich characters and grandiose ideas. We seek diverse characters.

Submit your story in standard manuscript format as an attachment to submissions(at)brokeneyebooks(dot)com with a subject line of the following: [WTMU] "Your Story Title".

Submission window open from April 1, 2017 to June 30, 2017. (We are working on streamlining our review process. We will start reading submissions in May after making headway into Ride the Star Wind edits. We cannot confirm receipt of your manuscript.) The published anthology will be a mix of stories both from invited authors and from slush pile submissions. Don’t self-reject. If in doubt, submit.


We're trying to present a living, breathing setting for MU. There's no requirement or even request for any coordination of story details. We just ask that you avoid the more world-ending (or even university-ending) plots. Sure, people will die, just as new faculty is hired and new students fill empty seats. Buildings will crumble or disappear into wormholes, but there is always new construction. Monsters will come and go, sometimes with fanfare and sometimes not; some even stick around as lab specimens, secret pets, lazing in the sewers, or disguised as faculty. But above all, Miskatonic University persists.

For this anthology, Miskatonic University is assumed to be a fully modern, multicultural hotbed of cutting edge occult and technological research. In this modern incarnation, we're assuming that it has fully embraced modern technology and norms and has both a faculty and student body thriving with personalities from all walks of life (no matter race, religion, gender, or anything [so it's not just a bunch of white dudes])--and it's been that way for at least decades. Of course, the institution will have its secrets and likely everyone there has their own agendas as well. So while there could certainly be your occasional reactionary character pining for the "old days," those characters are not the norm. Hope that helps!

Content & Style:

Rape: Avoid rape, especially that intended only to demonize villains or raise heroes to action. Avoid rape victims serving only as plot devices. And on the instances when rape is vital to a story, we need to see the victim's reactions, their journey after, the consequences. We prefer characters to have agency, not just be plot points and set pieces. If those considerations are unattainable in the writing, no rape. Also, no bestiality or child abuse.

Sex: Sex between consenting adults is perfectly welcome, regardless of gender, including with aliens and monsters. It doesn't need to be tasteful, just consensual (though we're not currently shopping for stories that are solely erotica). Incest, however, should be treated with the same considerations as rape (see above).

Hate: Vile, hate-filled (such as racist or sexist) characters/speech, that which could promote such hate, should not be reflective of the entire work. Any such characters should not be portrayed as narrators; such speech should not be adopted by the narrator. Such topics would be of interest to us if well navigated, as in LaValle's The Ballad of Black Tom.

Style & Theme: We are happy to consider subversive themes, marginalized voices, and experimental styles.

Editorial: We will edit your work in collaboration with you and "in broad daylight" in accordance with Chicago Manual of Style and our experience. We are always open to discussion.

Current Tropes to Avoid: Forced Motherhood; Chosen One.


15 July 2017 -- Strange Beasties -- Third Flatiron

Slipstream. Are you itching to invent your own odd literary devices or creatures? Impress us, delight us, or scare us with the diversity of your fiendish creations. Creatures of the id don't necessarily have to be monsters, but they do need to be strange.

Third Flatiron Publishing is based in Boulder, Colorado, and Ayr, Scotland. We are looking for submissions to our quarterly themed anthologies. Our focus is on science fiction and fantasy and anthropological fiction. We want tightly plotted tales in out-of-the-ordinary scenarios. Light horror is acceptable, provided it fits the theme.

Please send us short stories that revolve around age-old questions and have something illuminating to tell us as human beings. Fantastical situations and creatures, exciting dialog, irony, mild horror, and wry humor are all welcome. Stories should be between 1,500 and 3,000 words. Inquire if longer.

Role models for the type of fiction we want include Kurt Vonnegut, Arthur C. Clarke, Dan Simmons, Connie Willis, Vernor Vinge, and Ken Kesey. We want to showcase some of the best new shorts available today.

For each anthology, we will also accept a few very short humor pieces on the order of the "Shouts and Murmurs" feature in The New Yorker Magazine (600 words or so). These can be written from a first-person perspective or can be mini-essays that tell people what they ought to do, how to do something better, or explain why something is like it is, humorously. An SF/Fantasy bent is preferred.


31 July 2017 -- Chthonic: Weird Tales of Inner Earth -- Martian Migraine Press

Pelucidar. The Hollow Earth. DEROS, and the Shaver Mysteries. Blue-litten K'n-yan, red Yoth, and black, lightless N’kai. The Amigara Fault. Derinkuyu. Agartha. The world (and worlds) below. Inner earth, a near infinite space of vast, echoing potential … our (possible?) birthplace, and the place where we all return, either as corpses, or something other? … the churning, chaotic underworld, and true home of all that is weird, unconscious, and forbidden. Descend with us in this anthology of weird fiction; descend to the realms CHTHONIC.

We are looking for weird fiction that explores the mystique and terror of caverns, abyssal spaces, and subterranean worlds. As with previous MMP anthologies, we will be including a seed story from H. P. Lovecraft’s oeuvre (in this case, The Rats in the Walls, though many of his stories went underground). We want to see bizarre civilizations, mind-boggling physical and biological phenomena, horrific rituals, mad science and madder sorcery. We want to feel the tunnel floors beneath our feet shake with the passage of beasts, machines, and gods that have never seen the light of the sun; sentient oils, intelligent muck, living rock, molemen, formless spawn and Efts of the Prime, worms, Dholes, and ghastlier things. But CHTHONIC won’t be just a serving of pop culture “surface” material, if you’ll pardon the pun. We like to see stories with depth (oh god, another one, sorry!); emotional and psychological explorations of the internal spaces of the human mind and soul, as well as the ground below. Write us stories that induce crushing claustrophobia or open us wide to new dimensions of thought and being. If your story can do both, so much the better.

Final story count for the anthology will be determined based on quality and number of submissions. CHTHONIC: Weird Tales of Inner Earth will be released as a softcover paperback and as an electronic book in multiple formats.

Submission period closes JULY 31, 2017. The anthology will be released in early December of 2017.


Please use Standard Manuscript format when submitting. That’s double spaced, left justified, Times New Roman or Courier or something at least readable, a header on the first page (at least) with your author info and word count and… well, you know the drill. RTF or DOC files preferred, but DOCx and text files also accepted. Obviously, you could send us something that’s not in Standard Manuscript format, but it will lower your chances of it being looked at seriously.

We will look at both original work and REPRINTS.

To submit a story to CHTHONIC: Weird Tales of Inner Earth send an e-mail (with the story file attached, not in the body of the email) to:, with subject line: "CHTHONIC, [title of your story] [your name]".


For short fiction, we’d like to see anything from 1,500 to 7,000 words.

FLASH FICTION: got something under 1500 words? Send it in. However, the following still applies…



All accepted submissions will be paid .03CAD per word, via Paypal, as well as two contributor copies (paperback) of the anthology, and copies in all electronic formats (mobi, EPUB, and PDF). Authors are also entitled to electronic copies of three additional Martian Migraine Press titles of their choosing.

Replies and Queries

We will try to acknowledge receipt of your submission within a week of its arrival in our inbox. The submission period itself will close on July 31, 2017 and we should be responding to all submissions, yes or no, throughout the submission period and no later than August 2017. We do our best to ensure that all submissions are contacted and kept up-to-date, but sometimes items fall through cracks, so, if you haven’t heard from us by September 15 2017, please query.


31 July 2017 -- Sharp and Sugar Tooth -- Upper Rubber Boot Books

Announcing an open call for submissions for Sharp & Sugar Tooth: Women Up To No Good, an anthology of dark, speculative fiction, edited by Octavia Cade and to be published by Upper Rubber Boot Books in late 2018 or early 2019.

Sharp & Sugar Tooth is looking for creepy, seductive stories about the dark side of culinary life. The emphasis should be on the preparation, or the consumption, of food—horrifying, mouth-watering stories that make us hungry despite ourselves.

Sharp & Sugar Tooth is part of Upper Rubber Boot’s in the Women Up To No Good anthology series, so subversive, diverse stories with protagonists who identify as girls/women are appreciated. We want these characters in the kitchen—and out of it—using their butcher knives and baking skills to create meals that are dark and lovely and empowering, because consumption has a dangerous and tempting taste…

Stories can be any variety of fantasy or science fiction, provided the element of horror is present. Strong language and sex is no problem, but we’re not interested in torture-porn of humans or animals (regardless of whether they end up on a plate).

== Word/page count: Up to 5,000 words/story.
== Payment: six cents per word.
== Publication history: Original stories only. Reprints may be submitted by invitation only.
== Multiple submissions: No.
== Simultaneous submissions: No.
== Deadline: 31 July 2017. All stories will be replied to by the end of August.
== To submit: Please send stories in standard manuscript format, attached in .doc or .rtf files, to with the subject line SUGAR TOOTH. Be sure to provide mailing address and a short bio.
== If the work is a translation, please also provide a statement from the rightsholder that you are authorized to translate and submit it (both author and translator will receive full payment).

Authors must identify as female, non-binary, or a marginalized sex or gender identity.

We encourage and welcome stories from voices underrepresented in speculative fiction, including (but not limited to) writers of color, LGBTQ writers, writers with disabilities, and writers in translation.


31 July 2017 -- The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias -- ed. M.J. Sydney; Lycan Valley Press

Word count: 4,000 to 6,000
Payment: $50 per story, a digital copy of the anthology and a discount code for print copies from Lycan Valley Press

Details: Phobias are defined as an irrational and extreme fear to something. Some of the most widely known phobias include arachnophobia, claustrophobia, agoraphobia, acrophobia, etc. Anything can be a phobia if it irrationally causes an intense and debilitating fear.

What happens when these irrational fears/phobias become reality? Make the fears and the horrors associated with that fear real. Take them from irrational to rational. Pick a phobia from the list below and take that fear to the next level. Make it come to life and give us a reason to be scared. Your characters don’t have to overcome their fears, but if they do, show us how. If they don’t, why not?

We don’t want characters sitting on a sofa in the psychiatrist’s office detailing their childhood or even characters with diagnosed phobias necessarily. Focus on the object of the phobia rather than the phobia itself as much as possible. We want you to make these phobias come to life in ways that will make readers sleep with the lights on, double check the locks on their doors and question reality.

There must be a strong pulp element to the story as well, keeping in mind that pulp doesn’t mean poorly written. If you’re unfamiliar with the original pulp magazines and stories, please do some research before submitting. Check out Black Mask Magazine and here’s a pulp archive to get you started (warning: reading on this website may be addictive). and also here

Although you are free to write in your own style and that which best suits the story, Lester Dent’s Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot is here for reference should you wish to use it. Here, James Scott Bell talks about writing pulp fiction:

Titles: Please do not use the name of the phobia itself in your titles.

Formatting: Please follow Shunn Short Story Manuscript formatting which can be found here: Or use the downloadable template for Word found here:

Simultaneous and Multiple Submissions: No simultaneous submissions. Multiple submissions from the same author for two different phobias will be considered but please note that only one story per author will be accepted to allow for greater variety and diversity. Previously unpublished stories only, no reprints unless requested.

Email questions to: with "PHB Question" in the subject line.

The available list of phobias as well as the submission form has moved and can now be found on the Lycan Valley Press Submittable profile at under THE PULP HORROR BOOK OF PHOBIAS.


15 August 2017 -- AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss & Grief -- Radix Media

The inevitable breakdown of a long-term relationship; losing your home due to gentrification; struggling with the deportation of a loved one; navigating the crumbling healthcare situation in Trump’s America.

How do you define loss and grief?

Radix Media presents AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss & Grief, an anthology that will examine what it means to face the consequences after tragedy strikes. The theme is left intentionally open, giving contributors the freedom to tell their story as it is most relevant to their experiences.


We prefer previously unpublished pieces (though previously published pieces will b considered on a case-by-case basis), and they can be fiction, personal essays, or poetry, between 500 and 3,000 words. We will also accept comics, illustration, and photography that will retain its integrity in black and white. Accepted works will be collected into either a zine or paperback book, depending on the volume and length of accepted works. Visual submissions should be able to fit a print size of 5" x 8".


Contributed pieces will be paid for at the following rates:

Fiction & Non-Fiction: $0.06 per word

Poetry: $35 per work

Comics, Photos, & Illustration: $10 per page or $50 per work, whichever is greater

We strongly encourage typically underrepresented voices to submit. If you are a person of color, queer, trans, disabled, or any combination of these, we would especially love to hear from you.


Pieces should be submitted via e-mail to by August 15, 2017. Please include your name, e-mail address, and telephone number. Also let us know if the work has been previously published or not, or whether it is currently being considered for publication by another publisher.

For written works, please paste the text directly into the body of the e-mail. For visual pieces, low-resolution versions are preferred (we will contact you for a hi-res version upon acceptance). For this call, we will accept multiple submissions, but please limit to 3.

Accepted contributors will be notified within 3-4 weeks after this deadline, and payment will be issued upon receipt of your signed publication contract.


31 August 2017 -- Hidden Animals: A Collection of Cryptids -- The Dragon's Roost Press

CRYPTOZOOLOGY: the study of and search for animals and especially legendary animals (such as Sasquatch) usually in order to evaluate the possibility of their existence

CRYPTID: an animal whose existence or survival to the present day is disputed or unsubstantiated; any animal of interest to a cryptozoologist

We’ve explored loneliness, isolation, and solitude in our first anthology. We Put the Love Back in Lovecraft in our second anthology. Now we are looking for stories involving the creatures which hide in the shadows -- the monsters of cryptozoology.

Bigfoot, Nessie, el Chupacabra, The Jersey Devil -- cryptids so well known that they have become part of the cultural zeitgeist.

For our new anthology, tentatively entitled Hidden Animals: A Collection of Cryptids, we are looking for lesser known cryptids, creatures of the dark corners of cryptozoology. They can be the antagonist, the protagonist, the creeping dread which drives the story, but they must be present.

What We Want:

Finely crafted works of Dark Speculative fiction which feature one (or more) of the lesser known, but established cryptids. Authors are encouraged to put their own spin on the classic creature. Make them terrifying. Make them sympathetic. Make them humorous. Above all, make them feel real.

What We Don’t Want:

Non-fiction. We want fictional stories with a plot and a well defined story arc. While we are interested in hearing about your own personal experience, or that of your friend or family member, this is not the book for that.

New Monsters. While we appreciate your creativity, we are looking for stories which feature creatures that readers will have at least a passing knowledge of. Give us your giant cats, dogboys, and lake creatures, but please do not create your own creature.

[Note: There are plenty of website which describe various cryptids. A brief list appears here.]

Stories where nothing happens. Keep the creatures in the shadows if you like, but give us something. There’s a reason that we don’t watch that show where they look for but never actually find Bigfoot.

Retreads of established stories. This is going to be a little tougher. We do want stories based on "actual encounters." Feel free to incorporate material from real life sightings. Sprinkle the history of the creature in your prose. Do not simply give us a fictionalized version of a story that you read in another book or saw on the big or little screen.

We don’t like being sued.

Aliens. Yes, there is some overlap between the study of some cryptids (e.g., el chupacabra) and extraterrestrial beings, we are not looking for stories that exclusively feature visitors from other worlds. Maybe in a future anthology, but not this one.

Important Note: We are going for cryptozoological diversity. Towards this end, we will only accept ONE story featuring each cryptid. Authors may consider focusing on a lesser known cryptid, or getting their submissions in early.

The Specifics: We are looking for short fiction up to 6,000 words. While we prefer original material, we will consider reprints. Please query before submitting reprints. Naturally, we will only consider stories which you retain the rights to. Please provide original publication information for all reprints. Fan Fiction, Slash Fiction, and any other material containing characters or setting which you did not create, are not acceptable (so no returning to Boggy Creek). Submissions should follow standard format. For an example of what we are looking for in terms of formatting, please visit Shunn’s website. The only addendum to this is that the editor prefers Times New Roman.

Please edit your material carefully. Common spelling errors (they’re/their/there, your/you’re) may be acceptable in social media posts, but not in works submitted for publication.

Word (.doc/.docx) format is preferred, but we will also accept submissions in Open Office (.odt), and Pages (pages). Send your stories to In the subject line of your e-mail list “Hidden Animals,” the title of your story, and your last name. For example:

Hidden Animals / Really Awesome Story / I. M. Ayeti

E-mails which do not follow this format will be deleted unread.

Provide a short (500 words or less) biography in the body of your e-mail. Also, feel free to provide a brief description of the cryptozoological being which appears in your story along with links and/or citations.

We are looking for North American Print and Digital Rights. Rights revert back to the author upon publication. Submissions accepted until 31 Aug 2017 or until filled. Our previous anthologies have each closed to submissions a month or more before the deadline. For this book, we are only looking for 13 - 15 stories (instead of the 21 - 30 stories of our previous anthologies) Don’t delay, start writing today!

Please wait four weeks before querying.

Direct queries to

Multiple submissions are OK, but please wait until you have received a response on your first piece before submitting your second. Simultaneous submissions: no.

Estimated publication date Winter 2017 via Create Space and Smashwords.

At this time payment is three cents per word ($0.03/word) plus one contributor’s copy and one digital version in the format of the author’s choosing. We will be running a crowd sourcing campaign with the goal of providing higher monetary recompense to our authors. As with our previous anthologies, this is a charity anthology to raise money for the canine rescue organization Last Day Dog Rescue.

Note to New Authors: Most publications seek First North American Rights. While you may be able to sell your story again as a reprint, publication in this anthology may limit your story’s future marketability and may affect the amount of money you will be able to receive from other markets. Please take this into consideration before submitting.


1 September 2017 -- The Beauty of Death 2 -- Death by Water -- ed. Alessandro Manzetti and Jodi Renee Lester; Independent Legions Publishing

Independent Legions Publishing is seeking original horror stories in English for the new anthology The Beauty of Death 2 -- Death by Water, edited by Alessandro Manzetti and Jodi Renée Lester, to be published October 2017 in print and digital editions.

We’re looking for stories that fit the theme: Death by Water. All types of horror are welcome. Sex or violence in a story should be artistically justified; no excessive gore. No stories about child abuse of any kind. We welcome all subgenres and forms of speculative fiction.

Word Count: We are open to stories of 4000-5000 words.
Deadline: September 1, 2017
Pay Rate: We pay (via PayPal) $100 for each original story.
We buy first exclusive English-language rights for three years.

We do not accept multiple or simultaneous submissions, nor do we accept unsolicited reprints.

Submissions should follow standard manuscript format (12 pt Times New Roman or Courier fonts, 1” margins all around, line spacing 1½ or 2 spaces). It must be in .doc or .docx format or it will not be considered. Your name and contact information must be at the top of the first page of the story. Page numbers with author’s last name and/or partial story name on subsequent pages would be appreciated.

Cover letter is optional, but if you do include one, please add a short bio (up to 200 words).

Response time is currently within four weeks. After that, if you haven’t heard from us, please query. We will not be sending confirmations of receipt.

To submit a story, go to our story submission form below. To submit your story via email, put “SUBMISSION - TBOD2” in the subject line and send to:

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


So, bundling is a thing. Has been for a few years now. Some writers I know are into bundling, and various people whose blogs I read post about this or that bundle that's going around. I bought a few, back when they were new and cool, and there were a few books in a bundle that I wanted, and the price was great so why not?

Well, it turned out there was a pretty big "why not." And that's this -- the only way I've found to sideload an e-book onto my tablet ends up with that book in the "Documents" area about 3/4 of the time, stripped of its cover, added to a plain text list that I hardly ever look at. I fiddled around with it, and finally kind of gave up. At this point, I don't even particularly go after free books, unless the author doing the give-away is using Bookfunnel*.

And all those bundles I bought? I never did download any of them, because the thought of struggling to get them onto my tablet (in the Books section) just made me want to go hide under the covers. :P Eventually I stopped buying bundles. Why pay the money if I wasn't going to actually get the books?

Well, now there's an solution to that problem.

A new(ish) outfit called Bundlerabbit has a great innovation -- they not only sell you a bundle themselves, they'll also sell it to you through your favorite vendor. So if, like me, you read your e-books on an Amazon tablet, you go to the Bundlerabbit site, find a bundle you want, click the "Purchase" button and then select where you want to buy the bundle. If you buy from Bundlerabbit directly, you can pay what you want, from the minimum up to whatever. If you want to buy from a vendor, like Amazon, you'll just pay the minimum price to get all the books. That is, if there are multiple tiers that give you different numbers of books, the whole set is offered at the third-party vendor sites, at whatever the minimum price is to get that tier. So Bundlerabbit and the authors involved are theoretically losing some money here, whatever extra amount readers might've decided to pay, but on the other hand they can capture purchases from people like me, who don't want to hassle with side-loading books. I wouldn't have bought their bundle at all if I couldn't buy it from Amazon. And I'll bet I'm not the only one who feels that way.

From the author's point of view, Bundlerabbit is easy to use, and Chuck Heintzelman, the guy who owns the business, is very helpful and responsive to questions. You create an author account, and can upload your books (novels, short stories, whatever you like), with marketing blurbs and keywords to help potential bundle curators find your books that fit their theme. If a curator wants to include a book of yours in a bundle, they contact you and you work out the terms. If you want to curate a bundle, you can do that too. If you want to edit an anthology but don't want to hassle with collecting money from all the vendors, doing the math and cutting your sixteen authors each a check every three months, Bundlerabbit will do that for you -- set up your anthology like a short story bundle, have your authors upload their stories to the site and curate your anthology, and Bundlerabbit will pay you all. (Seriously, this is the one big hassle that's made me shudder at the thought of ever editing an anthology, having to do all the accounting and the math, and cut everyone a check for $2.18 every six months. :P With Bundlerabbit, it's not an issue anymore.)

Bundlerabbit is also working on offering accounting services for multiple creators on one project -- sort of a reverse bundle. So if you want to collaborate with someone -- if you and a friend worked together on a project, you can publish it through Bundlerabbit and they'll handle all the accounting from all the different vendors and pay you individually. If you co-wrote a novel with two other writers, plus you had an artist do the cover art and a map and some interior illos, and you promised them a royalty percentage, Bundlerabbit will handle that accounting for you. These collaborative accounts are in beta right now, but should go live some time this summer.

Yes, I've heard Chuck speak about this a few times. :) I know him, he's a good guy. I haven't used the author-end of Bundlerabbit yet myself, but I know a bunch of writers who have, and who've been very happy with the experience.

Chuck also did an interview with Joanna Penn recently, so go check that out, give it a read or a listen, if you're interested. Or just check out the Bundlerabbit site, try buying a bundle, and/or create a free author account and poke around.

This is a great service, with a lot of cool features the other, better-known bundling sites haven't even thought of yet. I hope it gets huge.


*Bookfunnel is an excellent app that lets an author (or whoever is giving away a book) upload whatever formats they have to Bookfunnel, and then give folks a download code. You go to the Bookfunnel site, download their free app to your reader or tablet one time, then get your book. Bookfunnel downloads the right format and installs it on your device. If you have trouble, or need some help the first time, Bookfunnel handles all tech support, which is a very good thing for the writers using their service. I've used this to get free books from several authors, and it's worked wonderfully every time. Highly recommended, whether you're a reader who likes free books, or a writer who wants to give away some books but doesn't want to get stuck doing dozens or hundreds of hours of tech support on reader platforms you're probably not familiar with.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Write Attitude by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The Write AttitudeThe Write Attitude by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

1. Habits
2. The Importance of Routines
3. Churning It Out
4. Getting By
5. Following the Crowd
6. Indispensable
7. Beginner's Luck
8. One Phone Call From Our Knees
9. Controlling the Creatives
10. Believe in Yourself
11. Out! All of You!
12. The Writer You Want to Be

Kris Rusch has worn pretty much every hat in writing and publishing. She writes fiction and nonfiction, at all lengths, and has won awards and been a bestseller in multiple genres. She's edited short fiction, both anthologies and magazines (including The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction), and is, in fact, the only person on the planet to win the Hugo Award for both writing and editing short fiction. She's been an owner, with her husband Dean Wesley Smith, of two publishing companies (they currently own WMG Publishing) and several retail stores. She was a low-level employee at a publishing company she didn't own when she was young, and worked as a radio journalist and news editor for some years. She's made her living off of writing and publishing, without having a separate day job, for about three decades. She takes the long view, which separates her from a lot of the folks who've had some success in the last year or five or ten, and give advice based on what they've done short term. Which is useful, up to a point, but if you want a long-term career, the best advice comes from someone who's had one, and is still going strong.

Kris herself is the first to say that every writer is different, and that you should examine any advice you get to see if it will work for you, or how you can make it your own in a way that'll be useful. But basically, when she talks about writing or publishing, I listen, and I usually agree with her.

This book is a collection of essays originally posted on her blog over a period of some years, all on the topic of how a writer's attitude will affect their success.

Writing and publishing is an area where about 90% of success seems to come from just doing it, over and over, year after year after decade. It's easy to kill your own career -- or strangle it in the crib -- by having the wrong attitude, looking at things from the wrong perspective, buying into myths, thinking short-term instead of long-term... so many ways of wandering off the path. Kris talks about some of the trickiest detours into the underbrush, the ones lit up in neon and advertising themselves as shortcuts or expressways or well-lit, well-trodden paths to Success! which are actually no such thing.

She starts by looking at your habits and routines, which are two different things, in the first two essays. Developing good habits and routines can make you more productive by offloading a lot of the thinking and planning. Habits are how you do things, while routines are how you organize your day. So Kris is in the habit of, whenever she cooks, cooking enough to freeze leftovers so she doesn't have to cook all the time. Going to cook? then cook a lot, is a habit. Drinking some water before a writing session, then sipping tea while writing, is another habit; it forces her to get up and move around about once every hour, to keep her from getting crippled up from spending too much time sitting and typing. Sitting down to type? Drink some water and make a mug of tea.

She gives her routine as well, from getting up to going to bed, including several writing sessions per day, and also talks about when she has to deviate from it, and how she gets back to it as soon as possible. I appreciate that she shows the bumps in the road and how to recover from them -- much more useful than pretending to be Superwriter, or urging her readers to be.

The third essay talks about the damage that comes from internalizing the idea that writing fast is bad. There's a strong meme going around the larger society, and particularly pushed by English teachers and book reviewers and agents and many tradpub editors, that anything written quickly has to be crap. It was churned out, cranked out, dashed off -- clearly it can't be any good. That's a poisonous idea that doesn't belong anywhere near your writer brain, and Kris does a good job shooting that myth and burying the corpse.

The fourth essay is about people who do just enough to get by, and how that hurts them if they're a writer. I'll admit I was one of those people in high school. High school contained little that I was interested in and less that was actually useful. I learned some things, sure, but that was a minority of what was presented, and I learned a lot more on my own. Ignoring homework to read or write might not have been great for my GPA, but I think it was the right choice in the long run, even if I didn't make that choice for such great reasons at the time. It's easy to get into the habit of doing as little as possible, though, and feel good about getting away with that. Maybe that's not so bad if you're a minimum-wage slave, but when you're doing something you really want to do, and transition to working for yourself (as all freelance writers do, essentially) then the cliche about "You're only cheating yourself" becomes very true. This essay made me think about my own habits, how they've changed over the years and how they haven't. In some ways, I bust my butt when I'm working for someone else (and always have, even with that first minimum wage retail job) but in others I'm good at doing as little as possible so I can get on to the good/fun/interesting stuff. Being conscious of that means I'm applying my highly developed "efficiency" skills where they'll actually do the most good, rather than applying them reflexively.

Number five is about following the crowd, something I've never been very good at, even if I wanted to. Probably just as well, but this is another area where I'd prefer to be able to do some "crowd following" type things -- consciously and with forethought, of course. I'm probably better off with my inner writer being stubbornly unable to, though. If you find yourself thinking, "I'd better write this, or I should write like that, because that's selling," this essay is for you.

The sixth essay talks about how writers become indispensable to their genre or subgenre, and what Kris means by that. This is one of those things you can't just do -- it's not like finishing a novel, or taking a class in how to design covers. Kris gives seven tips you can follow to give yourself the best possible chance of being one of the indispensable writers in your genre, but like success itself, all you can do is prepare, and make sure that when it starts raining soup, you're standing outside with a pair of goggles and a big bucket.

Number seven is about how fast and early success can hurt you. Not something I have to worry about :) but it's an interesting read. Having great success right off the bat sounds like a great upside risk to have to deal with, but it is a risk, and thinking about how to handle it is worth some cogitation time. And I think a lot of this applies to great success no matter when it comes; it's easy to fall into the traps she discusses, no matter when that sudden boost comes.

Number eight is about major life rolls -- some catastrophic event, like a major illness, a death in the family, a house fire, a divorce, things that happen that feel like a knife in the gut -- and how they affect your writing (along with the rest of your life.) You might not recognize that what happening is affecting you until later. Kris gives an example of how this happened to her and she didn't recognize it until months later. It happened to me in 2012, when my husband's retina tore. He needed two surgeries, months apart, and his doctor couldn't say whether his vision would go back to what it was before, or whether the surgeries would just keep it from getting any worse. Jim is legally blind and doesn't have any excess vision to play with, and I was a quiet wreck for most of that year. I was more than halfway through the year when I realized exactly why my writing had gone to hell, and accepted that it probably wasn't going to get any better until the crisis was over with. It was hard to come to that conclusion -- I had plenty of spare time, there seemed to be no logical reason why I couldn't write. I just... couldn't. Deciding not to beat myself up about it anymore (which just added to my stress) was the best decision I could've made. Good essay.

The ninth essay is about how letting the battles and bad attitudes of your fellow creatives suck you in and take up real estate in your brain can hurt you. From the sheer time lost following online flamewars (and I'll admit this is me, depending on the subject of the fight), to the slams and sneering and flaming echoing in your head and preventing you from writing what you want to write, your fellow writers can really poison the well.

Number ten is about believing in yourself and your work, and sticking up for yourself and for a book or story or series, for a genre or subgenre you want to write, for a style of writing that feels right to you, no matter who is telling you you're wrong. Kris gives some great examples -- The Phantom Tollbooth, The Cat in the Hat, and Starship Troopers, of books that would've never been published if the writers had listened to their agents or editors, books that went on to become genre-changing classics.

Number eleven is related to number ten -- it's more about sticking up for yourself, but specifically about clearing people who are actively obstructing you out of your life and work. Kris talks about the example of Sally Field, who'd had success on TV playing Gidget, a vapid airhead, and similar roles like The Flying Nun. Now she wanted to move into movies, but her agents, her business manager and her husband all told her that she wasn't pretty enough and wasn't good enough.

Field's response? "You're fired."

You're fired.

She didn't bow her cute little head and listen to their advice. She didn't let them bully her. She left her agents, her manager, and her husband (who agreed with them). She ends the anecdote with this:

[That time] was like 'Out! All of you!'

Four very important words.

Out! All of you!

All of you who don't believe, who offer bad advice under the cloak of good advice. Who recommend that something innovative get tossed because it's unusual. Better to blend in, better to be like everyone else. All of you who are afraid of risks. You--out!

There's more. This is one of my favorite of Kris's essays.

The last essay is about figuring out what kind of writer you are, what kind you want to be. It can take some time, and our early guesses can easily be wrong. Or we might change somewhere along the line. This is about exploring the territory, trying things on for size, tasting what the field has to offer rather than just deciding that the one thing we've been munching on all along is our favorite by default. I've known a lot of writers who seem to be so paranoid that they might be falling behind that they dash as fast as they can down the first road they hit -- the first genre or even subgenre they start writing, or the first one they have some success with -- that they don't even look at all the other possible paths, much less explore any of them. "Oh, no, I'll just keep doing what I do best!" is, in my opinion, one of the saddest things a writer can ever say. Also, as Kris says:

If you look at what you're doing bit by bit, piece by piece, you'll probably end up with the same kind ofhybrid that I have. A bit of traditional here, some indie there, a little self-publishing in the middle. You might end up with a preference ... and that preference might remain the same for the rest of your career.

Or it might not.

The message I get is to stay aware. Aware of what's out there, and aware of what you're doing -- all of it. It's easy to dismiss or overlook that little side project, or that "not really published" stuff you do on your blog for six years, or non-fiction that doesn't really count because... why again?

And aware of what's going on in your own head. That's really what this whole book is about -- being awake and aware of what you think and what you believe, and how it affects what you do and how you do it. There's a lot of good stuff here, enough to reward several readings at intervals. Highly recommended.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Fiction... Thing

Okay, this isn't an anthology (or a magazine or a webzine or anything like that), but it's someone offering very decent money for fiction, so I'm posting it by itself.

The Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI) wants to pay you to publish a story of yours, that they choose. No, really, they want to pay you to publish it, as in you publish it, on your web site or blog, and they'll link to it from their blog and newsletter, and send (potentially a whole lot of) readers your way. (That's not quite what their guidelines say; I had to e-mail for clarification.)

I'm posting this because they're offering eight cents per word. As they do point out, posting a story in public on your blog or web site means first rights are gone; you can only sell the story to a third-party editor as a reprint afterwards, therefore the pro-plus rate they're offering. Which is pretty cool of them.

It seems to me that an ideal situation would be that you'd have a story you planned to indie publish anyway, you subbed it to MIRI, they chose it, paid you eight cents per word to post it on your blog, and then you indie published it after -- same thing you were going to do anyway, but with a nice wad of cash to start things off. And in any case, eight cents per word might well be worth giving up a chance at a sale to Analog.

Here's what they have to say about it:


Deadline: 15 July 2017 -- Intelligence in Fiction -- MIRI

This call is intended to reward people who write thoughtful and compelling stories about artificial general intelligence, intelligence amplification [broken link], or the AI alignment problem. We’re looking to appreciate and publicize authors who help readers understand intelligence in the sense of general problem-solving ability, as opposed to thinking of intelligence as a parlor trick for memorizing digits of pi, and who help readers intuit that non-human minds can have all sorts of different non-human preferences [PDF link] while still possessing instrumental intelligence.

The winning stories are intended to show (rather than tell) these ideas to an intellectually curious audience. Conscious attempts to signal that the ideas are weird, wonky, exotic, or of merely academic interest are minuses. We’re looking for stories that just take these ideas as reality in the setting of the story and run with them. In all cases, the most important evaluation criterion will just be submissions’ quality as works of fiction; accurately conveying important ideas is no excuse for bad art!

To get a good sense of what we’re looking for, we recommend you read some or all of the following:

== Superintelligence
== Smarter Than Us
== Waitbutwhy post 1, Waitbutwhy post 2 (with caveats)

[I read the two Waitbutwhy posts when they first went up, and can say that they're long but fascinating, and absolutely worth a read, especially if you're an SF writer.]

Submission Details

== Purchasing First Publication Rights
== Pay Rate: 8c/word, up to 5000 words
== Multiple Submissions ok
== Simultaneous Submissions ok
== Submissions window: Open until July 15

Withdrawal policy:

After you submit a story, we prefer you don’t withdraw it. If you withdraw a story, we won’t consider any version of that story in the future. However, if you do need to withdraw a story (because, for example, you have sold exclusive rights elsewhere), please send an e-mail telling us that you need to withdraw ASAP.

Important Notes:

MIRI is neither a publishing house nor a science fiction magazine and cannot directly publish you. However, MIRI will help link a large number of readers to your story.

We frankly do not know whether being selected by MIRI will qualify as a Professional Sale for purposes of membership in the SFWA. We suspect, through readership numbers and payscale, that it will, but we have not spoken to the SFWA to clarify this.

If you have a work of hypertext fiction you think might be a good fit for this call, please query us to discuss how to submit it.

To submit a work, send your submissions as .DOC or .DOCX email attachments to, with your cover letter in the email body, and a subject line of SUBMISSION: (Title).

How to Contact Us:

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Managing Your Inner Artist/Writer by M.L. Buchman(s)

Managing Your Inner Artist/WriterManaging Your Inner Artist/Writer by M.L. Buchman(s)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Chapter 1 Working with Your Inner Artist...
Chapter 2 Project Defined
Chapter 2A Four-stage Project View and the Artist
Chapter 3 Goal Basics
Chapter 4 Finding Your Big Goal
Chapter 4A Exploring for Your Big Goal
Chapter 4B Achieving Your Goal
Chapter 5 What About All Those Other GoalS


Chapter 6 Time Management Part I
Chapter 7 Working with Your Inner Artist Part II


Chapter 8 Time Management Part II
Chapter 9 Risk Management
Chapter 10 The Action Plan
Chapter 11 Working with Your Inner Artist Part III


Chapter 12 Core Principles: why you do what you do
Chapter 13 Project Block
Chapter 14 Working with Your Inner Artist: a few final words

Matt and Melitte Buchman are siblings, both in artistic professions. Matt is a bestselling romance writer and Melitte is a successful photographer. Matt also spent many years working as a professional project manager before he moved into writing full time. This book is about managing the business end of a career in the arts, how to balance art and business, and how your business persona can communicate with your artist persona without bringing the creative process to a screeching halt.

One of the things I like about this book is that it gives two points of view. Usually the writers agree about a given point, more or less, but not always completely, emphasizing that there's no one right way to do things. And the writers warn the reader right up front that not every tool works for every artist. That goes for organizational and management tools too, and a reader who feels iffy about any of their suggestions should absolutely skip it. I find this refreshing; too many how-to writers try to claim that their way is not only the best way, it's the only way that works, and doing things any other way is a horrendous mistake that will cause you to become a huge, sad failure so you'd better do things their way. To which I eyeroll and move on. The Buchmans have a very realistic view of how the world works, and I appreciate that.

Another thing I like about it is the approach it takes of getting into completely different mindsets for writing (or whatever art you do) and managing/organizing. It really is like being two different people. You have to be practical and organized to handle the business end of writing, but your creative brain (or mine, anyway) isn't terribly practical and doesn't take very kindly to being organized. As a writer, the idea of putting on different personas, and thinking the way a particular character would think, actually feels pretty natural, so the approach this book takes resonates with me.

The Buchmans talk about separating these two personas, letting the inner artist be creative and play, and letting the manager organize time and space for the artist to play in, and make sure the artist has what they need to have fun with. They say:

The big key here is keep your business-person practical-self out of your playspace. The playspace is the giant room filled with just the neatest stuff on the planet. The workspace is a nasty, dark, evil quagmire that your artist-self wants nothing to do with under any circumstances.

Yeah, that sounds about right. :)

Chapter 2A talks about the four stages of a project, and what problems you might have if you're particularly strong or weak in any of the stages. We don't usually think of being strong in something as a problem, but it certainly can be, and one strength-problem resonated with me. Talking about the "Start/Initiate" stage, the authors say:

If you're too strong here:

..You have a HUGE file of ideas, none of which are done.

Umm, yeah, that's me. I have a huge file of ideas, plus I have more story starts than I want to admit to sitting on my hard drive. I'm fabulously skilled at starting stories. I could come up with story ideas all day. I could totally do that challenge that some SF writer whose name I forget now did once, starting a new story every day for a year? Yeah, I could do that, no problem. And at the end of the year I'd have another 365 story files on my hard drive, but would've finished only a few of them.

The time management chapters have a lot of useful advice, from how to carve time out of your schedule, to analyzing how you work best as an artist so you can arrange your schedule to suit your inner artist, rather than trying to jam your inner artist into the cracks of your schedule. (Turns out I'm a sprint artist. "Typically deadline-driven adrenaline junkies, they do everything except their art until, in a flash and burst and flurry of excitement, they "climb Everest" at a dead run, and then grind right back to a halt." Yeah, that. Hey, it works....)

There's a lot of good stuff here. This is a short book, but densely packed with info, advice and examples. I'd recommend it for anyone working in an artistic profession, or an amateur artist trying to make some progress even if it's not their main occupation.

Friday, June 2, 2017

John Williams Honored

Harvard bestowed an honorary Doctor of Music degree on John Williams -- who deserves it if anyone does -- and at the commencement ceremony, a Harvard a capella group called the Din & Tonics sang a medley of Williams's most famous instrumental pieces.

No really, it's great. :)

Check it out on The Mary Sue.

The shark lurking behind the group during the "Jaws" number made me laugh. And watching Williams's reactions when the camera cut to him a few times was just as much fun as listening; he obviously enjoyed the presentation.

None of my graduation ceremonies had anything half this cool.