Latest Posts

New Avery Cates Story

Just a quick note to remind everyone that the new Avery Cates short story The Kendish Hit is officially available. For just 99 cents you get the title story, a prequel set long before the events of The Electric Church, plus several other Cates short stories that are variably available depending on how well you’ve been paying attention over the last few years. Here’s the cover copy:

In this prequel to “The Electric Church,” a young Avery Cates takes on his first job, meets someone who will be an old friend someday, and learns some hard lessons in the newly-formed System of Federated Nations.

Contains the previously-released Avery Cates stories “This Was Battle. This Was Joy,” “The Golden Badge,” “The Oldest Bastard on the Block,” “This Was Education,” “all orphans, at least,” and “The Sewer Rat.”

Enjoy! 99 cents for a digital copy, just $6 for a print book.

KINDLE | NOOK | KOBO | PLAY | PRINT

Writing: The Work You Don’t Want to Do

It all makes sense now.

The cold truth is, writing is the easiest part of writing for a living. The actual writing? Easy. Give me a topic, five minutes on the Internet, and a keyboard and I can gin up 500 words on just about any subject. Give me three months and a monetary incentive and I’ll write a novel. The act of writing words has never been much of a problem for me. I understand I’m not everyone; some writers do in fact struggle with the actual writing, and many of them produce great work. As Diff’rent Strokes taught us, it’s take different strokes to move the world. What might be right for you might not be right for some.

<wanders off, singing the Diff’rent Strokes theme song>

Where was I? Right: Writing is the easy part. If you want to make your living writing, however, a lot of more difficult skill sets come into play. If you want to actually make money from writing and you haven’t been able to get the six-figure advance or sell the film rights before you’ve even written the damn book like Garth Risk Hallberg, you’re going to have to learn to do a few things that—if you’re like me—you don’t really want to do. Things like

Make the Phone Calls. I do a fair bit of freelance writing to pay my enormous liquor bills, and some of it requires me to make phone calls and speak to people, usually people who don’t find me entertaining or charming. It’s my least-favorite aspect of the work, but it must be done.

Write the Synopses. If you’ve ever tried to sell a novel, you know the peculiar hell of trying to boil 90,000 words down to three paragraphs of pithy plot. But if you want to sell that novel, you have to do it.

Make the Pitches. When you freelance, pitching ideas is a constant. It is something you do every day, and it’s kind of exhausting sometimes, but you either do it or you earn about $500 a year.

Take Edits. Look, you and I both know that sometimes we nail it. Sometimes we write something great, and sometimes the feedback we get from clients or editors is less than coherent. Sometimes you get that edit letter and you just have to step outside and let out a primal scream … but you go back in and revise.

Massage Text. Sometimes your first draft is perfectly fine, but you have to go back and massage it anyway. Maybe to fall in line with style or SEO guidelines, maybe to hit a specific word count or other formatting metric, or maybe just because a client or editor didn’t like it.

These are things no one wants to do. I’d much rather write whatever I feel like and collect fat checks for each piece as I finish them. But if you’re looking to write for a living, forget twaddle like write every day–that advice is basically telling you to do something you already want to do. Instead, do the stuff you don’t want to do. That’s the best use of your time.

Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number

Artist’s Conception of Your Humble Author as a Child Writer

Here in 2017 we’re all basically waiting around to be woken up at 2AM to the news that the missiles have launched and we’ve all got about five minutes to say our goodbyes or go crawl into our bomb shelters with our cans of Dinty Moore and our gold bars. It’s hard to soldier on and try to write novels and such when you’re pretty sure the morons we’ve elected to the government — suddenly not simply an outsize insult, but rather an accurate description — are either stealing everything not nailed down or eager to destroy everything.

But soldier on I do, mainly because civilization has not crumbled yet to the point where the whiskey reserves are free for the stealing, right before they dry up completely because civilization is sort of necessary for things like whiskey.

So, I’m in a contemplative mood. And I am contemplating the fact that Christopher Paolini is 33 years the fuck old.

The Child Author

I wrote my first real, actual novel when I was about fourteen; there were “novels” before that, but they were very likely just novellas or even long short stories. Cravenhold was a short novel, but I wrote it. And promptly began trying to sell it. And telling everyone I met that I was just fourteen and I’d written a novel, as if that somehow warranted special attention. Like the president of Ballantine Books was going to call me up and congratulate me for being a super genius after offering me a million dollars.

The reason I think about this now, when I am withered by age and practically on death’s door with a whiskey in one hand and my smartphone in the other, is because it’s not unusual, believe it or not, to see kids posting to various Internet writing forums and announcing, smugly, that at the tender age of (14, 15, 16) they have written a novel. And I want to tell them, with all affection and sincerity, to go fuck themselves, because it doesn’t mean anything.

I sort-of, kind-of sold my first novel when I was 16; this wasn’t Cravenhold, but a subsequent novel titled White Rabbit. And believe me, I told everyone and more or less dug a hole for myself, so that when the deal dissolved like tears in the rain I had a lot of explaining to do.

Look, writing something recognizable as a novel when you’re still a kid is an achievement. And if, like Paolini, you manage to sell that novel and publish it to strong sales, that’s amazing. But simply writing a novel as teenager isn’t anything to shout about. Writing a novel at all isn’t something to shout about, actually; people write novels all the time — and routinely write them in a month or less. Sure, writing a novel is an achievement. But it doesn’t mean you’re destined for greatness or anything. Heck, I did it, but I didn’t sell my first real novel to a real publisher until I was 28 years old.

I always assumed that when editors read about my tender years they would be impressed; of course now I wonder if they didn’t immediately stuff the manuscript into the return envelope, rolling their eyes. Which, come to think of it, is pretty much what I imagine happens now.

The Robotic Prostitute Demographic

I wrote this piece of flash when I was invited to come up with something erotic for Valentine’s Day. I failed at that, but now you get to read it!

Life was frustration. Life was struggle. George Bailey didn’t know how his personal database had been corrupted, but corrupted it had been, and the effects were catastrophic. He had begun fighting a doomed rear-guard action in every aspect of his life.

In the morning, his house shell played showtunes. Bright, cheery showtunes with a concentration on The Simple Joys Of Maidenhood, which seemed to play every third day.

He hated showtunes. He’d given up trying to change the settings.

At the coffeeshop—at every coffeeshop—he brought his own sugar packets, because his order, automatically derived from retina scan and database query, was always wrong. Instead of a large black coffee with three sugars, he received a small light coffee with no sugars. No amount of effort on his part had been able to change the database’s mind about his preferences.

Walking to the office was a nightmare. The billboards, scanning him as he passed, shouted out a name that wasn’t his and demands that he purchase things he had no desire to purchase. These advertisements only served to remind him that he’d recently considered simply gaining fifty pounds to grow into his clothes, since he could not convince a single haberdashery shell to pay him any mind when it came to his actual dimensions, no matter how often he stood for the scanner.

####

At night, he had a routine involving muting all recommendations and silencing all the screens and devices. They reset themselves every day, so this too was frustrating, but when he was finished he could look forward to a few precious hours without programs, music, and products he did not want being thrust under his nose.

He poured himself a glass of vodka, which he did not like. The liquor store on the corner—every liquor store in the city—automatically produced vodka based on algorithms he had never seen or been able to affect. He grimaced it down, making the best of his frustrations.

The doorbell chimed. Malihini! The apartment’s shell sang out in a language he did not recognize, had never recognized. Malihini ma ka puka!

Sighing, he swallowed the remaining liquor and went to the foyer. He gestured the door open and then froze.

“Hey baby,” the robot said. “I’m a free sample.”

It was clearly a robot, but it was a very close approximation of a tall, thick-limbed woman wearing a shiny, satiny bustier and torn stockings. Legally, robots could only be so realistic. The law forbade any robot that could be reasonably mistaken for a real person, although individual parts could be as realistic as technology allowed. It’s hair was a glorious explosion of dark curls. Its heels were so high it seemed on the verge of tilting forward and crashing into him, and he panicked at the thought.

“Excuse me?” he managed to say, somehow grateful that it hadn’t addressed him in Mandarin.

“My specialty,” the robot said with a programmed leer, “is a Stockholm Fizzy. You love Stockholm Fizzies—” Here it paused slightly as it accessed the universal database remotely. “—Jeremy Stilton.”

George closed his eyes. Everything else was robots and screens, he thought. Why not prostitutes? “My name’s not Jeremy,” he complained, out of habit.

“Oh, honey,” the robot prostitute said, “your name can be anything you want.”

George opened his eyes. He could feel the thick warmth of the vodka in his veins, but his heart started beating faster anyway. “So, if I tell you to call me George, you’ll call me George?”

The robot nodded and licked its lips, which had been painted a suggestive shade of purple that reminded him of the flesh of plums. For the first time, he allowed himself to take a good look at it: The rounded hips, the powerful thighs, the huge bust straining at the material it had been confined in. The robot smelled like citrus.

He squinted. “If I don’t want a Stockholm whatever you said, you’ll do something else?”

The robot nodded and licked its lips in precise repetitions. “Honey, it’s a freebie. I’ll do whatever you want.”

He nodded and stepped aside. The robot’s physical appearance and dimensions had been crafted from someone else’s fantasies, but he didn’t find them repellent. “Call me George,” he said as it entered, swaying, the sound of stockings rubbing together instantly erotic.

“Sure thing, George,” it purred. “I am obligated to tell, you George, that if you accept this no-cost, no-obligation offer of sexual satisfaction with a Dee-Lite-o-Matic Model 305—that is, me—your contact information will be placed on our mailing list so we can alert you to future offers, George.”

He found every mention of his actual name erotic. The sound of it, after hearing so many others for so long, excited him.

“Furthermore, George, I must inform you that upon your acceptance of this free offer, your contact information may be sold, shared, or used by third parties who may also contact you with offers. You must indicate verbally your acceptance. I will record your acceptance, but our privacy policy forbids the recording of anything else. You can hear—”

“I accept.”

The robot stopped for a moment, frozen, then grinned. It stepped forward and pushed itself against him. “Well, George, you are excited to see me,” it said, putting one hand on his groin and squeezing, sending a shiver of pleasure through his body. “What’s your pleasure, then? I have sixty-seven noted sex acts your pornography playlist and other encounters with similar models indicate—”

“Just fuck me,” he croaked, “old-fashioned, no-frills fucking.”

It smiled again. “Sure thing, baby,” it said, sinking down to its knees in an impossibly smooth movement. He stared down at it as it worked the clasp of his trousers. He was shaking, he realized, with the sheer excitement of getting something he actually wanted.

“And say my name,” he added as the robot engulfed him, its mouth warm, its suction perfect. “Say it a lot.”

THE END

My Day of MLM

I WISH the meeting room had been this nice.

I don’t know about y’all, but when I was a kid my parents were pretty insistent that my brother Yan and I were parasites on the household, barnacles who had somehow conspired to attach ourselves to their home, sucking them dry. And as a result we were cruelly expected to have jobs from a very young age.

Now, any writers who are reading this know that being a writer comes with a hellish problem: On the one hand, we tend to know from a young age what we’re destined to do—write. In a world where most people wind up doing stuff they hate because they have no idea what they want to do, that’s a superpower. On the other hand, finding a way to monetize writing remains the Holy Grail of the writing life. In other words, finding part-time work as a long-haired teenager who liked to write stories wasn’t easy.

Thus every year my family went through the Ritual of Dad’s Friends, where Dad would essentially doll Yan and I up into church clothes and go out seeking a job for us. Most years he lined something up before we even knew what was happening, and suddenly I was being driven to an underground fight club where I was paid $5 an hour to mop the sweat and blood from the ground. But sometimes Dad’s connections failed him, and the looming specter of a Somers household without the extra income generated by their exhausted children began to loom large, making our parents cranky. Sometimes this led us to be a bit creative when it came to the job hunt. And that led me to my Evening of MLM Madness.

(more…)

Writing for the Wrong Reasons

One Monies, Please

One Monies, Please

Friends, I’m not a very smart guy. Oh, I have a head filled with trivia, which in these low times often passes for smarts. Being able to win your local tavern’s Trivia Tuesday (increasingly difficult, let me tell you, when you’ve been banned from most of the local watering holes due to ridiculous and oppressive “must wear some form of trousers” rules) doesn’t mean you’re intelligent, it just means you absorb a lot of useless information very, very quickly. A skill, to be sure, but not the most useful skill.

Being able to write clear, well-constructed sentences about compelling stories and characters is also a skill I sometimes claim, but it also doesn’t make me smart. A lot of very dumb people make good livings writing words, and I am also very afraid that I am secretly one of them. Any time I start to think I might secretly be smart, all I have to do is gaze upon my works and despair, though. By which I mean any time I start to feel smart, I just look at some of the terrible novels I’ve written when I wrote for anything other than inspiration.

Take This Job and Shove It

The term “working writer” either sounds ominous or exciting to you. If it’s ominous, it’s because you’re smart and you know that the “working” part probably means you’re writing 300 catalog descriptions of sex toys at $1 a pop. If you’re excited, you’re like me and you imagine yourself lazily writing novels when you’re not busy cashing extravagant checks from publishers—not check for anything, just gifts of money they send you in the vain hope that you’ll choose to publish your next book through them.

Anyways, every now and then I get this idea in my head that part of being a Working Writer is trying to write something commercial, in the sense of writing something that will be easy to sell to a publisher because its part of a broad trend or somehow marketable. Don’t get me wrong—I want all my books to sell like hotcakes and I have no snobbery when it comes to genre or category. It’s just that sometimes I think I have to try a little harder to be, I don’t know, mainstream or something. So I’ll work up a story and write a novel not because I’m excited about the idea, but because I think it’s going to be an easy sell.

I am always wrong. And it is always a disaster.

Some writers might be able to pull this off, but whenever I’ve written a book for anything but pure inspiration and excitement, it doesn’t work out so well. Oh, as novels they’re fine. I’m usually fairly happy with the story, the writing, all that jazz. But there’s always something missing, some soul or other ineffable thing that means the novels fail. They look like novels, they tell a story that I like, and yet they fail. Whenever I try to be smart and engineer a book because I think I know something about selling books, the end result is a manuscript everyone reads and shrugs over. Meh, they all say. It’s not bad. But we can’t sell it.

The lesson here is obvious: Writing for anything aside from inspiration doesn’t work for me. The good news is, a lot of the books I write because I want to have sold. So one wonders why I think I need to change up my approach in the first place. Aside from the fact that I am, you know, not smart.

Celebrating “Mad Men”‘s Least-Celebrated Character

Paul Kinsey’s Very Bad, Super No-Good Life

Since this blog has become a receptacle for posts about Mad Men and other so-called “peak TV” shows plus a smattering of self-promotion posts about my own writing … let’s lean into it.

There’s often a sense that old TV shows should be buried and forgotten, as if there’s shame in discussing a show like Mad Men a certain time after it’s ended. Hell, we still discuss novels written centuries ago, so why not a TV show that’s less than a few years gone? But when we talk about Mad Men—and, remarkably, we still do, an awful lot—there’s a tendency to focus on the flashy main characters, naturally enough. But we have enough essays about Don Draper, I think. As writers, we tend to focus on Don, because he’s so obviously like us: Creative, tortured, stymied by the very instruments of his success.

Forget Don, though, and let’s contemplate a character that doesn’t get much attention in any serious way: Paul Kinsey. Because, writers, in many ways Paul Kinsey is us.

The Failed Writer

Kinsey doesn’t get a ton of screen time on the show, and what he does get is used mainly for comic relief, but as usual Weiner and company shade the character with plenty of good writing. We know, for example, that Paul is from New Jersey and attended Princeton on a scholarship, where he lost his joisoy accent and learned how to dress and talk and fondle a pipe like his richer classmates. At the beginning of the series, he’s one of a group of young men at the firm, all of whom are more or less equal despite being in different departments. He’s a copy writer, though, while his peers are in accounts.

And Paul is not talented. What he’s good at is superficial mimicry, which is why he does well enough at first when his immediate boss is the alcoholic and incompetent Freddie Rumsen. But Paul is weak and likes to think of himself as smarter than everyone else, so he dabbles. He dabbles in the Beatnik movement, the Hippie movement, the Civil Rights movement. He feigns an appreciation of the finer things, but he uses this appreciation as an excuse to let everyone know how worldly he is.

Paul is increasingly aware that something is off. Late in Season 1, a play he wrote is discovered in his desk and his co-workers stage it as a drunken, cruel prank. Paul eventually leans into it, directing the play with enthusiasm, but it’s clear the play is terrible. Meanwhile, Ken Cosgrove actually publishes short stories in real magazines, and slowly Paul sees his peers outpacing him. Pete and Ken and even despicable, harebrained Harry Crane move up the food chain, making more money and gaining status. Paul remains a Copy Writer, and not a very good one.

And then, in the middle of Season Three of the show, Paul Kinsey has an epiphany and realizes he is not a good writer. Because Peggy Olson is a good writer, and you can almost pinpoint the moment he realizes he’s not one to episode 10, The Color Blue. In that episode Peggy and Paul compete to come up with the best idea for a telegram advertisement. Peggy does the work studiously, and doesn’t come up with much of any value. Paul drinks, masturbates, and has a flash of inspiration–which he forgets to write down. We’ll never know if that idea was actually any good, because Paul shambles into the meeting later with nothing—and watches, stunned, as Peggy takes a throwaway line he used to explain his problem and runs with it, producing a decent if not world-changing concept on the spot.

At that moment, Paul knows he’s mediocre. In episode 13, when Don and the rest of the executives steal all the accounts and form a new company, Don personally recruits Peggy. No one recruits Paul. When Paul realizes this, its confirmed: He’s not good at his job.

The Downward Spiral

We don’t see Paul again until Season 5, when he appears as a member of the Hare Krishna’s, looking ridiculous and pathetic and lost with a shaved head. Like most failed writers, he hasn’t given up on his dream. Like anyone who has ever been voted off a talent competition show, he has decided that we haven’t heard the last of him, so he’s still writing.

Paul’s spec script for Star Trek is the sort of awful SFF idea that still gets written every few weeks by flailing writers, the sort of terrible idea that will always be written by flailing writers. Worst of all, Paul seems to know that he doesn’t have talent, as he has pinned his hopes on Harry’s TV connections to get the script considered. Paul has descended to a low point: No longer in the ad business, he’s not even getting paid for his second-rate creativity. He’s got nothing, and yet he’s still plodding away at terrible stories.

That could be any one of us. Even if you’ve published, and published widely, you can’t be certain it’s not just luck, that history will slowly rub your face out of the picture until no one is quite sure who you are, and no one remembers the stories you told. In just 40 episodes and probably a collective hour’s worth of screen time, the writers of Mad Men made Paul Kinsey into a well-shaded, sad individual, and he ought to be the patron saint of anyone who joined their high school literary magazine and thought they were special because they wrote stories.

Pitch First, Think Later

When you’re a writer in 2017, you spend approximately 109% of your time thinking up clever things to Tweet in the vague, vain hope that about forty million people will Retweet it and thus declare you Cool. I’m not 100% certain how being Cool = $$$, but I am assured by everyone it can happen, and so I keep doing it.

Recently, I sent out this Tweet:

WISDOM

It got some play, and I was contacted by writers who thought this was a pretty incredible suggestion. What happens, they wondered, if you sell the pitch but can’t actually write the piece? What if you can’t support your thesis?

Look, freelance writing can be exhausting in the modern age because we’re writing short, punchy Internet essays with a short shelf life. And our corporate masters are insatiable, always eager for more content with which to attract those sweet, sweet clicks. Pitching fast and furious is the only way to make a living; I probably wrote about 500 freelance pieces last year alone, each and every one of them (with perhaps a dozen exceptions) stemming from a pitch.

That kind of volume means you can’t dawdle about wondering if a pitch idea is good (your editors will do that for you) or possible. The best way to pitch is to pitch first and think about it later, and here are three reasons why:

  1. The Doubt. If you think of a great idea for an article but pause to wonder about its feasibility, you will talk yourself out of it. You’ll convince yourself it isn’t that clever, that you’ll never find any supporting information or examples, that no one will return your phone call or email. And then a month later you’ll see a similar idea on another website and you’ll kick yourself. I’ve talked myself out of great ideas and I have always regretted it.
  2. The Speed. You are not the only person furiously pondering things to write about, and great ideas for posts and articles have an odd way of popping into many heads simultaneously. In other words, while you’re researching whether you can even pitch this idea, someone is pitching this idea.
  3. The Challenge. Don’t play it safe. Yes, freelance writing is for profit—but it should be for fun, too. Got a crazy idea you convinced an editor to buy? Have fun trying to make it work.

In Event of Emergency

All well and good, that sense of adventure and the swagger of pitching without fear, but in all seriousness—what do you do if you brazenly pitch a weird idea, get the green light, and then realize you can’t find much information to work with? WHAT THEN, SOMERS YOU ARROGANT ASS?

First off, that rarely happens. If you can conceive of a pitch idea, then it’s within the realm of the possible. And part of writing anything, on any subject, is creativity. If you’re having trouble digging up material for your pitch, get creative. If you can’t get creative in these situations, freelancing may not be your ideal career.

If that doesn’t work:

Widen your search. Don’t be afraid to get a little loose with your interpretation of your own pitch. Look back further in time, or allow for a bit of inconsistency in your examples.

If that doesn’t work, tweak. Contact your editor and see if you can twist the pitch a little to fit what the research is telling you, or just go ahead and tweak the premise. Usually small deviations aren’t a big deal.

Now, don’t get me wrong; a big caveat here is not to pitch wildly insane ideas—you should have some expectation that you can back up your pitch. “Pitch First, Think Later” simply means you don’t need to do all the research and legwork first.

Things To Come 2017

I’m not one to play along with all those memes about how 2016 was a terrible year and how ALL the celebrities we love are dying and all that. Time is a fundamental thread of the universe, but our perception of it is artificial and, to use a scientific term, bullshit. 2016 was a collection of moments, just like any other, arbitrarily assigned to a grouping so we can all type out jokes about who should die next.

Well, it’s going to be over soon, and if you’re the sort to assign some kind of significance to this purely superficial changeover, it’s as good a time as any to assess and reflect, and to look forward to the year to come.

NEXT YEAR IN SOMERS

Since you’re here and you read those first two paragraphs yet you’re still reading, I can safely assume you’re interested in the things I write. That’s troubling for you, frankly, but since we’re here, now, in this moment together let’s soldier on. What can you expect from me in 2017?

January 9, 2017: THE BOOM BANDS (Ustari Cycle #5)

The final novella in the most recent Ustari Cycle books drops from Gallery Books on 1/9/17. You can order it at the usual purveyors of eBooks: Amazon, B&N, Google, iTunes, Kobo. Here’s the description:

For blood mages, the twenty-first century means hiding in the shadows, keeping society unaware of their incredible powers. The power-hungry sort plot quietly to manufacture tragedies bloody enough to give them the gas they need to cast monumental spells. Lem is a little lower down the ladder than that, bleeding nobody but himself, skating by on small Cantrips, cons, and charms.

Lately though, his days have taken a strange turn, always the same and yet minutely different. Since hooking up with this group that wants to utilize his uncanny ability to write and alter spells for their Big Heist, Lem’s constantly feeling like he’s forgetting something, like something is calling to him from the beyond. Perhaps most bizarre of all, his best friend Mags is nowhere to be found—and the police seem to want to help Lem locate him. The po-po being helpful to a Trickster like him? Now he knows something is up.

No one asked me if using the word “po-po” was okay. It’s not. Such is the ways of marketing. Anyways, here’s a trailer for you:

January 10, 2017: MECH: AGE OF STEEL

The very next day, this fantastic anthology featuring one of my stories is set to go, though I’m not 100% sure of this release date. Here’s the description from the publisher:

MECH: Age of Steel is a collection of 24 mecha-inspired short stories in the spirit of Pacific Rim, Macross, Transformers, Robotech, Gundam, Evangelion, and more. MECH features a vast array of tales featuring giant, human-piloted, robot war machines wreaking havoc in blasted cities, or on dystopian landscapes, or around space stations and asteroids against a cosmic backdrop, or wherever, you-name-it! MECH is anchored by authors such as Kevin J. Anderson, Ramez Naam, Jason Hough, Jeremy Robinson, and Jody Lynn Nye. This anthology features illustrations for every story and is the perfect companion to its sister title, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters. So strap in. Activate your interface array. Let’s rock!

That’s some august company. Here’s an essay I wrote about the inspiration for my story, “The Bonus Situation.”

AMAZON | B&N

March 1, 2017: THE KENDISH HIT: AN AVERY CATES SHORT STORY

What can I say? I love me some Avery Cates. Hopefully some of y’all still do, too, or else I’ll have a lot of digital copies of this one lying around. “The Kendish Hit” is a short story set about ten years before the events of The Electric Church. I haven’t set up the pre-orders yet because I’m incompetent (the cover shown here isn’t final-final, either), and I haven’t created a synopsis either. Most of that will be coming first week of January.

The story involves Avery’s first attempt to promote himself from street rat to Gunner—a promotion that puts him in touch with someone who will become a vital ally in times to come, and tests Avery’s commitment to his chosen profession. It rocks.

I’ll update this post when the pre-orders go live.

AMAZON | B&N | GOOGLE | KOBO

August 1, 2017: URBAN ENEMIES

In August, another anthology bearing one of my stories will become reality. This year I worked with the awesome Stephen Blackmoore on a story in Urban Allies, which saw urban fantasy writers pair up their characters and universes; our story “Crossed Wires” was a lot of fun and stayed true to both our universes. Urban Enemies isn’t a collaborative anthology; my story “Nigsu Ga Tesgu” is all mine, and is part of the Ustari Cycle. Let’s just say if you’ve ever been curious about the inner life of Mika Renar, this story is for you.

Here’s the description of the anthology, coming from Gallery books:

Villains have all the fun—everyone knows that—and this anthology takes you on a wild ride through the dark side! The top villains from sixteen urban fantasy series get their own stories—including the baddies of New York Times bestselling authors Jim Butcher, Kevin Hearne, Kelley Armstrong, Seanan McGuire, and Jonathan Maberry.

For every hero trying to save the world, there’s a villain trying to tear it all down.

In this can’t-miss anthology edited by Joseph Nassise (The Templar Chronicles), you get to plot world domination with the best of the evildoers we love to hate! This outstanding collection brings you stories told from the villains’ point of view, imparting a fresh and unique take on the evil masterminds, wicked witches, and infernal personalities that skulk in the pages of today’s most popular series.

The full anthology features stories by Jim Butcher (the Dresden Files), Kelley Armstrong (the Cainsville and Otherworld series), Seanan McGuire (October Daye), Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles), Jonathan Maberry (Joe Ledger), Lilith Saintcrow (Jill Kismet), Carrie Vaughn (Kitty Norville), Joseph Nassise (Templar Chronicles), C.E. Murphy (Walker Papers), Steven Savile (Glasstown), Caitlin Kittredge (the Hellhound Chronicles and the Black London series), Jeffrey Somers (The Ustari Cycle), Sam Witt (Pitchfork County), Craig Schaefer (Daniel Faust), Jon F. Merz (Lawson Vampire), and Diana Pharaoh Francis (Horngate Witches).

AMAZON | KOBO | B&N | iTUNES | GOOGLE

MYSTERIOUS MYSTERY PROJECTS

I’m working on a few projects that might not actually show up in 2017, but I’m working on them, so I’ll vaguebook them a little here. One I can’t mention because the contract’s not signed—it’s a book, though not in a genre I’ve published in before. There should be an announcement of sort about that in January or February.

The other projects aren’t books, and also aren’t guaranteed to come off. If they do, you’ll definitely hear more. If they don’t, I will never mention them again, edit this post to remove this information, and pretend I have no idea what you’re talking about.

So that’s what I have cooking in 2017 (so far). Watch this space for further details.

The 2016 Short Story Report

Artist’s Representation of My Literary Career

It’s December—which is kind of amazing, as it was March just yesterday—which means its time to soberly contemplate my life and lifestyle choices, assessing how much good I’ve done in this world. Just kidding. I don’t do anything “soberly.”

No, it’s time to contemplate our short story submission game. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I love writing short stories. And, having written them, I love selling short stories, which ain’t easy. Just about every year I hear that short stories are making a comeback, and this past year the signs do seem optimistic. I have stories in four anthologies in 2015-2017 (Hanzai Japan, Urban Allies, and the upcoming Mech: Age of Steel and Urban Enemies), my story Howling on for More appeared over at Black Denim Lit as well, and Great Jones Street bought a reprint of my story Ringing the Changes (that appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2006). Not too shabby.

The four antho sales and the reprint were solicited, meaning someone actually contacted me and asked for the story/rights. It’s easy to sell a story when someone has already decided to buy one from you. How did I do with the submission process?

Hell is for Short Story Writers

Last year I submitted 33 stories, and sold 1. This year I will have submitted 51 stories by the time the end of the year comes around, and I have 2 “maybes” to show for it—meaning two markets contacted me and said hey, we like this story, but we’re not sure yet, we’ll hit you up later.

That might seem like a grim statistic, but for me it’s pretty normal. Maybe some writers are more careful with their submissions, or simply better at choosing markets, or, of course, are better writers in general. For me, the most short stories I ever sold in one year is 4, which I accomplished twice, in 2002 and 2006. And in 2002 I submitted a whopping 107 stories in order to sell those 4.

What can I say, short stories is a tough market. I’m told that they’re coming up in the world, as the success of adapting stories into TV and even films is a-booming. And there does seem to be more markets paying a decent per-word rate for fiction. And submitting stories is pretty easy, these days; everyone takes them via submittable or email or similarly simple mechanism—it’s a long way from the days when I had to buy double postage and stuff envelopes. Man, those days sucked.

The Trouble with Tribbles

Of course, I wrote 14 new short stories this year; I manage at least 12 a year. Most aren’t that great, but there’s usually one I like well enough to submit, so I have a steady batch of stories cluttering my hard drive. So I don’t mind submitting. And submitting. And submitting. Because what else am I gonna do with these stories? Aside from give them away, of course.

What about y’all? Do you write/read short stories? Are you happy to pay for magazines/websites/anthos that publish them?