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Saturday, December 1, 2012

STUPEFYING STORIES 1.11 RELEASED



Hard to believe it's December 2012 already. Depending on who you listen to we only have about three weeks left before the world ends, either from magnetic pole reversal, crossing the galactic ecliptic, the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, a collision with Planet X, global warming, global cooling, the return of Quetzalcoatl, President Obama and Speaker of the House Boehner joining hands, flooring it, and going full Thelma & Louise off the edge of the fiscal cliff, or the regrettable and wholly inexplicable failure of the Ancient Mayans to invent the perpetual calendar.

In any case, as we were putting together this book, we thought: what better way to go out with a bang that with a bunch of great stories exploring the end of the world—and what might come after? From ecological catastrophes to alien invasions; from tyrannical overreaching central governments to dangerous unfettered cowboy capitalists: It's the End of the World, As We Know It!

And the stories in this book will make you feel just fine.

STUPEFYING STORIES 1.11 (a.k.a., "the December edition"), is edited by award-winning writer Bruce Bethke and features:

   "We Talk Like Gods," by Jon David
   "Tiny, Tiny Hungers," by Mark Wolf
   "Moonbubble," by Eric Cline
   "The Relic," by Lou Antonelli
   "Mr. Non-Existent," by Paul Malone
   "Blue Stripped," by Gerry Huntman
   "HoPE," by A. A. Leil
   "Avocado Rutabaga Aubergine," by M. Bennardo
   "In the Shadows of the Empire of Coal," by Shaun Duke
   "Measure of Intelligence," by Torah Cottrill
   "The Gods of Sand and Stone," by Joel V. Kela

Now available for Amazon Kindle and Kindle Reader apps at these links!

US  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AFYXAX0
UK  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00AFYXAX0
DE  https://www.amazon.de/dp/B00AFYXAX0
FR  https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B00AFYXAX0
IT  https://www.amazon.it/dp/B00AFYXAX0
ES  https://www.amazon.es/dp/B00AFYXAX0
JP  http://www.amazon.jp/dp/B00AFYXAX0

Now available for Barnes & Noble Nook and Nook Reader apps at these links!
US  unnecessarily complex URL
UK  Amazon helpfully supplies all links. B&N makes you hunt. Check back later or let us know what it is, if you find it.

Coming soon to the Apple iTunes iBookstore!

Friday, November 23, 2012

STUPEFYING STORIES 2.1 (1.10) RELEASED



From the Editor-in-Chief’s Desk
By Bruce Bethke 

Along with discovering new writing talent, another part of our mission at STUPEFYING STORIES is to find and foster new editorial talent. Therefore for the November edition, we turned the reins over to promising newcomer M. David Blake, who has long been playing several crucial roles behind the scenes here.

The result is our first double-length book, which includes some of Mr. Blake's latest experiments in e-book design. We wanted to call it STUPEFYING STORIES 2.1, but our distribution channel had trouble with that, so we ended up having to give it the parenthetical designation of 1.10. And with that preamble out of the way...


From the (Guest-)Editor’s Desk
By M. David Blake

Welcome to Stupefying Stories 2.1

That's it, really. A dozen syllables tell you all you need to know to enjoy this issue. Those who want to ignore the preface and skip ahead to the stories are entitled to do so.

Still here? Since I am as well, I'll share a secret. Several months ago, when our chief editor asked if I'd be willing to assemble the November issue on my own, I wasn't going to accept. He lured me in by dangling a budget and a deadline in front of my face, with the promise of complete autonomy.

He gave it to me, too. No one else has seen all of the pieces, as they were being assembled... and that includes the regular Stupefying staff.

Autonomy is a nice concept, but it comes with a price. In all likelihood, no other combination of our associate editors would have selected these same stories from the (deep!) slush I processed. My instructions were simply to produce the best issue possible, given the available resources and time. “Best” is a subjective valuation.

While approaching that task, I had the privilege of working with an incredibly creative group of writers. To the extent that you enjoy the result, all the credit goes to them.

On the other hand, if you notice any typographical errors, or if you are unable to suspend your disbelief long enough to get through the next sixty-four thousand words, that’s my fault.

There is no guarantee you will enjoy all of these stories. But here’s another secret: I love each of them. Should you wind up seeing any of the same inscrutably beautiful things I did, I’ll feel pretty good about my selections.

There is one other thing that makes me feel good about this collection: I think my grandfather would have enjoyed reading it. He introduced me to science fiction, and to fantasy, and he loved this world.

Today would have been his ninety-third birthday.
— M. David Blake, 16 November 2012 


STUPEFYING STORIES 2.1 FEATURES:

Beauty & Loss (I)
  • “Queen of Sheba” by Samuel M. Johnston
  • “Wednesday’s Child” by Damien Walters Grintalis
  • “Snatching Baby Delilah” by Travis Daniel Bow
Lore & Speculation
  • “Nonsense 101” by Gary Cuba
  • “Lucky” by Bill Ferris
  • “The Ants Go Marching” by Sarah Pinsker
Folk & Superstition
  • “Lover’s Knot” by Ada Milenkovic Brown
  • “Girl Without a Name” by Courtney Valdes
  • “Toilet Gnomes at War” by Beth Cato
Loss & Beauty (II)
  • “Moondust” by Elizabeth Berger
  • “Citizen Astronauts” by Holliann R. Kim
  • “Heartbreath” by E. Catherine Tobler
Angels & Demons
  • “Revolver” by Clarence Young
  • “Office Demons” by Christie Yant
  • “Number Station” by Alex Shvartsman

NOW AVAILABLE AT THESE LINKS:

For Amazon Kindle: 
US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AAPC1CU
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00AAPC1CU
DE: https://www.amazon.de/dp/B00AAPC1CU
FR: https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B00AAPC1CU
ES: https://www.amazon.es/dp/B00AAPC1CU
IT: https://www.amazon.it/dp/B00AAPC1CU
JP: http://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B00AAPC1CU

For Barnes & Noble Nook:
Worldwide: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/stupefying-stories-m-david-blake/1113834598?ean=2940015769166

Apple iTunes iBookstore and other links coming soon!

Monday, November 5, 2012

STUPEFYING STORIES 1.9 RELEASED


STUPEFYING STORIES 1.9, originally scheduled for release on October 15 but delayed for three weeks by Forces Beyond Our Control, is officially released today. We still don't have live links yet, but when we do, we'll post them here. With this edition we add India and Japan to the list of countries where STUPEFYING STORIES is available, so here's hoping Amazon resolves their technical issues soon and Barnes & Noble doesn't follow their usual pattern of taking four times longer than Amazon.

Featuring the awesome cover story, "The Jade Box," by Stephen G. McDonald (and correspondingly awesome original cover art by Aaron Bradford Starr), as well as new stories by fan favorites Chuck Bordell, Jamie Lackey, and Gary Cuba, STUPEFYING STORIES 1.9 presents thirteen original tales of ghosties and ghoulies, spirits and specters, and things that go bump in the night, by an outstanding assemblage of American, Canadian, Irish, and Swedish authors. Including:
  • "Between Life and Oblivion," by Samuel R. George
  • "The Florence," by Chuck Bordell
  • "Door in the Darkness," by David Steffen
  • "Streaming," by Sharon Irwin
  • "The Flint Indenture," by Tim W. Burke
  • "Not Everything Goes Bump," by Robert W. Hobson
  • "Ashes to Diamonds," by Jamie Lackey
  • "Blood and Saltwater," by Cassandra Rose Clarke
  • "A Homeowner's Dilemma," by Mark Hill
  • "The Ghost Train," by Fox McGeever
  • "The Jade Box," by Stephen G. McDonald
  • "Going Out With a Bang," by Gary Cuba
  • "The Old-Fashioned Way," by Thomas Pluck
From a haunted hotel room in Seattle to the waiting room of the afterlife; from a quietly chilling meditation in a country cemetery to an ambitious plan to revive entire dying cities with industrial-scale necromancy; from a heart-breaking tale of a love that lives on after death to a side-splitting story about a funeral gone horribly wrong that, as one early reviewer said, "puts the black in black humor," you'll find it in this edition of STUPEFYING STORIES.

Enjoy,
~brb

Now available for Amazon Kindle and Kindle Reader apps at these links!

US  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00A1WYKEO
UK  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00A1WYKEO
DE  https://www.amazon.de/dp/B00A1WYKEO
FR  https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B00A1WYKEO
IT  https://www.amazon.it/dp/B00A1WYKEO
ES  https://www.amazon.es/dp/B00A1WYKEO
JP  http://www.amazon.jp/dp/B00A1WYKEO

More links coming soon!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Open Mic Saturday

We haven't done one of these in a long time.

What's on your mind today?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

At last, we have a Barnes & Noble NOOK link

Stupefying Stories 1.8 for NOOK

I have no idea why it takes Barnes & Noble four times as long to process a new book upload as it takes Amazon, but it does. Of course, as soon as I start counting on that delay...

Monday, October 1, 2012

STUPEFYING STORIES 1.8 RELEASED


From the Editor’s Desk
By Bruce Bethke

You know, I wrote a very thoughtful, serious, sober, and long keynote editorial for this book, describing in great detail what we intended to accomplish this time out. But hey, let’s be honest: this is the October edition, and around here, October really means just one thing:

HALLOWEEN!

So let’s skip the commercials and cut right to the exciting conclusion. This edition is really all about—


Vampires! Werewolves! Mummies! Living Fossils! More Vampires! Mad Scientists! Fiendish Laboratory Creations! Flying Saucers! Treacherous Aliens! Strange Little Towns Where No One And Nothing Is At It Seems! Even MORE Vampires! Zombies! Giant Prehistoric Reptiles Stomping The Daylights Out Of Tokyo! And Even MORE Aliens, Plotting To Conquer The World!

Featuring:
  • "Father Pace" by Samuel Marzioli
  • "A Wolf Like Leroy" by Gef Fox
  • "King of the Giant Monsters" by Michael D. Turner
  • "Darcy and the Gill-man" by David C. Pinnt
  • "Dark Illusions" by Evan Dicken
  • "Legacy of an Unwanted Titan" by Ryan Creel
  • "The Wrong Side of the Rainbow" by Bill Bibo Jr.
  • "On Main Street, After Closing Time" by S. R. Algernon
  • "Night Shift of the Living Dead" by Tyler Tork
  • "Our New Benevolent Overlords" by Andrew Kozma.


Now get yourself a big bowl of popcorn, settle back into your favorite chair, and give your sense of disbelief the night off. STUPEFYING STORIES 1.8...

IT'S ALIVE!

Bwa-ha-haaaaa!

Bruce Bethke
Editor, Stupefying Stories


Now available* for Amazon Kindle and Kindle Reader apps at these links: 
US http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009JWHG2U
UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B009JWHG2U
DE https://www.amazon.de/dp/B009JWHG2U
FR https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B009JWHG2U
IT https://www.amazon.it/dp/B009JWHG2U
ES https://www.amazon.es/dp/B009JWHG2U

* Or so Amazon claims. At the moment, while the web pages are there, they don't seem to be fully functional.

 More links to be posted as they go live.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

STUPEFYING STORIES 1.7 RELEASED!


What, a new edition already? Yes!

Edited by award-winning writer Bruce Bethke and featuring stories by nine outstanding Canadian, Australian, and American authors, the STUPEFYING STORIES "Pirates & Dragons" edition is chock-full of all-new tales of dastardly pirates, lonely dragons, quarrelsome petty gods, meddlesome slimy aliens, and profoundly philosophical chickens. Featuring:
  • "Riddle Me" by Richard Zwicker
  • "Corsairs of the Concrete Sea" by Thoraiya Dyer
  • "The Thundering Dragon of Heaven" by Michael Matheson
  • "God Mic" by B. Sanford
  • "The Thirty-Ninth President and the Fourteenth Tentacle" by Theodore Carter
  • "Thief of Hearts" by Auston Habershaw
  • "In the Castle of the Assassins" by Melissa Embry
  • "The Lord of Flocks" by Alison Pentecost
  • "The Little Thief" by Phil Temples
From a road in the middle of nowhere to the day after tomorrow, from a shattering tale of First Contact to the long-suppressed story that finally makes it possible to make sense of the events of the past thirty-five years, you'll find it this time out in STUPEFYING STORIES!

Now available for Amazon Kindle and Kindle Reader apps at these links:
US   http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0094WYB9G
UK   https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0094WYB9G
DE   https://www.amazon.de/dp/B0094WYB9G
FR   https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B0094WYB9G
IT   https://www.amazon.it/dp/B0094WYB9G
ES   https://www.amazon.es/dp/B0094WYB9G
Coming soon to Amazon India!

Now available for the Barnes & Noble Nook at this link:
Nook - all markets

More links to be posted as they go live.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Labor of Love Weekend Promo

This weekend only, and for the Kindle only (sorry, Nook and iPad fans) we’re practically giving away STUPEFYING STORIES 1.6 at the low, low price of just $0.99! It’s all part of the LABOR OF LOVE promotion cooked up by Elle Lothlorien, with assistance by Michele Winkler, author of “Family Magic” (which not coincidentally, you’ll find in SS 1.6), and a cast of.... many!

Tell your friends! Tell your mom! Tell everybody!  
 
 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Plugs!

Just posted! The breathtaking latest chapter of...



Friday, August 17, 2012

STUPEFYING STORIES 1.6 ESCAPES!


Edited by award-winning writer Bruce Bethke and featuring stories by twelve outstanding American, British, and Irish authors, the STUPEFYING STORIES "Weirder Homes & Gardens" edition is filled to overflowing with all-new tales of the fantastic, funny, and frightening things that can happen in that most mundane of places: the home, with attached garden. Includes:

  • "No Onions" by M. Bennardo
  • "The Growing" by Sylvia Hiven
  • "Family Magic" by Michele Winkler
  • "Mission Accomplished" by Peter Wood
  • "Helen Went Beep" by Erin Entrada Kelly
  • "The Prototype" by Judith Field
  • "Colorful Caps" by JC Hemphill
  • "Lifesource" by Barbara V. Evers
  • "The Centaur Bride" by Eric J. Juneau
  • "Rooting for You" by Michael Heneghan
  • "Security" by Chris Bailey Pearce
  • "The Garden" by R. L. Bowden
From practical advice on raising homunculi to the difficult magic of raising a happy family; from things that go bump in the night (or in this case, the kitchen) to things that go beep in the bedroom; from the magical, mythical distant past to two very different visions of our technological future; and from the primal temptation to be found in a stolen paper clip to a tale of lost love that can't be described, only read: you'll find it this time out in STUPEFYING STORIES!

Available now for Amazon Kindle and the Kindle Reader App:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008YPRBCI
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B008YPRBCI
https://www.amazon.de/dp/B008YPRBCI
https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B008YPRBCI
https://www.amazon.it/dp/B008YPRBCI
https://www.amazon.es/dp/B008YPRBCI

UPDATE: The Barnes & Noble Nook link is now live!
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/stupefying-stories-bruce-bethke/1112531290?ean=2940014909570

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Slushpile Survival Guide

I had an interesting exchange with an author recently. On further reflection the highlights of this dialog seem worth presenting to a wider audience, so without further ado:


Dear Editor,

Attached please find my story, [title redacted].

I am not sure if I am eligible to submit, as I have already had one story accepted and scheduled for publication in Stupefying Stories this year. Please advise if this is the case.

Regards,
[author's name redacted]


Dear [author]

Excuse me for asking, but where the heck did you get the idea that once we've accepted a story by you, you must wait until we publish it before you can submit another? When I accept a story from you it means I like your writing and want to see more of it!

So no more of this "I am not sure if I am eligible to submit" silliness, okay? Trust me, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein didn't wait until John Campbell published their last story before sending him their next story, and if that modus operandi was good enough for Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, and Campbell, it's good enough for us.

Kind regards,
Bruce Bethke
STUPEFYING STORIES


Dear Mr. Bethke,

[...] I asked because recently some markets have made unambiguous statements about not wanting concentrations of particular authors in relatively slim time frames. [...]


Dear [author]

Hmm. That must be another of those goofy ideas that's come out of some creative writing program somewhere. "Let's all play fair and take turns and give everyone an equal chance." It seems akin to:

    "Now class, let's all try to find something nice to say about Sally's poem."

    "Er, I used to fear death, but as I listened to Sally read her poem, I longed for it?"

Luckily my dad was a basketball coach, not a liberal arts instructor, so I don't believe in any of that equalitarian nonsense. Every writer who pitches a manuscript to me gets an equal opportunity to impress me with their work as they come in the door, but I have absolutely zero interest in forcing equality of outcome. I run a brutal meritocracy here. I want to put my best players in the game, every chance I get, and keep them in the game for as long as I can.

I mean, let's switch to the reader's point-of-view for just a moment. When you read a really terrific story, do you think:

a.) "Wow! I really loved this story! I'd better not read anything else by this author for a while!"

or

b.) "Wow! I really loved this story! Where can I find more stories by this writer!"


Not wanting concentrations of particular authors in relatively slim time frames? Sheesh. What madness.

Now go write more stories!

Kindest regards,
Bruce Bethke
STUPEFYING STORIES

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Plugs!

JUST POSTED: THE BREATHTAKING CHAPTER 27! READ IT TODAY!


What is the Cliffhanger 250?

Open Mic Saturday

Good morning all, and welcome to Open Mic Saturday. This is the place to share your news and perhaps do a little bragging. If you're writing a novel: how much progress did you make this week? If you're writing short stories: did you finish anything or submit anything this week? If you've sold or published anything recently, when is it coming out and where can we find it? In short, as a writer, what kind of progress did you make this week?

Or what else is on your mind, that you feel like sharing with the group here?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Reviews!

Wag the Fox reviews the March 2012 issue of STUPEFYING STORIES and has some pretty nice things to say about us, and then follows up with an interview with yours truly.

Read! Enjoy! Tell your friends!

~brb

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Open Mic Saturday

Good morning all, and welcome to Open Mic Saturday. This is the place to share your news and perhaps do a little bragging. If you're writing a novel: how much progress did you make this week? If you're writing short stories: did you finish anything or submit anything this week? If you've sold or published anything recently, when is it coming out and where can we find it? In short, as a writer, what kind of progress did you make this week?

Or what else is on your mind, that you feel like sharing with the group here?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

World Enough, and Time



Eye-Opening Research

Several Friday Challenges back, we were tasked with writing a children's story.  I had one on the back burner at the time, and the Challenge gave me the kick in the pants I needed to actually finish it.  "Quinn in Trashland" received high marks, has gone through some revisions, and just might be ready to release to the wild.  At least, that's what the First Reader, Final Reviewer, and Chief Editor all agree on (and who am I to argue with Her?).

I shared the story with a handful of test readers.  One of those, an online friend and substitute teacher, claims that every time she returns to sub for the class she read it to, they beg her for a copy of the book and demand she read it to them again.  All of the test reader responses came back with glowing encouragement.

So.  Then...the big question.  Traditional publishing or self-published ebook?

I admit, I was leaning towards the traditional route.  I still read to my kids at bedtime, even though they're all more than old enough to be reading to me instead.  I just couldn't quite picture curling up on the couch with an e-reader or laptop instead of a book, and Quinn is definitely a story that begs to be read aloud to younger kids.

I grabbed my 2011 copy of "Short Story and Fiction Writer's Market" and a highlighter, and started my research.

Wow.

Quick summary?

A fairly large portion of the children's book listings simply say something to the effect of "if you don't have an agent, you're not worthy of our attention."

The general overview of the rest?

  • Generally only accept submissions the old-fashioned snail-mail way.
  • "Please cool your heels for six months" waiting for a response from us, and then--
  • "We won't even bother to contact you unless we want to publish your stuff."  Because, after all, they receive "more than 1000 submissions per month."
  • Receive payment on publication--which, in general, is eighteen months to two years after acceptance.
Okay, I admit, these aren't a huge surprise.  Perhaps I've been spoiled by Stupefying Stories, or I'm just totally and completely clueless about the publishing world  (which is true, I am).

...but the idea of putting Quinn on a shelf for the next two to three years is not a pleasant one for me.  And that's assuming a quick acceptance, first or second try; if five or six companies reject it before it hits that two year wait for printing, none of my kids will be young enough to enjoy it when it finally hits the bookshelves.

I do not understand how the publishing world can function this way, in the days of the Internet.  Sure, the writer is lining up a paycheck two or three years down the road, but what does he do about next month...?  I just don't find this to be an acceptable, functional business model.

If I were to go that route, it would mean giving up three years' worth of sales opportunity.  Granted, I lose the big "super publisher" logo on the side of the book...and the odds of my seeing it on a store shelf next to Curious George or Willy Wonka are fairly slim...and I'll have to do all of the advertising and sales myself, just like with the other ebooks I've got in mind.  Is there a huge difference between the two?  Would I really be passing up a huge opportunity by doing it myself rather than wait three more years to see it in print...?

Okay.  I give.  

The Writer's Market goes back on the shelf, to collect some more dust.

I am contacting some artist friends I know to work out a deal on illustrating "Quinn in Trashland" for a self-published ebook.  If anyone knows of any poor starving artists...send them my way.  

If it sells enough copies, perhaps it will work its way to a self-published print-on-demand project...?  Or one of those big-name publishing houses will come to me...?

Regardless...wish me luck.  I hope you're all interested in curling up on the couch with your kids, and Quinn, and your digital e-reading device of choice.

-=ad=-

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Now playing on StarShipSofa

"Return to Earth," by Ryan M. Jones, first published in STUPEFYING STORIES 1.1 (October 2011), is this week's Main Fiction feature on StarShipSofa, the Hugo Award-winning SF podcast. Check it out!

http://www.starshipsofa.com/2012/07/10/starshipsofa-no-246-ryan-jones/

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Old Goat Learns a New Writing Trick

As many of you know, for the last five weeks I've been working on my serialized novel at the Cliffhanger 250 (stop by and check it out, if you haven't already).  Chapter 16 went up today and is going to be used as an example for my new writing trick.  And it's not just any trick, either.  My new trick is the most important trick a writer can learn.

What is this amazing, new writing trick?  It is the trick every editor in the business wishes every writer in the business would learn.  It is the trick of making my prose leaner so every word serves to advance the story.  It is the trick of cutting words from my story.  Lots of words.

The idea of the Cliffhanger 250 was to force me to write and publish short, 250 word installments of the story.  The short length (equal to approximately one typed page of manuscript back in the days of typewriters and snail mail submissions) was to keep each installment from feeling daunting to me (a guy who's never written any single story longer than 5000 words) and to use cliffhangers at the end of each chapter so I would have a goal for each installment I wrote.  While writing those chapters, I found the first drafts of chapters had anywhere from 300 to 400 words; well above my targeted word count.  I didn't want to change the title of site -- the "Cliffhanger 300 to 400" doesn't have quite the same punch -- so I really only had one choice.

I had to cut words from my chapters.  Ruthlessly.  Even if you consider that each chapter tends to be 270 to 280 words in length, I found myself faced with cutting 10% to 30% of the words from my first draft.  When you have so few words to work with in the first place, that should be really hard.  It would be really hard, too, if I didn't have that target word count.  By making the number of words more important than the specific words in the first draft, I found it much easier to do what needed to be done.  I cut words, phrases, even entire sentences from the story and deleted them with ruthless abandon.  Along the way, I found better, shorter ways to say what needed to be said.

Want an example?  Preparing for this column, I marked up my changes to show what I deleted and rewrote for Chapter 16 of Scout's Honor.  Just for the record, the first draft was 353 words in length.  The published version, not counting the italicized lead-in and wrap-up lines, is 269 words in length.  Eighty-four words -- twenty-three percent of the word count -- gone in less than half an hour.  Here's the example.  Highlighted words were added, struck out words removed.

          Scouts receive extensive training for handling all sorts of situations we may face.  Our implants are loaded with further data covering virtually everything else.  Somehow, the experts who designed the training never considered my current situation.  That's why, When the princess's lips locked on mine, training fled and instinct took over.  I pulled her close and returned the kissed her back.  Enthusiastically.
            "Ahem!"
            We jumped apart, brought to our senses by Rob's interruption.  We cast our eyes downward like two scolded children eyes downcast, unable to meet Rob's stern gaze.
            "Highness, go to the stern of the airship," Rob ordered.
            The princess bristled at his tone, "Rob, you will not-"
            "Callan, do as I say."
            Chastised, she stalked aft.
            Trying to forestall what was to come Hoping to avoid a rebuke, I said, "Rob, I promise-"
            "Silence, boy!" hissed Rob.  "You just took an oath this morning to protect the princess with your life.  That includes protecting her from herself, from her flights of fancy and her infatuations.  That includes protecting her from your base instincts.  Do you understand?"
            "Yes, sir!"
            His gaze bored into minee stared intently into my eyesApparently Satisfied by what he saw, he relaxed slightly.  "Many guards develop strong feelings for those they guard, David.  Burying those feelings, especially if they are returned, is your duty"
            "It will not happen again, sir."
            "Good," He nodded, dismissing the matter.  "Now, can that...thing...in your head teach you how to fly this airship?"
            My implant was feeding me informationIt could.  As Rob marched aft, toward the princess, I concentrated on the airship controls, trying to ignore ignoring the heated discussion at the stern.  We needed altitude to reach the prevailing winds and forward speed to generate the little bit of lift required for the airship to rise to gain altitude.  A clever steam engine mechanism provided power for propulsion and also vented exhaust into the gas bags for lift.
            Looking up from the controls, I saw spotted a dark smudge on the horizon.  Happy Rob has brought my Grabbing the survival pack Rob brought aboard, I grabbed took out the binoculars and trained them on the smudge.  Ice lanced my gut as the smudge came into focus.
            A sandstorm stretched across the distant horizon, and it was coming straight for bearing down on us!

Is this perfect?  No.  Is it better than the first draft?  Definitely.

The point to remember is that the words are there to serve you.  Words don't get to stay on the page simply because you put them there sometime in the past.  Words have to earn the right to stay on the page.  They do that by serving the story, propelling it forward.  Any word which doesn't do that is not serving the story and deserves its fate.  Delete and don't look back.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Open Mic Saturday

Good morning all, and welcome to Open Mic Saturday. This is the place to share your news and perhaps do a little bragging. If you're writing a novel: how much progress did you make this week? If you're writing short stories: did you finish anything or submit anything this week? If you've sold or published anything recently, when is it coming out and where can we find it? In short, as a writer, what kind of progress did you make this week?

Or what else is on your mind, that you feel like sharing with the group here?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Colorado Springs Shout-Out

To our friends in Colorado Springs: we've been watching development of the Waldo Canyon Fire with considerable concern.

If you'd just check-in and let us know how you're doing, we're greatly appreciate it.

Thanks,
~brb

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

World Enough, And Time

Don’t Tick Off the Tech Writer


LadyQuill has been quiet of late.

She was offered her last book contract (Google Secrets, available now at Amazon, grab it quick before they sell out!) three weeks before her birthday, so I bought her a new laptop as an early birthday present.  Her old one had seen better days and just was not up for the rigors of an 800 page technical book.

I got her a good one, too.  Dell.  Full keyboard with keypad, nice wide screen, and she loved it.  Cranked out that book and it worked like a charm.

It’s starting to show it’s age, too, though.  The B and C keys failed.  This wasn’t that big a deal, as she uses a USB keyboard, but it’s still something that needed to be fixed.

Then the hard drive went out.

Now, LadyQuill has had hard drives crash before.  This computer had a separate partition set aside, called DataDrive, with all of her files on it.  The most important stuff was backed up to “the cloud.”  So, while a crashed drive for most anyone else is a total disaster, for her, it wasn’t much more than a low-level annoyance; the DataDrive partition was even still accessible.  She started working from a bootable CD while I handled the tech support duties.

Yes, I’m the one who needs to speak to tech support.  The reasons will become clear.

I checked the Dell website, and found she still had 70 days left on her warranty.  Then I called the 800 number.

The first tech I reached--I’ll call him L1--had an accent, but nothing I couldn’t deal with.  His biggest problem, though, was that the warranty was due to expire.  He tried four different times to get me to extend the warranty, and finally passed us through to the next level.  

That’s where the real fun began.

The second tech, L2 for short, was totally and completely chained to his script.

“Look,” I said.  “I can tell you this hard drive is bad.  

“My wife keeps three different versions of Linux running on her laptop.  If one of them crashes out and refuses to boot, she can switch to another.  This system had Ubuntu, Debian, and Arch installed, and none of them will boot.  The system will boot just fine from a CD or a Knoppix thumb drive, though.

“Now, she  has tried three different Linux installs on it and none of them work.  One of them ran a hard drive test, and that program said there are over 600 bad sectors in the Master Boot Record.  This drive is hosed, and my wife would like a new one under the warranty.”

“Well, we can’t just send you a new drive,” L2 said.  “Here’s what we’re going to do.  We’re going to use the Maintenance Partition to wipe your hard drive and put Windows Vista back on it, like when you bought it.  Once Windows is back up and running, that will probably fix your keyboard problem, too.”

Right.  Installing Windows Vista solves everything, and the two keys that have not worked for weeks--under multiple Linux versions, too--will magically start working again.  Immediately after this, Icehawk the Barbarian will headline on Broadway and Vidad will be the opening act for the Stones’ next tour.

“I’m sorry, but we accidentally wiped out the maintenance partition,” I answered.  

That was actually my fault; I tried to install MySQL on the laptop, screwed up the instructions, and fried an Ubuntu install, and then wiped out both the Windows partition and the maintenance partition in the repair process...but L2 didn’t need to know that.  

“My wife doesn’t use Windows.  We installed Ubuntu on it the day it came home.  They didn’t even give us the CDs.”

In the course of speaking to these two, I burned up nearly an hour and a half.  I could not get L2 to budge an inch; the only possible solution was to wait for them to send us replacement CDs, then restore the maintenance partition, then restore Windows, and that would fix anything that could possibly be wrong with it.  And, on the very remotest of possibilities that it did not...then we would need to take the laptop to the certified Dell shop downtown--which would very likely then need to send the laptop to Dell for the actual repair.

Really?

While waiting for the CDs to arrive, we decided to short-cut the entire issue.  We took the laptop in to the shop, and explained the situation.  The guy behind the counter looked mystified; he did not understand why Dell bothered to involve him, but he said he would try.

Of course, that meant that LadyQuill was without her computer.

...can you say withdrawal symptoms...?

The shop tried three times to speak to Dell, and got even more of a runaround than we did.  Finally, on the fifth day of laptop cold turkey, they called me and asked me to call Dell.  “They should give you a reference number,” he said, “which will authorize us to repair it under the warranty.”

Okay, I can do that.

What I did not know at the time was that Dell had sent LadyQuill a Customer Satisfaction Survey.  

She ignored it at first, but by the fifth day without her laptop, she was steamed.  Not only did she score them straight zeroes across the board, but she wrote in two or three paragraphs for each and every question.  The final draft was over three pages long, and ended with “I will never buy another Dell product, ever again.”

I called Dell, and got a different guy named L1, and L1 tried yet again to convince me to extend the warranty.  “If the warranty dies, then you won’t get free maintenance anymore,” he said, desperate to change my mind.  “You’d have to pay someone to change out the hard drive if it died then.”

“If the drive dies, I’ll fix it myself,” I said.  “In fact, if the drive had waited another 71 days to die, I would have had it fixed within three hours, including driving time into town, and my wife would have had an operating system on it in less than an hour after that.  I’m only on the phone with you because the computer is still under warranty.  You’ve kept us jumping through hoops for over a week.  Would you please put us through to someone who can actually help us?”

I had decided that L1 was not really tech support.  His entire job is to convince the caller to buy more warranty, whether they need it or not.  Deflated, he finally abandoned the sales pitch, and passed us on to L2--who, at any other tech support phone bank, would have been L1.

L2 started in on the same “okay, let’s get out the CDs we sent you” script, and I told him the same thing I had just told L1.  

“All we want is a new drive,” I said.  “The computer is in the shop.  If you’ll authorize them to fix it, you don’t have to do anything.  In fact, if you’ll ship me the drive, I’ll even do the work, and you can save yourself a few hours by not bothering to install Windows on it.”

“I’m going to look at your case records,” L2 finally said.  “Let me see if there are any other options.”

I heard his voice change.  I distinctly heard a kind of strangled "squeak" sort of noise, like you'd expect a stalking cat to make when the mouse whips out a flaming sword and cloak of invulnerability.  I'm making the assumption that he stumbled across that Customer Satisfaction Survey.

“I need to go speak with my supervisor,” he said, very quietly.

I was on hold for quite a while.

When L2 came back, he said “If I send a new hard drive to the same address where we sent the CDs, would that be okay?”

I pressed him on the keyboard, and he added that to the order without skipping a beat.

The spare parts arrived less than twenty hours later.  I brought the laptop home the same day.  And exactly 47 minutes after she cut open the box, LadyQuill was running Linux on a laptop without a trace of Windows software on it anywhere.


Allan Davis is a writer/photographer/database programmer in southeastern Nebraska.  Before he was a programmer, he was a tech, and though woefully out of practice, can still change out a laptop hard drive with the best of them.  

Just don't ask him to install MySQL.

The Slushpile Survival Guide

A Manuscript's Odyssey, Part 5

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

As ridiculous as it may seem now, a year ago, when we were first ramping up to launch STUPEFYING STORIES, we worried about whether we'd be able to attract enough submissions to make it work. Ergo at that time we decided to make it a sticking point that every manuscript received would receive the full attention of the entire original editorial team. Every new submission that came in would be posted on our private file-sharing site, read by everyone, and then the team would discuss the story and decide whether or not to accept it.

It was a nice vision.

It was also insanely impractical.

Within a few weeks we'd completely overloaded our original file-sharing site and exceeded its capacity. Not too long after that we'd completely overloaded our original editorial team and exceeded their capacity, too, and they began to show signs of serious story-fatigue. As the trickle of submissions became first a stream, then a flowing river, and then a raging torrent, our submissions-handling process needed to evolve quickly or die.

It evolved, in fits and starts.

We went from sharing every individual file that came in to posting zipped-up weekly round-ups. We went from "everyone reads every submission" to "each editor takes a portion and forwards only the best stories to the entire group." We went from a voluntary opt-in system in which editors were allowed to pick the stories they wanted, to assigning blocs of work and nagging people when they fell behind. We started pre-screening stories and rejecting the obviously unsuitable submissions before they ever made it as far as the slush pile. (Believe me, read a few hundred stories and you will develop if not an infallible sense of what's good, at least the ability to catch the unmistakable whiff of True Crap the moment you see the first line. Or sometimes even just the title.)
Sidebar discussion:
Every now and then some well-meaning person asks, "Why not do what [magazine] does? Let the slush pile accumulate for a month," (or two, or three), "and then pick a Saturday, have everyone come over to your house, order in some pizzas and beer, and deal with it all in one afternoon and evening. It'll be fun!"

Well, for one thing we're an Internet-based company, spread out over two-thousand miles and three time zones, so that puts a serious crimp in the idea of our all meeting at anyone's house. (In fact I don't think we've ever all met in person.) For another, on those rare occasions when we do get together, we can't even agree on which beer to buy. So for us to reach agreement on which stories to buy in the space of just a a few short hours...

We went from "let's identify promising writers and work with them" to "if you can't be an advocate for the story as-is, reject it."

That last one was a difficult step to take. We've all come out of writing group backgrounds and have painful memories of what it was like when we were just starting out. We all have this innate desire to behave as if we are still in a writer's workshop, and to identify promising new talents and then spend the time it takes to coach them through the rewriting needed to turn their interesting student-grade projects into polished professional work. And to be honest, of the stories we've published so far, a few of my favorites came to us in just exactly that way.

But ultimately, we had to let go of that. As the first winds of the Great Submission Blizzard of 2011 began to howl and the story-drifts began to pile up in the lee of the garage, it became apparent that we had to make a choice: we were either running a writing workshop and trying to teach people how to write or building a fiction publishing company. There simply was not time and energy enough to do both.

And then the Heavens opened up, and it being winter, the torrent of stories became an avalanche, and we began to realize that we were in real trouble.

...to be continued...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Open Mic Saturday

Good morning all, and welcome to Open Mic Saturday. This is the place to share your news and perhaps do a little bragging. If you're writing a novel: how much progress did you make this week? If you're writing short stories: did you finish anything or submit anything this week? If you've sold or published anything recently, when is it coming out and where can we find it? In short, as a writer, what kind of progress did you make this week?

Or what else is on your mind, that you feel like sharing with the group here?

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Slushpile Survival Guide

A Manuscript's Odyssey, Part 4

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

How do you help boost your manuscript up out of the undifferentiated muck of the slush pile so that it gets the level of editorial attention you want? The rules are simple and should seem familiar...

In fact, they're so simple and familiar that as I was writing this column, I got déjà vu all over again, broke off for a few minutes' search, and sure enough, I wrote a column about this years ago. Liberally sampling from my own earlier article, then (and bearing in mind that it was written back in the days of printed manuscript submissions and print publications):

[...] The following numbers are gleaned from conversations had with a number of major magazine editors back in the late 1980s but still should be reasonably indicative.

In an average month, Joe Editor, head honcho at Stupefying Stories Magazine, [Huh? Was I prescient or what? ~brb] receives 600 manuscripts and publishes eight. How does he bridge the gap between the two numbers?

- 100 manuscripts are rejected on receipt, because they're either
  • addressed to the previous editor who quit five years ago, thus indicating that the writer has not looked at a recent issue of the magazine
  • addressed to "Ms Jeo Edtori," and if the writer can't even get that much right, what hope is there for the rest of the manuscript? [I will tolerate misspellings of my name -- after all, I've been listening to people mangle the pronunciation of it all my life, so what's a typo or two? -- but I've decided I will no longer tolerate submissions from people who can't make the effort to get the name of the publication right. ~brb]
  • addressed in crayon, or submitted in an envelope covered with cutie-poo pony and butterfly stickers, in the apparent and misplaced hope that this will somehow draw attention (it does, but not the sort of attention you want) [This still happens, only now it takes the form of photos, graphic images, or animations and Java crapplets embedded in the cover email. Doing so still indicates that the would-be author is a hopeless putz. ~brb]
  • or have a return address indicating the submission is from a known crank or jerk that Mr. Editor would never in a million years publish even if he or she was the last living writer on Earth or any of the nearer planets [This is one area where technology has made an enormous difference. Thanks to auto-responders and email filters, it's now possible to establish a "Known Twits" list and stop the real jerks before they ever make it as far as your inbox -- until they figure out what's going on and get a new email address, which they always do. ~brb]
- 100 manuscripts are rejected based on the first line of the cover letter, which begins, "I know you don't usually publish stories about..." and then goes on to describe a topic that, yes, Stupefying Stories never publishes stories about.

- 100 manuscripts are rejected based on the rest of the cover letter, which either describes the submission in such tedious detail as to remove all desire to read the manuscript or else includes palpable bullshit or even threats. (Yes, people have been known to send cover letters that include lines like, "My good friend Gordon Dickson read this story last week and said you'd really love it," [Gordie died in 2001], or "Don't even TRY to steal my story because I have COPYRIGHTED it and I have a VERY GOOD LAWYER!!!!")

- 100 manuscripts are rejected based on the first page of the manuscript, which either shows that the writer has no knowledge of standard manuscript format, thinks a hideously overused cliché is a marvelously original title, has sent a stained and shopworn wad of paper that's obviously been bouncing around for awhile, or is simply so bad a writer as to be beyond all hope of redemption. [Okay, the "stained and shopworn paper" thing never happens anymore, and I don't agonize over standard manuscript format as that's just more cruft we have to strip out in the process of coverting the ms. to .epub. However, the "is simply so bad a writer as to be beyond all hope" part is such a big topic that it deserves its own column, and will get that column soon. ~brb]

- 100 manuscripts are rejected based on the first two pages of the manuscript, which are decently written but such an obvious setup for a "twist" or "pun" ending that Mr. Editor jumps to the last page and—yup, sure enough, the narrator is a lobster in an aquarium in a seafood restaurant! And given that the whole story hinges on keeping this fact hidden from the reader until the very end, this is also where Mr. Editor's interest ends.

Which leaves Joe Editor with a considerably more manageable stack of 100 manuscripts, in which to find the eight that are well-written, interesting, the right length, and not too much like something he already has in inventory to be worth buying. And if he has the budget for it he'll probably end up buying ten manuscripts, just in case next month's batch of submissions only includes four acceptable stories.

There now: that doesn't look so daunting now, does it?

...to be continued...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Open Mic Saturday

Good morning all, and welcome to Open Mic Saturday. This is the place to share your news and perhaps do a little bragging. If you're writing a novel: how much progress did you make this week? If you're writing short stories: did you finish anything or submit anything this week? If you've sold or published anything recently, when is it coming out and where can we find it? In short, as a writer, what kind of progress did you make this week?

Or what else is on your mind, that you feel like sharing with the group here?

Friday, June 15, 2012

To your scattered websites go

As the Friday Challenge continues to evolve into whatever it is that it's evolving into, the FC crew are branching out to other interests and other sites. For at least the next few Fridays I'd like to use this Friday morning post to start collecting links to our members' various projects and productions. For example, today:

Henry Vogel has just posted chapter 9 of his novel-in-progress, Scout's Honor. Read it today at Cliffhanger TwoFifty

David Goodman (a.k.a. Vidad, a.k.a. David the Good) has added more images to his online art gallery. While it will eventually be moving to a new site, you can check out the work-in-progress today at FoundMyself.com. Also, David wants us to plug his latest album, The Brainspider Affair, so here's the link to it on Amazon. I haven't listened to it. For all I know it sounds like someone pounding on a bag full of cats with a rug-beater. But hey, maybe that's your thing. There are samples on the Amazon site, which will tell you much more about his music than any amount of blather by me will.

M. David Blake was recently interviewed for the Clarion West Write-a-Thon, and the interview was supposed to be published today, but we haven't received a live link yet. Check back later.

CORRECTION!: M. David Blake was recently interviewed by the ever-enterprising AmyBeth Inverness, and you can read the interview now at her site. He is also participating in the Clarion West Write-a-thon again this year, but the link for his profile, at the time of this update, is not yet live on the site.

And of course I'm up to my armpits in STUPEFYING STORIES stuff, but most of that is behind the scenes at the moment.

Anyone else have a link to a project they're working on that they'd like to share? Let me know.

Ciao,
~brb

Thursday, June 14, 2012

World Enough and Time: The Nature of Criticism



True story.

LadyQuill and I joined a local writer's group.  Their meetings consisted of reading stuff to each other, plus a writing exercise on occasion.  At one of these get-togethers, one of the other members read this rambling reminiscence story about a woman he knew twenty years earlier.

"She brought him up on stage," he read, "and she embarrassed him."

Then he moved on to the rest of his story.

The writing was good; his skills were there, the sentences were well structured.  But there's that whole "show, don't tell" guideline that he was completely ignoring--not just once, but at several points throughout the piece.

The real kicker came when LadyQuill tried to offer "show don't tell" as advice to him.  After all, LadyQuill has two books and a plethora of magazine and online articles to her name; she should know a little bit about writing and selling what's written.  But her honest advice was not welcome.

"This isn't a critiquing group," we were told.  "We're just here to listen.  That way, no one gets any hurt feelings."

Okay.  No hurt feelings, I can see that.  Maybe.  

If I take off my glasses, shield my eyes, lean in close, and squint, maybe.

Writing is about taking the images, and thoughts, and concepts, out of your head, and plunking them down on paper for the entire world to peek at.  Writing requires both the imagination to develop the ideas AND  the skillset to present them properly.  If you don't have the writing skills to get your ideas across, the whole thing falls apart, no matter how cool and interesting the original concept might have been.  And if you don't have a thick enough skin to accept criticism and advice, then how in the heck do you expect to improve?

"I don't write for publication," he said.  "I write for me.  I don't care if it ever gets published."

Ah, okay.  Critique not necessary if it's not for public consumption, I can see that, too.  But if it's not for public consumption...then why the BLEEP! did you read it out loud...?  Were we not "the public" in that particular scenario...?

LadyQuill and I didn't attend too many more meetings of that particular writer's group.

To me, criticism and critique should be treated as the advice and opinions they are.  On occasion, there will be some really good advice in there (like "show it, don't talk about it").  Sometimes the advice will be absolutely horrendous (like, "you should change your barbarian hero to a woman and have her talk to her opponents about their feelings").

One of the reasons I originally started doing Friday Challenges was to get critiqued.  I actually wanted to know what was wrong with my writing and how I could improve it.  I'm sorry, but "cool" and "nice" are probably not words used in an honest critique.

You--any of you reading this--you are my "public."  If I confuse you, or irritate you, or the absolute worst, BORE you...I want to know it.  I need to know it, or I'm going to keep making the same stupid--and preventable--mistakes.

How about the rest of you?  Do you have any views on criticism and "creative suggestions?"  What's the worst (or best) critique  you've ever received?

Allan Davis is a writer, photographer, and programmer currently hiding out in a corner of Nebraska. He started a new job a while back, and used that as an excuse to skip out on writing this column for way too long.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ultimate Geek Fu

Today's topic was going to be a review of Prometheus, but on further reflection: meh. We can dispose of the entire thing by citing a simple truism: Prequels Always Suck.

I mean, really. The Phantom Menace. Caprica. Young Indiana Jones. X-Men: First Class. Butch and Sundance: The Early Days. Can anyone here think of a prequel -- not a franchise reboot, like Batman Begins, Casino Royale, or the most recent Star Trek movie, but a same-continuity prequel -- that did not totally bite? Because we were talking about it at some length last night, and we sure couldn't.

And if you want to go deeper: do you have a theory as to why prequels always suck?

Let the arguments begin...


Meanwhile, over in Philip K. Dick land, another load of aspiring contenders for the PKD Award showed up this week. Steampunk, zombie, steampunk, zombie -- ah, here's one about steampunk zombies, I guess it had to happen sooner or later --

I suppose I should count my blessings; at least the flow of paranormal romances has slowed. But looking at all these new releases leaves me with one burning question:

What the Hell happened to science fiction?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Slushpile Survival Guide

A Manuscript's Odyssey, Part 3

Part One | Part Two

When last we checked in with our hypothetical manuscript it was sitting in the DMV Waiting Room of the Damned, a.k.a., the STUPEFYING STORIES slush pile, waiting for its number to be called and for me to find the time to continue writing this series. The latter has finally happened, so let's assume the former has as well and usher the manuscript in for its big chance: its audition with the First Reader.

Writers seem to share a lot of misconceptions about First Readers. Writing group folklore to the contrary, First Readers are not embittered failed writers who use the power of their petty positions to crush the dreams and hobble the careers of competing writers. Nor are they constipated nit-picky martinets, eagerly seizing on any excuse to disqualify a submission. ("A-hah! He used a hyphen when he should have used an em-dash! REJECT!") Dogbert's Publishing Company to the contrary, we aren't actually in this business simply because we relish the sadistic joy of rejecting stories all day long.

Rather, First Readers are an essential part of any publishing operation, ours more so than most, and they're here for the same reason as the rest of us: because they're eager to be the first one to discover some new treasure, and bring it to the world.

Some days I think of our First Readers as being like grad students working on an archaeological dig, carefully sifting through the lithic debitage to find that one fragment or fossil that's going to rewrite the history books and change the world. Other days I envision them as being more like newcomers in a mining camp, knee-deep in a cold creek, panning for gold and hoping to discover the nugget that will make their careers.

Unfortunately, to find those nuggets of pure gold, you've got to pan a lot of gravel. 

How much? Consider these numbers. When we're on-schedule (and we've been way off schedule lately, but that's another column), we publish about ten stories a month.

In December alone, we received about five hundred new story submissions.

Our submissions numbers are erratic: we're a very minor, penny-a-word, third-tier (at best) market, and the submissions ebb and flow in direct relationship to how well we stick to our publishing schedule. (And in relationship to the academic calendar, too. We always get a big gush of submissions at the end of every semester.) In December we received about 500 new submissions. In January, slightly over 300. In February slightly under 300, in March slightly over 200, in April and May slightly under 200 each, and as of June 11 we've received 77 new submissions month-to-date, so we're on-track to come in at or above 200 again.

In short, at this time, in our market, the odds against our hypothetical manuscript being accepted for publication are roughly 20-to-1.

So considering those raw numbers, what are the odds that your story will rise out of the common muck and gravel and be accepted for publication? Surprisingly good, if you just pay attention to a few small but very important details....

...to be continued...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Open Mic Saturday

Good morning all, and welcome to Open Mic Saturday. This is the place to share your news and perhaps do a little bragging. If you're writing a novel: how much progress did you make this week? If you're writing short stories: did you finish anything or submit anything this week? If you've sold or published anything recently, when is it coming out and where can we find it? In short, as a writer, what kind of progress did you make this week?

Or what else is on your mind, that you feel like sharing with the group here?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

No More Summer Running

RIP Ray Bradbury.  Perhaps he's drinking dandelion wine with all his old colleagues.
-Henry


Sigh.

I grew up on Ray Bradbury's short story collections. The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles, The Golden Apples of the Sun, R is for Rocket, S is for Space, I Sing the Body Electric; yeah, sure, I read Heinlein, Clarke, Norton, and Asimov, but Bradbury's short stories were the ones that made me say, "Hey! I want to do that!" Somewhere in my archives there are piles of really bad Imitation Bradbury stories I wrote when I was a teenager, that haven't seen the light of day in the thirty-plus years since, and which I should probably burn now, purely as a public service.

Half a lifetime ago I was at a big con in -- Atlanta, I think -- waiting to go into a hall that was closed for the moment, and turned around to find that the man standing next to me was Mr. Bradbury. I was still frozen in awestruck fanboy mode when he leaned over, read my name tag, and then stuck out a handshake, said how pleased he was to meet me, and started talking about how much he'd liked a story that I had just had published. I wish I could remember which one. I'd only made it as far as, "Buh -- buh -- buh -- Bradbury!"

Yeah, he really was that kind of a good guy. The world is poorer for his passing, but he left a terrific body of work and some huge footprints to follow.

Good legacy, for a writer.
-Bruce

Later:
I keep thinking of the end of Truffaut's 1966 (?) film of Fahrenheit 451, in which all the people who have memorized books to keep them alive are walking around, reciting them. That seems like a fitting way to honor Bradbury: by reading one of his stories aloud tonight.

I wonder which one I'll chose? Going back to The Illustrated Man seems like the right thing to do, since that's where my lifelong affection for Bradbury's writing started, but there are so many good stories...

Ah, here we go: "The Exiles."

     "Their eyes were like fire and the breath flamed out the witches' mouths as they bent to probe the cauldron with greasy stick and bony finger.

     'When shall we three meet again
     In thunder, lightning, or in rain?'

How about you? What's the Ray Bradbury story most on your mind tonight?
-Bruce

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

And we're back...

Sorry for the site outage this morning. I was trying to fix our chronic URL redirection problem and instead put the site into an infinite redirection loop. Getting out of it turned out to be both easier and trickier than expected. It was easily done, once I knew how to do it. (What, document the API? We don't need no steenkin' documentation!)

Everything should be back to normal now. Well, as normal as we get, anyway.
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