Fiction submission advice

Every now and then I take on a guest editing spot. It’s not something I could ever do too much, because I’m a writer and that’s where my focus lies, but I enjoy trawling through a slush pile occasionally to find some gems that deserve publication. I’m currently reading slush as a guest editor for issue 2 of Another Dimension magazine. This is a new magazine that’s subject to a successful Kickstarter to get up and running, but it comes with a strong pedigree. It’s the brainchild of Angel Leigh McCoy, of Wily Writers fame. She knows what she’s doing, let me tell you. You can find the submission guidelines and all you need to know here.

However, while looking for those gems in the slush you do have to dig through a lot of… not gems. My reading recently drove me to Twitter for a little bit of a rant. I thought I might repeat my key points here. These things apply to every kind of submission, so bear them in mind regardless of market.

  • When submitting a story to a magazine, ensure your opening sentence isn’t missing an entire word.
  • When submitting a story to a magazine, don’t use both 1st and 3rd person in your opening paragraph. Pick one.
  • When submitting a story to a magazine, ensure your story contains, you know, a story. Not just a sequence of events.
  • When submitting a story to a magazine, first try reading your dialogue aloud. That’s right, *no-one* speaks like that.
  • When submitting a story to a magazine, READ THE FUCKING GUIDELINES!

I realise that those few points above might seem bloody obvious, but you’d be amazed how many submissions fail to comply to one (or many!) of them. If you get those things covered then believe me, you’ll immediately jump ahead of a lot of your competition. Pay extra special attention to the last one. It’s in all caps for a reason.

Now get writing and submitting and good luck!

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Dream Shadow at Tales To Terrify

I love it when my stories get podcast. It’s so great to hear a reading of something you’ve written and to hear that reader’s interpretation of your words. In this case, those wonderful people at one of my favourite podcasts, Tales To Terrify, have just posted a fantastic reading by Graeme Dunlop of my story “Dream Shadow”. It was originally published in the Winds of Change anthology from CSFG Publishing, edited by Elizabeth Fitzgerald. It’s a bit of very Australian flavoured horror.

This is my second appearance at Tales To Terrifythey podcast my ghost western story, “Not the Worst of Sins”, last year. And this is the second story of mine that the good Mr Dunlop has narrated – he also read my “The Seven Garages of Kevin Simpson” for Pseudopod. You can find that story here.

Here’s the latest Tales To Terrify, episode 155, “Dream Shadow”.

I collate all my podcast stories and a list of my favourite podcast magazines on this page here.

Enjoy!

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Video interview – dark fantasy, martial arts and more

The wonderful Joanna Penn pinned me down for an interview over Skype recently. Of course, I was more than happy to chat about some of my favourite things, like writing dark fantasy and horror, novels and short stories, martial arts, travel and so on. We had a good chat. You can watch the video below. And be sure to check out Jo’s books – she writes kickass supernatural thrillers under the name J F Penn. You can see why we get along, right? Hope you find this one interesting. Feel free to share it far and wide.

EDIT: Jo Penn has posted a full transcript of the interview on her site here.

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On posting award eligibility lists, including mine

It’s that time of year again when all the various awards open for nominations. It’s also that time of year when a bunch of people start bitching and moaning about authors shilling their published work. But fuck those people. Awards are all about talking up the stuff you’ve enjoyed, and that includes your own work. As authors, especially these days, it’s our job to promote our work and try to get as many reading eyes on it as possible. There’s no shame in posting a list of your stuff and saying, “Hey, look what I did last year. I’m damned proud of myself.” And so you should be.

Also, it’s hard to remember everything that was published and the stuff you’ve enjoyed. Sometimes a story or a book just sticks with you, but often it’s not until you see a mention of a story that you think, “Hell yeah, that was awesome!” I really appreciate seeing eligibility lists around this time of year, because I love to nominate stuff that I think is worthy, but I’m also fundamentally lazy. And forgetful. If you make my job easier, I’m happy about that. So if you’re not comfortable making posts like these, just don’t. If you’re okay with it, then great. It’s useful and there’s nothing wrong with it. If you spend the next three months all over social media saying, “Vote for me! Vote for this!” then you’re being a dick. But making a list available and making people aware of that list is fine and dandy. People need to vote for the things they’ve really enjoyed and try to signal boost the good stuff. That’s one of the main functions of awards, in my opinion.

(If you’re an Aussie fan, get started by nominating work for the Ditmar Awards, which are now open. Go here: http://ditmars.sf.org.au/2015/nominations.html (Nominations will be accepted from natural persons active in fandom, and from full or supporting members of the national convention of the year of the award. If you may not be known to the Ditmar subcommittee, please provide a brief explanation of why you are eligible (eg. “Full member of Swancon 40”), or the name of someone known to the subcommittee who can vouch for your eligibility to nominate.))

So, with that in mind, here’s my list. Often, when you’ve had several things published in a year, your votes can be split across several titles, so I’m also going to mention my favourites among my published stuff. Afterwards, I’m going to list some of my favourite books by other people from 2014 and where at least some of my votes will be going. It’s not all about me!

NOVELS

All three of my Alex Caine books were published this year, so they’re all eligible in the novel category of awards. If you’ve really preferred one over another, that’s great and you should vote that way. But if you’ve enjoyed the series in general, I’d really appreciate it if you could direct your vote to Bound, the first in the series.

NOVELLA/NOVELETTE

In the novella/novelette category, I only had one story published in 2014, but I also think it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever written. It’s called “The Darkness in Clara” and was published in SQ Mag #14. It’s free to read online, so head on over and have a look if you haven’t already. I’d love to see this story get some more attention.

SHORT FICTION

In the short fiction category, I had six stories published in 2014:

“Thirty Three Tears To A Teaspoon” – Postscripts 32/33: FAR VOYAGER (PS Publishing, November 2014)

“Autumn of the Greatest” – Superpow! anthology (Red Penny Papers, October 2014)

“Shadows of the Lonely Dead” – Suspended in Dusk anthology (Books of the Dead Press, September 2014)

Upon a Distant Shore” – Dimension6, issue 2 (4th July 2014)

“Mephisto”Daily Science Fiction (23rd June 2014)

“All the Wealth in the World”Lakeside Circus, issue 1 (January 2014)

The ones with links are available to read online. The one I’d really like to see get some more attention is “Shadows of the Lonely Dead” from the Suspended in Dusk anthology. This, I think, is possibly my best short story to date and it’s also an intensely personal story for me. I’m really pleased to see that it’s been getting a lot of positive mentions in reviews of what is a truly brilliant anthology. This story is also the first time I’ve had strangers email me to say how much they enjoyed it. That’s happened with my novels before, but never a short story.

(If you haven’t read it, I really suggest getting Suspended in Dusk. It’s cheap as chips at the moment too. Start looking here for your copy.)

Now, what about other people’s work? I’ve read and enjoyed a lot of great fiction throughout 2014. Some will be Australian and some international, so my nominations will depend on what awards the stuff is eligible for and where I’m allowed to nominate. So far I’ve only started thinking about novels, anthologies and collections. This is not a definitive list, as there will definitely be more added to it, and I haven’t even started looking at short stories yet. As for Aussie stuff, check out the Ditmar Eligibility List here, as that’s a great resource for everything Australian published in 2014. Meanwhile, some of my favourite books from last year include:

The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough (novel)

Fearful Symmetries anthology, ed. Ellen Datlow (anthology)

The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings by Angela Slatter (collection)

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes (novel)

Suspended in Dusk, ed. Simon Dewar (anthology)

Echopraxia by Peter Watts (novel)

Guardian (Veiled Worlds #3) by Jo Anderton (novel)

Last Year, When We Were Young by Andrew McKiernan (collection)

SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror, ed. Geoff Brown and AJ Spedding (anthology)

I’ll be adding to this list as I gather my thoughts and get to voting.

Lastly, please nominate and vote on any awards you’re eligible to be a part of. The more people there are involved, the more the awards will reflect the opinions of the reading public rather than the authors who shout loudest or who have the biggest social presence. Awards are very imperfect beasts in any case, but the more people are involved, the less imperfect they become. And if you do vote for me anywhere, thank you! I genuinely appreciate it.

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US Amazon search still being a dick

So Amazon US are still being weird about showing the Alex Caine books in searches. All the other stores are fine, just the biggest one being a dick. We have no idea why and my publisher is trying to fix it (and it’s not only my books, so there’s that at least.) Meanwhile, here are the direct Amazon.com links for all three, and BOUND is still currently FREE:

BOUND: Alex Caine #1
http://www.amazon.com/Bound-Alex-Caine-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00IR1C480/

OBSIDIAN: Alex Caine #2
http://www.amazon.com/Obsidian-Alex-Caine-Book-2-ebook/dp/B00JIDE4TS/

ABDUCTION: Alex Caine #3
http://www.amazon.com/Abduction-Alex-Caine-Book-3-ebook/dp/B00K4LUHNA/

Please feel free to spread this post far and wide. Thanks!

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