On the length of a story

There’s been a bit of to and fro via The Guardian recently about fantasy novels and short stories. Firstly Damien Walter wrote this pile of bollocks about how publishers need to stop encouraging big fat fantasy multi-book series. Then Natasha Pulley responded with this bullshit about how fantasy just can’t be done in short books, and especially not in short stories. I do wish people would stop trying to proscribe what the rest of us like to read and write.

You know what? A good story is exactly as long as it needs to be or it’s not a good story. Simple as that. If that means a fat book trilogy, or a ten book mega-series, or one thin novel or novella, or a short story, it doesn’t matter. A good story is good because it’s told in the right amount of space it needs. A really good story is made from great ideas, wonderfully written, using exactly the time and space required.

Sure there are plenty of rubbish, bloated books out there and loads of short stories that fall flat. But even the shite stuff has found its niche if its successful, because people are reading and enjoying it. If people are reading and enjoying something, get the fuck off your high horse trying to tell those people that they should be reading and enjoying something else.

Ellen Datlow, a living legend among short fiction editors, posted on Facebook about the second article I linked above and here’s what she had to say:

As a short story editor who has been reading and publishing sf/f/h stories for over 35 years, I’m astounding [sic] at the author’s ignorance. There are hundreds of brilliant, effective, imaginary world short stories that have been published and continue to be published. I don’t know how someone who claims to have taught a class in short fiction can claim that “That means that there is an incredibly narrow taxonomical window in which short fiction can be recognised as fantasy at all. What we recognise as fantasy is long. Sometimes really long.” Even if your definition of fantasy was valid (and it isn’t), you’re dead wrong.

I agree with Ellen 100%.

On the subject of longer series, to use my own recent books as an example, The Alex Caine Series is (so far) roughly 300,000 words spread fairly evenly over three books. Each book is not especially fat, but each one is a fast-paced dark fantasy story. All three contain details of a bigger arc that tells a bigger story. That’s what I like to read mostly – standalone books that also contribute to a larger ongoing story in series. That’s why I write them. But I also enjoy and write standalone novels, and novellas, and short stories. One day I might write a fucking great three million word epic if I think the ideas therein are good enough.

There are big series out there where each book is the same size as my entire Alex Caine trilogy. Peter F Hamilton writes single novels bigger than some big fat series! And all those things are good. We need that variety. I love to experience a glorious, dense, richly detailed series, then read an anthology of amazing, tight fantasy short stories. I like standalones that aren’t in series. I love novellas. But I only like any of those things if they’re good, and being good or bad is not predicated solely on their length. It’s predicated on being a good story, well told. Some yarns are too long or too short for my taste. I might wish they would get to the point more quickly, or delve more deeply into their world and story. But it’s not the length alone that dictates quality or validity. And I know my taste is vastly different to the tastes of many others, and their taste is equally valid. Even if they’re wrong.

You know the old adage – it ain’t the size that matters, it’s what you do with it.

So stop telling people what to read and publishers what to publish. Put all your energy into sharing the stuff that you think is good, regardless of length. Help the cream rise to the top and let the rest take care if itself.

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Ceaseless West: Weird Western Stories from BCS e-book anthology is now out

CeaselessWest_Cover600The Ceaseless West: Weird Western Stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies e-book anthology is now out, and it includes my Ditmar Award nominated story, Not The Worst Of Sins. You can find it at WeightlessBooks.com (the indie ebook store run by Gavin Grant of Small Beer Press). It’s available for pre-order at Amazon Kindle Store, B&N, iBooks, and Kobo and will be released there on Tuesday.

The table of contents, cover, and links to it at Weightless and the other stores are here.  And it’s only $3.99.

Also, any reader who buys Ceaseless West from WeightlessBooks.com will get a free copy of Ceaseless Steam, the steampunk anthology, and a coupon for 30% off all other BCS anthologies and ebook subscriptions.

For Weird Western fans, BCS are doing a special Weird Western issue of the magazine next Thursday, BCS #172, out on Apr. 30.

Here’s the ToC of Ceaseless West:

A Feast for Dust • Gemma Files

The Angel Azrael Rode into the Town of Burnt Church on a Dead Horse • Peter Darbyshire

Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride • Saladin Ahmed

Hangman • Erin Cashier

Bandit and the Seventy Raccoon War • Don Allmon

The Good Deaths, Part II • Angela Ambroz

Between Two Treasons • Michael J. DeLuca

Splitskin • E. Catherine Tobler

The Sixth Day • Sylvia Anna Hivén

Enginesong • Nathaniel Lee

The Crooked Mile • Dan Rabarts

Walking Still • C.T. Hutt

The Heart of the Rail • Mark Teppo

The Judge’s Right Hand • J.S. Bangs

Not the Worst of Sins • Alan Baxter

Songdogs • Ian McHugh

Haxan • Kenneth Mark Hoover

Pale • Kathryn Allen

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Graced by Amanda Pillar – Guest Post

A big thank you to the Warrior Scribe, Alan Baxter, for posting this blog entry on my debut novel, Graced! [Aw, shucks! You’re welcome. – Alan]

Graced by Amanda Pillar
Graced by Amanda Pillar

Graced is an urban fantasy story that follows the journey of four diverse characters; it features vampires, weres, humans and a race called the Graced.

But, rather than another synopsis, I thought I’d share some of the background research that helped me develop the Graced universe!

  • It could take only 10,000 years for evidence of a society of our technological level to disappear and become nothing more than archaeological ruins
  • Blue eyes do not have blue pigmentation to make them blue
  • Speciation is occurring all the time in nature; there are animals even now in our world that are evolving new adaptations (the Australian yellow-bellied three-toed skink is changing from laying eggs to having live young)
  • Gun powder was originally developed in China and used for fireworks
  • The general ranking of the English peerage was King/Queen, Duke/Duchess,  Marquis/Marchioness, Earl/Countess, Viscount/Viscountess, Baron/Baroness
  • The colour of mourning varies from culture to culture in today’s world (red, white and black among other colours are worn)
  • Marriage was often once a political alliance, rather than an exclamation of love
  • Eye colour inheritance isn’t the simple four step process we were taught in school eg a brown (B) eyed parent, and a blue (b) eyed parent equals BB, Bb, Bb, bb. It actually does not.
  • Aside from dire wolves having a dramatic name, it was the largest canis species although it has been extinct for at least 10,000 years. Grey wolf males on average weigh up to 45 kgs.

So while the above points may have had a hand in the development of the Graced world, not all of them are apparent in the book. But that’s the beauty of world-building. All of these things helped shape Dante, Elle, Clay and Anton’s world.

*****

Amanda_small-1Amanda Pillar is an award-winning editor and author who lives in Victoria, Australia, with her husband and two cats, Saxon and Lilith.

Amanda has had numerous short stories published and has co-edited the fiction anthologies Voices (2008), Grants Pass (2009), The Phantom Queen Awakes (2010), Scenes from the Second Storey (2010), Ishtar (2011) and Damnation and Dames (2012). Her first solo anthology, Bloodstones (2012), was published by Ticonderoga Publications. Amanda is currently working on the sequel, Bloodlines, due for publication in 2015.

Amanda’s first novel, Graced, was published by Momentum in 2015.

In her day job, she works as an archaeologist.

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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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The year that was and the year to come.

I posted this on my Facebook page and then decided to copy it here too. Mainly it’s for my own reference – a reminder of successes to buoy me up in those times of doubt and rejection. Because those doubt and rejection times are the norm, while successes are infrequent beacons that flare now and then. That’s normal and with any luck the successes will continue to occur and only get bigger and better. Meanwhile, it’s important to celebrate not only those successes you’ve had, but also the work you’ve put in. So here’s my writing year in review:

My writing and publishing stats are pretty good for this year. In 2014 I had three novels published (The Alex Caine Series – Bound, Obsidian and Abduction), one novelette (The Darkness in Clara, SQ Mag 14), and six short stories. Four new short stories are sold and due for publication during 2015, so I’ve already got a jump on the year to come!

I have five short stories currently out on submission, two of which are shortlisted, and I’ve got a novella out on submission with my agent.

For 2015 I have one novel “finished” that I will redraft when I hear back from a beta reader and then send that to my agent. I have another novel started that I will finish in the first half of the coming year. And I’ll certainly write and submit some more short stories. I also have plans for another novel that’ll get started at some point and hopefully finished in first draft before the end of the year. I intend to write at least one new novel every year along with as many shorts/novelettes/novellas as I have time and inspiration for.

Goals for 2015 include seeing Obsidian and Abduction in print in Australia, all three Alex Caine novels in print globally and at least six published short stories. I’d also love to see the latest novel, after a final polish, sold in 2015. Even published by year’s end if I’m lucky. The same goes for the novella currently with my agent.

So I’m staying busy and will continue to work my butt off.

Thanks to everyone who’s bought and read my work in 2014. I plan to do even better in 2015. Happy new year to you all, and may you exceed all your goals and achieve your wildest dreams.

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