New Publication: The Ganthu Eggs at SF Comet

October 20, 2014

I was recently invited to participate in one of the coolest writing contest I’ve had the privilege of competing in to date.

SF Comet invites popular Chinese and international authors to write stories (up to 2500 words) based on the prompt they’re provided. The stories are posted (and, in case of international authors, first translated into Chinese) on social media sites such as Weibao and WeChat. Readers are invited to judge the stories and vote — anonymously.  Who wrote which story isn’t revealed until the contest is over. All authors are paid professional rates and the winner earns an additional $500.

I participated in the third such contest. I had big shoes to fill–the previous English-speaking authors invited to participate were Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress. The prompt for my contest was “breaking an egg” and my story is linked below:


Although I did not win (the story placed third overall) it was a really fun experience, and I’m quite happy with the resulting story.  I’m also excited to have my work translated into Chinese for the first time.

This month’s contest includes Australia’s Aidan Doyle and Great Britain’s Deborah Walker, and the theme is listed as “Part time beggar.” I can’t wait to see what they came up with!


WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction

October 14, 2014


I won! Eeeee!

OK, now that I got that out of my system, let’s try again:

This Saturday, at the award ceremony held at Capclave, I won the WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction. I won it for “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma,” which also makes this a win for Intergalactic Medicine Show, its editor Edmund Schubert and his staff, because they accepted and published this story!

Small Press means everybody but the major publishers. So while may be out, it still includes top-notch markets like Clarkesworld and Lightspeed (both of which had stories represented this year). The stories the  board considers are also read blind, so the author’s name won’t sway them–which makes it more likely the award finalists would be selected on merit rather than popularity.

I was very excited to be nominated but didn’t seriously expect to win. I mean, humorous short stories don’t win award any more often than comedies win the Oscars.  I’m incredibly thrilled and very thankful to the WSFA members who proved me wrong and voted for my story.

I was already having a great time at Capclave, which is rapidly becoming my favorite convention. It is relatively small and laser-focused on fiction (it doesn’t really have an anime track or a costuming track or much gaming, things that go hand-in-hand with science fiction conventions at most cons). Instead, you get a very distilled group of fans and professionals who love genre fiction.  Not that fiction is the only subject of merit. This past weekend I got to talk psychology with Lawrence Schoen, geopolitical implications of the Russia/Ukraine conflict with Chuck Gannon, and whether it is sin or virtue that hypothetically makes a soul more attractive to Satan with Max Gladstone (true story!). There were many other conversations like this, and seeing old friends, and making new ones. But, you can imagine, how I was having even more fun, clutching at the award!

When I got the nomination it took me about a week to come down. There’s no telling how long it will take now. That’s why I’m rambling incoherently in this blog post, instead of employing the level of snark you’re normally accustomed to. Seriously, I’m elated, and exhausted, and still a little sleep-deprived. But I wanted to post something before too long, and here it is.

I should also add that “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma” can still be read for free at IGMS, so if you haven’t read it yet, check it out!



Two New Publications

October 1, 2014


Two more of my stories are available to read as of the last 24 hours.

The Fiddle Game” is an urban fantasy/noir tale with some humor elements. You can read or listen to it at IGMS (but you’ll need a subscription).

The Perfect Book” is a lightly humorous SF flash, and it’s free to read in the third issue of Fantasy Scroll Magazine.



Capclave 2014 Schedule

September 29, 2014

I’m back from the Baltimore Book Festival, but Capclave is right around the corner! Here are the panels, signings and other cool things where you can find me during this wonderful convention. If you are able to attend it, you really should.

Seems like I will have a very busy Friday and Saturday followed by a very relaxed Sunday. :)


Friday, 5pm – Rockville/Potomac

Humorous SF (Ends at: 5:55 pm)
Panelists: John Ashmead (M), Norm Sherman, Alex Shvartsman, Jean Marie Ward
It’s easy to name the funny fantasy books, but what about the funny SF books and short stories? For instance, Unidentified Funny Objects was an entire anthology of funny SF.


Friday, 9pm – Rockville/Potomac

Ending Stories – Bang or Whimper? (Ends at: 9:55 pm)
Panelists: Scott Edelman, Pamela K. Kinney, Dina Leacock, Alex Shvartsman, Ian Randal Strock, Allen Wold (M)
So many short stories start out well but end abruptly or just trail off, leaving the reader to wonder, what’s the point. Why does this happen and how can writers avoid this fate? How do you determine your endings? Is a twist ending a cheat?


Saturday, 11am – Rockville/Potomac

Anthology Builder (Ends at: 11:55 am)
Panelists: Neil Clarke, Ron Garner (M), Robert Greenberger, David G. Hartwell, Mike McPhail, Alex Shvartsman
So you want to edit and publish an anthology. How do the stories get picked? How do you come up with a theme? What sells and what doesn’t? How do authors produce readable fiction in the straitjacket of an original themed anthology? How do you properly curate your anthology?


Saturday, 1pm – Frederick

Crowdfunding Dos and Don’ts (Ends at: 1:55 pm)
Panelists: Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Bill Campbell, Neil Clarke, Jonah Knight, Alex Shvartsman (M), Lawrence Watt-Evans
So you have a fabulous idea or product and a shortage of funds – what do you do. Panelists will discuss successful and unsuccessful crowdfunding campaigns, either their own or those of other people. Topics include how to set reward levels, how to budget how much money you need and the merits of various crowd funding sites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Pozible.


Saturday, 4pm

Author Table Maxey / Shvartsman (Ends at: 4:55 pm)
Authors: James Maxey, Alex Shvartsman


Saturday, 5:30pm – Frederick



Saturday, 7:30pm – Salon A

Mass Signing (Ends at: 8:25 pm)
Participants: Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Sarah Avery, Paolo Bacigalupi, Holly Black, Marilyn “Mattie” Brahen, Neil Clarke, Tom Doyle, Andy Duncan, Scott Edelman, Jim Freund, Charles E. Gannon, Max Gladstone, David G. Hartwell, Alma Katsu, Pamela K. Kinney, Barbara Krasnoff, Dina Leacock, James Maxey, Will McIntosh, Mike McPhail, Sunny Moraine, James Morrow, Sarah Pinsker, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Lawrence M. Schoen, Darrell Schweitzer, Alex Shvartsman, Jon Skovron, Alan Smale, Bud Sparhawk, Janine Spendlove, Genevieve Valentine, Michael A. Ventrella, Lawrence Watt-Evans
The Saturday evening mass autographing session.


Saturday, 8:30pm – Salon A

Awards Reception and Presentation (Ends at: 9:55 pm)

The WSFA Small Press Award winner will be announced. The Guest of Honor Gifts will also be presented.



Baltimore Book Festival

September 24, 2014


I will be attending the Baltimore Book Festival this weekend. There will be panels, a reading, and lots and lots of signing (or, at a minimum, sitting around hoping to sign something). Here’s my schedule:


Friday 2:00-3:00 Writing about social justice in science fiction and fantasy.

Join our panel to talk about science fiction that revolves around issues of social justice here on Earth–and elsewhere. From Ursula Le Guin’s tour de force novel The Dispossessed to the works of MacArthur Fellow Octavia Butler through a plethora of other writers, science fiction and fantasy authors have never shied away from stories that tackled issues of social justice. Talk with our panelists about their favorite examples and yours.

Panelists: Anne K. Gray, Alma Katsu, Sunny Moraine, Alex Shvartsman, Fran Wilde


Friday 3:00-4:00 Signing


Saturday 1:00-2:00 Signing


Saturday 3:00-4:00. Short stories: What’s trending and who are the hot new authors in science fiction and fantasy?

The title says it all! Join our panel of writers to hear about the field of short fiction in SF and fantasy. Science fiction and fantasy have a rich history of short fiction and more ways than ever for readers to find stories.

Panelists: Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Brenda Clough, Jim Johnson, John Maclay, Alex Shvartsman


Sunday 2:00-3:00 Signing


Sunday 4:00-6:00 Reading

(Note: I won’t be reading for 2 hours. There will be four authors, each reading for 30 minutes.)


Saturday 5:30 -7:00 Reception and Meet & Greet with authors, music, and food

Join the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America at our reception, autographing session, and Meet and Greet with our program participants at the Baltimore Book Festival.

Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jeanne Adams, Jill Archer, Catherine Asaro, Jack Clemons, Brenda Clough, Scott Edelman, Charles Gannon, Ronald Garner, Em Garner, Herb Gilliland, Anne K Gray, Elektra Hammond, Justina Ireland, Jim Johnson, Alma Katsu, Cheryl Klam, L. Jagi Lamplighter, John Maclay, Marrisa Meyer, Sunny Moraine, Christine Norris, Ellen Oh, Sarah Pinsker, Caroline Richmond, Don Sakers, Karen Sandler, Peggy Rae Sapienza, Rori Shay, Alex Shvartsman, Dawnyell Snyder, Bud Sparhawk, John Tilden, Mike Underwood, Jean Marie Ward, Fran Wilde, Ilene Wong, Karlo Yeager #SFWAPro


All of these events will be taking place in or near the SFWA tent. If you plan on attending the festival, please stop by and say hello!



New Publication: Icarus Falls, at Daily Science Fiction

September 23, 2014

Icarus Falls” is one of my better non-humor stories and I’m thrilled to finally share it with the readers! Please check it out at Daily Science Fiction!


Podcast: Things We Leave Behind

September 22, 2014


My nearly-autobiographical story “Things We Leave Behind” is now live as a podcast at Cast of Wonders. In itself that’s very cool because COW produce great stories, and I have appeared there several times in the past. What makes this time special is that it marks my debut as a podcast narrator. That’s right — I read my own story!

When Cast of Wonders accepted “Things We Leave Behind” I asked if they had anyone with a slight Russian accent to narrate it. We listened to a few samples, but the narrators who were trying to fake a Russian accent didn’t sound very authentic; they tended to go overboard and sound like Chekhov on Star Trek.  So we looked in vain for a while, and ultimately I decided to take a stab at it.

Narrating is definitely not one of my better skills. My diction isn’t great, I have an accent, and I have no training as a voice actor. But I do like to challenge myself and to learn new skills. So I decided to try my best, and let the editors decide if the narration is acceptable. What you will hear was recoded in many takes (I bought a special microphone recommended by Marguerite Kenner, this one if anyone’s is curious. I learned about using a sound popper and about leaning close into the microphone to speak, and about covering my PC with a thick blanket so the background whirr of the fan can’t be heard on the recording.

These things really do make the recording sound a million times better. I’m still no pro — but I think it came out okay. Give it a listen and see what you think!







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