Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories

July 28, 2014

I’m very excited to announce my upcoming short story collection, “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories,” forthcoming in February 2015 in trade paperback and e-book formats. Here’s your first look at the cover, with art by Dixon Leavitt and graphic design by Emerson Matsuuchi. We may still tinker with some of the typesetting, but it’s very near-final.

Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories by Alex Shvartsman

Ken Liu has graciously agreed to write the introduction to this book, and some other great people are on board to help out (but I don’t want to spoil all the cool stuff at once!)

The physical book will contain approximately 40 short stories (including at least one previously unpublished story unique to this collection). The e-book, in addition to these stories, will include nearly 20 more, offering my complete body of published work from when I began writing fiction in 2010 and until recently (part of the reason for the February release date is to wait for the exclusive rights to expire on as many stories as possible, so they can be included). Each story is going to include author notes — commentary tidbits and (hopefully) interesting anecdotes that relate to the stories. I’ve had so many stories published, reprinted, translated, etc. — but this will be the first time they’re collected together!

To that end, I’m also launching a Kickstarter campaign to help defray the costs of copy editing, original illustrations, and–if we venture into stretch goals territory–some other very cool stuff such as an audiobook version and additional original stories.

If you would like to get a copy of this collection, it would be of significant help to me if you were to pre-order it via Kickstarter rather than waiting until it’s released in February. The more funds I’m able to raise, the better I can make this book.  There are lots of other cool rewards for the backers, too. Notably, every pledge (even if you only pledge a dollar) will receive a FREE e-book 0f Dark Expanse: Surviving the Collapse, a space opera anthology I co-edited with Bill Snee for Deorc Enterprises.

Dark Expanse cover

Even if you can’t pledge  now, please check out the campaign anyhow. There is a video of me in my natural habitat (aka living room), links to some free fiction, and lots of corny jokes. I would also greatly appreciate a signal boost — let your friends (and enemies) know about this book. That way, they can back it, and you can borrow their copy!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/776571295/explaining-cthulhu-to-grandma-and-other-stories

I’ve put in what feels like infinite hours editing anthologies of other authors’ work, and while I love doing that, unleashing an entire book of my own fiction onto the world is a really big deal to me. I hope people like it.

#SFWAPro

 

 


Blog Tour: #My Writing Process

July 21, 2014

Typically, I avoid blog tours. However, last week I was tagged by James Beamon, who is among the few writers I readily concede are way funnier than I am. Plus, I don’t much care for the tumbleweeds that have been rolling around this blog lately (busy Alex is busy!). So here’s the deal: I answer four questions about my writing process, then tag two more suckers… writers, I mean writers!, to do the same.

What am I working on?

My main focus this year has been my first novel. It’s called Eridani’s Crown and I like to describe it as the politics of Game of Thrones meets the character arc of Breaking Bad. While my writing strengths tend toward the humorous and the lighthearted, the novel I’m working on is grimdark fantasy. No one is more surprised about that than me. This is slow-going. I have approximately 25,000 words written. But I haven’t given up hope of finishing the book this year. We shall see.

To counter-balance all the dark, I’m always working on some short story or another, either on spec or for invitation anthologies. Right now I’m mulling over a humorous SF piece titled “Golf to the Death.” It doesn’t help that I know absolutely nothing about golf.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Once again, I tend to write the funny. At first, I didn’t picture myself as a humor writer. My early stories were all serious (or, as serious as pulp-ridden urban fantasy and space opera gets). But then I tried writing a sillier story, and discovered that such fare comes more easily to me. There aren’t as many people writing humorous genre stories than serious ones, so that immediately sets my work apart. Also, I tend to pepper my stories with pop culture references. How Earth Narrowly Escaped an Invasion from Space is a perfect example of such.

Why do I write what I do?

Because it’s fun. I have no desire to make writing my full-time job. I’m not in it for the money (because I could make way more if my hobby involved flipping burgers instead of slouching over a keyboard), and I have no cause or agenda in need of tireless pushing. Therefore, I write stories that are exciting and fun for me to tell.  A lot of the time I think back to myself as a teenage reader back in the former USSR, devouring any science fiction book I could get my hands on. Would the past-me dig the yarn I’m writing? If so, I’m satisfied with my output.

How does my writing process work?

An idea comes first. Usually it’s a what-if scenario, but it could be an interesting character or a cool visual, or even just an interesting opening line. Then I try to figure out what the story is about and where it’s going. The most important factor for me is the resolution. I never sit down to write a story unless I know exactly how it ends.

Once I have the ending, it’s like a lighthouse. I may not have the precise directions on how to get there, but I can see its light in the distance and know the general direction in which I must travel. Every scene of the story must drive it toward that lighthouse in some way. I tend to make up the middle part as I go along, discovering some cool things I may never have intended when I envisioned the story, and doing some worldbuilding. But, sooner or later, I get to the end. Then I tighten up the story and often adjust some of the earlier parts to better jive with the resolution.

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The two writers I’m tagging next are:

Deborah Walker — an extremely prolific short story writer from the UK who is also in the process of working on her fist novel at the moment.

James A. Miller — Jim’s first short story sale was to me, for UFO3.  This is the first time since the inception of the UFO series that I bought a story from a previously-unpublished author, and I’m very happy about this.  Because, when he makes it big, I get to brag about how I’d ‘discovered’ him.  So visit his blog, and give him a virtual high-five.

 #SFWAPro

 


Reprint: Putting It All Together at Freeze Frame Fiction

July 2, 2014

My flash story “Putting it All Together” which originally appeared at Nine Magazine and was subsequently podcast at Toasted Cake, is now available on the web for free as text for the first time, as part of the inaugural issue of Freeze Frame Fiction.  Read the story, and check out this new publication!

#SFWAPro

 


New Publication: A One-Sided Argument in Nature’s Futures

June 25, 2014

AOneSidedArgument

This week’s issue of the journal of Nature includes my SF flash story “A One-Sided Argument,” featuring crash-landed aliens, tragedy, and PTSD.

You can read the story online, free of charge: click here.

#SFWAPro

 


New Publication: “Notes on the Game in Progress, Played Almost to a Draw”

June 14, 2014

My latest flash story is out at Daily Science Fiction this week, and it is free to read online.

This one is dedicated to the memory of Roger Zelazny. Those of you familiar with his “Game of Blood and Dust” will undoubtedly note some similarities, though the tone and the resolution of the story is sufficiently different from his story.

And if you haven’t read “The Keepsake Box,” which also premiered at DSF, early this year, it is now live in the “Pandora’s Box” volume of Timeless Tales.

Both are very short stories, perfect to read when you have a spare 5 minutes. Enjoy!

#SFWAPro

 


Market Report: Grimdark Magazine

June 11, 2014

The following is an interview with Adrian Collins, editor of the recently-announced pro-paying market for gritty fantasy and SF, based in Australia.

Click here for detailed guidelines.

Genres: Epic Fantasy, SF. Stories must be “grimdark” (Gritty, dark style reminiscent of Game of Thrones, Warhammer 40K, etc.)

Length: 1500-4000 words

Reprints: No

Pay rate: $0.05 per word (increasing to $0.06 per word as of July 1). Payment in $AU. (Currently $AU1 = $US 0.94)

 

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 You mention on the site that the inaugural issue of the magazine will lunch by September. What sort of publishing schedule do you expect to adhere to afterward? How many stories will be published per issue, and what format(s) will the magazine be available in? Will the stories be available to read online for free, or will they be distributed as a for-purchase e-zine?

We’re going to get knee-deep in grit once a quarter. There may be an anthology at the end of it. We’ll start out with three stories, one interview, and one review per issue.
So far the formats we’re going for will be available electronically (as an ebook and also via an app we’re currently at the wire frame stage of developing), and in print. Further formats will depend on how much we can achieve in this first year, but we’ll announce those as they come. We’ll be distributing the issues as a purchase only product.

The authors you mentioned among your favorites are generally known for writing long. However, you cap the submissions at the relatively humble 4000 words. Could you talk a little bit about the thought process behind the specific word count range (1500-4000), and perhaps name a few short stories that size published elsewhere that you would have bought, given the chance?

The limit was a mixture of budgeting for sustainability and a firm belief that a great deal can be achieved in a 4,000 word short story. I have forty or so sitting in the inbox right now as prime examples. While I’m not sure on the exact word counts, have a look at some of the works in Dangerous Women and the upcoming Rogues, or the Swords and Sorcery anthology (Joe Abercrombie has one in each). Some eclipse the limit, such as GRRM’s, but others would be under.

On the flip side of that, why not consider flash fiction? There’s some really great dark fare under 1000 words out there.

That’s a fair call. I think our guidelines might need a bit of updating.

The guidelines specifically mention medieval fantasy and science fiction. But what about gritty urban fantasy, steampunk, or mild horror? Would you want to see any of that on submission?

At some point, yes. Right now, for the first release, I’ll be sticking to the subject matter that appeals the most, having the highest number of big-hit authors.

While most readers and writers have a pretty good idea of what grimdark fantasy is (thanks, GRRM!), could you go into a bit more detail as to what sort of science fiction stories you would like to see?

Growing up I was a huge 40K fan. I loved the grim slave-like lives of the Imperial citizens and the bloody battles of the guardsmen. The Horus Heresy, Gaunt’s Ghosts, and Eisenhorn series were three that I really enjoyed. Give me depressing settings with anti-heroes I can’t put down. Give me individuals trying to make the best out of humanity at its worst. Or don’t. Come up with something better. Show me Grimdark Sci-Fi like I’ve never imagined it before. I’ve already received some amazing stories that are beginning to expand my appreciation for the sub-genre.

Can you share a little about yourself? Any previous editorial experience, or publishing history as an author? What made you launch Grimdark Magazine?

My professional background is in business: process development, project management, website content creation and management, proposal and tender writing. I’ve always read anything I could get my hands on. Grimdark fantasy and sci-fi has managed to hold me captivated ever since I read David Gemmell’s Rigante series at uni. As an author, I’ve been submitting to paying markets for a year now and have become well accustomed to the rejections and “nearly there” emails that are the less fun part of running a magazine. I’ve also self published two books. I like to call them my learning books. Those are the two that should have stayed in the desk drawer, but I wouldn’t hand back the experience of doing it if I had the option.

Grimdark Magazine is the realisation of something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. It’s the result of my personal obsession in the genre and the realisation I couldn’t find a pro-paying market for it. Now felt like to right time to give Grimdark Magazine a go, while my personal commitments in the way of children and mortgages are few.

I love that you’re committed to paying authors a reasonable wage, but can you go into a bit more specifics about the rights you’re asking for. The web site just says exclusive rights for a year; does that mean you’ll be wanting foreign language rights? Audio rights? Will you make exceptions for Best Of anthologies?

Paying authors a pro wage just feels right. Up front my bank account may not agree with that, but I’ll go to sleep with a smile on my face when I pay authors properly for the right to sell little pieces of their their imaginations to a hungry audience. At this point we won’t be after foreign language rights, but we will hold on to audio rights. Provided the best of anthologies are printed three months after our publication, there’s no problem with those works being re-snapped up, nor a contract being entered into prior to that three month period ending.

What sort of marketing and promotion do you plan on doing to get the stories you publish in front of as many readers as possible?

As anyone who’s marketed themselves will know, this is always the hard part. We’re not an imprint of Gollancz or Tor, and can’t ride those coat tails. It’ll have to be a lot of hard work across a lot of platforms and a cracking first issue to build reader trust. That, and perhaps a piece or two from some of the premier authors in our genre.

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If you’re an editor of a new speculative magazine or anthology paying semi-pro or professional rates and wish to be interviewed for the Market Report column, please contact me.


The May 2014 Update

May 30, 2014

sparkV

I’m not updating the blog nearly often enough. Sorry about that. Life has been crazy, demands of work, family, and various writing-related endeavors pulling me in every direction. The good news hasn’t stopped though, and here are the highlights of what has occurred since the last update:

* “Icarus Falls,” a 2200-word SF story  has been accepted at Daily Science Fiction and will run sometime in 2014

* “The Perfect Book,” a 1000-word humor flash piece has been accepted at Fantasy Scroll (it was the story wherein I tuckerized a backer of their Kickstarter project) and will run in issue 3.

* Spark V is out, and it includes my translation of “The Ferryman” by Siarhei Bulyha. This is dark-fantasy/horror from a uniquely Eastern European perspective, and very different from what I myself might write. If you want to broaden your reading horizons, check this story out!

* “Burying Treasure,” a 3000-word humorous fantasy story has been accepted by Esther Friesner for the next installment of her iconic “Chicks in Chainmail” anthology series of humorous fantasy featuring female protagonists. In armor.  The book will be published by Baen in 2015.

* “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma” was the finalist in the 2013 IGMS Reader Poll! I’m very excited by this, of course.

* And speaking of IGMS, they also accepted “The Golem of Deneb Seven,” a 5200-word story about the Orthodox Jewish settlers caught in the middle of a war on another planet. I like to refer to it as my Isaac Babel in Space story. “Golem” is going to be the lead story in the July 2014 issue (yay color art/cover!)

* “The Rumination on What Isn’t” will be podcast at Drabblecast in late 2014.

* “The Keepsake Box” will be reprinted in the Pandora-themed issue of Timeless Tales.

* “One in a Million,” a humorous 2000-word SF story, has been accepted by On Spec.  No publication date yet — I heard they can take a little while, but it’s nice to make a sale to a new (to me) venue.

So, yeah. It’s been a good month. The tide of story sales is bound to subside a lot in the very near future, as I am running out of short stories (have been working on the novel instead of writing more). But I’m enjoying it immensely while it lasts!

#SFWAPro


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