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!






Unidentified Funny Objects 3 is out!

September 20, 2014

image description

UFO3 is out! I spent many hours getting a few hundred books shipped out to contributors, Kickstarter backers, wholesale accounts, and those who pre-ordered. If you haven’t ordered yours yet, you can do so now, from a variety of sources including our own web site, Amazon, Smashwords, etc. Links that are currently live are here and I’ll update the page once B&N and Kobo links go live.

There’s also a Goodreads page for the book now as well.

Pardon me while I go collapse now.




Read “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma” for free at IGMS

September 9, 2014
Artwork by Andres Mossa

Artwork by Andres Mossa

What the title says. Edmund Schubert and his team very kindly set the story to a free read, as a way to celebrate its WSFA Small Press Award nomination. You can read it here.

This is also a good time to remind people that the sequel to this story, High-Tech Fairies and the Pandora Perplexity was also published at IGMS, early this year.  Both stories will be included in my short story collection next year. But you can also subscribe to IGMS and read it now.



An Overflowing Basket of Awesome

September 8, 2014

I’ve been so busy lately with getting the UFO3 print files ready, working on the short story collection, posting Kickstarter updates and other various things, I’ve been neglecting the blog. Again. Sorry about that. I know (or at least totally assume) that you missed me.

So, here is the run-down of extremely cool things that have been happening lately.

* The Kickstarter campaign for “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories” has funded, raising over 250% of the initial goal! There will be an e-book, an audio book, a paperback and a hardcover published in February, and a separate novella-length book released in August of 2015. Watch this space!

* My urban fantasy noir story “The Fiddle Game” has been accepted at InterGalactic Medicine Show and will appear really soon–in fact, later this month!

* Daily Science Fiction picked up two of my flash stories: “Letting Go” and “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” They also recently published their September table of contents, and one of my strongest-ever stories, “Icarus Falls” will appear later this month. I’ll be sure to post a link!

* I received permission from the Russian author Tatiana Ivanova to translate into English her hilarious novelette “Impress Me, Then We’ll Talk About the Money.” I’m almost done with the translation and hope to help it find a great home in the coming months.

* Speaking of translations, I managed to knock off two items off my writer bucket list simultaneously–my first commissioned story and my first Chinese translation. The difference between a solicited story and a commissioned story is that, with the latter, you get paid  when you turn in your work. A solicited story might still get rejected if the editor doesn’t like it. So, naturally, commissions are rare as they indicate a significant level of faith on the part of the editor. In this case, it’s for a super-cool contest in China. My story will be translated and published in Chinese first — the English version can be published sometime next year. I’ll write a separate blog post about this later this year because the contest it’s for is anonymous and I don’t want to give away any details about my entry.

* And as far as solicited stories go, I was invited to submit to a near-future space exploration anthology edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and published by Baen books. This morning Bryan announced the final TOC and my story “The Race for Arcadia” (about the rekindled space race between the US, Russia, and India, told from the perspective of the Russians) will appear in it alongside an all-star cast that includes such awesome writers as Mike Resnick, Bob Silverberg, Ben Bova, Jack McDevitt, and James Gunn, among others.

* On a regular day, making it into what might be the highest-profile TOC anthology of my career to date, would be the best writing-related news of the day. But not today. Today I got home from an extra-tough day at work to find a message of congratulations in my Twitter feed. Apparently, I’ve been nominated for the WSFA Small Press Award!


WSFA is the Washington Science Fiction Association, the fine folks who run Capclave. My story “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma” has firmly cemented its place as my most successful piece of writing thus far, by becoming one of eight short stories nominated for the award this year! Here’s the press release.

There’s some incredibly tough competition, but I’m super thrilled to be considered. This story was the finalist in the IGMS 2013 Reader Poll, and it was on Tangent Online’s 2013 Recommended Reading list, but this is the first time I’ve ever been nominated for an actual, honest-to-God writing award.  And I must say, I like it very much.

So that’s my basket of awesome. I promise to update the blog more often this month. Until then, if you need me, I will be floating somewhere in the vicinity of Cloud Nine.



Arts and Words Show

August 25, 2014


Arts and Words Show is an interesting experiment in art being run by the Texas author Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam.  She asked for writers and artists to submit works, and selected twelve from each category. Then she asked writers to come up with flash stories inspired by the selected artwork, and asked artists to draw new paintings based on the selected stories. The resulting 52 works will be displayed in a Fort Worth art gallery this September.

I sent Bonnie a few of my stories and she selected “The Rumination on What Isn’t” for inclusion. Looking forward to what one of the artists will do with that.

Meanwhile, I selected to write a story based on the art in the poster above, by Bob Crow.  Its title was In Your Future I see a Fish and it inspired me to write “Future Fragments, Six Seconds Long,” a story of a true seer working as a mall fortune teller.

I’m excited to see the art and the quote from the story featured on one of the two promotional posters for the show. If you happen to be in that area, stop by and check it out.



Kickstarter Staff Pick Button

August 14, 2014
Small Kickstarter Staff Pick Button

Small Kickstarter Staff Pick Button

My short story collection “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories” is doing really well on Kickstarter. Not only is it well on its way to the second stretch goal (have you backed it yet? If not, why not?), but it was also selected as the Kickstarter Staff Pick early on in the process. I noticed that many of the campaigns that received this honor have pasted “Staff Pick” buttons onto their cover images, but when I searched through Google Images for a freebie copy of such a button that I could copy, there was none to be found.

Sure, anyone who has even a modicum of graphics design skills can make their own in about 5-10 minutes. But what about those of us who lack even the basic level of such skills? I reached out to my friends, and Iulian Ionescu of Fantasy Scroll Magazine was kind enough to do a quick design of such a button for me. With his kind permission, I’m making it available for everyone else — if you need it, feel free to grab it from here and use it in your campaign! Stop by his site and leave him a note of thanks, but otherwise, have fun. I’m posting both small and large files here, and tagging them so people can have an easier time finding them via search engines.

Kickstarter Staff Pick Button

Kickstarter Staff Pick Button


And, of course, I would be remiss not to plug my ongoing Kickstarter campaign one more time:

Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories by Alex Shvartsman#SFWAPro


Video of the Kickstarter SF/F Editor Panel is Live

August 11, 2014

Last week I participated on the editor panel hosted at the Kickstarter HQ. It was moderated by Margot Atwell and featured five editors. Neil Clarke (Clarkesworld Magazine), Brian White (Fireside Magazine), Rose Fox and Daniel Jose Older (Long Hidden anthology), and me. It was a really fun event, and lots of intelligent things were said (mostly by the other participants!). The entire panel is now up on YouTube.

It’s an hour long, and it felt very much like a panel at a science fiction convention. If you don’t know what that’s like (or if you do, and enjoy those panels), you should watch the video.





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