Lots of cool news (with pictures)

March 17, 2015


Twelfth Planet Press announced the Honorable Mention list for the 2013 Year’s Best Young Adult Speculative Fiction. I’m very honored to have my story “Things We Leave Behind” included on this list! Ken Liu’s story from UFO2, “The MSG Golem” has made the list as well.

You can read Things We Leave Behind at Daily Science Fiction, where it was originally published. You can also listen to the story podcasted at Cast of Wonders, and narrated by me!




The May 16 issue of Crain’s New York Business Journal ran a profile on me in my capacity as owner and operator of Kings Games. All I have is this thumbnail for now, but I’m expecting some copies in the mail and am looking forward to reading the article.




These are the contributor copies of Informator Gdanskiego Klubu Fantastyki, which has been publishing my Tales of the Elopus mini-stories translated into Polish, one per issue. You can also see the PDF issues online, here. (Click on the magazine cover at top right.)


Editor Bryan Thomas Schmidt shared the cover art of Mission: Tomorrow, his anthology forthcoming from Baen this November which includes my story “The Race for Arcadia.” This will be my second appearance in a Baen anthology, after this summer’s release of the latest Chicks in Chainmail volume.



2014 Year In Review

December 31, 2014

This has been an excellent year for me writing-wise. I got nominated (and subsequently won) my first writing award, I wrote some good fiction I was proud of (though not nearly enough of it), and I made a somewhat-decent amount of money from my writing (for a hobby. Definitely not enough money to live on.)

Here are lots and lots of stats, and some conclusions thrown in:

1) I got to the point where I can consistently sell what i write.

I wrote a total of 13 new short stories this year. Of those 13 I already sold 9. (Of the remaining four, two were solicited: one is very likely to be accepted at the anthology I wrote it for, and the other I haven’t sent in yet, as I want to polish it some more.) In fact, of the 13 stories, seven were solicited and I was spared having to shop them around and collect a bunch of rejections in the process.

2) I’m running out of backlog.

There’s only a handful of stories I still have on submission at this point. That’s because while I wrote 13 new stories in 2014, I sold 19 original stories (I also made fourteen reprint sales, and one original sale for a story I translated from Russian.) All of my original sales were to venues paying $0.05+ per word. About a year-and-a-half ago I decided to no longer submit original work to semi-pro venues (with only one or two notable exceptions). I’m happy to say this has not slowed me down. As I hope to spend a lot of writing time on novels in 2015 and do more solicited projects, I expect my submission volume will decrease further.

Which is not to say I’m not submitting. I was no slouch in 2014. In addition to the 34 abovementioned sales, I gathered around 120 rejections! Most of the submissions were for reprints (and in that I include podcast submissions, foreign language magazine submissions, etc.)

3) The money’s getting better.

I earned a total of $1850 from my fiction writing in 2013. I doubled that number for the total of $3755 in 2014. This is nowhere near the quit-your-job money, but that’s not really my goal. Considering this all comes from short fiction sales (this total also includes $600 I got paid for consulting in my capacity as a SF writer) it’s enough to cover the cost of my books, my convention travel, and anything else I spent money on that’s SF-related. I’ll take that.

This total doesn’t include self-publishing income (i.e. money I earned on Amazon etc from my short story sales) nor any money earned by UFO Publishing from the sale of anthologies: this is purely income generated by my creative writing.

4) Editing and publishing continues to be really fun.

I edited two anthologies this year: UFO3 and Dark Expanse. Both have received solid reviews and enjoy reasonably good sales. I also wrote intros and otherwise prepared for publication my very first short story collection, which is only a month away from it’s release date and I’m extremely excited about its release. I have also done some preliminary work on UFO4. You’ll be hearing lots more about it in the spring.

5) What’s ahead.

In addition to UFO4 there’s another anthology project I’m working on. My agent is negotiating with a major publisher for that one. There’s no deal reached yet, and if one is reached the book will likely not hit shelves until 2016, but you will hopefully be hearing more about it in the coming months.

In terms of writing, I am ready to get back to my novel-in-progress and hope to concentrate on it over the coming months. I’ll still produce an occasional short story, because they’re really fun, and I’ll still translate some stuff, but the novel has to take priority or I’ll never get it done.

I will also attend more conventions this year. I already booked my WorldCon and World Fantasy memberships. You will likely find me at Vericon, Fogcon, Balticon, and Capclave this year, and possibly others, too!

So that’s my 2014 writing recap. And as I post it to the blog at 10:30 on New Year’s Eve, my plan is to go back to writing and only stop around midnight. Because they say how you ring in the new year is how that year is going to go for you. Or something like that.





Paying Back, 2014 Edition

December 23, 2014

This is my annual post about supporting the free Internet resources that you find especially useful. Despite them being–well–free, websites cost a lot to run, both in terms of paying for hardware, hosting and bandwidth, and especially in terms of the endless hours of time the webmasters are volunteering.

Because of this, I donate a bit of money each December to the sites I’ve used the most over the course of the previous year. The list of writing-related sites isn’t really different from the last time around:

* Codex Writers

This is a community of neo-pro writers. It’s not open to the public, but anyone who has made a professional sale or has attended a pro-level writing workshop (such as Viable Paradise, Clarion, etc.) qualifies for membership and should apply. I find the forum incredibly useful and visit it on the daily basis.

* The Submission Grinder

This free alternative to Duotrope launched when DT ceased to offer a free membership option and asked its members for $50-60 a year for the service. Submissions Grinder works just as well, at least for the speculative fiction markets that interest me, and while I feel $50 is too much for the way I use a site like this, I’m happy to donate the same $20 a year I used to give to Duotrope. For those of you who might not already be familiar with DT and Grinder, they’re wiki-type services that help writers track their submissions as well as provide a database of fiction markets.

* Absolute Write

I haven’t spent as much time on the Absolute Write forums this year, but they deserve support for both providing excellent forums for write0r-folk, and for being vocal advocates against disreputable publishers, agents, and anyone else who might choose to prey upon ill-informed or new authors.

Of course, it’s also important to support authors and editors and everyone else involved in creating the fiction you like to read. To that end, please consider doing some of the following:

* Subscribe to magazines you enjoy reading, even ones you can read online for free.
* Support Kickstarter and other crowdfunding projects by your favorite creators.
* Buy their books, music, comics, or whatever else you enjoy.
* Take a moment to write a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or any other site where you might buy books. It will cost you nothing, but is actually very helpful to authors and publishers.



Tales of the Elopus

August 9, 2014


I wrote a total of 14 micro-stories for the GISHWHES contestants in the past week, and now I’m going to post them for people to read, one at a time, as updates in my Kickstarter campaign.  They are free for everyone to read, whether you back the campaign or not, so check out today’s story “The Most Dangerous Game” here, and check back daily for more tales!

I’m also very excited that the campaign has reached its first stretch goal. Now it’s on to the Big One — the audio book which will unlock if the campaign raises $4000+. I’m very excited about the possibility of working with Tina Connolly on the audio book and feel optimistic about being able to reach that goal — there is still 18 days remaining in the campaign.

Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories by Alex Shvartsman

Click on the cover to visit the Kickstarter campaign!



August 5, 2014


If you’re a popular science fiction writer, chances are you’ve been inundated with requests in the last few days. People–sometimes fans, sometimes total strangers–have been asking you to write micro-fiction. The more famous the writer, the more such requests.

So what’s going on? There’s an actor named Misha Collins (a star of Supernatural TV series) who runs a very popular Internet scavenger hunt called GISHWHES — or Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen.” Teams of players race to complete fun and wacky tasks, such as snapping a photo of elderly people mud wrestling, staging a water balloon fight set to opera music, etc. They score points for each item completed, based on the difficulty of the challenge.

This year, Misha Collins also directed his minions to do this:

Get a previously published Sci-Fi author to write an original story (140 words max) about Misha, the Queen of England and an Elopus.

An Elopus is sort of like a Cthulhuphant — half elephant, half Octopus pictured in their logo above.

Cue the many Big Name writers befuddled by all the requests:

And those are the polite tweets. Some authors are quite mad at Misha for doing this.

Personally, I’m of two minds about this. On one hand, I feel that Misha has done nothing wrong. No one is forcing any writer to participate in this exercise. It’s completely voluntary, and many of my colleagues welcomed the chance to help out the contestants while picking up a few potential new readers/fans.

On the other hand, I feel strongly that writers shouldn’t be expected to produce commissioned stories for free. Even tiny little micro-stories of under 140 words.  It may not take very long to write one, but a good writer spent years polishing their skills and there’s value in that. Also, there are other important things they could be doing with that time.

This afternoon I stumbled upon a brilliant post by Michael A. Burstein whereupon he offered to write these stories in exchange for at least one team member picking up a copy of one of his books. This seemed like a very fair and rational way to approach the situation, so naturally I stole it.

The idea meshed perfectly with my ongoing Kickstarter campaign to fund my short story collection. So I posted an update on Kickstarter and share it on social media, basically offering the following:

* I will write a Misha story for free for anyone who is already a backer of my campaign.
* If anyone wants one who isn’t a backer, all they have to do is pledge $10+ to the campaign, and they will get a micro-story for their team out of it AND all the rewards that go with whatever level of pledge they select.
* I will post all the micro-stories I write in this fashion as backer updates on Kickstarter (set to private, so only backers can see them, thereby protecting First Rights in case I ever want to do anything else with those stories.)

This worked out really well. Over the course of the evening, I managed to adopt a total of four GISHWHES teams. I already wrote and sent stories for the first three teams (and I must say, I’m pleased with how those stories turned out!) Going to write the fourth tomorrow, and any more that come in (a couple of other folks expressed interest.) I also raised almost $100 extra for my campaign, and exposed it to a whole bunch of new readers because so many people were kind enough to retweet my offer.

My offer is still open to interested GISHWHES teams. And there are other options, too. Lots of other great writers are willing to work with you — including the above-mentioned Michael Burstein, and Nathaniel Lee, who is the master of micro-fiction! So please, take advantage of our skills and our imaginations. So long as there’s a fair quid pro quo involved.



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.


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.



An Awesome Way To Say No

March 22, 2014


It isn’t often that a rejection makes my day, but today one did.

I submitted a humor flash story to a brand-new market called Ruthless People’s Magazine (which you should all check out, since they’re offering an extremely competitive $100 per flash story pay rate). The story is about a hapless writer who can’t get his work published, and contained the following bit of dialog:

“They bounced ‘No Quarter’ without so much as a personal comment,” he said.

I racked my brain. “Is that the epic fantasy retelling the War of the Ring story from the point of view of the Ents?”

“No. I sent that one to Colossal Fiction just the other week. ‘No Quarter’ is an existential literary prose poem about the narrator’s inability to pay at a parking meter.”

Although RPM didn’t want this story, not only did they respond within hours, but the editor included the following at the bottom of his reply:


Canto the First

Cannot park here. Cannot be here. Pockets empty. Property—now beholden to the hexing, vexing State. No quarter. No quarters. No place in this world. I stand beside this parking meter. Pockets empty. This Grey Maypole, phallic intrusion into God’s own space. I want to grip it. Shake it! Strangle it! Choke the chicken livered authority. But who am I? Am I am, at all. Rage, empty! Impotence of steel! My vehicle is carried off and I am all – up ended. Inverted! Pockets empty. The Quarter Master mocks and pins a ticket to my brow. Am I here, circular, boundaried—no. I am quarterlessly quartered and rendered/dismembered non-Euclidian. My parallels? Parked. In this Pocket Universe I HAVE CEASED TO BE.

Heh. Damned thing writes itself.

So there you go — in case you ever wondered what an existential literary prose poem might be like.

I shall have to submit more material there, and soon!




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 217 other followers