Culling Lessons

A review of our recent anthology can be found here. Right now, we’re hacking away at our third anthology, and my last with the Bolthole. Although I do intend to very a more in depth analysis of the last two anthologies, I want to wait until we finish Far Worlds before I do so.

But here are my notes on it so far:

The Black Wind’s Whispers

Pros: Unifying plot device linked stories. Niche, easily identified horror theme. Relatively modern setting eased world building.
Cons: Bad submission methodology. Very late print edition release. Early formatting errors.
Notes: Our first attempt. We tried something different with accepting submissions, where as we got a certain number and ‘locked it in’. This was almost the anthology’s undoing when authors dropped out due to time constraints. Will not repeat this method again. Other issues included formatting problems when going to publishing. These were found and fixed and the lessons learned paved the way to a better second anthology.

Marching Time

Pros: Vastly improved submissions method. More stories of surprising diversity. Faster formatting and swifter print edition.
Cons: No unifying plot device. Time travel theme made for transitional difficulties between story worlds. Time management.
Notes: We definitely learned from our previous anthology with regards to formatting, printing and submission methods.  Our synopsis approach saved time both for writer and editor, as we could weed out stories with bad ideas early. It also helped us create a more diverse anthology. On the downside, we let time get away from us and the anthology ended up being late. There’s also no connecting aspect to the stories. None of them are set in the worlds of any other.

Far Worlds

It’s too early to give Far Worlds a full appraisal as we are not done. Our synopsis submission method really paid off though, as we weeded out and suggested improvements to many potential stories, sparing us dozens of similar tales. We’re entertaining the thoughts of it being two books, but we need to see how many drafts we get first before making those decisions. We’re also trying new ideas to help with transitions between stories.

Once Far Worlds is finished, I maybe tempted towards one ‘final’ anthology, independently published and not of the Bolthole, to round out everything I’ve learned. Work for it will not begin until after Far Worlds is published, as then I can examine the new ideas we implemented and decide what works and what doesn’t. I’ll bring that up in the new year.

Writer’s Scars

“Today was not a possibility. It was an inevitability.”

 

So long since my last post, and so much news.

The Black Wind’s Whispers is (finally) out in print edition. Still working on the same for Marching Time, although the Kindle version of that is available. And we’ve been making strides towards Far Worlds, our next Bolthole anthology which is currently in the works.

I’m also stepping down from the Bloghole. I enjoyed my time there and learned so much about the business, but I want to return to writing and writing related projects.

But the whooping news is that a particular publishing company is shutting down. Their printing ends in February next year. And with it, fellow writer Jonathan Ward and I are losing over half our published works.

As I spoke to him, I learned final warnings from the owner. He told me stories of queries from contributors and new authors, trying to find out when the next opening was. Gauging if they could openly submit a novel. He told me how disheartening it was to turn people down and dealing with points of reduced sales.

But despair and I are old friends. Few people know how to hold onto lost causes better than myself or Rhett Butler, and the education given to me by others only serves to enhance my zeal.

But the former point the owner mentioned is a lesson. I’m spoiled because so many new writers dive after novels instead of trying their hands at short stories and mastering their craft. I did a novella once, and have learned that it is better to do as you are asked than try your hand at something unexpected and not requested.

It seems that future writing projects will need to have some kind of buffer. We’ll have to draw our line carefully and find a means to filter that which we do not ask for.

Well, that’s a concern for a future day.

But there’s a coming-of-age lesson here and it starts with the title. Today was not a possibility. It was an inevitability. Every writer who held on has to deal with the moment that the publication containing their works goes out of print somehow. Maybe the one-time rights expire. Maybe the company shuts down, or violates some agreement and has to stop the book from further circulation.

Maybe you knew it was coming. Maybe it’s a bolt out of the blue. But those stories you crafted, the tales that wowed editors enough to be printer worthy, are given back to you. And it dawns on you that, for the first time, your pieces of work must be submitted with the word ‘reprint’ stamped to it.

All of a sudden, this great tale is no longer quite as valuable. Sometimes, companies flat out refuse reprints. Other times they’ll take them… at 10% the cost of what they would pay for an original. “Our normal rate is $.05 a word. But since this has already been published once, we can only offer you a flat rate of $25.”

Or less.

But like I said. Anyone who holds on long enough has to deal with this. Stories do eventually become homeless. I think of accomplished guys like Josh Reynolds, who have or had well over a hundred short stories published. There’s no way they could all remain in circulation.

It’s a day to remember at least. But for now, the following stories are available for only another five months. Get them while they’re hot…

“On Ne Passé Pas!” from War is Hell.

“Happily Ever After”from Under the Knife.

“The Child of Iron” from From Their Cradle to Your Grave.

“The Eyes from 100 Horrors: Tales of Horror in the Blink of an Eye.

Revolver

Six sci-fi stories, I decided.

Six tales of various themes and ideas. Various locations, characters and concepts. Draft, rewrite, retell. Six great stories. Then load them up and fire them at the publishers, one at a time. Careful, calm, steady. Until I finally hit the mark.

Normally, I’d like to think that a great story is all there is to it. But there are things the editors aren’t communicating. Maybe next month’s magazine has a theme they’re looking for. Maybe there’s some element of your tale that bugs them, or maybe someone already published something similar.

Themes. Themes are great. It’s awesome when they have an idea of what they want and can tell you. I’m fairly aware what’s been done before, what’s cliché. I love twisting old ideas into new ones. Hell, that was the beauty of The Black Wind’s Whispers. Old monsters, new tricks. The old is what crafts the new. History writes our future.

My previous publisher spoiled me by flat out telling and explaining what he was looking for, theme wise. And in knowing, I was able to craft tales to his specifications.

But publishers don’t always want to give the game away. I can’t say why… maybe they’re afraid it will stifle creativity. Or they’ll get rehashed with the exact same story by different authors. Black box requirements seem to be the most common aspect of the publishing business.

So six stories. I got one, need five more. Going to organize my stories, sit down and jot up some fresh tales after I finish this fantasy themed tale that’s almost done and due in a week.

The Gator Got Tazered, but the Mole’s on a Roll

Bounce back on the novella. It was my bad for misinterpreting the publisher’s submission guidelines. It’s pretty much writer 101 that when they say guidelines, what they really mean is “rules.” Don’t let The Pirates of the Caribbean fool you otherwise.

I went ahead and inquired if there were any hints about an open call for novellas anytime soon. If an opening might be coming in a few months, why not just wait? I’d rather work with these guys. If not, if they don’t see themselves being open again within a year, I’ll consider whether I should go elsewhere.

But on the brighter side, I went ahead and submitted a sci-fi short story to another publisher. This is a “bigger” catch in some ways.

You see, I usually rate the value of the publisher against what and how they’re willing to pay for your stories at all. Obviously, non-paying publications are the lowest of the totem pole.

Then there are those willing to engage in either a token commission that occurs once, or a sliver of the future profits. The latter of these two is slightly less risk for a publisher, and gives the writer considerably more incentive to promote both his work and the publisher over the course of the contract.

But there are those who pay a better amount for the work on the spot. These particular publishers are a step up from the previous ones. It’s saying, “We like your work enough that we’re willing to take a risk and give you $XXX for it.” Obviously, the publisher expects to make more than the $XXX he gave you, hence your work is (theoretically) profitable and a good investment.

This short story falls into that latter variety. I don’t know whether or not it’s going to make it with this publisher, but I think the story is good enough for someone to publish.

But back when I was busy trying to get The Black Wind’s Whispers together, a few of the guys came forward saying that although they enjoy or don’t mind writing it, horror was not something they wanted to do for their lives.

Now I have higher stamina than they do for writing horror. I enjoyed, and still enjoy, writing it. I will continue to, but I really do want to branch out and try other things. The novella was dark fantasy and this new short story is sci-fi.

But sometimes, it doesn’t feel like writing moves laterally. Sometimes, it feels like you’re back in the small pond again when you switch genres. I’m sure that there are some writers who were told, “Listen, you’re fantastic at (genre they’re done), but you’re not a very good (genre they want to do) writer. Stick to what works.”

And I wonder about that. How many writers thought they broke through the first publication barrier, only to find out that what they really wanted to do still treated them like a beginner?

Would it bug me to spend the rest of my life as a horror writer? … To be honest, yeah. It would. I don’t look down on writing terrifying tales. Especially because it’s a genre that is so poorly portrayed in the cinema (Who knows? Maybe someday my stories will be on the big screen.)

But who wants to create the same thing again and again and again? What I really want to do is be able to talk to someone, almost anyone. And hear what they like to read about, then pick a story of a similar vein from my bag  and hope they like it.

People don’t have to like everything I do. I accept that, cause they’re not going to. But I’d like for everyone to enjoy at least one thing I’ve done before.

The Black Wind’s Whispers, Out Now!

The Black Wind's Whispers, by the Bolthole.

The Black Wind’s Whispers, by the Bolthole.

After months of work, it’s finally here… The Black Wind’s Whispers. Available now on Amazon. (Also in England.)

Included within are nine tales of  horror, featuring new twists on classic monsters, managed by yours truly, James “He2etic” Fadeley. Edited by CS Barlow and Andrew Aston, it features tales by Andrew Aston, Alec McQuay, Simon Howers, Jeremy Daw, Johnathan Ward, Robbie McNiven and Keanu Ross-Cabrera. Cover art by the amazing Manuel Mesones!

But best of all, it includes a tale from special guest author and veteran horror writer, CL Werner!

Get your copy today from Amazon! Smashwords version coming soon!

Pandora

Funny thing about hope. You get it when you open Pandora’s box…

Anyway, it’s been a busy night. I’ve taken the edits and suggestions of both my editors and am about half way finished implementing them. I really meant to be finished already, but the tale is somewhat long. Tonight, I’ll wrap it up.

The closer I get to the deadline, the more nervous I feel. I’ve been making the horrible mistake of reading author reviews on Amazon, of authors I appreciate and admire. Whenever I see anything less than 3.5 stars, my heart sinks.

That could be me soon. That could be the anthology not being the huge success I quietly hope it will be. I trust that the guys brought me their best work and I can votch that it is damn good. And I say without arrogance that some of the guys, like Jeremy Daw and Jon Ward, did some of their best work yet. Better than mine.

But you never know. Bad luck frequently takes the form of bad timing.

How many good movies got crushed because they chose the worst weekend to release? How many books get passed up and unnoticed because some unforeseen event happens that distracts everyone? Or a wave of same-genre fiction crashes upon the market, and a gem is lost in it?

For every factor I can account for, manage or control, there’s 10 other things I cannot prepare for. There’s nothing can do about that. I can’t control the market and I’d oppose anyone who tries.

Nothing to do but relax, finish my work and publish. Oh, and finish reading Valkia the Bloody.

Thalia

I’m working on a blog entry about the BLW but want to lace it with some of the many pictures I took. Same is true of London.

Working on The Black Wind’s Whispers book assembly portion. The contracts have been sent out and immediately, over half of the people agreed.

Call me Pygmalion, because I’ve fallen for the statue of Thalia, the muse of comedy, from the British Museum…

Not my picture. But I will post my own pics soon enough.

I’d like to think there’s something healthy about loving the material. I suppose there’s no way it can disappoint or break your heart.