Selling Short Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror Fiction, Part I

Sunday, October 19th, 2014 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Asimov's Science Fiction February 2014-smallA little while ago, I blogged about The Economics of Short Fiction and feedback was that there’s interest in a short series (no pun intended) on the selling of short fiction, which is a fascinatingly complex topic.

To be clear, this won’t be about the craft of writing. I’ve got lots of thoughts on creativity and the craft, some of which came out in an interview I gave to the excellent podcast the Creative Writer’s Tool Box.

In this first post on selling short fiction, I want to tackle three important pieces: (1) finding markets, (2) knowing the markets, and (3) knowing yourself.

So let’s assume you’re reading this post because you’ve written a short story, of say 5,000 words, and you’ve never looked at markets before. That’s where I was about eleven years ago.

Finding markets

There are a few places that compile market information on publishers of short fiction. I know some people swear by others for their multifunctionality [like www.duotrope.com or The (Submission) Grinder], but I find www.ralan.com far easier to use because independent of filters, there’s a list I can just browse. I’ve donated money to Ralan because I find this site so useful.

At Ralan, under the banner, you’ll see links to click on Pro markets, Semi-Pro markets, Pay markets, and Token markets (which I believe was once called 4-the-luv markets, which seemed more evocative to me). Pro markets pay SFWA rates, which are 6 cents a word and more. Semi-pro markets pay 3-5 cents a word, pay markets pay 1-2 cents, and token markets are anything below that. Ralan also shows you the lengths they publish and any sub-genres (ex.: sf/f/h means they take science fiction, fantasy and horror).

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Last Chance to Win a Copy of The Madness of Cthulhu, edited by S.T. Joshi

Sunday, October 19th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Madness of Cthulhu-smallLast week, we told you that you had a chance to win one of two copies of S.T. Joshi’s major new horror anthology, The Madness of Cthulhu, Volume One, on sale this month from Titan Books.

How do you win? Just send an e-mail to john@blackgate.com with the subject “The Madness of Cthulhu” and a one-sentence review of your favorite H.P. Lovecraft story (don’t forget to identify the story). That’s it; that’s all that stands between you and a copy of one of the most exciting anthologies of the year. Two winners will be drawn at random from all qualifying entries and we’ll announce the winners here on the Black Gate blog. What could possibly be easier? But time is running out — the contest closes October 21st.

The Madness of Cthulhu collects fourteen original tales, and two reprints, inspired by Lovecraft’s horror masterpiece At the Mountains of Madness. This is the first of two volumes, with the second to be released Summer 2015. Here’s the book description:

Sixteen stories inspired by the 20th century’s great master of horror, H.P. Lovecraft, and his acknowledged masterpiece, At the Mountains of Madness, in which an expedition to the desolation of Antarctica discovers evidence of an ancient ruin built by horrific creatures at first thought long-dead, until death strikes the group. All but two of the stories are original to this edition, and those reprints are long-lost works by science fiction masters Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Silverberg.

No purchase necessary. Must be 12 or older. Decisions of the judges (capricious as they may be) are final. Not valid where prohibited by law. Eat your vegetables.

The Madness of Cthulhu, Volume One was published on October 7 by Titan Books. It is 304 pages, priced at $15.95 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital version.


New Treasures: Short Sharp Shocks 1: Amok! edited by Neil Baker

Sunday, October 19th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Short Sharp Shocks Amok!-smallThe fine folks at April Moon Press have really hit the ground running. Their first anthology, The Dark Rites of Cthulhu, appeared in March and was a major success — so much so that they’ve now launched an ambitious line of dark fantasy and horror books.

The first to arrive is Amok!, a collection of intense short fiction from multiple genres — mystery, thriller, dark fantasy, and outright horror — focusing on the modern boogeyman: the spree killer. Amok! is the first release in April Moon’s Short Sharp Shocks anthology series; the next, Stomping Grounds!, features monsters causing mayhem and misery. They will be followed by Ill-Considered Expeditions (“Pith helmets at the ready for some unfriendly welcomes!”), Spawn of the Ripper, a tribute to Hammer horror films, and The Stars at my Door, a collection of optimistic science fiction.

An unnerving anthology featuring tales of psychological decline and murderous frenzy!

Office workers snap and vengeful ghosts go on a murderous rampage; a giant, blood-crazed pig rubs shoulders with a monstrous alligator while kids experiment with runes and drugs and suffer the consequences.

Ghouls of every foul persuasion tear through the streets and would-be serial killers stalk every alley way in search of hapless victims. Dark magicks destroy cities and brings warriors back from the grave, and madness eats away at the minds of explorers both past and future. Criminals enjoy violent crime sprees while our uniformed protectors themselves fall under the spell of murderous intent.

Here then, are 26 stories spanning a multitude of genres and themes to both alarm and amuse you as events spiral rapidly out of control, and mankind, monsters and minds run terribly, catastrophically, AMOK!

Short Sharp Shocks 1: Amok! was edited by Neil Baker and published by April Moon Books on September 27, 2014. It is 244 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $3.99 for the digital edition. The cover and interior illustrations are by Neil Baker. Order directly at the April Moon website.


Art of the Genre: The Artistic Mystery of The Temple of Elemental Evil and the Turmoil of 1985 TSR

Sunday, October 19th, 2014 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Parkinson does an awesome cover, but don't just this book by that or you'll be disappointed

Parkinson does an awesome cover, but don’t judge this book by that or you’ll be disappointed

Back in 1985 I was fourteen and had recently entered the gaming hobby as a hardcore fan and not a passing-fancy type player. It was during my plunge into the hobby that I began grabbing up whatever I could get on my monthly trips to the ‘big city’ of Lafayette, Indiana. During one of these outings with my mother, who would entice me to go to the Mall or any other boring errands she had by offering to also take me downtown to Main Street Hobbies, that I acquired T1-4, The Temple of Elemental Evil.

It was my first ‘super-module’, and although I’d missed the chance to get most of the original-run TSR modules from 1979-82, I was thrilled to grab this new breed module by Gary Gygax and Frank Mentzer. Little did I realize at the time what it took to actually produce this module. I mean, by 1985 Gary was already on the chopping block at TSR and the company was ready to undergo a massive changeover that would result in AD&D 2E, and the ‘downfall’ of the company as we knew it. Times, as they say, were a’changin.

Now I can’t speak for the inner workings of how this module was made, but it is well documented that Gygax himself began work on T2: The Temple of Elemental Evil after he’d completed T1: The Village of Hommlet in 1979. However, probably due to the company’s rapid expansion and then his departure to Hollywood to work on the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, his work was never completed by his own hand. Enter Frank Mentzer, who completed the module, and finally allowed it to see the light of day six years after players had been introduced to the story line in T1.

When I purchased it, I wasn’t ready to run such a complex dungeon crawl, and so I turned the module over to my friend Mark, who ran me through it over the course of our summer vacation. I well remember running four characters in the adventure, and I’m sure Mark had the same number of NPCs, the bulk of it played on the floor of the downstairs living room at my mother’s house.

It wasn’t until 1988 that I actually ran the module myself, this time with my friend Murph, who was helping me develop my own gaming sandbox of The Nameless Realms. It was another epic ‘run’, and afterward, I put the module away and have thought of it fondly ever since.

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Re-reading Michael Moorcock’s The History of The Runestaff: What I Missed the First Time Around

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 | Posted by Connor Gormley

The History of The Runestaff UK omnibus-smallI don’t do re-reads, not often anyway. I’m usually too busy fighting neo-Nazis in the far future and wrestling dinosaurs on Mars. (You know, normal, everyday sort of stuff.) I decided to make an exception for The History of the Runestaff, however, mostly because I realized I had been recommending the thing to friends for years, but hadn’t touched it since I was twelve, when one of my friends dug the omnibus edition out of some weird corner in our school’s library, plopped it into my hands and mumbled something about multiple universes.

I remember staring, wide-eyed, at the thing, fascinated; the Conan covers might have been brutal and bloody and prominently featured big burly men, but this was strange, this was something different entirely; its pulsing yellows and light greens were alien, steeped in the psychedelia of the sixties (which, as the inside of the book told me, was when the books were written), it completely dashed away my expectations, crushed them under an iron-clad boot, made my little eyes wide. It contrasted brilliantly with the pulsing purples and browns and blacks of the Conan covers, its swirling surrealism was as far away from Frazetta as I had been.

Despite all that, I didn’t get around to actually reading it until a few months later, when my friend convinced the librarian to delete the book from the school files and I, somehow, managed to get him to trade me it for a copy of some other book. So it wasn’t until a few months later that I discovered that it wasn’t actually that different from Conan, anyway.

The History of The Runestaff was what introduced me to sword and sorcery, what truly opened the gate to Fritz Leiber, Edgar Rice Burroughs, David Gemmel, Jack Vance, Karl Edward Wagner, and so many others; it was, ultimately, what led me here. If there’s anything I’m going to re-read, I thought, it should be this.

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Vintage Treasures: The Book of Paradox by Louise Cooper

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Book of Paradox Louise Cooper-smallWell, this is a surprise.

A few weeks back, I purchased a collection of vintage paperbacks on eBay for around 50 cents each (the same collection I found Orbit 3 in, which I wrote about on Wednesday.) You never know what you’re going to find in these things, and buried near the bottom of the box was a 1973 sword & sorcery paperback titled The Book of Paradox, with a typically alluring Frazetta cover. I was setting it aside when I caught the author’s name, in tiny print under the title: Louise Cooper.

Wait a minute. Louise Cooper, author of the 12-volume Time Master novels, and the Indigo series? I had no idea she wrote sword & sorcery.

Turns out The Book of Paradox was her first novel. Originally published in hardcover in 1973, when she was just 20 years old, it launched her career. She became a full-time writer in 1977, and in her 30-year career published more than eighty fantasy novels. Looks to me like Dell just had no idea how to categorize her in 1973, so they just threw her in with their S&S line. The book has a fairly typical cover blurb: “An occult odyssey through the Tarot to an inner world beyond the portals of death.” Here’s the back cover text:

A hypnotically fascinating Tarot adventure to a psychedelic nether realm of mysterious fantasy where lies are truths and truths have no meaning… where terror is real and reality is always questionable…and where a valiant hero must become The Fool to succeed on a perilous quest for love through changing worlds of eternal night.

Myth, mystery and magic abound in a mesmerizing novel of considerable imaginative talent.

Louise Cooper died of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 57 in 2009, leaving behind a rich legacy of much-loved fantasy. The Book of Paradox was published in paperback in February 1975 by Dell. It is 236 pages, with a cover price of $1.25. The cover is by Frank Frazetta. It has never been reprinted, and there is no digital edition.


Join the Struggle Against the Minions of Cthulhu in 17th Century England in Clockwork and Cthulhu

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

clockwork-cthulhu-smallTwo years ago, I wrote a brief New Treasures post about Clockwork and Cthulhu, an H.P. Lovecraft-inspired supplement for the 17th century alternate history fantasy setting Clockwork & Chivalry. A role playing game where giant clockwork war machines lumber across the land, witches whisper of the old gods and terrorize entire villages, and the Great Old Ones seek entry into our world while their corrupted servants covertly follow their eldritch agendas, was simply too much to resist.

I was enormously impressed with Cakebread and Walton’s creative backdrop for their game, an alternate 17th Century England where Royalists, led by Prince Rupert, attempt to restore an absolute monarch to the throne, and Parliamentarians, led by the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, defy the kingship and support the rights of parliament. Imagine my surprise when I discovered there actually was an English Civil War from 1642–1651. Apparently, history is not my strong suit.

A few weeks after the first article appeared, co-author Peter Cakebread graciously accepted my invitation and wrote a fascinating follow-up piece for us, “The English Civil War with Clockwork War Machines: an Introduction to Clockwork & Chivalry,” in which he filled in the details on his fascinating setting:

Clockwork & Chivalry is a RPG set in the time of the English Civil War. The English Civil War was fought between the Royalists (the Cavaliers) and Parliament (the Roundheads). We haven’t veered away from most of the real history, it’s simply too interesting, but we have added a couple of rather big twists – in our setting the Royalists use magick, and the Parliamentarians have giant clockwork war machines.

Who says role playing can’t be educational? Over the last few years, I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment (and rewarding history lessons) out of Clockwork and Cthulhu, and in that time Cakebread and Walton have continued to produce top-notch supplements and games. Here’s a quick look at some of their related products.

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Putting the Epic into the Modern Day Fantasy

Friday, October 17th, 2014 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Tom DoyleToday I’m turning over the Black Gate rostrum to the talented Tom Doyle. Take it away, Tom!

When my first novel, American Craftsmen, went to Tor’s production department, I received an odd request from my editor: could I put together genealogical notes and a family tree for an appendix?

An appendix? That sounded like Lord of the Rings territory, with its line of the Kings of Númenor. My book was set primarily in modern America, with a style that probably owed as much to the techno-thriller as fantasy. How did I end up with a story that required an extra, often-mocked feature commonly associated with door-stopper epics?

Perhaps my subconscious was partly to blame: I enjoy all sorts of speculative fiction, but I was raised on the big epics of high fantasy and those still give me a special kick.

But mostly, I had made deliberate choices to include certain story and style elements based on their own merits, and only after the appendix request did I realize that those elements are particularly highlighted in the epic genre.

So what elements of epic did I put in a contemporary fantasy setting, and for what purposes? First, and my use of this element is the main reason my publisher probably thought I needed an appendix, epic characters don’t just have background detail; they have histories.

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Devon Monk’s House Immortal is Based on her Black Gate Short Story “Stitchery”

Friday, October 17th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

House Immortal Devon Monk-smallLast month, I reported on Devon Monk’s newest novel, House Immortal, the tale of Tilly Case, one of thirteen unfathomably strong creatures stitched together nearly a century ago, who finds herself tangled up in a deadly struggle between powerful Houses for dominion over death itself. One of the things I commented on in my article was the intriguing resemblance between House Immortal and the excellent short story I bought from Devon nearly 15 years ago, “Stitchery.” On her blog this week, Devon confirmed the connection.

[House Immortal] isn’t a “standard” urban fantasy, but more like a science-fiction-y urban fantasy. But even though it’s set in the future a bit, it still (I hope) reads like urban fantasy, with a strong female lead character, some butt kicking, some humor, some trouble that could spell out the end of a world or two, and a host of interesting people and places.

Publisher and Editor John O’Neill at Black Gate noted here, that it reminded him of ”Stitchery” the first short story he bought from me for Black Gate. I’m so happy he noticed! The series is based off of that short story, (albeit loosely) and Matilda, Neds, and Grandma were all first introduced in that short.

Now, the novel went quite a different way than the short story, so I think of the short story as an alternate timeline Matilda may have lived, but not the timeline she is living in the trilogy.

If you want to check it out (“Stitchery” also was chosen for David Hartwell’s Year’s Best Fantasy #2) you can find it in Black Gate #2, or in my short story collection: A Cup of Normal.

I’m very proud to see Devon nurture the terrific story idea she had for “Stitchery” into something far more ambitious. Check out her complete comments on her blog here. House Immortal was published on September 2 by Roc Books. It is 351 pages, priced at $7.99 for both the paperback and digital versions. The cover artist is not credited. The second volume, Infinity Bell, is scheduled to be published on March 3, 2015.


Art of the Genre: A Review of the 5E Monster Manual and its Place in D&D Product History

Friday, October 17th, 2014 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Pick your weapon, any weapon will do!

Pick your weapon, any weapon will do!

So a month ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing the new Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Players Handbook. At first, it seemed to me that I’d be doing a rather standard review, but the more I read the product, the more it began to light a fire in me about what the game had to offer.

New mechanics, or should I say neo-retro, because it seamlessly combines great features of both old and new D&D, had me wondering just how the game played on a table-top. By the end, I fully understood that this was not only a product to be respected, but also that I had to take the first chance I got to play it.

That said, I began to break down the mechanics and tried to extrapolate them into a small adventure that would help new players better understand the flow of the game. It was a truly fun and insightful process, but the double-edged sword of it was that I needed monsters!

Now sure, as an experienced DM with 30+ years behind the screen, I was able to extrapolate statistics from older versions of the game and translate them to 5th Edition, and it also helped to have a copy of the 5E Starter Kit, but if you’ve ever run a game of D&D, you know that it is always nice to have a copy of the Monster Manual close by! So, it is with great pleasure that I get to introduce players and fans alike to just what has changed in the 5E version of the game where monsters are concerned.

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