Indie Author Project Expert Session: Playing the Short Game

Indie Author Project Expert SessionI'll be giving a free webinar on marketing and selling short fiction on Thursday, March 25 from 1:00-2:00 pm, as part of the Indie Author Project's "Expert Session" series. You can register for free here.

The Indie Author Project's mandate is to encourage strong relationships between indie authors, local libraries, and readers by partnering with curators and libraries across the U.S. and Canada to find the best indie-published books.

My presentation will be drawn from my writer's guide, Playing the Short Game: How to Market & Sell Short Fiction, and will focus on rights and licensing, finding short fiction markets, a strategy for selecting markets, submission advice, key contract clauses, and all the ways to leverage second rights (reprints) to keep selliing your fiction.

Here's the webinar summary:

Take your first step to becoming a professional short fiction writer, join best-selling author, Douglas Smith, for this Expert Session on how to leverage short fiction in your writing career. In an engaging and conversational style, multi-award-winning author Douglas Smith will share how to market and sell short stories—and much, much more. Even experienced writers will find value here as Smith takes you from your first sale to using your stories to build a writing career.

Again, the webinar is free, so if you're a short story writer or always wanted to be, I hope you'll tune in! You can register here.

Interview: Plotting in Fiction and in "Symphony"

Symphony ebook coverI was recently interviewed via Zoom by Taipei-based writer, Todd Sullivan, about plot development, specifically in my short story, "Symphony," and in my writing in general. The interview is on YouTube here, as part of Todd's "Plotting in Fiction" series.

In his series, Todd uses voice-only interviews then adds supporting visuals. I think he did an amazing job with his selection of images for this one.

I wrote "Symphony" for a science-fiction short story contest the Canadian literary magazine, Prairie Fire, was running at the time. Prairie Fire is based in Manitoba, Canada, and the contest was to commemorate Manitoba-born "Golden Age" SF writer, A. E. Van Vogt. Appropriately enough, Canadian SF writing great, Robert J. Sawyer, was the judge.

"Symphony" took second place in the contest and was also a finalist for the Aurora Award for best short fiction the following year. I read the opening few paragraphs to start the interview, but if you'd like to read the whole story, you can purchase it as an ebook from my online store or from your favourite ebook retailer.

Watch my recent online seminar on short fiction (for free)

I mentioned in last month's newsletter that I would be the guest presenter on September 17 on ProWritingAid's regular free webinar series on the craft and business of writing. ProWritiingAid is the best automated editing tool I've found and is a regular part of my editing routine for all my fiction. And no, I'm not an affiliate nor am I in any way compensated by them. I just love their software. I've tried many grammar checkers and editing tools, and ProWritingAid is by far the best I've used.

My seminar was based on my writer's guide, Playing the Short Game: How to Market & Sell Short Fiction. These sessions are supposed to be 40 minutes (max) of presentation, and 20 minutes of Q&A. That meant I had the challenge of condensing my three two-hour workshops based on the book, which themselves only cover portions of the guide, down to 40 minutes.

To do that, I focused on how a solid understanding of rights and licensing should drive every phase of a short story writer's career: from selecting where to send your stories first to negotiating a fair contract, and, assuming you've protected your rights, being able to leverage your short stories far beyond that first sale—for reprints, selling to foreign language markets, publishing collections, and much more.

If you're a short fiction writer and missed the Sept 17 session, you can still watch it. The webinar is archived and available to watch on Facebook.

"The Red Bird" is lead story in new anthology

The Phantom Games coverMy short story, "The Red Bird," has been reprinted in the just-published anthology, The Phantom Games. I'm thrilled that "The Red Bird" has the coveted spot of lead story.

I'd mentioned this anthology last month. At that point, the book had the working title Excalibur 2020. The re-titled antho features stories about the Olympics or Japan (or both).

Its release originally was to coincide with the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics (hence the theme), but after the games were cancelled due to the pandemic, the book's release was delayed until the fall.

The anthology is now available as an ebook on Amazon. A print edition will be coming soon. I love how the cover uses five phases of the moon to echo the five Olympic rings.

"The Red Bird" is a martial arts fantasy romance story set in 15th century Japan and was a finalist for the Aurora Award.


Free Writing Seminar: How to Leverage Short Fiction

Doug's Short Fiction WebinarOn Thursday, September 17 at 2:00pm EDT, I will be giving a free, online workshop on "How to Leverage Short Fiction in Your Writing Career" as part of ProWritingAid's free webinar series for writers.

Here's a summary of the workshop:

Learn how short stories can form a crucial part of any fiction writer's career. This session will help you understand the basics of licensing rights for short fiction, why you should always target the top markets, key clauses to look for in short fiction contracts, and much more.

Most importantly, you will learn the many ways a successful short fiction writer can leverage their backlist of published stories far beyond that first sale, including reprints, foreign language sales, audio markets, and collections.

Again, it takes place Thursday, September 17 at 2pm EDT. If you're interested, you can register here.

"The Red Bird" Reprinted and an Interview

My short story, "The Red Bird," a martial arts fantasy romance story set in 15th century Japan, will be reprinted in the upcoming anthology, Excalibur 2020. "The Red Bird" was a finalist for Canada's Aurora Award when it appeared in 2001.

The antho will feature stories about the Olympics or Japan (or both). Originally planned for release to coincide with the now deferred Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, the book will come out this fall.

John Paul Catton, editor for the anthology, kindly interviewed me about my writing projects, my approach to writing and research, and my urban fantasy novel, The Wolf at the End of the World. You can read the interview here.

Watch Three Writers Outline an Entire Novel

Cyclops Road screen shotWatching writers practice their craft would not rank high on anyone's list of spectator sports. Writer stares at screen. Screen stares back. Writer hits some keys. Stares at screen again. Hits backspace ever so many times and starts over. Rinse and repeat.

That's what I first thought when a San Diego writer friend, Tone Milazzo, reached out to the authors in the current (but soon-to-be-gone) exclusive Dark Fantasy & SF bundle, asking if anyone would like to collaborate on outlining an entire novel online in real time for his YouTube channel, Cyclops Road.

But Tone assured us it would be both fun to do and fun to watch. So I and another writer friend, Ottawa-based Matt Moore, raised our hands, and together with Tone, we started to outline an urban fantasy novel about what happens when magic suddenly disappears from a fantastical Toronto (yeah, I got to pick the city).

I'm not sure if it's fun to watch (I think so but you can be the judge), but it was fun to do. We make use of very cool software designed specifically to support this type of collaboration. Matt described the experience as combining breaking a story with D&D-like rules plus that 'Yes, and...' type of cooperation essential to performing improv. We obviously enjoyed the experience, because we came back for more, with more sessions planned.

You can watch the first two sessions here and here. Feel free to post comments there, as we are all interested in the viewer's experience. And a reminder: the exclusive Dark Fantasy & SF bundle ends this Thursday, September 10 at midnight EDT. Don't miss your chance to get eleven incredible books for an incredible price.

Exclusive Dark Fantasy & SF bundle interview: Derryl Murphy

Wasps at the Speed of Sound coverThis is the final interview in my series on the authors included in the soon-to-be-gone *Exclusive* Dark Fantasy & SF Bundle I'm curating for The bundle is the culmination of a nine-month project to help authors whose excellent books were orphaned by the sudden collapse of ChiZine Publications in 2019.

Plus you can direct a portion of your bundle purchase to Black Lives Matter (Canada). So here's your chance to help out a critical social cause and to help authors recover from this derailment.

Today's interview is with Derryl Murphy. I've known Derryl since shortly after I started writing in the late 90's, and am proud to call this talented writer a friend. Derryl has two titles in the bundle. Both are collections of short stories that showcase the breadth of his writing talent: Wasps at the Speed of Sound and Over the Darkened Landscape.

The stories in Wasps at the Speed of Sound are, in this era of human-driven climate change, even more relevant today than when first written. They show us, to quote Peter Watts in the introduction, "eleven ways for the planet to die." I read the title story of this powerful collection almost two decades ago when Derryl and I each had tales in the now defunct magazine Oceans of the Mind. Two decades—and I still remember that story. That is the kind of writer he is. Here's your chance to read these wonderfully crafted and thought-provoking tales.

The stories in Over the Darkened Landscape, which include an award nominee, span Derryl's short fiction career, from fantasy to science fiction, all written in his tight clean prose. This collection also collects for the first time all four of his "Magic Canada" stories, which look at key events in Canada's past through a fantastical lens.

And now for that interview…

Doug: Regardless of whether you write stand-alone books or series, what themes do you think recur in your work or connect the stories you tell? How do those themes appear in this book?

Derryl: I have a solid lack of faith in humanity, which is certainly more prevalent in the ecoSF of Wasps at the Speed of Sound. As of late, though, I've noticed I tend to lean hard into ghosts, spirits, resurrection and body change, even in my science fiction. I think of the story "Summer's Humans" in Wasps, or "Ancients of the Earth" in Over the Darkened Landscape, and how they, along with others, explore how our nature can shift and how those changes can, in some cases literally, haunt us.

Doug: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Derryl: It won't get easier. Keep those sights low and sensible.

Doug: How has your writing process changed over the years?

Derryl: It adjusts depending on the needs of my family, my job, and my personal mental health. I long ago realized that, unless lightning struck, I wasn't going to be a full-time author, and I made peace with that.

Doug: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

Derryl: Being so engrossed in a book at age 8 that, when I went to pee after wiggling around for ages trying to put it off, I instead found my way to the kitchen garbage and relieved myself there, only realizing what was happening when it was too late. Happily, Mom thought this was hilarious. Also, happily, I was a boy and therefore, this was an easier mistake to follow through on.

Doug: As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal, and why?

Derryl: Well, I'm a dog person, and while at first that seems the easy answer, it takes a bit of thinking to agree that it's the right one. Indeed, probably I should narrow it down and say a beagle or any other dog that lets its nose get the better of it. Research can be a (figurative) bear for me, sniffing out one thing and suddenly chasing off after another. But I enjoy these trips, even if they lead me places where the research will not give up what I want or need for the story.

Doug: What's the most difficult thing for you about writing characters from the opposite sex?

Derryl: Avoid the male gaze. I've lived long enough with a wonderful woman to know much about her approach to the world (and I am old enough to know her approach is not part of a generic female take on things), but the 57-year-old me has to remember to NOT take lessons from older books I've read, life "lessons" that set in place when I was much younger, and think of my female characters as objects for men, either within the story or for those reading it. It's something I take very seriously these days.

Doug: If you couldn't write, what form of creativity would you pursue?

Exclusive Dark Fantasy & SF bundle interview: Chadwick Ginther

Tombstone Blues cover

Today, I talk to Canadian author, Chadwick Ginther, in my interview series around the new *Exclusive* Dark Fantasy & SF Bundle I'm curating for

Before we get to Chadwick's interview, just a reminder that this is an *excellent* selection of titles by bestselling authors and rising stars. The bundle is the culmination of a nine-month project to help authors with books orphaned by the sudden collapse of ChiZine Publications in 2019.

Plus you can direct a portion of your bundle purchase to Black Lives Matter (Canada). So here's your chance to help out a critical social cause and to help authors recover from this derailment. Now for that interview.

I will admit to a weakness for Norse mythology and have written a couple of Norse myth stories myself ("The Boys Are Back in Town" and "The Last Ride," both of which are in Chimerascope, also in this bundle).

So, when I had a chance with this project to include not just one, but two titles from Chadwick Ginther's excellent Thunder Road urban fantasy series, I jumped at it.

Tombstone Blues is the second in the trilogy, and if you pick up the bonus titles in this bundle, you'll also get the third book, Too Far Gone. The Thunder Road trilogy is that rare beast—a series that starts out strong, then only gets stronger with each subsequent entry. Come on. Norse gods on the Canadian prairies—what's not to love? Plus, how could you resist a series that takes its titles from Springsteen, Dylan, and Neil Young tunes?

Doug: Regardless of whether you write stand-alone books or series, what themes do you think recur in your work or connect the stories you tell? How do those themes appear in this book?

Chadwick: The theme of “found family” is probably the one that crops up the most in my work, often when I don’t plan to include it. It’s definitely present in the Thunder Road trilogy, as Ted Callan leaves his old life behind at the beginning of the series, creating a new, if unintended life and family in the Norse mythological world, but it’s there in Graveyard Mind, and a lot of my short stories too. I was fortunate enough to make some amazing friends during university who’ve become like brothers and sisters, and still play D&D with my old high school group after more than thirty years (to say nothing of my love of the Uncanny X-Men comic books), so it’s no surprise that this theme sneaks into my work.

Doug: What did you edit out of this book?

Chadwick: The excised piece that got closest to publication in Tombstone Blues, while still being cut from the book was a short interlude in Hel (the realm) with Hel (the goddess) and some of her undead valkyrie servants. I really enjoyed the scene on its own, but within the book, it proved to be a bit extraneous and slowed the pacing. In the original draft of Tombstone Blues, a minor character played a much larger role, but in revisions for Thunder Road, I’d punched up Ted and Tilda’s relationship, so Tilda subsumed a lot of that character’s page time. Not a lot ended up cut, but it required alterations to roughly half the book.

In Too Far Gone, there were even more drastic changes from original vision and draft to the final book. I lost the prologue in Iceland (it’s the only book in the series without a prologue) and cut a bunch of scenes featuring other characters’ POV during the climactic final battle. As with the interlude I cut from Tombstone Blues, loved all the scenes individually, but they stole momentum from the story’s ending. The biggest cut though, was jettisoning how I thought the book would end. As I was drafting it, I sensed it wasn’t working, but stubbornly hung on. I had to pitch almost 20,000 words, but the book and the series was better for it. Those cut scenes will hopefully become their own novella someday.

Doug: If you couldn’t write, what form of creativity would you pursue?

Chadwick: I used to draw a lot before writing became my creative outlet. Mostly it was limited to my characters from roleplaying games, but I think if I hadn’t gotten into prose I probably would’ve tried to become a comic book artist. Comics were what got me into reading, and I still love them today. Those drawing skills have sadly long since atrophied though!

Doug: What was your hardest scene in this book to write?

Chadwick: The hardest scene I had to write in Tombstone Blues is also probably the most difficult scene I’ve ever had to write. However, it’s a pretty big spoiler, so fair warning.

Tilda losing her baby and the aftermath was incredibly tough to write. I’m not a parent. I’ve never lost a child. I do have some generous friends who helped me by sharing their own experiences, and I did a lot of reading to keep it from just being their tragedies transcribed for the page and something that belonged to my characters. I hope I got it right enough.

It may sound a bit maudlin to say, but the hardest thing to write in Too Far Gone was the last scene I needed to finish, which was the final chapter (the epilogue was already done, and I had a blast writing that). The final chapter meant saying goodbye, and the series had been a big part of my life. Still is. I guess I’m not great at goodbyes though, because I keep coming back to the world in short stories and imagining what life might be like for Ted, Tilda, and Loki on the other side of the series.

Doug: What were the early influences on your writing, and how do you think they manifest in your work?

Chadwick: Probably the earliest influences on my writing were my great-great-uncle and my great-great-great-uncle who kept me entertained as a boy with pulpy Lone Ranger and Tarzan stories mixed amongst tales of their time working on the Canadian prairies in their youth. Adventure and the prairie seems to be a mix I can’t shake!

Chris Claremont’s run on Uncanny X-Men made me care about long form storytelling, and Roger Zelazny was the first author that made me say “I wish I could write like that” when I read his Amber books. I think some of Corwin’s earthy personality has infiltrated into the types of protagonists I like to write about—you know, assholes.

More recently, I discovered my love of the Urban Fantasy genre as I began to pursue my own writing career. Authors like Kelley Armstrong, Carrie Vaughn, and Patricia Briggs did a lot to shape how I wanted to create with their excellent long form series.


Thanks, Chadwick! We share the impact that Roger Zelazny's writing had on us. His writing, and specifically his too-early passing, finally convinced me it was time to start chasing the writing dream.

You can pick up Tombstone Blues and Too Far Gone, along with nine other excellent titles, by getting the *Exclusive* Dark Fantasy & SF Bundle from before it disappears on September 9.

Exclusive Dark Fantasy & SF bundle interview: Matt Moore

It's Not the End cover

I continue my interview series with the authors in the new *Exclusive* Dark Fantasy & SF Bundle I'm curating for, an excellent selection of titles by bestselling authors and rising stars, and the culmination of a nine-month project to help authors with books orphaned by the sudden collapse of ChiZine Publications in 2019.

Today I talk with Ottawa-based writer, Matt Moore, whose excellent collection, It's Not the End and Other Lies, appears in the bundle

Doug: Regardless of whether you write stand-alone books or series, what themes do you think recur in your work or connect the stories you tell? How do those themes appear in this book?

Matt: A recurring theme is what I call "personal apocalypses." It’s not that the entire world is ending, just yours—your marriage, your sobriety, your values system, your very identity.

In "Brief Candles," a young couple living in a time of turmoil and social change are forbidden from having children by the tenets of their faith, and come to question their own belief in how a religion meant to accomplish good can be so cruel.

"The Weak Son" has a young man trying to solve the mystery of his own death, but only able to access others’ memories, as his own are gone. A famed monster hunter in "Of the Endangered" comes to realize the town he is protecting may be more dangerous than the monster he is chasing, and the forces he secretly serves may be the biggest threat of all.

Doug: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

Matt: In a high school creative writing class, I wrote a one-act play. I had never written one before nor since, but my creative writing teacher (to whom my book is dedicated) urged me to submit it to the school’s drama department as one of four student-written plays to be performed at a festival.

It was selected. The two plays before mine were romantic comedies about how hard love can be for teenagers. My play was about a haunted typewriter slowly killing a teenaged aspiring writer. Sitting in the audience that first night, watching the performance, I sensed a growing unease in the audience as they had been expecting more of the same and got something different.

But the power of the experience was at the very end, which is a cliffhanger confrontation that ends with the stage lights going out. There was a good three seconds of silence in that darkness. No applause, no shifting feet, no one coughing. Three seconds of What-the-f**k-was-that? silence. And I remember thinking "I got ya."

Doug: What was your hardest scene in this book to write?

Matt: In "While Gabriel Slept," the narrator learns the child he thought was his is the result of his wife’s infidelity. He imagines revenge as smothering someone, but whether it’s his wife or the child is unclear as is if he’s thinking about doing it or he actually does—both in the prose and to me as the writer.

It’s a scene I actually regret writing, but had some feedback praising it for pushing taboos when it was first published, so decided to not remove it from its appearance in It’s Not The End and Other Lies.

Doug: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Matt: Editing, which is when I discover what the story is really about. I’ve had people say my writing it "tight", "taut" and "clean." I’d say it’s overly complicated with way too many moving parts, so I need to remove anything that is not one of those moving parts, but also ensure I have all the gears and pulleys and belts that remain properly calibrated for the story to turn. Sometimes it takes 15 or 20 drafts.

Doug: What character in your book are you least likely to get along with and why?

Matt: Hooper from "But It’s Not The End". In the story, the zombie apocalypse ended when the zombies stopped their violent attacks and began to speak, claiming they were the same people as before they died and demanding to be allowed to live their lives. Hooper, a cop who fought back the zombie horde, doesn’t trust them.

While I sympathize with Hooper as he is a victim of PTSD and has to endure a bureaucracy that has little understanding of on-the-ground reality, he was a cruel bully before the dead rose, and remains so.

Doug: What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

Matt: Following a panel discussion at a convention, someone asked if I was the author of "Touch The Sky, They Say," which is the final story in this collection. I said I was, and this person said "Thank you for that story. I read it at a time in my life when I needed to read it, and it saved me" (or words to that effect). If I win numerous prizes and regularly appear on best seller lists, nothing will be more meaningful as an author than that.


Thanks, Matt! You can pick up It's Not the End and Other Lies along with ten other excellent titles by getting the *Exclusive* Dark Fantasy & SF Bundle from before it disappears on September 9.



Subscribe to RSS - blogs