Saturday, July 29, 2006

Querying After Short Stories

The subject of querying about short stories came up recently and I thought I share the gist of my answer, since it seems relevant.

I think it's perfectly reasonable to query approximately 30 days past the publisher's guideline-stated period. I also think it's in the writer's best interest to keep said query as brief and polite as possible because whether they admit it or not, editors with an overwhelming workload will seize upon an excuse to reject a story and make the stack that much shorter. If it really is a case of a sub getting lost or overlooked, I believe editors will do their best to rectify the situation, but beyond that... I'm not saying don't go there; merely sugesting that if you do, tread lightly.

As far as IGMS is concerned, I am trying to strike a balance that reflects the fact that there are stories that have been out there for almost a year, and a smart editor knows that without stories he has no product to offer. So I’m trying my best to be helpful. I’m a writer, too, and I know what it’s like to be on that side of the equation. If you have a story that you’ve submitted to IGMS and you haven’t gotten an answer yet, pretend you submitted it in June (when OSC hired me), and base your decision to queries from that point forward.

The best advice I have for you is that after you submit a short story to a market - any market - forget it exists and go write a new one.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Writing Advice I Strongly Agree With

1) In what is believed to be the last essay ever written by Frank Herbert, he responded to a question about the most important piece of writing advice he ever got.

“The single most important piece if advice I ever got was to concentrate on story. What is “story”? It’s the quality that keeps the reader following the narrative. A good story makes interesting things happen to a character with whom the reader can identify. And it keeps them happening, so that the character progresses and grows in stature.

A writer’s job is to do whatever is necessary to make the reader want to read the next line. That’s what you’re supposed to be thinking about when you write a story.”

2) Known for his brevity, Larry Niven simply said, “Your reader has his rights. Tell him a story and make him understand it, or you’re fired.”

In a more long-winded moment, he said:

“Start with a story. Tell yourself a story. Are you in this to show off your stylistic skills? They’ll show best if you use them to shape the story. Calling attention to the lurking author hurts the story.

A good stylist really can turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse; and he’ll be forgotten in favor of the average yokel who had just brains enough to start with silk.”

Other advice:

Gene Wolf:

“When you write a story of your own, you start with a good idea. You work hard because you notice the harder you work, the better the story gets. Then you discovered the story doesn’t have the effect on others that you know it should and you don’t know why. I’m going to tell you – watch my lips.

You didn’t do much with your idea. You unconsciously assumed that because it was such a fine strong, sleek and even potentially dangerous idea, it could run the story by itself.

If I could give you one piece of advice…, it would be this: Think of yourself as a wild beast trainer, and your idea a s a big cat in a show; walking out onto stage and saying, “Hey, look at my lion,” isn’t going to cut it. Is your idea going to jump through a hoop of flame? Is it going to climb onto the shoulders of two other ideas and roar?

You’ve got an idea…, and that’s good; now let’s see you put your head in the idea’s mouth.”

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Thirty-Six Hours

Getting lots done, which is good since there's lots and lots and lots to do. But I feel so good about my progress that I had to share. Kids went up to my folks for three days which certainly helps.

Let's see, I finally finished my editorial for NCCNM (which I've been struggling with for 5 or 6 weeks), edited a piece Sheila (publisher of NCCNM) sent me at the very last minute (after telling me we had to cut the current issue from 60 to 52 pages because of increased costs from our printer), got my newspaper article postponed until next week (does that count as getting something done?), edited a humor column for a friend, and wrote the best non-fic article for the that I've done yet (I've only been writing them for a few months now, but I think this one is particularly good. I'll post a link when it goes live in next month's issue).

On top of that, I figured out some important things about my new novel (working title: Waxing Human) and used that info to write a pair of three page prologues (Prologue The First and Prologue The Second) that I think really crank up the tension. I’m excited about the direction things are going with that.

And last but not least, I traded a bunch of e-mails with Kathleen Bellamy today (OSC’s assistant). I recently sent him the complete list of the stories scheduled to appear in the next issue of IGMS. Unfortunately he is, in Kathleen’s words, “utterly buried trying to finish this novel." This is a problem because we’re all hoping to get a new Ender-universe story out of him for IGMS before we post the next issue, so it’s looking like we’ll have to wait a bit longer than originally planned before that issue goes out. C’est la vie. (She also sent me almost as many new stories as I’ve read this week. I think it’s a plot…)

All in all, though, not to shabby for a thirty-six hour span. I guess busy people do get things done. Tomorrow is dentists chair, then graphic designer's office for the rest of the day. I told my wife if I got done at a reasonable time I'd take her out to dinner in the evening since we'll both be in town anyway. Keep your fingers crossed.

Monday, July 24, 2006

One and a half panels

TrinocCon: the short version. (I hate con reports that go on for twenty pages and vow never to post one.) (For the record, I was not a guest at this one; I just went to hang out.)

Hysterical roast of David Drake Friday night; moving but not too somber memorial for Jim Baen Saturday night. Somewhere in between there were panels, I’m sure, but I missed most of them. This was partly due to the fact that the panels were weak in subject matter when they could have been great if they had been designed to let the amazing line-up of guests shine. But they wasted writers like Gene Wolfe, John Kessel and Dave Drake, as well as a host of editorial visitors from Tor and Baen on weak panels like “Humor in SF” and “Violence in SF” and "Do You Really Need An Agent?"etc. etc. On the other hand, I was having such a great time talking with a wide variety of folks that I can’t say for sure I would have attended a lot of panels anyway.

As I already mentioned, Alethea and Steve stayed at my house Thursday night. It was the second time I had ever met her and the first time I had ever met him. But they’re both writers and editors and they needed a place to stay, so I put them up. Then Friday night the three of us stayed at author James Maxey's (we’re all writers and editors and we needed a place to stay, so he put us up).

Saturday Oliver Hanson and a friend, Helena Bell (spec fic poet), also came to Raleigh for the con. So we had three of the authors (Alethea, James, and Oliver) scheduled to appear in the next issue of IGMS in one place. We had a great time. Oliver was the posterboy for patience because he got abused more than any man since Job (as well as being a great source of interest to our she-male waiter at dinner Saturday night (which, naturally, only got Oliver more abused). Helena was the class photographer and I expect her to send numerous pictures, which I will post as soon as possible. And I got to chop and hack large hunks of meat and bone with a real sword, so I was a very happy boy. Nothing makes an editor happier than a big, heavy, sharp sword. You want to submit something? Go ahead, punk, make my day.

From Thursday through Saturday night, I don't think I ever went to be before 2 a.m., so it was a great con. Even if I only attended one and a half panels…

Friday, July 21, 2006

Conventions, conventions

Getting ready to go to TrinocCon in Raleigh later today. I'll be back late Sunday. Should be an interesting weekend; the Guest of Honor is David Drake, who was close with the recently-passed Jim Baen. They're planning a memorial in Baen's honor. Pluss TrinocCon is also hosting this year's Deep South Con, so I'm expecting a bigger, busier Trinoc than last year's was. I'm look forward to it, of course. Cons are always great times to catch up with people I haven't seen for a while.

Steve Saville and Alethea Kontis stayed here with me last night on their way to the Trinoc. Lee (as I mentioned earlier) just placed her story with IGMS; she also has a children's book called Alpha Ooops just out, and has a YA novel on an editor's desk in NY. Steve just signed a seven book deal and has more success stories than there's room to tell, and he and Lee co-edited the critically acclaimed anthology "Elementals." The three of us stayed up too late last night shooting the bull (and some pool), so I guess you could say we started the con right here at my house without everyone else.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

That's Life

I know if you're reading this, you're mainly interested in news related to IGMS and I apologize for having so much business magazine stuff in here. It's just been consuming me to the point of not getting a much of anything else done. I spent most of today and yesterday on the phone with people from the Charlote Panthers (NFL) and the Charlotte Bobcats (NBA), trying to sort out some last details for the cover story for the next isue of NCCNM. It's titled "Pro Sports - The Jobs Behind The Players" (it's consideraby less glamorous than it sounds, and it don't sound terribly glamorous to me).

In IGMS-related news, I did iron out the last of the details on that story I mentioned the other day. It's called "Small Magics" and it's written by Alethea Kontis. I know you'll enjoy it. You'll find it in the next issue, which should be out within the next few weeks. Once I have all the details squared away with Executive Editor Card and Managing Editor Bellamy, I'll announce the next issue's complete line-up here.

BTW, in case you missed it, Doug Cohen (assistant editor over at Realms of Fantasy) interviewed me about my job at IGMS. The interview was posted on his blog (July 14th) and he tells me he's gotten a lot of positive feedback on it. You can find it at:

Saturday, July 15, 2006

As threatened, er ... promised...

And now, as threatened, er... promised, a word from IGMS author Oliver Dale:

A long time ago, in a suburb not too far from here, the aether congealed, the cosmos burped, the fates and muses chattered conspiratorially over crumpets and absinthe. An editor was created. And if you've ever met Ed, or hell, even seen him, you know what I'm talking about. With a collection of shirts that threatens to make your eyes bleed in self-defense, Ed's the kind of writer and editor that prefers the straight-shooting approach: he'll give you a thumbs up or a thumbs down and damn well expects the same from you. Just take a look at some of his previously published fiction and you'll see no auctorial affectations. It's all story, all the way. Orson Scott Card made a smart move by appointing Ed, Ed was smart enough to not object, and now we all stand to reap the benefits.

However, everyone knows that any editor worth his weight in paper woodpulp has a web presence. That's how the world works in the 21st century. We don't yet have the flying cars, or the house-cleaning-robots, but we've got mass-communication unlike anyone imagined. Praise Cthulhu for the internet, with its irreplaceable flash videos and parasitic chain emails. (If you don't pass the link of Ed's blog to fourteen hundred people, you will be sold to a Uruguayan pimp who will use your body for medical research and Saturday night kicks!)

And thus we introduce one more soul to the blogosphere. Since a story of mine was Ed's first official purchase for his magazine, the honor fell upon me to initiate him to the side-show. (If I were doing it authentically, I'd tag him with a meme and demand he fill out asurvey, but I don't have the gumption to do it to one so green.)

So here's to a promising career, Ed, and internet traffic that crashes servers.

It's customary to christen a new ship by breaking a bottle of champagne across its bow. We shall have to leave it at metaphor for your nascent blog as I can't afford the new laptop and dread picking glass shards from the carpet.

At any rate, welcome to the blogosphere, Mr. Schubert; it is indeed a carnival of freaks. A ship of fools. An intergalactic medicine show.

You'll fit right in.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Body Count Remains Low

Well, it's been a good couple of days now. Which largely means I haven't killed anybody. That was a distinct possibly not long ago.

Not too much new to report. On the verge of buying one more story for IGMS but still have a few details to iron out.

It's going to be guest-appearance time this weekend. I've done a lengthy interview with Doug Cohen (assistant editor at Realms of Fantasy) that he's going to post on his blog this weekend:

Also, I've asked Oliver Dale Hanson to write a guest piece for me here at The Freak Show. Oliver is a buddy of mine from Uncle Orson's Writing Class and Boot Camp (class of '04), and his story "Xoco's Fire" was my first official purchace as editor of IGMS. For the record, I only bought the story because he's a friend - it sucks big rocks, really - but that's the way it works in publishing. You don't have to have talent, just Friends (with a capital "F"). Or maybe it doesn't suck. Now you'll just have to pony up $2.50 for the next issue and see for yourself, won't you?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

So you say you want to be an editor?


That's the header on the e-mail I just got from the publisher about NCCNM (the business mag I edit). The rest of her e-mail is below, and farther down is my response.

We laid out a production schedule back in May that called for the graphic designer (a freelancer) to have the issue laid out by July 15. That's in three days. And I find out at 10 o'clock tonight that he hasn't even started! He hasn't even started! We just signed a distribution agreement with Ingrams to distribute our magazine and have orders from nearly 40 bookstores in the state of NC alone - AND HE HASN'T EVEN STARTED!

I can not hit the keys hard enough as I type this. I am absolutely seething...

Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2006 01:47:14 +0000

Dear Ed,

XXXXX needs from us direction on how to lay magazine out....THE he has not laid out anything for us to see.

I know we are all deeply concerned and DO NOT want to fall into any RUSH situations....I am going to attach what I have and suggest that we have a conference call tomorrow.

XXXXX do you have three-way??? I would be available anytime after lunch...what about you ED?

OOOOO, PublisherNorth Carolina Career Network Magazine

To which I replied (with a GREAT deal of restraint):

This is infuriating. We agreed to use the last issue as a template so we don't have to keep reinventing the wheel. The finance column goes in the same place it did in the last issue; the wellness-at-work column goes in the same place it did in the last issue; the networking column goes in the same place it did in the last issue; etc. etc. etc. For him to have nothing is aggravating beyond words! And why are we only hearing about this now! He asked for articles back in the third week of June so he could start laying this issue out. Yet today, suddenly, he's telling us he hasn't done ANYTHING because he doesn't have a manifest? If I had a gun and this guy in the same room...

The Big Day

Well, today's the big day.

When I took on IGMS I knew two things: 1) There was a ocean of stories waiting to be read, and 2) before I could really start reading, I had to get the current issue of my other magazine off my desk.

Well, that day has arrived. Up until now I've just been dabbling in the read pile - I bought two stories and rejected about a dozen others - but now it's time to get serious. I sent the last of the editorial content for NCCNM off to the graphic designer yesterday (and I'll still have to proof the issue a few times before it goes to the printing company), but other than that I have no excuse not to dive in the ocean of stories and start reading. Time to see what strange creatures will crawl up out of the primordial soup and evolve into the next issue of InterGalactic Medicine Show.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

“You have to prepare yourself to concentrate 165 times for 7 seconds”

This has nothing to do with IGMS, but I hope you'll bear with me. One of the reason I got the IGMS job in the first place is that I am also executive editor of a regional business magazine called North Carolina Career Network Magazine. Scott (Card) had seen NCCNM, as well as having read some of my short fiction and the opening chapter to my novel, and in his infinite and indisputable wisdom, decided that those two things together equalled qualification to edit IGMS.

Well, I still edit NCCNM (both magazines are quarterly right now),and one of my favorite parts of the NCCNM job is finding the pull-quotes, which is what I've been working on tonight. Pull-quotes are those quotes pulled from the article (hence the self-evident name) and then planted in the body of that article in big, fat, sometime funky letters to draw your attention to said article. Being the only one during this stage of producution that has actually read all the articles, I'm the one who gets to find the pull-quotes, and it's actually a lot of fun.

“You have to prepare yourself to concentrate 165 times for 7 seconds” - that one goes with an article about Gerald Austin, an NFL referee who lives in NC and has worked three Super Bowls.

“the dangers of social technology are not limited to recent graduates looking for jobs” - that one goes with an article about the dangers of employees blogging under their own names (note to self: read this article closely). Some folks have been fired for writing the wrong things in their blogs.

“This well choreographed message was no accident” - (note to self: see above note to self)

etc., etc.,

The pull-quotes are fun, because I'm looking for that one line that captures the essence of what the article is about, yet is also titillating enough to make people want to read the whole thing.

At least, I think these are titllating. Might just be the glass of wine I had while scanning the articles...

(Note to sefl: go bakc and look for drubken tyops.)

(Additional note to self: go back and re-read article about folks getting fired for writing in their blogs about drinking while performing editorial duties. Idiot.)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Non-fiction? Oh the horror...

I write a monthly non-fiction column for a web-site called The Horror Library. This month's dose: an interview with the owner of a small-press publisher in Georgia specializing in horror and mystery ficiton (though he did tell me he'd like to get more into SF soon, too).

A technical/formatting error repeated the intro and first question. The web-mistress has been notified and is working on it.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

And so it begins...

A little over a month ago I was hired by Orson Scott Card as editor of his on-line magazine, InterGalactic Medicine Show ( This blog is going to be that little corner of the inter-world where the new Wizard of Oz periodically pulls back the curtain - "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!" - and shows you things you might not necessarily want to see. Medicine shows (especially intergalactic ones) have a lot of freaks. Over the coming weeks and months and years, I intend to introduce you to a few of them.

Well, maybe more than a few...