Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Burstein named president of SASS

Distinguished science fiction author Michael A. Burstein has taken office as the first permanent president of the Society for the Advancement of Speculative Storytelling, Inc. (SASS), as of Jan. 1, 2014.

SASS was incorporated as a non-profit group in the State of Texas on July 30, 2012. It is dedicated to encouraging and mentoring aspiring and new writers of speculative fiction. In so doing, its activities shall include, but not be limited to, keeping its members informed of issues within the field, providing avenues of constructive critique and collegial discussion for its members, and encouraging interest and appreciation for all aspects of speculative fiction in multiple media.

SASS expressly disavows any socio-political goals while asserting the right of its members to discuss and explore any and subjects in speculative fiction writing. Members are expected to be respectful of each other at all times.

Burstein leads a nine-member Board of Directors, including Vice-President Brad Torgersen, Secretary Lou Antonelli, Treasurer Shedrick Pittman-Hassett, and members at large Bruce Bethke, Dario Ciriello, Park Cooper, Liz Burton and Rie Sheridan Rose.

The group's web page is:

Its Facebook page is:


Information on the members of the SASS Board of Directors follows:

President - Michael A. Burstein, Brookline, Massachusetts
Michael A. Burstein is a multiple Hugo and Nebula nominee, a former Secretary of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), and a former Vice-President of the New England Science Fiction Association(NESFA) . His  first published story, "TeleAbsence," appeared in the July 1995 issue of Analog, and was nominated for the Hugo Award.  Burstein won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at the 1997 World Science Fiction Convention.

Vice President - Brad Torgersen, Sunset, Utah
Brad R. Torgersen was a winner in the 2009 Writers of the Future contest, and has been published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact and InterGalactic Medicine Show. His 2010 novelette "Outbound" won the Analog reader's poll, and his 2011 novelette "Ray of Light" was nominated for both the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award. He was nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2012.

Secretary - Lou Antonelli, Mount Pleasant, Texas
Louis S. Antonelli's first short story, "A Rocket for the Republic", was the last story bought by Gardner Dozois before he retired after 19 years as editor of Asimov's Science Fiction. He has published 81short stories since 2003 in magazines in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and India. His time storm story, "Great White Ship", published by Daily Science Fiction in 2012, was a finalist for the Sidewise Award in alternate history.

Treasurer - Shedrick Pittman-Hassett, Denton, Texas
Shedrick Pittman-Hassett is a professional librarian and has had several pieces published in professional journals. An aspiring speculative fiction writer, he has received honorable mentions in a number of writing competitions, including Writers of the Future. He is also an avid gamer and has had two pieces published in the award-winning Knights of the Dinner Table magazine.

Board members-at-large:

Bruce Bethke - Oakdale, Minnesota:  Publisher of Stupefying Stories

Liz Burton - Austin, Texas:  Executive Editor of Zumaya Publications

Dario Ciriello – San Francisco, California:  Editor and Publisher, Panverse Publishing

Park Cooper - Austin, Texas:  Writer of prose and graphic novels, co-owner of Wicker Man Studios

Rie Sheridan Rose -- Austin, Texas:  Small press author and lyricist

Saturday, December 7, 2013

It's book bomb time for "Raygun Chronicles"!

It's book bomb time for the brilliant new Space Opera anthology "Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age". It's release day was Tuesday, Dec. 3, so this is the first weekend you can log onto Amazon and buy your copy here:

If you haven't read about it already, here is the cover blurb:

"A school teacher who moonlights as an assassin, a corporate agent kidnapped and faced with a man she never wanted to see again, galactic knights and pilots defending the spaceways, a black bear who wants to be a priest, and a time traveler who discovers he was born a prince - these and more tales await you inside "Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age", a collection of new tales in the Golden Age style.

"With larger than life heroes, rayguns, space ships, robots, pirates, romance and more, here come 25 new tales of great fiction from top names like Seanan McGuire, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, A.C. Crispin, Allen M. Steele, Mike Resnick, David Farland and more. Strap in, set your weapons, and get ready for a fun ride!"

My contribution is a reprint of a story that was originally published in Raygun Revival in 2009. Writing on the Amazing Stories blog, reviewer Keith West said:

"Lou Antonelli is a northerner who lives in Texas these days and mines the history and folklore of his adopted state for his fiction, fiction that’s unique and unlike anything being written by anyone else. In “The Silver Dollar Saucer” he takes a couple of two bit desperadoes on a flying saucer ride."

Other reviewers report:

"RAYGUN CHRONICLES breathes supercharged life into the space opera genre with exciting and inventive new tales by a superb line-up of writers. This is why science fiction will live forever!"--Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of "Patient Zero".

"RAYGUN CHRONICLES is an impressive anthology with an impressive list of contributors, a real showcase of the color and scope of what science fiction can be."--Kevin J. Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of the "Saga of Seven Suns".

"Wonder, adventure, romance, humor-space opera delivers all of these, and this anthology brings together some of the finest talent in the business. Strange new worlds await. So lower your shields, engage your thrusters, and prepare to jump to warp speed!" -- Dave Wolverton, New York Times bestselling author of "Star Wars: The Courtship of Prince Leia".

"These stories bring the reader back to the days when we dreamt of blasters and flying cars. Golden age space opera fun with a strong Western feel." -- Alex Shvartsman, Editor "Unidentified Funny Objects".

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Latest member publication

SASS member Michael Ashleigh Finn's short story "Sign of the Times" has been published in the anthology "Dirty Magick: Los Angeles" released on Kindle Nov. 15 by Lucky Mojo Press.

"Many practice the art, but the bands of rogues who stalk the city with profit and power as their only motive use the magic as it was never intended. “Dirty Magick: Los Angeles” is the new urban fantasy anthology from Lucky Mojo Press.

"Focusing on the intersection of two genres (fantasy and detective/crime), this collection highlights the place where magic survives and flourishes in the concrete heartbeat of Hollywood. Here are the ne'er-do-wells who use magic to commit crime and the hard boiled wizards who would stop them."

Michael's story  focuses on Nikolas Wormwood, a private consultant having to deal with grifter that appears to have been possessed by an Indian Mara demon in 1940's Hollywood.

You can order the anthology here:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Latest member publication

The British mag Fevered Dreams has just come out with its Issue No. 3, which features Lou Antonelli's story "The Stinky Men". This is the story he wrote on a Smith Corona Classic 12 portable typewriter in the Dealers Room at ArmadilloCon in Austin in 2011.

This story is a blatant homage to Howard Waldrop's "The Ugly Chickens" and in fact an alternate universe version of Howard appears as "Professor Waldrup" from the anthropology department of the University of Texas.

You can download a free PDF of this issue, all 99 pages, here.

This is Antonelli'ssixth story published this year, his 81st since 20

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Member News

SASS Secretary Lou Antonelli was a finalist for this year's Sidewise Award for alternate history. The award presentation was done at noon Saturday, Aug. 31, at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio at Lone Star Con 3, the 71st annual world science fiction convention. Sidewise winner Rick Wilber is shown with his award, flanked by Antonelli and fellow finalist Cat Valente.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Member news

Issued this spring in its Kindle edition, the Song Stories anthology is now available as a paperback.

It features a short story by Lou Antonelli, "Hearts Made of Stone", set in the Freedom Rider Era of the Civil Rights movement in East Texas.

These Song Stories are stories from across the globe, from across the genre spectrum, unified by the inspiration of song. A lyricist has the immense challenge of capturing an entire story in a handful of verses Some melodies convey a story without a single word. What stories might have arisen if the lyricists and composers chose to share their stories in a different medium? Sit back, relax, and spend some time with an old friend, or find a new one.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Member news

SASS Vice President Brad Torgerson has his first collection coming out soon. Here is the table of contents:

“Outbound” (Analog, Nov 2010)
“Gemini 17″ (Jim Baen Memorial Contest anthology, Baen Books, 2015)
“Influences: Allan Cole & Chris Bunch”
“The Bullfrog Radio Astronomy Project” (Analog, Oct 2011)
“Exiles of Eden” (Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Issue #22)
“Writer Dad: Mike Resnick”
“Footprints” (Licton Springs Review, 2002)
“The Exchange Officers” (Analog, Feb/Mar 2013)
“Essay: On the Growth of Fantasy and the Waning of Science Fiction” (Writers of the Future web site)
“The Chaplain’s Assistant” (Analog, Sept 2011)
“The Chaplain’s Legacy” (Analog, Jul/Aug 2013)
“The Hero’s Tongue: Larry Niven”
“Exanastasis” (L. Ron Hubbard presents Writers and Illustrators of the Future, XXVI)
“Ray of Light” (Analog, Dec 2011)

The book contains also contains introductions by Stanley Schmidt, Mike Resnick and Allan Cole.

About the collection, Brad says: "Included in the book are a lot of personal comments on each of the stories, as well as thoughts and musings about writing, my friends and mentors in the business, and so forth. This book should be rolling of the press in time for SLC ComiCon 2013, in September."

The artwork is by Hugo winner Bob Eggleton\.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Statement on the expulsion of a member by another writers' organization

In response to requests for comments regarding the decision of another writers' group to formally expel a lifetime member, SASS Secretary and spokesman Lou Antonelli makes the following statement:

"Although the subject in question was exercising his free speech rights under the First Amendment to the US Constitution, that has nothing to do with the standards of conduct and behavior within a private organization

"Like any private club, the organization in question is allowed to police its membership according to its regulations and bylaws. This is an internal discipline issue and not a matter of concern to the Society for the Advancement of Speculative Storytelling.

"The by-laws of the Society for the Advancement of Speculative Storytelling clearly state that members should not discuss religion or politics within its auspices, and its members are expected to treat each other with respect. Those are our bylaws, and each group operates according to its own bylaws and policies.

"It might be useful to note - especially for non US citizens - that because of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, and its free speech guarantees, there is no professional licensing or certification of any communication media in this country. There is no such thing as a licensed journalist, there is no certifying group for authors or writers. SASS, as well as similar groups, are private and voluntary by nature, regardless of reputation and/or behavior. This is not the same in all countries.

"Like many authors, I belong to more than one writer's organization. Which group you join or belong to is a personal decision, and how any group takes care of its own is a private matter."

(The Society for the Advancement of Speculative Storytelling, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging and mentoring aspiring and new writers of speculative fiction. SASS was incorporated as a non-profit group in the State of Texas on July 30, 2012. Members of SASS have been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, Sidewise, Prometheus, British Science Fiction Association, and Rhysling Awards, and won the Writers of the Future and the Philip K. Dick Award.)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Interview with Park Cooper

From the web site Nerd Titan, and interview by Steve Saunders:

"We caught up with writer Park Cooper, recently, about his latest offering coming up from Angry Viking Press, the rollicking, rockerboy-murdering, zombietech cyberpunk thrill-ride SWIPE.

"Do you like Heavy Metal? The comics magazine, I mean– but the music helps, too. Are you like me , wishing that there was more cyberpunk, Blade-Runnery fiction out there… while you watch a bunch of drunken medieval twits assassinate and have sex with one another? (Not that I mind, mind… I love that stuff.)

"Anyhow, I shot Park a few questions. Here’s what went down."
To read the interview, click here:

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Member news

SASS member Bruce Bethke is the subject of the latest installment on the blog "Six Questions For... Where editors and publishers discuss writing flash fiction, short stories, poetry, and novels."

To read Bruce's interview, click here:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Recommended venue

Voluted Tales magazine features a mixture of scifi, fantasy, steampunk, horror, and some nice artwork. News items or non-fiction articles, such as reports from cons, awards and other events related to the field are welcomed, as areinterviews and reviews. They have scheduled to feature an article about SASS in their September edition.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Member News

Lou Antonelli has signed and sent off contract to Every Day Publishing Ltd. for “The Silver Dollar Saucer" to be reprinted in the anthology "Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera for a New Age".

"Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera for a New Age" is the first-ever crowdfunded project for Every Day Publishing, an ambitious anthology of space opera stories from some of the finest voices in science fiction writing today; 23 contemporary stories capturing the classic golden age feel of space opera past.

Editor Bryan Thomas Schmidt secured commitments from some amazing authors: Mike Resnick, A.C. Crispin, Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Sarah A. Hoyt, Robin Wayne Bailey, Brenda Cooper, Allen Steele, Seanan McGuire, Peter J. Wacks, Keanan Brand, Milo James Fowler, Michael S. Roberts, Michael Merriam, T.M. Hunter, Robert Mancebo, Alice M. Roelke, Lou Antonelli, Paula R. Stiles, Jenny Schwartz, A.M. Stickel, Shaun Farrell, Jennifer Campbell-Hicks.

"The Silver Dollar Saucer" was originally published in Ray Gun Revival in 2009.

There will be three editions of "Raygun Chronicles" -a clothbound hardcover gift edition with glossy full-colo
r dust jacket for book lovers and collectors, a trade paperback edition with glossy full-color perfect bound cover for those who prefer something more economical and lighter in hand, and of course an e-book edition for e-readers and mobile devices.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Member News

The Sidewise Award judges are pleased to announce this year's nominees for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History.  The winners will be announced at LoneStarCon 3, this year's Worldcon, in San Antonio, Texas during the weekend of August 29.  The Sidewise Awards have been presented annually since 1995 to recognize excellence in alternate historical fiction. This year's panel of judges was made up of Stephen Baxter, Evelyn Leeper, Jim Rittenhouse, Stu Shiffman, Kurt Sidaway, and Steven H Silver.

Short Form

* Lou Antonelli, “Great White Ship” (DailySF, 5/11/12)
* Sean McMullen, “Steamgothic” (Interzone 241, 7-8/12)
 * Ian Sales, “Adrift on the Sea of Rains” (Whippleshield Books)
* Catherynne Valente, “Fade to White” (Clarkesworld Magazine #71, 8/12)
* Rick Wilber, “Something Real” (Asimov’s, 4/12)

Long Form

* Thomas Brennan, Doktor Glass (Ace)
* Mark Hodder, Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon (Pyr, Snowbooks)
* Jack McDevitt & Mike Resnick, The Cassandra Project (Ace)
* Matt Ruff, The Mirage (Harper)
* C. J. Sansom, Dominion (Mantle, Pan McMillan)

The Sidewise Awards for Alternate History were conceived in late 1995 to honor the best allohistorical genre publications of the year. The first awards were announced in summer 1996 and honored works from 1995. The award takes its name from Murray Leinster's 1934 short story "Sidewise in Time," in which a strange storm causes portions of Earth to swap places with their analogs from other timelines.

Lou Antonelli is a founding member of SASS and currently secretary of the organization.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Recommended Venue: Stupefying Stories

The incredible SECOND issue of STUPEFYING STORIES SHOWCASE is out of the gates and already up and running on it's new permanent home, http://www.StupefyingStoriesSHOWCASE.com. Featuring four new stories by Robert Lowell Russell, Franziska Louise, Robert Bagnall, and Joy Bernardo, it's tested, ready (mostly), and best of all, FREE!

Member Showcase

After a four-year run, the World SF blog recently closed down. Over the years it published 60 original short stories. One of them was "Irredenta" by SASS member Lou Antonelli, published March 15, 2011. Here is a link where it is archived:

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Private writers forum

SASS now has a private writers forum for members to critique and share stories. All current members should have received an invite to be an author via the email supplied on their membership application.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Member news

SASS Secretary Lou Antonelli has sold another story, this time to Carol Hightshoe at The Lorelei Signal, who will publish "Bindlestiff's Daughter" in the October 2013 issue.

The Lorelei Signal is a web based magazine dedicated to featuring strong female characters in Fantasy short stories.

"Bindlestiff's Daughter" will also be published in November in Mystic Signals, which is a print publication that includes all of the stories published in The Lorelei Signal and Sorcercous Signals, both products of Woilfsinger Productions.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Member Showcase

SASS Vice President Brad Torgerson has a story in the second issue of Galaxy's Edge, "The Flamingo Girl"
Click here to read his story. And congrats, Brad!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Recommended venue: 4 Star Stories

Illustration from "How to Have Fun at the Family Funeral" by Laura J. Underwood.
David Gray and Mary Gearhart-Gray are members of SASS and the editors of 4 Star Stories. Here is their promo for the Spring 2013 issue:


Announcing 4 Star Stories Issue 9, Spring 2013

Whether you are an old friend or a newcomer, you will find something interesting and entertaining in this issue of  4 Star Stories.

The stories in this issue encompass two main themes: Anthropology and music.

We start off the 4 Star Stories Spring 2013 Issue with Tala Bar’s unique foray into anthropological fantasy fiction in her story, “The Huntress”.

Then we have the first half of Jeremy Miller’s exciting two-part fantasy, “Horace and Juju Tip the Scales”, in which Jeremy explores some of the amazing powers of music and pure sound.

Libby A Smith continues our exploration of the power of music in her compelling science fiction story, “One Mississippi...”.

Lastly, Laura J. Underwood finishes off this issue’s stories by giving us a fun, anthropological peek into the private customs of American mountain-people in her fantasy, “How to Have Fun at the Family Funeral”.

In addition, we are proud to present for your enjoyment the amazing and beautiful work of our Guest Artist for the Spring 2013 Issue, David A. Cherry.

We round out this issue with a timely Editorial from our Editors along with useful information from your humble Webmaster. Come to visit and stay to enjoy… 4Star Stories.com

Happy reading!

The Editors

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Member Showcase

Dario Ciriello's thriller novel SUTHERLAND'S RULES is free all this weekend on Amazon Kindle! Click here!


Love. Loyalty. Dope Smuggling. Parallel universes. The unquiet ghost of a dead detective.At 62, all Christian White wants is a quiet life. But between the Feds trying to close his business and the challenges posed by his open marriage to Carol--his hot, younger, bi wife--peace isn't remotely on the cards. And when Christian receives a letter from Billy, his old mate and sometime guardian angel from their hippie days, asking him to come to London and help him to collect on a forty-year-old IOU, Christian’s other problems start to look insignificant. Because the IOU is for two hundred and fifty kilos of charas, high-grade hashish from Afghanistan. And Christian owes Billy enough that he’s going to find it very hard to refuse.A smart, suspenseful caper/thriller combining the precision of a procedural with the paranoia of a spy novel. Add in a fast-moving plot and memorable characters, and "Sutherland's Rules" is a wild ride you won't easily forget!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Member Showcase

Park Cooper of Austin, Texas, is a member of SASS, and he's penned a graphic novel, called Swipe, about an evil cyborg pimp that's forthcoming from Angry Viking Press. Here are his words about the project. Check it out, and we hope you pre-order it!


There's barely over a week left to pre-order Swipe to make our Diamond pre-order deadline. I've decided to post a version of the letter I've been sending to retailers, in case it helps convince people to take an interest. Anyone want to help make this go viral?

More than just your usual comics pimping: SWIPE from Angry Viking Press

SWIPE is a cyberpunk graphic novel in Previews this month with an evil cyborg pimp!

>pant gasp pant< Sorry to throw a pimp at you all suddenly like that, but I had to try to get your attention somehow.

Let's back up: I'm Park Cooper, and I'm a writer. And one day, I met an artist who was looking to draw a story. His name was Bryan Randall, and he was between military hitches serving in the Middle East. Bryan specifically wanted to draw a story with a villain he'd always dreamed of drawing: a cyborg pimp.

...A... cyborg pimp, you say? Well, pimps are, traditionally, rather unsavory fellows... who was to say that pimpery and villainy couldn't go hand in hand? And as for the cyborg part…

I loved cyberpunk in its heyday. Neuromancer and the rest of Gibson's stuff, Omni magazine, and then later Snow Crash, Ghost in the Shell... But I didn’t just like the cyberspace thing, but the rest of it, too, Shadowrun and so on, Gibson's Sprawl, the Panther Moderns, all of it.

It wasn't pretty, but it wasn't exactly post-apocalyptic-- things just turned into a dystopia of mega-corporations and poverty and desperation but still with futuristic technology, and everyone still had to live in it. And there was this awareness that hard as the rules were, if you were really smart, you could maybe game the whole system...

But let's face it, the "heyday of cyberpunk" kind of died down after a while. So to have this opportunity now, when things like Google Glass have just become available...?

I myself had a cyberpunk-type pair of heroes I'd thought up, a hacker who meets a robot dancer whom he realizes is a one-in-a-million self-aware robot... Bryan was happy with whatever I did, as long as he got to draw an evil cyborg pimp...

“Is it okay if I do this story with this artist that involves an attractive female robot and an evil cyborg pimp?” I asked my wife.

“Of course it is!” she said. “This artist is serving our country! What, you’re going to stop him from living his creative dream? So she’s a sexy-looking robot! You’re the one writing it, and you’re not a perv! Help the artist out and go ahead and write it!”

I called it SWIPE, and Bryan drew it—some of it while off-duty in the Middle East during his second tour there. And the level of detail that went into every panel Bryan did, wow! Like if Moebius had microscopic vision! Now and then Bryan would offer a suggestion: "Now cyborg babies should attack!" Cyborg babies? Sure, why not, Bryan. The plot will now contain dangerous cyborg attack-babies. Knock yourself out, man.

Well, when Bryan was just about done drawing SWIPE, Jason Canty at indie comics publisher Angry Viking Press saw it and wanted to publish it. In fact, he wanted even more of it, so we just continued the story with more chapters after the initial 44-page one-shot we’d planned. For the later chapters, Bryan only had a couple of suggestions: the hacker and the robot should get to save the world, and he should get to draw even weirder-looking bad guys. Done and done, my tiny-detail-drawin' friend. Diamond liked SWIPE, reacting with enthusiasm.

Now people just have to pre-order SWIPE from PREVIEWS.

Here’s what it’s going to be like. Click on the pages to turn ‘em:


SWIPE, as you can see, will be a really, really fantastic-looking graphic novel, all gorgeous and well-colored and everything, but it’s also actually an entertaining read. It's funny, it’s violent, and it has an attractive female robot in it, Karina. If you like feminine robots... they don't do that much for her partner Ray, the world's most underrated hacker. But Karina does get more and more human as the threat to the planet increases... and boy, does she hate becoming human.

Please pre-order SWIPE from this month's PREVIEWS—we’re on page 242 (spotlight!). The order code for Swipe is STK613565 ...Enough of you ordered Angry Viking's EVIL DIVA earlier this year, so that was very nice of you... now you get a cyberpunk-genre tale of hackers and robots and cyborgs and pimps.

People who love awesome art will love this.
People who love attractive comic book females will love this.
People who love books where the writing isn't phoned in will love this.

Since you've read this far, we think that YOU will love Swipe.

Please pre-order Swipe, either from Diamond or through the link on the page found above, and tell other people about it.

That way, everybody wins.

--P. Cooper
May 23rd, 2013

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The art of the short story

The Short and the Short of It
By Lou Antonelli

Author’s Note: This is based on my notes for the seminar about short stories I gave at the DFW Writers Conference at the Hurst Convention Center May 5, 2013.

Most people think if you write fiction, you have to write a book.  The fact is, you can do as much with storytelling in a short story as you can with a book. For example, just like a book, a short story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

It helps if you write them in that order.

There are traditional lengths to short stories.  One thousand words or less is called a short short, or a flash.  Up to 7,500 words is a traditional short story.  Between 7,500 words and 17,500 words is called a Novelette.  Up to 40,000 words is a Novella, and then it becomes a novel – although novels between 40,000 and 80,000 words are pretty uncommon.

I once heard someone at a convention explain that in a short story you can tell a story, in a novelette or novella you can develop characters, and in a novel you can build a world.

Many people have trouble writing short stories – there are people who take 10,000 words to clear their throats.  Fact is, it’s easy to do if you are used to it, and I’m surprised more people don’t.

It can be an easy way to write a novel, anyway.  Look at the publishing credits of some of the most famous classic science fiction novels, and you may see multiple publication credits.  Many novels begin as a series of related short stories that are put together or edited together into a longer work. What started as a short story in a magazine becomes a chapter in a novel.

Writing a short story can also be a way to try out a novel.  If you write a short story and it does well and gets a good response, that tells you people may be interested in the story you are telling and they want to read more.

Yesterday I pitched a novel based on the short story “The Witch of Waxahachie” I wrote in 2008 that was published in Jim Baen’s Universe.   That story had a very good reception, and I’ve taken the time to expand it to book length.

My writing situation is unusual, I’m a journalist, so I write stories every day, and the average may be 300 words.  A story over 1,000 words is considered very long. That’s one reason I’m comfortable writing short stories.

You can still say a lot in a short story.  Ernest Hemingway supposed wrote a short story in six words:  “For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never used.”

There’s an old saying you have to write a million words before you are any good.  I think that’s true.  One advantage I had was that my million words were in newspapers.  No one ever read my amateurish fiction, because my amateur stuff was published in newspapers.  I was first published in a local newspaper when I was 12.  I first started writing fiction when I was 46.  That’s why, after my first acceptance, the editor said, “You seemed to have skipped the novice stage.”

But I do think it is true, you have to write a million words, and you need to write every day.  Again, I’m, unusual, because as a journalist I write for publication every day – for a newspaper.  Because of that, when I sit down to write fiction, I’m never rusty.  I can go weeks or months not writing fiction, and sit down and come up with something perfectly acceptable.

I’ve never had a story rejected because the editor said it was poorly written.  hey have complained about little things like the plot, characters or believability – but never poor writing.

As far as the submitting, remember that short stories are like resumes.   Anyone who is taking them is getting tons of them, and like resumes, they will get kicked out of the pile for mistakes.  t’s sad, but editors, like people reading resumes, are looking for reason to kick your story out.  You need to get your grammar and English down cold.  One mistake may not kill your chances – if it is a good story - but a lot of editors, on principle, will stop reading when they hit a second error.

Because of the volume, your story must first off convince the editor or slush pile reader to turn the first page.  You have to hook them between your byline and the bottom of page one.  At a convention, Stanley Schmidt – who was editor of Analog magazine – once said:  “I read very fast. Your job is to get me to slow down.”

If you are an author trying to get established and don’t already have a reputation, you don’t have the luxury of slowly easing into the narrative, and quite frankly, I know a lot of editors who reject established authors if the story doesn’t grab them very quickly.

Back in 2007 I was asked to submit a story for publication in the souvenir book of another Dallas area publication.  t had a nice layout, with art in the two-page spread where the story began.  The way it was published, the beginning of the story was part of that starting layout.

I noticed that the beginning included with the art was exactly the start of the story as it was written on the first page of the original manuscript.  I had written the story to hook the editor and the reader, and whoever did the book agreed and used the exact same start in the layout.

Speaking of editors, one of the great things about writing short stories, if you are trying to break into writing, is that you don’t need an agent.  The vast majority of magazines don’t care about agents. N ow, there are some that don’t accept unsolicited stories, but I don’t know anyone who needs an agent to submit a short story.  On the other hand, there are very few book publishers who will take unagented novels.

It’s a matter of time.  It takes an editor or slush pile reader minutes if not seconds to tell whether you short story is worth reading.  There’s a lot more time invested in reading a book.

Also, a magazine will turn a story around in a few days or weeks, while a book publisher may take one or two years, if you ever hear from them at all.

In addition to writing grammatically and well, follow standard manuscript guidelines – which are easy to research online – unless the magazine wants it differently.

Take all editor comments to heart, even on rejections.  Especially on rejections.  If they ask you to try them again, they are not being superficially polite, they mean it.  That usually lets you know you’re making progress.   They get so many stories, they will not encourage someone they don’t expect to ever buy a story from.

Rejections come in different lengths.  The longer ones are the worse ones, because they say “Your story didn’t work because it didn’t do one or more of the many things listed below.”  The shorter ones are better, because they say your story didn’t make the cut, or there wasn’t any place for it.

When I first submitted to Asimov’s Science Fiction, I got the long rejections, then I started getting the short ones.  One day I got a short one, and noticed there was scribbling on the bottom.  When I looked, I saw the editor, Gardner Dozois, had written a personal note to encourage me. T hat’s gold, and maybe a half year later he bought a story from me.

Just because it is a short story doesn’t mean it has to be incomplete or unfinished. If you went to Lou Anders’ seminar on Scriptwriting for Novels this morning, you know of the types of roles of characters.  A short story still needs a protagonist, an antagonist, and probably a relationship character.

Where do you find short story markets?  There is a good web site called Ralan, run by Ralan Conley who keeps up on all the markets and market updates.  It’s at www.ralan.com.  You have to admire someone who is so dedicated to do all that work.  There is also a website called Duotrope; it used to be free, though, and they went to being paid at the start of the year.

What I’ve done myself is often to research other authors and see where they have been published, and try the same markets.

At the very least, if you write short stories you can find your voice or style without investing years writing a book – which may or may not bomb.  I’ve been writing short stories for ten years, and I’m just getting to the point where I’ve pitched a novel.  But like I said, to me – working at a newspaper – a short story is long.

There are very few authors who write short stories exclusively.  Ray Bradbury was one, but he was special.  Eventually most short story writers turn their hands to novels.

If your short story doesn’t work out or sell, at least you haven’t wasted so much time.  And if it works out, you know you’re on the right track.

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

In the beginning...

The first draft of bylaws for a new writers group was created March 9, 2012. Ultimately two dozen writers  ranging from accredited professionals to fans participated in a study group which worked meticulously for a year to come up with rules and bylaws for the new group – the Society for the Advancement of Speculative Storytelling – SASS.

The self-imposed quorum (in the bylaws) of ten dues paying members from among the study group being reached for the organization to go forward, SASS is now taking membership applications from the public.

All members as of July 4th, 2013, will receive formal membership packets as well as a ratification ballot for the drafted bylaws. Nominations are also being sought for permanent officers and board members, with an election being held in the fall.

Comments and questions are welcomed.