East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Writing Short Stories: the best advice I ever got

shortstory1OK, I was talking with my friend Claire, the other day, and she was telling me she wants to start writing more short stories.
Which is just swell, because, hey, I want to write more short stories too!
So – you know me – I tried to talk her into doing something together, because she’s a fantastic writer and a great person and I’d have a lot of fun working with her – and who knows, she might have fun working with me on some weird and sideways project.
She was kind and measured as ever at my advances, and, what can I say, we’ll see.

But in the meantime I looked here on my shelves for stuff about short stories – because if that’s going to be the mood of the next few months, why not write a few posts on the subject. So I checked out books and stuff, and I will do a few posts and things, but because one has to start somewhere, I think I’ll start from here: from the best piece of advice I ever got about short story writing, that appropriately enough is a suggestion about beginnings.
Isn’t that neat? Continue reading


More writing, more stories

Some people make their plans for the new year in December, but I still have this schoolboy attitude, to me the new year begins in September.
Or something.
Anyway, I think I mentioned my idea about writing more stories, and submitting them to magazines and anthologies and publishers. Sort of a good proposition for the coming year.
Well, the experiment is working.
In the last thirty days I have submitted five stories to as many publishers, for a total of about 20.000 words.
Two thrillers.
Two science fiction shorts.
One horror story.
This not counting the things I wrote for my Patrons, and my other stuff that I will self-publish, or my gaming material.


Not bad, but it could be better.
What I would like to do would be to double that number, settling for 10 stories per month, roughly 40.000 words, while keeping the bouncing stories circulating.
It’s a tough call, but I think I can do it.
Right now, I’m revising a story I’ll submit tonight.
Then I have five more calls aligned over the next two months.
It’s a start.
The trick will be do this while still working on my other stuff, my stories and games and translations.
But after all, that’s the way it’s got to be if I want to pay my bills and get out of this place.

I wish to thank my friends, my readers and my supporters that have pointed out new markets, new resources and new open calls to me.
You know who you are guys, and you are helping me a lot.
Thank you.

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Very short stories

Short stories are tough.
There is this sort of… not really a debate, more like a feud, between those that Novels are proper literature, short stories are for losers and those that short stories are the true distillation of talent, any hack can write a 1000-pages trilogy given enough time and coffee.
Both are wrong, of course, and both are right, because the fact is, it’s not a binary system – there’s a whole lot of shades and issues there.

I write mostly short stories and novellas.
I feel comfortable with the word-count, and they make for reasonably fast writing, meaning I can sell them quick and keep the creditors at bay.
Sometimes I write longer stuff.
All formats have their pros and cons.
My favorite word-count is probably within the 8.000-to-12.000 words range. Shorter, I usually feel cramped, longer, I usually need a lot of time and planning and things get somewhat rambling. Continue reading

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Sleepless nights and dinosaurs

This last week has been pretty weird all things considered.
It’s now 2 am as I’m writing this. My usual insomnia made a major comeback, so that I spent most of the nights up, and then crashed into a deep, dream-infested slumber after lunch.
Which sounds pretty lovecraftian, but is really bad for the little social life I still manage to have.
On the plus side, I spend the nights writing, and have now hit a solid 8000-words per day rhythm, and I am now actually hitting all of my headlines in time, if not with a certain advance. Right out I’m putting the finishing touches on a story I’ll submit tomorrow morning – if I can dream up (ah!) a suitable title.
And I’ve been following online courses.
Apart from the course I am following about heart diseases (because I saw what happened to my father and I want to live), I’ve been brushing up my Spanish (because I want to leave this country, and Spanish is quite widespread) and I’ve just spent a few hours refreshing my knowledge of dinosaurs with a wonderful MOOC from the University of Alberta, called Dino 101: Dinosaur Paleobiology. Because, dinosaurs.


By the way, this course actually starts officially next week, and if you like dinosaurs, it’s highly recommended: clear, in-depth, fun, and with some spectacular interactive support.
Check it out.



More ghosts (and other supernatural things)

And talking about ghost stories, two big fat books landed on my desk this week.
Well, actually one on landed on my Kindle and the other on my desk.

dark_detectives_cover_largeThe great old Fedogan & Bremer collection Dark Detectives, edited by Stephen Jones, has been recently reissued, both as a paperback and as an ebook.
Alas, the new edition does not have the incredible Les Edwards cover, but the contents are all there, and they are simply great – including Kim Newman‘s complete Seven Stars cycle of stories1, and a wealth of other supernatural investigation adventures from an authors roster that includes the likes of Neil Gaiman, Brian Lumley and Clive Barker (among many others).

The introduction by Stephen Jones is a good introduction to the subject of supernatural investigation and occult detectives, and has the power to add a number of titles to an already crowded to-read list.

51bbW8wT5ZL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_And yesterday, I received as a gift the highly suggestive Voodoo Tales, a thick Wordsworth Classics paperback collecting the ghost stories and supernatural tales of Henry S. Whitehead, that were originally published by Arkham House, and are today pretty hard to get (and expensive as hell).
Whitehead was an author specializing in uncanny stories set in the West Indies, and worked from first-hand experiences – he had spent a lot of time in the Carribean, and had met and interviewed real practitioners of voodoo.
His stories appeared in Weird Tales magazine, and it is a nice addition to my collection.

Now, the nice bit is, the first of these books was a much anticipated purchase (I pre-ordered the ebook, saving some money), but the second was a gift – and an unexpected gift, too.
A sign?
A weird coincidence?
For sure, I better start putting my notes and outlines together…

  1. in turn inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle‘s Jewel of the Seven Stars, in itself another quite interesting read you can find in the Gutenberg Project. 

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Authority Issues

One of the best bits of being a writer (if on a part-time basis) and having access to the web is, I get very close to my readers.
I get feedback.
I get reviews.
I get shoutouts like “Bought it! Liked it!”

It’s the sort of stuff that really helps going on – even when sales are low and one can’t actually pay one’s bills with the money from the ebooks. Continue reading