I noticed on my Amazon author stats this week that I reached Best-selling Author #23,347 last Friday. While that doesn’t look impressive, remember that all my contributing sales are from anthologies that typically don’t sell as well as novels. And the Best-selling Author list goes down to at least #89,232 because that was where I was last March. But all these stats are fleeting — updated hourly, according to Amazon — and I see that is true. I’ve already slipped to #33,804. Sic transit gloria mundi. (My Amazon books can be seen at www.amazon.com/author/shipley.)
This week I had two uplifting moments in the perennial writing struggle. I heard “congratulations” from Third Flatiron Publishing that wants to include my story “Fate’s Finger” in their Playing With Fire themed anthology. This is my first sale of the year, breaking a string of 15 rejections since my last sale on November 20 of 2012. Then just today I heard back from Sword & Sorceress Vol. 28 about the story “Dead Salt” I had submitted the day before (this anthology is known for having one of the fastest response times in the industry). They aren’t making final decisions until May, but they are holding “Dead Salt” for further consideration, which is a step closer to another sale. I’ve been published in the last three volumes of Sword & Sorceress, but that’s no guarantee of acceptance. Every story has to start the process afresh, standing on its own merits before the editors. But on the writing front, it’s been a good week.
The anthology After Death, edited by Eric Guignard, appeared in print a few days ago. My contribution to the book is entitled “Like a Bat Out of Hell” and takes place entirely in Dante’s Hell. Despite the setting, the story manages to be humorous, and I think I deserve extra points for pulling off that unlikelihood. The anthology can be found at multiple locations, but I recommend checking the offerings at www.amazon.com/author/shipley where this anthology is listed with all the others I have contributed to.
As of a few days ago, I have been triple shortlisted. That’s a good thing. It means I have three pieces of writing in the final stage of the selection process at various publications. This third shortlisting came from the Far Orbit sci-fi anthology where I had repeatedly sent in stories and had them rejected during the month of March. But as the editor put it, “Fifth time is the charm.” The other short story under final consideration is at Elektrik Milk Bath Press for it’s Urban Fantasy anthology. And the third member of the shortlist trio is my novel Reichsblood that is being considered by New York publisher Baen Books. I received that news last summer with the warning that final consideration by their editor-in-chief was a slow process. That seems to be true. In the best of worlds, all three of these shortlisted pieces would move on to publication, but there’s no predicting. Just hoping.
I heard back from Whortleberry Press last week, and they want my story “Water Witch” for their 2013 Valentine anthology. Yes, I know the title sounds more Halloween than Valentine’s Day, but it really does fit the theme. This is the third story of sold to Whortleberry’s holiday anthologies. I was in Christmas Angels in 2011 and this year’s recent Strange Halloween.
Sword & Sorceress XXVII, an annual anthology based on writer Marion Zimmer Bradley’s concept of fantasy with a female protagonist, is now released and available. My story “Grave Gold” on page 36 is the third story in the book. My sister calls this story dark, and I suppose it is, considering the plot revolves around negotiating with the dead. But the ending is upbeat, so not so terribly dark. This series is notable for its use of Roman numerals in the title. On the lower numbers, that was probably not so unusual, but since the success of the series has now taken it to five-digit Roman numerals with more volumes to come, some people may find it increasingly problematic to read. The editor has hinted that after volume XXX, they may switch to Arabic numbers.
Today I sent off two stories to Lightspeed and Nightmare magazines and in the process, broke my standing record for number of short story submissions in one year. These two additions bring the total to 53 for 2012. That tops 2010 when I submitted 52 times. I find that 52 is a good goal in general because submitting one story per week keeps you targeted on marketing as well as writing throughout the year. But don’t assume that these 53 stories are all new this year — that would be a feat of prolific writing. I typically produce five or six new stories a year (while continuing to write novels) to add to the 103 existing stories and novellas that I submit and resubmit to various markets. Twenty-eight of these have already sold once but may still go out to a reprint market now and then. The real question, of course, is how many stories actually sell out of all these submissions. And the answer is that the greater the number of submissions, the more possibilities exist for sales. Beyond that, there’s no predicting.
Strange Halloween, the sci-fi fantasy anthology from Whortleberry Press is now available. My story in this collection is “Black and Silver,” referring to the SS in World War II. But this is not a war story by any means. It’s a cooking story. Yes, there is a bit of raising the dead in keeping with the season, but the protagonist of this tale is an elderly cook . . . who finds herself at odds with the SS (as many people did at the time). This story takes place in the same alternate WWII reality as Reichsblood, the 150,000-word manuscript that Baen Books is currently considering for publlication (see prior post). There is also some character overlap — this same cook has a brief appearance in the novel.
A preview of the anthology and the ability to order it can be found at:
I heard back from New Work science fiction publisher Baen Books that my manuscript has made it out of the slush pile of unsolicited manuscripts and is being held for further consideration. Since most submissions in the slush pile are rejected, this is incredibly good news, but the road ahead is still long and perilous. As I understand the process, my manuscript is now in the queue to be looked at by the editor-in-chief, who will make the final decision. Unfortunately, that may take years — literally, years — and the answer could still be no. As I said, long and perilous. The manuscript is Reichsblood, a 150-word occult thriller set in 1938 Germany. An Oxford student infiltrates the SS with the help of his witchy English aunt in order to stop Nazi sorcery. They have no clue how much darkness they are challenging. Two short stories from this same world have already been published (“Fire and Stone” in the 2010 anthology The Four Horsemen and “Helping Hand” in the 2011 anthology It Came From Her Purse). A third occult Nazi story, “Black and Silver” is due out in October in Whortleberry Press’s Strange Halloween book.
So maybe this time next year I’ll have sold my first novel . . . one can only hope.
This weekend I received an acceptance from Whortleberry Press for their annual Halloween anthology. Whortleberry does a series of holiday anthologies, and I sold the scifi-ish “We Three Kindreds” to the Christmas book last fall. This story is called “Black and Silver” and is set in Nazi Germany before the war. The essential problem is that the SS has taken over a medieval castle with a strong mystical heritage, killed off the rightful owners, and is now trying to force the castle to give up its secrets. But the last of the old staff, the cook, is determined to thwart the SS by calling upon the dead when the time is right. And the right time for calling on the dead, of course, is All-Hallows Eve. The editor enjoyed the “intriguing and careful detail” of the tale, which should be out for Halloween 2012. This is my fifth short story to sell in 2012. One is already in print (“Death Crone” in Night Terrors anthology), and the other four are scheduled for fall releases.