douglassmith's blog

A project to help authors orphaned by the ChiZine scandal

Thomas Mann quoteUnless you're a professional speculative fiction writer, you are likely unaware of the scandal that erupted recently around Canadian small press publisher, ChiZine Publications. If you'd like to fully understand the abuse that interns, staff, and CZP authors have had to endure over a number of years, you can read all the nauseating details here on the Writers Beware blog. It's a disturbing read.

The relevant point for my post here is the "mass exodus from CZP, with authors requesting rights reversions for their books..."

That exodus and the requests for reversion of rights (meaning the rights to publish the book are returned to the author from the publisher) means that a large number of CZP authors now have orphaned titles: their books don't have a publisher. This includes titles that were published in the past as well as books still to be published.

I'm a former CZP author myself (Chimerascope) and am sickened by all of this. I wanted to find a way to help these authors. I can do nothing about the yet-to-be published titles, but I had an idea to help authors who had books in the CZP backlist (previously published).

I reached out to Jason Chen, who runs StoryBundle and who I've had the pleasure to deal with multiple times in recent years, to ask him if he'd be willing to run an ebook bundle in support of ChiZine authors who've had their CZP titles orphaned. As I expected, Jason replied that he would be glad to.

The bundle would feature previously published titles from CZP authors. All monies from this project will go to the authors. Nothing will go to ChiZine.

I will curate the bundle and donate my curator fee to the author payment pool. I've been in or curated about eight bundles in the past and can attest that a StoryBundle is a great project for an author to participate in. Hopefully, if there is enough interest by authors and the first bundle sells well, we could do multiple bundles.

How you can help:

  • Spread the word: I've contacted many of the CZP authors but not all of them, as I only have contact info for a handful. It would be great if you could point any CZP authors you know to this post. Any interested author can contact me directly here

  • Promotion: Once the bundle comes out, I'll post about it here. Please help me promote the bundle to your family and friends, and on social media. No idea on timing, as authors first need to revert rights and create their own ebook editions as they will not legally be able to use the CZP ebook editions.

Thanks for listening and anything you can do to boost the signal on this.

Final workshop on marketing & selling short fiction

Playing the Short GameOn Sunday November 3 at 4pm EDT, I'll be teaching the third and final instalment in my series of three online workshops on how to market and sell short fiction, based on my PLAYING THE SHORT GAME writer's guide.

A wealth of courses and books exist to teach you how to write stories. But what happens when you’ve finished writing? Do you know how to sell what you’ve written? Do you know what happens after you sell a story and how to handle all the steps?

These workshops are offered via SFWA President Cat Rambo's "Rambo Academy." The first workshop focused on how to get your first story sale, including understanding rights and licensing, how to decide where to submit (and where not to), finding markets, how to submit (and what not to do), and more. The second workshop took a writer from when they learn an editor wants to buy their story to after it's published and the reviews start coming, including a discussion of short fiction contracts.

This third and final workshop focuses on the phase in a short story writer’s career when they’ve established themselves and have built up a backlist of published short fiction. It explains the many ways a successful short fiction writer can leverage their own inventory of published stories, as well as other aspects of an established short fiction writer’s life.

Topics include:

  • Leveraging your backlist
  • Selling reprints
  • Selling in foreign languages
  • Selling audio rights
  • Publishing a collection
  • The indie option for short fiction
  • Discoverability tools and promotion for established writers
  • Career progression in short fiction

Registration information on workshop #3 as well as full details on the workshop series can be found here on Cat's blog.

Five by Five in Black Infinity

Black Infinity #5 coverOkay, that should be "five for five" but I couldn't resist a Buffy reference. My SF story "Jigsaw" will appear in issue #5 of Black Infinity, alongside a bunch of legendary names like Philip K. Dick, William Hope Hodgson, Andre Norton, and Jack Williamson.

That would be enough of a thrill, but I've now had a story in the first five issues of this magazine, which is quite cool. And the issue features another incredible retro cover, shown at the right. #5 will be out in October and available then on Amazon.

"Jigsaw" first appeared in the anthology, Odyssey: Tales from the Wonder Zone, edited by the wonderful Julie Czerneda and featuring stories all of which were based on the current Grade 7-8 science curriculum in Ontario.

Each writer for the antho was assigned a topic from that curriculum. Mine was plate tectonics, which I turned into a giant jigsaw puzzle problem on an alien planet.

I hope you'll check out Black Infinity #5 when it comes out next month.

Workshop #2 on marketing & selling short fiction

Playing the Short GameThis Sunday, Sept 22 at 4pm EDT, I'll be teaching the second in my series of three online workshops on how to market and sell short fiction, based on my PLAYING THE SHORT GAME writer's guide.

A wealth of courses and books exist to teach you how to write stories. But what happens when you’ve finished writing? Do you know how to sell what you’ve written? Do you know what happens after you sell a story and how to handle all the steps?

These workshops are offered via SFWA President Cat Rambo's "Rambo Academy." The first workshop focused on how to get your first story sale, including understanding rights and licensing, how to decide where to submit (and where not to), finding markets, how to submit (and what not to do), and more.

This second workshop takes a writer from when they learn an editor wants to buy their story to after it's published and the reviews start coming. Trust me, it's worth it for the discussion of contracts alone.

Topics include:

  • Understanding how editors and slush piles work
  • Why editors choose or reject stories
  • What to look (and look out) for in short fiction contracts, and how to ask for changes
  • How to work with an editor during the editing process for your story
  • How to handle rejections and reviews
  • How much promotion is reasonable when you sell a story
  • Cool things that might happen: Awards, best of anthologies,…and even movies

Registration information on workshop #1 as well as full details on the workshop series can be found here on Cat's blog.

Workshop #1 in series on marketing & selling short fiction

Playing the Short GameOver the next three months, I'll be teaching a series of three online workshops on how to market and sell short fiction, based on my PLAYING THE SHORT GAME writer's guide.

These workshops are offered via SFWA President Cat Rambo's "Rambo Academy." The first workshop is this Sunday, August 25 at 4pm EDT and will focus on how to get your first story sale:

A wealth of courses and books exist to teach you how to write stories. But what happens when you’ve finished writing? Do you know how to sell what you’ve written?

Based on the popular writer’s guide, Playing the Short Game: How to Market & Sell Short Fiction, this workshop will give you critical advice on how to sell your short stories to professional markets and to build a career as a short fiction writer. Topics covered include:

  • Rights and licensing for short fiction
  • A strategy for selecting your target markets
  • Finding short fiction markets
  • Selecting the right market
  • Submitting short fiction to a market
  • What not to do when submitting
  • What to do after submitting

Registration information on workshop #1 as well as full details on the workshop series can be found here on Cat's blog.

Publication news: some recent story sales

I've sold a couple of reprints of previously published stories. Black Infinity will publish my YA SF tale, "Jigsaw," in their 5th volume, which will feature the theme of space derelicts. 

And the Tokyo-based Excalibur Books will reprint my Japanese martial arts romance fantasy, "The Red Bird," in Excalibur 2020: Tales From Beyond Tomorrow, Vol.3, an anthology themed to honour and highlight the Tokyo Summer Olympics of 2020.

My Writing Process: Background Sounds & Music

Musical Notes

I've had a good response to sharing some insights into my personal writing process, so I'll keep sharing for a while or at least until I run out of thoughts. And if you have questions you'd like me to answer, please drop me a note.

This time it's another common question writers get asked and that they ask each other: What do you listen to when you're writing?

My answer is it depends on where I'm writing. If I'm in a perfectly quiet spot, I can handle silence. But that is rare, unless I have the house to myself. Even in a library, there will be nearby conversations. If I'm in a coffee shop, I can make do with just the background buzz sometimes. As long as I can't make out individual conversations, it just becomes white noise to me. 

But usually, there are spoken words to be heard (or overheard), and that is the worst distraction (at least to me) when I'm writing. So I go with earbuds and music stored on my laptop. What kind of music? Well, first it must NOT have lyrics. Hearing words in my ears makes it hard to write my own words. Second, it must NOT have any strong emotional element to it.

I'll be reading at the Toronto launch of Pulp Literature issue #23

Pulp Literature #12 coverI'll be one of several Toronto authors reading at the launch of issue #23 of the most excellent speculative fiction magazine, Pulp Literature.

I'm not in this issue, but my story "The Last of a Thing" appeared in issue #12 (pictured here), and the nice people at PL have invited local past contributors to attend the event as well as Toronto-area writers who are in the new issue. 

All of us will be reading from our Pulp Literature stories as well as from current works-in-progress. So if you want to hear me read from my current urban fantasy trilogy, drop by:

Another Bar
926 Bloor St. W.
6:00-9:00 pm, Thursday, August 8, 2019

You'll be able to buy copies of the new issue (and past issues) of Pulp Literature and have them signed by the authors. Attending authors will also be selling and signing their own books.  Hope to see you there.

Ad Astra convention appearance this weekend

I'll be at the long-running Toronto genre convention, Ad Astra, this weekend, July 12-14. The con is held at The Sheraton Parkway North, 600 HWY-7 E, Richmond Hill, Ontario (directions here).

The Ad Astra site has a full list of panels and events. Here's my personal panel and reading schedule:

Friday, July 12:

7-8pm, Panel: Keeping a Canadian identity in an American world (Room: Markham A)

8-9pm, Panel: How to Edit like a Pro (Room: Markham A)

Saturday, July 13:

1:30-2:00pm, Reading (Room: Buttonville)

Sunday, July 14:

10-11am, Panel: How to Solve Writer's Block (Room: Oakridges)

12-1pm, Panel: Eye of the Tiger, Hide of the Rhino -- handling rejection (Room: Oakridges OR Markham B -- the schedule conflicts with itself)

Also, all of my print titles will be available at the Myth Hawker table in the Dealer's Room. Drop by MythHawkers to take advantage of special convention pricing and also pick up your download code for a free copy of an award-winning story of mine (no purchase necessary).

Hope to see you there!

The Writing Life: Outliner or Pantser?

I've had some of you ask for insights into my writing process, so I thought I'd start with the classic question that writers ask each other: am I an outliner or a 'pantser'?

Meaning, as a writer, do I develop detailed plot outlines before starting to write a story, or do I write "by the seat of my pants," just diving into the story and letting it take me where it takes me?

The answer for me is neither. Or maybe both. I describe my writing approach as "headlights on a highway," which I take from this quote by E. L. Doctorow:

“Writing is like driving a car at night: you never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” 

I use a three-act structure generally for my novels. I know how the novel will end and the major event or twist at the end of each act, as well as the inciting incident that will start the story. I also know my characters very well and know the journey I want them to travel. 

But beyond that, as far as the plot, as far as how I will tell the story, I usually outline the next 2-4 chapters and write those and see where they take me. And then the next 2-4 chapters. I've found that this gives me enough structure to not drift too far off course, but enough freedom to explore new characters who show up and new twists and ideas that occur. 

Do I ever get lost on the highway? Yeah, occasionally. But not often and not too far. This approach, for me at least, is the perfect balance between control and freedom. A story is discovered in its telling. The "headlights on a highway" approach lets me have the main idea of the story as my signposts along the way but lets me discover the story my characters want to tell without trying to stuff them into boxes where they don't fit.

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