Exclusive Dark Fantasy & SF bundle interview: Tone Milazzo

Picking Up the Ghost coverI wrote a few months ago of the project I was putting together to help authors who had books orphaned because of the sudden collapse of ChiZine Publications.

That project is now live in the form of the new *Exclusive* Dark Fantasy & SF Bundle I'm curating for StoryBundle.com. This bundle is a remarkable set of eleven titles by bestselling authors and rising stars. Over the course of the bundle, I'm posting interviews here with each of the bundle authors. Well, except for me, because that would be weird.

Today we get to meet Tone Milazzo.

I first met Tone in 2012 at a room party at the World Fantasy convention in Toronto, shortly after he had become a fellow ChiZine author with the release of Picking Up the Ghost (which is featured in the bundle).

My first impressions, hazed no doubt by eight years of passing time were, more or less in order: he's very tall, scary smart, and looks at the world from a slightly different angle than most people—no doubt why he's such an impressive writer and why I was thrilled to include Picking up the Ghost in this bundle.

I also remember that, somewhere over the course of that World Fantasy party, he helped answer the age-old question: how many authors can you fit into one of those big bathtubs in a hotel suite? The answer is ten (we all were fully clothed). And yes, I have pictures.

And now for that interview…

Doug: What is your writing Kryptonite?

Tone: Marketing. As authors we’re all expected to self-market our books and I can’t say that anything I’ve tried has worked. Still trying though...

Doug: Regardless of whether you write stand-alone books or series, what themes do you think recur in your work or connect the stories you tell? How do those themes appear in this book?

Tone: Religion and mental disorders. Particularly in Picking Up the Ghost, Cinque is a neophyte shaman who possesses schizotypal personality disorder, a form of schizophrenia.

I’d come across an article comparing the behaviors of people with schizophrenia in the US versus in Africa. In the US, their hallucinations took the form of paranoid delusions. ‘The government is watching me’ being a common example.

But in Africa, people with schizophrenia tended to fall back on their traditional belief systems and often ended up as shaman. There’s a strong correlation between schizophrenic behavior and shamanistic beliefs; magical thinking, hallucinatory beings, peculiar speech patterns, and on.

Perhaps, if we had such a social structure in the West, one where people with schizophrenia felt like they belonged, they’d have less anxiety associated with their conditions.

Doug: What did you edit out of this book?

Tone: The whole second half. My initial group of three beta readers didn’t agree on everything, but they all agreed that bringing Cinque out of the real world and into an empty world with just him and the spirits was a mistake.

I’d underestimated how much the readers liked Cinque’s family and the rest of the supporting cast. Taking him into another world like that meant starting over with a new supporting cast that had no particular relationship with Cinque.

So I bit the bullet and started again from page 180.

Doug: If you couldn’t write, what form of creativity would you pursue?

Tone: Table top role-playing game design. Maybe not so much the rules themselves (there are enough RPG rules out there) but setting books and adventures for existing systems.

I’ve written an RPG based on all the world building I did for my second novel, The Faith Machine, a psychic espionage thriller. My agent had me write outlines for two sequels so she could try to sell it as “a stand-alone novel with series potential.” That’s two more sets of adversaries, supporting casts, and settings. Plus all the notes I have on other story elements that haven’t found a home yet.

It was so easy to pour all of that into a setting book for an existing rules-set called the Fate system. It only took two weeks, and during the process or organizing all this information, I discovered a number of inconsistencies and discontinuities to fix.

Doug: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Tone: Getting that first draft out. I much prefer rewriting to writing. Rewriting is like playing with clay, writing is like passing clay.


Thanks, Tone! Check out Picking Up the Ghost by picking up (see what I did there?) the *Exclusive* Dark Fantasy & SF Bundle from StoryBundle.com before it disappears on September 9.

Exclusive Dark Fantasy & SF bundle interview: Paul Di Filippo

Wikiworld coverAs part of the new *Exclusive* Dark Fantasy & SF Bundle that I'm curating for StoryBundle.com, a remarkable set of eleven titles by bestselling authors and rising stars, I'll be posting an interview here on my blog with each of the bundle authors. Well, except for me, because that would be weird.

Today, we start with the first of those interviews: Paul Di Filippo.

I have not had the pleasure of making Paul's acquaintance personally, but I certainly, like most fans of the genre, know his name. So, I was thrilled when I had a chance to include a Di Filippo title, Wikiworld, in this bundle.

Paul has a stunningly impressive body of work, with a dozen novels and hundreds of published pieces of short fiction. I know Paul's work primarily through his short stories, so it's a special treat to be able to offer one of his best and most recent collections in this bundle, which includes the title story.

If you enjoy the work of Rudy Rucker, Bruce Sterling, Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, Charles Stross, Paulo Bacigalupi, or Cory Doctorow, you need to read Di Filippo. And now you can!

And now for that interview…

Doug: Regardless of whether you write stand-alone books or series, what themes do you think recur in your work or connect the stories you tell? How do those themes appear in this book?

Paul: It seems that as a child of the rebellious Sixties, I am always doomed to write about loners and rebels working either against established institutions or to subvert them from within. It’s evident in the titles story of this collection, where the hero reluctantly has to serve as head of state, and then topples the whole apparatus. But as I get older, I’m starting to see the value in traditions and established institutions, so maybe someday soon I’ll switch to writing about people who loyally and faithfully serve long-time organizations! Maybe like Poul Anderson’s Flandry.

Doug: How has your writing process changed over the years?

Paul: I used to strive for at least 1000 words of good clean text per day, but now I’m happy with however little or much I do on any given day, so long as it moves the story along. It’s a matter both of having less energy and of being less angsty!

Doug: What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Paul: WHERE THE BLUE BEGINS, by Christopher Morley, a brilliant and touching animal fable about a canine philosopher and seeker after wisdom. It should remain perpetually in print. Whenever I see a used copy, I buy it to give away.

Doug: If you couldn’t write, what form of creativity would you pursue?

Paul: For decades now I have perpetrated “mail art,” the decoration by collage of my envelopes and packages that go through the US postal system. It’s slapdash fun with little artistic merit. But maybe if I had more time, I could turn out some really first-rate collages—without having to attach them to envelopes first!

Doug: What is your favorite childhood book and why?

Paul: I really loved IT’S LIKE THIS, CAT, by Emily Neville, which won the Newbery Award in 1964—probably the same year I read it. It told of a sensitive young boy seeking his place in the world, who had only his cat to confide in. Man, that’s the template for every fanboy alive! Plus it featured an exciting urban environment different from my suburban home town. I reread it a few years ago, and it holds up brilliantly—not true of every childhood fave!


Thanks, Paul! Check out Wikiworld by picking up the *Exclusive* Dark Fantasy & SF Bundle from StoryBundle.com before it disappears on September 9.


The *Exclusive* Dark Fantasy & SF bundle!

Dark Fantasy & SF bundle covers2020 has been a scary year. Like some dark fantasy or horror story. Or a dystopian tale about the end of the world.


Why not embrace that spirit? Show this year from hell that you can take whatever it dishes out, because you know what dark fantasies and horror stories are really like. And you've seen more ends of the world than 2020 could even dream of.

Because you've read the stories in this amazing and exclusive bundle.

Read about curses and ghosts, about Norse gods on the Canadian prairies and what happens after Ragnarök and the end of the world. Read how life on Earth may end if we don't stop killing our planet. Read twenty-one tales of personal apocalypses (because someone's world is always ending), and stories from a very special and very strange bookstore. Read about post-human biopunk and day-after-tomorrow climate change adventure. Read about the boy who is either a scrawny, bullied, neglected son of insane parents or the imprisoned leader of a death cult dedicated to the goddess of discord.

I'm curating a new *Exclusive* Dark Fantasy & SF Bundle for StoryBundle.com, a remarkable set of eleven titles by bestselling authors and rising stars. As always, at StoryBundle, you name your own price—whatever you feel the books are worth, and a portion of the proceeds goes to charity (in this case, Black Lives Matter (Canada)).

It is only fitting that this Dark Fantasy & SF bundle was born from a dark event. In late 2019, the award-winning Canadian small press, ChiZine Publications, imploded under the weight of multiple complaints over non-payment of royalties and other issues.

Some good came from the collapse, as the publisher agreed to revert all rights for any title requested by an author. But that meant those titles were no longer available for readers like you to buy and enjoy from your favorite retailer.

So this bundle was born, containing several titles originally published by ChiZine but now independently published exclusively for this bundle. Right now, this bundle is the ONLY place you can buy these former CZP titles. The bundle also features other titles by former CZP authors, including books 2 and 3 in Chadwick Ginther's critically-acclaimed Thunder Road trilogy.

This exclusive bundle runs for three weeks only. This is a fantastic deal and a great way to pick up a batch of wonderful stories, most of which are not currently available anywhere else, all for one low price. – Douglas Smith

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you're feeling generous), you'll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Picking Up the Ghost by Tone Milazzo (StoryBundle Exclusive!)
  • Wasps at the Speed of Sound by Derryl Murphy (StoryBundle Exclusive!)
  • The Door to Lost Pages by Claude Lalumière (StoryBundle Exclusive!)
  • Tombstone Blues by Chadwick Ginther

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus SEVEN more books, for a total of eleven!

  • Wikiworld by Paul Di Filippo (StoryBundle Exclusive!)
  • Bullettime by Nick Mamatas (StoryBundle Exclusive!)
  • It's Not the End and Other Lies by Matt Moore (StoryBundle Exclusive!)
  • Chimerascope by Douglas Smith
  • Over the Darkened Landscape by Derryl Murphy (StoryBundle Exclusive!)
  • Objects of Worship by Claude Lalumière (StoryBundle Exclusive!)
  • Too Far Gone by Chadwick Ginther

This bundle is available only for a limited time via StoryBundle. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub, .mobi) for all books!

It's also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.

  • Get quality reads: We've chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth. If you can only spare a little, that's fine! You'll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there's nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to Black Lives Matter (Canada)
  • Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you'll get the bonus books!

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.

For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook

"Symphony" reprinted in TIME WE LEFT anthology

Time We Left cover

My SF story, "Symphony," appears in the new anthology, Time We Left, from The EXAGGERATED Press and edited by Terry Grimwood, a collection of stories about humanity leaving Earth and venturing into space.

"Symphony" was a finalist for the Aurora award and first appeared in the Canadian literary magazine, Prairie Fire, in 1999. In it, the colony ship, The Last Chance, has fled a plague-poisoned Earth with the remnants of the human race. Yes, even over twenty years ago, I was warning about pandemics ;-)

Launched before completion of its biosphere, the ship is only partly self-sustaining. Humanity has to find a new home—and time is running out. It isn’t called The Last Chance for nothing.

When they find the planet, it seems a dream come true. Earth-like, a breathable atmosphere, unpopulated. They name it Aurora, for the beauty that dances in its skies. At least, it had seemed beautiful at the time. Now they aren’t so sure. Now people are dying.

Gar Franck is the ship’s communication expert. When signs point to a non-human intelligence on the planet, Gar becomes the key to communicating with it.

But how can he communicate with an alien being when he can’t even talk to his autistic son, Anton, or his increasingly distant wife, Clara?

"There are two stories in "Symphony"...both converge in a spectacular, explosive finale. Smith's prose is poetic and evocative. He creates an intricate fabric of light, color, and sound with effortless flair. The story’s fluid style and the abundance of complex, wrenching emotions [make this] another recommended story." —Eugie Foster and Marsha Sisolak, Tangent Online

"A strong SF-nal story about a 'sentient light symphony' that objects to humans colonizing 'its planet.' How would you communicate with such and how would it react to a baby who lacks all 'human baggage' are some of the issues addressed here. (A+)" —Fantasy Book Critic

Time We Left is available in hardcover here, and an ebook edition will be released soon. "Symphony" is available also as a standalone ebook, and also appeared in my collection, Chimerascope. Both are available in my online store or from your favourite retailer.

"Memories of the Dead Man" in THE DARK FRONTIER antho

The Dark Frontier coverMy short story, "Memories of the Dead Man," appears in the new anthology The Dark Frontier, now out from Wild West Press with this very cool cover and available here (just Amazon right now). As the title suggests, this is a collection of western horror stories, and while I'd never considered "Dead Man" a western story, it does have a frontier, after-the-fall feel to it.

"Memories of the Dead Man" is a post-apocalyptic tale, set in the aftermath of an Earth devastated by a plague. And in case you're wondering, it was written many years before anyone had heard of COVID-19, first appearing in the excellent Canadian speculative fiction magazine, On Spec, in 2006.

It's a violent story. Not graphic, but the events are violent as is the world it describes. But it remains one of my favourite stories and one my fans often mention.

I use my short stories to stretch myself as a writer and to experiment with new structures and approaches to storytelling. Here, I wanted to write a story where the main character was not the viewpoint character. I plan to write a novel about the Dead Man, around the theme of the ethics of violence (Is violence ever justified? If so, under what conditions?), and wanted to first explore the character as others saw him.

The story opens with a question about the Dead Man, and I wanted the reader to answer that question for themselves just as Mary, our viewpoint character, struggled to answer it for herself.

The story: Mary and her son, Jase, survive by their wits in a post-plague Earth. On the run from a vicious gang, they are saved by Bishop, who just may be the Dead Man, the legendary hero of the Fall of Earth. But Bishop’s dark past catches up with them all, forcing Bishop to choose between his love for Mary and Jase, or revenge against the men who killed his family.

"All that you want in a sf short story is here from powerful characters, to action, mysterious happenings, and a dark, violent, but excellent tale. … A bittersweet ending adds to the power of the story. (A++)" —Fantasy Book Critic

"…again shows off Smith's flair for the cinematic. … In his preface to the story, Smith announces his plan to write a novel about the Dead Man…I do look forward to reading it." —Strange Horizons

"…has echoes of Stephen King wandering about its post-apocalyptic narrative." —Quill and Quire

If you're interested, you can also buy "Memories of the Dead Man" as a standalone story from my online store or from your favourite online retailer of ebooks. It is also included in my collection, Chimerascope (available here and here).

Webinar June 18: How to make your short fiction work for you

I'll be giving an online workshop on June 18, 7-9 pm, as part of the Writer's Community of York Region ongoing webinar program. The workshop is the third in my series based on my writer's guide, Playing the Short Game: How to Market & Sell Short Fiction.

This 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 will explain 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

Tickets are free, but space is limited. Pre-registration ends June 16, 2020. Please register here. Hope to see you online!


Fantastic Beasts interview: Susan Forest

Fantastic Beasts bundle coverI posted earlier about the excellent Fantastic Beasts ebook bundle sponsored by SFWA and provided by StoryBundle, running to June 18.

One of my fellow SFWA members and bundle buddies, Susan Forest, has a novel, Bursts of Fire, in the bundle. Bursts of Fire is the first book in a planned seven-book series, so here's your chance to not only get a great bunch of books from established pros, but start yourself on a brand new series.

Susan Forest is a writer of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and a four-time Prix Aurora Award finalist for her short fiction. Her epic fantasy, Bursts of Fire, came out in 2019 from Laksa Media, to be followed by Flights of Marigolds this summer.

She has published over 25 short stories which have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, among others. Susan has co-edited three anthologies (Aurora Award-winning Strangers Among Us and The Sum of Us, and finalist, Shades Within Us) on social issue-related themes with Lucas K. Law. Susan is past Secretary for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

She loves travel and has been known to dictate novels from the back of her husband's motorcycle. Below is my interview with Susan. Enjoy! And please check out the Fantastic Beasts ebook bundle.

You're an established pro at short fiction, but Burst of Fire is your debut novel. What prompted you to move to the longer form?

I've always considered myself a fantasy novelist and actually began in the long form (check my bottom drawer), but branched into short story writing as a means to hone my craft by working with complete story arcs. The first few I submitted to my critique groups came back with the comment: "This is great! But it's Chapter 1 of a new novel."

Nevertheless I persisted, and started publishing short stories in 2005. I also branched out from fantasy into science fiction, horror, and even comedy. But fantasy, and long form, has always been my first love, so I'm thrilled that Laksa Media took me on for the Addicted to Heaven series.

What was it about the Addicted to Heaven story that attracted you to commit to writing seven books?

I love the world, the people, the ideas, the magic—to me the stories almost seem to exist in some real alternate time and place, and I am privileged to peer into that world and follow the characters as they confront the events in their lives.

Addicted to Heaven is not my only sandbox, though; I have a historical fantasy set in an alternate 1635 on submission at DAW, and have researched a fantasy thriller set in 1942, in northern France. I love all my worlds, probably because I get so immersed in them.

Did you know you were starting a series when you began writing Bursts of Fire?

"Doorways" part 2 now up at Tales to Terrify podcast site

I wrote earlier about my SF novelette, "Doorways," being narrated at the excellent podcast site, Tales to Terrify. Because "Doorways" is over 10,000 word, Tales spread it over two back-to-back episodes.

Part 1 went up last week and is available here. Every episode of Tales to Terrify is a lot of fun, so I'd suggest you just start at the beginning. But if you want to jump to "Doorways," it starts about the 12:00 minute mark.

Tales has now posted Part 2 here. Again, their episodes are very entertaining, but if you want to jump ahead, the concluding part of "Dooways" starts at the 13:20 mark.



SFWA Fantastic Beasts bundle

Fantastic Beasts bundle coverMy Heroka novel, The Wolf at the End of the World, is included in a brand new ebook fantasy bundle, Fantastic Beasts, from StoryBundle. All fifteen books in the bundle are by pro SFWA writers and all of them feature a ... well, yeah ... fantastic beast. 

"Throughout human history, the creatures of myth have always been with us. From the gryphon's embodiment of nobility to the world-devouring snake that coils beneath the world till the end times, these beasts embody our hopes and fears. In these uncertain times, we need their strength, whether the great dragon is an obstacle to conquer or a friend to ride into battle. However they are used, they are the stars of this bundle, The Fantastic Beasts."

SFWA is an organization dedicated to promoting and supporting science fiction and fantasy writers worldwide. The Fantastic Beasts bundle was curated by SFWA members, presenting the works of fifteen different authors as they take on the theme in many different ways.

Pay what you want, and get the the base bundle with five titles. Pay at least $15 (c'mon, that's only a buck a book), and get the entire set of fifteen awesome novels.

The bundle runs from today until June 18, and then these great deals are gone. So grab your bundle now. Enjoy!

"Doorways" (part 1) now up at Tales to Terrify podcast

Doorways coverMy SF novelette, "Doorways," is being presented in podcast form on episode #434 of the excellent Tales to Terrify site. "Doorways" first appeared in Postscripts Magazine from PS Publishing in the UK in 2008. It was a finalist for the Aurora Award the following year.

Because it's a long story, over 10,000 words, TtT is presenting it in two parts. Part 1 is up now, and part 2 will be going up in a couple of weeks. Dan Gurzynski provides the narration, and I think he does a fantastic job. "Doorways" starts at about the 12:00 minute mark of the episode. I hope you'll check out part 1, and return to listen to part 2 when it gets posted.

The Story:

Dr. Lucius Rainer, head of research at GenTech, is dead. But to Jack, it seems that his old mentor still lives on through his house. Certainly, Rainer's strange island retreat exudes the personality of its late owner: isolated and eccentric, brooding and uninviting.

But when GenTech learns that the house holds a working model of Rainer's final project, Jack discovers that the house shares one other trait with its former owner.


The house will open only to Jack's biometrics, and will only allow two very specific people to accompany him: Wendy, Jack's now ex-wife, and Deak Sanderson, Wendy's new lover and Jack's former rival at GenTech. As the three of them explore the house and its secrets, Jack discovers that some doors—in this house and in life—should never be opened.

Select reviews:

"A couple months ago I was introduced to Douglas Smith by way of his collected short stories, Impossibilia. So I was looking forward to his story 'Doorways' and was not disappointed. ... This story has a cunningly satisfying conclusion. I find a good short story falls into two categories: There is the complete story, the novel miniaturised, which is a nearly perfect art form. These are hard to capture but constantly illustrated by such writers as Douglas Smith." —SF Crowsnest Book Reviews

"…is based on an interesting concept … The puzzles [in the story] and the final invention that they hint at are intriguing … Smith ties [the story's] denouement's metaphorical significance in well with the technological concept at the centre of the plot." —The Fix


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