10 Writing Rules We Wish More Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors Would Break (via @io9 and @thecreativepenn)

This was published recently on io9, and it’s worth a look:

Science fiction and fantasy are genres where almost anything can happen — as long as the author can make it seem plausible, and as long as it’s part of a good story. But that doesn’t mean there are no rules. If anything, the fact that these genres are so wide open mean that there are tons of rules out there, some unspoken and some written in black and white.

In general these rules tend to be caged with statements like ‘this is usually done poorly but there is a place for it’, but it’s still worth reading. I must admit I was confused by the rule ‘Women should not write Hard SF’ since I didn’t realise that was a rule (even an unspoken one). In any case, break the hell out of that one, please.

Full article: http://io9.com/5879434/10-writing-rules-we-wish-more-science-fiction-and-fantasy-authors-would-break

Monday Market – Like a Chill Down Your Spine: Erotic Ghost Stories – Mar 31, 2012

This is a new anthology for Circlet Press: Like a Chill Down Your Spine: Erotic Ghost Stories:

Sometimes you get the feeling that someone is waiting in the shadows and watching you . . . what if there is someone there? What if they are just waiting to reach out and grab you, and find all the sensitive places that make you want to scream? Ghosts have haunted living beings through the ages, but they can tempt as well. Circlet is looking for your erotic stories of ghosts: in the bedroom, in the woods, or in long-unused, spirit-filled castles. Intense suspense and pleasure blend into one in this anthology of supernatural temptations.

They’re looking for approximately 3500 to 7500 words, with flexibility to 2000 to 10,000 words.

Note, this is primarily erotic fiction though, and so:

All stories must include explicit sexuality and erotic focus. Romantic content is welcome, but in a short story remember to keep the details on the action and its effects on the main character’s internal point of view. We favor a strong, singular narrative voice (no ‘head hopping’ or swapping between different character’s points of view within a scene).

The ebook anthology pays $25, with the additional rights to a possible print edition later paying another $25.

Find the rest of the submission details here: http://www.circlet.com/?p=3701

The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam (via @catvalente)

It’s friday, so it gets a little silly around here.

Ever since J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis created the worlds of Middle Earth and Narnia, it seems like every windbag off the street thinks he can write great, original fantasy, too. The problem is that most of this “great, original fantasy” is actually poor, derivative fantasy. Frankly, we’re sick of it, so we’ve compiled a list of rip-off tip-offs in the form of an exam.

As an example, the first question is: ‘Does nothing happen in the first 50 pages?’

It’s brutal, and the marking criteria are also brutal:

We think anybody considering writing a fantasy novel should be required to take this exam first. Answering “yes” to any one question results in failure and means that the prospective novel should be abandoned at once.

Nonetheless, it does highlight cliches of the genre, so it’s worth checking out if you write in this area.

Full exam here: http://www.rinkworks.com/fnovel/

Ten Home Truths About Starting In Self-publishing (via @pattyjansen)

Patty Jansen is an Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy author, and a member of the SFWA. She also has a number of self-published work available online, and shares her experiences in self-publishing over the last twelve months:

This month marks my one-year anniversary at Smashwords. I started with His Name In Lights, which had been published previously, and now have sixteen items up, ranging from hard SF to non-fiction to fantasy. Short stories, novellas and novels.

Here are a few things I’ve learned in the process shared here for the beginning self-publishing writer.

As usual, I’ll force you to click through to get the details, but some of the points Patty elaborates are different from the common self-publishing wisdoms of ‘write well’ and ‘make sure you have a good cover’, notably:

  • Don’t go overboard with expenses – make your writing self-sustaining
  • Paid advertising does not work

And this is an important statement in light of the often heated debates about traditional publishing and self-publishing:

Don’t forget to keep submitting your work to traditional publishers. Having published in both ways can reinforce your name. There is no need to be snobby about ‘the publishing industry’. Unless you know a lot about it, and can demonstrate that knowledge, you’ll just end up looking like a dick.

Read it all here: http://pattyjansen.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/ten-home-truths-about-starting-in-self-publishing/

Persian Cat Press and books-as-apps for children (via @readinasitting and @persiancatpress)

Persian Cat Press guest blogs at Teacher Turned Writer to describe their approach to children’s books as apps. I linked to research about children and ebooks just recently, so this pracital example of books for children provides a good follow up.

An app is a unique platform in that it allows publishers to create a product that involves not only traditional reading and visual literacy, but also a physical and aural literacy too. In this way, apps have the potential to not only talk to a child’s imagination but also directly to their senses.

They talk about their first books-as-app, ‘The Gift’, and all the various elements, from musical scores to non-essential-but-fun little diversions in the text, that were brought together in the final work.

Check it out here for some inspiration: http://teacherturnedwriter.gillrobins.com/?page_id=108

Monday Market – Cthulhu Steampunk – July 31, 2012 (via @superleni)

Helen Stubbs emailed me this anthology, blending the Cthulhu Mythos and Steampunk! It’s published through the venerable Chaosium. Like last week’s market, you have months to get your entry done, so again, no excuses:

I contacted one of the editors, Brian M. Sammons, who informed me there was no actual submissions link, just the publicity they could achieve through their own efforts, and through sites like this one.

So instead of providing a link for you, I actually have the full submission details below, as provided by Brian.

In summary though: Cthulhu Mythos Steampunk, 2,000-8,000 words, .03 USD/word and 3 contributor’s copies, due 31st July, 2012

Full details follow.


The age of steam meets the age of Cthulhu, in a past where technology unbound warps Victorian Britain and the world at large into a dark Steampunk reality.

In Steampunk Cthulhu (yes that’s only a working title) we are looking for stories set in a world where futuristic visions of technology, advanced machines undreamt of in the Victorian era, are powered by steam, or sometimes the inscrutable minds of dark, god-like beings.

Undreamt of yes, and maybe a nightmare here, think of what would happen if HG Wells had sent his Time Machine to a past when the Elder Things ruled the globe, or Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo was an evil acolyte of Cthulhu? Of course we don’t want you to limit yourselves to fictional characters of the genre, but you can use these historical personages and your own protagonists and cultists of Cthulhu.

Space travel, journeys to the center of the earth and 20,000 leagues under R’lyeh, we want to see Victorian globetrotting adventurers and wild technologies in the Wild West. Think zeppelins crossed with tomes of forbidden knowledge, steam powered automatons battling indescribable beasts from beyond time and space, fanciful high-tech gadgets and blood drenched arcane artifacts, the wonders of tomorrow meeting the horror of inescapable doom, and if you can put your own unique spin on both the steampunk setting and the Cthulhu Mythos, so much the better.

Authors should be well versed in both the steampunk setting and Lovecraftian horror as a good blending of both is what we’re after. If you’re looking for info on steampunk, check the Wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steampunk) for a brief overview and a small selection of authors and books to get you started. If you need to bone up on your Cthulhu Mythos you can read all of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories online for free here: http://www.hplovecraft.com/ or just look around your local bookstore – if you’re still luckily enough to have a local bookstore – as the Cthulhu Mythos has never been hotter.

This book will be published by Chaosium. Authors will receive .03 a word and 3 complementary contributor copies, with the option to purchase more at a 50% discount. For this Chaosium will obtain the First North American Serial Rights to your story.

Ideally stories should be between 2,000 and 8,000 words. Shorter or longer tales may be accepted, but it would be a good idea to query first with an estimate on how long your tale is likely to be. Lastly we’re looking for original stories, no reprints, please.

The deadline for submissions is July 31. Please send submissions as .rtf files to both editors below. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Brian M. Sammons bmanrun@hotmail.com

Glynn Owen Barrass cthulhupunk@hotmail.co.uk

Striking a Pose (Women and Fantasy covers) (via @margolanagan and @jimchines)

Just recently I saw this article by Jim C. Hines reposted by Margo Lanagan on twitter, and it was too entertaining to let slip by:

Now I could talk about the way women are posed in cover art … or I could show you.

Jim proceeds to sacrifice a little dignity to recreate poses from a selection of mostly urban fantasy covers, to great effect.

Check out the fruits of his labour here: http://www.jimchines.com/2012/01/striking-a-pose/

For Reading and Learning, Kids Prefer E-Books to Print Books (via @digibookworld)

Well! But what about the smell, you say? Of the books, I mean, not the kids.

A new “QuickStudy” – so named for its short duration and the small size of its sample group – from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center observed 24 families with children ranging in age from three-to-six reading both print and e-books in the Summer and Fall of 2011. Most of the children in the study preferred reading an e-book to a print book and comprehension between the two formats were the same.

Now bear in mind this is exactly what it says on the tin: a quick study, mostly useful for identifying if there an interesting result that might warrant further investigation. Also, interestingly:

Enhanced e-books – those that have more bells and whistles than e-books, like interactive features and games – were also compared in the study with their regular e-book counterparts. Children recalled fewer of the details of the content of enhanced e-books versus the same e-book.

“Kids were more focused on tapping things and that took away from their comprehension as well as the interaction between the parent and the child,” said Shuler.

There have been few studies on the impact on children of this sweeping new way of accessing content, so hopefully this study will spur further research. For writers and publishers, having more of an understanding of how kids respond to digital content will help structure new e-books (both fiction and non-fiction).

The original article is here for further reading: http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2012/for-reading-and-learning-kids-prefer-e-books-to-print-books/

The Art of the Epic Battle (via @susanjmorris)

Susan Morris’s writing articles are so useful that I try not to overwhelm you with too many of them, and instead hand pick a rare few. It means they’re a little old, like this article on writing epic battles from mid-December.

Nothing sets fire to our hearts and minds like a good old-fashioned climatic battle. That epic clash where good stands against evil in the face of almost certain death, fearlessly protecting that which is most sacred to them–be it honor, freedom, or the world itself. Few things are more inspiring than seeing those brave, proud few draw a line in the sand and throw down for what they believe in against almost impossible odds.

Susan breaks the article into three sections, and contrasts this to a regular fight scene. Useful advice here for writers of epic battles.

  • What Are They Fighting For?
  • What Gives Them Hope?
  • How Does it All End?

Read it here: http://www.omnivoracious.com/2011/12/violent-climaxes-the-art-of-the-epic-battle.html

Amazon’s Plagiarism Problem (via @FastCompany)

Fast Company writes an article about the problem of plagiarism on Amazon:

Amazon’s policy is to remove offending content when it receives complaints of plagiarism. Erotica author Elizabeth Summers had at least 65 titles expunged when plagiarism allegations surfaced. Recently Robin Scott’s books also disappeared from Amazon when writers complained. (Scott, which is almost assuredly not her–his?–real name, did not respond to requests for an interview over Twitter.) But this reactive approach isn’t entirely effective.

Considering the volume of self-published digital work, it’s inevitable that this will become an even larger problem, until some sort of content-matching anti-plagiarism process is applied to uploaded works (much like TurnItIn does for academic works). Other than the sheer volume of content that needs to be checked, though, these files are just text files. Any egregious plagiarism (some of the examples in this story are wholesale copying of books) should be quite easily picked up by a computer.

As it stands, large-scale plagiarism seems like an easy, low-risk (for now) way to make a quick unethical buck by sponging off the creative efforts of actual writers.

I’ve had two plagiarism threads appear on mailing lists I’m on, of people whose content has been resold on Amazon, and warnings about people submitting chunks of plagiarised work. Have any of you had any run-ins with plagiarism in your writing career?