New Fiction and reprints and stuff

If you’re one of those poor sods who follows my social media you’ll know that almost for the past two months I’ve overseas in Europe. It was a good trip, visited almost a dozen countries and got to see a lot of old friends. But that also means there’s little time to write, let alone blog. And while I’ve been away I’ve had a number of goodies released online or purchased. I’ll link ’em up here.

 

First is my latest piece from Nature, Walls of Nigeria. A story set in a future West Africa, with alien biotech and armored suits a la Halo/Crysis.I’ve been wanting to write this sort of story for a long, long time now but never had the guts. But I decided to hell with it and wrote it. The word-choice and worldbuilding is so strong in this story that it needed a lot of editing to truly knock it into the shape it needed to be in. But so far it’s been getting incredible feedback from everyone’s who read it (including some bloke on twitter who said it was Nature’s best piece. Which is…wow) and I’m very, very happy with it and the ending. Do check it out.

 

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The second the audio release of my nihilistic faux-Lovecraft/secondary world fantasy “Last Age of Kings” over at Far Fetched Fables. I don’t usually listen or like audio adaptations of my work, but Mark Kilfoil absolutely kills the narration and I listened to the whole thing twice. Even though I wrote it nearly two years ago it still seems fresh – all thanks to Mark, of course.

You may listen here.

 

The third is a mouthful: my short story, “The Galaxy’s Cube” has been killing it as far as reprints ago. It’s picked up an audio adaptation over at The Overcast by the lovely lovely J. S. Arquin who does a great job of wrapping his tongue around the tricky Thai names and phrases – very happy here. Check it out here.

It’s also been picked up to be in the hardcover anthology Dystopia Utopia by Flame Tree Press. This one is special because not only did I get pro rates for a reprint, the books are widely available in quite a few bookstores. Flame Tree have gotten their name around and I’ve seen their anthologies in bookstore chains and even in those tiny portable bookstores you see in Westfields. And this down here in Australia. A country that never gets anything. I’m told they’re in UK stores, too, although uncertain in the American front. I’ve already spoken to my local bookstores who’ve carried previous Flame Tree anthos and they’ve agreed to order it in and actually asked me to pop in and scribble a signature in ’em. This is a sale that could rival the one I made to China (for the same story, no less).

Anyway, you can pick up a copy on Book depository, which ships internationally for free. Come on, you know you want a copy.

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It’s it for now. I’m still editing my novel, and there are some other sales I can’t yet discuss (both originals and reprints) but all in good time. Otherwise, onwards and upwards.

Words and words and words, starting a new project

For those of you who’ve been following my tweets recently, I’m neck deep in a new project. Not a new short story, a new novel. I finished my YA epic Slavic fantasy about a month back. I took a short break before thinking about what I was going to do next. I didn’t want to jump into edits straight away – me and my YA fantasy didn’t have a very good relationship in the last third of the book. We needed, need, time away from each other. In a couple of months I’ll come back and start hacking away at it with an axe.

But until then I needed something else. I’ve had this idea boiling in the basement of my skull for quite some time, but didn’t have the backstory to support it. I took a few days to flesh it out, do some outlining, then threw myself into writing. No side projects, no short stories, no editing. Nothing. Just words words words.

I stated that book two and a half weeks ago, about 18 days. Right now it’s sitting at 19,000 words. That’s my part time job at the moment. Butt in chair, pouring my mind on the keyboard and screen. No inspiration quotes, no #amwriting hashtags on twitter, no in-the-zone yoga mind experiments.

Just black words on white paper.

My minimum target is 1,000 words per day, not including plot outlining, world-building, and running off to jot down some cool idea. And so far I’m not doing too badly. I know where my characters are going, where they’ve come from, and (most) of the world around them. I can’t say much about the project, but it’s a space opera crossed with a murder mystery. It’s not YA either, my first adult book since my first rubbish attempt at writing a SF/F when I was in highschool.

I’m not thinking about how to sell it, how to pitch it, if the current market is good for it, nothing. I’m just having fun and getting that work down. It’s hard sometimes, and I hate every sodding word on the sodding page, but I’m doing it. It’s going to be one ugly half-breed when it’s done (coming from a half-breed), but it’ll be done.

One of the worst things I ever did was let my YA fantasy sit and rot for whole months at a time over a stretch of one year and three months while I was finishing university. It grew old and stale, and even now it’s in desperate need of a scrub up and tweaking. So I’m not making that mistake here. I’m living and breathing this world and this world alone, and it’s pouring out of me fast.

By this time next week I hope to be at 26,000 words, perhaps a little more. By the time this is over my fingers are going to be worn down to the bone and my brain having gone through a deep fat fryer, but no one said this job was meant to be easy.

‘Until then….

Interview over at SF Signal

It’s been a busy week, I’ll tell you that much. I’ve reached 9.6k for my new space opera novel. That’s roughly 1k a day, and will be more if I manage to reach 11k by the end of today. But I want to take the time today to really cement the fundamentals of the world in my head and have that high-concept, ultra-epic coolness that helps the universe stand out from the rest. I’ve literally got a note stapled above my screen that reads “up the weird, add the cool, mix it up”. And that I will do!

But in the meantime I also managed I do an interview over at SF Signal, talking about me, my writing process, my job as an editor, how I managed to get onboard as an editor for a Hugo-winning podcast at the age of 19, etc. If you ever had a burning sensation to know what it was like working with William Gibson, Christopher Priest, Robin Hobb, and George R. R. Martin while Season 5 of Game of Thrones was airing, you can settle that satisfaction right now! It was almost surreal, typing that all up and realising just what we managed to achieve.

Anyway, the interview is here if you want to check it out. Enjoy!

2015: A year in review

Wait, what just flew by me?

Oh wait, that was 2015. Well, that went pretty quick didn’t it?

Looks like I’m going to have to do another one of these.

A lot of stuff happened in 2015. But to get it out of the way, I finished university. This one isa big of a mixed bag. I enjoyed my studies there and the numerous ways in which we were taught to approach subjects like criticism, deduction and scientific research. I loved meeting up with my friends everyday and making plans to do something weird.

One of the weirdest (that I can actually mention here) was in our film class, where we were set to watch the film Taxi Driver. We were ravenous, so we did what one naturally does and trooped along to Subway and ordered two entire cookie platters. Because reasons. Obviously we couldn’t finish it. So we took it into the film threatre and passed it around in the dark. It one point I believe someone started using it as a frisbee, scattering cookies and crumbs over us while Robert De Niro coasts around NYC with a bad haircut and sub nose revolver. Again, not mind-blowing stuff, but that’s all your getting from me. Other less interesting stuff was when a moron posted on 4chan that he would shoot up the university for kicks. Obviously nothing happened, but we could have done without the scare.

So yes, I had a good time there. But it was time to leave. Some classes were nothing more than pointless filler, or in some cases based on the teacher’s agenda – something that went to higher authorities more than one. Other times I just did not feel I was being taught anything practical, especially in creating writing. Some classes were incredible, others less so. There’s only so long you can take people seriously when you’re sitting in a lecture hall listening to someone ramble on about document/collage poetry when you’re signing contracts for Nature and Macmillan to purchase your work.

But I digress. Essentially: university was good and I enjoyed it in many ways, but it was holding me back in many ways as well. Time to move on.

For my own writing, I sold eight pieces of original fiction, all of which were semipro or higher and two of which were to Nature/Macmillan. I still pinch myself when I see the Macmillan publishers logo stamped beneath my stories. One of them, Daega’s Test, is currently being translated into Polish by Szortal. I also managed to reach the position of Finalist in the prestigious Writers of the Future contest Q3. I did not make the top three, but I will know within a week or two if I am the Published Finalist. Here’s hoping.

I also sold 13 reviews and essays, 4 of which have not yet been written as of yet, but are secured. 3 of them are to Strange Horizons, which is awesome. They published my review of Predestination back in January and I am still immensely grateful. And currently I am writing the official review for Star Wars: The Force Awakens for them. Not feeling the pressure at all.

The other significant essay was to legendary John Joseph Adams over at Lightspeed slash Nightmare. I’m going to be part of the People of Colour Destory Science-Fiction anthology, launching in June 2016 in paperback. It was a difficult essay to write and while I’ve never been one to shy away from speaking my mind, I had to dredge up some old childhood memories that I’d rather not talk about too often. But it was important and relevant and I decided to do it, and I’m going to be proud of it when the anthology launches with over 100+ other authors. I’m excited to see the line-up, very much so, but I’m even more excited to finally sell to John Joseph Adams and be published in Lightspeed, something I’ve been trying to do for 2 years now, which is 1/10 of my life.

I sent my YA SF novel out to do the rounds. It got an overwhelmingly good response. I think I scooped up around 14 fulls and 12 partials from major, major agents. I got essay-long rejection letters from some the most highly respected agents in NYC. But no, it’s a pass. I was guttered at first and beat myself up about it. But I told myself to shut up, learn from my mistakes and come back with a better novel.

And that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m 65k into it now, and I’ve got the end in sight. The bones for my next project are slowly brewing, and it’s one I’m really excited about. And that’s primarily what I’m planning to do: focus on writing those novels first and foremost. I will always write short stories, always. But I came into this industry to be a novelist, to have an agent and to be sitting on those shiny shelves in those shiny bookstores. And that’s something you earn. And to do that, you need actual novels. I’m planning to sit down and outline my next novel and then go, full speed ahead. No side-stepping, no distractions, nothing. Hopefully when two months have passed I’ll have a novel. This last one took a whole year (and it’s not finished yet) because of university. I’m not letting that stop me again.

Now. To StarShipSofa.

We had an incredible year at the District of Wonders. SSS and Tales to Terrify alone managed to get over one million downloads. One million. And I worked on every single one of them.

I had the opportunity to work with and produce fiction by authors such as George R. R. Martin, William Gibson, Kim Stanley Robinson, Allen Steele, Robin Hobb, and dozens of others people who are gods in the literary world (if you told me two years ago that one day I would produce audio fiction by the creator of Game of Thrones I’d have laughed in your face). I was able to interview Ellen Datlow, Joe Abercrombie, and a whole range of other editors and publishers. I read hundreds of stories in the slush and picked out and produced audio adaptations of the ones I thought were truly the best. And it was truly an honour and a privilege to helm one of the biggest SF podcasts in the galaxy. And I will continue to be doing it for a long, long time to come.

We will be making changes over at District of Wonders. We’ve acquired two new staff members for SSS, including my intern and assistant Ralph Ambrose (who is incredible – I’d be dead in the water without him). We’ll be uping our game. More narrators, more diversity in narrators, more content, more cool features, more special issues. We’ve already got one narrator locked in who’s acted in major films opposite the likes of Ellen Page, Woody Harrellson, Cilian Murphy and others. We’ve lined up an incredible story by a major author who’s had a film adaptation by one of the most respected director’s today. We’ve got…okay, okay, I’ll stop. All I’ll say is: District of Wonders is upping their game and working much, much more closely together. Expect amazing things in 2016.

Well, that’s it. It’s been a gigantic year for me, both as a writer and an individual. I don’t know what’ll happen next year (which starts in an hour’s time for me), but all I know is that I’ve got my sights set on writing a killer novel that’ll snap up an agent. It’s something I have to earn, and I’m willing to do just that. Failing that, I want to win Writers of the Future, something I consider to be likely in the very near future. But it’s impossible to tell.

I’m going to sign off, but first let me say to the hundreds and hundreds of authors, narrators, publishers, actors, writers, editors, friends and fans I’ve met in 2015, it’s been an honour to know and have worked with you in 2015. Truly, it has. And hopefully I’ll continue to do that in 2016. And maybe, I just might meet you in person.

But that’s another story.

Signing off,

Jeremy Szal

 

StarShipSofa: Slush Update #1

A little update for you all.

Me and Ralph are slowly carving our way through the slush. We’ve gotten a pretty high amount so far, and the decisions of what to take and let go off are getting difficult. Ralph is finding it hard to let go of some of these stories, and so am I. Make it harder for us. And for those of you who are following the Grinder, I can tell you now it’s wildly inaccurate in our case. It doesn’t list even half of our rejections. Charlie was right when he said better authors use it. 😉

We’ve responded to everything up until <b>December 16</b>. If you haven’t gotten a response, you are in the second round hole pile. I don’t have a date estimate for a response then, but just know that you’re getting another look.

Also, if any of you guys are interested in narrating stories for District of Wonders (or know people who are interested) send over a sample. We’re looking to expand our narrator pool and diversify it.

Tales to Terrify is looking for more UK male narrators. SSS is looking for more female narrators of any time, but especially UK. We recently got a South African narrator on board, but we’re still searching for others.

That’s it for now! Keep sending those stories in!

2nd story publication at Nature

My second story from Nature, System Reboot, launched recently over at their website!

It’s my most experimental piece, and my first published story in present tense. I don’t usually write in it, but in this case I felt that the story demanded it and I think it turned out pretty well. Colin must have felt so as well, because it’s doing pretty well. I’ve had quite a number of people talk about it online, and government scientists and professors of AI neuropsychology have been tweeting about it. I was blown away by that (and I think my head is still reeling).

And the artwork….

They really do not skip out on the artwork at all.

I wrote about my inspiration for the piece and a bit of background here, so check that out if you want. And if you prefer the pdf version of the story, that’s available here as well.

Enjoy reading!

 

Also, in other news, my other Nature story, Daega’s Test, will be appearing as a reprinted and translated into Polish over at Szortal. This will be my first story translation, so that’s marvelous. I’ve got a bunch of Polish family members and friends who don’t speak English well (if at all), so now they’ll have no excuse but to read it! I’ll post when it’s up!

’til then…

University’s over forever

My brain’s fried and I can’t think of a good blog title now, so bear with me.

The gist of it is this: today, my 3 year stay at the University of New South Wales has come to a close. All the assignments have been submitted, all the readings done, all the presentations completed…everything.

And you what? It’s a pretty good feeling.

I’m not going to pretend I didn’t enjoy love parts of it. I had a hell lot of fun, made a lot of friends, learned critical thinking and knowledge that I couldn’t get anywhere else. Other than my Film Studies and Creative Writing major, I also did two subjects of Sociology, two subjects of Physics and astronomy, and one of modern history. Not everyone gets to say they studied (and passed!) advanced astrophysics at university level. I loved my lectures and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

But all good things must come to an end.

While I did enjoy my stay there, and I do enjoy the process of studying, it’s a very draining experience. There’s always something due. Always another presentation coming up, always another book to finish, always another draft to go over, always another reading to do, always another-

It does your head in after a while. It really does.

And I’ve never let university stop me from writing and submitting work: it’s what I went there in the first place to do. Over the latter two years (I’m not counting the first) I had more than fourty-five (and counting) short stories, articles and reviews published, everywhere from Strange Horizons to Nature. And that’s just the stuff that’s been accepted and published. And that doesn’t include the 50+ episodes of StarShipSofa that I solicited, produced and organized.

Writing’s hard, man.

For the content of the courses, the majority were good, and there were some that were invaluable to me as a writer (and film producer!). When I get that book deal, my teachers are being thanked in the credits, that much I promised them. But there was one creative writing class that was the equivalent of the world’s worst sewers being funneled down to a single mammoth-sized container, and then exploding that container wide open. I think I’ve gotten PTSD from that class. The lessons being taught were so absurd, so wildly impractical and against every fundamental writing rule ever (give your character agency, write in a clear prose, keep your audience in mind, don’t use passive voice, etc, etc) that I shut myself out and resigned to going over those copy-edits that Nature wanted back. It was completely divorced from the realities of contemporary publishing and literature. There was a strong whiff of nepotism in it, too.

The thing I learned in that class was what exactly not to do if I actually ever wanted to be published outside a coffee-chain owned vanity press. And I’m not even going to go into how any type of genre fiction, regardless of it’s quality, was treated….

But anyway, that’s behind me. I’m looking past that all.

As I say, I’m gonna miss it. There’s a vibe to being on campus, a sort of exuberance that you don’t get anywhere else in the world. And it was awesome while it lasted, but it’s over now. No more essays, no more presentations, no more sodding 3500 thesis to submit in a matter of days. No more of that.

So what’s next?

Writing. A lot of it. I’m going to be scribbling down some more short stories and get around to finishing my novel. There’s also a ton of work to be done on StarShipSofa. Great things are coming to it, and I can’t wait to see the reaction. And of course, I’ll need to get that job sooner or later. I did actually go to university for a reason, after all!

But right now, I’m just enjoying my newly discovered freedom.

If you need me, I’ll be over at the bar.

Over and out.

 

StarShipSofa: Final Slush Update

Hello everyone,

The slush is done. It’s done. It’s over. And now I know how Frodo felt after throwing the ring into Mt. Doom.

I’ve been so ridiculously busy. Over the course of the submissions I’ve suffered two illnesses, traveled around the globe and back, and a bunch of other personal issues that I’d rather not discuss publicly. On top of that I’m in my final semester of university, and I’ve barely had a second to myself. But you guys all understood and gave me your unending patience, and for that I am grateful. I’ll definitely be looking at getting both an intern for StarShipSofa permanently and a few slush readers to help me out. But right now, I’m so busy that I don’t have the time to hunt down an assistant to help me out because I’m so busy. If that’s not a paradox, I don’t know what is.

It’s been an incredible experience for me, not as just as an editor, but a writer as well. I’ve never really been on the other side on the coin, as they say, in terms of submissions and shifting through slush. But the experience was worth it.

There have been stories I absolutely hated letting go off. There were some that I wrestled with for days and days, completely unsure of what to do. Damn, do you people write fantastic stories. I hated myself for saying no, and writing that letter came with a heavy heart. But the decisions have been made and the acceptances and rejections have been sent off.

For those of you who got acceptances, I’d have given you my personal email address. If you haven’t already, please send your story file and your bio (pasted in the email) over to it. Do not try to reach me via the submissions email – that’s purely for reading slush.

StarShipSofa will absolutely be reopening to submissions. When? I don’t know. I definitely need to graduate from university first, and we’ve got a lot of stuff to sort out over at StarShipSofa. When I get a second I’ll be writing more detailed blog posts about my experience doing slush and the common pitfalls, what to avoid, etc, etc. And if I rejected you, don’t give up. Drag yourself back up and shoot me a story that kicks me in the gut (not literally) and one that I cannot say no to. But more on that later.

It’s been an absolute blast to read your excellent stories, and it’s going to be even more fun working with you all and seeing what the final production looks like. I’ve heard some of them already and they’re excellent. I’m hoping you guys will be as proud of them as I am.

Until then, thank you all so much. And never, ever, ever give up.

Jeremy

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