Damn, this has been quite a year.

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I hate New Year’s Eve and all the nonsense that goes with it. Too much thinking and chewing on regrets, as a rule. That said, it is impossible not to take some time (mostly involuntary. I’m working but clients don’t want to talk to me til the new year.) to reflect on what became of 2019. It’s been a monster, writing-wise.

A novel published, 5 short stories accepted, a new novel finished and ready to find a home, and the contract signed for a new business book is a pretty good year. Screw imposter syndrome!

To start with, my third novel, Acre’s Orphans entered the world in January. As you know, it’s the sequel to 2017’s Acre’s Bastard. No kidding, I love this book and it’s been the best-reviewed and rewarded of my career. It won recognition from Chill With a Book, Discovered Diamonds (finally got one on my third try!) and an Indie BRAG Medallion. It also got a lovely review from Storgy.

If I’m honest, while I think it’s the best novel I’ve written, it has also sold a whole lot less than my other books. This has got me thinking about my approach to getting my work into the world. More on that in a minute.

It’s been a wild year for my short fiction as well.

In February, my story The Forger of Cairo appeared in Storgy Magazine. This matters, and not just because it’s a pretty good little horror tale in a darned fine lit magazine. It marks my transition from writing mostly historical fiction to broadening my scope to other genres. This story also plays an unexpected role in my new novel.

But Storgy wasn’t done with me yet. In May, they did a review of Acre’s Bastard, then followed up in July with a very kind follow-up on Acre’s Orphans. To top it off, my first foray into flash fiction took the third prize in their 2019 Flash Fiction Contest. I am deeply grateful for my association with these maniacs. They like me, they really like me.

Another magazine that has been very good to me this year is Twist in Time Magazine. In March, my story about the French Foreign Legion in Viet Nam, Dien Bien Phu 1954, came into the world. Then in September and November, they serialized Los Angeles, 1952. You can read the origins of that story here.

Yet another story came out in September. Ava, Lana, and Old Bob Campbell appeared in Ragazine. This is the second magazine that shuttered its doors just after publishing one of my stories (RIP eFiction.) I am trying not to take that personally. By the way, the roots of this story are explained here. Worth checking out if you already haven’t.

Also in September, Kevin Eikenberry and I signed the contract to do the sequel to The Long-Distance Leader- Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. I’m plugging away on The Long-Distance Teammate- Stay Engaged and Connected While Working Anywhere, and it should see the light in January of 2021. Oh, and the Long-Distance Leader came out in Italian!

The sequel to the Long-Distance Leader is in the works

So, about this new book. Johnny Lycan is unlike anything I’ve done before. It’s a modern, urban fantasy/thriller about a detective in Chicago who happens to be a werewolf. Yeah, I know. Here’s where that reexamining my approach thing comes in.

I am currently searching for an agent (ideally) or at least a publisher for this new book. It could be the basis of a series. At the very least I might make some money on it.

In Italian, no less

While I’m incredibly proud of the Lucca stories, it is clear I”m not cut out to be a successful self-publisher. Good work that doesn’t find readers is just kind of soul-crushing. I have no plans to self-publish another novel. I know that bodes ill for a third Acre’s book, but such is the way of the world. Lucca will have to wait.

And working in a new genre basically means I’ll have to start over with my PR efforts. This blog will change direction somehow, although I don’t know what that will look like land I’ll be hanging out more with Urban Fantasy and Horror folks than historical fiction writers.

Big changes, indeed, but screw it. This has been an exhausting, thrilling and tension-filled year. Lots of highs, and some lows (obsessively checking your sales numbers can be a very depressing thing.) I am grateful for the support of those who read my blog and my books. I hope you’ll stick with me on next year’s journey.

Happy new year, God bless us, everyone, see you on the flipside.

Holy @$%^, My Flash Fiction Won Something

My short fiction has been filling in space while I’m between novels, and it’s been getting some love. The latest pleasant surprise is from my boys at Storgy.com, who have awarded my story, “Sponging” third place in their 2019 Storgy Flash Fiction Competition.

Flash is something I had never tried before. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s the need to tell a complete story in a pitifully small number of words, usually 500 or a thousand depending on who you ask. For this contest, it was 500 words. Flash fiction fans (who also appreciate alliteration, apparently) will tell you it’s a legit art form that forces the writer to focus on only the elements crucial to creating a character and theme, a little like prose haiku. Others will tell you it’s because nobody can afford to do print and paper magazines anymore, and reading long stories on line can be a drag.

Given that I write primarily novels and business books, it’s hard for me to even say hello in 500 words, so the fact I could tell a tale about a fixed horse race and a guilty jockey in such a short space was a little surprising. I couldn’t have done it without the input from my writer’s group, the Thursday night bunch at Sin City Writers.

Truthfully, my goal was to make the book– the top 30 stories are getting published in a chapbook. I never expected to make the top 3 (and a little bird told me I damn near won the thing, but that’s practically irrelevant.) I know and really enjoy the work of several of the authors who submitted, like Tomas Marcantonio, Emily Harrison, Rick White, and Laure Van Rensburg and that’s some durned fine company to find oneself among.

I’ll keep you posted on when the book will be available. Meanwhile, check out all my short stories and where you can find them on this site on the Short Stories and Other Pieces page.

Support Litmags #1- Storgy

If we start zoning out a page in then it needs work. Don’t bore us. You know what’s good.

Anthony Self, Executive Director, Head of Film, Storgy Magazine.

Since I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. In particular, I had visions of being a wildly successful short story writer, firing off brilliance to magazines like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Fantasy and Science Fiction, slumming occasionally in Esquire or the New Yorker and the checks would just flow to my mailbox.

I still love writing and reading short stories and there is a crop of new online lit-mags and publishers who are flying the flag and keeping the art-form alive. I’m going to showcase a few of them over the next couple of weeks. Some have published me, some have kept their standards high (Kidding!)

A few years ago, I had a boxing story I was looking to submit. While it went to another magazine, the kind reply inspired me to stay connected with the boys in the UK. If you haven’t checked out Storgy.com yet, you’ll find a mix of opinion, short fiction, and just cool stuff, unbounded by genre (although they do skew heavily to the snarky and slightly weird.) Their new short story collection, Hopeful Monsters is available for pre-order now. (It’s on my Kindle TBR pile)

Here’s my interview with Anthony (Tony) Self.

What is Storgy, and why should we care?

STORGY magazine initially started as a closed-off writer’s group, where a few of us would be able to massage our own egos and pretend to know about the craft to put stories online. People started sending us their own work to put online and we liked the attention like craven wannabe-celebrities so I guess something stuck and we began publishing stories that fell through the cracks. These were the stories that didn’t have a home. The bastard children of literature. 

Given how hard the publishing business is, what the hell were you thinking? How did the original concept come to you?

I know, right? Five years ago we were dilly-dallying with a story a week and now we’re independent publishers; posting reviews, previews, interviews and short fiction for all the masses to gobble up like malnourished street urchins. We wanted to write a 1,000 story every week and challenge ourselves to accomplish this. Looking back we were probably naive. Or had head trauma. One or the other. 

Editor’s note: through a series of late-night emails the name of the magazine is a mashup of “Story” and “Orgy.” An Orgy of Stories. Don’t form companies while drinking. What kind of content are you looking for?

All kinds. We’ve had essays, we’ve had poems, we’ve had mythological Buddhist zen-like soliloquy’s, at the end of the day if the story keeps us engaged from beginning to end we may publish it. If we start zoning out a page in then it needs work. Don’t bore us. You know what’s good. And don’t send us your first draft. You’re better than that. 

One of the reasons for this post is to encourage submissions. What do writers do that drives you crazy?

We used to heavily edit stories because a lot of mistakes were evident in the prose. We want to get stories out there to the masses but we also want to be professional about it all. It kind of hits us in the feels when we’ve edited something, send it back to the writer for review and they’re indignant about a rewrite as they consider their work a masterpiece and HOW DARE WE TRY TO CHANGE IT. Oh yeah, and ‘it was all a dream’, type endings

I love when I get constructive feedback from an editor. Most of us are submitting to find an audience and build our brand, such as it is. What are you and the the boy’s long-term plan for world domination?

A less elitist New Yorker type mantle would be fun. We’ve pushed ourselves to become independent publishers to create content for the short story form, so we’d like to carry on with that. Oh yeah, and get a $1,000,000 grant or something like that. That would be nice. 

Any advice for authors submitting?

We’re flexible with a lot of things, such as number count, typeface, formatting – but look at our FAQ’s before submitting, it’s a courtesy to the person reading and potentially wanting to publish your piece. 

You’ve been very kind to my work, publishing a number of stories and reviewing Acre’s Bastard and Acre’s Orphans. At the risk of sounding needy, what is it you like about my work?

Personally, I really liked The Towel – on one level it’s a snapshot of a boxing fight, conveying the imagery of RagingBull, Southpaw or Warrior, but on a deeper level it can be interpreted as the indomitable spirit of never giving up. This is something we agree on. In fact, it’s the core message of what STORGY is all about..

Storgy has expanded to publishing short story collections. Check them out here.

Most of my short stories, published or otherwise, can be found here on this website.