Up in Smoke: From the Case Files of Charlie Madison, P.I.

My sordid tale of spontaneous human combustion is now available, thanks to the fine folks at Bards & Sages Publishing and their Society of Misfit Stories:

A life ended in flames. A detective sorting through the ashes. Private eye Charlie Madison saw plenty of bloodshed during the war, but he's never seen a billionaire burst into flames in his office. Until now. Searching for answers, Madison uncovers more than he bargained for: a bizarre mystery of human combustion that's smoking with jealousy, revenge, and murder. Add a pair of cops on his tail who are more interested in putting him out of business than seeking justice. It's just another action-packed day for the Charlie Madison Detective Agency. Now accepting...unusual clients.

Available exclusively from Amazon and free to read with Kindle Unlimited.

The Society of Misfit Stories: Volume I

About a year ago, Bards & Sages Publishing started an experiment with The Society of Misfit Stories, a series devoted to showcasing novelettes and novellas ranging from 7,000 to 20,000 words. As a rule, publishers of stories at this length aren't the easiest to find. Now after releasing dozens of these misfits (a new one every couple weeks), 21 from the series' first year have been collected in a one-of-a-kind anthology:

The Society of Misfit Stories presents this eclectic collection of unique novelettes and novellas from some of the most unique voices in the speculative genres. This diverse anthology offers readers an enticing assortment of high fantasy, alien adventure, paranormal investigations, haunts both real and imagined, and more  (like my post-apocalyptic tale "Idan's World").

Now available in paperback, hardcover, and all eBook formats: 

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     iTunes     Kobo

Death Duel: 99¢ This Week     Barnes & Noble     iBooks     Kobo

An honest cop impaled through the chest. 
A detective fighting his way to the truth.

Private eye Charlie Madison saw his share of murder and mayhem during the war. But he's never seen anything like this on home soil. The culprit can't be human. A mandroid, then? Cyborg?

Madison's investigation takes him deep into the underground world of extreme fighting—duels to the death, showcased beneath the city's biggest casino. Along the way, he discovers a new steroid quietly coming out of Little Tokyo. If rumors are true, it can turn a man into a killing machine.

Before vengeful police can find and execute the murderer, another officer is found slain. With rogue yakuza, the Russian mob, and Federal agents in the mix, Madison must put the pieces of this violent mystery together before the city loses another good cop.

Problem is, the killer may be one of his clients.

So You've Written a Short Story. Now What?

This is a great time to be a writer. There are so many venues for us to share our work with readers around the world – and get paid for our efforts. Print publications, online publications, and direct-to-eBook publications abound, not to mention the options we have to publish our own work via Amazon KDP or Draft2Digital.

I’ve always held the belief that money should flow in one direction: straight to the writer. And if the money can flow more than once? Even better. That’s why I submit my short fiction to paying publications first. Then, after the rights revert to me (6 to 12 months later), I package my reprints in themed collections and sell them on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and other eBook outlets.

But where do I find those paying publications to begin with? I’m so glad you asked.

My first stop is The (Submission) Grinder, sponsored by Diabolical Plots. This site has it all. You can search publications by genre, accepted word count, and pay rates. I always start at the top, submitting my science fiction and fantasy to pro-paying publications like Asimov’s, Analog, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, Daily Science Fiction, and Nature. (Keep in mind that most editors do not approve of simultaneous submissions; you’ll need to send your story to one at a time and wait for a response before submitting to the next editor. Also, your work can’t have appeared anywhere else, not even on your blog.)

I also check out Ralan’s Webstravaganza from time to time, as there are often anthology opportunities listed that may not appear on The (Submission) Grinder. Ralan’s also boasts a long list of publishers accepting book-length submissions from agented and un-agented writers.

Once my work is published and the rights have reverted, I like to visit Douglas Smith’s list of international markets. Thanks to this resource, reprints of my stories have been published in Romania, Italy, Estonia, Argentina, Poland, and France, and another one is forthcoming in Germany. Just last month, I signed my contract with a publication in China that boasts 100,000 readers. Talk about getting your work in front of a new audience!

So you’ve written a short story. You’ve polished it up, and now it’s time to share that tale with the world. Start submitting it as soon as possible. With any luck, it’ll be snatched up right away by a paying publication. If not, you might receive some valuable editorial feedback. Tweak your story, and get it back out on the submission circuit ASAP. Don’t trunk it. Don’t give up on it. Believe in your work, and believe in yourself.

I’ve sold every short story I’ve ever written, and somehow I keep making it happen. You can too. Somewhere out there is an editor who will love your work as much as you do. And once your work is published and the rights revert to you, do whatever you want with the reprints. Send them out to the non-English-speaking world. Sell them on Amazon and other retailers. Watch the royalties roll in every month, and have a blast every step of the way.

Spending a Year with Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury wasn’t always Ray Bradbury—not the Ray Bradbury we know and love who blessed us with Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Death Is a Lonely Business, just to name a few.

Once upon a time, Bradbury was just a struggling young writer in love with the craft. He wrote a short story every week, polished it as fast as he could, and submitted it to a magazine. Rejection letters flooded in, mainly due to his prolific submissions: the more you write, the more responses you get. There were also acceptance letters along the way, and they inspired him to keep doing what he loved: telling stories as only he could.

In the fall of 2009, I was fortunate enough to see Mr. Bradbury speak at a local library. Witnessing this great literary figure in the flesh was a surreal experience. I had to keep reminding myself that this was really happening, that I was really there.

>> Continue Reading @ SFF Book Bonanza >>

Story Published: "Not Good Enough"

EVER SINCE THAT GODAWFUL day them Horrors sucked ol' Joe up into their mothership to have their way with him, poking and prodding and twisting his damn DNA into too many shapes like a freakish clown with balloons at a kid's birthday party, he's suffered through all manner of difficulty. Some from the Horrors themselves. Most from regular folks like you and me. 

All it takes is a mean apocalypse, and people they change. Ain't so normal anymore. Not so human. Sure, they might look alright on the outside. Two arms, two legs, two eyes. Maybe a little dirty, ragged around the edges like a pair of frayed blue jeans. No tentacles or slimy skin or claws. But their souls are different. The light inside has gone dim. 

They don't listen to the voice of their better selves no more. Their conscience is hoarse. It's the animals inside they hear now. Hunger and thirst. Desire. Survival. Nothing else much matters. 

"Think they've got real food?" Little Barry he does his best to keep up with Joe's long strides. 

"Might have." Joe he keeps on moving. Flamethrower rig clunking over one shoulder, big ol' backpack stuffed with provisions over the other. His boots strike the cracked asphalt in a steady rhythm with no sign of slowing down. 

On either side of this road lay the ruins of blown-out buildings burned to cinders. Frozen in their lanes sit the rusted hulks of abandoned automobiles long-since picked over by scavengers. Skeletons now. Nothing left worth taking. Down the middle, along the faded white dashes with weeds springing up between breaks in the pavement, that's where Joe walks, heading due east. 

Toward the Q. The Murph. A last bastion of civilization, such as it is. He's heard tell they take in strays there. That they have food, and plenty of it. The real stuff. 

Barry squints up at the hellish sun and drags a bare forearm across his dark brow, collecting warm beads of sweat. He adjusts the satchel slung across his back, heavy with scavenged canned goods. Some human food. Mostly dog and cat, from when there used to be lots of both running around. Before they got themselves hunted to near-extinction. Folks can't afford to be too picky these days. You eat what you can catch. Or what you can find. Ain't nobody selling drive-through. 

"Think they've got crops? You know, growing inside?" Barry licks his chapped lips and remembers corn fresh off the cob. Tearing into it with all his teeth, warm butter drooling down his chin, sweet corn bursting open with each bite. 

"Possible." Joe he keeps his answers short. Hopes the kid will shut up eventually. Hasn't worked yet, and they've been hoofing it together for about a week now. 

There will come a day when the kid will grow too tired to talk. Too thirsty. Too weak. Joe knows it to be true. And he plans to make it to the Q long before then. 

"The Horrors leave 'em alone cuz they've got gun turrets up in the stands, the nosebleeds where people used to watch the big games on Sundays. And the Horrors don't want to get their aircars damaged, so they steer clear, just fly on over to other parts of town where it's easier to grab folks. General Jack Murphy, he says, 'Keep on flyin', you mother—" 

"Language," Joe says. He ain't the boy's father. Not even close. But the kid's mother got herself slaughtered by them Horrors right before his young eyes. Least Joe can do is guide the rascals' squirrely tongue in the right direction. 

"—don't you even think about it," Barry goes on, reciting his litany. Or his catechism. He repeats it religiously either way, seems to bolster his courage. Puts a little spring in his step, thinking things might get better again someday. "That's what General Jack Murphy says, and the Horrors they fly on by cuz they've got prey elsewhere to be had." 

"Ain't no Jack Murphy." 

Not for years and years. Since long before the days when Joe had a family to call his own. Wonderful wife. Two amazing daughters. When tears sting his eyes from time to time, those three girls are the reason why. Because they're gone, sure. Mostly because he's afraid he'll never see them again. 

Barry looks up at Joe, but Joe he keeps his gaze set on the path ahead and any dangers that might spring up along the way. Never can be too careful. Scavengers. Eggheads. Not to mention the Horrors themselves. 

"That's what folks said about you," the kid says. Sports a big ol' grin, bright as sunshine. "That you were made-up. They even had a song. 'Roadkill Joe is a very old soul, can't die cuz he's a freak!'" Drawing out that last word in two syllables. 

Apt description. Joe knows full-well he's freakish. How else would you describe a man who's been run over, shot, stabbed, skewered, burned, and blown up more times than he can remember? Some of it he's done to his own self. 

Suicidal? Maybe. Experimental is more like. Them Horrors mangled his DNA something fierce, making him...not-human. As far as he can tell, his body refuses to die. No matter how much he'd like it to, after all these years roaming the wasted earth. By all indications, there will never be any eternal rest for ol' Joe. 

>> Read "Not Good Enough" in the latest issue of Perihelion Science Fiction. >>

A Nice Review of Doppelgänger’s Curse
"Charlie Madison, downbeat gumshoe in a sci-fi world that's falling apart, gets hired by a socialite to deal with a stalker. Nothing unusual, until he sees the stalker's face...

"It's short, but gripping, fast moving, and for anyone into noir or detective fic, an awful lot of fun. The twists start early so I am not going to spoil the plot. The writing style is part Chandler part Gibson, the world is part Sam Spade, part Blade Runner and the characters are distinctive and deep with their own motives. No one is who they seem, no one can be trusted, and best of all, the twists that pile up make sense.

"I didn't realize until I'd finished it why the world and style seemed so familiar. I'd read Girl of Great Price, another book in the series before. I liked that one, and I really enjoyed this book too. Noir, crime, and sci-fi fans should enjoy it a great deal." 

BackTracker Update: Feedback from the Big Five

So it's been five months now since Mr. Agent started submitting my novel to the Big Five publishers and all of their science fiction imprints. Only rejections thus far, but there's been some good feedback as well. Since most of my short stories have survived a couple dozen rejections each prior to publication, I figure I'm about a quarter of the way toward finding a good home for BackTracker. Fingers crossed, anyway!

Here are a few of the editors’ positive remarks:

I really like Milo's writing and I must admit that I’m a sucker for main characters who doubt themselves and struggle with losing their sanity.

Very enjoyable and has a good pace to it, and plenty of twists and turns to keep the pages turning fast.

Strong writing style. A really intriguing premise. Novels featuring time travel or alternate versions of reality can be very appealing.

I enjoyed the quirkiness of the worldbuilding, which felt almost akin to Douglas Adams in places. And the opening scene -- in which Muldoon saves a man on the brink of suicide, using time travel -- is a very effective hook into the narrative.

And here are a few of the editors’ negative remarks:

Time-travel can be a little finicky in books, and having the narrative jump between time periods as well as between alternate realities just didn’t work for me.

I didn’t feel it was outstanding enough to carve a space for it on our list. This sort of hard-to-categorize novel is very challenging to make work really well.

I did find it hard to connect emotionally with the protagonist for some reason. Harry Muldoon is written very deliberately in the 'noir detective' mode. But I wondered if the mix of noir and SF didn't quite work for me and affected my ability to really identify with Harry's goals?

I always get a little hung up on time travel for some reason, and BACKTRACKER was no different for me. In the end, I just wasn’t caught up in the story, and I’m afraid it’s not the right project for me.

If submitting my short fiction has taught me anything, it's this: All it takes is one editor to like my work as much as I do. And that editor is out there, somewhere. The key is keeping so busy in the interim that I almost forget I'm waiting for an acceptance letter. And never giving up, never surrendering, along the way.

Free Subscription to Bards and Sages Quarterly

The latest issue of Bards and Sages Quarterly is now available wherever books are sold, and I received a free copy because I just so happen to be one of their loyal subscribers. I always look forward to each issue and enjoy perusing the quarter’s speculative fiction offerings. It's fun to read tales by authors I recognize, and it's equally fun to discover new talent.

Would you like a free lifetime subscription to this fine publication? If so, click here to subscribe to Bards and Sages monthly newsletter. By doing so, you’ll automatically receive a free e-copy of each January, April, July, and October quarterly issue. You never know when you might see something written by yours truly in there...

Story Sale: The Last Human Child

Last month, I shared that one of the top-tier publications I've been trying to break into extended a rewrite request on my latest submission. Now that the edits are done and the contract is signed, I can divulge more details: The publication is Beneath Ceaseless Skies -- a pro-paying, SFWA-qualifying, Hugo-nominated venue -- and after seven years of knocking on their door, I am super-stoked to have them finally accept one of my stories. The other eight submissions I've sent since 2010 were kindly rejected each time with a line or two stating what the editor liked about them, but they were never a good fit. Mainly because my fantasy often leans toward science fiction, and BCS doesn't publish sci-fi.

Except when they publish their special science-fantasy annual issue, which is where “The Last Human Child” will appear next year. While this story continues the arc of the previous four Dahlia & Brawnstone tales (published by Aoife’s Kiss, Triangulation: Morning After,The Fifth Dimension, and Perihelion Science Fiction), it's also a standalone that can be enjoyed by itself. Eyan the shapeshifter makes a reappearance, but the cast of supporting characters is unique to this story, and the worldbuilding of the earlier stories is expanded to include new friends and foes on the scene.

I enjoyed crafting every line of "The Last Human Child", but I also appreciated working with editor Scott H. Andrews to fine-tune it, going through a couple rounds of edits before we agreed it was good to go. Usually editors at this level aren't so hands-on; they’re flooded with thousands of stories every month, and they can afford to accept only the submissions that encapsulate exactly what they're looking for. In this case, BCS could have responded like so many other top-tier publications have over the years: “There’s a lot here that I liked, but in the end, it didn't win me over, I'm afraid.” Instead, this editor took the time to help me identify my story’s weak moments, strengthen them, and end up with a tighter story overall. And as if that wasn't enough, he paid me generously for my efforts. What a deal!

I can't wait to share it with you. As soon as the BCS science fantasy issue is out, you'll hear me shouting about it from a nearby rooftop.
All Content © 2009 - 2017 Milo James Fowler