Stephen S. Power

The Wave Rises

Great October

October, which by my decree shall include all days since I last posted, has been very good.

Lightspeed pubd my story “Fade To Red: Three Interviews About Sebold’s Mars Trilogy,” as well created a wonderful audio version and did a spotlight interview with me. What an amazing job they did, especially the audio version recreating the interview structure. And fittingly, the day it came out, Europe’s probe approached the planet, while Pres. Obama said America, despite the story’s prediction, would be sending a manned mission.

It’s gotten two reviews so far. Charles Payseur at Quick Sips was very generous. Rocket Stack Ranking didn’t like it as much.

Eddie Generous at Unnerving Magazine was also kind enough to post an interview with me prior to the release of the first issue, which will include my story “The Glittering Point.”

And StarShipSofa podcasted “Stripped to Zero.” To hear a story set in Tennessee read in a very different accent adds whole new dimensions to it.

And the month is only going to get better with Amazing Stories pubg “The Sounding Cataract” on 10/16 and Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores pubg “Mr. Pony” around Halloween.”

Meanwhile, in my other life, I’ve been blogging for Amacom. Here are my essay What DON’T Editors Want. Soon I’ll start a series called “The Why to Buy,” which will show authors how to create a business model for your book.

 

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Hot Streak

When do authors find time to update their blogs? When they discover the Gator-Maryland game isn’t on at 7, it’ll be on at 7:30. And with Florida a 36-point favorite, I imagine it’ll be over by 8. Houston’s already used up all the underdog luck for today.

The last two weeks have seen me hit a mini-hot streak. I had my very first speculative fiction story, “The Glittering Point,” finally accepted after after 42 rejects, 2 previous titles and many rewrites along the way. It’s either urban fantasy or light horror set in Chicago. It’ll be in a new magazine called Unnerving in their first issue this December.  The lesson: Just as there’s someone perfect for everyone in this world, there’s a perfect market for every story, provided your diligent about searching and have patience

I also had a slightly younger story, “The Other Face of Medusa,” taken by the annual anthology called The Martian Wave. It’s a response to Clarke’s “Meeting with Medusa,” which answers the question, Whose funding gets cut to support another’s discovery in space?

And Daily Science Fiction took “18 Things Only A Martian Mom Will Understand (You Won’t Believe #13!),” which was inspired by Cassandra Khaw‘s tweet prompt, “Write a Buzzfeed headline from a dystopia.” The story wrote itself. If Medusa was my first stab at humor, this one suggests I may be getting the hang of it–even if it’s a series of one-liners.  This will be my fifth story in DailySF, for whom I wrote the story specifically, suggesting I’m also getting the hang of what they want.

In Dragon Round news, Booklist gave it a very favorable review:

This is a promising start to the series, and future books will hopefully…bring on more dragon showdowns.

Oh, they will. The sample chapter and synopsis for The Dragon Tower is off to Paul the Agent for submitting to S&S. With Simon451 becoming defunct and Brit the Champion leaving for Orbit, I understand that it’s facing an uphill battle, but my fingers are crossed anyway.

Meanwhile, friends keep sending me pictures of it in stores around the country, which is awesome, plus it’s up to 4 stars on Amazon with 16 reviews, which is a nice bump from the 3ish stars on Goodreads after 100+ reviews.

And The Revivalist was podcast by Gallery of Curiosities, as well as Radio Riel Steampunk. What an amazing job they did.

 (Update: My weekend is starting better than the Gators’, who are only up by 3 in the 3rd quarter because they’re trying their best to let UMass win. Zetetic just took my story “The Time Traveler” in a record 7 hours, 5 minutes (and pubd it after a couple edits 2.5 hours later!). It’s more experimental than most of my stories, but that’s what appealed to them. I wonder how long I can ride this streak.)
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A Million Tiny Links

Best news of the day: Daily Science Fiction picked up my story “18 Things Only A Martian Mom Will Understand (You Won’t Believe #13!)” It was inspired by Cassandra Khaw‘s tweet challenge: write Buzzfeed-like headlines from a dystopia. This title, then story immediately wrote themselves. DSF was the first and obvious place to send it.

I have also seen The Dragon Round  in the wild at last at the 555 Fifth Avenue B&N. B&N has given it great placement: face out on the New SF/F shelf in every story around where I live and work.  The sunrise cover really pops next to its neighbors. I appreciate the store’s support. I could use some reviews there, though…

20160809_125419 - Copy

I’ve also written a bunch of blog posts in support of the book:

Stephen S. Power: How My Novel Saved Me From Drowning

 

A Peek into the World of Publishing, Interview with Stephen S. Power, Senior Editor for AMACOM

What Do Editors Want? The Five Things to Include in Your Business Book Proposal

This week I’ll follow up that last one with five thing editors don’t want to see, then a long series on creating the “why to buy” for your book, that is, instead of writing a book, then trying to figure out to get it published and sold, building a business model for your book before you pick up your pen.

Now to incorporate my agent’s edits to the first chapter of The Dragon Tower and the synopsis for submission to S&S as their option.  Tonight, of course, I’ll be watching the Hugo Award ceremony. Here’s how:

Can anyone tell I’ve just discovered how create link profiles?

Have a good week.

 

 

 

 

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Linkfest

With The Dragon Round coming out (and getting some good reviews on Amazon), that means I became a guest blogger.

Writers Digest published an updated version of my post “The 2 Questions You’re Actually Asking When You Ask, ‘How Do I Write a Novel?’” with a much better tagline on Twitter: “How to Go from 0 Words to 100,000?”

And Amacom published my new piece “5 Ways Writers Can Pass the Hemingway Test.”

In a nice bit of happenstance for book promotion, Every Day Fiction put out “Card, Candle and Mirror” and Swords & Sorcery published “Time Is a Lady’s Unerring Blade.”  Deep Magic will include “The Catskill Dragon” in their August issue.

I heard that Lightspeed will include “Fade to Mars” in their October issue. October will also see “Mr. Pony” in Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores for Halloween.” “A Presentation to the Imperial Society of Mancers” probably won’t be out in the Silent Screams anthology until November. The issue of Amazing Stories with “The Sounding Cataract” has been delayed as a result of health issues, and I’d rather see Steve Davidson’s wife get better than see anything I’ve written in print.

This week was devoted, though, to the first Business Writers Conference, where I led two sessions, “What Publishers Want” and “The Why to Buy” on creating a business model for your book before you write it. I’m thinking of turning the latter into an AMA webinar. Plus I got to drive back to Atlanta with my author, Paul Smith, which was great fun–then he got me into the Delta Sky Lounge. I just can’t return to sitting at the gate.

Now back to writing novels.

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Library Journal and Kirkus

A very positive review of Dragon Round from Library Journal:

 

Jeryon has been captain of the Comber for over a decade. When his ship is attacked by a dragon, the crew mutinies and offload Jeryon and Everlyn, the vessel’s apothecary, onto a small boat with no rudder or sail. The two wash up on an island and discover a baby dragon. If they can train the creature, they may be able to make their way home. As Jeryon finally heads back to civilization, he knows that what awaits him will not be justice or rules but political intrigue and revenge. ­VERDICT Power’s debut brings to mind Naomi Novik’s “Temeraire” series, with its dragons and maritime themes, and will keep readers engrossed as they follow his protagonist’s quest for survival and vengeance.—KC

Rock on, KC!

It also was mentioned in a fantasy roundup in Kirkus:

If you crave more traditional fantasy, embark on a quest to find The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan, where the struggle for world dominance is dependent on the magical power found within the blood of the fearsome, but dying, drakes. Or Tony Daniel’s The Dragon Hammer, in which the son of a Duke must rescue his family after they are captured during a surprise invasion by enemy forces.  The Dragon Round by Stephen S. Power is a swashbuckling adventure that begins when a ship captain, after being abandoned by his mutinous crew, discovers a dragon and seeks sweet revenge. Taking itself less seriously is The Dragon Lords: Fool’s Gold by Jon Hollins, which has a group of misfits rebelling against the dragons that rule them because (what else?) their taxes they impose are too high.

I’m planning on reading the Ryan myself. I wonder if the reviewer thinks Dragon Round is taking itself too seriously?

In any case, with the great PW review, I’ve now completed the pub industry review trifecta.

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Two Days

The Dragon Round comes out July 19, which means that I only have 48 hours before ascending into the heavens on a chariot made of royalty checks and bright-eyed acclaim.

In the meantime, here’s what’s been up:

I had a story accepted by Every Day Fiction, “Candle, Card and Mirror,” which they offered excellent notes on before crashing a year or so ago. Now they’re back and I’m glad to be a part of the project. I can’t wait to hear what their very active Facebook fans say.

I also had a story accepted by Swords & Sorcery, “Time Is a Lady’s Unerring Blade.” The first of my gempunk stories that I wrote, but the third accepted, it will come out this month, a nice plug for Dragon Round. (Note to self: follow up with the publishers of the other two stories to find out when they’ll appear.) I came up with the idea for the world while walking to Chipotle on Eighth Avenue neaer my office at 48th and Broadway. I now go the one on 48th between Sixth and Seventh, which is slightly closer, but it occurs to me that I’ve never had a story idea while going there, so I may have to switch things back.

And the first podcast of one of my stories came out, a wonderful rendition of “River Boys” at FarFetchedFiction. You can hear the episode here.

Up next, “The Catskill Dragon” at Deep Magic and, at long last, “Fade to Red” at Lightspeed in October. If anything will ever win me an award, it’s either of these.

I have a bunch of stories held, so hopefully more good news will be in the offing soon.

The great perk of being a novelist is that other people send you galleys for blurbs. I’ve done this for decades as an editor, but it’s weird and wonderful to actually write one myself, not to mention flattering to be asked. Now I know that a lot of writers just make up something generic to get their names out there, but I’m committed to reading anything people want me to blurb and giving an honest endorsement, if the book’s worth my endorsing it. The Facefaker’s Game by Chandler Birch absolutely is worth it. Here’s what I had to say:

Take Oliver Twist. Add more twists. And magic. And a heist. And ravagers. That will get you close to how much wonderful is packed into The Facefaker‘s Game. The writing is effortless, the pacing quick, and the characters fun, and I’m annoyed that Birch took to heart the adage, ‘Always leave them wanting more.’ Because I want. I’ll be standing on the docks, waiting for the sequel.–Stephen S. Power, author of “The Dragon Round”

Did I have to include my attribution on my own blog? Yes, because saying you’re a novelist never gets old.

On the sequel front, I finished a draft of chapter one of Dragon Tower. Now I’ll write summaries of the other chapters, revise that first chapter to tighten up one arc, and submit them to S&S as my option by the end of August. Hopefully six weeks of sales and their current strategic vision will encourage them to pick it up. If not, or even if so, I’ll also develop my new secret project…

Finally, on the novel front, I’m happy to announce I have a new agent, Paul Stevens at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. He knows so much about spec fic that he might forget more each morning than I could learn in a year.  He’s the perfect person to guide my career going forward.

See you on the other side. I might forget you, but after my apotheosis as a novelist, I’ll have people to remember you for me.

 

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The Wave Crests, then Falls

Monday saw the publication of my sixth story at AE, You’ll Never Walk Alone, which was accepted just last week, and my first at Flash Fiction Online, Mamita. Once again I owe both to the precise editing of DF McCourt and Suzanne Vincent, respectively.

Last week I also found out that StarShipSofa would be reading my Nature story Stripped to Zero. With River Boys slated to be read on FarFetchedFables, now I only need to crack TaleToTerrify to pull of the spec fic trifecta.

After that, though, the rejections started pouring in, including one from a place that had held a story I’ve been trying to get pubd for a long time. Argh…

I’m slammed with stuff to write, including three essays that should appear around the pub date for The Dragon Round, plus a presentation at a business writers conference, which naturally means I’m doing worldbuilding for something entirely different and playing lots of LOTRO. I need to focus.

 

 

 

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A Better Week Than Most

First, Game of Thrones.  Second, Game of Thrones. I have an hour until it’s on again. Hodor. Hodor.

Daily Science Fiction pubd my story For Our Light Affliction this week, which got me some much appreciated. Twitter praise. It was originally written for an Apex microfiction challenge on the theme “hellhound.” I thought it was funnier not to mention that Satan’s bichon frise was a hellhound, then I realized, What if it’s not? The title comes from 2 Corinthians 4:17-18: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Is anything more eternal than outrage?

I also had my favorite and possibly best story, “The Catskill Dragon,” accepted by the relaunched Deep Magic, although I’m cognizant that I might only feel it’s my favorite and best because I put so much work into it. In an ideal world, it’ll turn into a book series called “The Dragons of America.” In the real world, such a series might not be as saleable as others I’m working on. More to come on this when it’s pubd. The first issue of the relaunch, but still called #50, is available now.

Which brings me to The Dragon Round, with its movable feast of a pub date, now July 19. Two months to go. It got a great PW review, which is pretty surreal for someone’s who’s spent 20-odd years reading PW reviews and who’s also written 20-odd himself. Better still, the review’s eminently quotable:

Power’s promising first novel mixes dark naval adventure with classic fantasy in a tale of mutiny with a twist. …Power adeptly mashes together Horatio Hornblower–style adventure with the art of training dragons and a hint of backstabbing treachery for a thoroughly enjoyable tale.

But enough about me. Back to Game of Thrones. I’ve been studying the first book for lessons in perspective, particularly how frequently to put a character’s inner thoughts into a chapter, as well as how to build in description because Martin does this very well. Each of his chapters ends with a key decision or action, but it takes it’s time along the way. For instance, most the chapter that ends with Ned’s fate is spent following Arya around Fleabottom as she tries to survive. The decision at the end isn’t even hers; it’s Joffrey’s. Martin’s paragraphs can be structured like this too. For instance, check out this one in the newly released chapter of The Winds of Winter:

Dusk found them on the fringes of the rainwood, a wet green world where brooks and rivers ran through dark forests and the ground was made of mud and rotting leaves. Huge willows grew along the watercourses, larger than any that Arianne had ever seen, their great trunks as gnarled and twisted as an old man’s face and festooned with beards of silvery moss. Trees pressed close on every side, shutting out the sun; hemlock and red cedars, white oaks, soldier pines that stood as tall and straight as towers, colossal sentinels, big-leaf maples, redwoods, wormtrees, even here and there a wild weirwood. Underneath their tangled branches ferns and flowers grew in profusion; sword ferns, lady ferns, bellflowers and piper’s lace, evening stars and poison kisses, liverwort, lungwort, hornwort. Mushrooms sprouted down amongst the tree roots, and from their trunks as well, pale spotted hands that caught the rain. Other trees were furred with moss, green or grey or red-tailed, and once a vivid purple. Lichens covered every rock and stone. Toadstools festered besides rotting logs. The very air seemed green.

What a last sentence! Like Joyce’s, “She was tired.” And such a lush land deserves such a lush paragraph. The last sentence wouldn’t work without all that, either. I’ve been debating with myself the need for “very,” but I think it works here the way adding “Frankly” to “My dear, I don’t give a damn,” made the movie version of the line better than the book version: it’s a sort of punctuation that sets up the rest.

I’m also rereading the series along with rewatching the show to see what Martin and D&D did differently not as a matter of plot but of authorial focus. For instance, before Tyrion goes to breakfast at Winterfell, in the book he wakes up in the library, but in the show he wakes up in a kennel. I much prefer the former. It plays up his mind, showing how he finds strength despite physical difficulties, rather than playing up his weakness for drink, which suggests  a capitulation to them. The show does have the scene where he talks about books with Jon Snow, but that’s pretty weak sauce after the kennel scene, plus the entirely added orgy scene.

Now some more updating, then back to this week’s episode.

 

 

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Publishers Weekly Review

Here’s some good news:  The Dragon Round got a good–and, better yet, a quotable–review from PW:

“Power’s promising first novel mixes dark naval adventure with classic fantasy in a tale of mutiny with a twist…[He] adeptly mashes together Horatio Hornblower–style adventure with the art of training dragons and a hint of backstabbing treachery for a thoroughly enjoyable tale.”

It’s pretty weird to come up with a pull quote for my own book.
In other news, I currently have four things held for consideration: two stories, one reprint for a podcast, and a poem. Given my track record, I may get one acceptance out of this.
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Good week!

If you’ve come here from my LitPick interview, welcome. It was great fun to do. And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out my LitPick interview.  It was great fun to do. And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Two weeks ago, Flash Fiction Online took my story Mamita, which crosses a big name off my bucket list. It’s about a woman who lives Dade County some 35 years from now after all of Florida south of Alligator Alley has been flooded out. The editor Suzanne Vincent patiently worked me through two rounds of edits, which not only improved the story, but which will improve all my work. She wanted to know more about why the main character was acting in certain ways, and she wanted the character’s agency to be more clear at the end. What I learned was: If I start in a character’s head, I can’t drop out and let the dialogue carry the story, which I have a tendency to do, and readers want decisions made or actions taken in conclusion, not just feel a push toward them. Very good stuff.

This week my story “Bright Lights” was one of five chosen for AE‘s microfiction contest Micro 7  on the theme “change.” It’s a 200-word story about a K-Pop star who sells her face rights. I also won last year for The First Degree of Separation, which was about a Taylor Swift-like star whose skin cells are stolen. I imagine that my story next year will be about a chorus of Georgian robots who win Eurovision.

Of course, having the paranoia of all writers, I figured these acceptance would trigger a wave of rejections–the wave rises, the wave falls–and I did get one, but I also got a hold at another very good bucketlist market. So we’ll see.

I’m now revising the first chapter of Dragon Tower, which is tougher than I thought it would be, perhaps because I’m overthinking things. Also, I totally changed the beginning, which is having ripple effects. It’s still fun, though, and that’s what counts.

I’m also still trying to write more positive SF. I read a great summation of what SF should be about: “Strong characters trying to solve intriguing problems.”  Success is secondary. Indeed, what made The Martian so engaging was that it was a series of intriguing problems solved by strong characters. In addition, I keep reading variations on a theme expressed today in Rebecca Solnit’s Harper piece, The Habits of Highly Cynical People: “What we do begins with what we believe we can do.” That is, to me, Write the future that I’d see happen. My struggle stems from not being able to see a future that isn’t shut down before it begins by selfish corporate interests or political ignoramuses. Indeed, The Martian can only occur in a world without Republicans because if they did somehow let American space travel survive that far into the future, they’d certainly shut down the government before seeing funds for a rescue allocated without their being offsetting spending cuts to schools, public healthcare and social services (provided Republicans have let those things survive that far into the future). I’d rather live in the future of The Martian, but picturing it feels like doing physics without friction, even if the party could disintegrate in the next few months.  Maybe that’s where I should start, with that disintegration and with President Obama’s incrementalist approach to the change: small gestures today lead to big effects tomorrow.

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