Monday, January 30, 2023

Latest Additions


Just a quick preen—here are four recent publications to add to the shelf.

Abandoned, from Legion of Dorks, an anthology of lonely, vacant spaces, picked up my “Tales of the Middle Stars” story “A Silent Sphinx,” a tale of a lone scoundrel who happens upon an alien ambiguity—that which is utterly unknown yet foreboding in the extreme. This is part of an arc leading to my first “Middle Stars” novel, still in planning.

Buy here

Extraordinary Visions, from the North American Jules Verne Society, is a compendium of stories based on the worlds of that great French early master of science fiction and the strange. They picked up a piece from me based on 20, 000 Leagues Under the Sea, my second such tale published. Enormous scope exists for further adventures of Nemo and the Nautilus, both before and after the classic novel's events.

Buy here

Cosmic Crime Stories, issue for September 2022, from Hiraeth Books, features my short story “The Value of Meaningless Malaise,” a short piece critical of medicine and looking at how even miracle therapies could be abused by the unscrupulous. This is a reworked, extended version, giving the piece more oomph, as the original, written many years ago, seemed a bit flat.

Buy here

The above title is also available through Booktopia.

And lastly, ParABnormal, issue for December 2022, also from Hiraeth Books, features “The Witch of Wendover,” a medieval horror piece and something of a departure for me. It offers a fresh twist on the grim proceedings of a witch trial—maybe there was, just occasionally, a whole level of hidden meaning, and mercy from the least expected corner.

Buy here.

The above title is also available through Barnes & Noble.

It's always nice to receive contributor's copies, and they have quite overflowed the first shelf. If I was to finish collecting all the physical publications I have appeared in which did not actually give copies, I'm sure I would have a full second shelf by this point. I have visions of one day having an entire book case—in a swanky writing study—filled with the volumes I've been featured in. Okay, maybe at this point it's just a nice fantasy, but we have to look ahead in life, don't we?

'Till next time,

Mike Adamson

Thursday, January 19, 2023

The Million Word Milestone

When I made my first tentative submissions in late 2015, I did so with a belief in my own ability to write a good story, while being under no illusions when it came to the competitive nature of the market. Selling stories is not easy, it took me four months to make a sale, and four months more for it to appear in print before the door seemed to creak open just a bit, and the placements began to flow. At that point I could not have seriously looked ahead to being able to report that I have now placed over one million words of short fiction.

This morning Hiraeth Books in the US picked up a reprint of my fantasy short “The Fall of the Dark God,” which first appeared in Lovecraftiana back in early 2017. This is the first of my “Avestium” fantasy series, and was actually my first fantasy story in total, written longhand (if memory serves) back in the 1990s, and polished a great many times over the years. This placement takes me to 1, 004, 417 words that have been accepted for publication, including all reprints and indeed a couple of pieces accepted for print but which failed to appear due to markets folding before the edition could be released. The point is, the stories got past the gatekeepers, and that's what's important here. Stories actually in print will be a whole other running calculation, and it'll be interesting to see what figure I've reached actually on paper (or digits) too.

I am closing in on my two hundredth placement, which will be the next major milestone, but a million words placed feels like the ultimate round figure. A million. Imagine substituting “dollars” for “words.” That gives you some idea of the volume, when you think of the buying power. A dollar for every word that has got past the gatekeepers in the last seven years would buy a very nice home indeed.

Unfortunately, the pay scale, averaged out, is about one percent of that. Pro markets pay very nicely, but accept very rarely, and while all writers are eternally hopefully of making it past those particular gates, the odds are correspondingly low. I know folks who have been in the game a lot longer than me and can't get into the top end of the market. Heck, yesterday I had a rejection from Analog which came personally from the editor in chief, and that's an accolade for me as it seems to say I made it past all the first-readers!

I wonder if the next million words will take seven years? We shall see—and maybe there'll be a few more lucrative sales along the way!


Mike Adamson

Header image by LuminaObscura from Pixabay

Friday, January 6, 2023

A Magical Number?


“It was seven years ago, this very day, that Mr Marley left us...” Or...

Marley was dead—as dead as a two-year-old un-responded submission.”

Okay, I couldn't help the Dickensian reference, but it really has been seven years—today—since I made my first story submission in earnest. Late in 2015 I made a few experimental submissions to test fire the method, and I'd had a few unpaid placements in the previous two years which encouraged me to get serious about the game, but January 7th, 2016, is the date inscribed in my memory as the day I really launched my bid to be a writer.

Maybe seven is the charm—they used to call it a magical number in the ancient world, and with the seventh year complete I have in some ways positioned myself for success to come. This is my annual review of progress/state of play post, and 2022 has been an interesting excursion in many ways.

Here's the raw data:

In the last seven years, I have made 2849 submissions (401 in the last 365 days). I have 196 placements (14.53:1submission/acceptance ratio, up from, 15.11:1 last year, which was am improvement on 16.008:1 the year before, indicating a steady positive decrease over time, regardless of all other factors). I currently have about 70 stories out, and my record is around 105-110, though to be fair there must have been a fair few multiple submissions and dead/in limbo subs among that lot. These figures also indicate 2583 rejections, giving a rejection/acceptance ratio of 13.178, also an improvement for the third year running (down from 13.52:1 in 2021, and 14.27:1 the previous year).

During the calendar year 2022, I made 368 submissions, scoring 32 placements (even with 2017 and 2020). This is an acceptance rate of 11.5%, down from 2021's 12.375%, but still well above 2020's 7.67%. Covid isolation has gone by (indeed, the world is behaving like the pandemic is over—funny, a hundred people are dying a month from this disease in my state alone, but, horrifyingly, society has normalised that), which might account for fewer people reading. But outlets continue to fold as well, reducing market breadth, though new magazines come along as brave publishers give it a go.

Average time between acceptances in Year Seven was up from last year's 9.125 days to 11.4 days, a sign of harder times all round. I've gone through dead patches so long I would be forgiven for wondering if I would ever see an acceptance again! But in real terms it's about the same as 2020's 11.7, which was an improvement over the previous year.

Professional placements, what are they? I don't believe I've had one in the last year...

On the face of it, productivity has been somewhat low, just 33 stories this year, totalling, however, 175, 871 words, a major jump on last year's 104, 309 words (and not far behind 2020's 186, 585). There are at this time two stories unfinished, straddling the New Year period, and it must be remembered in these totals that this year I have extended into novels, with over 50, 000 words of a near future SF project committed to digits, plus an entire mystery novel of 78, 500 words completed, edited and submitted in the same period—more about this in due course. Totalled up, this is around 400, 000 words of output in the past twelve months, which I'm pretty sure is the record for me.

I have 287 stories registered at Submission Grinder, and some 420 in my personal list (this includes work on pseudonyms).

As with last year, the standout in 2022 is again my success as a writer of Sherlock Holmes. I'm continuing to write (two new stories in prep at this time), and have appeared in seven Belanger anthologies to date, with acceptances for two more, and a second placement with Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine. Strand Magazine actually solicited a second story from me (still waiting to hear back about it), and I was recently invited to submit to the MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories anthology series, a charity collection coming out around quarterly in support of the Undershaw School, for children with learning disabilities, run out of a house that once belonged to Conan Doyle. This is a great honour, the tables of contents of these anthologies are a who's who of major talents, and I could not be happier.

My Sherlock Holmes output for 2022 was 62, 392 words, not counting the two still in prep, and I may as well reveal that the 78, 500 word novel I completed during the year is also a Holmesian excursion. I expect to have good news about that one in due course.

My total accepted word count stands at about 987, 000 words—I really wanted to pass the million mark, and the 200th acceptance before the end of 2022, but the market seems sluggish at this time. Perhaps this is to be expected, in view of the cataract of crises pouring over the world these days, from floods to wars, and disease to monolithic corruption.

In terms of period mystery, The Inspector Trevelyan Mysteries is continuing to develop, about half a dozen stories so far, plus two Sherlock Holmes crossovers (they are contemporaries). I have high hopes of an anthology at some point, and very possibly a Trevelyan novel too.

Also during 2022, I was invited to write a jacket blurb for a horror collection, Howls from the Dark Ages, published by the Horror Obsessed Writing and Literature Society, a group in Centennial, Colorado. I did a most enjoyable online Q&A with their members in August, 2021, and was invited to submit to their disaster horror anthology, Howls from the Wreckage, due out soon.

On the table with Hiraeth Books are two anthologies, a full collection of my Lucinda Crane, Vampire/Hunter stories, and a volume of three novellas of historical fantasy—more about those when things mature.

That's where I stand at the end of Year Seven, on the brink of the two hundredth acceptance and the millionth word past the post, with a novel and single-author collections in progress. I hope one year from now I'm reporting some real developments on all fronts!

Cheers, Mike Adamson

Header pic: Image by Nile from Pixabay.

Monday, December 19, 2022

A Foray Into Horror

Horror is one of those genres which melds into others with ease—it's a sense of scene, emotional content, the provocation of reactions from the beholder. One might say that all writing is those things, but which reactions you're after determines your tone. I have always felt horror was not my natural genre—science fiction and fantasy come much more easily. But by the same token I can say I'm a big fan of the Alien franchise, which, certainly the original, is pure Gothic horror formula, and of the writings of Howard, Lovecraft and Smith, which embrace horror in many of its aspects, cosmic—, body—, and so forth. So maybe horror isn't that much of a stretch.

For some while now I've been in touch with the Horror Obsessed Writing and Literature Society (HOWLS), of Centennial, Colorado. On Sunday, August 8th, 2021, I had the pleasure of communicating on a message board with their members, and for an hour answered a wide range of writing questions as fast as I could type—I answered every point, I'm glad to say! I was also asked to write a cover blurb/endorsement for their anthology Howls from the Dark Ages, a volume of historical horror, which was another new experience!

However, I was also invited to contribute a story to their forthcoming anthology Howls from the Wreckage, a collection of disaster-themed horror, and this gave me a chance to flex the horror muscle in terms of composition. It's true, I've produced a number of pieces in the past which stray into the genre. The Moth and the Candle, in Dies InfaustusGorgon's Deep in Myths, Monsters, Mutations and Fear of the Dark, in Aurealis #104, and dramatised on No Sleep Podcast, Season 14, Ep. 25 are all maritime horror with a sci-fi edge, and I have other pieces unpublished. My fantasy piece The Dreamer in the Dark in Strange Wars has as much horror as many a Howard piece, while my early sci-fi outing Petrichor, in Wordland 8: Time We left (which seems to be no longer available) and Galaxy Anthology Series #5 certainly qualifies. So it was perhaps predictable that I would approach horror from the standpoint of both science fiction and mythology, to offer context to the chills.

There are many forms of horror, but I remember an editor once describing the nature of the field from his perspective. He said “When I read horror I want to be frightened—not disgusted.” This harked to the growing trend in horror writing to wallow in body horror, be it mutilation, torture, disease, sexual perversion or whatever, which perhaps grew out of an inevitable staleness in the old tropes. You can only dwell on vampires, werewolves, mummies and so on for so long before they lose their creepy edge, if for no other reason than mere familiarity, and the chill of fear so craved by the reader must come from fresh sources. Still, the distinction between fear and disgust is a worthy one, I feel, and a line a writer should be aware of when choosing their material, and the audience they're playing to.

The fresh writer finds new takes on old tropes—the haunted house will never go out of fashion, but such a story demands a new twist, a fresh context, something which whispers to the reader in expected ways. It needs to “say something new,” though far be it from me to use that expression critically, as I understand just how few truly new ideas there are. Not that many years ago a major US writing body issued a statement that, in their opinion, there were no new stories and could not be any, which may be interpreted as an encouragement for people to lose the attitude that a story is not worth publishing unless it somehow does the impossible. But, all the same, the onus is on the writer to try. None of us want to merely regurgitate other writers' ideas, much less their storylines, (no matter how inspired by them we may be) but no few come up with stories entirely independently, only to discover, perhaps many years later, that they were not as original as they had believed. Does that make such work necessarily a poor story, though? No!

Be that as it may, with horror I guess I try for the evocation that throws a particular kind of shadow over one's soul—the awe that comes from encountering the unknown, and the fear that goes hand-in-hand with it, which can then be met with courage by protagonists with whom the reader might identify. This formula can be applied to a wide range of genres, of course, so perhaps it's impure horror. I don't really know! But I'll be happy if what I produce finds resonance with a decent part of the readership.

Where might my horror writing go in future? Pure horror in a supernatural vein is always on the cards, perhaps occult detective outings (more about that in other posts), and there was an idea for a horror novel at the back of my mind a year or two back... We'll see where the market leans!

Header: Royalty free image, Stefan Keller art, from Pixabay:

Friday, December 2, 2022

A Busy Year!

It's perhaps a measure of how busy I've been in 2022 that I have completely spaced my writing blog. I was aghast to have neglected it last year, then did exactly the same this year, for which—profound apologies!

Busy? My hobby is plastic modelling, and this year I have not finished a single project. I've worked on two novels (more about those when the time comes) and a large collection of short stories, including several new Sherlock Holmes pieces. I have a couple more appearing with Bellanger Books in the not too distant future, and a second story was actually solicited from me by Strand Magazine, which is quite an honour.

I don't want to go into stats at this time—my usual review of the year's performance come up in a little over a month, on the anniversary of my first submission. At this time I'll say things have shaken down in unexpected ways—that period mystery has been a very welcoming field, while speculative fiction is as frustrating and uncertain as ever when it comes to finding a market.

On the plus side, I have some single-author collections on the table, a Sherlock Holmes anthology with Bellanger, perhaps in 2024, and two collections with Hiraeth Books—my vampire stories collected, and a volume of historical fantasy adventures. No scheduling on these yet, but they're out there.

Publishing soon is Howls From the Wreckage from HOWLS (Horror Obsessed Writing and Literature Society), for which I was invited to contribute—catch my tale A War in Hell. This follows on the heels of my invitation to write a promo blurb for their previous collection, Howls From the Dark Ages, a most interesting exercise! I also had the pleasure of doing an invitation online Q&A with the society. Check them out here:

Another serendipitous advent of this year was the solicitation of some of my material to appear in translation in the magazine Galaktika, in Hungary. The editors reprinted a number of stories from the Pole 2 Pole anthology Twenty Thousand Leagues Remembered, the 150th anniversary volume commemorating the first publication of Verne's original. My story The Silent Agenda, which explores the radical edits introduced for the English translation, in dramatised form, was selected for translation and the editors also bought a reprint of my “Tales of the Middle Stars” piece Sky Tears. Below, here's the layout for my Verne piece as published in Hungary:

I was surprised to see the classic Harper Goff Nautilus design from the 1954 movie appear—it certainly underlines the iconic nature of the design and its presence in the public consciousness .

My story “Personal Best” was a finalist in this year's Jim Baen Memorial Award, and I have a story in hand for the coming year's contest. I remain optimistic of one day placing!

My “Tales of the Middle Stars” opus now number fifty-five stories, with thirty-five published. I have high hopes of a single-author anthology at some point, perhaps of the longest pieces (all unpublished due to length).

That's a fair roundup for the moment, and my hope for the remainder of 2022 is to actually finish a couple of model projects!

Best wishes, and stay tuned for the next exciting chapter,

Mike Adamson

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

In Print, February 2022

New in print is Shelter of Daylight Autumn 2022, from Hiraeth Publishing, in which you'll find my “Tales of the Middle Stars” piece “Windwalkers.” For the first time my piece is the "Featured Story" of the issue, which is wonderful! On the arid world of Susa, a planet-wide dust storm shuts down most of civilization, and woe to those who are caught out in it. A tale of survival, of optimism and despair, the existential dread of the wastelands and a certain, manifested philosophic jousting with that dread as recognized by the earliest settlers...

This is my second appearance in Shelter of Daylight, and my half-dozenth or so with Hiraeth. There'll be a vampire piece or two forthcoming in the not too distant future!

Buy it here:

There's not much progress to speak of—I've had one minor placement in the last nine weeks, and every day I look for the drought to end...


Mike Adamson


Thursday, January 6, 2022

Looking Back from the Six Year Mark (7/1/22, our side of the dateline...)


Can it be six years since I sent out that first submission in a formal program to crack the writing market? I remember the submission, a ghost story (that hasn't placed to this day) to a magazine that's no longer around...

With all the craziness in the pandemic world, one could understand almost anything, I suppose, and, perhaps oddly enough, 2021 was my best year in terms of overall placements, while the 2020-2021financial year was my best in terms of income from writing. Meanwhile, I've not seen an actual placement since November 23rd, and the new year seems to be in no hurry to open its score.

Okay, onto the data (always the most revealing stuff!)

In six years, I have made 2448 submissions (495 in the last 365 days). I have 162 placements (15.11:1 submission/acceptance ratio, up from 16.008:1 last year), about 95 submission currently in play, including a few on pseudonyms (my record is now 103 total), thus 2192 rejections (13.52:1 rejection/acceptance ratio, have improved for the second year running (up from 14.27:1 last year).

In calendar year 2021, I made 91 more submissions than in 2020, receiving 40 placements, my best year by eight (over 2017). This is an acceptance rate of 12.375%, a major jump up on last year's 7.67% and well above the previous best, 2017’s 8.16%). Maybe folks are reading as they stay in isolation, which might translate into a healthier market—but the number of outlets that have folded in the last year is a clear indication that publishers are having a very hard time as well.

Average time between acceptances in Year Six was down from last year”s 11.7 days to 9.125 days, which is down a full third over 2019's figures. All the same, when you're in a dead patch, it seems to go on forever—currently, I've had 32 rejections in 45 days and I'm starting to forget what an acceptance looks like...

Professional placements are in the dumps for calendar year 2021, just one, “The Apotheosis of Rosie” at MetaStellar (free read).

Productivity has been low, 36 stories this year (down from 36 last year and 43 the year before, and little more than half my grand total of 62 in 2017), totalling 104, 309 words (down from last year's 186, 585, which in turn was down from 214, 998 in 2019.) I have over 260 stories registered at Submission Grinder, and some 290 in my personal list. However, though productivity has been low, marketing has been in high gear (one cannot, perhaps, do both at the same time), thus the better sales figures.

High points of 2021: The standout in this last year has to be my success as a writer of Sherlock Holmes. I now have placed ten of twelve completed stories, and many more in note form to come. In the last two years I have written 105, 363 words of Sherlock Holmes fiction, 85, 240 placed, and have produced 58, 565 words this year alone. I now appear in six anthologies from Belanger Books and will be submitting to a seventh in the month ahead, with every expectation of there being further opportunities. I have placed stories with Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine and The Strand, also, and hope to expand on those successes too.

I recently calculated that my total published word count is approaching three quarters of a million, a considerable figure, and my target is to raise that beyond the million mark, if not this year then next. I certainly aim to surpass two hundred placements by the end of this year, though 2022 had better get its finger out, we're a week in and there's been no action yet!

Also accounting for my less than stellar short story production this year, I've been working on a near-future urban fantasy novel set against the background of a climate-ravaged Italy. I have some 35, 000 words to go, then my next book-length project will be my first Sherlock Holmes novel. Period mystery is a most exciting field in which to work, and I have high hopes of launching a career as a novelist in the years ahead.

That's the state of play—so, on to year seven!

Cheers, Mike Adamson