Category Archives: Dean Wesley Smith

Short Story: The Ferro-Erotic Roaches of Kiki

The Ferro-Erotic Roaches of Kiki, a 3000-word science fiction story, is now available for the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords:

Cover - Ferro-Erotic Roaches of Kiki 200 x 300

Sharpen your beaks, prickle your barbs, color your ears. My Kiki, my brothers, we must guard our broods…

The Kiki dwell contentedly in their hive until the odd roundy beasts plummet to the surface.

Chantelle and James, marooned on an alien world of banded stone and gaping chasms, take refuge in the warrens of the roach-like denizens of the planet. They find a peaceful, if uneasy, co-existence.

Until the baby arrives.

And they call again for help.

And Chantelle must choose: her baby or her life…

A strange tale of science-fiction by Alistair Ainscott. 

“The Ferro-Erotic Roaches of Kiki” Copyright © 2011 Alistair Ainscott, Published by Rapid-Dynamix Publishing

Cover illustration © Innovari | Dreamstime.com

The Writing of the Ferro-Erotic Roaches of Kiki

This is one of the short stories that I wrote at the short story workshop that I did with Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith. To be honest it was the best received of the four stories that I wrote for the workshop. It has a strange voice for the parts told from the alien’s otherworldly point-of-view, funny in an odd way, but it mostly seemed to work for the twenty other writers who attended. This is interspersed with scenes from Chantelle’s (the protagonist’s) point of view.

Kris liked like the story and encouraged me to mail it or e-pub it (which I have now done).

Dean Wesley Smith loved the title. He must have said “What a great title!” three or four times.

This also may be the only science fiction story ever written about the Kiki / Bouba effect. It’s a real psychophysical effect. Look it up.

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Filed under Dean Wesley Smith, E-Pub, Indie Published Stories, Kris 'n' Dean Short Story Workshop, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Short Stories, Stories Available

First Professional Sale & Short Stories #38, #39 Mailed

Success!

I’ve sold Story #26 of my 2011 Short Story Challenge– to write 40 new short stories this year– to Penumbra, a new speculative fiction e-magazine. And yes, they pay professional rates of 5 cents per word.

My story will appear in the January 2012 issue. I’ll post more details and a link to the magazine when I have them.

It’s also a milestone for me because it marks my first professional sale.

I decided to get serious about my fiction about a year ago. Really started to focus on finishing things, on mailing them out rather than endlessly revising the same unfinished stories. Started really paying attention to the advice given by professionals, especially Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. And yes, I learned a ton– and took in a lot simply by osmosis– when I attended the June 2011 Short Story Workshop (taught mainly by Kris, an award-winning editor and writer).

Now, I’m not sure I agree with every bit of advice they dole out. But you know what? They’re both established professionals making a living from their writing. They have been at this for decades. They know what the heck they are talking about.

So I listened, and I learned. And I’m still learning.

Making the sale is great, but it doesn’t fool me; I know I still have a ton to learn to bring my craft to a higher level. My job now is to write the next one, and the next, and the one after that. May sell or it may not. But I’ll keep practicing and learning new tools, how to tell a good story in a compelling way.

I have to admit the making the sale did get in my head for a few days. I found it hard to sit down and write. The idea that someone might actually publish these words I was writing, these practice sessions that I was setting down on paper, paralyzed me. Felt like the words had to be perfect, the story had to be great.

Well you know what? Some stories I set down on paper stink. I know that. I’m sure editors are sometimes thinking that when they send me form rejections.

But I also know that I’m wrong about that sometimes, and the only way to find out is to finish the story and mail it.

The story I sold is a perfect example. It’s a short, funny sci-fi story. In many ways the premise is ridiculous. I wasn’t sure the story even worked. I wondered if I should mail it out or just trunk it.

But I was wrong; it worked and it worked great, and an editor bought it. Sold the first time out, actually.

It feels great to have a story out there and published that never got rejected!

And really, it didn’t take so long:

  • I wrote that story just a little bit past 100,000 words of fiction written since I got serious about it. None of the stories from the first 100,000 words has sold yet, although I know at least one of them moved on to later rounds of reviewing (a piece I sent to ChiZine, a really tough market to crack).
  • It was the 73rd manuscript that I mailed out this year.
  • I wrote the story when my race score was at 20 stories in the mail; the acceptance came at 31 stories in the mail. (My race score at the moment is 32; the point for the story that sold doesn’t come off until it’s published).
  • The acceptance came after I’d hit 90 rejections.

Now it may be twice as long before I sell the next one, or who knows, one of the stories I have out might sell tomorrow. No way to know. But I feel like I’m on the right path and I’ll keep working at it. I’m sure I’m no exception and I have a million words of crap in me. Or heck, I’ve written so much non-fiction in my professional work that I may very well need two million words of crap to overcome that deficit.

But I know there will be some gems in there too.

I have gotten over the hump of the sale now and moved on to the next one. Mailed out Stories #38 and #39 in the last week or so.  Both are on the short side; #38 is about 1500 words, #39 is a flash fiction piece. But I’ve been learning a lot and having great fun writing a number of shorter pieces; one of them sold and another was shortlisted elsewhere before it ultimately got rejected. So it seems to be working for me.

I have story #40 nearly finished as well, so I’ll make my 2011 Short Story Challenge goal of 40 stories written and mailed probably by early next week.

So now I’m gunning for my stretch goal of 50 Stories finished and mailed by the end of the year, but it will be tough to get there with some upcoming travel for work plus the usual holiday distractions. But we’ll see. I’m going to take a run at this and see just how far I can get.

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Filed under Accepted Stories, Dean Wesley Smith, Flash Fiction, Kris 'n' Dean Short Story Workshop, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Rejections, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011

VOMIT SETTING ONTO THE PAGE. (and 100th Submission, 75th Rejection, & Short Story #31 Mailed)

It’s been a while since I last posted but things have been busy. Since Oct 7th I received 9 rejections (one piece rejected twice) and mailed out 11 pieces. That brings my race score to 25.

I also passed some milestones this week, with the 75th rejection of the year coming in and the 100th mailing of the year going out.

I still also have one piece being held by an editor for possible publication. No clue when I will hear back about that, but it’s for a market that pays professional rates.

I mailed off Short Story #31 of my 2011 Short Story Challenge several days ago, a short strange one about a character with phantom limbs.

I have also finished a first draft of the short novel at about 31,000 words as well as a first draft of a 5,000 word short story that I was thinking of submitting to an anthology call. So, lots of words coming through the keyboard, but finding time to do some editing (as opposed to producing new words, which has been my priority) has been a challenge.

I started a new piece this week as well where I decided to have fun and follow explicitly the directions that Dean Wesley Smith gave us for one excercise at the June 2011 Short Story workshop when he was none too pleased about the results of a previous assignment about story setting:

VOMIT SETTING ONTO THE PAGE.

So I went and did just that and have a 2,500 word start on another story where the first six pages do nothing but layer in a creepy setting bit by bit, filtered through the viewpoint and opinions of the main character. I rather like how it has turned out so far.

The reason to “vomit setting onto the page” is that, as an early-stage professional writer, it is too easy to focus on plot and other story aspects and leave the setting too thin. That leaves you with a white-room story full of fake details (“the bench” vs. “the grubby oak-planked bench capped with wrought-iron finials,” for example). This also brings particular and concrete details into your story that evoke the five senses.

On this new story, I’m admittedly a bit stuck on where it will go next. But I have a solution for that, as well, thanks again to another bit of advice that Dean pearled out during the dinner on the last night of the workshop.

One of the students asked Dean how to flesh out a big idea, how to get going on it, how to develop it to its full potential. Dean had a great, short answer that might seem trite at first glance but actually encapsulates a lot of wisdom:

“Just start typing.”

The student looked at him incredulously and started to rephrase the question. To which Dean said, “No, really, just start typing.” His point was that the place to do world-building is at your keyboard, with probes and bore-holes drilled in the form of stories. If a particular story veers off of your big idea, well so what. Let your subconscious, creative mind take you where it will, finish off that story, and take another whack at it with your next story. And then the next. And the next. Soon you’ll understand your “big idea” better, and through the process of exploration in story form, likely come up with many twists and turns and improvements on your idea that you never would have otherwise.

Now, I may have little track record as a fiction writer but I’ve worked in advanced R & D for my entire professional career and so I could see the wisdom in Dean’s words. It’s way, way to easy to paralyze yourself into inaction because an idea seems to big or too difficult or too vague in its present form. You just have to build stuff, try things out, and gradually via exploration-through-experience something interesting will come out of it– as long as you trust yourself and permit yourself to have some whiffs along the way.

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Filed under Dean Wesley Smith, Kris 'n' Dean Short Story Workshop, Novels, Short Novels & Novellas, Rejections, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011, Workshops

Short Story: The Thriller Writer’s Workshop

The Thriller Writer’s Workshop, a 3,450 word tale of mystery and psychological suspense, is now available for the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords:

The Thriller Writer's Workshop by Alistair Ainscott

Hotshot faculty member and amateur writer Martin Sanderson attends a Thriller Writer’s Workshop at the ragged edge of the world on the Oregon Coast and finds that he’s in way, way over his head. But Sanderson has a thriller of his own to write and intends to show these so-called professionals just why he belongs right there in that chair with the rest of them.

“The Thriller Writer’s Workshop” Copyright © 2011 Alistair Ainscott, Published by Rapid-Dynamix Publishing

Cover illustration © Rolffimages | Dreamstime.com

The Writing of The Thriller Writer’s Workshop

After I corresponded with Dean Wesley Smith about the 2011 Short Story Workshop and he invited me to participate, I was struck by a sudden irrational fear that it would be a total disaster and that I would completely embarass myself. Now you have to understand that many of the students attending these workshops are early-career professional writers who are well ahead of me in terms of publication credits and accomplishments in the world of fiction.

So, I bottled up those fears and tried to imagine the worst possible way it could turn out for a fictional character that I put in a similar situation. And this story was the result.

Now of course, the actual workshop was nothing like what’s portrayed here and both Kris and Dean were most gracious hosts, although Dean did get a little gruff when too many fake details snuck into the settings for one of our class excercises now that I think about it…

Thanks and I hope you enjoy the story.

The Thriller Writer's Workshop by Alistair Ainscott The Thriller Writer’s Workshop: How far will a man go to prove he belongs?

A mystery story by Alistair Ainscott.

The Thriller Writer’s Workshop available now on Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords.

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Filed under Dean Wesley Smith, E-Pub, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, mystery, Short Stories, Stories Available, Workshops

Week in the Life #2: My First $1.66 as a Professional Writer

Well, this was a fun week for me.

First off, I only received one rejection in the mail this week. And it was a rather encouraging personal rejection from ChiZine (a pro-paying market for dark fiction) on a short-short story I sent them about a month ago. The editors liked it but it wasn’t quite “dark” enough to suit the aesthetic of that particular magazine. I’ve already sent it on to my next market (but it’s a really tough one, so low expectations there even though I think the story is a solid one).

I wasn’t able to finish my work-in-progress and mail it out this week. I thought I might be able to finish it Thursday night but I got too tired and actualy ended up falling asleep for a couple hours while getting my kids to bed, so bye-bye writing time for that night. It’s up to 4,400 words and will probably need another 2-3,000 words to wrap up, but I have to admit that part of me hopes it goes longer and it gets into novella territory so that I can e-pub it sooner (grin). I like how the story is turning out so far, although the writing on it has been going a little slow (I’m probably averaging only 500 words an hour or so while writing this one).

I also finally figured out Smashwords and Pubit so my current catalog of stories is available on all the major platforms now. They’ll soon be available in the Apple, Kobo, and other stores through the Smashwords extended distribution system as well.

Here’s where you can find Alistair Ainscott’s author pages:

Trinity of the Sands received a rather complimentary four-star review from a Mr. J. Adams shortly after I posted the story. Thank you, Mr. Adams, for buying the story and even more so for your time to post a thoughtful review.

I’ve already sold four copies of Trinity of the Sands in the two weeks it’s been up on Kindle (and just one week on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords).

None of those are purchases by anyone I know.

Althought that number sounds small, it’s actually great for a single 99-cent short story. I also keep reminding myself that I’m just getting started at this (an as-yet unknown author with very few stories available).

Those four sales suggest that story should average around 10 sales a month (across all channels).

If I net an average of $0.40 per sale, thats $4.00 per month. $48.00 per year. $240.00 if I leave it up for five years.

And that’s assuming that the audience of people with e-readers remains flat (it’s exploding).

And that I don’t include the story in 5- and 10-story collections down the road here.

And that additional sales channels across the world don’t continue to open up to my electronic publishing efforts.

And that I do nothing else (I will have many more stories up before too long, and they will keep improving because I am continuing to learn this craft and rapidly getting better and better at it).

So if I can keep writing and keep telling stories at that level or better, then those onesies and twosies in the Kindle sales report are going to add up quite nicely in the long term.

In the meantime, my first $1.66 earned as a professional writer & indie publisher will do me just fine to cover the postage on the next short story manuscript that I mail out.

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Filed under Dean Wesley Smith, E-Pub, Rejections, Short Stories, Week in the Life

A Week in The Writer’s Life #1 and Some Thoughts on Dumpsters

Ah, here’s a tiny peek into one week in the life of Mr. Ainscott, an early-career professional writer:

  • Six rejections received, including two on the same story (some of the online professional-paying markets are ridiculously fast these days!). All form rejections this week; it comes with the territory, I’m afraid, and it’s what makes those online markets so fast to respond.
  • Six pieces sent back out in the mail, including one new story.
  • A couple sales of my short story, Trinity of the Sands for Kindle, trickled in (and whoever you are, dear reader, thank you very much for plunking down a hard-earned dollar to read my story). It’s not much but actually I’m super-excited about that as this blog is new, I only have a smattering of stories up right now, and I haven’t been doing any promotion of the stories that are there at all as of yet.

On this last point, check out Dean Wesley Smith’s post about doing the math on indie publishing. All you need is a few sales trickling in on each of your stories, and if you write and keep on writing, it doesn’t take too long for it all to add up. Plus we are still in the early days of the massive shift to electronic reading that is coming, and much sooner than anyone expected. Paper books aren’t going to die completely, but it sure will seem that way in a few years– or maybe even sooner.

In other words, the writers who will succeed are the writers who can write and keep writing– even while holding down a full-time job, as I do.

This echoes, in fact, a more general truth about the modern ecosystem of information workers and creative professionals that Richard Florida identifies in The Rise of the Creative Class:

“The winners in the long run are those who can create and keep creating.”

Note this doesn’t say anything about avoiding failures, or rewriting, or only churning out great works of literature. If you’re failing, then you need to fail faster. If all your submissions are getting form-rejected, you need to write more and more and get rejected faster, because that is the only way to learn. To get better. To write a story so damned full of awesomeness that they have to take it.

I have a colleague who used to evaluate high-tech startup companies. He would go and meet them and talk with everyone and sit through their PowerPoint slides and all of that.

But then, when the day was over, he would sneak out back and look at what they had in their dumpster. If it was just full of paper and post-it notes and discarded coffee cups, then he knew it was all bluster and they couldn’t be trusted.

But if it was full of sawed-up plywood and crazy busted contraptions with wires hanging out of them and bent-up sheet metal, then he knew they were really doing something. That they might have something.

A dumpster brimming with discarded ideas was the surest indicator that the start-up was full of creators who weren’t afraid of trying things, that they weren’t afraid of failing, that they were bold enough to create and keep creating.

So, here’s to keeping a full dumpster when it comes to learning my craft as a writer.

Now, back to that word processor…

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Filed under Dean Wesley Smith, E-Pub, Rejections, Short Stories, Week in the Life

Short Story #20 Mailed

Well, story #20 of my personal short story challenge– a straightforward science fiction piece, about 3400 words–  is done and in the mail.

I feel like I cheated a little bit this week because I didn’t get a lot of new words written, but I instead finished off one of those almost-done stories that had been languishing for a while. On the other hand, I did get some new words written and I have good starts on a number of stories. So, hopefully, some weeks with two stories out and in the mail are coming up here soon if I am going to make this challenge (40 stories, 50 stories stretch goal!)

I had to adopt Dean Wesley Smith’s slogan and whispered under my breath “Dare to Be Bad” as I clicked the submit button on the electronic submission. There are some questions that I know are left unanswered in the resolution of this particular story.

I actually came up with (most of) those answers and started redrafting the story but I quickly realized this was going to become a completely different story. And there are still some things about the other story I did like. It has a nice lush setting, there is a nice action/adventure feel to it, and the ending is kind of funny.

So instead of messing with it more I decided to mail it and move on. I find that getting a story out of my hair is a good way to clear mental energy to focus on new efforts.

So, on to the next one, which looks right now like it will be a science fiction mystery. I’ve already got 1,750 words finished on that one.

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Filed under Dean Wesley Smith, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011