Category Archives: Novels, Short Novels & Novellas

Novel: The Flies Dropped Dead

The Flies Dropped Dead, a 32,000-word short novel of dark science fiction, is now available for the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords:

Cover - Flies Dropped Dead 300x200A mysterious death, a constellation of dead flies.

Can Jonathan Canny find redemption at the bottom of a multiplying black abyss of science gone wrong?

Jonathan Canny is a workaday morgue staffer who thinks he’s seen it all until he discovers dead flies scattered around the body of a gorgeous woman. Canny turns to Lila, his ex-girlfriend, to seek some answers, but what they uncover engulfs the entire morgue in a creeping webwork of darkness, culminating in one man’s desperate struggle for redemption– even if is far too late for his beloved Lila.

A novel of dark science fiction by Alistair Ainscott.

“The Flies Dropped Dead” Copyright © 2012 Alistair Ainscott, Published by Rapid-Dynamix Publishing

Cover illustration © Rolffimages | Dreamstime.com

 

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Filed under E-Pub, Indie Published Stories, mystery, Novels, Short Novels & Novellas, Stories Available

2012 Writing Goals & 2011 Short Story Challenge in Review

I haven’t had time to post in a while, but I did tweet (@aainscott) my progress on my 2011 Short Story Challenge– to write 40 short stories in a year, which I revised on the fly to shoot for 50 stories instead– and this is how it went:

  • Dec. 1st: Short Story #40 mailed (flash fiction)– challenge met! How many more I can get done in December? Race score=33.
  • Dec. 2nd: Received rejection #100 on the year, mailed short story #41 of (another flash fiction piece). I don’t give up easy.
  • Dec. 12th: Finished stories #42, 43, 44. Two flash fiction pieces mailed to professional markets and a longer story which I moved direct to e-pub.
  • Dec. 22nd: Mailed stories #45-48 of my 2011 Short Story Challenge (three flash pieces, one longer short story).
  • Around this time I also got a really nice personal rejection letter from Flash Fiction Online, a professional SFWA-qualifying market: “I really enjoyed your story. It’s well written, with a lot of powerful imagery, and a compelling voice.” The problem? Oops, I exceeded the PG-13 criteria for the publication.
  • Dec 31st: Mailed story #49, about 7,000 words, to the Writers of the Future contest. Struggled with this one, the story just wouldn’t flow, but got it done.

Alas, I didn’t quite make 50– but I came really, really close because the short novel (~30,000 words) that I wrote earlier in the fall is incredibly close to being ready to go up. But my priority was to get something mailed to the Writers of the Future contest, so I had to bump that back to January.

My overall 2011 results were:

  • 49 new pieces of fiction completed
  • 152 manuscripts mailed
  • 122 rejections
  • 30 manuscripsts currently still in the hands of editors who might buy them
  • 14 personal rejections
  • 1 story currently shortlisted
  • 1 acceptance (“Piss Match,” Penumbra Vol. 1 No. 4, a professional-paying market)

So overall I’d have to say that 2011 was an unmitigated success on the writing front even though I fell just a tad short of the updated goal of 50 stories finished & mailed to professional markets or e-published online.

The 2012 Hundred Fictions Challenge:
Produce 100 New Pieces of Fiction.

For 2012 I’ve decided to go all-out. I hit a nice rythym the last quarter of 2011 so I think I can produce a lot more this year than last year.

My goal is 100 new pieces of fiction. Any length counts as long as I mail it to a professional market (or e-publish it). I like to write at flash lengths and to be honest I have had the most encouraging comments from the pro markets with my shorter pieces, so I see no reason not to keep at it, so long as I am writing a mix of longer pieces as well to keep building those storytelling muscles.

Because I want to stay on the learning curve for e-publishing I am also going to include in that count any e-pubbed collections of short stories, to give me an incentive to assemble those. But individual stories e-published don’t count.

I also will have 5 short novels in that count of 100 pieces, including the one just about ready to go up. Any length of about 15,000 words or more counts, i.e. any works that I would put up at $2.99 or higher. And at least one must be 60,000 words or more.

Other goals for 2012, in no particular order:

  • Do at least one POD (print-on-demand) book because I want to learn how to do that.
  • Practice writing faster. My typical pace is around 500-800 words per hour, sometimes up to 1000 or 1200 words/hour when things are going well. I’d like to more consistently hit that 1,000 words plus per hour range.
  • 250,000+ new words written.

My main goal for 2012, however, is to keep firing short stories at the professional markets. My race score topped out at 35 in 2011. I want to see how much higher I can push that this year, while still producing a number of novella/short novel length works.

So that’s it and I’ll look forward to shooting off short stories side-by-side with you as you progress on your own writing challenges. We can have a bit of a wild west short fiction shoot-out here on the rugged coast of the Pacific Northwest!

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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 #30 Mailed

I sent short story #30 of my 2011 short story challenge, another bit of flash fiction this time, off into the electronic void a couple days ago. I’ve been writing alot of these short-short / flash fiction pieces lately, and at some point soon here I’m going to start running out of pro-paying markets to mail them off to.

But I’ve been having great fun with them, and it’s been a nice counterbalance while I work to complete the novella that I have pounding away on. I wrote 3,600 new words on the novella this week and I’m close to having that elusive end-to-end first draft completed. Then I will go back and layer in a few things here and there to properly set up and motivate the plot twists and character development and so forth that come later in the short novel.

Two more rejections since my last post, and three pieces sent out, so my short-story race score now stands at 24.

I want to e-publish some more short stories, collections of flash fiction pieces, and of course the short novel before the holiday season to see if I can pick up a few sales from all the new e-readers coming onto the market. But, I also need to balance that with my main goal right now of making some professional sales to the short fiction markets, which will help to get my name out there and give me better fiction credits for my cover letters.

We’re in the wild, wild west of reading, writing and publishing these days and there’s heady times a-coming. All I need to do is hold on tight and just keep writing no matter what, and the rest will follow.

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Short Story #29 Mailed

I just mailed off story #29 of my 2011 short story challenge to a professional market. That brings my race score up to 23 (all short story submissions to professional-paying markets). As I write more it’s getting harder to place them since I usually already have a story under consideration at “the usual suspects.” But that also forces me to stretch my boundaries, find new markets, and send things to places that I might not have considered before. These are all good things (grin).

Only two rejections in the mail this week, so a good week on that front.

Unfortunately, however, I failed to finish my work-in-progress last week for the Sept. 30th Writers of the Future deadline. Got about 4,000 words done on it but with sick kids and work demands there were just not enough hours in the week to get it finished. And the story I had set up stubbornly refused to resolve itself without throwing a lot more word count at it. So I’ll keep plowing forward with it and have something ready well before the deadline for the next quarter. I’m guessing it will end up as an 8-10,000 worder.

I returned my attention to the short novel over the weekend. That has now topped 24,000 words and probably only needs another 2000 words to finish off the first draft. I also need to cycle back and layer in a couple more things, seed some plot developments earlier and the like, but it’s getting close. I’ll be moving that one direct to e-pub when I have it finished as at that length I’ve now outstripped the short fiction markets.

So, eleven stories to go to hit my original goal of 40 short stories written this year. More and more I want to shoot for 50 stories instead to really push myself and see how much product I can churn out this year. My pace has been increasing as well, with about 18,000 words written in September.

Focusing on just making sure I get 500 words written every day– even if it’s just a fragment of something that I whip up on the iPad before I fall asleep– has been a really good strategy for me.

Oh, and I pre-ordered a nice little goodie for myself from Amazon, too, apparently along with just about everyone else in the known universe who has $199 burning a hole in their pocket. Should be fun and hopefully a good holiday season for indie publishers everywhere 🙂

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Filed under E-Pub, Novels, Short Novels & Novellas, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011

Short Story #27 Mailed

I finished off a story during my lunch break and mailed it off to notch Story #27 of my 2011 Short Story Challenge.

It was a story I started over the weekend on my iPad. I was really tired over the weekend and didn’t do much writing other than that, and I didn’t even crack open the laptop to work on the short novel. But I think it’s pretty cool how the iPad has become a shim for me that I can wedge in against the oh-my-goodness-I-just-need-to-be-horizontal fatigue that sets in late at night sometimes. I just grab the iPad and type my 500 words and then go to sleep.

And heck, some completed stories are coming from that– and one of those even looks like it might sell– so don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Since my last post, I recieved one rejection back on a story that had been out forever, and received news that one of my iPad-written stories is being held for further consideration– on the first time I mailed it out no less– so there’s a potential professional sale brewing there. It was also one of those stories that I initially thought might be destined for my “Crimes Against Literature” folder, so once again, what do I know. I just write ’em and have fun with it.

My story for this week might have an even more ridiculous premise than the one I whipped up last week, but I think it’s a fun story nonetheless. Should be entertaining to see what happens with it, and I won’t be letting the cat out of sight, just in case…

There’s about 15 weeks left in the year to write 13 stories to reach my 40-story goal, which seems pretty doable (even with a missed week here or there) given my recent pace. And if I do a bunch more shorts, another 23 stories to reach my stretch goal of 50 stories in one year is not yet impossible, but unlikely if I continue to write a bunch of longer stories as well (like the in-progress short novel…).

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Short Story #26 Mailed

I’ve been busy, both as a writer and in my high-technology professional life, since I last wrote here about my 2011 Short Story Challenge.

I completed short story #26 of my challenge a few days ago and mailed it. The whole premise of this story is so ludicrous that I almost can’t believe I went through with it, but who knows, it could end up being a really fun one, or maybe it will come back from editors with hate mail and threats of bodily harm. Hard to know– I’m just the writer.

So this might be one of those stories destined for the “Crimes Against Literature” folder on my writing computer (yes, I actually have a folder there with that exact name). But I mailed it anyway. I’ll leave it to the professional editors to tell me what I wrote and whether it’s any good or not.

On the publication front I received 7 rejections back from professional markets since the end of August and mailed out 12 submissions. That pushed my race score up over 20 for the first time and I feel like I’m just gaining steam here, so it will only be going higher as I write more and get more stuff out in the mail.

I also received my first sale from Kindle’s UK store, on Trinity of the Sands, so I can add another 26p to my treasury of short fiction. So, a shout of thanks across The Great Pond to whoever you are.

I had a pretty productive writing week this week, with almost 6000 words written in the 5 days where I was able to find some time to write. I’ve been trying to concentrate on writing 500 words a day, even if I’m feeling super tired, and that’s been working for me, although on one night I must admit that I fell asleep while getting my kids to bed and got nothing written. But on the days I did write that determination to write just 500 words, which seems so tantalizingly simple, often got me going and steaming well past that mark.

The thing I find I have to guard against is binge writing, where I stay up way too late and try to write thousands of words in one evening. I just end up burning myself out that way and get fewer words written in a week when I do that. Plus, I have to save some energy and brainpower for my professional work.

I’ve been concentrating most of my effort on the short novel, which has now steamed past 21,000 words and is getting close to completion. I have the ending already written and just need to fill in 2-3 scenes to complete the narrative arc, which I imagine will add up to somewhere around 2-4,000 more words. I also need to cycle back and weave in a few details and foreshadowing in the opening and a couple other earlier scenes, so a bit of effort yet to go, but I’ll get there soon. I may go just direct to e-publishing this one given its length. and to get some hands-on experience with e-publishing and print-on-demand for longer works.

I also have a professional deadline, a long weekend away, and then the deadline for the next quarter of the Writers of the Future Contest looming, so things will stay very, very busy for me through the end of the month.

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