Art by Frazetta

It’s summertime again, me hearties! Time for ol’ Fultzy to get “back to the drawing board”– or in this case, the “writing board.”

I’ve been researching and soul-searching lately to figure out what I’ll be writing this summer. Consequently, I’ve changed my original plans:

I will not be writing a third TALL EAGLE novel this summer. Instead, I’m going to focus on writing a new batch of short stories for various markets.

To explain the staggering irony of this decision, a little background: This year I’ve written more short stories than any single year since 2012, when my first novel was published. So I’m kind of on a roll short-story wise.

Writing novels is very different from writing short stories–it requires an entirely different mindset. It’s not as easy as you might think to “shift” back and forth between those two mindsets. Novels require weeks and months of intense concentration on one idea, and expanding that idea to its ultimate potential. With a short story you can do the same thing–explore an idea to its ultimate potential–in a day or two. Of course some stories take way longer to write than others, but no short story takes as long to write as a novel. (At least not for me, anyway.)

Art by Frazetta

Sales of the TALL EAGLE books has not been what I’d call impressive. Reviews are all great, but reviews don’t sell books–regardless of what Amazon tells you. I’ll say it again: Reviews don’t sell books. Especially when those books aren’t being distributed to bookstores all over the world (my first trilogy WAS distributed to bookstores all over the world, so it actually sold a decent number of copies for a relatively unknown writer).

This means there is no real demand for more TALL EAGLE books — at least not right now. I do hope that changes someday, because I’d love to write more about Ispiris and its strange wonders. Maybe the TE series will find its audience eventually, and at that point I’ll come back to it. But right now there is practically nobody waiting/expecting/demanding a third TALL EAGLE book. However, there is always a demand for good short stories.

About ten years ago, I decided to quit writing short stories and focus on novels. After two or three years I had produced my first novel, SEVEN PRINCES, which got me my first Big Writing Contract, and I turned that novel into a trilogy that I’m very proud of. It didn’t set the world on fire, but it did establish a firm fan base of people who really dig The Shaper Trilogy–a fan base that is still slowly expanding from year to year. I got into writing novels because I realized that nobody can build a writing career on short stories alone.

Now, I’ve come full circle–hence the gigantic irony–I’m back to writing short stories because I can’t rely on novels to sustain my writing career. There’s not much demand for my novels–oh, a few people every month still discover the Shaper Trilogy or the TALL EAGLE books–but it’s nothing like a vast audience.

I’m just glad that all my novels are still in print and will be in print (and ebook format) for the forseeable future. That means that all five of my novels are just sitting there–online and offline–waiting for me to drive readers toward them.

THE AUDIENT VOID #5 features two of my latest stories: “Love in the Time of Dracula” and “Oorg.”

Every time I get a short story published, it gets exposure for my name and for my other work. Not every reader will enjoy a story and seek out a novel by that same author–but a lot of them do. I know I’ve always done that as a reader myself.

So every time I get a story published, I get three benefits from it:

1) I get paid. Short stories don’t pay a whole lot–especially in the smaller and indie markets that dig my writing. But I get something in my pocket for all my hard work. That’s nice.

2) As long as I keep writing short stories, as long as I keep getting BETTER at it, there’s always a chance of cracking into a top market (i.e. a high-paying story market).

3) Every published story promotes my novels. The novels are the pillars that support my writing career. But the short stories are foundation stones–they helped me build up to writing novels–and now they help me promote and expose those novels to new readers.

So I’m going to focus on writing short stories for awhile. Short stories that allow me to flex my creative muscles, to grow and experiment, to take various ideas for a ride and see where they lead me. Stories that promote my catalog of books simply by having my name on them.

Weirdbook #37

I’ve started the Magtone Saga already in WEIRDBOOK. This is a cycle of tales chronicling the exploits of a wandering poet-thief transfigured by sorcery. Magtone first appeared in the pages of WB #37. The second Magtone tale, “Clouds Like Memories, Words Like Stones” will be in WB #39–set for release sometime in the next few weeks. A third Magtone story called “Impervious to Reason, Oblivious to Fate” has been accepted for WB #42 (which will be the first issue of 2019). Although Magtone himself plays a key role in all of these stories, each tale introduces new characters, realms, and concepts, fleshing out a phantasmagorical world of magic and mystery.

I’ve also written two new Cthulhu Mythos stories: One for Darrell Schweitzer’s forthcoming MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS REVEALED anthology, where global warming and climate change meet the eldritch horrors of H.P. Lovecraft’s classic — with a sci-fi twist. My contribution is called “The Embrace of Elder Things,” and it takes place mainly in a future moon colony that is the last bastion of human civilization.

Artwork by Bob Eggleton

The other Lovecraftian story is “The Thing In The Pond“– a tale inspired by Clark Ashton Smith’s favorite Great Old One, Tsathoggua, also known as the Sleeper of N’kai. This one takes place in the early 20th Century Midwest, and it’s more of a psychological approach to cosmic horror. Scheduled to appear in the Mythos-themed WEIRDBOOK Annual #2 (Fall, 2018).

I do plan to write more Magtone tales, until that story-cycle comes to its natural end. But I also enjoy the freedom to write stories about whatever I want. The most challenging thing about doing short stories is finding a (paying) publication for them. The trick is to keep writing them, and keep sending them out. Always have something in play. One editor’s “trash” is another editor’s “treasure.” It really is that subjective. I’m glad to have a few markets that are actually requesting stories from me. I hope to expand that list and get my stories into fresh new markets as well.

Meanwhile, my novels aren’t going anywhere. It’s my job to bring the reading public’s attention to them. The best way to do that is to impress readers with short stories that make them want to seek out more of my work. In other words, it’s time to focus on short stories for a while.

Artwork by Rowena, inspired by Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Last Incantation.”

Instinct tells me that I will return to novels at some point. I love writing novels. But I don’t know when that will be, and I’m okay with it. Above all, a writer has to follow his or her inspiration, regardless of market trends or sales figures.

I want to take this short-story momentum that I’ve built up this past year and kick it into overdrive this summer. My passion for short fiction has come back in a big way, so I plan to keep that fire burning.

And at some point this summer, I hope to mix in some actual vacation-ing.

Thanks for reading…