“Alternate Sherlocks” stories wanted

I will be editing an anthology of alternate Sherlock Holmes stories and am looking for submissions.

The idea is to take the iconic (and now public domain) character Sherlock Holmes and twist it in some way: Sherlock as an alien; Sherlock as a woman; Sherlock in the middle ages — let your imagination soar.sherlock_holmes1

I have an agent who is willing to shop this around. In order to interest a major publisher, we’ll need some big names. At this stage, we’re only asking for a story synopsis — that way, you don’t waste time writing a story only to find that we can’t get you a decent pay for it. If a publisher accepts, we will determine the pay and notify you and then you can decide whether to participate.

So I need proposals. Please submit a short synopsis (including the ending) of no more than 400 words, accompanied by your (short) bio and a link to a writing sample. Be sure to mention your previous publishing history.

Deadline is July 12th.

Note: If we cannot interest a major publisher, my current publisher Double Dragon will accept the anthology. With Double Dragon, the only pay will be from royalties (no advances or guaranteed payments).

Please email your submissions or questions.

Interview with NY Times Bestselling Author A. J. Hartley

MICHAEL A. VENTRELLA: I am pleased to be interviewing NY Times Bestselling Author A.J. Hartley today! A.J. is the international bestselling author of a dozen novels including the mystery/thrillers such as THE MASK OF ATREUS, young adult fantasies like ACT OF WILL, and children’s fantasies like DARWEN ARKWRIGHT AND THE PEREGRINE PACT (which won SIBA’s best YA novel of 2012). Hartley With David Hewson he has written two adaptations of Shakespeare plays as Game of Thrones-esque epic thrillers, the first of which was MACBETH, A NOVEL (audio edition voiced by Alan Cumming), and HAMLET, PRINCE OF DARKNESS. When he’s not writing, A. J. is UNC Charlotte’s Robinson Professor of Shakespeare.

A.J., I just finished reading ACT OF WILL and enjoyed it tremendously! Like my own ARCH ENEMIES, it is a first-person high fantasy story with a punnish title about a cowardly young entertainer with a sarcastic voice who gets thrown into an adventure against his will — so you can see why it appeals to me. (The stories otherwise have nothing in common plot-wise.) What inspired you to write ACT OF WILL?

A.J. HARTLEY: I grew up reading high fantasy—Tolkien, Le Guin, Lewis, and the like — and loved it all, but as my reading tastes expanded, I started to crave fantasy which was rooted in some version of reality and didn’t take itself too seriously. I’m a big fan of Terry Pratchett because I think he proves that fantasy with a comic edge needn’t be “light” and can be as serious as more obviously ponderous works. I like that. I’ve always been a devotee of writing which is fun, outrageously populist, deliberately and self-consciously “genre” but still rich and complex and layered. Like Shakespeare, a master genre writer if ever there was one. ACT OF WILL grew out of many of these impulses: high fantasy with an attitude and a strong sense of character voice, swords and sorcery with a little Salinger thrown in.

VENTRELLA: It seems to have gone through a number of different printings with different publishers. Can you share that story with us?

HARTLEY: From the first time I submitted the manuscript, I ran into the familiar problem of publishers saying something like “we love it, but we don’t know what it is.” In other words, it was considered a hybrid in terms of genre. They didn’t know what shelf to put it on. It took me twenty years to sell it. Literally. By then the market had evolved so that smart-mouth heroes and a pointed absence of dwarves and elves were no longer considered antithetical to fantasy.

Even so, when the book came out from Tor, people weren’t sure how to market it. The original hardback cover (which I actually really liked) didn’t look like a fantasy novel at all, and it certainly didn’t suggest its young adult protagonist. Both novels (ACT OF WILL was followed by WILL POWER) were very well reviewed (the second book made Kirkus Top ten for the year –- and Kirkus are notoriously hard to please!) but they didn’t really sell. ActofWill

When they went into paperback, Tor went with more conventional fantasy style covers, but that didn’t solve the problem. Simply put, people who read them liked them, but not enough people read them. They eventually went out of print and I self-published them with the current, more aggressively YA covers. Interestingly, these covers (stylishly designed by a wonderful designer called Asha Hossain) have really touched a chord with readers and book sellers. They play up the drama of the stories, rather than the slightly tongue in cheek tone, but they fit the books very well indeed.

VENTRELLA: ACT OF WILL takes place in a sort of alternate middle ages, in that there are some things that are definitely relatable to the real medieval world (the way women were treated, men playing female parts in plays, etc.) yet without using any real places (and of course, adding some magic to it). How did you decide what to use and what not to use? In other words, how did you go about developing the world?

HARTLEY: To be honest, Michael, I didn’t. I just made it up as I went along, doing remarkably little of the kind of systematic world building I would do now. The world of the books is an odd mixture of my historical work as a Shakespearean, my travels all over the world (there are moments which — at least to me — evoke India, for example, where I had been right before the final version came into focus), and the voice is clearly modern, without being so contemporary that it would date quickly. What the world contains and doesn’t was determined by the story and the character, particularly the voice of the character.

VENTRELLA: What makes a novel Young Adult? When writing one, how do you change your style (if at all)?

HARTLEY: Most importantly, it’s about the age of the protagonist, and therefore about confronting adulthood in all its aspects. Beyond that, a young adult novel can do anything you might do in an adult novel. YA is defined by the age of the readership rather than by genre, of course, which means that there’s a lot of different kinds of stories within the bracket. Some are virtually indistinguishable from a middle grades novel, while others push the envelope as far as possible in matters of sex, violence, subject matter and vocabulary. So long as you are consistent and clear from the outset as to what you are writing, you can do pretty much what you want. For me, style has less to do with age group as it is to do with the sub genre or style of the story and I never consciously self-censer or simplify.

VENTRELLA: What are your upcoming projects?

HARTLEY: My next publication will be the HAMLET, PRINCE OF DARKNESS (co-written with David Hewson) performed by Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield in the Hobbit movies) which comes out May 20th. I think that will get a lot of attention. hamlet-cover-300x300 After that, I’m not sure. I’m mid stream on a couple of YA projects, but they aren’t done yet.

VENTRELLA: Of which of your fiction books are you most proud and why?

HARTLEY: This will sound like a dodge, but it’s not. I’m always proud of my work when I first finish it and wouldn’t want it published if I wasn’t, so each project tends to have a special place in my head/heart. Each book has something about it I’m proud of. In ACT OF WILL, it’s voice. In WILL POWER it’s about pulling off a socio-political critique of the genre from within.

VENTRELLA: What should someone read first if they want to get to know your work?

HARTLEY: Depends what they like. If they like YA or adult fantasy, ACT OF WILL. For something a little more Harry Potter-esque, I’d recommend DARWEN ARKWRIGHT AND THE PEREGRINE PACT. For historically rooted thrillers, MASK OF ATREUS. For Shakespeare fans, the Macbeth or Hamlet.

VENTRELLA: I see from your CV that you were studying for your doctorate at Boston University around the same time I was graduating from law school and being a public defender there. Maybe we even rode the T together from Brighton. Why did you leave?

HARTLEY: I left after completing my Ph.D and getting my first academic job in Georgia.

VENTRELLA: Much of your work is scholarly. How have you found your styles compare when writing fiction and nonfiction?

HARTLEY: Apples and oranges. There may be a little bleed over in terms of ideas which inform both, but academic writing is an entirely different beast, from writing fiction. Scholarly books are much slower to produce for me, much cagier, much more research-driven and hyper aware of what other people have said. I can do the first draft of a novel in two months. My performance history of Julius Caesar took me almost six years.

VENTRELLA: I’ve always wanted to ask a Shakespeare expert this: Of the hundreds of Shakespeare movies that have been released, which one(s) is/are your favorite(s)? And which just made you scream at how terrible they were?

HARTLEY: I can usually find something of value in most half-way competent films or stagings because I’m looking to be shown something new from a production, not a “correct” interpretation of the play, which I don’t believe exists. We do theatre/film to generate a new art object which grows out of the (necessarily partial) play text, not to somehow broadcast the original in some kind of unmediated way. DarwenArkwrightmedium That’s aid, I do, of course, have preferences. Of recent efforts, I like the Loncraine Richard III with Ian McKellan as an early twentieth century fascist, Branaugh’s Henry V, the Goold Macbeth with Patrick Stewart as a Stalinist tyrant, the filmed stage version of Greg Doran’s Hamlet starring David Tennant, and Joss Whedon’s wonderfully intimate Much Ado.

VENTRELLA: How do you deal with the conspiracy nuts who claim Shakespeare never wrote his plays?

HARTLEY: Impatiently.

VENTRELLA: Shakespeare is often cited by authors who point out that what makes a good story is not originality, but the way the story is told. Do you agree?

HARTLEY: Well, it’s sort of a false binary, isn’t it? Shakespeare didn’t generally originate plots, but the stories have his unmistakable stamp which goes beyond sentence-level utterance. I think he proves that a gifted author can own and refresh a story people thought they knew

VENTRELLA: How much of writing is innate? In other words, do you believe there are just some people who are born storytellers but simply need to learn technique? Or can anyone become a good writer?

HARTLEY: Hmmm… I believe that writing is generally a fairly self-selecting process, in that you need to love stories and words and work to be good at it, but I see plenty of writing from people who have been at it a while which isn’t that good, so no, I don’t believe anyone can do it. There’s a lot you can learn—from classes, from studying other people’s work, and from just doing it—and I think that most people can achieve a basic competence in getting a story down coherently. But writing really well, with power and subtlety, with an eye for character and an ear for voice? No. I don’t think that can simply be learned by anyone.

VENTRELLA: Do you think readers want to read about “believable” characters or do they really want characters that are “larger than life” in some way?

HARTLEY: I think that’s a genre question. Most people who read thrillers and fantasy novels want big drama and larger than life characters which take them out of their conventional reality. For people who read realist literary fiction, generally that’s not true. I like something in between the two.

VENTRELLA: What is your writing process? Do you outline heavily or just jump right in, for instance?

HARTLEY: I outline briefly and loosely — 10-15 pages that sets up the story, main characters, world, key scenes. The book, however, is in the details. Execution is all. atradus But the outline helps me to start with a clear sense of what the book is going to be so that I don’t wander for fifty pages trying to figure out what the story is, what drives it. You need a special gift for self-denying and brutal editing to write without an outline, I think, and most writers don’t have it. It can take me months, even years, to see what a book needs in terms of cutting. Outlines help get me there faster.

VENTRELLA: Do you find yourself creating a plot first, a character first, or a setting first? What gets your story idea going?

HARTLEY: Varies from book to book. ACT OF WILL, for instance, began with character voice. Plot came later. MASK OF ATREUS began with two intersecting plot ideas. DARWEN began with a way of reinventing the cross-over-into-a-fantasy-world I first encountered in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. WILL POWER came from an idea about what I found frustrating about some conventional fantasy…

VENTRELLA: Writers are told to “write what you know.” What does this mean to you?

HARTLEY: Usually, it means, write what you value, what you want to read, what you care about. Then it means, make sure you know what you need to pull it off.

VENTRELLA: What do you do to avoid “info dumps”?

HARTLEY: Cut them out and then find ways to reveal the information in another way! Unhelpful, I know. I think it helps to think of how movies handle the problem, usually visually.

VENTRELLA: Do you think it is important to start by trying to sell short stories or should a beginning author jump right in with a novel?

HARTLEY: I’ve never been a short story writer. I’ve done a few recently, but I think it’s a very different skill from writing novels, and for the most part I don’t they necessarily transfer that helpfully. If you want to be a novelist, write novels.

VENTRELLA: Do you think short stories are harder to write than novels?

For me they are, to do them well as genre fiction. They are, paradoxically, easier to pull off as literary fiction, I think, because they don’t have to have the pesky necessity of plot and event. Most genre short stories read—to me—like unfinished novels or, worse, mere episodes.

VENTRELLA: What advice do you have to people trying to find an agent?

HARTLEY: Write a really good book. Tears-of-the-Jaguar-cover-199x300

VENTRELLA: How do you promote your work?

HARTLEY: Badly. Minimally. Irritably.

VENTRELLA: We’ve met at a few science fiction conventions. Do you find attending these to be a useful activity?

HARTLEY: I do, and find them useful to a point. They can help you answer real questions about the craft and the business, but their real value is in making you feel part of a community. Writing can be very isolating, and it is good to know other people are in the same boat. And sometimes they can produce connections which are directly useful. BUT, some people treat the discourse around writing as a substitute for writing itself. It’s not. Never will be.

VENTRELLA: What’s your opinion on self-publishing?

HARTLEY: It can be a very useful tool for people who already have a fan base, or for people who just want to make their work available but aren’t looking to make a lot of money off it. Some people do make money, of course, but I don’t think they are representative and for many the riches some self-pub promoters tout will never materialize. I also think self-publishing requires a degree of self-promotion most people are not good at, and which takes time away from the development and production of their actual craft: writing. Self-publishing can be a nice extra string to your bow, or a way to find an outlet as you work, but I would still recommend traditional publishing to most writers. Sometimes—not always, of course—but perhaps more often than we usually admit, rejection from publishers is indicative of the fact that the work isn’t ready. Publishing it in any form can do you more harm than good in the long term. I wrote lots of books that were rejected before I had one accepted, and I thank the stars that I didn’t opt to self-publish them. I might not have been able to see it at the time, but I can now. They weren’t ready. They weren’t good enough.

Interview with author Thomas Erb

MICHAEL A. VENTRELLA: From the snowy confines of Upstate New York, from a place he calls “Hell’s 1/2 Acre,” author/artist Thomas A. Erb brings stories of the unlikely hero: from extreme brutal violence, to touching, gripping interpersonal relationships sure to catch the reader and never let them free. (He wrote that.) 2012-09-29 22.36.48

Thomas, how did you first become interested in writing?

THOMAS ERB: I’ve always been a storyteller. It started visual when I was two and used to draw elaborate battles with army men fighting the Nazis or another vile foe. It then turned to comic books. For most of my young life, all I wanted to do was work for Marvel comics. I would create my own characters and write whole story arcs to accompany all my great illustrations. (pure sarcasm intended.)

Then I got into role-playing games. Yup, that’s right … Dungeons & Dragons, Traveller, Champions, Twilight 2000, Call of Cthulu, you name it, I’ve played it. And, just like for comics, I’d have to create highly detailed character backstories and potential subplots for my DM(s). Although, I never knew if they liked that I did that or not. Oh, as a word of advice … Never piss off a Game Master. Bad idea.

Now, I’ve fallen in love with writing my very own fiction — a love that keeps on growing with each tale I tell.

VENTRELLA: I must admit, my background is similar — I went from creating worlds and stories in D&D to creating them in LARPs to writing my own stories (the characters in my books are so much easier to control than my players).

How much of writing is innate? In other words, do you believe there are just some people who are born storytellers but simply need to learn technique? Or can anyone become a good writer?

ERB: I believe we all have an innate creative talent. Each one of us has something to say and in that yes, we are all storytellers. However, much like my philosophy with the visual and musical arts, I think that innate ability has a limitation. By that I mean, while we all can create, there is a certain level where some folks top off their talent. Some folks are just “born” to be X. Poe/Hemingway/Toklien/King were surely born to the written word. Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, Picasso, Rembrandt were put on this earth to give us visual masterpieces. Krupa, Rich, Peart were born to make playing the drums into a sonic art form. Same goes for the rest of us.

Quick life anecdote: While I was born to draw, I never tried hard. It’s always come easy to me. I had friends that would bust their humps and draw for hours and hours and no matter what, they couldn’t draw the same level as I did. (Now, I am saying this with no ego at all. Just an observation.) The same holds true for drumming. I’ve been playing drums since I was 16 and really love jamming. Sure, I’ve been in many bands and jammed with some amazingly talented musicians but I’ve plateaued my drumming talent. I know I will never be a Neil Peart. I wasn’t “born” with that level of ability. Even if I took more lessons and practiced for ten hours a day. It’s just a reality.

So … very long answer I know, but yes, writing talent is human nature but the level of craftsmanship,language, once in a generation storytelling ability does have a cut off. Not everyone can be Stephen King, Tolkien or James Joyce.

VENTRELLA: Tell us about TONES OF HOME!

ERB: My very first novella, TONES OF HOME, was released in June of last year and it’s the most brutal, violent story I’ve ever written. If you dig graphic scenes with tons of blood, machetes and shotguns, rednecks and oh yeah, the Beatles … then this story is right up your jukebox.TONES official Cover

I am currently working on my first novel. (well, the one that I actually want folks to read.) It’s a deep story of loss, troubled relationships, a Nor’easter and a black monster coming to a small lakeside town, seeking revenge. I’m really loving this project and hope to have it in the hands of an agent by Thanksgiving.

VENTRELLA: What should someone read first if they want to get to know your work?

ERB: That’s a really tough one. I feel like I am just now, seeing my true “voice” come to fruition. While I loved writing all the great bloodletting in TONES OF HOME, I don’t think I am a Richard Laymon kind of writer. But, it’s the best work I’ve done thus far. So, Yeah, I’d say check out TONES OF HOME or “Spencer Weaver gets Rebooted.” It’s in a new anthology called FRESH FEAR.

VENTRELLA: How do you make your protagonist a believable character?

ERB: All of my stories seem to be based around an extremely flawed character. Or, as I like to refer to them, the unlikely hero. Usually they have something about them, whether it be a physical or mental determent. I have a weakness for the “loser”. The outcast, the outsider. A fat or skinny kid with asthma. I just identify with that and my thinking is, “hey, if I can feel for this guy/gal, then the readers should as well.” It’s not about having the Chisel-chinned, barrel-chested hero, saving the day. No … that’s the easy way out. It’s more of a challenge to break away from that trope and find a way for this less-than-heroic protagonist to overcome all the huge hurdles that makes up a great compelling story.

All characters must have flaws. Both protagonists and antagonists. (even Darth Vader has a soft side.)

VENTRELLA: Certainly agree with that (as you can tell if you read about the reluctant “hero” of my fantasy books.)

ERB: There are so many basic story ideas out there in the ether and to me, it’s more of how you get there as opposed to reworking old ground. Either way, readers want to escape and I hope I offer a wide mix of rich characters and tales they can sink their hungry teeth into.

VENTRELLA: What is your writing process? Do you outline heavily or just jump right in, for instance?

ERB: When I first started writing, I just sat down, opened a cold beer and let the muse of chaos take the wheel. That’s how I wrote my first novel. (a zombie tale that might see the light of day … someday.) But, when I went back to write a second draft, I was overwhelmed. Too many characters. Too many plots and subplots.

So, now, I am working on a happy medium kind of approach. I need to have some kind outline. It’s always loose and organic. Nothing is written in concrete. That would feel too much like a term paper and not an adventure.

I write the basic novel idea is. Usually the characters come to me almost immediately. I then write a very loose outline and then, write the first draft. Get it all down, fast and dirty. Never looking back.

Side note: Dry erase boards and sticky notes are a writer’s best friend.

VENTRELLA: Writers are told to “write what you know.” What does this mean to you?

ERB: This is lame, but I’m going to steal from the master. Stephen King states in his must-read ON WRITING book that we should take that statement as much extensively and inclusively as possible.

While I may not know anything about being a Gunny Sargent in the Royal Space Marines guarding the Princess Allayha, I do know what it’s like to always try to live with the demon of my father being a cruel man whom I could never please. You can use that kind of thing in your fiction.

VENTRELLA: How did you get started? What was your first story or book published?

After on a whim, I spent a year writing a zombie novel, I decided that I really enjoyed this writing thing and I started meeting other writers online. Back then, it was Myspace and through a few message boards. I discovered Brian Keene, (who’s book GHOUL made me want to write seriously) and found out he was attending a con in Ohio. I went and met him and some other folks that changed my life forever.

I began writing short stories and then submitted my short story, “Cutting Class” to the DARK THINGS II anthology edited by Ty Schwamberger (whom I met at the con) and next thing I knew, Bazzinga! I was a published author. mock cover

VENTRELLA: Do you think it is important to start by trying to sell short stories or should a beginning author jump right in with a novel?

ERB: I think each person tackles their writing in their own way. I jumped straight into the novel but I was only doing it for fun. It wasn’t until later that I wanted to do something with this whole writer gig.

With some hindsight, I’d suggest write some short stories first. With shorter works, you really learn how to write tight, lean prose. Plus, it’s far easier (and I use that term loosely) to get published.

VENTRELLA: Do you think short stories are harder to write than novels?

ERB: I think both have their own angels and demons. It also depends on what kind of storyteller you are. If you like deep character development and more than two intricate plots…a novel is best for you. If you really dig fast-paced, gripping tales with a small cast… short stories are for you.
I love writing both. I usually like to write a short story in between other long works. It’s a nice change of pace.

VENTRELLA: How do you promote your work?

ERB: Platform. Publishers are looking to see if you have an effective and active writer’s platform. And to me, that means an engaging, fresh online presence. A blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, Goodreads account. And many, many more. Too many, in my opinion. It can be a distraction, trying to keep up with updating all your social media sites. (A necessary evil, but still evil.)

I do giveaways, I’ve done podcast interviews, blog talk radio interviews. I go to conventions when the money is right and try to post something funny, new and interesting on the social sites as much as I can manage.

I’m always looking for new ways to get my work out there. It’s an ongoing process.

13. Do you attend conventions or writing conferences? Do you find these to be a useful activity?

I attend as many as time and finances allow. Conventions are one of the biggest reasons I’m here today. I’ve made many, life-long friendships as well as business connections. It’s a must to get you and your words out there. We writers live and create in a room, all alone. You need to get out and meet other like-minded folks who know what you’ve been going through.

Plus, I’ve gotten the blurbs for my books and stories because of the conventions and conferences. Writing and life in general is about relationships.

Get you and your stories out there.

VENTRELLA: What’s your opinion on self-publishing?

ERB: When I first started writing back in 2007, self-publishing was the devil’s work. It was much maligned- rightfully so and very much a joke. But now, in 2014, you are a fool if you don’d consider exploring the self-publishing market. Things are fluid and ever-changing in the publishing world and the once hated and mocked world of self-publishing is now becoming common place.
The secret is to put out work that kicks the crap out of any book that comes out of the big 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 …

VENTRELLA: What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever got?fresh-fear3

ERB: Get the first draft down, fast and dirty. Don’t stop to worry if it’s good. That’s what second and third drafts are for.

VENTRELLA: What advice would you give to a starting writer that you wish someone had given to you?

ERB: Research the publisher before you sign a contract. Know the business side of things. Royalty rates/payments/editing, etc.

VENTRELLA: Who do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?

ERB: Anything from Jonathan Maberry. They guy is a monster and tackles all the genres I love. YA zombies, military thrillers, comic books, you name it. He is my mentor and I use him as my career guidepost.

VENTRELLA: And I couldn’t help but notice he named a character after you in his latest novel…

ERB: Jon was so kind to have his signature cop-turned Department of Military Sciences bad ass Joe Ledger clean my clock in his last Ledger novel, EXTINCTION MACHINE. I think my jaw still pops when I talk.

VENTRELLA: What can we expect next from you?

ERB: I have a retro-zombie novella that is looking for a new home. And I am currently writing a wintry monster novel that I hope to have completed and in the hands of agent by the end of the year.

I am also working on a comic script, a screenplay and a self-publishing project of my short works I hope to have out early in 2015.

I love having a lot on my plate. Not just saying that as a fat guy. I have many stories and projects inside me and time is of the essence.

Dreamers in Hell

The “Heroes in Hell” anthology series launched in 1986. Dreamers in HellThe theme features the denizens of Hell and how they continue to live their evil lives in the afterworld. This allows for hugely creative stories featuring the famous and infamous.

The series, edited by Janet Morris, has seen some of the biggest names in the genre, including Robert Silverberg (who won a Hugo award for his “Hell” story), C.J. Cherryh, Gregory Benford, David Drake, Robert Asprin, George Alec Effinger, and now, some guy named Michael A. Ventrella.

I remember reading these books way back when. I never thought I’d ever be in them as an author.

My story “Hell, I Must Be Going” is in the latest version. Here are links to the paperback, kindle and Nook versions. This is a huge book with lots of great stories!

Below is a list of the stories you’ll find in this collection. I asked each author to give me a short description of their stories, and the ones who responded are included.

“Barefoot, on Brimstone” by Sara M. Harvey

“In the Shadow of Paradise” by Jason Cordova: The only way to escape Hell is by redemption. But how can a man who is irredeemable escape? Ponce de Leon must answer this question as he struggles to find another way before he is damned forever.

“Face of the Enemy” by Leo Champion: Che Guevara discovers an appreciation for capitalism with the success of a revolution-branded T-shirt factory – but an old victim is plotting revenge.

“Siegfreid’s Blade” by Petra Jorns: Once in hell, Kriemhild finds out that she herself was guilty for Siegfried´s death, her beloved, and this is her own, private hell.

“More Light! Goeth” by Bettina Meister: To his great dismay Goethe, the poet laureate, finds himself in hell instead of heaven. This can not be accepted. After all, he is The Goethe – poet, scientist, master sorcerer. Brace yourself, Goethe, for hell knows every secret of yours!

“Alms for Oblivion” by Janet Morris: The Devil and the Angel of Death conspire to expose the unrepentant damned.

“Fools in Hell” by Janet Morris and Chris Morris: Shakespeare and Marlowe must write a new play to please Satan.

“The Unholy Hole” by Nancy Asire

“Ophie and the Undertaker” by Shebat Legion:  It’s a face off between Ophelia and The Undertaker! Will the rebellious Ophelia still have a face when they are done?

“Hell I Must Be Going” by Michael A. Ventrella: Groucho and Chico Marx cause havoc in the Bureau of Hellish Assignments, but their chaos has a purpose …

“Blood and Ash” by Tom Barczak: Beowulf, Boudica and Joan of Arc find a common bond, and some unexpected help from Lewis Carroll to escape the Gates of Hell.

“Just Dessert” by John Manning:  Joseph Mengele and the other Nazis are forced to do scullery work supervised by the Purple Gang’s Jewish mobsters while Matthew Hopkins and John Stearns attempt to assassinate Satan at the grand reopening of the Hellexandria Memorial Library.

“The Wager” by Deborah Koren

“The ITTT” by Michael H. Hanson: The Institute of Terrified and Tortured Technicians is throwing its annual convention: Sergei Korolev, Father of the Soviet Space Program, is crashing the party.

“Zero Sum Game” by Richard Groller: Nikolai Tesla and Thomas Edison re-fight the “War of the Currents” with disastrous results for New Hell City.

“Essence Helliance” by Yelle Hughes: Where you donate to receive a break. Maybe.

“And the Truth Will Set You Free” by Jack William Finley: Some times the greatest wisdom in life or death is in knowing what questions should never be asked, because sometimes the truth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

“Stairway to Heaven” by Ed McKeown: Frank Hopkins and the demon Smoke are drawn into Emile Du Chatelet’s plan to escape hell and demand redress in heaven, or failing that, to depose God.

“Head Games” by Bill Snider: Fionn mac Cumhaill learns what happens when two sentient weapons meet; and, he gets to meet Caliban’s Mom … Freud also asks: Got Wood?

“Knocking on Heaven’s Gates” by Larry Atchley, Jr.:  Anton LaVey gets psychotherapy from William James to help him battle with his inner demons, while Guy Fawkes leads the vanguard of an assault on Heaven in an attempt to escape Hell and confront the God who damned him.

“The Knife Edge Bridge” by David L. Burkhead: William Dunlap Simpson, Jim Bridger, and Perseus, Son of Zeus, fall off the Knife Edge Bridge into a terrifying deeper level of Hell.

“Hellexandria the Great” by Sarah Snyder Gray Hulcy: Preparations for the reopening gala of the Hellexandria Memorial Library are racing to a finish… and so are some of the guests.

“Hell Bent” by Janet Morris: Hell’d over, by unpopular demand: the play that proves Christopher Marlowe’s point: ‘Hell is just a frame of mind.’

Submit a story for the next Tales of Fortannis

If you’re reading this blog, you’re either a reader interested in the authors I’ve interviewed or a writer looking for advice.

So here’s to that second group.

The second TALES OF FORTANNIS collection has been released and now it’s time for me to begin work on the third. So I’m looking for stories.BardInHand-510

About the collection: The TALES OF FORTANNIS series is published by Double Dragon and is available in paperback, ebook, kindle, and nook. Double Dragon is perhaps the largest science fiction and fantasy e-book publisher out there, and has been around for about a dozen years. They have a good reputation, pay royalties on time, and make sure the book is available everywhere (Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, all e-book distributors).

Previously unpublished authors are encouraged to submit, but should be aware that we ask for at least two years of exclusivity which can limit your ability to resell or republish the story later. (You can negotiate the exact terms of exclusivity with Double Dragon.) Once your story appears in TALES OF FORTANNIS, it will severely limit its future possibilities, including a future pay rate. Note as well that while the book will be promoted in a number of ways, sales will not be huge. Don’t give up your day job. You should be submitting mostly for the exposure. As a standard warning that applies in all similar cases, you need to decide if publishing your work in e-formats and/or on the web, giving up your First Publishing Right for a token payment, is really what you want to do.

About Fortannis: Fortannis is the fantasy land where my novels ARCH ENEMIES and THE AXES OF EVIL take place. Your story does not have to take place in the same kingdom as my stories, and you can create your own kingdom and characters. It’s a high fantasy world with elves, dwarves, the mysterious biata, gryphons, goblins, and more.

Magic comes from the orderly progression of nature, and mages can learn to tap into that power to do basic spells that manipulate the earth, air, fire or water. Healing magics exist, as they speed up the body’s own healing process and tap into that power. Death magic also exists, because death is part of the orderly path of nature.

There is another source of power, and that is chaos magic, sometimes known as necromancy. This magic runs counter to the orderly progression and is used to harm and to do unnatural things like raise zombies and undead. This kind of magic is much easier to use and thus very tempting to those trying to learn the magical arts. Every spell has its chaotic counterpart which is stronger — you can either heal someone a little or hurt someone a lot. Chaos magic eventually corrupts the land and the mind of the user, and is illegal and frowned upon in decent society.

There are no gods, churches, or religions.

Keep in mind that although these are fantasy stories, you are not limited to telling tales of adventure, with knights fighting dragons and wizards casting powerful spells. The world is merely the setting for the stories. I am looking for a variety of tales, as you can see from the previous books. There is one story about someone trying to steal the recipe for his favorite pie. Another concerns three goblin children spying on the curious humans. A third involves a con artist trying to mislead a nobleman. The theme of the Tales of Fortannis series is the fantasy world, not the type of story. (To get a synopsis of the stories that have run in the previous books, check out the blog posts for A Bard’s Eye View and A Bard in the Hand.)

If you want to submit a story, I first suggest that you read one of my novels or one of the collections. It will help.

Submissions: Submissions are open for short stories of under 10,000 words with no minimum. (A good story should take exactly as many words as needed.) This is an ongoing submission — when I have enough good stories, the next edition will be published. Unpublished authors are encouraged to submit, but will still face the same standards for submissions as the published authors. .

All stories should be double-spaced in rtf format with 12 point Times Roman font. There should be no spacing after the paragraphs. The first page must contain the name of the story, the word count, and your name, address, email, and phone number. Your cover letter should list any previous publications.

Proposals and inquiries must be emailed to michael.ventrella@gmail.com.

A Bard in the Hand

Adventure! Drama! Mystery! Humor! It’s all here in the newest TALES OF FORTANNIS anthology.

A BARD IN THE HAND is the second book in this series, featuring stories set in the world of my novels. BardInHand-510 The ebook version is now available, soon to be followed by the paperback, nook, and kindle versions.

Here are the cover blurbs:

“Magic. Knights. Werewolves. Doppelgangers. Elves. There’s no telling what will pop up in Michael A. Ventrella’s Fortannis fantasy series when he invites other writers to play in his sandbox. No need to wait for any ‘extended editions.’ These stories are good to go now.” – Daniel M. Kimmel, author of the Hugo-nominated JAR JAR BINKS MUST DIE and SHH! IT’S A SECRET.

“A very fun anthology of tales in a world both expected and very different indeed! In A BARD IN THE HAND, Michael Ventrella and others revisit the world of Fortannis and emerge with tales to astound, amuse, and bemuse; here is sword-and-sorcery to stand well next to that of Leiber and Moorcock, and ordinary people swept up into events far larger than they which can still be addressed with some common sense and cleverness. A young woman makes a choice, and faces the consequences of choice and the price of learning, while another duels in darkness for the soul of a child, and an old man recounts an adventure of his youth that kindles a spark in those who listen. A fun book, well worth reading!” – Ryk Spoor, author of PHOENIX RISING and GRAND CENTRAL ARENA.

“Curl up in your favorite chair with your favorite beverage and get ready for adventure, action and derring-do—it’s all here!” – Gail Z Martin, author of ICE FORGED

This edition features the following tales:

“The Mystery of the Black-Bearded Dwarf” by Michael A. Ventrella: Terin and his fellow squires find themselves in dwarven lands, having to solve a murder where everyone has a motive and an alibi. Can they figure out whodunnit and prevent the dwarven clans from going to war?

“Embarrassing Relations” by Bernie Mojzes and Bob Norwicke: After defending Ashbury from an unspeakable horror from beyond time and space, Maris Goselin finds herself with a new assignment: help the Duke avoid spending quality time with a gibbering out-of-town relative. It seems easy, but Maris soon realizes that although the relative may be insane, insanity is relative, and sometimes making a living has life-threatening consequences.

“Knight’s Gambit” by Tera Fulbright: A newly ordained Knight learns that some things really are black and white.

“Curso and the Perilous Purple Pixie Problem” by Roy C. Booth and Brian Woods: Curso and his friends find themselves traveling to a mysterious cave in order to save a pixie who may be more trouble than she’s worth.

“A Hero of Padrin’s Hold” by Mike Strauss: Sometimes a hero does things that are necessary, and sometimes it is best when no one knows.

“The Golden Gifts” by Laurel Anne Hill: Artha, a biata gifted in magic, must outwit a powerful necromancer. Only a few hours to complete this task remain. If Artha succeeds, her brother’s dying daughter will rest in peace forever. Failure, however, will doom Artha and her beloved young niece to the ranks of the undead.

“A Hero is Born” by Davey Beauchamp: A young man finds himself traveling with a mysterious and possibly crazy bard — which leads him meet a group of villains out to awaken a long-asleep powerful creature. If only a hero would arrive …

“The Vacarran Corsair” by Jesse Grabowski: The streets of Dockside were never the safest of places, even in broad daylight, and even for a skilled pirate. This is a place for homeless children, wealthy and ruthless thieves, and corruption. Here, even the heart of a pirate can change. Loss of innocence can sometimes remove thoughts of plunder and loot … sometimes.

“The Chandler’s Tale” by Henry Hart: Pursued by monsters, a boy becomes lost in the elven wood where he learns that some things are worth dying for.

“Beyond the Bitter River” by Jon Cory: After being banished from the kingdom, Sarlon races for the border, pursued by the king’s guards. His only hope lies in a mysterious elven girl who has taught herself how to do magic … poorly.

“Dreamed Tortures” by Mark Mensch: Nigel finds himself in the home of his long lost love, Kayleigh –however not everything is as it seems. All actions have consequences and the people he relieved of their valuable artifact have some type of payment in mind.

Twisted Tails

There is a successful series of anthologies which has as its thread twisted endings and surprises.

Anyone who has read my stories know that this is a perfect fit for me!TT7-510

The series is called TWISTED TAILS and each cover features a dragon since it is published by Double Dragon books. I have a story in the latest edition, just released! My story is called “The Jesus Secret” in which the discovery of a new Dead Sea Scroll provides new facts about Jesus’ life which the Catholic Church wants to keep secret. And, of course, there’s a twist.

The series is edited by J. Richard Jacobs. This volume has as its connecting theme “Irreverence.” He explain it thusly:

Irreverence is not limited to what many people think — something to do with religion, although that can be a large part of it. Nope, it is a big word with broad meaning. Let me give you a few examples of how it is used:

Irreverent is the adjective from which the noun “irreverence” comes.

Its basic meaning is “disrespectful”. Now you have an idea of just how broad it can be. I’ll wager you can think of a lot of ways to be disrespectful. There is a whole world of irreverence in the pot. Our authors gleefully dip their pens into that pot and scribble out their twisted views of this world-or other worlds.

Words that can be used in place of irreverent (synonyms) are: aweless, cheeky, cocky, contemptuous, crusty, derisive, flip, flippant, fresh, iconoclastic, impertinent, impious, impudent, insolent, irreverential, mocking, out-of-line, profane, rude, sacrilegious, sassy, saucy, tongue-in-cheek, ungodly, unhallowed, unholy and so forth. As you can readily see, the majority of the Twisted Tails authors are world class representatives of the word in all its specific meanings; not just a couple.

I have gathered together several cheeky authors whose impiety is well known and asked them to grace these pages with words of insolence for your reading pleasure. As always, there is no genre restriction. Here you’ll find Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Thrill-a-minute-even Mainstream. The only common element here is Irreverence. The other big deal about the Twisted Tails series that is a must are unexpected endings and sheer quality of writing. Each author brings his/her unique style and voice to the page, but to get to the page the quality of writing demanded in the Twisted Tails series of anthologies had to have been there or it would have been a “no-go”. Just another rejection slip to add to the stack in an author’s dark corner. Have fun while you cringe at their out-of-line talent at twisting irreverent tales and we hope to see you again-should there be a next time. I have it on good authority that there probably will be a next time, so keep a watch for it.

Here’s the Table of Contents:

1. DEAD BABIES by Jay Greenstein

2. THE JESUS SECRET by Michael A. Ventrella

3. LUCKY CHARLIE’S ESCAPE by Margret Treiber

4. BLOOD RED by Dave Kuzminski

5. PERPETUAL STARLIT NIGHTby Michael D. Smith

6. BEYOND THE REALMS OF DEATH by J. Malcolm Stewart

7. DOOMSDAY CLUB by John Klawitter

8. WINNING IS FOR THE LOSER by J. Richard Jacobs

9. SHOCK THERAPY by Sam Bellotto Jr.

10. INTERVENTION by Eugen Bacon

11. IF TIME PERMITS by Joe Occhipinti

12. THE PROBLEM ON P3 by J. Richard Jacobs

13. JUMPING AT SHADOWS by Joe Powers

14. LADIES OF THE FOUNTAIN by Biff Mitchell

15. TWO GUYS MEET IN A BAR by Margret Treiber

16. COLLECTOR by J. Richard Jacobs

It’s available in every format you can imagine (paperback, ebook, kindle, nook…) Check it out! Get your copy today and let me know what you think of my story!

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