My Albacon 2018 Schedule

I’ll be a guest author at Albacon this weekend (September 14 – 16), a fine small convention in Albany.  Below are some pictures from previous Albacons.

Here’s my schedule:

Pitfalls for Beginners (Friday 1 pm): Where new writers make mistakes. With James Cambias, Wendy Delmater, Melissa Mead, and Steve Sawicki

Marketing your Work (Friday 3 pm): How to get readers and publicize yourself. With Ruth Burroughs, John F. Holmes, and Ryk Spoor 

Truth is Stranger than Science Fiction (Friday 7 pm): Would the present have
made believable science fiction ten, twenty, fifty, and a hundred years ago? Why
and why not, and what does that tell us about SF?  With Steve Carper and Herb Kauderer

The Scarlet Pimpernel (Saturday 10 am): A tribute to Baroness Orczy, without whom there would be no Batman. With Debra Doyle, Carl Frederick, Melissa Mead, and Chuck Rothman

Taxes and Toilet Paper (Saturday 2 pm): Does your starship have flush toilets? Does your Merchants’ Guild hand out W2s? How many practical details do you put in your stories? With Ruth Burroughs, Elecktra Hammond, Melissa Mead, and Steve Sawicki

Autographing (Saturday 3 pm): I’ll be signing anything you want (except blank checks).

Stop Motion v. CGI (Saturday 6 pm): What are the pros and cons of each?  With Jim Macdonald, Chuck Rothman, Kathleen Moffre-Spoor, and Ryk Spoor

Reading (Sunday noon): I’ll be reading from my upcoming novel BIG STICK.



Virgins and Rejection Letters

I’m currently wading through about eighty stories for the upcoming RELEASE THE VIRGINS anthology, where the only requirement is that the story must contain that phrase.

Of those eighty, fourteen are from authors who were invited to participate, knowing their fame would help raise the money in a kickstarter campaign for the book’s publication.


The final cover may be completely different than this

The rest are from an open submission. People from all over the world sent me their stories. I’ve never had so many to choose from when editing an anthology, even when, like my BAKER STREET IRREGULARS anthology, I also had some pretty big names participating. Either everyone loved the idea and had to contribute or the promise of payment per word made a difference.

The deadline was yesterday, but a few of the invited authors asked for a little more time to submit their stories.

The problem is that I have a word count limit for the book, and I won’t know how many other stories I can accept until I see how much space I have left after the invited authors stories are counted.

So I’m slowly going through the slush pile and sorting the stories into “Yes” (meaning I really like this story and hope there will be enough room for it), “Maybe” (meaning it’s good but I probably won’t have enough room but if there is…) and “No.”

The “No” stories are getting form rejection letters that look like this:

Dear Fellow Author:

As a writer with my own collection of rejection letters, I am well aware of how disappointing it is to get one.

I hate sending them as much as I hate receiving them.

However, I’ve accumulated over sixty submissions for what may end up being only a few openings in the “Release the Virgins” anthology. I’ve had to be very picky. I’m afraid yours didn’t make the cut.

Sometimes the reason is because I already have a story with a similar theme. Sometimes it’s because I may have liked your story but saw that it needed some substantive editing, and I would rather pick another good story that did not need it. Sometimes it’s just not that well-written.

And sometimes it’s just a matter of taste, after all. Another editor reading your story may have decided it was wonderful and would have accepted it.

In any event, I wish you luck, and hope you’ll still be interested enough in Release the Virgins to get your own copy.

I would be more than happy to accept you as a Facebook friend if you send me a request. I do discuss writing quite a bit there, and as long as you’re not a Trump supporter, you may enjoy my political posts as well.

Thank you again for sending me your story.

It’s sad that I can’t accept all the stories I’d like to. I’m finding a few that are absolutely worth reading, but space considerations will prevent me from accepting.

However, if this is successful, maybe we’ll do a sequel, and then I can contact the authors of those “yes” stories that I couldn’t fit in…


More Hallways!

If you’re a gamer of any sort, you may enjoy my (very) short story “More Hallways!” which was just published in Nth Degree Magazine. Hopefully, you will find it amusing.

You can read it here, and then, to show your appreciation, you can read more great stories and then donate to Nth Degree Magazine for as little as $1 a month!



No Holds Bard!

Action! Adventure! Humor! The 5th Tales of Fortannis collection, from Double Dragon Publishing, is finally available in paperback and kindle. It features the following great stories:

The Hidden Treasure of Pirate Percy by Michael A. Ventrella: Terin is captured by pirates who are convinced that only he can uncover the hidden treasure, which is so well hidden they don’t even know where to look for it. Can Terin talk his way out of this one?  (Hint: no.) Click here to read the first few pages of “The Hidden Treasure of Pirate Percy”No Holds Bard

Greenpool by Sarah Stegall: Captured unwittingly by the magics of a secret pool, a girl plots her revenge against the fiend who killed her family, only to discover him on his way to her. Can she escape their punishment?

Chalric Hill by Henry Hart: A teenage soldier has to learn to face his fears in a deadly war.

To Be a Squire by Jon Cory:  Sometimes passing the rigorous tests of knighthood can be avoided for clever squires.

Hoarfrost by Susan Bianculli: Stealing the magical sword from the castle would be a lot easier if the sword didn’t have its own mind about the situation.

The Storm Before the Calm by Mark Mensch: Nigel and a friend find themselves both welcomed and held in suspicion by a group of selunari — but Nigel knows something they don’t.

Hidden Bouquet by Derek Beebe: Cowardly young Duke Elmiki from the Hidden Kingdom walks into the lion’s den of his enemy who is sworn to kill him and take over the duchy. Certainly he has a plan, right?

The Lost by Miles Lizak: The loss of memory for a biata has to be treated carefully, because there is a reason someone doesn’t want these thoughts returning…

Bartleby Goes Adventuring by Jesse Hendrix: Bartleby dreams of being a hero but finds that real life often requires cunning and accountancy skills in order to defeat the bad guys.

Squeeze by Shane Porteous: A mysterious skill is needed, but the possessor of that skill is reluctant to make herself known

The Hole in Vorak’s Peak by Bernie Mojzes: Maris is hired by a noblewoman who hates her but needs her skills because the woman’s husband is missing. The two of them go to the rescue but nothing is as it appears.

History Never Repeats by Beth W. Patterson: An island full of wylderkin prove to be more than enough for our heroes to handle.

Here’s what some have said about this collection:

“Like a favorite smorgasbord, No Holds Bard is a rich, eclectic banquet of wonderful stories, alike only in their unpredictable telling. Want bards? Check. Elves? Check. Betrayal? Love? Sacrifice? Humor? Got ‘em all. This collection of authors come together, each with their own offering, to give the reader an experience they’ll not forget.” – Peter Prellwitz, author of the Shards Universe

“Fortannis is a complex world. This richness gives its authors plenty of room to move around in, the freedom to pick and choose, or to start with a clean slate. Some stories are light, almost humorous. Others are darker, some grim, and some even tragic.” – Allen L. Wold, author of The Planet Masters and Jewels of the Dragon

“Whole-hearted adventure, swashbuckling fun, daring heroics and plenty of humor. Prepare to be thrilled and amazed!” – Gail Z. Martin, author of Scourge and The Chronicles of the Necromancer

No Holds Bard is the fifth entry in the Fortannis collections conceived, vetted, and edited by Michael Ventrella. “Fortannis” is the world in which all the adventures take place—a fantasy land which combines the familiar with the innovative (humans, elves and dwarves are around, but so are the feathery, telepathic biata, various animal-kin, and other species).

The punny titles of the collections (others included A Bard Day’s Knight and A Bard in the Hand) give fair warning that some of the stories may be lighthearted, but this is not always the case. Some certainly are (“Bartleby Goes Adventuring”, for instance, which is a rather Danny Kaye-ish fantasy tale) but others are dramatic sword-and-sorcery or poignant tales of how adventure and honor come with prices.

No Holds Bard is at least as good as the prior volumes, and in fact appears to continue the trend of the stories reaching higher bars. Unlike some prior volumes, I found none of the stories in these weak in any respect; there were certainly some that stood out above the others, but none that made me think they were out of place in the collection.

The best feature of the Fortannis books—one strongly re-emphasized here—is the diversity of stories. Heroic tales are side by side with character studies, with workaday people just trying to get by in a fantasy realm, with tragedy and comedy. This is a rare mix; many collections tend to a particular flavor, and while all the stories are clearly “Fortannis,” they don’t slot neatly at all into the same categories—and that’s really a great strength. I highly recommend No Holds Bard! – Ryk Spoor, author of The Balanced Sword trilogy

Interview with author Gray Basnight

MICHAEL A. VENTRELLA: Today I’m pleased to be interviewing Gray Basnight – a writer I used to play with when we were both little kids in Richmond, Virginia! Now we’re both writing political thrillers, except mine involve a lot more humor and vampires.

GRAY BASNIGHT: Hi Michael! Thank you for this terrific opportunity.Gray Cap

VENTRELLA: Introduce yourself to my readers, Gray!

BASNIGHT: I’m deeply immersed in my third career — fiction writing, after almost three decades in broadcast news as a writer, editor, producer, and reporter; preceded by a few years pursuing an acting career.

From our hometown of Richmond, to N.C., to D.C., I now live in New York where I’ve been for, ahem, forty years. That’s long enough to be a native.

But to step back in time, may I say I had a very good time visiting your house as a kid. I don’t remember much specifically about what we did. I don’t think we played at ordinary games like Monopoly or Hide-and-Seek, mainly because neither of us was ordinary. In fact, as you well know, we were both quite special in extraordinary ways. But I do know we had a good time, and not just because of our friendship. Your parents made it great fun because they encouraged creativity and, unlike most adults I knew at the time, actually enjoyed having children hanging about and doing natural child-like things. For me, that was wonderful.

VENTRELLA: I mostly recall us running around pretending to be James Bond. Both of us Bond, at the same time. We were kids.

BASNIGHT: As for details of my life since then—well, I wish I could cut to a phantasm-style video in honor of your recent Monkees book: “Here I come, walking down the street, I get the funniest looks from…” (You know the rest).

So, let’s see, there was college at NC Wesleyan, followed by grad school at GW University for an MFA in Theatre, where I thought I’d become a college theatre  professor.

After GWU, I made the big move to NYC to be a struggling actor (cue: Daydream Believer), which I thought mattered if I planned to teach. Then it magically morphed into waiting tables at an Israeli nightclub in Greenwich Village. While I met many interesting people there, I decided it may be best to move on to—well, anything else. (cue: For Pete’s Sake).

Fortunately, I had an offer to work at WOR radio. This led to opportunities in broadcast news where I wore many hats including writer, producer, editor, and reporter.

Three decades and several stations and newsrooms later, I was laid off in 2009 from Bloomberg Radio in the midst of the financial crisis. My title on the day of my demise was “reporter,” and the last big story I covered was the Miracle on the Hudson. That company’s decision led me to the question—what now? My answer: write novels. It was a long time desire, and something I’d previously tried to squeeze into precious spare time. (Cue: I Wanna be Free.)

And that is the story of my…uh-oh, wait a second. Let’s not forget something important. Somewhere in that phantasmagoric Monkees-inspired cinematic montage—I met my wife Lisa, and eventually we got married on our 9 th boyfriend/girlfriend anniversary. We’ve now been married twenty-two years (cue: I’m a Believer).

And, as we all know, The Best Is Yet to Come (and that’s a song the Monkees would probably have recorded had Sinatra not beat them to it.)

VENTRELLA: Tell us about the plot of FLIGHT OF THE FOX!FoF-Finder

BASNIGHT: It’s a political run-for-your-life thriller. My central protag, Sam Teagarden, does not own a gun or know anything about how to karate chop people. He’s a university math professor whose only weapon is his intelligence and his will to live. After receiving an encoded file in his email inbox, he suddenly has drones trying to kill him for reasons unknown. During his race down the East Coast from teams of black-ops hitmen, he manages to decode the document. He learns that it’s a diary written by a former high ranking official with the FBI that reveals many unknown facts about the 20th century. If published, the decrypted diary will radically alter the public’s view of U.S. history.

VENTRELLA: How did you decide on that title?

Interesting story. It was originally titled “The Dear John File.” I liked it. Still do. It was intended as an homage to Robert Ludlum who made the run-for-you-life genre so popular with his Bourne novels. But the publisher was understandably concerned that my title would be misunderstood as an adolescent romance novel. Quite a reasonable observation! So, I changed it to FLIGHT OF THE FOX, based on the idea of a fox hunt. My protag even thinks of himself a fox in a fox hunt during his race for survival.

VENTRELLA: How did you go about finding a publisher?

BASNIGHT: I concentrated on small publishers. Several expressed interest, but when Down and Out Books stepped up with an offer, I was really pleased. I was introduced to D&O through a writer friend, Charles Salzberg, to whom I’ve dedicated this particular book.

D&O is a fast-growing outfit based in Florida that’s garnering quite a bit of respect in the crime and mystery genre, as well as tremendous interest from readers.

VENTRELLA: Tell us about your other books.

BASNIGHT:  THE COP WITH THE PINK PISTOL (2012) is a police procedural / mystery / romance / humor novel with three separate plots. I didn’t set out to blend all those genres and plots. For some reason, that’s what popped from my fingertips when they were poised over the keyboard.

cpp_cover_for_pingg-small NYPD Detective Donna Prima (don’t ever call her prima donna) is a tough Brooklyn native who carries a pink .38 revolver strapped to her ankle in defiance of police regulations. To her astonishment, when she responds to a 911 burglary call, she gets romantically involved with the burglary victim. He’s a southern WASP who makes his living as an actor on a TV soap opera called “Vampire Love Nest.” (Hey, Michael—this one had vampires!)

It got super reviews from “Kirkus” and “Library Journal,” and is still available as an e-book.

My second novel is SHADOWS IN THE FIRE (2015). It’s an historical novel set in Richmond during the city’s final days as capital of the Confederacy. Here’s the non-fiction story: the evacuating Confederate forces accidentally burned down much of the city and the next day a contingent of black soldiers wearing Union blue marched into town. They put out the fires and restored order. Not one shot was fired. There was no raping or pillaging. One day later, President Abe Lincoln walked (literally) into town for a brief look-see. To my knowledge, it’s the only war story where the conquering army actually made improvements, instead of adding to the destruction.

Now here’s the fiction story: all of the above is witnessed by my two central characters, a 12-year-old slave girl, and a 16-year-old slave boy. They hope to get married when the war is over, but lose sight of each other during the chaos.

All in all, it’s a dramatic story. But then, it’s natural for me to say that because I wrote it. And, by the way, this novel is dedicated to the idea that an American Slave Memorial should be located on Richmond’s Monument Avenue, home of many equestrian memorials to Confederate generals.

VENTRELLA: Let’s talk about writing. 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?

BASNIGHT: “Yes,” to the former question, and, “not really,” or even an outright “no” to the second.

Here’s the naked truth as I believe it. Let’s say I want to be a great piano player. Well, I happen to have no musical skill whatsoever. Even so, if I studied hard and practiced piano with great discipline, I think I could hammer out a pretty good version of “Rocky Raccoon” so that everyone at the cocktail party would be quite impressed. But I still wouldn’t be as good as, say, Elton John, let alone Chopin.

Writing is similar. So, yes, I believe true writing skill is innate. That doesn’t mean that those without natural talent cannot become writers. They can. They do. Study and practice will teach one how to write better sentences and compose better paragraphs. And some become commercially successful. But it’s generally true that solid, inventive, inspired, and insightful writing cannot be taught.

VENTRELLA: How important is a professional editor?SinF_Cover-small

BASNIGHT: Vital! I may be an unusual writer in that I like and appreciate editors. Having spent nearly 30 years in the news industry, I’m respectful of what a solid editor does to help produce improved results. I’ve been yelled at by good editors. And, having been one myself, I’ve even done the yelling. None of it means you have to fold your tent every time. You can fight for what you think works and must remain in your story. But most writers, I’m convinced, need to be accessible to the insights of a competent editor.

Learning how to do that can start with having a field of beta-readers that provide honest feedback on works on progress.

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

BASNIGHT: To answer this question, may I focus on the definition of the word “professional?”

For me, that hinges on money, i.e., income. If you get paid for what you do, you’re a professional. Vanity publishing is fine, particularly if your principle wish is for friends and family to see your book. Although, because of eBooks and the ease of self-publishing via the Internet, the publishing industry is certainly going through tectonic changes and self-publishing may take on greater significance in the future. We’re all watching and waiting to see how everything shakes out and where the evolution leads.

VENTRELLA: What’s the best advice you would give to a starting writer that they probably haven’t already heard?

BASNIGHT: Regardless of what anyone has heard or not heard, there’s only one supreme rule: butt in chair. If you’re not sitting at the keyboard for a minimum of four-to-six hours a day, six-days a week, you’re not going to be a professional writer.

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?

BASNIGHT: Believability is certainly important. But if the wider narrative is working well, what John Gardner called the “fictive dream,” then anything can be made believable by a skilled writer.

On the other hand, all characters are, indeed must be, special in some larger-than-life way that makes the reader care about them. Frequently what makes them special is their struggle to overcome some obstacle and how they go about meeting the challenge.

VENTRELLA: What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve heard people give?

BASNIGHT: The advice—write what you know—is dumb, though it can certainly work quite well as a starting point. If I recall correctly, New York firefighter Dennis Smith attended a writing class where he was told to “write what you know.” So he did. The result was “Report from Engine Company 82,” published in 1972. It’s a very good and highly successful book. I read it as a teenager and found it inspiring. But generally, it would be bad if writers only wrote about what they know. If Daniel Defoe only wrote about what he knew, we wouldn’t have “Robinson Crusoe.” Likewise for Flaubert’s “Madam Bovary,” Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” and thousands more.

VENTRELLA: What’s your next project?

BASNIGHT: I’m three-quarters of the way into the sequel to FLIGHT OF THE FOX. This features another race against time and death for my main character (no spoilers here, you’ll have to wait to find out who that is). In this story, the protagonist finds himself in the middle of a bureaucratic screw-up where the powers that be never, never, never get it right.

I have a completed YA that’s loosely based on “Treasure Island,” but features a contemporary 15-year-old female protag filling the Jim Hawkins role. NOTE: Any interested agents or editors reading this may call me for a look see.

After that, I’ve got about ten manuscripts in the mystery genre that all need attention. Some are partially written, others are complete first drafts. They are all good ideas, if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, they are all also in dire need of rescue in the categories of plotting, pacing, and characterization. So—time for some serious “butt in chair.”

Release the Virgins open for submissions

The anthology Release the Virgins! is now open for submissions.

Through a kickstarter campaign, we were able to raise enough to go ahead with this project, and we have confirmations from authors David Gerrold, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Jody Lynn Nye, Allen Steele, Steve Miller, Sharon Lee, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Gail Z. Martin, Cecilia Tan, Patrick Thomas, Shariann Lewitt, Alex Shvartsman, Hildy Silverman, and Daniel M. Kimmel.

We should have room for a few extra stories as well. But only a few.

Submissions are open for short stories that include, somewhere in the story, the phrase “Release the Virgins.”

The story should be no more than 5,000 words. This should be sufficient for what should most likely be a somewhat humorous tale. The payment is 5 cents a word. Do not take this as an invitation to pad your story in order to earn a few more bucks. If your story is complete at 3,000 words, then end it. A good but padded story may get rejected over a concise, fast-moving one, because we want to fit in as many stories as possible.

Unpublished authors are encouraged to submit, but will still face the same standards for submissions as the published authors. (Hint: Don’t send me a submission full of spelling and grammatical errors.)

An email proposal is required to make sure you are not duplicating an idea already reserved by one of the accepted authors. Send to

Once that is approved, your story 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.

The deadline is September 1, 2018.


I’m getting a lot of proposed story ideas for the anthology and if they all submit stories, I’ll have to reject a lot (or hold them in case we do a second book).

But here’s some advice:

1. Avoid unicorns. I’ve already had a bunch of proposals about unicorns and even if the submitted stories are all good, I’m not going to want to have more than one or two unicorn stories in the anthology. We want variety.

2. Be creative. If it looks like you just took a story you already had and found a way to work the phrase into the story in such a way that I could remove the phrase completely and it wouldn’t hurt the story, then I will probably not accept it. The phrase should be relevant and necessary to the story.

3. Don’t send me a proposal with spelling and grammatical errors. I mean, duh.




Release the Virgins!

Announcing a kickstarter campaign for a new anthology (edited by me!) where the only requirement is that each story must contain the line “release the virgins” somewhere within. We have commitments so far from award-winning authors David Gerrold, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Jody Lynn Nye, Allen Steele, Steve Miller, Sharon Lee, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Gail Z. Martin, Cecilia Tan, Patrick Thomas, Shariann Lewitt, Alex Shvartsman, Hildy Silverman, and Daniel M. Kimmel. More will be added (especially if we raise enough from the kickstarter).

We’re already over $3000 toward our goal of $5000, but the deadline is fast approaching, so don’t wait! Pledge today!

To pledge and reserve your book (and/or get other goodies)!:…/667435382/release-the-virgins

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