FROM THE PUBLISHER – STATE OF THE ‘SPEC 2019


Hard to believe we have been at this for five years, come October. That is a lot of blood, sweat, and cuss words…let me tell you! We have learned a lot and we have grown. We are making a name for ourselves and doing what we love. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like we are making too much progress, but then we look back and think “Damn!”

I did that today. My entire day has been nothing but entering and calculating data to see exactly what it is we’ve accomplished, by the numbers. So! Here it goes…

  1. We’ve published nine titles in electronic format only.
  2. We’ve published 39 titles in both print and electronic format.
  3. We have eight titles currently under review or in production.
  4. We have originated three imprints: eSpec Books, Paper Phoenix Press, and AGM Publications.
  5. We have three staff members: Danielle McPhail (publisher), Mike McPhail (art director/graphic designer), Greg Schauer (editor).
  6. Eight times out of eight times, we have paid out royalties either early or on time.
  7. We have zero company debt.
  8. We have a positive balance in each of our company accounts.

Those last three fill us with the greatest sense of accomplishment.


All-Time Top Bestsellers

  1. The Clockwork Witch by Michelle D. Sonnier
  2. The Sister Paradox by Jack Campbell
  3. The Weird Wild West
      edited by Misty Massey, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Margaret S. McGraw
  4. Issue in Doubt by David Sherman
  5. In All Directions by David Sherman
  6. Gaslight and Grimm edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Diana Bastine
  7. Dragon Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido
  8. The Best of Defending the Future edited by Mike McPhail
  9. Goblin Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido
  10. Unicorn Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido

Proof-4-5-Clockworkproof-front-sisterlg-book-wwwes-iid-final-proof

In All Directions 2 x 3G&GRed-Gold Leaf-150Proof-DragonPrecinctNew-Proof-DTF1b

Goblin Precinct 2x3Proof-UnicornPrecinctproof-iwhk-coverproof-tbobaf

All-Time Highest Grossing

  1. The Sister Paradox by Jack Campbell
  2. The Clockwork Witch by Michelle D. Sonnier
  3. The Weird Wild West 
        edited by Misty Massey, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Margaret S. McGraw
  4. Issue in Doubt by David Sherman
  5. In All Directions by David Sherman
  6. Gaslight and Grimm edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Diana Bastine
  7. Dragon Precinct by Keith R.A. DeCandido
  8. The Best of Defending the Future edited by Mike McPhail
  9. If We Had Known edited by Mike McPhail
  10. Best of Bad-Ass Faeries edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Highlights of the last five years:

  • One title made it to the Bram Stoker Recommended Reading List.
  • Four titles were finalists for awards.
  • Two of those titles won those awards.
  • We have funded twelve successful crowdfunding campaigns (including one that is running right now – Defending the Future: In Harm’s Way.)
  • We have had the honor of publishing Faith Hunter, Jack Campbell, Brenda Cooper, David Sherman, Jody Lynn Nye, Jonathan Maberry, Bud Sparhawk, James Chambers, Jack McDevitt, Robert Greenberger, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Jeff Young, Michelle D. Sonnier, Bernie Mojzes, Aaron Rosenberg, Peter David, John C. Wright, Eric V. Hardenbrook, Christopher M. Hiles, Patrick Thomas, CJ Henderson, Judi Fleming, John L. French, Christopher L. Bennett, Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin, Misty Massey, Mike McPhail, John G. Hartness, RS Belcher, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Misty Massey, James R. Tuck, Robert E. Waters, David Sherman, Tonia Brown, Liz Colter, Scott Hungerford, Frances Rowat, Ken Schrader, Bryan C.P. Steele, Wendy N. Wagner, Christine Norris, Danny Birt, Jean Marie Ward, Elaine Corvidae, David Lee Summers, Kelly A. Harmon, Jonah Knight, Diana Bastine, Brian Koscienski & Chris Pisano, Adam P. Knave, Jesse Harris, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, John Passarella, Jeffrey Lyman,  L. Jagi Lamplighter,  James Daniel Ross, DL Thurston, Lee C. Hillman, NR Brown, John A. Pitts, Jennifer Brozek, Ronald T. Garner, Nancy Jane Moore, Maria V. Snyder, Lawrence M. Schoen, Andy Remic, Charles E. Gannon, John G. Hemry, Ian Randal Strock, Peter Prellwitz, Drew Bittner, Ty Johnson, Torah Contrill, Walt Ciechanowski, Hal Greenberg and Kenneth Shannon III, Erik Scott de Bie, Ed Greenwood, Christopher J. Burke, Jim Knipp, Herika R Raymer, Anton Kukal, Marie Vibbert, CB Droege, David Bartell,  Rie Sheridan Rose, Jean Buie, David M. Hoenig, Jamie Gilman Kress, Jean Rabe, David Boop, Leona Wisoker Robert M. Price, Leona Wisoker, Edward J. McFadden III, Tony Ruggiero, Janine K. Spendlove, Bryan J.L. Glass, James M. Ward, Kathleen David, and Vonnie Winslow Crist
  • We have projects in the works by Robert E. Waters, Christopher L. Bennett, Michelle D. Sonnier, James Chambers, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail.
  • We have anthologies in the works with stories by Gordon Linzner, Lisanne Norman, Dayton Ward, and  Russ Colchamiro.

If you’ve made it all the way to the end here, thank you. It’s a lot of content but we are covering five years 😉 We’ll be making periodic posts throughout the year up to the anniversary. Thanks for joining us on this adventure!

CONVENTION SCHEDULE – BALTICON


Hard to believe that Balticon is coming up in just two weeks. Once again, eSpec will be in the dealer’s room, when not on panels. We will also be holding our annual launch party on Sunday from 7pm to 9pm. Full schedule below.

How to be a Good Moderator    Room 8029          Fri 5:00 PM

Moderating a discussion panel at a convention is both easier and harder than it looks. Experienced moderators share their tips, tricks, and guidelines for getting the most out of the panel you’re moderating.

Writing Major Minor Characters    Room 8029    Fri 8:00 PM

They may not be your protagonists, but minor characters need to be fleshed out just as much as the heroes. How do minor characters enrich a story, and how can we make them interesting without letting them steal the spotlight?

Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading          Kent      Sat 1:00 PM

The authors of the Broad Universe writing organization share excerpts from their upcoming works.

eSpec Readings       St. George     Sat 7:00 PM

Authors Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Ken Schrader, and Michelle Sonnier read from their work.

eSpec Book Launch Party    Baltimore Ballroom A     Book Launches     Sun 7:00 PM   

Join eSpec Books for food, fun, and prizes in celebration of the release of their newest offerings of Paranormal Steampunk, The Clockwork Witch by Michelle D. Sonnier, Spirit Seeker by Jeff Young, and After Punk: Steampowered Tales of the Afterlife.

Outlining vs. Pantsing     Mount Washington     Mon 10:00 AM

Some storytellers require a detailed outline to start fleshing out their story, but others prefer to write by the seat of the pants. What are some techniques to help you get better at one when you prefer the other? Authors and game masters welcome!

CONVENTION RECAP – BALTICON 50


Whew! Can you say exhausted? I took yesterday off to recover and I’m still beat!

Balticon was a series of new experiences this year. After almost 15 years of attending, the last ten or so at the same location, the convention moved back down to Baltimore’s inner harbor for it’s celebrated 50th con.

This was a big one, folks. Loads and loads of guests, new venue, bonus Guests of Honors from years past. Needless to say all of these changes elevated the level of chaos this year as everyone scrambled to figure out what they were doing, when and where. There was a lot of walks down long corridors and wandering the maze to figure out where such programming rooms were, but all in all–other than my feet–the experience was less painful than I feared it might be.

On Friday night my first panel was Starting Your Own Small Press. This was very well attended for 5pm on a Friday night. The discussion was informative and well received and the audience had loads of great questions. If only it hadn’t been such a hike to find the room.

The only other thing I had on Friday was Meet the Guests. I showed up at the right room a little early to find a sign saying it had moved to the con suite, but never did see any of those who were supposed to participate and so wandered off to the bar with Jennifer Povey and The Weird Wild West contributor Ken Schrader, after waiting about fifteen minutes for something to happen.

Oh…and a fire scare. The whole building was evacuated around 7:30pm. I’m told someone one thought a smoke machine would really add some atmosphere to a concert going on…they were right. But no one was there to enjoy it once the alarm went off.

0527161830a
Me, Mike McPhail, John L. French, and Patrick Thomas waiting for the chaos to resume.

No programming for me on Saturday…or so I thought. Discovered that was when my reading was, and fortunately I discovered in time to actually attend because the room was pretty packed for the four authors reading. My Meet eSpec Books panel, however, had been moved to Saturday night without my knowledge and so I hung out for a little while in my room, then went to the game room where my good friends Alf and Cynthia regretted teaching me to play Ascension, then wandered off for a little while to Gail Z. Martin’s impromptu pre-release party for Modern Magic…instead of being where I was supposed to be.

0529161430a-1Now Sunday…we’ll have to talk about Sunday. The crazy descended. Con: I had to wake up uber early for a Book Design and Layout panel I was slated to give. That went REAL well, but was nowhere near long enough. Then right off to the dealer’s room where I got to meet Jody Lynn Nye and hug Larry Niven.

I participated in the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading, organized by Randee Dawn, then I rushed off to organized everything for the Gaslight and Grimm launch party. Discovered a bunch of supplies weren’t showing up, then arrived at the party room to discover everything was half tables…only about one foot wide! We pushed two together for all the food tables and left the congregating tables as is. We had loads of people and load of authors0529161317b-1 showing up to oggle our books and covet the impressive array of raffle prizes we gave away at the end of the night. Everyone was wonderful helping out, especially the Chrises Hiles (squared) Alf and Cynthia, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Kelly A. Harmon, Jean Marie Ward, Wrenn Simms, Vickie DiSantos and loads of other people I can’t remember now because my brain was on overload.

The party was a huge success and surprisingly we were able to donate food to the Game of Thrones party following ours. Many, many books were sold and happy authors and attendees abounded.

0529162011a-1-1
Back (left to right): Danny Birt, Jonah Knight, Jeff Young, Robert E. Waters, David Lee Summers, Chris Hiles, Eric Hardenbrook, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Dustin Blottenberger, Drew Bittner, Christine Norris, Ken Schrader. Front (left to right): Greg Schauer, me, Mike McPhail, Jean Marie Ward, Gail Z. Martin, and John L. French. Not pictured here: Vonnie Winslow Crist, Brigitte Winter, Kelly A. Harmon, Bud Sparhawk.

 

I don’t have any photos of the party, other than this one of the editors, authors and artists, but hope to share some once they are sent to me.

All in all a great time, though the added expense of parking and eating was a blow, as was the inaccessibility of places to pick up last-minute party supplies.  

 

LAUNCH PARTY UPDATE – THE AUTHORS


As we have already mentioned, Gaslight & Grimm will be launching at Balticon 50 this year, along with our other three anthologies: The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, The Weird Wild West, and Dogs of War – Reissue.

The convention has moved back to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, at the Renaissance Hotel, over Memorial Day Weekend. The launch party will be the Sunday of the convention.

  • Where: MD Salon B (The New Garden Room)
  • When: Sunday, May 29th
  • Time: 7pm to 9pm

As usual we will strive to outdo ourselves with food, fun and prizes. I can guarantee we will outdo ourselves with authors!

Here is a list of those contributors who will be attending the launch:

Gaslight & Grimm

  1. Danielle Ackley-McPhail
  2. Danny Birt
  3. Kelly A. Harmon
  4. Jonah Knight
  5. Gail Z. Martin
  6. Bernie Mojzes
  7. Christine Norris
  8. Jody Lynn Nye
  9. Jean Marie Ward
  10. Jeff Young

The Side of Good/The Side of Evil

  1. Danielle Ackley-McPhail
  2. Greg Schauer
  3. Keith R.A. DeCandido
  4. John L. French
  5. Gail Z. Martin
  6. Drew Bittner

The Weird Wild West

  1. R.S. Belcher
  2. John Hartness
  3. Emily Lavin Leverett
  4. Gail Z. Martin
  5. Misty Massey
  6. Ken Schrader
  7. Robert E. Waters

Dogs of War

  1. Mike McPhail
  2. Danielle Ackley-McPhail
  3. Judi Fleming
  4. John L. French
  5. Eric Hardenbrook
  6. Chris Hiles
  7. Bud Sparhawk
  8. Patrick Thomas
  9. Robert E. Waters
  10. Jeff Young

 

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: KEN SCHRADER (THE WEIRD WILD WEST)


Ken Schrader

eSpec Books interviews Ken Schrader, contributor to The Weird Wild West edited by Misty Massey, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Margaret S. McGraw.

eSB: What is your favorite western movie and why?

KS: Unforgiven. Above and beyond anything else, that movie is about the characters and their struggles. Some characters get what they’re after, some don’t, and some get what they wanted, but it wasn’t like they’d thought it would be.

eSB: What does the wild frontier mean to you?

To me, the wild frontier is that place where civilization ends–or has little more than a toe in the door–and exploration begins. It’s a stark and beautiful place.

eSB: Who would you say is your Wild West role model and why?

KS: Josey Wales.  He tries to do what’s right even when it puts him in harm’s way–and he never went for his gun first.

eSB: What is your favorite spec fic/western mash-up?

KS: Firefly, no contest there. If fact, I’ll change my answer to the previous question to Malcolm Reynolds.

eSB: What would you say is required reading for fans of Weird Wild West fiction?

KS: The Weird Wild West 🙂  The Dark Tower by Stephen King, Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman

eSB: Can you tell us anything about your story for The Weird Wild West?

KS: Haven is about what happens when an alien space ship crashes outside a small town in Texas. It happens during the day and everyone sees it. There’s no easing into it, the two worlds meet each other head on and there are growing pains on both sides.

eSB: What interested you in working on this project?

KS: I’ve always been a big fan of weird west stories going as far back as the Kung Fu television series. Up until this point, I hadn’t tried to write anything in that kind of world, so that was a big part of what drew me to write a weird western story.

eSB: How do you research to capture that western feel?

KS: A big part of it was drawing on my own experiences and memories of the westerns (weird and otherwise) and I’ve read or watched and enjoyed. That got me the foundation. I didn’t do a ton of research for Haven but, what I did, I wanted to make sure that I got exactly right. Those kinds of small details will buy you a bit of a pass when you ask readers to accept the larger, weirder elements. I read a lot (ok, probably more than was necessary) about the kinds of firearms that existed in that time period. I read even more about saloons and the purpose they served back then.

eSB: Have you had any weird western experiences of your own? Please tell us about it.

KS: I’ve got goats..they can be weird at times. Does that count?

eSB: Describe your idea of a weird western chuck wagon meal.

KS: The food, by itself, would be pretty standard stuff. Maybe a thick stew or chili and some hard bread. I’m picturing a group sitting around a campfire under the stars made up of human beings and aliens and robots. The conversation is easy and comfortable–with a little bit of weird mixed in.

eSB: Which Wild West archetype (Gambler, Outlaw, Saloon Girl, School Marm, Railroad Man, Pioneer, Cowboy, Lawman or Indian) would you chose to be and why?

KS: The Outlaw.  A great deal of that stems from the books and movies that were around while I was growing up. That and they can be so cool and smooth

eSB: Have you written/created anything else in a weird western vein? Please tell us about it.

KS: I am shopping around a science fiction novel that has a pretty strong Firefly vibe.

eSB: What are some of your own works readers can look for?

KS: In addition to the Weird Wild West, I’ll be part of another anthology coming out in 2016. It hasn’t been announced yet, so I can’t say more than that.

eSB: What projects of your own do you have coming up?

KS: In addition to the Weird Wild West and the other anthology coming out, I am waiting to hear if I’ve been accepted into the WERE- anthology being produced by Zombies Need Brains, LLC

SOCIAL MEDIA USER IDs

Facebook: Ken Schrader              

Twitter: @kenschrader4882       

Goodreads: Ken schrader           

Blog Address: http://www.ken-schrader.com/blog   



TW3-COVER-REVAMPThe Weird Wild West
edited by Misty Massey, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Margaret S. McGraw

The untamed frontier is a challenge, a test of character, a proving ground for the soul. It’s a place where pioneers rewrite their future, or end their days…for better or worse. In the spirit of Bret Maverick, Cat Ballou, Kwai Chang Caine, and James West, The Weird Wild West blends western grit with the magical and mysterious unknown that waits beyond the next horizon.

With thrilling stories by Jonathan Maberry, Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin, John Hartness, RS Belcher, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Misty Massey, James R. Tuck, Robert E. Waters, David Sherman, Tonia Brown, Liz Colter, Scott C. Hungerfold, Frances Rowat, Ken Schrader, Bryan C.P. Steele, Wendy N. Wagner, and a bonus story by New York Times bestselling-author Faith Hunter, you’ve hit the Mother Lode!

Now available on Amazon.

NetGalley (available here for review through the end of January): https://s2.netgalley.com/catalog/book/77412

  

   

TODAY’S GUEST – KEN SCHRADER (THE WEIRD WILD WEST)


On The Weird Wild West

by Ken Schrader

I have always been a fan of the weird western.  I grew up walking the Old West with Kwai Chang Caine and, while the original series ended a year before I was born, I caught the TV movies made for The Wild Wild West. I will even admit to enjoying the Will Smith/Kevin Kline movie (A giant, steam-powered, spider? How cool is that!) based on the TV show. And, to this day, I will gladly sit down for an episode of Firefly…or two or three episodes. I can’t help myself once that ball gets rolling.

What is it that makes the weird western so attractive?  I think part of it is that it’s set in a place that we’re familiar with. In addition to its familiarity, the stage of the Old West is so large that it can hold anything that the creative mind can throw at it. Say what you will about that giant, steam-powered spider, as a viewer, I had no problem with buying the idea that even something of that size could be walking around out there and you’d never know it until it was too late.

That’s what lets the weird in: the sheer size of the Old West.  And, boy, did the weird come in. From on-the-run Shaolin monks to the crew of the Enterprise (both the original series and next-gen) to magical gun slingers, to its own rich landscape of myth and legend.  There’s a place out in the Weird, Wild West for all of them.

My story, Haven, in the Weird Wild West anthology occupies a small part of that stage and I had the room to crash a space ship outside a small Texas town.

That wasn’t even the hard part.

I can’t tell you where the idea for the story came from (I don’t know) but I can tell you that how it came to me was new and a little difficult. I’m a visual thinker. Tell me to think about a cat and I’ll see a cat in my head. When a story idea comes to me, it comes in the form of a picture—a still frame stuck on the screen in the cinema of my imagination. From there, it’s up to me to figure out what it’s all about.

Haven wasn’t like that. The first thing that came to me was the opening line.  It was a line of dialogue to boot.  That never happens. The first line in the story—“Look Pa! A shooting star.”—came from right out of the vast blue sky that is the hallmark of the Old West and I didn’t change a word of it.

This was also my first time working with both a deadline and a maximum word count. For me, it was more difficult to work under a specific word count. 9000 words was the upper limit for submissions.

Submission deadline date approaching?  No problem.

Wait. I’ve only got how many words to work with??

The first draft of Haven weighed in at 14,000 words and some change. The first editing pass added (Yes, added.) somewhere in the neighborhood of 1000 words. I remember sitting at my desk, thinking, “What are you doing? You’re supposed to be going in the opposite direction!!”

The thing was that I had to make the story and the characters believable, despite some pretty unbelievable things happening. I managed it by establishing common ground and by making sure I had smaller details exactly right, but it took up a lot of precious space.

Once I had that, though, all that was left was to go through and remove the pieces of the story that weren’t “The Story.” This took some serious killing of darlings as I ended up shaving more than 7000 words from the finished version of Haven. Even after all that, I remember cutting a few hundred more words (and possibly adding a few) at the suggestion of my editor.

In the end, I ended up with a slice of my own Weird, Wild West.  I hope you all enjoy reading Haven as much as I enjoyed writing it.


TW3-COVER-REVAMPAn excerpt from Haven,
by Ken Schrader, in The Weird Wild West,
edited by Misty Massey, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Margaret S. McGraw

“Look Pa! A shooting star.”

Wyatt Porter hit the nail off-center, bending it sideways, and burying it in the roof of his house. He muffled a curse. “It’s daylight, son. There can’t be a shooting star.”

“Wyatt?”

The note in his wife’s voice made him look in her direction. Sarah stepped off the porch and walked to where their son was playing with his puppy. Both of them stared into the sky.

Wyatt turned and looked up. “What the hell?”

In the sky was a shooting star. Only it wasn’t like any shooting star he’d ever seen. It looked like a ball of fire—and it was getting bigger.

Wyatt scrambled down the ladder. There was no mistaking it. Whatever was in the sky was coming closer. Sarah laid a hand on his shoulder. “What is it?”

“I don’t know.”

Sarah turned. “Little Wyatt, you go on inside.”

“Yes, ma’am.” The boy picked up his puppy and trudged into the house.

Smoke was coming off the tail end of the fireball, and there was a sound, like thunder, growing in intensity. Wyatt couldn’t look away. The thought that it might crash down into his house flowed over him like a chill wind. Behind him, the horses in the barn snorted and stamped.

The sound of its passage grew to an ear-splitting roar that Wyatt felt in his chest. It streaked across the sky, something dark at the center of the flames. He covered his ears, shaking his head as if he could clear the sound away. Windows shattered and his horses whinnied in fear, kicking against their stalls.

The fireball headed in the direction of town and crashed down beyond his sight. He heard a hollow boom and a smoky-orange cloud billowed into the sky.

“Haven.” Sarah’s voice was barely a whisper.

Wyatt turned and ran into the house. Inside the door hung his gun belt and vest with his badge. He put them on. Sarah met him on the porch. “I’m not going to try and stop you from going, Wyatt Porter, just you remember to come back to me.”

“I’ll be fine.” Wyatt kissed her, then leaped down the steps. “I’ll see you when I get back.”

“The hell you will. I’m headed to the Wheel. You’ll be wanting a drink later.”

Wyatt smiled, then ran to the barn.


Ken Schrader is a science fiction and fantasy writer. He spends a great deal of his spare time listening to the characters running around in his head. When he’s not doing that, or playing with his dogs, he’s been known to take in the occasional super-hero movie.



The Weird Wild West
edited by Misty Massey, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Margaret S. McGraw

The untamed frontier is a challenge, a test of character, a proving ground for the soul. It’s a place where pioneers rewrite their future, or end their days…for better or worse. In the spirit of Bret Maverick, Cat Ballou, Kwai Chang Caine, and James West, The Weird Wild West blends western grit with the magical and mysterious unknown that waits beyond the next horizon.

With thrilling stories by Jonathan Maberry, Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin, John Hartness, RS Belcher, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Misty Massey, James R. Tuck, Robert E. Waters, David Sherman, Tonia Brown, Liz Colter, Scott C. Hungerfold, Frances Rowat, Ken Schrader, Bryan C.P. Steele, Wendy N. Wagner, and a bonus story by New York Times bestselling-author Faith Hunter, you’ve hit the Mother Lode!

Now available on Amazon.

NetGalley (available here for review through the end of January): https://s2.netgalley.com/catalog/book/77412