CLOCKWORK PHOENIX 4: official table of contents

/ January 15th, 2013 / 3 Comments »

(NOTE: This is culled from a recently posted update on the Clockwork Phoenix 4 Kickstarter. If you’re a backer, and you haven’t read the full update yet, I recommend that you do. It’s chock full of things you need to know, much of it time sensitive.)

I’m thrilled to be able to share the official table of contents of Clockwork Phoenix 4.

This is a truly international anthology – with contributors hailing from seven countries – that encompasses off-beat takes on sf, fantasy, horror, or combinations of two or more, as well as interstitial works that just can’t be easily classified.

We received more than 1,400 story submissions during our reading window, and we whittled them down to sixteen short stories and two novelettes that all together total 87,000 words, making this the largest volume in the series by far. All of the writers have received their contracts and I’ve begun sending them their payments. This crucial stage is what the Kickstarter was all about; I wouldn’t be able to pay the writers at all, much less offer them a worthy pay rate per word for their work, without the generosity and support of all our backers, and of those who helped us out in other ways.

I’ll be publishing Clockwork Phoenix 4 simultaneously in trade paperback and e-book formats. I’m aiming for a June release, and then an official reading and launch party at ReaderCon in Boston in July, the same convention where I officially launched the Kickstarter last summer, and where I’ve launched all three of the previous volumes.

A teaser Clockwork Phoenix 4 post

/ January 12th, 2013 / 2 Comments »

Clockwork Phoenix 4I’ve selected all the stories for Clockwork Phoenix 4. All contracts have been sent, and payments have started going out. This is what the Kickstarter was all about — without all your generous pledges, I could not make this part happen.

There are 18 stories, the same number I had in the first volume of Clockwork Phoenix. However, at 87,000 words (not yet counting the yet-to-be written introduction or the “Pinions” section with author bios and story notes) this is easily the largest installment in the series.

I hope to follow up by Monday with much more detail, including the actual table of contents. I’ll be recording my first (and maybe even my second) “Tour of the Abattoir” column of the new year tomorrow with buddy Shalon Hurlbert, so I’ll need to squeeze it in around that, somehow.

But stay tuned. It’s coming.

So what on Earth happened in 2012?

/ January 7th, 2013 / 4 Comments »

I’m still asking myself this.

In terms of writing, editing and publishing, this was easily my biggest year since 2009 (when I was up for the Nebula for “The Button Bin” and had released the 10th anniversary issue of Mythic Delirium and the second volume of Clockwork Phoenix.) But it’s such a big year for some pretty off-beat reasons.

My brain definitely divides 2012 into pre- and post-Kickstarter. I can barely remember what happened before I launched the Clockwork Phoenix 4 Kickstarter in July — though a lot of things did.

But, might as well deal with the biggest thing first. After months of talking about it, I decided to use Kickstarter to revive the Clockwork Phoenix anthology series. Anita helped come up with reward prizes; we asked for $5,000 and raised $10,000. So Clockwork Phoenix 4 will be coming out in time for ReaderCon 2013. I should be able to make an announcement really soon about the book’s table of contents. There’s a lot of moving parts to the Kickstarter; it’s the most ambitious project I’ve ever tackled. I expect to be assembling a much more detailed update about where things stand with all those moving parts at the same time I announce the Table of Contents, so I’m going to save those particulars until then. I will say it’s exhilarating to have Clockwork Phoenix back by undeniable popular demand. Thanks again to all who supported this, whether you’re a backer, a behind-the-scenes brainstormer, or one of those who added to the 1,400-strong pile of stories I had to choose from to make this book reality (or all three!)

As a corollary to kickstarting Clockwork Phoenix 4, I made the first, second and third volumes available as e-books. This proved a very worthwhile endeavor.

The other project that consumed huge chunks of my year is even more experimental. I wrote my second novel, The Black Fire Concerto, specifically to be published as an e-book by the folks behind Black Gate Magazine. There were plans to release it before Christmas, but I had suspicions that this was perhaps too optimistic a timetable, and that proved true. At present the plan is for the novel to launch under an imprint called Haunted Star; we’re now on a search for cover art. I’ve at least learned that I can write an entire novel (70,000 words in this case) and redraft it on short notice; I don’t recommend duplicating the pace I set for myself, but I hope to be reapplying this skill in moderation in the new year.

Short-fiction-wise, I had two new tales appear, the dark fantasy “The Ivy-Smothered Palisade” at Beneath Ceaseless Skies #93 and a bizarre sf piece, “Twa Sisters,” in Not One of Us #47. “Twa Sisters” made the June 2012 Locus Magazine Recommended Reading List.

Something I’m about equally proud of is that I wrote a companion piece to “Twa Sisters,” its weirdness only slightly toned down, called “Still Life With Skull,” that’s going to appear this coming spring in Solaris Rising 2: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction, edited by Ian Whates.

I’m not sure if this counts as a short story, but I had an odd little microfiction-thingie called “Coelcanzetl” appear on the Shared Worlds website as part of a marvelous text-and-visual ensemble piece.

I also had a few stories reprinted. My weird apocalyptic tale “Let There Be Darkness” was adapted to audio by Pseuedopod. Another odd apocalyptic story, “Strange Wisdoms of the Dead,” co-written with my buddy Charles M. Saplak, reappeared in Ocean Stories, edited by Angela Craig. And yet another offbeat sf story, “Dee-Dee and the Dumpy Dancers,” this one co-written with buddy Ian Watson, popped up in Ian’s new collection, Saving for a Sunny Day. The story was accurately described in The Guardian as as a “bizarre vision … featuring aerial ballet and alien turkeys.”

Last but hardly least I sold my first short fiction collection, The Button Bin and Other Stories, to Apex Books, then wound up parting ways with Apex, and resold the collection to upstart newcomers Dagan Books. I’m very hopeful, and very excited, about the upcoming release of this book, for a number of reasons — generally, I’m hopeful that the collection will help people perhaps at last grasp that there’s more to me than “editor and poet”; and specifically, the collection holds “The Quiltmaker,” the direct sequel to “The Button Bin” — and though at least some of the few and proud who’ve read “Quiltmaker” have told me it’s my best work, it has yet to see daylight. (Such is the novella curse.) It also holds “Condolences,” a really dark, very personal horror story written after my father’s death.

Though I would like it to stick in folks’ long-term memories that I write things besides poems … well, I wrote poems too! And had a number of them published, though not at the prolific pace of past, um, decades. Here’s that list:
• “Budding,” Phantasmagorium 2, Jan. 2012
• “Carrington’s Ferry,” Strange Horizons Jan. 23, 2012
• “A Prayer,” Fandom Forever 1, March 2012
• “Kandinsky’s Galaxy,” Strange Horizons, April 9, 2012
• “Surcease,” Inkscawl 3, April 2012
• “The Duelists,” Star*Line 35.3, July-Sept. 2012
• “The Vigil,” Goblin Fruit, Issue 27, Autumn 2012
• “Machine Guns Loaded with Pomegranate Seeds,” Strange Horizons, Nov. 19, 2012
I had a number of poems reprinted as well, though it feels excessive to list them all here.

As for the poetry journal I edit, Mythic Delirium, I’m proud to crow that this past summer Shira Lipkin’s prose poem “The Library, After” from Issue 24 won the 2012 Rhysling Award for short poem, becoming the fifth poem from our pages in the last 10 yeas to land a Rhysling Award. We published our usual two issues, #26 (which got a nice review at and the current one, #27, and our subscriber base got a boost thanks to the Clockwork Phoenix 4 Kickstarter.

Because of the Kickstarter, there will be some big changes to Mythic Delirium in the coming months, but that’s also a topic for another post. So stay tuned on that front.

So a lot did happen in 2012, but what does it all mean? It means I still have a lot of work ahead of me in 2013, heh.

No “Tour of the Abattoir” this month

/ December 22nd, 2012 / No Comments »

For the few and the proud who watch for it, I won’t be recording a “Tour of the Abattoir” column this month for Tales to Terrify. I had spent most of last week wrestling with the Clockwork Phoenix 4 submission pile, with plans to draft the column and make the recording by today. I did start writing the column, but unfortunately, some microbes had other plans for me. As of today my fever has broken but I have no voice to speak of, so to speak. I pledged to Larry and Tony that I’ll rev up again with a vengeance in the new year.

last call re: Clockwork Phoenix 4 submissions

/ December 18th, 2012 / No Comments »

At this point, if you haven’t heard from myself, Anita, Sally or Sabrina about your submission to Clockwork Phoenix 4, either you are a finalist or you slipped through the cracks somehow. Feel free to query at

If you are a finalist, I’m afraid you shouldn’t celebrate yet. The stories we’re holding add up to almost 130,000 words, and the book can only hold a little over 80,000. I’ve never faced a situation quite like this before — it’s a good thing, but there are some tough decisions ahead — so please bear with us.

Clockwork Phoenix 4 now closed to submissions

/ December 15th, 2012 / No Comments »

We finished up with more than 1,450 submissions in the pile. That’s by far the most received for any of the books in the series.

I expect to have all the finalists chosen by the end of the weekend … Then it’s time to select which of them actually go in the book. That’s going to be a huge challenge, because, even though I’ve been extremely selective, my cup still runneth over with great stuff, more than my budget can accommodate.

Thanks to all of you for giving us so many good stories to sort through.

The Clockwork Phoenix pins went out in the mail today

/ December 12th, 2012 / No Comments »

So yet another step in the Clockwork Phoenix Kickstarter reward process done.

Next up, the special chapbook edition of Cherie Priest’s The Immigrant.

Click photos to see the Facebook album.

Anita has finished the Clockwork Phoenix pins (a Kickstarter update)

/ November 30th, 2012 / No Comments »

Anita has completed the Clockwork Phoenix pins promised as rewards in the Clockwork Phoenix 4 Kickstarter. Check ’em out! (You can see more pictures at the Facebook page for her craft store, The Fairie Emporium.)

Just a reminder: my “Evil Friday” Kindle story giveaway ends tonight

/ November 27th, 2012 / No Comments »

Get ’em while they’re hot.

My ongoing free Kindle story giveaway: things I have observed and learned

/ November 25th, 2012 / 1 Comment »

Friday I launched a promotional giveaway of my three short stories available through Kindle. It continues through Tuesday night. Here’s what’s happened, what it may or may not mean, and what’s meaningless but definitely fun.

I have six e-books uploaded to Kindle. Three of them are, of course, the three Clockwork Phoenix anthologies, which sell on their own at a slow, steady trickle. (For what it’s worth, the first volume consistently outsells both sequels combined. This is also true of the paperback edition.)

Then there’s my three short stories, weird sf novelette “Stolen Souls” (trivia: this piece was my first-ever SFWA-qualifying sale, 13 years ago (!)), and weird fantasy tales “She Who Runs” (from the anthology Sky Whales and Other Wonders) and “Sleepless, Burning Life” (a novelette, from Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories). I picked these for a variety of reasons. They don’t fit in the collection (The Button Bin and Other Stories) I have forthcoming from Dagan Books. Neither “Stolen Souls” nor “She Who Runs” were seen by many people in their previous appearances, and I was able to find art I liked that matched thematically. Steam-Powered, on the other hand, has sold well on a small press scale, and a number of the stories from it have been reprinted in even bigger anthologies. But I don’t think “Sleepless,” being very long and very strange, has much chance of further reprints — and perhaps more importantly, it already had a full color illustration plum for the picking as a cover, created for a promotional post card that was never printed.

So I released these stories, to, frankly, not much interest at all, heh. I’ve observed that free promotions on Kindle don’t necessarily do a lot for a book’s sales — once the promotion ends they tend to snap right back to the sales rank they maintained previously. However, it became clear I’d have nothing to lose by trying a free promotion — I did, after all, write these stories wanting them to be read — so I bided my time until now and went for it.

The thing you fear most with something like this is that you’ll offer your wares for free and still have no takers. I figured if at the end of five days I had 500 individual downloads, I’d call it a goal met.

As of this morning, the start of day three of the Evil Friday Giveaway (because really, every day is Evil Friday,) I’m past 900 downloads. Um, goal met? Goal met!

I’ve learned that achieving an Amazon “sales rank” above 2,000 (at least when it comes to free offerings) works out to about 100+ downloads a day.

Of course, I had to screencap this special achievement, which “Sleepless, Burning Life” managed yesterday. Note the sales rank.

Here’s what’s sobering. For all the flurry of activity, I’ve noticed no effect whatsoever so far on the sales of my not-free books. They’re selling no more or less than usual.

Here’s what’s fun. Seeing that hundreds of copies of these stories of mine really are in people’s hands (and hopefully they’ll actually read them!) Amazon “category bestseller lists” are basically meaningless unless your overall ranking has reached 4 digits or lower (and you’re not, um, giving your books away) but it’s been a trip to see my three strange stories suddenly climb their respective lists like a surprise last minute rappelling team.

Here’s a silly part: watching the download scores go up, I found it impossible not to think in terms of a race. Throughout the first day “Sleepless” had the most downloads, with “Stolen” hanging in at a close second and “She Who Runs” firmly in third place. But yesterday “Stolen” blasted ahead and built what looks like an insurmountable lead. “Sleepless” and “She Who Runs” are now vigorously competing for second.

And here’s something nice: after 13 years, “Stolen Souls” finally got its first new review (5 stars on Amazon, yay!) from Liz Campbell at Dark Cargo:

Stolen Souls by Mike Allen is a future Earth story, a far, far future, peopled by humans, things that were once humans, aliens, and Frankenstein-esque constructs of improved beings and stolen parts.

It opens with a guy being mugged…for his brain. His true love was stolen from him, destroyed when her assailants stole her cortex like a radio from a car. However, he refuses to accept her death as a permanent event and this begins a space-opera sized story of seek and revenge efficiently packed into a novelette.

Allen doesn’t do anything without a bit of horror loaded into his paintbrush, and for me, the horrifying question he presents in Stolen Souls is whether or not we retain our humanity if defying death becomes an option. Grief, death, learning to pick up and move on, accepting death as final, are part of what makes us human, defines much of our spiritual beliefs and the desire to move beyond death has shaped humanity. Are we still human if we don’t have to do that anymore?

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