Author Archives: Guy Anthony De Marco

Realistic-ish Exotic Settings

It seems that anyone who wants to write in the action, adventure, or thriller genres has to have a bazillion air miles on their cards in order to fly out to all of those exotic locations, write that section of the story, and then jet off to the next locale. What if you want to write about those places but don’t have the means?

There’s a couple of things you can do.

Wing It and Make It All Up

Yes, this is an option. You can set your mutant giant ant story in Nevada, and they all die because they’re allergic to saguaro cactus. The problem with this is saguaros live in the Sonora Desert in Arizona.

Winging it will require a lot of research for almost everything you want to do in your designated setting — if it exists in real life. Should you set your tale in a world made of cheeses and populated by naked mole rats, you’re free to make up everything to your heart’s content. The one thing you will need to do is make sure that once you set a rule you follow it, just like the laws of physics on Earth. If your characters have to keep one foot on the ground else they float off towards the ever-present giant hungry mouth floating in the sky, they can’t ever jump for joy or fall off of a building.

Whatever rules you develop, you’re stuck with them. If you change things mid-story, your readers will be irate.

Limit Your Story to Somewhere You’ve Lived

If you happen to be a former military member (thank you for your service), the spouse of one (also thank you for your service), or even a military brat that visited and/or lived in different countries, congratulations. You should have enough background to write a story with the general look and feel of that locale.

There are a few caveats, though. You’re familiar with that area for a specific time period. If I wanted to write a story about Brooklyn from my time living there, it would be from the late nineteen-sixties or -seventies. That’s the ballpark swath of time my memories are based on. If I wanted to have two characters meet at Elaine’s Avenue M Deli, that wouldn’t work for a 1970-era tale. Elaine’s started their business in 2001. People who are familiar with that area will know this and it will knock them out of the book.

You could always make up an establishment, but make sure you’re vague enough that people can’t say, “Oh, that’s where DiFara’s Pizza is. He’s been there since 1965. Also known as one of the very best places to get a pizza in the galaxy.”

Beyond the businesses and buildings, the overall look and feel of places change over time. What you remember as a gritty blue-collar area might have been gentrified, slowly filling up with hipsters and people with sculpted beards drinking Starbucks through a straw. If you still know people from the old neighborhood, get them on the phone or drop an email asking them to tell you how things are these days. It gives you a good excuse to call your old Uncle Johnny and Aunt Grace and chat for an hour, assuming they’re not late for a Groupon appointment offering buy one, get one free skydiving lessons.

Oh, and for folks who don’t think Brooklyn isn’t an exotic location, try visiting it. Besides, it’s the capital of the known universe and the place to go when one wants the best pizza.

Google Street View

This is one of the best things to help authors since instant coffee. While it doesn’t cover the entire globe, it will certainly do a decent job of letting you know what most places look like within the last couple of years.

If you want to virtually be in an Eagle’s song, you can go stand on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. In fact, there is a park dedicated to that very activity, including a statue. In some shots, you may even find a flatbed Ford.

Now it is possible to walk (or drag your cursor) through places like Prague or Berlin. If you want to describe your spy running through the Palazzo Poggi Museum at the University of Bologna, Italy, you can describe dashing through the doorway between the sculpture of a nude woman and a human skeleton.

Travel Books

While geared more towards tourists, picking up a Lonely Planet or Fodor’s travel guide can help you to bring some realism to your exotic settings. If your budget is limited, you can always visit your local library for the latest copy or pick up one from a year or two prior from used bookstores or a library sale.

These guides give you a good flavor of each area, discuss some of the unique qualities and places hidden within each locale, and sometimes include iconic things to do and see. People who live there or have visited will certainly remember Damnoen Saduak Floating Market or the giant maze that makes up the Chatuchak Weekend Market just off of Phahonyothin Road. It’s easy to get lost in there, and an excellent spot for your spy to ditch the folks following her. The extensive descriptions will help you to get the feel of the place and fire up descriptions of all senses.

Just Google It

In the end, you can just give Google Search a shot. This is probably the most used method authors use, so you may end up missing out on the spots that are off of the beaten path. Try to dig into reviews of places to get visitors opinions. Maybe the museum is nice but it smells like fish because of the cannery next door. Those little details will help to solidify the setting with your readers, especially folks with the travel experience.

After all, it may help you to properly plan the extermination of that giant radioactive ant problem your characters have if you shift them so they’re standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.

 


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist and poet; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

 

The Little Things

For our readers in the United States, everyone at The Fictorians wish you and yours a happy Independence Day on this 4th of July.


Many beginning authors consider worldbuilding as a need to flesh out an entire planet or a continent. They spend countless hours focusing on where to place all of the individual buildings in a city and then coming up with a “cool” name for each area. I went through this phase in the 1970’s and 80’s when I wrote over three hundred Dungeons and Dragons modules for my friends to enjoy every other weekend. I have books filled with individual floor plans for all of the buildings in the capital city of Bali, including the furnishings and who lives and/or works there.

When it comes to worldbuilding for fiction, I prefer to come up with an overall skeleton structure for a particular culture and then let it develop naturally. There’s no need to have a detailed floorplan of the butcher shop next to the tavern unless there’s a reason for the characters to go inside and buy a porkchop. There’s no use in working out the personnel structure of the guards, the gentry, or the street sweepers unless the characters will be interacting with them. By developing the broad strokes as the need arises, it keeps me focused on what is needed for the story at that moment. It also keeps me writing instead of planning nifty things that only I will get to see in dusty old journals that get buried over the years.

If you think about the worlds that you’ve read over the years, there are some that will always stick out in your memory. I’ve found that those worlds do have plenty of broad worldbuilding for the setting, but it’s the little things that really make those worlds come alive in your head. A common example is The Hobbit. We’re set up with a quick explanation of what a hobbit is and that they live in a house built into the side of a hill — and not a nasty, slimy hole filled with the ends of worms and an oozing smell. Tolkien goes on to explain that hobbits love comfort, food, and drink.

At this point we see Bilbo sitting outside smoking some pipe-weed. This is the kind of small detail that can transform a scene and make it rich and lively. He is enjoying his morning when Gandalf wanders by. Again, the small details about Gandalf’s background are sprinkled generously to immediately capture the attention of the reader, and it’s masterfully done. We want to know more about this wizard and the adventures he’s been on!

This is the classic setup for a novel, where the main character is shown enjoying his normal life in their normal world when something comes along and changes everything. This unbalance (usually) gets resolved over the story and the ending shows the protagonist getting used to their “new normal”.

That beginning spot where Bilbo is puffing away and getting a bit annoyed at Gandalf for butting into his quiet morning, only to be dressed down after Gandalf reads Bilbo the riot act “as if Gandalf was selling buttons at his door”, shows a lot of subtle worldbuilding. We learn a bit more about the culture of the hobbits and, at least at first, that this particular hobbit starts off with a cheerful outlook. When the idea of adventures pop up in conversation we discover that hobbits like being predictable, and that there are no adventurers around Hobbiton. The droplets of culture are helping to build out the world of the Shire without being obtrusive. Instead of handing the reader a laundry list of boring and sometimes unnecessary information, Tolkien slips us small doses that we can consume without getting bored.

When it’s time to show us the world you’re imagining, consider allowing us to sip from your fountain pen instead of chucking us into a barrel of inky details. The buildup will help us see your vision one image or cultural display at a time.


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist and poet; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

 

The Publishing Consortium

Around seven years ago, I was looking to self-publish some of my old tales that had reverted back to me. I also had a couple of friends that were looking to do the same thing. At the time I was working full-time in the IT field and had some extra funds I could use to buy a block of ISBNs from Bowker, the company that controls them in the United States.

Looking at the options, I could spend $125 for each one or, if I purchased in bulk, the price dropped down to a buck each. I decided to buy a thousand-block and founded The Publishing Consortium, which is a cooperative for a bunch of publishing imprints for my friends and my own little personal publisher.

It took quite a bit of research to find out how I was able to legally assign ISBNs without getting into trouble. Bowker would rather sell a couple of high-priced ISBNs at a time, so some of the information was buried.

By registering sub-imprints, I was able to create an entry in Bowker that would show up when someone looked up the ISBN to see the imprint that published the title. Even though The Publishing Consortium is the overall owner of the block, I was able to give out contiguous small blocks for my friends who needed non-CreateSpace assigned ISBNs. For the most part, I gave out chunks based on how much they planned on publishing. Several got 20, and some received 50. Originally I was going to charge five bucks each so I could buy more when my thousand-block ran out, but since most of my friends are authors and are therefore, by extension, not rolling in gold coins like Scrooge McDuck, I don’t think I’ve received anything except lots of goodwill and continued friendship. Oddly enough, I think I’m ahead of the game.

Small press publishers looking for a place to park at a convention.

If you’re considering setting up your own imprint, I would recommend you go with the cooperative plan unless you happen to have $1500 you can spare. Yes, the price of a thousand-block went up 50% for an imaginary number. It’s better to get ten folks to toss in $150 each, and you can register all of the publishers as an imprint. I always use ISBNs on print books, and sometimes I also assign them to ebooks. What some folks don’t know is that your ebook ISBN is good for all versions, including MOBI, ePUB, and even PDFs. If bookstores wish to buy copies, they won’t see those dreaded Amazon-owned ISBNs.

You can also set up more shared functions between all of the small publishers. Perhaps you can share editors, artists, layout experts, and even marketers. By trading specialties, everyone can contribute something and all of the members will benefit. As they say, a rising tide raises all boats. When all the boats works together it’s called an armada, which can be a powerful force.


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist and poet; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

 

Guy’s Top Five Favorite Publishers

I’ve been writing since the mid-1970’s. During that time, I’ve assembled a huge assortment of trunk stories. I could just let them rot away, but I don’t like to waste my time and energy. I poke at them every so often until I find a suitable market and — this part is important — I’m comfortable with the quality of the story.

Over the years I’ve found plenty of different types of markets, ranging from “for the love” to pro-level. If one of my trunk stories will work for a non-paying market, I don’t mind sending it in to the editor. I feel that it’s a better location than a hard drive that will eventually fail. Because I’m a prolific writer, it doesn’t take me long to produce stories. Now that I’m switching to dictation software because of worsening carpal tunnel issues, I expect my output will expand even further.

Here are some of my current favorites:

WordFire Press

This is a small-to-middling sized pro-level Colorado press owned by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta. I’ve done some minor work for them in the past, and they’re publishing a novel I co-wrote with a couple of friends. Everyone there is wonderful to work with, and I know many of them personally.

Getting published by WordFire means your work will appear next to books by Kevin and Rebecca, who are both award-winning and NY Times/USA Today bestsellers, plus the likes of Brian and Frank Herbert, Alan Dean Foster, Alan Drury (Pulitzer Prize winner), and a host of name-brand, top-tier authors. An added benefit is the ability to attend some of the best conventions as a WordFire author.

Wolfsinger Press

This is another Colorado publisher, albeit a micro press. Wolfsinger puts out several unique anthologies every year, and sometimes I write a story for them just because the anthology concept excites my muse. They respond to questions quickly and actually do thorough edits.

My story, “Grubstake”, appears in Supernatural Colorado, and a story I’ve sent in to their Love ‘Em, Shoot ‘Em anthology was accepted. They sometimes have guest editors, so it’s nice to work with new folks in a familiar environment. Although this press has a token payment and royalty setup, I can report that I actually do receive royalty statements as promised, which can be a rarity with the token-payment or royalty-only presses. They do offer discounted copies for contributors.

Another benefit of Wolfsinger is they also have a couple of fascinating eZines (The Lorelei Signal and Sorcerous Signals). I’ve been published in The Lorelei Signal, and they also put out a compilation in ebook format. Both can add to your bibliography.

James Ward Kirk Publishing

This micro press run by (no surprise) author and editor James Ward Kirk puts out several unique anthologies per year, plus a couple of annuals. This is a for-the-love or a token payment press (two $25 awards for the top two submissions). I love many of their anthology concepts and come up with complete story ideas by the time I’m done reading the submission requirements on their open call page.

I’ve had stories accepted for several of their anthologies, including “We Are Dust and Shadow” for the anthology of the same name; “A Gift of Light” in Bones II; and “The Box”, which appears in Ugly Babies 2. I also have a story in their horror sampler and the Barnyard Horror publications. The anthology editors are great to work with, and they offer good discounts for contributors.

Garden Gnome Publications

Another oddball small press that publishes an interesting series of anthologies called Biblical Legends, amongst others. I co-wrote a couple of stories with Tonya L. De Marco about two robots who go about doing horrible things to humans — enough so that they help to create some of the legends and mythologies we have to this day. “One Bit Off” appears in their Garden of Eden anthology, and “Garbage” appears in Sulphurings.

Garden Gnome has branched out from ebook-only to some limited print versions. I am always pleased when I have more print books that I can pile on a table at a convention. This is a token-payment publisher, but they’re fun to work with.

Daily Science Fiction

If you’re not signed up for their weekday free stories that appear in your inbox, you’re missing out. This is a small SFWA-approved venue that pays better than pro rates. When they picked up my short story, “A Case of Curiosities”, I was qualified to join SFWA. This is a tough market to crack, but certainly is worth your efforts.

The owners are the editors, and they enjoy a wide range of micro-to-short speculative fiction. They do enjoy mild horror (with a speculative bent) and fantasy. DSF should be one of the first group of publishers you send your best work to. They also on occasion publish a gigantic print anthology of the best works that appeared that year.

♦ ♦ ♦

The bad thing about letting you know about my favorite publishers is that I can now expect more competition for slots. I would suggest you buy several works from each publisher you’re interested in working with to see the types of stories they pick up. Besides, it’s important to support the publishers we all want to succeed.

Best of luck with your submissions!

 


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.