Duotrope’s decision to switch to paid subscriptions for their popular submissions tracking solution caused quite an uproar. So I decided to compile information on some alternatives to make available here as part of the growing Write Tips database. Now, let me be clear: Duotrope is still a viable option. They have a right to not go into debt providing their service. Running, updating and maintaining a website is not free. Throwing a fit over their changes in the face of the site’s incredible gr0wth and our failing economy is silly. You may be a poor writer but services still cost money to provide. I thought most of the uproar was pretty unreasonable. However, writers do need a way to track submissions, response times, etc. Tracking story submissions can be one of the most challenging part of the writer’s life. Fortunately, there are a lot of tools out there which can be useful in simplifying tracking. Here are some suggestions.
1) Excel Spreadsheet – For old school, Excel is the way to go. Label columns for STORY TITLE, MARKET, DATE OF SUBMISSION, DATE OF RESPONSE, and NOTES and track them. I use this. You can sort by column to see data on each market’s response times or each story’s submission records, etc. It costs nothing, since most people have MS Office (Open Office has an Excel clone you can use as well), and it’s quick and easy.
2) Card System– This is even more old school, the pre-computer age, but, as Bud Sparhawk explains, still a trusty system for many long time writers. Index Cards are cheap. So’s the shoebox to hold them in.
3) Lists – Writer’s Write offers a Triple system suggestion which is also an option to Excel or the Cards.
Don’t get bored, technophiles, here’s some options for you:
4) The Submission’s Grinder – set up as an alternative to Duotrope, it has both free and subscription options with affordable pricing, although from what I have seen, it’s a much clunkier interface.
5) Sonar (software) – Free to download and use. Now in version 3 with frequent updates and fixes when required.
6) Story Tracker (software) – Designed for both cell phone and IPad and downloadabe for $7.99 from the Apple Store, now in version 2.5.
7) Writer’s Planner-A free online database for submissions tracking. Allows exporting your data for backups.
So you can see that there are many types of options available, many free. I have heard one or more writers recommend all of these methods, but have not tried them all myself, so I’d love to have people comment here with evaluations so those looking can get an idea of how things are. Whatever the case, I’m sure more options will keep popping up over time and there are doubtless some I’m not aware of. I’ll continue to update this post if it proves useful to you.
Meanwhile, happy writing and I wish you success!
For what it’s worth…
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the editor of Blue Shift Magazine and an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince (2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exoduswill appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends from Delabarre Publishing. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun for Fairwood Press (July 2013), headlined by Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, and Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age for Every Day Publishing (November 2013). He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
In 2009 when I started writing The Worker Prince, my debut science fiction novel, I had no idea what urban fantasy was. Of course, as I got into the industry and reading I heard bits and pieces. True Blood showed up and I met and became friends with Kat Richardson and John A. Pitts whose novels fell in that category. One of the advantages of hosting Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat is that I get sent tons of books to read and deliberately book and ask for a variety of genres. So I finally managed to read John and Kat’s books and I loved them. I have never been that into paranormal. Poltergeist was amusing but silliness. I do believe in spirits but I’m don’t think about ghosts a lot, and vampires and zombies to me are about the most tired things out there. It takes a lot to get me interested in them. I loved Anne Rice’s series and that did it for me on vamps. Zombies have just never interested me. Let dead people stay in the ground. Just a body. Meh. On the other hand, urban fantasy is huge with tons of bestselling authors, including Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Kat Richardson…need I go on? So of course SFFWRTCHT needs to cover it and I need to be aware.
Now, I simply love it! One of my favorite genres and someday I will write some. I have ideas in development now, in fact. I read 52 books a year just for chat plus extras for blogging on SFSignal, etc. and blurbs, which I get asked for now. Usually 70 books at least is around the number, so it may take me a while to get through a lot of stuff (no Hamilton or Butcher yet). But these 9 are the Urban fantasy I’ve read so far. And I loved all of them for different reasons. They’re quite distinctive from each other.
1) Greywalker by Kat Richardson – Harper Blaine is a P.I. who died after an attack for two minutes then came back with the ability to see spirits. Yep, she’s a Greywalker now, and this series has gotten deserved high praise. [See Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Paul Goat Allen raving about them here. ]These are bestsellers for a reason and the seventh book, Seawitch, just arrived this month. Mysteries with Harper investigating and dealing with all kinds of spooky creatures from vampires to ghosts, etc., they are well paced with a great noir feel and make good use of their Pacific Northwest settings. From the cover description, although I like Kat as a person a lot, I was not at all sure I’d enjoy her books. Never have I been so wrong. I’ve read two so far and own all but the latest. Cannot wait to find time to read them!
2) Sarah Beauhall by John A. Pitts – Another where I love the writer as a person but the description didn’t enthrall me. And again, I was soooo wrong. (Are you noticing a pattern?) Pitts has taken the old tropes and made them new with this one. Also set in the Pacific Northwest, Sarah Beauhall is a blacksmith apprentice and movie props maven whose prop sword turns out to be a magical dragon killing sword. The magical dragon killing sword. And she finds this out, of course, by encountering someone looking for the sword to kill dragons. But these are not the green, scaly dragons of legend and lore just yet. They are men and women who work on Wall Street and various places. And when their schemes begin to threaten Sarah and her world, she puts her sword to good use. Great fight sequences, a fun play with an SCA-like reenactment group, nice humor, and a touch of romance with Sarah struggling to open up to her girlfriend. Packing enough testosterone-laced action to satisfy male readers and enough romantic emotional moments to please female readers, this series is for everyone and books 2 and 3 are out too. Fantastic!
3) Jane Yellowrock by Faith Hunter – A member of the illustrious Magical Words blog team with David B. Coe, amongst others, Hunter has been inspired by Anne Rice but made vampire tales set in New Orlean’s her own. If you read my introduction, you already know I would not have picked me up if her publicist hadn’t scheduled her for SFFWRTCHT. I’m so glad she did. The last of her kind, a part Cherokee vampire hunter and skinwalker capable of shapeshifting into any creature she wants, Jane’s been hired by Katherine Fontaneau, one of the oldest vampires in New Orleans and the madam of Katie’s Ladies, to hunt a powerful rogue vampire who’s killing other vamps. In the process, she gets more than she bargained for when her employer is murdered and Jane winds up working for Leo, the head vampire of the entire region. In subsequent books, she works with Leo to investigate incidents involving other vampires, even heading off to North Carolina at one point as a mediator. Jane is not the dainty heroine but an ass kicking, motorcycle riding, take no prisoners badass, but yet Hunter manages to write the books with no gratuitous sex, violence or language, keeping it PG despite the violence. And I doubt you’d have noticed if I hadn’t said that. Great writing, inventive worldbuilding and pure fun. Highly recommended.
4) Hallie Michaels by Deborah Coates– Brand new, the first book having just arrived a few months back, this series surprised me too. A new author sent to me by Alexis Nixon, publicist at TOR, Coates’ stories have appeared in Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Fantasy and Science Fiction and Best American Fantasy, amongst other places. Hallie Michaels is a soldier fighting a war in Afghanistan when she’s called home for her sister’s funeral. The police and townsfolk say “suicide,” but Hallie can’t believe it and her investigation into it uncovers a startling plot that endangers the entire town. Something magical or supernatural is going on and a trail of bodies are associated with it. She soon discovers someone she used to know is responsible and winds up fighting for her life. I don’t know where book 2 will take us when it comes out, but Coates used the rural South Dakota setting masterfully in Wide Open and I can’t wait to read more!
5) Sookie Stackhouse by Charlaine Harris – I came to this series late, after already watching the TV show, because I was invited to interview Harris. (Confession: yes, I watch True Blood despite my lack of interest in vampires. It hooked me early on and I can’t look away, okay? Is that so wrong? Plus, I have a crush on Anna Paquin…) The books are better than the series and filled with great humor, southern charm and fun. I really enjoyed these. Told solely from Sookie’s quirky point of view, these are fast, can’t put them down reads. I can’t wait to read more.
6) Control Point by Myke Cole – Not your typical urban fantasy, Cole, a veteran of the Gulf War, has envisioned a contemporary world with various types of magic. The military even has a special unit assigned to hunt down rogue users. A few with the approved classes of magic actually work for the military, but then Oscar Britton finds out he’s a portomancer–ah oh, verbotten–and he’s forced to run, leaving everything behind. Caught and interned for training by the military he’s sworn to serve, he discovers the gift is the least of his worries. An evil magical force is on the rise and this Army officer must save the world or else. Packed with action and intrigue and great characters, Cole takes you inside military life in an intimate way and still makes you believe its a world where magic could happen. Gritty and powerful, this book opened my eyes to possibilities for creativity I hadn’t imagined and it’ll open yours too.
7) Grigori Legacy by Linda Poitevin – Ah, angels, the tired 80s trope are back. I booked Linda for chat and expected to be bored. Instead, I found myself reading two detective thrillers that just happened to have angels in them. Heaven and hell are at war and humans are caught in between, including homicide detective Alexandra Jarvis whose investigation of a serial killer points to a surprising and unusual suspect. Yes there’s angels and a romance between an angel and a human. Yes, there’s God and the Devil and some Catholic theological worldbuilding used here, but Poitevin used it to enhance worldbuilding not to sell an ideology or religion. Gritty, intense, fast-paced and engaging. Another set of books you won’t want to put down until you reach the end.
8 ) Low Town by Daniel Polansky – Another departure and one that’s hard to classify but I’m putting it here. Unlike the others, it’s not set in our contemporary world but a fictional medieval -type world and the protagonist is a disgraced intelligence agent and forgotten war hero turned independent drug dealer. Yes, that’s right. Known as the Warden, he leads a life of crime, addicted to cheap violence and expensive drugs as he constantly hustles for customers and protecting his turf from competition. Then he discovers a murdered child and feels compelled to discover who’s responsible. The mission finds him caught up in a dangerous game of deception between underworld bosses and the psychotic head of Black House intelligence bureau that once employed him. What he finds is far more sinister and dark than he’d ever imagined. Noir and action packed, Polansky has invented a genre almost. He mixes epic/adventure fantasy and urban fantasy with detective noir seamlessly and it’s a compelling debut. Book 2 arrives this Fall.
9) Magic Ex Libris by Jim C. Hines – Hines switches from Goblins and fairy tale princesses to an urban fantasy about Libriomancers, basically people who can pull magic from books and use it in the contemporary world. Hines is a smartass in real life and it extends to his writing, but that’s okay, because the book is laugh out loud funny as a result and endears you tot he characters. This is a voice you’ll be willing to spend time with for a while, and it won’t be long because Libriomancer is a fast, compelling read. Isaac Vainio, a member of the secret order of Libriomancers founded by Johannes Gutenberg himself (yes, that Gutenberg), Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the pages of books into our world and barely manages to escape. Then he discovers his mentor has been killed and Gutenberg himself kidnapped and a hot, motorcyle-riding dryad shows up asking him to help track down her former lover, leading to their discovery of a dark power that’s manipulating both vampires and humans and causing major havoc. Hines cleverly incorporates the mythos of every vampire world you’ve encountered, creating a world of vampire types and layers, and throws in books by famous authors real and imagined as well. Fun, fast-paced, with plenty of action and good coming of age and romantic arcs, this book was a delightful way to while away hours. I can’t wait for the second one, coming from Daw next year.
So there you have 9 Urban Fantasy series that I think you’ll really like. Great weekend, summer or Fall reads to keep you entertained and remind you why you love books. I’m looking for more to read now. So what are some of your favorite Urban Fantasies? I’d love to hear about them in comments. Oh, and click here to buy any of these books,too. For what it’s worth… To the writers, I love you guys!
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. A freelance editor, he’s edited novels and nonfiction and also hosts Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
Aspiring Writer and Book Blogger Kris Keegan did it, so I thought a list of my own top genre books would be fun. I am not listing these in any particular order. And where series are involved, I just list the series rather than individual books. But this is a list of books with great meaning to me. Unlike the NPR list which was definitely flawed, this one reflects the books which changed my life in many ways. Some because they opened my mind to new possibilities. Some because they were such a ball. Others for philosophical or craft reasons. In any case, it’s a personal list. I’m sure many of your favorites might be missing and some listed you might question. Feel free to recommend books for future reading in comments.
1) The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
2) The Chronicles Of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
3) The Majipoor series by Robert Silverberg
4) The First Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson
5) A Song Of Ice And Fire by George R.R. Martin
6) The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov
7) Animal Farm by George Orwell
8 ) Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
9) The Psalms of Isaak by Ken Scholes
10) The Greywalker books by Kat Richardson
11) The Thrawn Books by Timothy Zahn
12) Splinter Of A Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster
13) Death Of A Starship by Jay Lake
14) The Quadrail Series by Timothy Zahn
15) Deadman Switch by Timothy Zahn
16) The Retrieval Artist series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
17) The War of The Worlds by HG Wells
18 ) 20000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne
19) The Chronicle Of A Distant World series by Mike Resnick
20) The Falling Machine by Andrew Mayer
21) The Unremembered by Peter Orullian
22) Black Blade Blues by John A. Pitts
23) V: East Coast Crisis by A.C. Crispin & Howard Weinstein
24) Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
25) The Ender books by Orson Scott Card
26) The Eye Of The World by Robert Jordan
27) Goblin Corps by Ari Marmell
28 ) Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
29) The Time Machine by HG Wells
30) Journey To The Center Of The Earth by Jules Verne
31) The Elenium by David Eddings
32) The Tamuli by David Eddings
33) Kirinyaga by Mike Resnick
34) A Hymn Before Battle by John Ringo
35) The Sherlock Holmes books by Arthur Conan Doyle
36) Tarzan Of The Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
37) Nightfall by Isaac Asimov & Robert Silverberg
38 ) Ivory by Mike Resnick
39) The Outpost by Mike Resnick
40) Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
41) Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind
42) Diving Into The Wreck by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
43) Mainspring by Jay Lake
44) The Secret Of Sinharat by Leigh Brackett
45) Jedi Search by Kevin J. Anderson
46) Deceived by Paul S. Kemp
47) The Skylark of Space by Edward E. Smith
48 ) Thinner by Richard Bachman
49) The Stand by Stephen King
50) Starship Troopers by Robert Heilein
51) Interview With A Vampire by Anne Rice
52) Brasyl by Ian McDonald
53) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein
54) Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
55) Misery by Stephen King
56) Watership Down by Richard Adams
57) Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
58 ) The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice
59) Firestarter by Stephen King
60) This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti
61) Dona Flor And Her Two Husbands by Jorge Amado
62) Jaws by Peter Benchley
63) The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
64) The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales
65) A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
66) The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
67) Steampunk Prime edited by Mike Ashley
68 ) The Tales of Uncle Remus
69) Spellwright by Blake Charlton
70) Black Halo by Sam Sykes
I am stopping at 70 for various reasons. For one, I really have fallen behind in reading classics and keeping up with a lot of other genre fiction. For years I focused on nonfiction research during my masters and other genres as well. So, while I read a lot in my youth and in the past three years, my reading pile occupies most of my bookshelves and I am way behind. But these are the books I remember most fondly of those I’ve read. They are certainly not all. And I will revise and add to this as time goes on. Which are your favorites? What would your list include? Feel free to post in comments. I’d love to hear them.