August Update

Hard to believe, but the summer is already waning. (Or, as the Starks say, winter is coming.)

It’s been a long last year-and-a-half, but for some reason this summer has flown by…in some ways. In others, it feels like an entire lifetime has been lived in but three months. I have a few blog post ideas about writing craft that I’ve been kicking around, but since it’s been a while since I posted a proper update, I figured I’d start there. A lot has happened here these past few months, and I’d be remiss not to talk about it!

Where to even start?

First, the biggest (and most relevant) news to you: THE MODERN DEITY’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING HUMANITY is available now wherever you buy books. This anthology features 15 urban fantasy short stories, revolving around ancient gods adapting to the modern day in intriguing ways. My story, “The Teotl of Gaming,” is one of them. “Teotl” follows Macuilxochitl, the Aztec god of games, as he tries to get by as the head of an online gaming company…while moonlighting as a gambler to stave off the deific equivalent of a midlife crisis. As you might expect, things spiral out of control pretty quickly.

I’m really proud of how this story turned out, and that it’s part of a book with such an incredible line-up of authors. It was my first real foray into urban fantasy, and Macuilxochitl was a blast to write about. The book is available in several different print and ebook formats. All that good info is up on the Fiction page.

We just passed the one month mark since the release of THE MODERN DEITY’S GUIDE…but my focus has been divided into quite a few other areas as well.

The other largest thing I’ve had going on is that my epic fantasy novel, THE FOREST HEART, is out on submission to publishers. This is a story rooted in my soul, and it’s been so exciting to work with the Seymour Agency to get it out into the world. It’s been on sub for a few months now, which means I’m in that “questioning every decision I’ve ever made and courting madness,” phase of the process. I’m told this is pretty normal, but boy will I be glad when we move past it. Having a novel on submission is a lot of waiting, knowing that the book is either in the inbox of an editor you’re hoping to work with…or possibly even being read and considered by them. It’s a very exciting thing, as well as an anxiety-inducing one.

One way I’ve been combating the anxiety is by staying busy. I’ve been writing articles over at Winter Is Coming of course, about everything from Spider-Man rumors to dreamcasting the “10,000 Ships” Game of Thrones spin-off that’s being developed and beyond. I have a piece that went up this past weekend about a different GoT spin-off, the upcoming House of the Dragon, which was a lot of fun to research and write. It’s always a good time at WiC, nerding out about awesome sci-fi and fantasy stories.

On the fiction end of things, I’ve been diving into a different epic fantasy book series, THE PLANERENDER PROPHECY. This series is one I’ve been developing for nearly my entire writing life. It was one of the very first stories I imagined. Some of those scenes go back to when I was a teenager, washing dishes at the local café and daydreaming about seven-foot tall demons covered in blue scales. I finished the first book of the series, WHISPER OF THE DEIMWOOD, back in 2012, and nearly published it with a small press at the time before moving on to THE FOREST HEART. (That, however, is a story for another time.)

Now that THE FOREST HEART is on submission and I’m taking a mandatory break from that world, it’s been the perfect time to get back to DEIMWOOD. I’ve been hard at work revising it, figuring out what parts can be salvaged and which need to be totally rewritten. As you might guess, going back to a story after almost a decade away means there are a lot of opportunities for improvement. It’s nice to be rekindling my love for that tale, and re-immersing myself in its world.

When I’m not writing DEIMWOOD or articles, I have a handful of short stories in various stages of development as well, which I’m hoping to submit to several upcoming anthologies. The one I’ve talked about the most is a hard sci-fi, which I’m planning on submitting to one of the new Zombies Need Brains anthologies. ZNB just launched their kickstarter for those, and they look pretty awesome. As always, once the kickstarter funds they’re open submission. A pretty great opportunity for writers interested in doing SFF short stories, in my somewhat-biased opinion.

When I’m not doing all that…well, I still try to play music when I can. Always something going on here. I played my first live show since the pandemic last month, three hours of just me and an acoustic guitar. It was a really fun time, and definitely has me looking forward to getting out and playing some more. Provided the world doesn’t go into lockdown again. But since that looks like a hairy proposition at best…we shall see.

One final thing I’ll leave you with: I’ll be putting together my first newsletter mailing later this month. If you’ve read this far into the update, it might be the sort of thing you’d enjoy. I’ll be going into a bit more detail about what I’m working on, general thoughts on the publishing industry, glimpses at other fun creative projects, and exclusive previews of my current writing projects. As well as plenty of other stuff, as time goes on. My plan is for the newsletter to be a quarterly email, since no one likes to get spammed.

If you’re interested, you can sign up for it here:

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Be well, and be excellent to one another!

Joshua Palmatier talks Short Story Anthologies, Writing, and Zombies Need Brains

Tomorrow marks the release of THE MODERN DEITY’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING HUMANITY, along with its two sister anthologies, DERELICT and WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE. To mark the occasion, I sat down with Joshua Palmatier, founder and editor of Zombies Need Brains, to talk about the short story anthology format, writing craft, and what goes into building books like these.

We also discussed the themes for the next ZNB kickstarter, and talked a bit about what it’s like to sift through the slush pile. If you’re a writer and are interested in writing short stories (especially science fiction or fantasy), Joshua drops some great wisdom for that sort of thing. Check out the full interview above!

“[Open submissions are] one of the things I always wanted to do, because in my opinion, often our strongest stories are coming from the writers that have never been published before.”

– Joshua Palmatier

Links in the Video

Zombies Need Brains website —

Joshua Palmatier website —

Twitter@ZNBLLC , @bentateauthor

FacebookZombies Need Brains , Joshua B. Palmatier


Tips for #PitMad Success

It’s that time again: #PitMad is fast approaching. If you’re not familiar, PitMad is a writing pitch party on Twitter. The premise is simple: for a whirlwind 12 hours, writers seeking publication or representation from an agent post tweets pitching their books…and if an agent or acquisitions editor “hearts” the pitch, it’s an invitation for the writer to submit the book to them. And, hopefully, take a huge next step on their journey toward publication.

Pitch parties aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution on the road to publishing, of course, and there is an enormous element of chance involved. But aside from the obvious “home-run” of landing an agent or publisher, pitch parties can generally just be incredibly useful networking tools. Admittedly I’m a little biased–pitch parties have been a huge help in my writing career. I met my agent through a PitMad in September 2020, and participating in these events has been instrumental in helping me connect with the Writing Community online.

Given all that, I thought maybe there were a few bits of wisdom (read: tips gained by painful experience) that I could share with you. I’m also going to tell you the single best piece of PitMad advice I ever received. It was a total game changer that helped me not only have way more success during pitch parties, but also enjoy them much more. It’s probably not a coincidence that I was given this advice only a couple of days before the PitMad where I connected with my agent.

But before we get into the tips, a note on pitches…

What we aren’t going to talk about here is how to craft your actual pitch tweets. There are a ton of people and places online that have already summed that up far better than I could. This advice is geared toward navigating the actual pitch party itself. It assumes that your pitches are already amazing, and that your book has been written and polished to a publishable level. That stuff has to come first. Without pitches that will stop people in their tracks mid-social media scroll and pages that actually deliver, no amount of PitMad savvy will make the difference.

But let’s just assume your pitches have genius hooks, and your book is a masterpiece. What can you do to navigate #PitMad well, and add to your chances for success?

  • Go read the official #PitMad guidelines.
    Yes, I’m serious. You would be amazed at how many people don’t do this very simple step. (I know I am. Every single PitMad.) It only takes a few minutes, and is an essential part of setting yourself up for success. More, these guidelines sometimes change slightly from one event to the next, so it’s important to check them before every pitch party you plan to participate in. If you aren’t willing to spend 15 minutes researching to make sure you use the right hashtags for a pitch event, what does that tell publishing professionals about your work mentality and attention to detail? It’s right in the same wheelhouse of folly as addressing your queries “dear agent.” Luckily it’s so easy to avoid this pitfall. Research: it is your friend.
  • Focus on having fun and connecting with other writers.
    This is it. The big piece of advice that totally changed how I approached PitMad. A lot of the other tips stem from this one, so we need to talk about it first. A few days before the PitMad where I connected with my agent, I told my wife that I was thinking about not participating. Her response was “why don’t you just focus on having fun and connecting with other writers?”

    This mental shift changed everything for me.

    It might seem counterintuitive, but the truth is that once I stopped obsessively checking my own pitches for hearts and started just, you know, connecting with other writers and helping them boost their pitches, I ended up not only having way more fun but also seeing better results. Beyond making your pitches and pages as good as you can, much of what happens on the actual day of PitMad will be beyond your control. So you might as well focus on having fun and meeting other creatives, because that is in your control and pitch parties are an excellent opportunity to meet some of your peers.

    (There is a numbers-game element to PitMad as well, where the more you are retweeted, the better your chances of getting seen. And one of the best ways to get RT’d a lot (aside from having an incredible pitch), is to do the legwork to help share the work of others. Many will do the same for you. Publishing is an industry built on relationships, so you might as well start getting used to it now!)
As for navigating the actual event itself…
  • A few days before PitMad, start making a List.
    Twitter has a handy list function, which is perfect for an event like PitMad. On the day of the pitch party, your feed will likely be moving extremely fast. So fast, in fact, that it can be difficult to find your friends to help boost their pitches. (Which obviously, goes both ways.) So, what I would recommend is that a few days before PitMad, you start making a list of anyone you see tweeting about their plans to pitch who you want to support. And go one step further–if they posted, comment on their thread and let them know you’ll be supporting them. And let them know you’ll be pitching as well. This will make it so that during the event you can find those connections and retweet their pitches much more easily. Even if you don’t rely exclusively on your list (which you shouldn’t), it can still be very helpful.
  • Offer to retweet other writers.
    This goes hand-in-hand with the last tip. Posting during the lead-up to PitMad, offering to support others and letting the #WritingCommunity know that you’ll be pitching, is a solid idea. You can even take this a step further and post during PitMad day as well. (Just be conscientious about using the #PitMad hashtag on the day itself, because it can flood the hashtag and make it harder for agents to find actual pitches.)
  • If you can, dedicate the day to PitMad.
    Ok, so let’s start this one out by saying that obviously, not everyone will be able to do this and that’s fine. We all have jobs, families, pets, other responsibilities, whatever. But if you are able to dedicate the day of PitMad to the event, I highly recommend you do so. Pitch parties are one of those things where the energy you put into it is directly proportionate to what you get out of it. (Again, not just talking about agent/publisher notice, but also connecting with other creatives and making friends.) So if you can finangle your schedule to accommodate a day of Twittering, you should try it. PitMad only happens 4 times a year. Think of it as a networking/author platform building day if you need to mentally justify the time spent. It won’t even be a lie.
  • Schedule your Pitch Tweets.
    You know what’s not fun? Scrambling to perfect your pitches amidst all the mayhem on the day of PitMad, and then haphazardly throwing them up.

    Know what’s way more fun than that?

    Scheduling your pitches ahead of time, using a service like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. This way, during the actual event you can focus on networking and helping boost your fellow writers without needing to worry about your pitches. The sweet spot for me was scheduling my tweets the night before the event. Because let’s be real, anticipation keeps us up late then anyways.
  • Bookmark your Pitch Tweets as they go live.
    This is for easy navigation and access, because your feed is going to be flying during the pitch party. It’ll make it easier to check back on your pitches, to share them if someone asks, etc etc.
  • Pin your favorite pitch to your profile.
    This one is absolutely critical. If you want to give your pitch a good chance for visibility, you need to pin it to the top of your profile. Otherwise, when people go to retweet for you, there’s a chance they won’t be able to find your pitch. Some people advise switching your pinned pitch to each new one as it goes live, others say to just leave your favorite. So far as I’ve been able to tell, there’s no hard and fast rule where that’s concerned. But what is certain, is that you should have a pitch pinned to your profile for the duration of PitMad. And leave it up for a few days after, because sometimes agents aren’t able to respond during the actual hours of PitMad itself.
  • Keep querying.
    “Wait,” you might be saying, “I thought we were going to talk about succeeding with pitch parties. Why do I need to worry about querying?”

    To answer that, let’s imagine your dream situation. An agent or publisher you’ve had your eye on hearts your pitch. Or multiple agents heart your pitch. Guess what you have to do next?

    That’s right: send them a query letter, likely with your first pages attached. Just like you would normally. The only difference is they will be expecting it, and therefore more likely to give it a longer look (aka. it is a “solicited submission”). You need to be honing your query muscles, because you will need them one way or another. The last thing you want is to have an agent invite you to submit, and then totally botch the submission because you’ve only been focusing on pitch party strategies and can’t write a good query to save your life.

    So keep sending out queries between pitch parties. There are things we may grow to regret with the passage of time, like eating that leftover pizza or skipping out on yoga. Polishing up your query game, I guarantee you, will not be one of them.

That’s it. Those are the tips.

Pitch parties can be an amazing way to connect with other writers, as well as publishing professionals. There’s nothing to lose in trying them, and a whole lot to gain.

Good luck! May the odds be ever in your favor.

Modern Deity Release Date!!

I got the good word yesterday that The Modern Deity’s Guide to Surviving Humanity officially has a release date! The book is coming out on July 15th, alongside its two sister anthologies, Derelict and When Worlds Collide. Each one features upwards of 14 short stories from a fantastic roster of science fiction and fantasy authors. Which I guess means if you got all three, you’d have enough short stories to last you the rest of the summer, at the least!

The Modern Deity’s Guide is a collection of stories that imagines how ancient gods could have adapted to the modern day. If you’ve ever seen the show American Gods or read the book by Neil Gaiman, this is right in the same ball park. My story, “The Teotl of Gaming,” is about the Aztec god of games Macuilxochitl trying to run an MMORPG company. But day jobs don’t necessarily come easily to deities. Throw in Macuil’s moonlighting as a gambler, and things quickly spiral out of control…which is just how the god of games likes them.

Since this is a little bit of an untraditional release cycle, I wanted to take a minute to give you an update on all the different places and times that the anthology will become available. Zombies Need Brains is a small press that publishes three themed sci-fi/fantasy anthologies annually, funded by a yearly kickstarter. They’ve been doing this sort of thing for upwards of a decade at this point, and their anthologies are beautiful. I’m beyond excited to have my first published piece of fiction be a part of one of their books.

So, where can you get it?

The Modern Deity’s Guide to Surviving Humanity is currently available for preorder in two places. The first is on Amazon, where you can preorder the book for Kindle. The second is directly from Zombies Need Brains’ website, where you can preorder a physical copy as well as ebook. The print version you can preorder now, from ZNB’s site, is a limited edition mass market paperback. This is the ‘first edition,’ so to speak, which is also what everyone who backed the kickstarter will be receiving. The kickstarter edition is a limited printing of only 500 copies. Once they are gone, they are gone. They will hopefully be shipping out before the July 15th release date as well, so not only is this a limited edition, but you’ll be getting it early. If you order the ebook directly from Zombies Need Brains, the link will go out around the same time that the kickstarter editions start shipping. (Again, hopefully. We’re at the mercy of the printer’s schedule, and everything in publishing is running a little bit behind since the pandemic. But as of now, it’s looking likely that the kickstarter editions will be going out ahead of release day.)

Come July 15th, the book will become widely available on other ebook platforms, and it will be getting a general trade paperback release that same day…which means that if you missed the kickstarter edition, you can still get a physical copy of the book. There is no preorder for the trade paperback or the other ebook platforms, so if you prefer to go for one of these formats, all you need to do is go to your retailer of choice on release date and order it.

I’m in the process of laying this info out all nicely with links and such on the Fiction page for future convenience, but wanted to give you the details immediately. [Update: All preorder information, including for Nook and Kobo, is now up on the Fiction page.]

Thank you for taking this journey with me. I can’t wait to share “Teotl” with you, and to see how you react to all the other amazing stories in the anthology as well. I’ve had the chance to read a few of them, and am totally humbled to be among such incredible company.

Adding to the excitement: now that we’re closing in on release day, we can share more about the book. So here’s the full cover artwork, including the back copy!

And there you have it. The Modern Deity’s Guide to Surviving Humanity, out on July 15th! I hope to see you on the mountaintop, where I will be shouting about this regularly for the next few months.

The Teotl of Gaming

The news is out! My short story “The Teotl of Gaming” is going to be published this summer, as part of an anthology called THE MODERN DEITY’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING HUMANITY. The anthology is being published by the indie press Zombies Need Brains, and contains 15 fantastic stories by sci-fi and fantasy authors exploring how ancient deities might adapt to the modern world. You can find the full announcement from the publisher, including pre-order info, here. I’ve also posted a small synopsis of “Teotl” over on the Fiction page. And just in case you missed it, here’s another look at the gorgeous cover art for the DEITY’S GUIDE by Justin Adams of Varia Studios.

I thought it might be kind of cool to mark the occasion by taking to the blog and talking a little bit about the origins for this story. “Teotl” follows Macuilxochitl, the Aztec god of games, as he tries to adapt to modern times by running an MMORPG company. It feels pretty appropriate then, to admit that I first learned of Macuilxochitl from a video game.

The first time I became aware of the god of games was while playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider in 2019. In that game, you pick up various relics as you explore a lost mesoamerican city, and they often have small bits of flavor text about various gods and goddesses or ill-fated expeditions. One of them referenced a god of games, and no doubt I chuckled to myself about how cool that concept was before I promptly continued tomb raiding and forgot about it.

Then in early 2020, Zombies Need Brains announced the themes for their three current anthologies. Short stories are something I’ve long struggled with as a writer, but I had decided that this was the year I was going to try my hand at one and submit it. I wasn’t totally sure what to write, however. I really wanted to submit to THE MODERN DEITY’S GUIDE, because writing about gods and goddesses wrangling with deific quandaries is kind of my jam…but I struggled to come up with anything original or interesting enough to pursue.

That was when the god of games tickled at the back of my memory. I sat down with Tomb Raider again until I came back across the relic that talked about him. Now I was in the right mindset for it to all click together. Finally, I had a name and character to rally behind.

Macuilxochitl. God of games, gambling, music, dance, and the sacred ball game (among other things). He also punished those who followed such pursuits to excess.

Screenshot from Shadow of the Tomb Raider. And yes, Patolli is in the story.

The idea came to me that Macuilxochitl could be running an MMORPG company, in essence trading in his roving ways for a “steady paycheck of worship.” I have been a World of Warcraft player since 2005, so I knew pretty firsthand how loyal the fanbase for those kinds of games can be. It seemed like it would be a totally natural progression for a game god trying to get by in the 21st Century. Plus I knew that the more out-of-the-box the idea, the better my chances of being selected for the anthology…and I was willing to bet that there wouldn’t be many other stories about the Aztec god of games running a video game company.

From there, it became a matter of storycrafting. I am an outliner, even with shorter works. I developed a scene-by-scene breakdown of the story, the conflicts, the characters. I did research. A lot of research. “The Teotl of Gaming” is the first story I’ve ever written that wasn’t set in a secondary fantasy world. It was drawing on real-life mythology, and I felt that I had an obligation to do right by and be respectful of the material and culture that I was drawing inspiration from.

It didn’t all go exactly as planned, of course. There were plot elements in my original outline that just didn’t work out; others that worked better than expected. An organic conflict arose out of Macuilxochitl’s character, and then made itself known as the main arc which the story was revolving around. The tale changed in the telling, as they often do. It is an exact science, after all. (Said no writer ever.)

The result is a piece that I’m really proud of, and am so excited to share with you. Only a few more months until you can read it!

Welcome to my Domain

Hello there! By some stroke of the fates, it seems you’ve stumbled onto my new website. First off, thank you for stopping by and checking it out! I’ve blogged in the past, but never exclusively about writing. I’m pretty psyched to finally have a space for that. Really, it’s pretty crazy that I never have until now.

And why now? If you’ve come here from Twitter or Instagram, the chances are good you know that I recently hit the milestone in my writing career of signing with a literary agent. That, combined with a few other exciting developments like selling my first short story (forthcoming later this year), made it pretty clear that I could no longer avoid starting a website for my writing.

I say “avoid,” because I have most certainly been one of those writers who refrained from starting a website because I wasn’t quite “there yet.” I hadn’t sold a story, didn’t have books on shelves. Even when my freelance work was getting almost 100,000 views in a month, I still found excuses. Why would anyone care enough to go to a website dedicated to my writing? I didn’t have the street cred!

Obviously, there’s plenty to be said about imposter syndrome. Enough to write whole posts–which I will most certainly be doing here at some point in the future. Because this blog, this space…this is for sharing deep thoughts and musings with you. Thoughts about writing and the publishing industry. About books and shows and movies I’ve loved, events I’m taking part in, and the process of nurturing a story from the seed of an idea to a completed work cultivated by blood, sweat, and tears.

In short, this is a space for me to just nerd out. And hopefully, for you to have fun and nerd out with me. Because creating stories is freaking cool. I love talking about them, and if you’re here, I’d wager you do too. I’m looking forward to discussing them with you, and sharing all the exciting moments that lie ahead in my journey as an author.

As Deckard Cain would say…I hope you’ll stay a while and listen.