Thursday, October 31, 2013

My story "Will YOU Volunteer to Kill Wendy?" is now up at GALAXY'S EDGE!

It's fantasy/horror with a bit of literary criticism thrown in.

It will be online for free until the January 2014 issue of the magazine comes out, then this link won't work.  Here is the cover art for the printed version:

I'm very excited about this publication.  I hope you all enjoy!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

How I Came to Write "Follow Us on Facebook and Twitter"

I've done my first 'guest blog.' (I've always thought that the term seemed like one that didn't need to be invented.)

Patricia Abbott, whose story "Mad Women," appears alongside my "Follow Us on Facebook and Twitter," in the new anthology MALFEASANCE OCCASIONAL: GIRL TROUBLE, invited me to describe the genesis of my own story. I did so here:

Thanks for hosting me, Patti.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My New Mystery Story is Free Online

"The woman who fired me has a lovely daughter."


 Sometimes, first lines just come to you. When I wrote that down, I knew I had a menacing story to go with it.


The full text of my story, "Follow Us on Facebook and Twitter," is now available to roll out the premiere issue of The Malfeasance Occasional.

 The Malfeasance Occasional (The M.O.): Girl Trouble Issue

I'm excited about the venue for this. The Malfeasance Occasional is an e-book put out by the mystery web site Criminal Element, which is a venture of Macmillan publishers. They get a lot of traffic, so I'm hoping to get a whole new audience.


 My story was chosen to be the online enticement ahead of the publication of the entire issue (perhaps because the very title lends itself to viral marketing!)


Although my story is free, the e-book itself is a steal at a mere $3.99 for tales by fourteen authors, who have between them decades of experience and publication credits.  You're in the hands of the pros here.  It is available on Amazon Kindle and for the Nook.  If you use another e-book reader, this link from Macmillan should help you find your preferred seller.


My thanks to The Malfeasance Occasional Editor Clare Toohey for all of her work on this project. 


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My New Story is Licensed Fan Fiction ... With Penises. Lots of Penises.

E. L. James makes no bones about the fact that her 50 Shades of Grey trilogy started off as dirty True Blood fan fiction.  She dropped the vampire angle, changed the names, and the result was phenomenal sales of books (and vibrator batteries).

Well, I’ve written some fan fiction now, too.  Is it smutty?  Yeah, kinda.  If you call mentions of porn stars and giant penises smutty.  Oh, you do?

Unfortunately, it’s only a short story, so I won’t be getting any 50 Shades-style riches.  It’s licensed fan fiction through a new-ish program from Amazon called Kindle Worlds.

Amazon signed deals with various intellectual property owners.  Fans can publish their stories and even novels using the copyrighted worlds, exclusively through this portal.  (If E. L. James had tried to sell her novels without changing the names and ambiance from the copyrighted True Blood characters, her trilogy would have been called 50 Shades of Sued, then 50 Shades of Broke, and finally 50 Shades of Living in a Cardboard Box). 

You, the writer of the fan fiction, get a percentage of the sale.  There are some restrictions.  Chief among them: no erotica.  Why did I write a story with smutty elements, then?  Keep reading.

You can see the list of available licensed worlds here.  Some are literary properties (the Silo Saga), some are TV shows (Gossip Girl), and some are a mystery to me (Bloodshot? X-O Manowar?  Hey, to each their own).

From what I understand, the Kindle Worlds program has been around for about two months.  A month ago, the anonymous Kindle Worlds official blogger noted that there were now 100 fan works for sale now.  So clearly, there are people who are excited about this.

Being the nerd I am, I chose to jump in and experiment with this using ….

… drumroll  please …


That’s right, Kurt Vonnegut.  Alongside The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars, comes the work of one of the literary giants of the 20th century.  An accessible literary giant, who wrote with short, clear sentences and never hid behind cant and pretense.  But a giant nonetheless.  How did this happen?  I dunno. 

It so happened that the day I saw that (the fact that Kurt Vonnegut’s estate had licensed fan fiction rights to Kindle Worlds, that is) I had just finished a story.  So the next one I started was "So It Goes ... Until It Doesn't".

It is a continuation of the story of Billy Pilgrim from Slaughterhouse-Five.  I tried to write parts of it in the style of Vonnegut.  In other places, I dropped the parody in order to be able to tell (what I hope is) a satisfying story.

In trying to capture his voice, I did my best to use mostly 1960s and 1970s references; the kind that would have been roughly contemporary to Slaughterhouse-Five and some of the other novels I referenced.  I also tried to write in his political voice.  For instance, here is a passage from my story that attempts to capture the feel of his mordant observations:
Billy’s home in Ilium, New York was not unusual for a man in his seventies in 1999.  He had been a successful optometrist before his retirement, and his home was quite nice.  Billy had had the great accidental good luck to be born in the 1920s.  He had been an American when a comfortable middle class life was attainable through hard work.

Many red-blooded he-men talked about this phenomenon, calling it, “The American Dream.”  The main components of this Dream had been the basket of government programs enacted in the early 1930s and the mid-1960s:  Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid.  The programs had created a safety net which had kept the poor from starving, and therefore rising up to murder the rich, and had kept the old from living in destitution in their final years.
In other words, the “American Dream,” also called the “American Way of Life,” had been built on unbridled socialism.  The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx, had laid out everything needed to build the country that anti-Communists were so proud of.  So it goes.
Now, understand that the politics of that passage are not quite my politics.  But I believe it is something Vonnegut could have written.  He self-identified as a socialist.  And I hope that I was able to capture some of the flavor of the man in that passage.

Of course, no pastiche featuring Billy Pilgrim would be complete without mention of his "enormous whanger" (Vonnegut's words ... and odd spelling).

Whangers aplenty make their appearance.  Vonnegut was what I would describe as ‘Vulgarity with a mission.’  This is, after all, a man whose story in Harlan Ellison’s legendary Again, Dangerous Visions anthology was entitled “The Big Space F***” (without asterisks; much of my writing is R-rated, but this blog is deliberately not.)  So, I did the vulgarity thing.  At one point in my story, Montana Wildhack tells Billy: “Oh wow, you’re almost as big as John Holmes.”

So if I’m vulgar in my pastiche (and Vonnegut’s 1969 novel was censored by many communities because of its language) do I have a mission, as Vonnegut did?

I think I do.

I went to graduate school and I have a master’s degree in English.  (I didn’t complete the Ph.D. program.)  Looking back, I am very angry about it.  Because I do feel that the English programs in America have lost their sense of wonder, and have been replaced by hack literary criticism.  There are other reasons as well.  If you want to get a sense of how people can be fooled by the nonsense of literary criticism, check out the celebrated Alan Sokol hoax.
The first story I ever sold at professional rates was “Two Dwarves and Eight Chained Ourang-Outangs.”  It was my tribute to Poe.  And that’s how I practice my love of literature now; instead of some silly paper aimed at a single professor’s prejudices, I can create my own work of art that riffs on the author's original.

My Writers of the Future-award-winning story “Gonna Reach Out and Grab Ya,” is inscribed “To Nathaniel Hawthorne, the Master.”  The story cannot be said to resemble anything he wrote … except in one particular.  It features a protagonist who pledges lifelong devotion to a certain idea that others might reasonably consider to be tragic or weird.  I had read Hawthorne for years, but until I finished that story and then impulsively added the dedication, I had never realized that.  It was a wonderful moment.

So, my 5,700+ word story, “So it Goes … Until it Doesn’t” is now available exclusively as a Kindle download.  Kurt Vonnegut, parody, and penises.  For 99 cents, how could you go wrong?


Friday, July 12, 2013

Hurry! "Writers of the Future" for Amazon's Kindle is only $2.99.

Folks, if you've been following my blog, have a Kindle, and want to read my story "Gonna Reach Out and Grab Ya," there's only one thing you can possibly do.  Go on over to Amazon and get the Writers of the Future volume 29 anthology, on sale today only for $2.99 (a $4 savings on Kindle)

I have a black and white kindle myself, but I understand that if you have a Kindle Fire with color screen, the illustrations for each story are in color as well.

This book got a starred review from Publishers Weekly.  (A 'starred review' means they highly recommend it).  It is only the second volume in the 29-year history of the contest to receive this honor.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

My story, "Red Star Falling, in Multimedia" has just been published online at COSMOS. Yeah, for free, you cheapskates.

One of my most experimental pieces has just gone live at COSMOS, the Australian magazine of science and science fiction.  It's pretty dark; I think I conjured my inner Ambrose Bierce on this one.  Hope you enjoy!


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Podcast of My First Professional Sale!

I have a new podcast in which I read my first professional sale!

My story "Two Dwarves and Eight Chained Ourang-Outangs" appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine in June 2011.  It is a retelling of Poe's "Hop-Frog."  EQMM allows its authors to submit podcasts, so I got a friend who has excellent recording equipment and skills to help me.

It just went live today at:

I hope you'll enjoy my reading.  Please comment on my blog if you like it.
When I was notified of this first sale in 2010, I made a diary entry:  "Today is the day that makes all other days possible."  And I was right.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Writers of the Future: The World is a Village, and "That Guy" will be the Outcast. Plus, belated thanks.

(As a winner of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future competition, I attended an invaluable workshop in Los Angeles from April 8-16, 2013, taught by some top professionals.  I will discuss a few of the lessons I learned in a series of posts).

In his fine study of the literature  (both fiction and non-fiction) of the American Civil War, Patriotic Gore, Edmund Wilson made this observation about the insular nature of the Southern aristocracy:

"Yet we are struck, as we read these two diaries, Miss Morgan's and Mrs. Chesnut's, as well as other Southern documents of the period, by the recurrence of the same family names.  Sarah Morgan in Baton Rouge is related to and knows the same families as the Chesnuts in Richmond a thousand miles away."  (from Chapter 8, "Three Confederate Ladies: Kate Stone, Sarah Morgan, Mary Chesnut")

Well, that was then.  In the era of stagecoaches on dirt roads, only the rich were well-traveled enough to know a wide circle of acquaintances.  In the modern age, we're all like those "Three Confederate Ladies."  (A disturbing thought.)

During the Writers of the Future workshop, we were urged to, at all times, be professionals.  We could ruin our reputations by being, as instructor Tim Powers put it, "That Guy." 

"That Guy" being (and this is my exposition on the theme rather than Tim's exact words) the jerk, the braggart, the humble-braggart or just overt braggart, the fanny pincher, the mean drunk, the obvious ass-kisser, the me-me-me attention whore, the one who no one at a writer's convention ever forgets, and not in a good way.

Because you will be remembered.  And frozen out.  Of everything.

You don't believe the world's a village now?  Check this out.


During most of the week at Writers of the Future (WotF) one of our other occasional lecturers was a previous winner from Canada named Jordan.  He and I were at dinner many times together.  Near the end, he mentioned his online magazine, Every Day Fiction.  I sat up.

I have published four stories with Every Day Fiction, the last time barely a week before the start of the WotF workshops!  I wrote an encomium of them in a previous post.  I had always dealt with Editor Camille Gooderham Campbell, and thought of it as "her" magazine.  But Jordan Ellinger is, indeed, the publisher.

"Hey, Jordan, man, I've been in Every Day Fiction," I told him.  "Like, at the end of March, man."

"Oh yeah!" he said.  He kinda remembered author Eric Cline, and I guess I had seen the name of publisher Jordan Ellinger, but we hadn't realized it until that moment.

(I don't have a good picture of Jordan at hand, but just do a Google image search for Matthew Perry, and that will suffice.  Seriously, it's like Jordan's his pod person replacement.  Eerie, man.)

My second unplanned encounter with someone who had already bought my fiction was like lightning in comparison.


I attended a breakfast at the hotel sponsored by WotF.  I sat down at a long half-table/half-booth with several others I had already met, including instructor Dave Farland/Dave Wolverton.  The guy to my left was one of the few people at the breakfast I didn't know by sight.  Someone introduced us: "Eric Cline, this is Scott T. Barnes."

Scott and I had automatically clasped hands in polite greeting when I said, "Hey!  Scott!  I think you just published me.  Like, recently!"

"Yeah!" Scott said, equally amazed.  "Last issue!"  Scott is publisher of, which gave a home to my story, "The Last Listener."

Scott is another alumnus (the WotF weeks are great because several alumni are brought back to recount their own practical experiences to us newbies).  Later, after that moment of genuine and delighted astonishment, we posed for this phony re-enactment:

SO THERE YOU HAVE IT.  One week.  Two online magazine publishers who had bought my work.  No one expected it.  But that's what happens.  It's a small world.

There were other editors there.  People I have never sold to.  And if I had acted like a jerk, I never would. 

This isn't about being phony.  (The above photo notwithstanding).  It's about being professional, which is something different. 

A phony has to try to act like the opposite of what he/she really is, and fools no one in the long run.

A professional strives to be the best version of what he/she is.  A professional strives to embody the most admirable traits of the world he/she really and truly wants to live in.

I believe I was professional at the WotF workshop week.

We'll see, though.  I'm sending stories out now to some of the editors I met that week.  Hopefully, I impressed them.

Oh wait!  I forgot!  You also have to write stories so good that people want to buy them! 




I had prepared an acceptance speech for the Sunday, April 14 awards ceremony, but it was on my laptop.  I had forgotten that I didn't have a printer in my hotel room.  So I sort of winged it when I got to the podium.

When birds wing it, sometimes they hit the occasional power line.  So did I.  I forgot to thank Mr. Daniel Reneau, the talented young artist (and Illustrators of the Future winner) who provided a fantastic illustration for my story:

Sorry I spaced, bro.  Sorry I spaced.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How to Win the Writers of the Future Contest!


I just got back from attending the weeklong workshop and awards ceremony for the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future event.  I was presented with a trophy for my story, "Gonna Reach Out and Grab Ya," which appears in Volume 29.  I am happy, but exhausted.

I will be writing more about this important week in upcoming posts.  But for now, I thought I'd 'pay it forward' by providing advice to aspiring contestants.  I know that thousands of people from all over the world enter it every year, hoping to win one of the generous quarterly cash prizes.
So, with a winner's inside knowledge, I would like to present to you the secret formula for winning!



Try to lose.

The End


Please see my blog another time when I will share some of the pictures from that unforgettable --


You want more?

Oh, all right.



Try to lose.

By writing a lot.

The End

I hope you'll join me at my next post as I discuss…


You don't think that's useful advice?

You want me to expand?



Try to lose.

By writing a lot.

You'll eventually get so good at it that you'll either win the contest, or have a successful career even without winning. 

The End


Don't thank me.  I just wanted to give back.  I….

Damn you.  You want me to expand on this some more?  You still don't get it.

Well brace yourselves, wannabes.  You're about to see how cruel Cruel Cline can be!



Try to lose.

By writing a lot.

You'll eventually get so good at it that you'll either win the contest, or have a successful career even without winning.
Try to write so much, and so well, that you risk losing your amateur status.
I sold two stories to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine before I won.  You get disqualified if you have three professional sales.  If I'd sold one more story at .05 cents a word, I would have been disqualified.  I would not have submitted "Gonna Reach Out and Grab Ya," and would have lost out on $750 in prize money, $500 for anthology rights, and the most valuable part of it, the weeklong seminar.

It would have been a lot to lose.

And yet, I still would have been just fine.  Because I have the habit of writing now.  And I still would have had a career.  (Oh, don't get me wrong.  The seminar week has been invaluable.  I learned things that it would have taken me years to bumble around and discover on my own.  But even before that, I was still heading in the right direction, albeit slowly.)

I push myself to write at least 500 words a day, which is not a lot.  But it's what I can manage on a subway train during my daily commute.  Some days, I have written far more than that, but I always demand that 500 words of myself.

Further, I have a quota to finish a new story once every two weeks.  Two a month.  And if I finish four stories in a month, I just 'reset the clock' you might say, and demand two more stories of myself the next month. 

Now, let's look at the contest.

If you Googled, "how to win writers of the future" and got to this page, you are already familiar with the rules. 

You may enter only once per quarter (beginning of October to end of December, and three more quarters just like that).

You therefore, can only submit four stories to the contest in a single contest year (October 1 through September 30).

If you have written only  stories for the contest -- that is, if you only write one story every three months -- then buddy, you are never going to be a professional writer.

If you have a full-time job and responsibilities at home, you should be able to squeeze out one story a month -- 12 per year, or three per contest quarter.

You should therefore, have more stories than you can submit to the contest.  Exactly two more, right?

You should then submit those two stories elsewhere.

And if you don't, tough.  Move aside.  Plenty of other people want to do this.

Let me rephrase that with better emphasis.

Plenty of other people want to do this.  They want to write and sell stories.

If you don't practice your craft, you won't get good enough to sell.

If you only write four short stories in a single year, you haven't done enough practicing.

You know that wonderful week (actually eight days -- I was there from April 8th through the 16th)?  The one I'm saying was so valuable?

Two of the other winners in volume 29 had to leave a day early because they had to get back to their jobs.  They simply couldn't take even one more day off.  (I maxed out my own leave time as well).

One more had to leave early to be at the bedside of a very ill friend.

All three of them loved the seminar.  We all did.  But they were short on time and other things needed attending to.

And these busy adults still found enough time to practice their writing well enough to win the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest!

You be too.

The End


Saturday, March 30, 2013

"In Over Their Heads" (new flash fiction story) published at Every Day Fiction

My flash fiction (i.e., under 1000 words) short story, "In Over Their Heads," was published March 29, online, at Every Day Fiction.

Here is the permanent link:

It is a noir-ish story set in the present day.  I hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

London Calling (to be Free of the Nazis!)

My new alternate history story, "Our Stern Alarums Chang'd to Merry Meetings," has been published online by Cosmos, the Australian science magazine.

Ahem.  That's science magazine, not science fiction.  Their main business is articles on science for the general reader, with a certain small amount of select science fiction also published.

Select, I say!

Forgive my arrogance, but also forgive the long title; it is a quotation from Shakespeare (read the story for context).

It was the first time I had pitched a story to an editor, then wrote it.  The editor in question, Ms. Cat Sparks, a well-known Australian SF writer and editor, is coincidentally a fellow winner of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award.

There have been a lot of stories about the Nazis winning World War II (which this sort of is; read it for context), and I tried to avoid a wheezy recycling of old cliches.  I hope you'll think I've succeeded.

The story has an endnote shoutout to my fellow author Ross Baxter.  The story takes place in London; he's British; I asked him to check a few things for me (obviously, any remaining mistakes or continuity errors are mine).  Ross has written his own alternate history story which appears in this anthology.


If you liked "Our Stern Alarums Chang'd to Merry Meetings," you should know that I self-published another alternate history story (a novella) online.  I used that other alternate history convention covered with cobwebs: the Confederacy won the American Civil War.

Entitled "The Man Inside," it has been my most popular self-published title.   I was gratified that a reviewer on Amazon called it "one of the better short stories I've downloaded for my Kindle. It's a fun read, and the twist at the end is worthy of an O. Henry story."

Check it out:

Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)

Amazon (DE)

Amazon (FR)

Amazon (ES)

Amazon (IT)

Amazon (JP)

Amazon (CA)

Amazon (BR)

Nook by Barnes & Noble




Sunday, January 20, 2013

Robbed Zombie

Well, I self-published another title recently.  My novella of what happens after the end the zombie apocalypse, Collapse Day, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and at Smashwords' own site (although not on the stores they usually distribute to -- for the reason why, see below).

Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)

Amazon (DE)

Amazon (FR)

Amazon (ES)

Amazon (IT)

Amazon (JP)

Amazon (CA)

Amazon (BR)

Nook by Barnes & Noble (US and, I think, England)


Smashwords (just them ... none of the other e-readers they usually distribute to)

It was instructive because, for the first time, I bought cover art.  (Er, fair warning: this post may be of interest mainly to those other tortured scribes out there who are interested in self-publishing.)

Let's face it.  All of my other stories have had artwork or design (by me) ranging from talented amateur to rank amateur.  Hey, what can I say; I got no budget here.

But the world of self-publishing is changing.  Better quality in formatting and cover images are becoming the norm.

Someone did an experiment once:  A banquet of delicious food was laid out on a table.  But it was lit up with a green-tinted lightbulb.  The volunteers, asked to eat the food, got nauseous.  The food itself was great, but the green sheen of the lightbulb -- the presentation, in other words -- was just too much to overcome.  They knew there was nothing wrong with the food, but they couldn't overcome the image.

The same is surely true with cover art.  I did a few that will stand the test of time.  But others, not so much.  I hope to swap out all of the inadequate art soon enough.  Meanwhile, please forgive.

I love the image I chose (from iStockphoto) to illustrate Collapse Day because it really captures part of the spirit of the novella.  No, there's no zombie girl with a sign saying "will work for food" in the story itself.  But it's a parable of the economic divide -- the difference in social class, actually -- between those who defend society and the ruling class.


I publish on Smashwords because they're an aggregator who distribute e-books to sites such as iTunes and many smaller markets.  You can publish anything to sell on Smashwords alone (they are not a major seller in and of themselves), but in order to get your work distributed to other sites, you have to meet some minimum standards of formatting competence and cover adequacy.  They call this "premium" status, meaning that your work will be distributed.

But when I uploaded this one, I got an "autovetter error."  Smashwords' software picked up this sad fact: my cover image was less than 1,400 pixels in width.  They started requiring this on July 15, 2012, which was after the last self-published story previous to Collapse Day.  Those older titles were grandfathered in.

In other words, the best, most professional cover I have done for any of my self-published stories is not fit to sit on the e-shelf next to my older, lesser covers ... because it didn't meet the new, high standard.

And why the new, high standard?  Because iTunes (one of the major outlets that Smashwords distributes to) supplies e-books to those fancy iPads, you know, the new ones with the ....

... drum roll please ...

... higher resolution screens!

And because it doesn't quite meet the standard for iTunes, Smashwords won't distribute it anywhere.

This shows how much I have to learn about this business.

When those umpteen-million stories appeared in the media about how the new iPad had all these great features, including a new higher resolution screen, I never said to myself, "Gee, I wonder what that will do for covers on e-reading devices."

From now on, I'll have to pick up on that.

Meanwhile, I'm experimenting with ways to make the cover fit the new standards so I can be distributed to iTunes (and other outlets served by Smashwords).  I can't use a higher resolution stock image, because I purchased only a medium resolution image, thinking it was good enough.  (The prices, at least to my meager purse, seem to climb exponentially with the pixels).  Basically, I'd have to buy the image again, at a higher resolution.

Poor me.

Oh, who am I kidding.  I love this!  I love being able to self-publish my works.  Some of the stories I've put up on the e-reader sites got held for further consideration by major magazines, but ultimately turned down.  I know they're good.  And now, despite all of the pains of being the guy who does the formatting, the cover illustration, the uploading, the ad copy, all of it ... despite those inconveniences, I have an audience for good stories that just wouldn't fit in the handful of genre magazines that are left.

My thanks to all of you who have bought my self-published works.  I hope you enjoy them.  And I promise to make those layouts and those covers look as good as possible. 

I wouldn't want you to get sick from eating green food.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Link to See the Artwork (and Beginning) of My Newest Story in EQMM!

Hey there, screaming, loyal fans!  Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine has a link that will give you an excerpt from my story "One of Those Plans-the-Perfect-Crime-but-then-Something-Goes-Teddibly,-Teddibly-Wrong Stories," published in their February 2013 issue.

I love this link because it allows you to see the excellent, pulp-fiction artwork by Mark Evan Walker that accompanies it.

Cruel Cline says ... check it out!