P.20: My Current Submissions and Why I Sent Them, 10/27/15

The blog’s another ten posts in, so it’s time to talk about my submissions.

When I first posted about my submissions (on 9/6/15), I had 7 stories out.

  • My 3400 word sci fi piece that I sent to Crossed Genres for their August pronouns and gender submission theme is still alive. Woot! Given that The (Submission) Grinder shows CG’s released the kraken of rejections — and mine wasn’t one of them — I’m feeling pretty good about this! (**crosses fingers**)
  • Of the six rejections, I got two personal rejections. Count me as happy.
  • After my poem was rejected from Interfiction, I decided to turn it into flash fiction and thought it came out well. I sent the new version to Daily Science Fiction (since they’ll publish very-short pieces), but they ended up passing. DSF is one of my favorite things to read, though, and flash can be fun to write, so placing a story with DSF continues to be a big goal of mine.

I’ve also sent out another five stories, all of which are still alive.

  • I wrote a 5200 word urban fantasy story for the upcoming Were- Anthology series from Zombies Need Brains, LLC. I like to write for open submission calls for anthologies. For starters, it generally forces you to write a new story, expanding your portfolio. Even if your story isn’t selected, if it stands on its own, it’s another story you can send out in the future — and more stories in the submission rotation gives you more chances that you’ll send just what a particular editor is looking for. Furthermore, I think it can help writers explore new areas of their preferred genres, growing as a writer (this submission certainly did that for me). Beyond that, I think there’s something to the idea I’ve seen written on several writing blogs that anthologies with open submission calls give writers a more even playing field, since there isn’t a backlog of already-purchased stories to compete against.
  • I wrote 2600 word piece for Crossed Genres. CG’s September submission theme was for stories about “nonsense.” I had been wanting to tackle a slipstream piece for a long time, but felt very intimidated by the genre. Great slipstream pieces are some of the best, most speculative out there, but they get bad fast, and even good ones aren’t always the most approachable. Since I thought a theme about nonsense seemed to work well with slipstream, I wanted to take a shot. Ironically enough, this story came together very quick for me. I think it hit the theme really well, succeeded in my personal goal to write a good slipstream piece and managed to keep it approachable. One nice thing about Crossed Genres? They always publish at least one never-before-published author every month. That’s a huge incentive for unpublished writers to submit to CG.
  • I sent a 700 word piece of flash fiction to the Writers of the Future contest. With the deadline for the previous quarter approaching too soon to write something original for it, I decided to dip into the backlog of stories I’ve set aside to reconsider. Most of them are stories that I like, but aren’t quite there for whatever reason (in most cases, I haven’t figured those reasons out, which is why they’re there). I looked at that pile to see which one I’d catch inspiration with, and found one that felt clean and full and yet a little flat. With fresh eyes, I realized what was wrong with it. The story had so much more mystery and nuance in my head than what I put on paper. I tackled some edits with that in mind and sent it out. I’ll be honest: I still don’t think this piece has a shot of placing in the contest (for one thing, how often does flash fiction win WotF?), but if nothing else I brought a story back to the point where I’d feel comfortable sending it back out now, even after a rejection.
  • I sent a 250 word piece of flash fiction to Apex Magazine’s yearly flash fiction contest. Apex set up a challenge to create a story about Christmas and invasions at 250 words or under. My first version was 500-600 words — I really don’t know how I managed to cut it by more than half and keep the story in tact, but I did. I gave myself some big chuckles with this one, enough that if I’m not lucky enough to win, I’ll go back to that 500+ word version, polish it up and think of something to do with it, even if the contest would make it too obvious to send anywhere else this year.
  • I must really love Crossed Genres, because I sent a 3,800 word story to their October submission theme, this time about decorations. This is the first time I didn’t write a piece specifically for the issue, but damned if what I had wasn’t spot on for the theme — to an almost eerie degree. Originally, I wrote this as a story I was going to submit to my writing group’s anthology, but it ended up being delayed and I had other stories that fit the group’s theme even better, so this all feels very fortuitous to me. What I really liked about this piece is how it tugs at heart strings.

Additionally, I have one more story I’m planning to submit before October ends, I just have to give it one more final read through before I send it.

  • Zombies Needs Brains, LLC has a second anthology submission call — this one for a story about alien technology. I was really excited for this theme, and came up with an idea I really, really liked — one that I intended to have a lot of action. Then I wrote my first draft, and none of that action was coming out, all feeling wrong. Even worse, the characters felt flat. It needed a lot of fixing, but it was totally worth it. It still isn’t the action-oriented piece I initially intended, but now it has a good mix of action and thought — and I think I’ve managed to create some of the most nuanced and interesting characters I’ve written yet. We’ll see if the editors agree!
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P.13: Check Out Rati Mehrotra’s The Singing Tree, Tyler Young’s Dear Monsanto CEO and More

  • The Singing Tree” by Rati Mehrotra. Urban Fantasy Magazine. This is an absolutely gorgeous story, almost lyrical at points and yet an easy read. I really love the voice of the protagonist. She felt so real, as did her entire family. Definitely check it out.
  • Dear Monsanto CEO, This is the Sentient Strain of Corn You Developed and We Need to Talk” by Tyler Young. Daily Science Fiction. This story had me cracking up! But it was also really, really good and makes for perfect speculative fiction.
  • Getting Archaeology Right in Fantasy Fiction” by Alter S Reiss. TOR.com. Reiss’s article on using archaeology in fantasy is a fantastic tool and I almost think much of it could be applied to a lot of sci fi, as well. He offers great tips on both what writers should concern themselves with, as well as what isn’t really a big deal. As a bonus, it was a very enjoyable read.
  • In an amazing dose of “I can’t believe no one’s ever thought of this before,” some of Edgar Allen Poe’s best stories have been professionally animated with top voice talent. Check out the trailer i09 posted. The movie, if we can call it that, is out this fall, including the DVD/digital release. Flexing my descriptive writing muscles and tapping into my inner geek, I’m super-duper excited.

P.11: Check Out Tade Thompson’s “Child, Funderal, Thief, Death,” Arie Coleman’s “20/20,” and Other Things I’ve Read

  • Child, Funeral, Thief, Death by Tade Thompson. Apex Magazine. I feel like I visited just visited Nigeria and bore witness to this story. The writing is gorgeous, the story builds quite nicely and I loved that Thompson was able to build an entire mythos here, and wasn’t afraid to go where he went with the ending. Loved it.
  • 20/20 by Arie Coleman. Strange Horizons. I really enjoyed the slipstream elements of the story — it’s so hard to pull off well, and Coleman succeeds here. Plus, as someone who’s known my share of nurses, I deeply appreciated just how real the writer made life working at a hospital out to be. Also, as a bonus, the wonderful Anaea Lay does a reading of it for the Strange Horizons podcast.
  • The Circle of Life by Aline Carriere. Daily Science Fiction. I love speculative fiction that tackles overpopulation, and this one succeeds in a very short word count. Some vague-so-as-to-avoid-spoilers food for thought: I can’t decide if I think the narrator is creepy as in a sociopath creepy, or creepy, but in her own empathetic and caring way. That said, I’m leaning toward the former. I don’t think the narrator’s decision is really about the person who she thinks it is. That’s just my 2 cents.

P.10: My Current Submissions and Why I Sent Them, 9/6/2015

For my tenth post, I thought I’d do something different and list all my current submissions, along with why I sent them to the particular magazine in the first place. Hopefully this should give a little insight into the thought process behind where people should send their stories (and why) – and where readers can find stories they’re not reading, but should.

  • I have a 1200 word dark, speculative fantasy piece at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. They only publish second world fantasy settings, which is a particular favorite of mine as a writer. I sent a previous story here that was rejected, but I got praise for the world building I did and was asked to send more. I sent another piece where I thought I did a really good job with the world building, with a story that I think is stronger and tighter than the first.
  • I have a 2700 word piece with my take on a new kind of supernatural creature at Urban Fantasy Magazine. Their guidelines say they liked stories with creatures like vampires or werewolves, but that since they get a lot of them, the competition for those stories were fierce. That’s advice for writers to consider different creatures or themes. The story I sent I think does a great job at creating my own urban supernatural creature, that I think does a really good job at being unique, with its own mythos, and yet feels ‘real.’ It also has a real-world setting that the magazine requires, and I spent a lot of time trying to make my characters feel like they come from Small Town, USA.
  • I have another (different) 2700 word uber-dark fantasy piece at Fantasy and Science Fiction. Their guidelines don’t offer much suggestion for stories they’re looking for, just that they liked character-based stories and I know from the magazine that rich, other-worlds are a good place for it. Those are the two things I think this story does best.
  • I have a difficult-to-classify dark fantasy poem at Interfictions, that’s bordering on a prose poem. Interfictions is a magazine that’s looking for difficult-to-classify or genre-bending poems and stories, so I thought this was a good fit. I don’t write much poetry (just the occasional dabbler), but I really liked this piece, so I figured “what the hell.” One piece of advice I’ve taken from a number of other writers, including here, was to not be afraid of sending things out. I put a lot of work in it, especially for its ~200 words, so I wanted to give it a shot.
  • I have another difficult-to-classify 5000 word piece at Interfictions. Is it an urban fantasy? Dark fiction? Horror? Coming of age tale, with deep autobiographical inspirations? I couldn’t exactly pin it, and Interfictions is all about blurring the lines, so I thought it would be a good fit. I also did something almost no short stories do and gave it two different character perspectives, a serious no-no from one of the writing blogs I linked to yesterday. I’m hoping that Interfictions is one of the few places where the editors may look past that, and given that I’ve spent a lot of time on it trying to get it right (because it’s so personal to me), I was glad I got it in their window.
  • I have a 3400 word sci fi piece at Crossed Genres, for their pronouns and gender themed issue (they have a different theme every month). I love the concept of themed issues, and the opportunity that gives authors to compete against just that one theme, instead of all the themes in the cosmos and fantasy realms. I really liked this theme in particular, and had an idea I had been kicking around for a while that this theme gave me an opportunity to explore — so it was worth the effort of crafting something particularly for this issue.
  • I have a 600 word dark fantasy at Daily Science Fiction. I sent DSF one of my strongest stories that I’ve written before, but unfortunately while it fit within their maximum word count range, it was longer than what they typically publish by a hefty amount. I didn’t want to make that mistake again, and so I sent something much shorter. This was the story I wrote while listening to Hozier, when the idea popped in my head.

Hopefully, this will give a sense to other aspiring writers the level of commitment it takes to just have a shot at getting published in short story markets. You need to write a huge swath of the absolute best stories you can, and then you need to find places where they could fit, and keep sending them because no matter how good you are, your stories are going to get rejected a lot before you find success. More good stories gives you more good shots.

The submission process is a huge time sink, but unfortunately you can’t get published without it — at least not professionally. So hopefully a peak into where I’ve sent things, and why I sent them there, will be helpful to some.

P.9: Check Out Wendy Nikel’s Rain Like Diamonds, JT Gill’s Full Circle, and Other Things I’ve Read

  • Aidan Mohler of A Dribble of Ink says goodbye. I’m terribly sad that A Dribble of Ink is getting put on the shelf. It’s one of the first sci fi/fantasy blogs I loved. I wish I found it years and years earlier.
  • Rain Like Diamonds by Wendy Nikel. Daily Science Fiction. A really nice spin on a story about a queen and a dragon, with a really strong ending. Loved Nikel’s descriptions. I also really enjoy Daily Science Fiction’s propensity to include a brief statement about what inspired the author to create the story. DSF should be required reading for aspiring authors.
  • Short Story Elements don’t have to be Confusing, a blog post from Kat Hutson. Here’s some good tips on writing clear stories. I liked these. It offers a great approach for writers to take on writing high quality stories — though I think stories can work without all these elements, if writers are prepared for them to be a bit more niche.
  • Full Circle by JT Gill. Every Day Fiction. Strong writing. I really liked how he painted society discovering clear evidence of an alien vessel. It was in an entirely mundane way — there were water cooler conversations, cognitive dissonance in the face of clear evidence, and a guy worrying more about his girlfriend than whether there’s an imminent invasion coming. You get the sense that if the story continued for a few more days, aliens would become old news fast and people would be on to the next story that dominates the headlines. Ah, 24 hour news cycles.
  • io9 thinks Killjoys is an okay B-TV show that suffers from an overstuffed plot. I don’t necessarily disagree with the criticism that Killjoys unloaded a lot (maybe too much), especially in its early episodes, but it was never a huge issue for me — it never distracted me from the show. The only real problem with Killjoys is that SyFy didn’t know what it had. It’s an amazing, fun show — but it’s a B-TV show that needed an A-TV budget. Imagine Killjoys with Firefly’s or BSG’s far better production values and more intricate sets, and maybe a slightly more fleshed out cast. I think it would have easily stacked up with those shows.

P.7: A Story in a Day

I’ve been reading some tweets and blog posts from short story writers, talking about how they challenged themselves to write a story a day for runs of a week or even a month at a time.

I’m not so sure I’d ever want to do that, but thought it would be fun to take on the challenge today.

I have a long list of files, digital and otherwise, filled with story ideas… but, like more often than not, couldn’t pick one I wanted from the bin.

However, I was listening to a Hozier album when I felt a little inspired to start fooling around, jotting down a few sentences of nothingness. It was one of his dark songs, where hell and sin mixed with beauty and temptation, and as I wrote, the story came to me. The story isn’t anything like the plot of the song, but the places my story went, touched with a dash of hope, ended up being helped a lot by the song’s dark tone.

It’s just 600 words, but I finished the whole draft in a day, and it’s a solid draft, too. I made it very plot centric, and yet I managed to actually create a character who grew along with the story, and it already feels pretty polished. It’s always easier to get something clean and polished when you’re working with flash fiction, but I’m still really, really happy with it.

I’m going to sit on it for a few days and then see what I think, but I actually like it enough at this point that my guess is it’s just about ready to go. We’ll see.

P.2: Check out “Eve’s Father” by Miriah Hetherington

This could be one of the best stories I’ve read in some time, published in yesterday’s Daily Science Fiction.

In an very short number of words, it manages to have:

  • A well developed plot, covering a number of events that have wide impacts on the story.
  • Characters which all feel very real and three dimensional.
  • Characters which also manage to change over the course of the story, no small feat in Flash Fiction.
  • Incredible world-building. I can visualize this place, imagine what it would be like to live in this society.
  • Some great writing, that flows really well for me.

If you have 5-10 minutes to spare, I’d check it out. Hetherington did an amazing job with this story.