P.33: I wrote something you can buy

There’s something out there that I wrote and you can buy. That’s… like… kind of exciting, and I figured I should provide a link.

The details: About a year ago, I joined a writing group near where I live. Every few years, the writing group puts together a work of our short stories. With the writing group being based in Salem, Massachusetts, a number of our writers enjoy writing ghost stories — and, thus, Ghost Writers Volume 2, was born.

My story is called “The Long Arm of Satan” and closes out the book. It’s about a guy in hell who’s trying to escape. I hope people will find it both hellish and literary.

I hope you’ll agree that there’s a number of great stories in the collection. You can buy it in print or as an ebook from Amazon, and I do believe it’s available via Kindle’s lending library program for people with Prime.

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P.30: A Year of Short Stories

I didn’t realize it, but today is about 13 months since I first started submitting short stories.

In that time, I’ve sent out 19 different stories and four poems, for a total of 50 submissions, including seven that are currently active.

I wrote another two shorts that I haven’t sent out yet (they need a little more work), and have another two that are about halfway done which I like enough that I plan to get back to them.

And that’s not counting the fifth draft of my first novel, and the first draft of my second, neither of which are ready to send out yet… but both took a good deal of work this year.

I have no idea where the time came to do all this…

Since I like to post where (and why) I send my stories every ten blogs, let’s take a look at what I have out now:

  • I have one story submitted to the Writers of the Future, from the 2nd quarter of this year. This was my fourth submission to the contest, and they’ve always either been my early work or stories that weren’t quite my best (but where what I had available to send at the time). They were stories I wasn’t necessarily hoping would win, but wanted to see if they’d survive early cullings (one of them did) or maybe get an honorable mention (nope). This time, I decided to send one of my best stories and while I still have some worry about fit (I haven’t really read enough WotF to gauge what the judges like), I’m crossing my fingers.
  • One at Tor.com. I had to get at least one story in before Tor.com closed its doors to unsolicited short story submissions forever, and sent the very best story I had available since I know Tor.com is the Crème de la crème. I’m pleased it’s still in the running.
  • One for Ghosts on Drugs, an anthology about ghosts on drugs, both terms broadly defined. I wrote this one specifically for the anthology.
  • One at Uncanny Magazine. I wrote two stories in November and December that I really, really liked. I sent one of them in, which toyed a lot with mythicism, focusing on character discovery. The story lasted a tad longer than average before it was declined — so I don’t think they hated it. Thankfully, it was rejected a couple days before their submission window closed, giving me the ability to send another (thanks, Uncanny!). I sent that second story, which had some of the same mythic feel, but with prose that’s a little more lyrical. I’ve seen some stories in Uncanny with a similar lyrical feel, so felt like it could be a good fit. We’ll see.
  • One at Let Us In, which is an upcoming anthology about horrors people invite into their lives — either consciously or unconsciously. Again, I wrote my story specifically for the anthology.
  • I have two poems out, both to Apex’s Undead poems anthology. I had one poem that fit, and another that I wrote for it. I don’t consider myself any kind of poet, only the occasional dabbler for personal fun, but figured I’d send them out because the worst thing that could happen is they get declined.

Here’s hoping.

P.29: World Building and Cuts

When it comes to writing, there’s almost nothing that I love more than to create new worlds, filled with interesting characters and locations in them.

I also love to create beautiful prose, that flows well on the tongue.

I say all this because I just sent out a short story. It was a story I first finished and sent out in December, but it wasn’t quite ready then — it was one of those situations where I would have liked to spend some more time with it, but had a deadline to hit.

I didn’t really know what was quite wrong with it in my head, but I figured out those problems this past week, prepping it for a new outlet.

There were a few points in the story — just a few — where I was trying to do a little too much. I loved the character details I had, but they were bogging the prose down, making the writing feel clunky.

I didn’t want to lose those details, though. They really did add a dynamic to my main character that otherwise doesn’t quite show.

I tried rewording the writing, I tried to move things around… but nothing worked.

Ultimately, I had to let the writing win, and so I made the cuts.

At the end of the day, no matter how many wonderful ideas you want to try to incorporate in your story, you can’t have clunky prose. Some of them will almost certainly have to be cut.

Be merciless, my friends.

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!

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.