The sun is attracted to her darkness. She basks in its warmth, the snow beneath her melting, collapsing, pulling her down, away from the loving sun, and buries her inside itself. There it keeps her, locked in shades of blue, until the sun returns with spring and rescues her forever.
Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday! Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Following this, I’ll recommend a linked story to help inspire your submission and discuss why I think its a good fit for the call for submissions.
Translunar Traveler’s Lounge
Eligibility: fun speculative fiction under 5 000 words
Take Note: the editors want stories where the good wins the day
What makes this call stand out: this is the first call for submissions from a new market. Send them your best work and help them succeed!
Payment: $0.03 per word USD, with a minimum of $20 per story.
Since this market is new, it can be tricky to know what the editors are looking for. To remedy this, we’ll look at a fun story written by the co-editor of Translunar Traveler’s Lounge, Aimee Ogden. Ogden’s story, Dances With Snoglafanians, was published on Daily Science Fiction (DSF) early last year. You can read it for free on DSF’s site by clicking here. I’ll wait.
*hums a tune while waiting
Okay, so there we had a science fiction story merrily making jokes at our species’ expense. It quietly pokes fun at our hero tropes, hubris, our alien planet stories, and it feels satisfying.
Ogden increases the cheekiness by spending most of a paragraph detailing how Chris (or is it Steve?) achieves some monumental task, only to spend the final sentence juxtaposing that achievement with a small detail of humiliation and/or incompetence. She doesn’t overdo it, spending three paragraphs in this pattern before moving on, and it works, leaving the reader smirking at Chris/Steve’s expense. This kind of sequence is as fun to write as it is to read. Try it and see for yourself.
The ending (warning: spoilers, but seriously, it’s under 1k words, go read it) reveals that same pattern of false achievement followed by revealed incompetence has also been used over the entire plotline. Chris/Steve has spent his role in the story saving the Snoglafanians and in the final quarter he’s revealed to have played the fool BUT in so doing, does manage to rescue the Snogs from humanity. Its a fun twist that takes the story’s cheekiness to a new level, but it doesn’t come across as insulting to humanity because Ogden has been setting the reader up for it all along. Instead, it’s a good chuckle at our own expense.
An important thing to remember while writing a story like this is to have fun writing it. If you’re grinning while you write it, the reader will be grinning while they read it. Good luck.
The sap run came late this year. We are down to a single mason jar of maple syrup in the pantry. I’ve had to hide it from my partner who uses it to sweeten his coffee, else wise the girls won’t have any for french toast and pancake treats.
This winter started early and this late spring arrives with a sense of relief. The sap is flowing heavy now, the sound of drops plinking into the sap buckets merrily as I empty the day’s bounty.
It is clumsy in this first week. The snow is still deep as I trudge into the forest in my snowshoes, hauling a sled with a drill, hammer, spigots, and buckets. My snowshoe comes loose and I sink to my hip, the buckets crashing together in the sled like a laugh track to my escapades.
I dig out the tree and drill into its sunniest side. Bits of sawdust collect at the base before I am finished. It makes me smile when a few drips appear at the edge of the spigot as I tap it into the tree. If not, it doesn’t matter. They will come.
The next day I trudge back out. It should be easier in the trail I broke the day before, but the sun’s been high and has softened the snow. Saplings bent beneath the weight of snow pop up to trip me. The bright yellow buckets I use to transport the sap swing on their handles, landing upright while I faceplant into the soft snow, quietly cursing my snowshoes. It would not be easier without them, I know, but I am clumsy when I wear them.
The cheery yellow buckets grow heavy as I tip the galvanized buckets that hang from the spigots inside them. This year the snow fleas are heavy, small harmless bugs which hop and gather in the hollows of my footprints. They seem to particularly enjoy the hole I made when I stepped out of my snowshoe and sank. One sap bucket is filled with them. I tip it through a filter of fabric mesh and shake the snow fleas off on the snow.
There are easier ways of doing this. I could set up hoses to run into a single cauldron, but for all my clumsiness it’s good to be outside stumbling into spring with a warm sun on my skin.
Days are filled with boiling, life becoming scented with sweet sugar, cobwebs I never knew were there laden with fairy baubles and beauty. I dip a mug into the hot sap and sip it like tea: hot, sweet, and maple flavored. A spring treat for me while I pour syrup on the snow for the girls to roll up on a Popsicle stick and eat as chewy candy.
Someday I might venture into maple butter or maple wine, but while the girls are small it’s proven best to keep things simple: watch the boil with a book or a pen in my hand while they play their games and we stretch our bodies after the long cold wait of winter.
Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday. Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Next, I’ll recommend a story to ignite your creativity and get you thinking in a new way about your submission and I’ll wrap it up with the writerly news of the week.
Cast of Wonders’ Dinovember
Eligibility: speculative stories about dinosaurs aimed for an audience 12 to 17 years of age. Characters may be older than the audience, but the story should focus on firsts, wonder, and avoid adult elements.
Take Note: all submissions to Cast of Wonders must be anonymous
What makes this call stand out: Cast of Wonders offers their stories online and in podcast format. Anonymous submissions ensure stories are judge based on story merit rather than by author’s fame/gender/race.
Payment: $0.06 per word for original fiction
Submit by: this call is open from April 1st to April 15th
My current favorite dino-story is The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander. It appears in the Dinosaur issue of Uncanny magazine where you can read it for free by clicking here. I can’t help but wonder if this story will actually appear as a reprint for Cast of Wonder’s Dinovember call. Cast of Wonders looks for stories with elements of firsts (*takes note*) and The Tale follows a velociraptor who leaves her sisters for the first time. It’s a good fit. She leaves these sisters to solve the mystery of a prince who doesn’t act like other humans. Once in the prince’s castle, the raptor meets his betrothed, a princess with a side of witchery who can speak raptor. While the prince’s behavior proves to be his personal blend of immaturity, foolishness, and privilege, the level-headed princess steps into her story role as friend and ally.
The Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters is bright and unexpected for being told from the perspective of a dinosaur, and Bolander does it with such perfect detail. The itch of a tick between feather quills where your beak will not reach, the scent of blood, and the joy of a successful hunt – alien, but focused to evoke the empathy of a human reader.
This perspective is further filtered through the writerly tone of the story: a loving grandmother tells this story to us as we lay in our beds, eyes scratchy with sleep. This grandmotherly narrator leads us deep inside a story that otherwise we may have found too strange to bear. Bolander has taken the strange and wrapped it up in something not only familiar, but easy to trust. Sure, your storytelling grandmother might be a velociraptor but shh, quiet, listen, grandma’s talking. Bolander pulls you in, filling your mind with a dinosaur fairy tale and by the end of it we are hatchling raptors peeping from our nests, hanging on her every word.
To date, this is the only dinosaur fairy tale I have had the pleasure of reading. I wanted to highlight the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters for the Dinovember call for this very reason: what other types of story are in need of a dinosaur? What classic story could do with a retelling involving a few dinosaurs in place of human or animal characters? How far can your imagination bend to accommodate a brontosaurus or two?
Writerly links worth sharing this week:
My feeds were filled with book piracy this past week. Like TV shows, movies, and music, illegal book downloads are hitting artists hard. The Guardian posted on excellent breakdown of the hows, whys, and detrimental effects in this article.
Kevin Powers wrote a poignant review of Vonnegut’s Slaughter-House Five for its fiftieth anniversary in the New York Times. CW for war and gun violence.
Hello and welcome to the first Wednesday of the month, otherwise known as the official meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG). The IWSG is a super secret, crazy exclusive group of writers who band together to support each other. If you’d like to get to know the other members, read about their writing adventures, and perhaps sign up yourself, click here to discover everything you need to make that happen.
Last week editor Vivian Caethe revealed the cover for the upcoming Unlocking the Magic anthology, designed by Owl Quest Creative. My short story, The Night Janitor, is included. Have a look:
It’s a beauty and a thrill. I’m excited to be a part of this project for many reasons. One, because the way mental illness is portrayed in fantasy is problematic and this anthology has set out to upend those tropes. Poor mental health doesn’t make someone magical, it makes them suffer. My protagonist suffers from severe anxiety and panic attacks. He doesn’t get over these afflictions in the story, but he does discover magic still exists in his world and finds new ways to cope and manage his anxiety.
Secondly, there are some amazing writers here and… me. How did that happen? Thirdly, and related to two, is because A. Merc Rustad is one of my favorite living writers and we have stories in the same book! I hope I never get over that thrill.
I never expected to turn my experiences with anxiety into a story, especially my most successful story to date. It wasn’t easy to see it there on the page, or to climb inside my anxiety to write about it, but it felt magical to tug and pull the words down around my protagonist, surrounding him with wonder.
*the Kickstarter for the Unlocking the Magic anthology is complete and pre-orders are now closed. I hope to have a link to the usual bookshops in the future for anyone interested.
Notice: due to the death of a friend, I am taking a small hiatus. Posts will resume on Wednesday, March 6th. The next Submit Your Stories Sunday will be posted on March 10th. Thank you for understanding.
Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday! Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Next, I’ll recommend a story to help inspire your submission and finish off with a list of writing news and articles I came across this week.
Speculative City: Occult
Eligibility: original stories, essays, and poems set in a city, written to the theme of occult and under 5500 words.
Take Note: the editors define “occult” in the call for submissions, so be sure to click through and make sure you’re on track.
This story came onto my radar after it received a Nebula nomination earlier this week (you can find a link to that below in the writerly links of the week) and I’m glad it did. A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow tucks witchcraft into a library, and makes witches of librarians. It’s a delightful read for a bibliophile or anyone who has ever found solace in a library.
What I like about this story is how Harrow takes an ordinary profession and makes us see the mundane in a magical light. The power of the story doesn’t come from shock and awe, but from its heart. This heart cannot be divorced from its occult leanings, yet it is vastly different from the usual paranormal tropes. A Witch’s Guide is an outlier, a unique way of seeing and using magic, and it has been my experience that there is a sweet spot of inspiration out there among the outliers. The trick is standing on the outlier’s shoulders, glancing back at the usual tropes from where you’ve come, and noticing what’s taking form beside you.
Good luck, writers.
Writerly links of the week:
The romance world was rocked by a plagiarism scandal on an unprecedented scale that just got worse as the day went on.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom this week, for the SFWA has released the Nebula nominations for 2018, no doubt making several author’s dreams come true. Click here to go see them now. Congratulations to the writers (squee!).
Today a book containing stories from a few friends and critique partners is dropping for pre-orders: Dystopia From the Rock. This is a collection of short dystopian stories from Canadian authors. I reviewed the last From the Rock book, Chillers, a few months ago here. If this one is anything like Chillers, it will be stuffed with quality short stories. Especially the ones my friends wrote *wink* Go check it out!
I’m still making my way through Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass. Both of my girls have had birthdays in the past few weeks and I had a few deadlines which slowed my progress. That’s the beauty of an online class, you can schedule it to fit your life.
Something amazing DID happen regarding the class. I heard my writing voice. A non-writer friend recently asked me what a writer’s voice is and after some thought, I told her it’s “the sound of your accent to someone from another country. You can tell when you hear someone else’s accent, but hearing your own is another thing altogether.” When I finished up the voice exercises in Neil’s class, there it was: my voice, sitting right there on the page, clear as spring water.
I did what any modern writer would do. I tweeted about it. And then this happened:
I didn’t fall off my chair, but I should have, for dramatic effect. Instead, I giggled at random for twenty-four hours.
Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday! Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Following the call, I recommend a short story along the same theme to help inspire your writing and get the writing wheels turning.
Predators in Petticoats
Eligibility: stories must feature a female predator, originality preferred over the usual tropes. Any genre is welcome, and stories should be 4 000 – 7 000 words or under 1 000 for flash fiction.
Take Note: petticoats are not required (though it does make for a catchy title I must say)
Payment: $0.04 per word pending successful funding on kickstarter
Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman is a retelling of the Snow White fairy tale. In this version, Neil takes the concept of ‘lips as red as blood’ and ‘skin as white as snow’ to paint the girl a vampire. The immortal child-princess is a predator who preys upon her father, her stepmother, and her subjects.
What I like about this story is that it juxtaposes the evil predatory nature of a vampire with the little girl we have known since childhood. Who hasn’t heard of Snow White, poor wronged princess and friend to dwarves? She has long been a symbol of ultimate innocence in our minds, making her a dangerous predator indeed.
Snow, Glass, Apples is told from the perspective of the stepmother, giving us neither the beginning of Snow’s story, nor the ending, which leaves the reader with an uncomfortable sense of danger in the world. The vampire child and her pedo-necrophiliac prince have no right to live happily ever after, but we all know how Snow White’s story ends and this is no fairy tale.
You can find Snow, Glass, Apples collected in Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warnings: Short Collections and Disturbances or you can read it online for free by clicking here and following the link. CW for necrophilia and sexuality.
For years I fed the birds at your feet from the little bench across the path. I hope you could hear their song when you were made of marble, or plaster, or whatever it is statues are made of.
This morning, as the sun shone and the songbirds clung to your outstretched fingers, trilling their song, you came alive. I thought my heart would burst. You were always grey, and suddenly your dress was scarlet and your skin flushed with color. Scratches marred your fingertips where the birds clung too tight. Anyone else would have shooed them away, but you didn’t. You waited until they took wing on their own. I think you must be the kindest soul I’ve never met.
Too shy, too damned afraid, and too unworthy, I watched you walk away unable to find the words to say I love you.
Later, I wondered. I imagined you were under a terrible curse that finally broke. What if true love broke the curse? What if my love set you free and I was too afraid to speak to you? If there was ever any magic in this world, please. Give me another chance.
I’ll be waiting in the park where your statue once stood. I’ll be there every day from now until forever. You’ll know me by the crimson rose I’ll wear in my lapel. Please come. I miss you.
Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday! Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Next, I’ll recommend a book to help inspire your story submission and finish off with a list of the best writing-related articles I came across this week.
Songs for the Elephant Man
Eligibility: Writers can submit two stories about outsiders, preferably with a tinge of weird, from 1000 to 7000 words. Reprints welcome.
Take Note: the call specifically mentions how outsiders often prove more sympathetic protagonists than the gatekeepers to the ‘inside,’ suggesting this is an important element to the editors.
Payment: 1p per word to a maximum of 50 Euros per story
The ‘Elephant Man’ the anthology is named after was a cruel nickname given to Joseph Merrick. Merrick was a scholarly, sensitive man who was exhibited in a circus show as a monster because of his physical deformities when he was young. His sad life continues to capture hearts in books, movies, and history.
Another creature deemed monstrous who has long captured the imagination of humanity is Frankenstein’s monster. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the first ‘classic’ I read as a youth that I didn’t have to struggle through. I picked it up one wintry afternoon and didn’t put it down until I was finished. I followed Dr. Frankenstein’s descent into mad science as he dug up bodies, collected amniotic fluid from birthing mothers, and set up his lightning rods to capture lightning. Dr. Frankenstein may have been the protagonist of the story, but he was the stuff of nightmares.
The monster, on the other hand, I loved. I wept for him, bled for him, and I steeled myself when he made his first kill. I wanted to get inside the book and undo that scene, rewrite it, change it, do something to save the monster from himself. That’s where Shelley’s genius shone.
Of course, I couldn’t crawl inside the book and save the monster, or protect any of the innocents from what was coming next in the story’s terrible climax. In case you haven’t read Frankenstein yet, I won’t spoil it. It is a classic worth the title, and a thrill ride of its own merit. More importantly to our topic, Frankenstein hits on the elements mentioned in the anthology’s call – wherein the outsider garners more sympathy from the reader than the gatekeeper, in this case, Dr. Frankenstein himself. Another element worth studying is how the Doctor’s motivations are equally strong in opposition to the monster’s.
The New Yorker posted a head-shaking exposee of best-selling author Dan Mallory/A. J. Finn early last week that has every layperson suddenly interested in the high-stakes, deceptive world of… publishing?