The witch used an antler to make a sling beneath her cloak and settled the baby inside. She slipped past the guards, beneath the portcullis, and hurried into the forest.
Hours passed before she heard the howls and snarls of the dogs sent to track them. She lay the sling in the snow, removing the girl-child’s swaddling cloths in haste. Her fingers brushed the Mark of Future Ruler on the baby’s belly. The third girl born with the mark. The King and his knights had slaughtered the others for their sex. This one, the witch vowed to save.
The frenzied dogs drew nearer. Rabbits and birds fled past, leaping over the babe in the snow. The witch pulled her magic quickly to her and whispered a spell of shifting.
The baby cooed as she grew from infancy to womanhood in a heart’s beat. The old antler sling made a crown above her head. The witch thought it fitting.
When the dogs arrived they circled, sniffing, round and round, but only a naked woman, a bear, and the fast fading scent of baby remained. The dogs couldn’t read the mark upon the woman’s belly, or see the bear had the old witch’s eyes.
Whining for their lost trail, the dogs scattered into the forest.
“Best stay in this form for now, little one,” said the Witchbear, gathering the woman in her arms.
The future Queen cooed.
The Witchbear reached for the antler. Best keep it. It made a fine crown.
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 the best writing-related articles I came across this week.
Nexxis Fantasy’s Lost anthology
Eligibility: science fiction stories following the theme of ‘lost’ up to 15 000 words.
Take Note: the publisher is looking for non-exclusive rights and will accept reprints.
What makes this call stand out: all profits from this anthology go to support Doctors Without Borders.
Instead of a book this week, I thought I’d recommend a short science fiction story to inspire your submission. The Frequency of Compassion by A. Merc Rustad is available to read for free at Uncanny Magazine’s website, and you can click here to go there and read it.
This story is beautiful. I got away from science fiction for a long while and it is stories like this which brought me back in. Space with heart. My stolen heart, in this case. It’s difficult to go in depth of a short story without stealing some of its magic, so all I will tell you is that is a first contact story and it is exquisite. Now, go read it for yourself and be inspired.
Masterclass has been advertising that Neil Gaiman will be hosting a writing masterclass in 2019. I’ve put some feelers out to learn more about these ‘masterclasses’ and so far I’m hearing good things from those who have taken them. The writers who got back to me said the classes involve workbooks, assignments, and a great deal of the host’s process. When I asked what level of writing the classes are best suited for I was told it was up to the writer what they gained from it as it was more method-oriented than theory. As a fan of Gaiman’s work, I have to admit I’m intrigued.
Welcome to the first Wednesday of December! Its time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), a blogging group created to support and encourage fellow writers. If you’d like to join in and/or see other IWSG posts, click here.
This month I’m feeling insecure about this whole Climate Change Apocalypse. What’s the point of honing my writing craft in the face of mortal peril? Scientists can land Insight on Mars but they can’t make people save their damn planet. Ugh. We should have focused our collective imaginations on this apocalypse instead of the zombie one. Why are we still struggling to gain an audience, write our stories, and put them out there if we’re all going to die?
Here’s the thing: we’re not all going to die.
Some of us will live, and when we’re holed up in our bunkers, a dirty collection of bored, dispirited individuals waiting for the world to end or maybe, just maybe, NOT, you know what’s gonna get the survivors through? Canned tomatoes, Spam, wool socks, and stories. Stories are going to pass the time and remind your fellow survivors to be heroes, that life has meaning, and everyday is another chance to save the world.
When the Spam runs out, your story skills might save you from getting eaten, too.
Let’s be honest. You’re going to have to find a way to be more important than say, the surgeon sitting across from you when its cannibalism o’clock. You can provide escape via stories on the daily, she can what? Fix a ruptured spleen? Pssh. How often is that going to happen? Think about it. Humans have been screwing up basic evolution in favor of the short-game for generations now. Ruptured spleens are long-game thinking. A story can make tonight bearable. Who cares if you’re screaming over a kidney stone in four or five years and it attracts starving predators that wipe out your village? Right now everyone misses TV and if they close their eyes, stories are kind of like TV without the pictures and the human brain will hold tight to something that feels like normal.
See? You can survive this apocalypse, but you’re going to have to nail your hook and build tension like a pro. I suggest you start practicing now, while you still have the internet to tell you when you’re doing it wrong.
You should also become a story prepper right away. That’s right. Stockpile concepts, practice whipping out a killer first line when you have a spare moment; in the shower, the toilet at work, those precious lost seconds in elevators.
Hone your craft like your life depends on it, because it does. On the other side of the Climate Change Apocalypse, your writing game is going to be AMAZING. Unfortunately, there probably isn’t going to be much of publishing industry, or any industry, left. Which is kind of the planet’s point.
The good news is that throughout history storytellers and bards have been kept around for one reason or another. You’re simply evolving the profession. Try to write on something which preserves well, like stone tablets, birch bark, and cave walls to assure something of your work survives now that the average life expectancy is probably substantially younger than you are in this moment. Don’t think about it. Just. Keep. Writing.
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.
Luna Press Publishing’s Open Call for Science Fiction Novels
Eligibility: unpublished science fiction novels presented as a detailed, chapter by chapter synopsis plus the first three chapters. New writers are welcome.
Take Note: each novel must stand alone, whether it be part of a series or no
What makes this call stand out: writers do not need an agent to submit to this publisher (which also comes with a word of caution to be wary and inspect any contracts with care).
Payment: to be determined
Submission window: January 1st, 2019, to January 6th, 2019, at midnight UK time.
If you’ve been here long enough, you’ve heard me mentioned Binti and author Nnedi Okorafor before, and that’s because Binti is one of the best science fiction books I’ve read to date.
Binti the protagonist is a Himba woman who thinks in mathematics, math trees, and has a deep connection to her earthly home. When she leaves her home to travel to Oomza University, across the galaxy, she brings with her a jar of otjize, or clay from her homeland, that her culture wears in her hair and on her skin. Her ship is attacked by an octopus-like species called the Meduse and Binti finds herself the sole survivor by dint of her otjize. Survivorship thrusts her into a strange new role as an unwilling ambassador for the Meduse, who may not be as terrible as she was led to believe.
There are multiple reasons why I enjoy the Binti series so much (of which there are three so far), but the most compelling for me was the way in which Binti cared for her link to the soil of her home. As a nature lover, the idea of leaving Earth nature behind to travel the stars has always held me back (because all those opportunities I’ve had to travel deep space, right?).
Another highlight is the depth of the Himba culture in this story and what a surprising sense of relief it gave me to experience space travel through a lens that is not the standard, privileged white person standpoint. Space felt new, and somehow more real because it doesn’t exist in the story as simply a territory to be explored and tamed.
Next up are the math trees, which I’m not going to say I fully understand in the mathematical sense, but I could fully empathize with how they could calm someone in sequences of deep anxiety because Okorafor is a wonderful writer and pulls this off masterfully.
After much deliberation, Engen Books is proud to announce the winner of the October 30 2018 Kit Sora Flash Fiction Photography Contest: Jennifer Shelby with her story, The Green Lady!
Jennifer Shelby was hatched in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and currently nests on a storm-ridden mountain rising from the banks of the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. Her work has appeared in Spaceports and Spidersilk, Andromeda Spaceways, and Cricket. In the spring of 2018 she won the WFNB Fog Lit Books “For Young People” prize for her short story, Dragon Crossing.
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. I’ll follow it up with a book to inspire your writing and a small collection of writerly articles to fuel your craft.
Curse the Darkness: an Anthology of Dark Fiction
Eligibility: Original, speculative stories written on the theme of darkness from 3 000 to 10 000 words. Think Doctor Who‘s Vashta Nerada.
Take Note: the editors specifically request stories that will make them “afraid to turn off the lights.”
What makes this call stand out: this is Unlit Press’ inaugural anthology and they are offering writers good rates from the start. This suggests they are confident that their marketing strategy will put this book, and potentially your story, in the hands of a large audience. Offering writers a print copy further suggests they are not relying on selling copies to said writers to offset their costs.
Payment: 75 Euros and one print copy of the anthology
Chillers From the Rock is an anthology of twenty-five creepy tales written by Atlantic Canadians and published by Newfoundland’s Engen Books. For readers outside of Canada, the province of Newfoundland is often referred to as ‘The Rock.’
I must admit a few of these stories made me hesitate to turn off my lights. Eryn Heidel’s mysterious, foggy adversary in The Pursuit made me put off going to bed entirely. Do not read it on a foggy autumn night like I did. Samuel Bauer’s tense take on the Scottish legend of the Nuckelavee made me sink deeper into the safety of my couch cushions. Peter Foote’s wonderful A Friend in Shadow made me pull out my flashlight against the darkness threatening in the corners of my room. The flashlight’s name is Scorch-Bite now. Kelley Power’s oddly hopeful tale Treatment is a horror/fairy tale for the helpless. Depending on which side of the spectrum of evil you may fall on, you’ll either sleep tight or not at all. Read at your own risk.
There are tales here from mildly creepy to full-on supernatural horror, with a handful of paranormal beasts and gore thrown in. The quality of the stories, however, is consistent across the genres. I’ll be reading this one again.
Writerly Links Worth Reading this Week:
I’m still deep in NaNoWriMo and most articles aren’t making it through the writing fog, but the Suicide Bomber Sits in the Library drama certainly did. Facing a strong backlash for the possibly well-intentioned but extremely harmful stereotypes in the graphic novel and the violence it could inspire against Muslim individuals in an environment of seething white supremacy, Abrams decided to pull the book. I think the biggest take-away from this situation is the need to consider what damage can be caused when writers play fast and loose with their imagined perspectives of marginalized people.
Late fall is my favorite time of year to explore the woods. No bugs, no dense vegetation to crush, the forest floor cold and crunchy. There’s a waterfall not far from home I like to bushwhack to once a year, after hunting season is over in late November.
On the mountain, it’s a season of startling beauty.
This year, late fall was cancelled. I have hopes it will return, but not big hopes. If it happens I’ll hike up to my waterfall and take some photos for you. Winter has beautiful views as well, I’m just not sure how I’ll handle two extra months of endless white. Three months in and I swear my eyes crave color the way my tummy craves chicken noodle soup. There’s nothing more to do but hermit inside with brightly colored books and yarns and write myself stories of green.
The eerie element to this early winter is the nagging question. Is this our new normal? We’ve had intense storms, usually reserved to February, several times in the past weeks. The old-timers shake their heads and say we’ve had storms and early winters like this before, and we have, just not all at once.
Most of my life I’ve heard about climate change, studied it in college and university, and somehow the reality isn’t what I expected. Rising sea levels? We’ll choose a house at an elevation. More snow, more intense storms? Haha, I’m a Maritimer, we ARE winter. And yet… maybe its being a mother, but I don’t remember storms scaring me speechless before. Power failures, snow, I can handle. The wind clawing like a rabid dragon to get inside my house? Okay, you got me. I mean, I have stories to write about it, sure, but scared. Scared isn’t a good feeling when you have two small people waiting for you to tell them they’re safe. I’m their mom. I have to make sure they feel safe, despite the tongue-sticking dryness in my mouth as I force myself to say what they need to hear in a cheery voice, the rest of my brain devoted to running worst-care-scenario plans and ignoring the heavy, awful feeling settling onto my chest.
I remind myself there are people in hurricane zones who are accustomed to much worse winds then we’ve been getting. Folks in the Arctic have winters longer than the six months we may be facing here. There are actual nightmares playing out in the world. Normal is relative, and change is hard for us humans, but fighting and denying it doesn’t make it any easier. It’s time to adapt.
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.
Cast of Wonders
Eligibility: Stories written for an audience of 12-17 years, filled with wonder and emotional resonance. High fantasy, science fiction, and horror are welcome providing they can no adult elements.
Take Note: Cast of Wonder is accepting both flash fiction and short stories during this submission window. Be aware that all submissions are anonymous and adjust your manuscript accordingly.
What makes this call stand out: Cast of Wonders offers pro rates to writers and give you the chance to hear your story read by a voice professional on their highly rated podcast
Payment: $0.06 per word, USD.
Submit by: the current submission window closes December 15th, 2018, but check their schedule in the link below for upcoming dates if you miss this one.
Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook: the Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction is an art-rich extravaganza for the writer’s senses. Featuring essays and contributions from Neil Gaiman, the late Ursula K. Le Guin, Nnedi Okorafor, Catherynne M. Valente, and many more, there is something within these pages for every writer to learn.
My first attempt to read this book from cover to cover faltered, but keeping it on my bookshelf and dipping into chapters as I need guidance has given me much inspiration. For those who like to know exactly what they’re getting into, the chapter heading are as follows; Inspiration and the Creative Life, the Ecosystem of a Story, Beginnings and Endings, Narrative Design, Characterization, Worldbuilding, and Revision. Included are some of the wildest infographics I’ve seen yet.
This book mimics a university text, but it sets aside the dullness for feats of the imagination and pockets of real wonder. Find a copy, flip through it, and see if you don’t agree.
In writing news, I have a flash fiction story published in the latest Fantasy Files newsletter from Engen Books. You can read it for free here.
A witch turned Breanne into a toad for making fun of the witch’s warts. “I earned every one with a spell well done,” muttered the witch as she walked away. Now Breanne had warts of her own and hid underground where no one could see her.
The only person she would allow to visit was her sister, Senora, who came every Saturday.
Years passed. The girls grew up.
One Saturday Senora made an announcement. “You should know, I took up magic. I’ve studied and studied and I’ve finally got a spell to turn you back into a girl.”
Breanne croaked with joy.
Senora shut the door and hung her lantern on a root. She cleared her throat and readied herself for the spell. “Toadstools to footstools, nightmares into dreams, turn sister toad into a girl!”
There was a shimmer of light and Breanne the girl stood where the toad had been.
“It worked!” Senora whooped with pride.
Breanne gazed at her hands, whole and unwebbed at last. How she had missed them. How she had missed her own beautiful face! She yearned for a mirror.
Breanne reached out to embrace her sister, grimacing as she noticed a witch wart appear on the end of Senora’s nose. “Gross! You’ve got warts.”
Senora’s anger crackled in the air. “It’s a badge of honor for a working spell.”
“Ugh. Get rid of it.”
“As you wish, you ungrateful toad.” Senora’s spell dissolved, the wart disappeared, and her sister turned back into a toad.