Submit Your Stories Sunday: once upon a paranormal romance

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 industry news and articles I came across this week.

This week we’re looking at a call for paranormal romance novelettes and reading Deborah Harkness’ book A Discovery of Witches.

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Once Upon an Enchanted Forest: an Anthology of Romantic Witchcraft Stories

Eligibility: paranormal (witchcraft) romance stories from 7K to 15K on the theme of an enchanted forest. The details in the call strongly suggest the editors prefer the witchcraft element of the story to focus on the magical elements of the Autumn Equinox. Writers are encouraged to look in the lore and history of the Autumn Equinox as research for their story.

Take Note: the editors expect happy or happy-for-now endings

What Makes This Call Stand Out: the terminology suggests the editors are actively seeking out new writers

Payment: $75, 2 paperback copies, and 25 e-copies to distribute. Please note this is a token rate for a novelette.

Submit by: May 15th, 2019

Click here to go to the original call for details.

A story to ignite your creativity:

While I usually try to find a free-to-read short story for Sundays, in this case I’m recommending Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches, the first book in the All Souls trilogy. Disclaimer: I haven’t seen the television series and my opinions reside solely on the books. The protagonist of the story, Diana Bishop, is a spellbound witch and Oxford scholar who finds herself entangled with chemist/vampire Matthew Clairmont when she calls up a enchanted book in the Bodleian library. Love, intrigue, and time travel soon follow. As it often does.20190406_123615.jpg

What I like about this book for Once Upon an Enchanted Forest‘s call is the looming darkness that begins in A Discovery of Witches as demons gather around the book and Diana discovers her magical abilities. The mood is right. If the witchcraft is removed from the story, it will fall apart.

Most of the magical elements of A Discovery fall under the ‘common knowledge’ umbrella.  Here’s where I’d encourage you, as a writer, to do a little research into the Autumn Equinox of pagan religions. Harkness has several original elements in the novel, so she can get away with common magical tropes. You aren’t likely to get away with that for the Enchanted Forest call. There is fascinating lore to Mabon (the Autumnal Equinox), and finding something unexpected and unusual to build into your story will give you an edge. How do cultures outside of the western hemisphere celebrate the harvest and shorter days with longer nights?

The intrigue of A Discovery of Witches is rich and tangled, matching the request of the Enchanted Forest’s editors. A novelette will have less room to build this intrigue than a trilogy, obviously, and that is where depth and focus must take over. Plot heavily and weave in the intrigue with stealthy fingers. Just make sure its there.

Writerly links worth sharing this week:

The Hugo award nominations are up! You can read them all here.

In this article, Arkady Martine suggests that every writer gets one free talent and we can use that to build on the talents we don’t have naturally.. What do you think? What’s yours? Disclaimer: I have no idea what mine would be.

Happy writing!

 

IWSG: wishes and chapters

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.

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The optional theme for this month’s IWSG post is If you could use a wish to help you write just one scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be? When I first read the question, I shook my head. I wouldn’t wish for anything. It’s hard work and dedication that puts the words down. But then I thought of it. My wish.

I would wish for… a babysitter. First thing in the morning is my best time to write, but then I had kids and sabotaged myself. If I get up an hour earlier, so do they. There is no sneaking away to a quiet darkness to spin stories. There is breakfasts, fighting, and where-are-my-socks.

In my wish, this babysitter will arrive five seconds before my alarm goes off. They will look the other way at my messy hair and crumpled night clothes. They will not speak to me (this is paramount). I shall fill my french press with darkest coffee and steal away to a magical, locking room that I don’t actually have in my house with my pen and my wirebound notebook. This room I don’t have is soundproof, and it quickly fills with the scent of my brewing coffee and the ink spilling onto the page as I write without interruption or worries of school buses and misplaced backpacks and the baby who only had yogurt for breakfast. No. There’s just me and the notes I scribbled the night before to get my chapter going.

I will be agog at my own concentration in the absence of the usual distractions. It’s quite possible I will also become addicted to this sense of mental independence, this ability to focus. I’ll want it more and more. I’ll need it. Better send a book deal my way, quick, I don’t think 6 AM ‘sitters come cheap.

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Photo by luizclas on Pexels.com

Submit Your Stories Sunday: a flash of fantasy

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 (or three) to inspire your submission.

This week we’re looking at Escape Artists’ upcoming fantasy flash fiction contest and reading the winners from contest IV.

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Escape Artists Flash Fiction Contest V

Eligibility: original fantasy stories under 500 words, one entry per writer. There is no entry fee. Entrants will be able to login to the Escape Artists forum to read, comment on, and vote for the stories. The top three stories (based upon reader votes) will be published online and podcasted in an upcoming episode of the SFWA-qualifying market, Podcastle.

Take Note: all stories will be posted anonymously in the Escape Artists’ forums. Because these forums require a log in and password, this does not count as using up a story’s first publication rights. Stories must remain anonymous and writers are not allowed to tell anyone which story is theirs or ask friends or family for votes. Two years ago a contender was removed in the finals because their wife voted for them – which suggested the writer told someone which story was theirs. This is taken VERY seriously so don’t risk it.

What makes this call stand out: my entry came into the top ten of Contest IV two summers ago, which stunned and thrilled me. It’s a great contest to get feedback from readers (tough skin required, btw) as the voters WILL be commenting heavily on your stories. I learned a tonne  from the experience. Stories featuring rape, sexism, and/or racism will be treated terribly by this crew.

Payment: the top three stories will be paid $30 USD for publication and audio rights

Submit by: the contest is open from April 15th to April 30th, 2019

Click here to go to the original call for details.

A trio of stories to ignite your creativity:

The best prep for this contest is reading contest IV’s winners, which are available to read or listen to by clicking here. The first thing I’ll point out is that the winners have and had well-established publications in speculative fiction. I didn’t expect to see a well-established writer in this contest and it threw me. Does this matter in an anonymous contest? Not entirely, but noting that established writers are entering the contest should work to keep your expectations in check but your goals high. Coming in second or third place is still a major achievement.

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Next, I’ll point out how different these stories are from each other. Ogden’s tale is surreal and dark. Kendig’s story has a literary bend with shades of magical realism. Proctor tugs at our hearts with the hardest experience unrequited love can endure.

As for similarities, they are all well-written with a strong voice, but so were many other entries.

If you read this trio of stories, you may notice a certain grimdark edge to them. It stands out strong for me because I read every story submitted to the contest as a voter and I know that a handful of excellent stories with a brightness to them didn’t make it to the top three. This struck me as a reflection of the current trend. Grimdark hasn’t gone anywhere, but it isn’t as popular as it was in 2017, perhaps due to a darkening of reality. Hopepunk is rising, but what’s here right now? What trends are you picking up in the latest stories of your favorite publications?

It’s hard to ignore that Odgen’s winning story is about cats. Post a cat photo anywhere and suddenly you’re popular. Cat video? Me-yow. Is it the same with putting cats in stories? I want to say no, but… in either case, the lesson is clear. You need to please a diverse crowd of readers to win this contest. Pay attention to what presently pleases them and write that into your story. If you do venture into experimental/artsy stuff make sure you do it extremely well.

These three stories are also wildly unique, and this is key. Proctor gives us a retelling of Humpty Dumpty, but it is a Humpty Dumpty we have never imagined. Who has a one-night stand with a constellation? Why is the future of the Earth predicated on a cat who eats its kittens? Who dreams this stuff up? Successful writers, that’s who. So… how do you write something unique? That’s the million-publication question. What’s your weird? What can you write that no one else can? Answer those questions, find your story, write it as best you can, and you’ll be well on your way to rocking this contest (and your career).

Happy writing!

five years of Blizzard

Five years ago yesterday, we had a late spring blizzard. Wind howled, snow swirled, and cold reigned. I opened the front door to shovel off the collecting snow before it got too deep. My backdoor was already buried under a wall of drifting snow. When I opened the door, I glanced up and locked eyes with a cat taking shelter in our shed. It was white with gray splotches and it shivered in the cruel wind.

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I  opened the door wider. “You’d better get inside,” I said and, as if he understood, he bounded across the snow and into the house.

 

My dog, Kira, and cat, Crookshanks, handled this situation admirably well. I think they knew. The new cat had frostbite on his ears and his nose but was otherwise healthy. He spent his first hour with us rubbing himself against my delighted then-toddler and me, purring happily.

There was no question of keeping him. He’d adopted us and that was that. We named him Blizzard and considered ourselves lucky.

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Rescued pets are devoted pets and Blizzard is no exception. He’s wonderful with the girls. They snuggle him and pull his tail more than I’d like, but he remains calm and loving. He plays with them.

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He is silly. He likes to follow us around and bound up trees, couches, and across seas of toys. And sometimes, he pretends he’s a lobster. Or maybe he just likes to explore strange places which smell like fish.

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FYI this is a lobster trap

Happy anniversary, Blizzard-the-Wizard. I don’t know what happened in your life to put you inside our shed that day, but I’m glad you found us.

Submit Your Stories Sunday: moonstruck

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 short story to help inspire your submission and finish off with a list of writing industry news and articles I came across this week.

This week we’re looking at Eibonvale Press’ upcoming anthology The Once and Future Moon and reading Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sentinel as well as Sheila Marie Borideux’s The Third Martian Dick Temple.

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The Once and Future Moon

Eligibility: speculative stories from 1k to 5k words focused on the Moon. Roughly half of the stories will take a historical bend on how the Moon affects our lives and the second half will be near-future stories on the same theme.

Take Note: the editors offer a list of recommended reading to get a feeling for what they want

Payment: 10 Pounds plus contributor’s copy

Submit by: April 30th, 2019

Click here to go to the original call for details. – please note this links to a pdf

A story to ignite your creativity:

For the purposes of this call, we’re going to look at a story in the recommended reading listed by the editors in the call, The Sentinel written by Arthur C. Clarke in 1951 and eighteen years before the Moon Landing  (pdf available online by clicking here). We’ll compare Clarke’s story to one that appeared on Daily Science Fiction in 2018, The Third Martian Dick Temple by Sheila Marie Borideux.

*spoilers*

The two stories are fun to compare because they share many ideals of exploration and discovery beloved to science fiction. Clarke’s story follows the awe of finding a moonbase far beyond human technology. Eager humans break it apart to study what they can learn from the alien culture and technology. In the end, wonder turns to fear.

In Borideux’s story, the human protagonist discovers her third temple on Mars. There is an initial, exciting moment of discovery, followed by abject disappointment. The temple is full of penis statues, just like the other two temples. The work of cataloguing the endless Martian dicks wears away at her. She doesn’t want to do this anymore, this is meaningless, demeaning, and this is such a let-down after all of our dreams of space.

What I like about these two stories side-by-side is that the first reflects the hope of space travel so prevalent in the 1950’s and the second perfectly captures the anticlimactic future we have found ourselves in seventy years on. Otherwise, these stories are essentially the same idea written on a different theme. We haven’t fulfilled the potential we dreamed of in the 50’s and our story got jaded. It’s our once and present Moon. These stories also show us how a shift in theme can change a story completely, and that is something we can use to build ideas of our future Moon.

Writerly links worth sharing this week:

David Simon posted an eye-opening expose of the business of writing-and agenting writers-in Hollywood. It’s worth reading before you get into film options for your work.

If you’re new to submitting short stories, SFWA president and prolific short story writer Cat Rambo has created a few excellent youtube tutorials to get you started.

Happy writing!

Submit Your Stories Sunday: time to have fun

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.

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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.

Submit by: April 15th, 2019

Click here to go to the original call for details.

A story to ignite your creativity:

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.

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Photo by Matan Segev on Pexels.com

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.

Happy writing!

 

 

the sap season of spring

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.

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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.048-002

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.

Submit Your Stories Sunday: dinosaurs

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.

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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

Click here to go to the original call for details.

A story to ignite your creativity:

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.

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Cover art by Galen Dara

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.

Happy writing!