IWSG: taking Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass

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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This week my mind is full of Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass. I plan to review the class here when I’ve completed it, but I’m taking my time to glean as much of Neil’s story sorcery as I can. I’m on Lesson 4 of 19, a week from beginning and I am buzzing with quiet inspiration and small thrills of discovery. This is a sensation I often get from taking writing classes, which I get to do every few years and not often enough. The alchemy of immersing myself in writing craft with a guide I admire is a delight.

There are such nuggets of Neil gold in there too. I’ve probably worn my readers’ ears off raving about Neil Gaiman. Fun fact: while he is my favorite writer, I do not love, or always like, everything he writes which somehow makes him stand out all the more.

Two quotes from the class have made it into my notebook, to be tattooed across my writing desk’s wooden flesh in some distant future. The first, has elicited a few gasps in conversation, and let me tell you, packs a wallop in the lecture, is about showing vs telling:

“I’m not going to tell you to feel sad. I’m going to kill a unicorn and break your heart.” – Neil Gaiman.

That line got to me. Wow.

From another lesson, this quote helped me pick myself up on a day with multiple rejection letters, which always gets to me. I can handle one per day. Two hurts.

“You learn more from finishing a failure than you do from writing a success.” – Neil Gaiman.

I have written multiple failures, and I’ll write many more. It’s good to be reminded that those stories do have a purpose.

(FYI that line does ring a bit familiar from an essay in The View from the Cheap Seats, but there is little regurgitated material thus far in the class).

In terms of output, I’ve outlined a new short story from the assignments in Lesson 3, and I will have to complete another before moving onto Lesson 5. This second one I’m expected to write in a single setting but as a toddler’s mother… I expect it will have to be flash fiction for me to pull it off. Unless you’re willing to babysit, hmm?

This is the most writing heavy course I’ve taken before, which is perfect for a hibernation-friendly month like February in Canada. It’s going to be an inspiring month.

Submit Your Stories Sunday: the People’s Preservatory

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.

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The People’s Preservatory

Eligibility: Anonobot is seeking strange, possibly humorous, speculative fiction up to 3000 words. Original fiction only, please.

Take Note: there is no specific theme to this anthology, however I recommend you read their wacky call of submissions carefully to get a sense of their taste.

What makes this call stand out: writers can submit up to three pieces for this call

Payment: $0.08 per word up to 3k, or $1.00 per line of poetry (minimum $15).

Submit by: March 15th, 2018

Click here to go to the original call for details.

Something to inspire your writing:

It can be tricky to get going on a story for a call without any theme at all. An abyss of possibilities yawns at your feet. So… besides weird and wacky, what do you do? This is part where I usually recommend a book.

Instead, I’m going to hone in on that weird and wacky element and point you in a direction to creatively “compost” some ideas with those same weird and wacky labels. Neil Gaiman says that stories are born of confluence, of two ideas colliding, and he knows his writing.

One place I like to hunt for that confluence is Magic Realism Bot on twitter. This is a bot account, following an algorithm of mishmash that can end up absurd, strange, weird, and occasionally, like something out a fairy tale. With upwards of 16k tweets under its circuits, I can always find a spark when I’m stuck for an idea. And they are usually weird and wacky.

Here’s a few screenshots I pulled to give you an idea:2019-02-02 19.18.35.png

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If you like what you see, head on over to the blue bird and follow Magic Realism Bot for all the free story fodder you can retweet in a day.

News and Things:

Have you heard about Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass yet? Of course I signed up for my favorite writer’s writing class and I’m excited to review here on the blog for you. However, I am not willing to rush through it and miss a single delicious drop of Neil’s story sorcery.

 

winter’s hero

Tired and aching from shoveling the driveway, my heart sank as I heard the snow plow scraping down the road. I sighed, grabbed my toque, and went back out.

The plow had left a thick strip of the worst kind of snow, piled up to my knees. There was nothing to do but dig in.

Half-way through, muscles sore and weakening, I noticed a rusty, aged tractor making its slow way up the mountain. I waved hello, thinking I could use a tractor of my own, when it stopped, turned, and scooped up the rest of that nasty, heavy snow. The young fellow inside tipped his hat once and drove off up the mountain, his cape flapping in the wind.

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Submit Your Stories Sunday: roaring for kidlit

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.

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Roar Kid’s Magazine

Eligibility: original stories for children aged 3 to 9-years-old up to 500 words.

Take Note: the first issue of this magazine has not been published yet so be sure to read your contract carefully and understand what rights you are selling

What makes this call stand out: this is a lucrative new market in a tiny pool of paying children’s fiction

Payment: $0.25 per word

Submit by: no deadlines on submissions at this time

Click here to go to the original call for details.

A Book to Inspire Your Submission:

I could go on about my favorite children’s books for tens of thousands of words, but since you’ve got a submission to brainstorm, I’ll keep it short. My favorite children’s author is William Joyce. Of his books, The Sandman is my favorite. The Sandman follows The Man in the Moon in the Guardians of Childhood series (you may have seen the animated movie Rise of the Guardians with these characters).

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from The Sandman: Sanderson Mansnoozie in his shooting star ship

The Sandman, Sanderson Mansnoozie, begins his story as the pilot of a shooting star who is attacked by the Nightmare King and his terrible band of Dream Pirates. Sanderson’s star crashes to Earth, where the wishes of children wishing on his star help him dream himself to safety. His ship crashes into the ocean and becomes an island of dream sand. The Sandman sleeps for many years, watched over by mermaids, until the Man in the Moon wakes him to ask for his help watching over the children of Earth.

This is a magical story. I love reading The Sandman to my girls at bedtime, despite it being longer than most picture books. The artwork is exquisite and the story fanciful enough to be a dream of its own, the perfect thing to fill their little minds before falling into their own dreams. This is the kind of wonder-filled story I’m always trying to find for them (and write for them!).

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Writerly links worth sharing this week:

Well-Storied published an excellent post on critical reading you can read by clicking here.

The Dream Foundry is starting a promising Media Exploration Club to help writers learn to navigate mediums new to them.

Canadian writers are asking for help in ensuring they are properly compensated for copies of their work. You can help us by clicking here to read more about these issues . If it sounds reasonable to you, please consider sending the email embedded into the site.

If you happen to live on the East Coast of Canada (like me!), the award-winning science fiction writer Julian Mortimer Smith is offering the workshop Tiny Universes: Writing and Publishing Science Fiction Stories in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, on March 2nd. You can read his work in Daily Science Fiction and Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016.

Happy writing!

 

the mother Medusa

I am Gorgon. I spelled and cast all through my pregnancy to keep my daughter from my curse. This endless loneliness. The complications of her conception. She was born, whole, uncursed, her head of hair a joy.

I locked her in a spell of blindness for her childhood to keep her safe. There are those who thought me cruel. Perhaps not cruel, but selfish. For twelve years I had the daughter I always wanted, the cuddles, that precious breath of unconditional love.

When she first bled the spell unraveled. She knew it would happen. She gained her sight but lost sight of me. I hid in my shame and my snakes and she was safe. I loved her from afar. We sent each other messages and letters filled with love.

But I did not wish to miss her wedding. I had a tinker make a glass of mercury and silver, a strange alchemy of reflection. I saw her wed her love, aglow with life and promise, everything I wished for her.

I lowered the mirror, foolish and sorry for myself, and brought it up too fast, catching a glimpse of my own unfamiliar face.

And turned to stone.

I did not know my victims were still conscious, screaming from their mortared prisons. The mirror dropped, shattering on the ground, one last reflection of her smile, before it turned to screams.

Now, I sit, a decoration in her garden. The first time she’s seen me, I suppose. I watch over her and my grandchildren. One of them born with snakes of her own…

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Photo by Ralph Chang on Pexels.com

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Creatures


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.

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Tell-Tale Press: Creatures

Eligibility: Original or reprint speculative fiction tales from 500 to 5 000 words on the theme of creatures. They also seek novelettes from 7 000 to 10 000 words.

Take Note: Under represented creatures will be favored over the usual vampires, werewolves, etc.

Payment: this is a bit complicated, bear with me. Fiction from 500 -1K words will be paid $5. 1K to 3K will be paid $10. 3K to 5K is $25. Novelettes are offered $50.

Submit by: March 4th, 2019

Click here to go to the original call for details.

A Book to Inspire Your Submission:

The Resurrectionist by E. B. Hudspeth is a fictional history and art book in one. The first half of this volume is the biography of a mad scientist, Dr. Spencer Black. The second half offers the Doctor’s masterpiece: an anatomy book of mythological beasts, drawn in the classic form.

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The Resurrectionist reads as a dark history book. Spencer the boy is forced into grave-robbing with his physician father, stealing corpses for cadaver research. When he is grown, Spencer also enters medicine, specializing in anatomy and gaining surgical experience with deformities and mutations. Soon Spencer develops his own theoretical evolution, supposing that humans were once closer to mythological beasts before we evolved out of our (possibly) best selves.

To further his studies, Black turns to traveling carnivals and cabinets of curiosities. His reputation in the medical community disintegrates as he attempts to publish his theories. Black then becomes a carnival showman, creating his own little oddities to delight the public. When the excitement of those creations wanes, Black begins experimenting with animals, creating living mythological franken-beasts. Inevitably, humans are next as his traveling show descends deeper into macabre and twisted wonder.

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An illustration from The Resurrectionist, by E. B. Hudspeth

Reading about how Dr. Spencer Black creates his mythological creatures, while deeply unsettling, provides a fascinating wonderscape for tales of creatures to grow from. If nothing else, flipping through the anatomy drawings are sure to spark your imagination with a creature tale or two.

Writerly links worth sharing this week:

The SFWA has announced it will be raising what is considered a professional rate from $0.06 per word to $0.08 per word effective September 1st, 2019.

Happy writing!

when the Moon came for dinner

We invited the Moon for dinner last week. To our delight, the Moon accepted our invitation and was courteous enough to shrink down for the event. I served a meal of mulled stardust and broiled comets from a recipe book I bought in a dream when I was seven.

The girls, of course, wanted pictures and the Moon obliged. I must say, I am happy with how they turned out. It’s nice to have memories of special guests the girls can look back on once they’re grown.

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Little Nim, who rarely stays up late enough to enjoy the night sky, marveled at our guest and screamed when we tried to take them away.

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Evening, who can often be seen waving to the Moon and shouting “Hi, Moon!” every chance she gets, was especially joyful to see her friend up close.

Toys were pulled out and stories created. Evening insisted the Moon must have dragons, and the Moon did not disagree. Blizzard the cat wanted in on the fun and investigated Evening’s carefully staged dragon silhouette.

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Shortly after taking this photo, Blizzard snapped up the dragon in his fuzzy jaws and ran off with him. Much hissing and fire-breathing ensued. I was embarrassed over the cat’s behavior but the Moon insisted it was the most excitement they’d had since the Pleiades passed through last month.

Blizzard returned with whiskers singed and bent. We haven’t found the dragon yet but we can hear him in the basement at night, breathing fire and munching stolen cat food.

Nim cried when it came time for the Moon to leave. Evening gave them a hug goodbye. I packed up the leftover comets and sent them along in case the Moon got hungry later. We stood on the porch and watched the Moon float up into the sky.

“Can we invite the Moon for dinner again, Mum?”

“That’s up to the Moon, dear.”

 

 

Submit Your Stories Sunday: hidden histories

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.

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Third Flatiron’s Hidden Histories Anthology

Eligibility: Speculative stories between 1 500 and 3 000 words OR 600 word humor pieces featuring a secret history taking place in the past, present, or future.

Take Note: read the call (linked below) carefully to determine the difference between the publisher’s idea of secret history and alternative history.

Payment: $o.o6 per word

Submit by: January 31st, 2019

Click here to go to the original call for details.

A Story to Inspire Your Submission:

ZeroS by fellow Canadian writer Peter Watts is a futuristic secret history following a recruit into the Zombie Corps. After being temporarily reanimated post-death, Asante is offered a split-minute decision to continue being dead or volunteer for a five year tour of duty as a new kind of soldier. He chooses to volunteer and finds himself a beta-test soldier in what he calls the Zombie Corps. There are bugs to work out, twitches, and lengthy sessions where his brain is nothing more than a blind passenger in his rebuilt body. He can deal with this, but as he completes more missions and pieces together shattered glimpses of horror, he realizes that no government body can be sanctioning the Zombie Corps, and he may not be on the side of the war he wants to be.

I’d call ZeroS a secret history because it becomes obvious in the story that Asante belongs to a secret project, government or otherwise. My hope is that reading it will kickstart your imagination to the possibilities of what makes a story a ‘secret history.’

You can read Watts’ short story for free on Tor.com by clicking here. It first appeared in the anthology Infinity Wars and was featured in Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018.

 

 

a clutch of mermaid eggs

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It took years of searching under kelp and seaweeds, of slipping past barnacles at low tide, and hunting through the flotsam of a storm surge. At last I’ve found a clutch of mermaid eggs. With care and a stroke of luck, I might be able to hatch them. I’ve studied the manuscripts, the old legends scraped in stone. If I succeed – well, I’ll have a pair of mermaids to raise as my own, won’t I? Shh. Tell no one and I’ll introduce you to them one day.

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Apex

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.

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Apex Magazine

Eligibility: original, speculative fiction stories up to 7 500 words. This includes science fiction, fantasy, horror, and any mix of these three.

Take Note: stories previously published on patreon are considered reprints for this market.

What makes this call stand out: Apex offers professional rates and is an SFWA-qualifying market.

Payment: $0.06 per word for print and e-publishing,  $0.01 per word for podcasted stories

Submit by: rotating submission dates, please check Apex’s website

Click here to go to the original call for details.

A book to inspire your writing:

A. Merc Rustad has published multiple stories in Apex magazine. Aside from checking out copies of the magazine itself (e-published in the usual places) I recommend reading Merc’s short story collection So You Want to be a Robot. A. Merc Rustad is consistently on the year’s “best of” collection and awards ballots for a reason. Their stories bend your mind and explode your imagination past borders you didn’t know it had.

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So You Want to be a Robot begins with Merc’s Nebula-nominated This is Not a Wardrobe Door. This is a quintessential Merc story, taking your usual portal story and subverting every trope, juggling it while standing on their head, and giving you the ending you didn’t realize your soul was yearning for. This story has been published in Fireside, Cicada, and Podcastle. In fact, you can follow this link to Podcastle and hear the podcasted version right now.

This collection of Merc’s work includes science fiction and fantasy tales. Gender is a fluid concept here, and Merc’s protagonists’ beautiful way of seeing the world is both familiar yet fresh with each character. I give this book six and a half out of five stars.

Writerly links worth sharing this week:

Lightspeed magazine is offering a free anthology on their website. What better way to familiarize yourself with what they like to publish than downloading a copy and reading it for yourself?

The author list is up for the Unlocking the Magic anthology, which includes me and my story The Night Janitor and features the wonderful authors A. Merc Rustad, Ferrett Steinmetz, and Cat Rambo. Editor Vivian Caethe created up this anthology as a response to negative mental illness tropes often seen in fantasy fiction. Our stories were vetted by a psychologist before acceptance to ensure they wouldn’t contribute to any negative tropes. I urge you to check it out if this intrigues you. The book is on pre-order now and should be available this spring.