On Writing: Don’t Hoard What Seems Good

One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a better place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. ~ Annie Dillard

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Quotes

An Update Long Overdue

In case you didn’t notice, I was mostly absent from this website in 2016 and 2017. My mom once told me people don’t notice things about us the way we think they do. Unless we have a button unbuttoned, a zipper unzipped, or broccoli in our teeth. But if I point out an imperfection – “Look how this mirror brings out my grey hair,” or, “Does this pimple look really bad?” – then it becomes obvious. So now that I’ve drawn attention to myself, I thank you if you noticed my absence (and also if you didn’t).

I wasn’t completely absent from the internet, though. I posted 2-3 interviews a month on the SouthWest Writers’ website (28 in 2017, for a total of 71 in the last three years). This group, located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is full of wonderful, encouraging writers who meet twice a month to network and learn from others who’ve been in the trenches. Check out their video presentations on YouTube.

Way back in 2016, I said I was holding my breath for a response from an agent who requested the manuscript of the first book in my fantasy trilogy. I didn’t do a follow up to that – Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media Group actually offered me representation! Much of 2016 was a blur as I worked like a fiend to complete a self-edit of the book while I waited on word of a sale. My perfectionism went into overdrive in 2017 as I continued to revise that first novel. I’ve since moved on to book two with 20,000 words towards a first draft. I’m still waiting on the sale of book one and, as always, I’m enjoying torturing my characters in their continuing quest.

My goal of selling one or more short stories last year was a bust. I’m still writing, revising, and submitting as well as entering stories in competitions. I did find a great editor (Bethany Kaczmarek) who worked with me on one of the shorts, as well as the first chapter of book one. For me this is a necessary part of the process of polishing my writing. I do participate in two critique groups, but their valuable input can’t take the place of a good developmental edit.

New for 2018:

  • Actually sticking to a blog schedule – once a week on Wednesdays with the occasional Friday thrown in.
  • A fun project working with my teenage granddaughter who, if you’ll pardon my bias, is an awesome artist. She’ll be helping me develop a comic strip inspired by popular movies and television programs that you may or may not recognize.
  • Sharing my work in the form of serialized short stories and snippets of longer works. This is a huge step for me (and my perfectionism), but one I need to take or continue in an eternal edit of everything.
  • Posting advice from writers regarding character development, setting, tone, tension, etc., as well as interviews with speculative fiction authors. I’m also hoping to include guest posts from writers who’ll share their knowledge and creative process.

That’s it for me. What have you been up to in the last few years? Any goals you’d like to share?

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Musings

2017 SFWA Short Story Qualifying Markets for Speculative Fiction

Many writers of speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, etc.) pursue active membership in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). In addition to membership benefits, SFWA provides free resources, including an Information Center packed with great articles of interest to writers. And their Writer Beware® postings are an indispensable resource for advice and warnings regarding the publishing industry.

Novel sales is one avenue to membership, sales of short stories is another. While I work to perfect my novel, I pursue the short story option through markets that satisfy the requirements. Unfortunately, the SFWA website lacks an updated list of qualifying markets (and no links are provided). To the rescue: The Grinder and Ralan.com. These websites fill in the gaps with complete market listings that I sift through for those specific to SFWA.

The following are the markets I submit to first. These qualifying markets pay professional rates of 6 cents or more per word for short stories. Those listed are still accepting unagented submissions as of July 19, 2017. At the end of the post you’ll find a link to a pdf spreadsheet for future reference. (This list is for adult markets. If you write for children/middle grade, check out Cicada, Cricket, and Highlights magazines.)

1. analogo_bwAnalog Science Fiction and Fact publishes science fiction stories in which some aspect of future science or technology is so integral to the plot that, if that aspect were removed, the story would collapse. The science can be physical, sociological, psychological, but stories must be strong and realistic, with believable people (who needn’t be human) doing believable things – no matter how fantastic the background might be.

Word Count Payment Response Time Reprints
2,000-80,000 8-10¢/word to 20,000
Serials: 6¢/word
2-3 months No
Other: Serials: 40,000-80,000 words. No simultaneous submissions. Accepts online and hardcopy submissions.

2. new-banner092512Apex Magazine is a monthly online prose and poetry magazine of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mash-ups of all three. They seek works full of marrow and passion, stories that are twisted, strange, and beautiful.

Word Count Payment Response Time Reprints
Up to 7,500 6¢/word 1 month
Other: No simultaneous submissions or multiple submissions.

3. as_logo_blAsimov’s Science Fiction is looking for character-oriented science fiction in which the characters, rather than the science, provide the main focus for the reader’s interest. They also publish borderline fantasy, slipstream, and surreal fiction, but no sword & sorcery.

Word Count Payment Response Time Reprints
1,000-20,000 8-10¢/word to 7,500
8¢/word over 7,500
5 weeks No
Other: No simultaneous submissions, serialized novels, explicit sex or violence. Accepts online and hardcopy submissions.

4. Beneath Ceaseless SkiesBeneath Ceaseless Skies is an award-winning online magazine publishing “literary adventure fantasy” with a secondary-world setting – different from our own primary world – and a traditional/classic fantasy feel, written with a literary focus on the characters.

Word Count Payment Response Time Reprints
Up to 14,000 6¢/word 2-4 weeks No
Other: Accepts simultaneous submissions (read guidelines). No multiple submissions, novel excerpts, urban fantasy or modern/contemporary settings. No graphic sex or violence beyond an R-rating.

5. ClarkesworldClarkesworld Magazine is a Hugo award-winning monthly science fiction/fantasy magazine. Science fiction need not be hard SF. Fantasy can be folkloric, contemporary, surreal, etc. Horror can be supernatural or psychological, as long as it’s frightening.

Word Count Payment Response Time Reprints
1,000-16,000 10¢/word to 5,000
8¢/word over 5,000
2 days No
Other: No simultaneous submissions. See their list of hard sells.

6. DailyScienceFiction_200Daily Science Fiction accepts speculative fiction submissions: science fiction, fantasy, slipstream, etc. They will consider stories with dark elements but no pure horror.

Word Count Payment Response Time Reprints
100-1,500 8¢/word < 1 month
Other: Accepts flash series (3+ standalone stories built around a common theme). No simultaneous/multiple submissions, erotica, or pure horror.

7. escapepod2Escape Pod seeks science fiction stories, centered on science, technology, future projections, alternate history, and how any or all of these things intersect with people. Fairly flexible on what counts as science. No fantasy, magical realism, or more than a tinge of horror.

Word Count Payment Response Time Reprints
2,000-6,000 6¢/word Unknown Yes
Other: Reprints: $100 flat rate. No serialized fiction or novel excerpts. Closed to submissions Aug 1-31, 2017.

8. fsflogo5_200Fantasy & Science Fiction is looking for stories that appeal to science fiction and fantasy readers. They prefer character-oriented stories, whether fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, or another genre. The speculative element may be slight, but it should be present.

Word Count Payment Response Time Reprints
Up to 25,000 7-12¢/word < 8 weeks No
Other: No simultaneous or multiple submissions. Accepts online and hardcopy submissions.

9. Fireside publishes all speculative fiction genres. They want stories that go somewhere, that keep people reading to find out what happens next, but they aren’t looking for character studies or metafiction or hallucinatory visions.

Word Count Payment Response Time Reprints
1,000-4,000 12.5¢/word 30 days after sub. window No
Other: Prefers shorter word counts. No simultaneous or multiple submissions. Submission windows (subject to change): flash fiction (up to 1,000 words), Sep 17-23; short stories, Nov 5-11.

10. FlashFictionOnline200Flash Fiction Online seeks complete stories with a resolved plot and strong, interesting characters (not a story synopsis or scene from a novel), and (to some extent) settings.

Word Count Payment Response Time Reprints
500-1,000 $60 flat rate 2 days-10 weeks Yes
Other: Reprints: 2¢/word. No erotica, graphic sex, or egregious violence. No simultaneous submissions. Accepts multiple submissions.

11. logo302bIGMS (Intergalactic Medicine Show) is looking for science fiction and fantasy stories up to 17,500 words (query the editor for longer works). Science fiction: hard sf, sf adventure, alternate history, near-future, far-future, psi, alien, etc. Fantasy: heroic fantasy (based on any culture’s mythology), fairy tales, contemporary fantasy, and horror in the sense of supernatural suspense (not gory bloodfests).

Word Count Payment Response Time Reprints
Up to 17,500
6¢/word 3 months+ No*
Other: *See reprint guidelines. No multiple submissions. No profanity, explicit sex or violence (think PG13).

12. sh_headStrange Horizons is a weekly online magazine seeking speculative fiction, broadly defined, previously unpublished in English.

Word Count Payment Response Time Reprints
Up to 10,000
8¢/word < 40 days No
Other: Preferred word count: < 5,000. No simultaneous/multiple submissions, resubmissions, serialized novels/excerpts, erotica, or horror. Submissions re-open every Monday night and continue through the week until the queue is full

The following are open to submissions periodically but are currently closed. Subscribe or join their newsletters for updates.

Lightspeed is seeking original science fiction and fantasy stories of all types. No subject should be considered off-limits, and they encourage writers to take chances with their fiction and push the envelope.

Word Count Payment Response Time Reprints
8¢/word 2 days-2 weeks Yes
Other: Preferred word count: < 5,000. Reprints: 2¢/word. No simultaneous/multiple submissions, but you may submit one science fiction story and one fantasy story once every seven days. Last submission window, fantasy only: April 1-15, 2017.

nightmare_28_january_2015_bannerNightmare is seeking original horror and dark fantasy stories. All types of horror and dark fantasy are welcome. No subject is considered off-limits. They encourage writers to take chances with their fiction and push the envelope.

Word Count Payment Response Time Reprints
1,500-7,500 6¢/word 2-14 days Yes
Other: Preferred word range: < 5,000. Reprints: 1¢/word. No simultaneous/multiple submissions, but you may submit one story every 7 days. Last submission window: February 15-March 14, 2017.

The following pay SFWA professional rates and are in the process of qualifying for SFWA market status.

Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores is seeking science fiction, fantasy, myth, legend, fairy tales, and eldritch from 1,000 words on up, but favor shorter pieces. They care about character, plot, ideas, and storytelling ability whether serious or humorous.

Word Count Payment Response Time Reprints
1,000+ 6¢/word 1-12 weeks Yes
Other: Reprints: 2¢/word. No simultaneous/multiple submissions. No horror, hate, blood and guts, explicit language, excessive violence, or sex. Submission windows: Mar 21-28; Jun 21-28; Sept 21-28; Dec 21-28.

Pseudopod is a genre magazine in audio form. They’re looking for horror: dark, weird fiction. They run the spectrum from grim realism or crime drama, to magic-realism, to blatantly supernatural dark fantasy.

Word Count Payment Response Time Reprints
flash: <1500
short: 1,500-6K
6¢/word < 2 months Yes
Other: Reprint rates vary. Prefers flash of 500–1K words; short stories of 4500 words. Accepts simultaneous but not multiple submissions. See their Submission/Closure Schedule. Flash submissions: Aug 15-Sept 15; short stories: Sept 15-Oct 31.

Here’s a handy spreadsheet incorporating the information from this post. Go HERE for the pdf version with clickable links. I’ll keep an updated list on my Writing Resources page.

Good Luck!

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Call for Submissions

Writing is…Magic

Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. ~ Stephen King

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Quotes

An Interview with Author Zachry Wheeler, Part 2

Science fiction novelist Zachry Wheeler is a web applications developer and self-professed nerd who also writes nonfiction articles for BrewChief.com and HerringtonPost.com. You’ll find him on his website ZachryWheeler.com and at SFF conferences throughout the Southwestern United States (see his website’s Events page). Transient, published in 2016, is his debut novel.

transient200You tell potential readers that Transient takes “the widely abused trope of a young adult vampire romance … and shove[s] it face-first through the meat grinder of post-apocalyptic science fiction … Consider it the anti-Twilight.” What sparked the initial story idea for the book?
I have always enjoyed vampires as classic monsters, but it irritates me when lore is treated as a subplot or afterthought. At best, it’s explained away as mysticism. At worst, it’s laughably cheesy (cough cough, sparkly chest). One day I asked myself, what if vampires were real? As in scientifically feasible. Before long, I had a pseudo research paper full of medical science and logistics. The story sprung from there.

The main character is Jonas who “lives underground, works at night, and drinks his daily blood rations, just like any normal eternal.” Why did you choose to set Jonas’ story in Seattle?
I chose downtown Seattle as the primary setting for two reasons. One, I was living there when I wrote the first draft, so I could give it proper treatment. Two, Seattle at night gives off a delightful noir vibe that was ideal for the story (especially after a light rain). The grayness of the cityscape perfectly complemented the grayness of the characters.

What was the most difficult aspect of world building for this book?
I would say the creation of a believable sociopolitical environment. It’s easy to take the current political climate and dump it into a story. It becomes believable because it’s familiar. However, that becomes tricky when the fundamental rules of life change. I needed to answer an intriguing question: if immortals controlled the world, how would they organize themselves? I knew right away that a capitalistic democracy wouldn’t work (if you don’t die, sustainability becomes a real problem). After a great deal of historical research and analysis, I settled on a totalitarian version of global socialism.

You credit beer, and the thousand articles you wrote for BrewChief.com, for teaching you how to write (see Part 1 of the interview). Tell us more about how Transient came together.
I rewrote Transient stem to stern at least five times. I put it through more rounds of editing than I care to admit. But, every second was worth it. I view the effort as writing tuition. If craft beer taught me the basics, then fixing Transient was my final exam. Publishing it was the culmination of a long and arduous journey. I’m immensely proud of it.

Do you have other creative outlets besides writing?
I always have what I like to call my “creative delusion.” Right now it’s science fiction novels, and I don’t see that going away anytime soon. At one point it was music. I fronted several rock bands and spent a decade in the music industry. I wrote and released four albums, two of which enjoyed national radio attention and spotlights on MTV. I also work as an extra at Albuquerque Studios, mostly to get out of the house. What started off as an amusing hobby has turned into active side work. I even scored a recurring role on Better Call Saul. Click here for a sticky post about my ongoing shenanigans as an extra. Also, here are the band websites for anyone interested: Mayhematic.com and Sydewynder.com.

You have years of experience as a web applications developer. How has this experience benefitted your fiction writing? Is there anything you’ve had to overcome because of your logical brain?
I’m an introvert (as I assume most writers are). Web applications development requires a great deal of mental stamina, a high tolerance for solitary environments, and the motivation to work from home. Needless to say, the transition to writing was pretty easy. The biggest challenge for my logical brain is to not see sentences as code. I stare at code all day and it has to be meticulously organized to read well and understand. When writing fiction, I will sometimes use a subpar word just to make the formatting look more pleasing. It’s a hardwired habit that gets in the way from time to time.

What’s on your to-read pile?
This may be a stunning admission, but I’m still trying to catch up on the classics of science fiction. I haven’t finished Asimov’s Foundation series (beyond the trilogy). I still have yet to read any Philip K. Dick, and Rendezvous with Rama (Arthur C. Clarke) has been lingering on my Kindle for months. Those are at the top of the pile.

If the stars aligned, what past or present television or movie series would you love to write for (or be involved with in any capacity)?
Firefly. Everything about that show hits my happy spots. I love the writing, the setting, the ensemble, the humor, the pacing, the structure, everything. It was utter perfection and it still grates on my psyche that it was cancelled after one season.

maxandthemultiverse150What writing project are you working on now?
My young adult science fiction novel Max and the Multiverse (2017) was just released, and I’m working on the sequel.

(A bit of trivia: While working as an extra on the movie Soldado, the sequel to Sicario starring Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin, Zack was filmed in a scene reading Max and the Multiverse. He doesn’t know if it made the final cut, but it’s pretty awesome either way.)

To learn more about Zack and his writing, go to Part 1 of this interview.

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Author Interviews

Seek, Study, Practice to Tell Your Stories


As we continue to strive, we seek those stories that we simply have to tell; and we study, so that we have the knowledge we need to tell them. Then we practice, so that we can tell them the best way we know how. ~ Cynthia Granville

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Quotes

Dear Holiday Heroes: Thank You

1-1231002924wqjwHeroes come in many forms. Teachers shoulder a huge responsibility to impact the younger generation in a positive way. Nurses work too many hours to provide care for the sick and injured. Law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics and other rescue workers face danger every day in service to our local communities. And the members of our military, many far from home, fight for peace in the community of the world.

To all of you I say, “Thank you!” You do not get paid enough for your sacrifice. Your hard work often goes unnoticed or unappreciated. Those who work holidays deserve extra praise, double helpings of brownies and whipped cream at all office parties, and triple karma points.

As grateful as I am for all of you who do so much to help others – in jobs I don’t have the courage, stamina, or expertise for – today there is one person I wish I could thank face-to-face. I don’t know your name or how to reach you, but I hope you get this message someday:

To you, sir, with the veteran’s license plate who answered this mother’s prayer to help her daughter stranded by a flat tire on a slick, wintry (and deserted) road in rural New Mexico – thank you.

Before you could kneel in the snow to wrestle with the spare tire, you had to remove your artificial leg. You didn’t have to stop and help. You could have kept driving, stayed warm and dry, but you’re a hero. You might not consider yourself one, but you are to me.

Your actions reaffirmed that God answers prayer and proved that once a hero, always a hero. For my daughter (a nurse and a veteran), you are proof that good people are still out there willing to put others first regardless of inconvenience. Because you stopped, she made it home in time to work a holiday shift at the hospital.

My daughter and I will never forget your kindness.

For all you heroes – thank you. May you be blessed with an abundance of peace and joy, protection and provision, not only during the holiday season, but always.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Just Because

Procrastinate to Fuel Your Writing, Tip #1: Chocolate Wars

chocolate_fractal_300Some insist procrastination is a dirty word. But I say, “One writer’s procrastination is another writer’s research.”

Have you ever left your keyboard in search of a snack, and found yourself staring at the inside of the fridge (for the umpteenth time that day) and not finding anything worth eating? Of course you have. You’re human.

The next time you’re disappointed by the dull innards of your refrigerator, don’t go back to your work-in-progress. You know you want a break from deciding what color eyes each of your characters should have or from making a definitive guide on how to kill a boar with a straw. Your new research might begin something like this:

Skipping to the fridge, hungry for a quick snack. Squee, chocolate sauce! Drat, no ice cream. Score – everything needed to make chocolate chip cookies! But ingredients for brownies, too. Which to make…

Turn this predicament into an exercise in character development, scene generation, or world building. What would your main character rather snack on? Does a beefy cop enjoy brownies? A warrior princess prefer cookies?

Go ahead, bake a pan of brownies. While waiting, mix cookie dough. Take a sample. When brownies are done, taste test a corner and a center piece (one for you and one for your character). Bake cookies. Sample again. Consider a drizzle of chocolate sauce and/or running to the store for ice cream. Would cop like vanilla or chocolate? This is a win-win for everyone.

If chocolate isn’t to your liking…er…your character’s liking, try these alternatives:
– apple pie vs. cherry pie
– any pie vs. any cake
– cookie vs. cookie
– same for candy, milkshakes, etc.

So many characters, so many choices. Savory alternatives could include comparing bread, wine, beer, cheese (and now I’m officially hungry).

Allow this to be a pleasant, but useful, distraction. Food preferences can reveal a protagonist’s character and upbringing, become a recurring prop throughout the story (e.g. Agent Gibbs’ coffee on NCIS), or be included in a scene such as:
– a food fight
– a requisite tavern visit
– a prelude to a romantic encounter
– a family/holiday dinner
– a meet-and-greet with new alien neighbors

So take a break and make procrastination research work for you and your story. And then get back to writing.

Do you prefer cookies or brownies? How often do you visit the fridge hoping the food elf has left something yummy since the last time you checked?

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Procrastination, Writing Advice

Reading and Creating


As you read a book word by word and page by page, you participate in its creation, just as a cellist playing a Bach suite participates, note by note, in the creation, the coming-to-be, the existence, of the music. And, as you read and re-read, the book of course participates in the creation of you, your thoughts and feelings, the size and temper of your soul. ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Quotes

Saying “Yes” to Saying “No”

ID-10075071_2Today is my last day as webmaster for SouthWest Writers (SWW). Tomorrow I’ll begin a semi-sabbatical for the remainder of the year. Not a rest from everything, just from taking on new responsibilities. A sabbatical, I suppose, from saying “yes.”

I’ve been a member of SWW for ten years now, having served on their board of directors for four years—at various times as secretary, webmaster, blogmaster, newsletter editor, brownie baker, and general volunteer. It’s an odd thing to be part of a writing organization and not to write, at least not in any committed, consistent kind of way. I’m not blaming SWW. It’s clearly my fault for failing to knuckle down and take my writing seriously.

But I’ve come to realize I’ve said “yes” to requests to volunteer, not just out of a desire to help but as a way to avoid finishing my writing projects (including five novel drafts and two partials). For the past few years I’ve told myself, “I can’t write today. I’m too busy with such-and-such,” or, “I’ll write tomorrow. So-and-so needs me today.” These seemed like good excuses at the time, and writing does take gobs of focus and energy…

I suppressed the gentle call to write until it screamed at me, more and more often. My characters wanted their stories finished, and only I could do it.

Letting go of my volunteer responsibilities has not been easy, but it was necessary. Several positives came out of these last few years: I helped a great organization I truly care about, I made awesome friends, and I learned how important writing is to me.

So…tomorrow I finish the query letter and synopsis for my fantasy novel, and then hold my breath as I email them to an agent who requested them a few weeks ago. (I wrote the first chapter in May of 2005 and completed the draft in 2015. Wow, where did those 10 years go?)

For the remaining seven months of 2016, I’ll work to make that novel shine and to finalize a dozen short stories for submission to speculative fiction magazines. If there’s still time left in the year, I’ll pick one of my four other novel drafts to start editing. I have a lot of work to do, but I’m excited to jump in and put as much energy into writing as I did into volunteering.

How about you? Have you let something get in the way of your dreams? We’re almost at the halfway point of the year—where are you on meeting your goals?

Image “Clean Idea”courtesy of thaikrit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Musings
All who wander are not lost. ~ JRR Tolkien

CampNaNoWriMo Winners Badges Apr_Jul 2015
%d bloggers like this: