How I Pick and Order Monthly Open Calls for Submission

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1. I use the resources on my page on my blog with the clunky title “Bloggers and Groups I Follow for Submissions and More”

2. I race through Submittable.  It’s a sloppy hunt, but I do my best to include EVERYTHING out in the world that meets my criteria

3. I order all the open calls by due date for an easy calendar style view, next I provide a word count so writers can best decide if they can create something that length in the time allotted.  Then I the story’s theme, if there is a response timeline, I add that, and I close with the pay.

4. I only include publications that include $.01 word pay out or a royalty pay out.  

5. I stick open calls I believe will interest my writers’ group.  Poetry, venues looking for the writers to represent a subgroup other than white male (though I do sometimes include women, queer, disabled calls as we have group members who qualify), some genre requests, and erotica calls are omitted.  

That’s it.  Over this year, it became an organized system I’m proud of, but it does take a long time to find the information and copy it all into the blog.  Hours across days go into what looks like a very simple post.  I hope it helps people and while you’re here go look at my December Round Up to see if anything appeals.

 

Enough about me, I want to hear from you.

 Are there other elements or organizations I should include?  Do you like how I organize the calls and the information necessary to submit?  How do you decide who to submit to?  Do you submit to publications that pay less than $.01 a word and if so tell me a little about why/what you believe you gain.

December Open Calls For Submission

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Dec 15th

Once Upon a Future Time: up to 15,000 words a scifi story that incorporates a fairy tale or folklore.  ALL AUTHORS RECEIVE FEEDBACK on their writing.   pay is $50 and royalties plus a copy of the book

Arsenika: up to 1,000 words all flash and micro flash or poetry.  They respond in 14 days of submission pay is $60 for flash and $30 for poetry

Matter Press: ???words suggests short? looking for anything that deals with the idea of compression.  Response time is 1-3 days and the pay is $50

Smoking Gun Press: 1,200-6,000 words “We welcome stories involving all types of supernatural beings… witches, zombies, vampires, ghosts, werewolves and other were-creatures, demons, and anything else we’ve left out! Mixing and matching of different types of beings in the same story is acceptable” all genres are acceptable pay is $20 and a copy of the anthology

Iridium Press: up to 5,000 words any story so long as it has QUILTBAG+ content pay is $.03 a word. 

Belanger Books: 5,000-10,000 words “this collection will feature all new traditional Sherlock Holmes adventures with a science-fiction edge. Sherlock Holmes: Adventures in the Realms of Steampunk will feature Holmes in a futuristic Victorian setting.  See him deal with airship pirates and steam powered robots. Maybe he’ll even deal with a time traveler or with alien invaders.  ” pay is royalties

Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide: 3,000-6,000 words a YA/middle grade scifi genre story pay is $.06 a word

Selene Quarterly Magazine: up to 100 words between 101-1,000 words 1,001-1,500 words 3,000-7,500 words “Selene Quarterly Magazine publishes quality fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art that dwells in the shadows. SQM desires stories and poetry that are thrilling, reflective, and imaginative.” pay scale varies for length but all are at least $.01 a word

Dec 24th

Ulthar Press: 2,000-5,000 words ” looking for strange, gothic, and fantastic fiction in the manner of E.T.A. Hoffmann between 2,000 – 5,000 words in length. Stories that merely graft his characters into a new story will not be accepted.” response time is 60 days and the pay is $.02 a word

Dec 28th

Thuggish Itch: 1,000-4,000 words theme is theme park looking for horror, scifi, and speculative works.  pay is $5.00 under 2,000 words and $10 over 2,000 *to make this ‘worth it’ you need to write a 500 word pieceD

Dec 31st

Space Opera Libretti: 2,000-7,000 words “The short version of what we want: Silly, diverse sci-fi that involves music. If it’s actually about operas in space, all the better!” pay is $.06 a word

Inkling Press: up to 5,000 words “The first anthology released by Inklings Press was Tales From The Tavern – a short collection of five fantasy stories by some of the early, happy crew that thought it was time to have a go. You can still read that – it’s collected in the Tales From The Tower anthology that rounds up the first year of Inklings Press.”  flat $50 pay

Vex Me No More: up to 5,000 words “We want your witch stories! Though they do not necessarily have to be female-centric, they do need to be tales of powerful, unique beings. Remember, this is a horror anthology, so while you can have elements of other genres, we want to be scared.” pay os $.02 a word

Bad Dream Entertainment: 1,500-8,000 words “Bad Dream is now accepting submissions of humorous dark fiction. Editor Brett Reistroffer is looking for original horror fiction with a strong sense of comedy, and most themes, subjects, and settings are welcome but standard genre tropes are definitely discouraged (vampires, zombies, werewolves, etc.). The comedic aspect can be goofy and slapstick or black and morbid, just as long as there are equal amounts of darkness and humor” pay is $.06 a word plus split royalties 

Curse the Darkness: 3,000-10,000 words “For our inaugural anthology, Curse the Darkness*, we’re throwing our doors wide open and inviting submissions on the theme of darkness. That could be the absence of light, the presence of evil, or the sinister thoughts of the afflicted. However you choose to interpret the theme, just make sure you leave us afraid to turn out the lights.” pay is $75 flat rate

Alternate Peace: up to 7,500 words “is to feature alternate history stories where the divergence from our timeline comes from some kind of peaceful change to our past. It must explore the consequences of this divergence, not simply introduce the divergence. Stories featuring more interesting historical settings and twists on the consequences of the peaceful divergence from our timeline will receive more attention than those with more standard changes to the course of history. ” response by end of Feb 2019 pay is $.06 a word

Temporally Deactivated: up to 7,5000 words “is to feature stories where the author explores what the phrase “temporally deactivated” could mean with regards to a person, place, or thing. Stories featuring more interesting takes on the twisting of time and how it is integrated into the story will receive more attention than those with more typical twisted time stories. We do NOT want to see stories where “temporal deactivation” means simply death.” response by end of Feb 3019 pay is $.06 a word

Portals: up to 7,5000 words “is to feature science fiction or fantasy stories that contain a portal opening up between two different worlds and the consequences that come from that portal. We are attempting to fill half of the anthology with science fiction stories and half with fantasy stories. ” pay is $.06 a word

Nothing Without Us: 1,000-3,500 words “All works must be fiction—fiction based on lived experiences is welcome. The lead character must be disabled, blind, Deaf, Autistic, neurodiverse, and/or live with mental illness. We do not expect all of these in one character, although we’re sure that character would be amazing. We are accepting fiction in all genres with the exception of hard-core erotica. We are also only interested in previously unpublished works. ” “We welcome writers across the disability, mental illness, developmental disabilities, neurodiversity, blind, and Deaf spectrums. We welcome those who manage invisible and visible disabilities and/or chronic conditions. We welcome those who count spoons! We’re just looking to have an entire work where we elevate the stories written by the folks in our community.  We welcome the communities that intersect with the disabled, neurodiverse, mentally ill, blind, and Deaf communities, such as the LGBTQIA2 communities.” pay is $.03 a word

Allegory Online Magazine: up to 5,000 words but between 500-2,000 seems best “We specialize in the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror genres. We will consider other genres, such as humor or general interest, provided that the work possesses an original, “quirky” slant.” pay is $15

Jan 1st

Cafe Irreal: up to 2,000 words “This fiction, which we would describe as irreal, resembles the work of writers such as Franz Kafka, Kobo Abe, Clarice Lispector and Jorge Luis Borges. As a type of fiction it rejects the tendency to portray people and places realistically and the need for a full resolution to the story; instead, it shows us a reality constantly being undermined. Therefore, we’re interested in stories by writers who write about what they don’t know, take us places we couldn’t possibly go, and don’t try to make us care about the characters.” pay is $.01 a word min $2

Crystal Lake Publishing: 500-5,000 words a non themed anthology in the dark fiction genre with fleshed out three dimensional characters pay is $.03 a word

Nexxis Fantasy: up to 15,000 words “Nexxis Fantasy has a twice a year publication. Our goal is to publish an exquisite science fiction anthology filled with the greatest works from across the galaxy.” the upcoming theme is “Lost” pay is $1 per 100 words

6 Reasons I Stopped Reading Daily Science Fiction

image from open clipart.org by j4p4n

Long time readers of the North Alabama Writers’ Group blog may know I started a monthly series called “The Best of Daily Science Fiction”. For this series, I read every story Daily Science Fiction published each month and featured the works I enjoyed.  I stopped the series after Feb even though I read all the stories through April.  I stopped posting the series because:

1. Creating a post with so many links and references was a hassle.  It takes a long time to write, edit, and find a photo for most posts.  What takes 20 minutes to write ends up taking an hour and a half to get set up for publication.  These Daily Science Fiction posts took FAR longer because I would research the authors of stories I featured and link to other works/sites where readers could find them.  The feedback I got wasn’t worth the time.  

2. I didn’t enjoy reading Daily Science Fiction.  It pains me to type this, but the truth is: most of the stories Daily Science Fiction aren’t fun, interesting, or unique.  And I want to like Daily Science Fiction, but I can’t. 

 3. Reading the stories there and trying to pick “good ones” was lowering my standards.  While I compiled stories for March’s post, I included anything that “was a story” even if I thought that story was cliche.  Reviewing the stories to post spiralled me into a depression.  Where were my standards?  Since when has “almost having a conclusion” good enough?  I would never accept something so sloppy in my work or in the work of my fellows.  Why was I recommending work that didn‘t inspire emotion or new thoughts?  To fill out a blog post, no I wouldn‘t do it.

4. Daily Science Fiction has a terrible website.  It‘s slow and often crashes.  This is annoying when one is trying to comb through it for cross links.  It’s also pretty frustrating when I would try to rate the stories only to have the site continually crash.  I suspected the site craps out intentionally if you‘re giving a low score to a story most people seem to like.  This conspiracy theory is probably not true, but it‘s hard to keep pleasant thoughts for a site that refused to load consistently.  It is a professional paid market, get some web support!  

5. I hate the layout of Daily Science Fiction’s website.  I would try to search for ALL the stories from authors I enjoyed or from authors I was “on the fence” to read more, and the search engine was super clunky.  Also Daily Science Fiction lets repeat published authors write very different bios for each story they submit so I often had to read through as many stories as possible, read the story AND the author bio again looking for hints.  They should just have a directory with the most up-to-date bio of each published author in alphabetical order and include links to any publications they‘ve ever had within Daily Science Fiction.  This is website networking 101.  If the goal of your publication is to offer short scifi work to readers and feature writers others might otherwise never read, make it easier for readers to find more from these writers!

6. The website is ugly.  This is petty and not worth mentioning when a site is easy to navigate, but Daily Science Fiction isn’t well laid out.  Being on a site that crashes often, takes a while to load, and doesn‘t search well, gives a person a long time to see how unpleasant the whole experience is.  The over all aesthetic quality matters a lot more.  Guess what, Daily Science Fiction isn‘t winning any awards in color scheme or intuitive navigation.  

Tell me about your experiences.  What turns you off to a website?  What do you look for in a flash or in recurring newsletters?  Do you read Daily Science fiction and if so, what’s your experience as a reader?  Have you published through Daily Science Fiction and what was that experience like?

7 Steps I take Before Posting a Bad Review

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1. Wait a few days.  Sometimes the initial rage a book gives me fades.  Cooler heads prevail and some stuff that made me angry was subjective and not a reason to slam a book. 


2. Reread the summary.  Did the summary match what I read?  Sometimes I expect things from a book it didn’t deliver.  Was that me or was it the summary that made my perceptions not line up with reality? 


3. Check the genre.  I am looking for fantasy reads, preferably Urban Fantasy for an adult audience.  I spend a lot of time settling for Young Adult, Paranormal Romance and so on.  Sometimes what I hated is a genre standard, and I try not to hate on a book because it’s a romance with fantasy elements and I wanted the reverse.  


4. Look at what else the author published.  A book catalog sometimes puts a book in perspective and allows me to be kinder.


5.  Read another book by that author.  Sometimes I need to live in that writer’s style for over one book before I relate to what he or she is doing.


6. Read other people’s reviews.  Did someone else enjoy something I missed?  Was this book just not meant for me?  Others perspectives can help. 


7. I focus on what I liked about the book.  What kept me reading?  If I finished the work there must be some redeemable qualities, what drove me forward and is that more powerful than what annoyed me?


Tell me about your process.  Do you refrain from commenting on bad work?  Do you dive into a bad review without pause?  Do you try to be balanced or lean in to your personal views?  Tell me anything related book reviews or what you love/hate in books.

 

Looking for more posts about the reviews process?  Check out my personal blog where I wonder: “Does writing a bad review hurt me as a writer?”  Or read more with the North Alabama Writers’ Group with “Would You Rather?” a question on which kind of negative feedback you’d prefer to see.

If you’re looking for positive reviews try my Kindle Unlimited series.  So far I recommend the Secondborn Series and the Dragon Ridden Series.  Let me know if you have other thoughts or suggestions.  And as always, feel free to check out my Goodreads profile to see all the good and bad reviews.

Choosing Non-Violence in Writing

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I write all kinds of stories, but my favorite ones are where my character is presented with an opportunity for violence and rejects it.  It’s where my real life persona bleeds into my writing.  

 It’s difficult as a writer to create stories centered in nonviolence.  A death, fight, or even the threat of violence creates stakes in a work that keeps readers interested.  If no one is going to die or be harmed, then what drives investment?  

  1. Build interesting Characters.  Characters a reader wants to learn about benefit ALL works, but building a curiosity about “what will happen next” when a reader is confident the character is “safe” is crucial if you aren’t going to hold anyone’s life at gunpoint.  Readers have to invest because these your characters are funny, charming, quirky, intelligent, or determined.  
  2. Build Relationships.  Core to the soap opera genre is the “will they won’t they” “What will happen when Susie finds out?!” kind of drama. While soap operas also offer violence, often because serials have gone on soooo long, every relationship twist has been picked clean.  If you create deep complicated characters with established relationships, they you can hold interest with their interactions a long time, without ever threatening anyone’s life.
  3. Have a lot of characters.  People are social animals, and we like social interactions.  Instead of two main characters.  Have ten.  Let them have their own side plots, spread them out in your world.  Let them argue, separate, go their own ways and meet back up.  Conflicted goals and ideas can create a rat race to see who achieves their ends firsts.  Watch the “good people” get lost in less than moral means to their ends and the “bad people” gain humanity as they see all the harm created from theft x.  
  4. Add Mystery.  If people aren’t going around stabbing each other and shooting up schools, then there needs to be something else happening.  A quest, a pilgrimage, a strange ritual, or an action element that’s out of place.  Something curious or suspicious that makes readers wonder “what’s really going on?”
  5. Add Movement.  Violence is often equated with action, but it doesn’t have to be.  Dance, chases, cooking/cafes/restaurants/hotels all incorporate motion by design.  Giving the reader little actions to focus on 

November Open Calls for Submission Round Up

from openclipart.org by raseone

 

To be included in this issue markets must pay at least $.01 a word.  Some flat rates only pay that if writers stick to the minimum word count, and royalty pay = all bets are off.

Nov 11th

Speculative City:  open word count suggests nothing above 5,500 word count.  Looking for a speculative work using the theme “knowledge” has a preference for under represented characters within the genre but accepts all stories. responds in 90 days.  pays $20-$75

Shooter: 2,000-7,500 words the theme is rivalry “Send us stories, essays, reported narratives and poetry on anything to do with competition, antagonism, warring forces and individual foes. The context might be sports, business, romance, politics, survival; the characters might be students, frenemies, parents, current and former lovers, courtroom opponents. As ever, the theme is open to wide interpretation.” pay $25 a story

Nove 12th

Pseudopod: 1,500-6,000 words “We’re looking for horror: dark, weird fiction. We run the spectrum from grim realism or crime drama, to magic-realism, to blatantly supernatural dark fantasy. We publish highly literary stories reminiscent of Poe or Lovecraft as well as vulgar shock-value pulp fiction.” pay is $.06 a word

Nov 14th 

One Story: 3,000-8,000 words looking for literary fiction that stands on it’s own. 3 month response time. pay $500 and 25 contributor copies

Bikes in Space, the Non Binary Edition: 500-8,000 words on bikes in space scifi/fantasy genre with author and characters with non binary gender expression pay is at least $30 with 5 contributor copies

Nov 15th 

Lamplight: up to 7,000 words “dark fiction, both short stories and flash fiction. We want your best. But then, doesn’t everyone? No specific sub-genres or themes, just good stories. For inspiration, we suggest “The Twilight Zone”, “The Outer Limits”” pay is $.03 a word

Gehenna& Hinnom Books: 250-3,000 for flash and 3,001-5,000 word short story “We are looking for stories that fit the themes of Weird Fiction and Cosmic Horror. Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy are all welcomed, as long as they fit in the realms of Weird and Cosmic. All stories must also be speculative in some way. What we mean by this is that we don’t want stories based in realism.pay is $45 for flash and $55 for short story

Apparition: up to 1,000 words on the theme security pay is $5 flat rate

Nov 16th

Nothing’s Sacred3,000 words max “The horror within can range from subtle to grotesque, psychological to physical, dark to full out terror so long as it is character driven. Theme wise, Nothing’s Sacred is relatively open outside of distasteful stories of rape, the degradation and/or humiliation of women, and child porn of any kind.”pay is $.05 a word and accepting the magazine’s hypocritical title

Nov 25th

Moonlit Dreams/ Moonlit Nightmare: 1,500-10,000 words “short stories that explore the nature of the psyche, the world (or worlds) around us, and that speaks in some way to the theme presented. Stories should be well crafted and flushed out, having elements of a great story that could be told for generations to come. Including such things as romance, intrigue, comedy or drama are all par for the course as far as I’m concerned – the key is to write a story that lingers both in your heart and mind by the time the last page is turned.” pay is $.01 a word

Nov 30th

Mickey Finn 20th Century Noir: about 5,000 words under 3,000 is probably too short and over 8,000 will be too long “An annual anthology of hardboiled and noir crime fiction to be released each fall beginning in 2020, Mickey Finnwill pick up where the three-volume Fedora anthology series left off, pushing hard against the boundaries of crime fiction. Contributors will be encouraged to push their work into places short crime fiction doesn’t often go, into a world where the mean streets seem gentrified by comparison and happy endings are the exception rather than the rule.” won’t hear back to Feb 2019 pay is royalties 

The Twelfth Planet Press: 17,000-40,000 words “We want gritty pieces that challenge the system and punch the patriarchy in the face. We want stories that resist and rebel… and maybe also books that comfort & inspire. For when things are bad out there in the world. We are looking for books that feed the angry soul.” pay is $300 plus royalties

Third Point Press: up to 3,500 words no theme or genre guidelines pay $10 and a copy

Moonlight a Queer Werewolf Anthology: 1,000-2,000 words “Whether your werewolves are in space, school, or ruffing it in the outdoors, it doesn’t matter to us! We are looking for stories that span genres and tones. Your werewolves may be moody or the life of the party. All that matters is that they are openly queer and that there is an engaging story around them to be told.” pay is $.07 a word

Crannog: under 2,000 words no genre or guidelines pay is $50 per story

Apparition: 1,000-5,000 words on the theme of resistance “Apparition Lit is seeking original, unpublished speculative fiction that meet our quarterly theme. Speculative fiction is weird, almost unclassifiable. It’s fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and literary. We want it all. Send us your strange, misshapen stories.” pay is $.03 a word

Podcastle: up to 6,000 words “looking for fantasy stories. We’re open to all the sub-genres of fantasy, from magical realism to urban fantasy to slipstream to high fantasy, and everything in between. Fantastical or non-real content should be meaningful to the story.” pay is $.06 a word

Nov 31st

Martian Migraine Press Monstrous Outlines: 1,500-7,000 words “an anthology of horror and weird fiction with a focus on the theme of camouflage: people, entities, monsters, gods, even concepts, that masquerade as things other than themselves. Predators in plain sight, deities on their down time, sublime extra-dimensional terrors slumming in 4D. We want to see stories of exceptionally well done camouflage, all the more baffling and frightening for its seamless nature. We want to see stories of seeming where the hidden thing is poorly hidden for a number of reasons: perhaps there are layers to its camouflage, or perhaps it doesn’t care how well it hides. Imagine the moment when the perfectly hidden thing reveals itself. When the poorly hidden thing reveals itself. We’re also interested in duplicates, doppelgangers, and shapeshifters.” pay is $.03 a word

Dec 1st

Remnants: word count varies a post apocalypse shared world story/series go to the site for details.  Pay: royalties

2100 A Health Odyssey: “give us your best 3,000-word short story that challenges today’s assumptions about the future of health care in the U.S. We’re offering a first prize of $10,000, second prize of $5,000 and other prizes for runners up and current employees, students and alumni of Jefferson.

Compelling Science Fiction: 1,000-10,000 words science fiction genre pay is $.06 a word

Deadman’s Tome: 4,000-7,000 word short story OR flash “Horror and dark fiction about demented psychopathic killers with a winter holiday setting” pay $10 plus royalties

 

 

Bells and Whistles: Fancy Grammar Editors for Writers

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As I shared recently on my personal blog, grammar is the bane of my existence.  I’m so excited to tell the story or express my idea, that I never push pause and wonder if I’m structuring well. Then, I have comb through everything looking for missing letters, forgotten articles, passive voice, adverbs, missing commas, and the list goes on.

This is NOT a post about the weakest element of my writing (though my rambling could transform it to that in an instant).  Instead, I would like to present writers with some tools to combat the grammar demon.  After all Microsoft Word and Open Office’s tools, don’t catch most mistakes writers fear.  

ProWritingAid: Is hands down my favorite editing tool.  I use the “style” and “grammar/spelling” report the most and it helps me find all my major pitfalls.  There are over 20 reports a writer can comb through.  It allows me to hunt down overused words, pacing problems, and repetitive sentence structure.  When I’m “into” my story, I can spend days pouring through the reporting procedures making every element perfect.  And I walk away with the sense I improved my writing

Beyond the different reports, there are different evaluations for different writing.  I set my editor to ‘Creative’ on default, but you may prefer, “business”, “casual”, “web” or one of the other seven styles.

I use ProWritingAid in the web editor mode, but it has add ons that connect it to Mac, Scrivener, Word, and more.  I’ve been working with the software for a little over the year and there are major quality of life improvements with this software.  For example it doesn’t get rid of my bold, italic, or underlined text anymore when I copy and paste from one document t to another.  

ProWritingAid allows you to use their editor for 500 words or fewer for free.  To use the editor on longer works you must purchase.  They have many pricing options and it’s affordable (less so than when I bought in but still WORTH IT).  

Grammarly: This was the hottest grammar software on the market three years ago when I first poked around in the blogging world.  I was convinced this thing would 100% make all the right corrections, and I was disappointed.  A fellow writers’ group member, Ashley Saunders, (who is an expert on all syntax and structure) pointed out how much the software missed in my writing.  She complained my “edited” draft still read like a rough draft.

Because I was so disappointed with the free services of Grammarly, I never investigated if the paid version provided better corrections.  The pricing is more reasonable now than it was then.  It may be worth consideration.  Still, ProWritingAid offers more evaluation tools.  For a writer looking to make their work the best and not just grammatically sound, ProWritingAid exceeds Grammarly.

Hemingway App: An excellent free web app that offers writers insight into readability, adverbs, and passive voice.  I used to run everything through here.  Since I’ve worked with ProWritingAid a year, I’m convinced the software finds everything Hemmingway App does and makes more helpful suggestions on how to correct issues I’ve encountered.  Still, this a wonderful free app and perfect for an aspiring writer not ready to invest any money in a new editor.

Word Counter:  I haven’t played a lot with this online tool, but it’s an interesting cross between Grammarly, Hemmingway App and a word production app.  Their evaluations look interesting and the service is free.  They send me emails about twice a week and the topics are interesting.

Do you have a grammar editor of preference?  Am I missing the BEST one?  Have I over hyped one editor while downplaying another?  Talk to me, tell me more about the tools you use to make your writing everything it can be.

looking for more Writing tools Check out the First in the “Bells and Whistles”
series: applications that encourage writing.  Or check out “What’s In a Name?”  for name generating tools.

Best of “Kindle Unlimited” T. A. White “Dragon Ridden Chronicles”



Cover from goodreads.com

 

I am always skeptical when I pick up a book.  There are too many deceiving summaries and too many bad books with high reviews.  To make matters worse, I’m someone who has to finish a book once it’s started.  Because there are so many unpleasant tropes in high fantasy, the books are often long and lack resolution.  I HAVE to see things to the end, so I avoid reading them, even though I like fantasy.  

Despite all my hesitation, Dragon Ridden drew me in and left me charmed.  The first book is a perfect story.  Tate is loud, sassy, and smart.  I love following her around.  Her best traits: intelligence and suspicion are also the traits that get her most in trouble.  She’s inquisitive, loyal, and never gives up.

The world T. A. White depicts is familiar but different.  In many aspects, it reminds me of a scifi/fantasy crossover like Anne McCaffrey‘s Dragonriders of Pern.  Humans exist, but it divorces them from the history and geography of our world.  Also, there are other species we associate as “magical” that these works frame as science born.  Ancient lost technology and knowledge pepper the Dragon Ridden series and speaks to the inner seeker in all readers.

Can I gush “girl power” for a moment and just say how amazing it feels to read a strong female lead who doesn’t ooze femininity?  Tate is what I’d consider a “brawler” type character.  She lets her mouth run away with her and finds herself in fights.  Tate can’t take two steps without finding herself in some kind of trouble.  I love there is no moment where we have to hear about how Tate is “not ladylike” or where she’s “not like other women”.  The others tease her for what a trouble magnet she is, but that’s who she is not what her gender prescribes.

I love she never uses her “feminine wiles” to get information, sneak into places, or gain allies.  I love she never looks at a dive bar and thinks “I have to be careful cause I’m a girl and men are drunk and rape-y in there”.  I love she expects equal treatment from captains, kings, negotiating delegations, and barkeeps and they treat her the same as her male compatriots.  And all this happens without us ever enduring a scene about Tate being “unusual” for a woman “more level headed” or whatever that sets her apart and lets her be one of the guys.  T. A. White just writes her in as an equal and lets us enjoy that without feeling compelled to justify it.

To be fair, there are few other female characters surrounding Tate.  Their lack implies something “special” about Tate (at least in the human side other races have powerful female players).  But it’s so refreshing that no male character addresses how “improper” Tate is that I don’t care if other human women are more “traditional”.  The closest anyone comes to telling Tate to “fem it up” is when she’s going to formal events, they shove her in a dress.  Truthfully, I could do without the “women clothes are uncomfortable and restrictive” bit but when that’s the most bullshit your character gets for being a woman in what seems like a male dominated world, I’m in.  Aspiring writers, do you want to know what you do when you’re writing a female character in a man’s world?  Do this, don’t address it, act like her presence is normal and accepted.  Don’t make her some special snowflake we have to keep addressing in the narrative, just make everyone accept her without blinking.

Beyond world building and character building, the plot pacing in these stories is perfect.  There are not parts in any of these books I skimmed, looking to pull through to something interesting.  Everything T. A. White includes feels important to the narrative and engaging to the reader.  She often has multiple mysteries and sub plots going on in a single story and she adds red herrings along with peppering character development in across the books. I read during my breaks at work, and this series became difficult to read during those times because I wanted to sit in the break room and keep reading.  It was one of those books I’d take home and read instead of coming home and writing as I’d planned.  

Even better than perfect pacing, each book comes to a conclusive ending.  While I tore through the series, it is because I wanted more delightful writing.  I couldn’t get enough of what T. A. White was doing, not because I NEEDED to know the ending.  For the record, the third book in the Dragon Ridden Chronicles has such a conclusive ending, I had to go online to see if there are plans for a fourth book.  Amazing news: T. A. White plans to write a 4th book!  

Take Aways from T. A. White’s Success:

1. Women have a place in “high fantasy” and you do not have to make them special or otherwise justify their presence.  Let male and female characters exist as they are without an exposition dump. (this applies to any “minority” character in any genre) 

2. Sprinkle in world and character building across the series.  I need not know everything all at once.

3. Give characters nicknames if they are catchy and encapsulate an element of the character.  This is the one series where giving the same character multiple names didn’t confuse me, and it worked because we all call the character one name and that nickname is based on their attributes.

4. Mix fantasy and scifi elements together.  Tech and magic are not exclusive.  

5. Write a complete story with a beginning, middle, and an ending.  Be confident in your characters and larger world building.  People will read more because they like what you wrote not because you left them on a cliffhanger.

Looking for other great Kindle Unlimited Series? Check out our earlier write up on Amy A. Bartol.

Wondering why Kindle Unlimited?  Check out my post: 7 Reasons I read Kindle Unlimited

For further discussion on reviews try our “Would you Rather…” post that asks writers to pick between two different kinds of negative reviews.  Or try Do Critical Reviews hurt me as a Writer?

Behind the Scenes: Writing “Halloween Spirit”

image from openclipart.org by bf5man

This post speaks to my personal writing process for “Halloween Spirit” and as such is contains spoilers for that work.  For a deeper understanding of the elements included or explained in this post please read my flash fiction (it’s short and free ^_^).

Zach Standfield challenged me to write a piece of flash fiction in August. One of the ideas I had was to create an elaborate detailed summoning rite that brought about the end of the world. The short work would focus on my strengths: lyric description and magic set in a modern world. It would avoid my weakness for action scenes and it side steps issues I have about over explaining or creating a finite conclusion.

I wrote two flash works for Zach (neither of which he’s seen) and they both took a grim turn resulting in the brutal murder of the female main character from outside forces she surrenders to. Waaaaay too close a metaphor for the suicidal tendencies slipping into my own head because I’m not handling stress well at work. For the record, I’m not contemplating a plan to end my life, it would be stupid to take a permanent solution for a fleeting problem. But the stress from ongoing conflicts at work is leading me to think “it would be much easier if I wasn’t around” and that was coming through too literally in my writing.

I shelved the third flash idea since I didn’t want it to morph into a 30 something female woman sacrificing herself on the boardroom floor, using the energy of her death to open a hell dimension that forces the people who mistreated her their to suffer for eternity.

Then, I had an idea for our blog. Each of us should write a Halloween themed flash for our blog. Awesome idea, except I suck at short stories and had no idea what I would write.

I thought maybe I’d lean into my fae angle and do a “Wild Hunt” style thing, but “The Most Dangerous Game” already exists. Plus, the idea took over 1,000 words to explore. If I wanted to do something new/interesting, it would take more than 1,000 words.

Next I thought “what’s my thing in the writers’ group?” My literary device is some kind of magic. This reminded me of the summoning story I‘d planned for Zach’s challenge. The problem: no Halloween tie in. So I changed the summons and instead of focusing on a cinematic summoning ritual, I focused on the holiday and hidden darkness that lingers in the fall. I played on the “Wicca” God and Goddess creation myth where the Goddess Births the God, they become lovers, and he dies on Samhain, to be birthed out again in the following Yule. I tossed in two cult classic “Wicker Man” (1973) references to hearken the reader back to a certain time and tone.

For birds gathering, I chose crows over ravens primarily to reference the figure “The Crow” (1994) and foreshadow the death elements. Also, crow mythology pegs the creatures as watchful, resourceful and often tricksters… all elements I wanted to elicit in my story. I thought about using Ravens in honor of Edgar Allan Poe, but those birds are larger, live in only specific regions, and mythologically relate back to winter.

I wrote the first 600 words in one afternoon and would have finished, but I had to stop and go to work. I reread/edited what I had so far and finished the first draft four days later. Ran everything through ProWritingAid and posted to Google Docs for the Writers’ Group to Critique. I read it out loud one last time and added it to our queue for publication.

While the creation process was painless, I’m torn on whether I like the final product. There are great single lines and ideas, but the word limit combined with the time constraint kept me from digging in to find a perfect moment. I usually only consider works done after months of review and reflection, so I figure in six months time, I’ll know what would make this story engaging.

 

Interested in reading more from Jessica Donegan?  Check out the NEWG bliz round robin exercise here with Jessica’s ending available here

Looking for more spooky stories, please consider Christopher M. Palmer’s work “The Ghost Strikes at Midnight

Halloween Spirit

Continuing the challenge from writers’ group to write a spooky Halloween flash fiction (under 1,000 words) story.  I couldn’t leave Christopher M. Palmer to have all the fun ^_^

-Jessica Donegan

from openclipart.org by j4p4n

It’s too early to feel the chill in the air or to see the leaves burn, but the cloaked figures know it’s the perfect time to prepare. As the grain rolls into the full harvest and man rests in his power, they pick the perfect location: an abandoned lot. Was it once a Circuit City? No one remembers, technology’s wheel spins far faster than the natural turn of time.

 

Vague chalk markings and a quick chant bless the hollowed building. This is the chosen vessel. Common elements like graveyard dirt, salt, and water charge the structure.  A shadow of intention settles.

 

Weeks pass, mundane as all those before them. Do more crows rest in the lot? Who can say?  Even if the sky shadows with dark wings, what does it matter? Anything is better than those fat pigeons with dull eyes. Perhaps rust colored markings grow in the parking lot, but isn’t that part of the lot’s decay? If the strange shapes look like markings, they must be a construction crew’s notes. Wouldn’t it be nice if the city did something with this eyesore before the building collapses in on itself and becomes dangerous to the locals? The strange script must mean revitalization.  

 

Days grow darker. Mid September arrives unnoticed by the masses. The back-to-school frenzy distracts, and then it’s a matter of settling into their new normal. Familiar change pulls everyone toward the quiet peace that settles in most homes until Thanksgiving. If anyone watched the shadows grow in the old lot, they’ve forgotten it in their rush.  Those contractors never acted on the strange red scrawled notes. No demolition or construction came to fruition. The effort stalled. Are they tied up with the inspectors?

 

It’s a shame we won’t see the new building before Christmas. Who was hoping for a custom sporting goods store or a boutique that showcased their style or a toy store for the kids? All pointless pondering: it will not happen in time for Christmas this year.  

 

The cloaks smile, in growing twilight. Crows cawing drown out the chink as they cut chained doors. They slip inside the building. Cobwebs scrawl their own spells across the rafters. Rats scurry, but they’ve already feasted on poisoned bait. No point to bring in hunters when time will do the work.

 

They bring the salt and water from before, reinforcing the foundation, but it’s time to add spirit to their intent. Passion, movement. Sage smudges burn in each of their hands. The cobwebs shrivel in the heat and the coven laughs. The chanting rises, relentless. Fluid movements of the group become harsh choppy waves. They part and flood the old shopping aisles. Blood runs free as the group scratches and scrambles for those last moments of life. Sacrifice is necessary, they will die, but not alone. The building fills with endings. First the failure of some long defunct chain, and now the organic viscera of blood. Sage ashes float across the floor like restless dust bunnies. Energy builds boiling: the wicker man will rise.  

 

Bright banners adorn the re-purposed building. Orange as the dying sun and the dark smoke of the reaper rise in the public’s perceptions. Smiles of the young at heart curve across the mass’ faces as they drive by a once abandoned lot. Frowns fill frumpy prudish faces.  

 

A Halloween store,” they think, “it’s the fleeting fancy we needed.”

 

And Halloween Spirit reaches out to embrace the masses. A waving ghoul extends its arms by the entry. Tall air blown dragons hold fire in their eyes as their wings flap with impressive mechanizations. Ghouls drag plastic carcasses across the floor, startling inattentive adults and terrifying little children. Movie characters of the moment peel manic, terrifying laughter. It leaves no pop culture reference of the moment unmined. A spectacle of capitalism as much as love of the holiday.

 

Pimpled disinterested teens staff registers. When they aren’t too busy watching their phones, they make jokes at the expense of their clients. Don’t these people know Halloween isn‘t for sale? It’s a time of pranks, mayhem, and fear. A $90 costume won‘t make the experience. Fools, all the casual shoppers.  

 

But they invoke the Spirit and it sits with an arcane sentience. Watching its patrons and worshipers alike. Disguised as a common retail front, it plants seeds in all is customers.  

 

As the moon rises luminous and night takes hold, the cloaks gather one last time. Fire cleanses their summoning as they wail and dance. Tearing clothes, pulling hair, and shredding skin. The end arrives and they embrace the darkness as the embers burn out. Autumn is a natural conclusion, like old age.  Their Elder God demands humanity pay its price each year.

 

The uninformed populace laughs and goes door-to-door gathering treats.  Older revelers pose at the bar in full Hallow’s Eve regalia. For some unfortunate few, those who fell to the siren’s call of a certain store front, their soul will be stolen away tonight. Smile wide and drink deep from life because in the twilight sits every man’s end. Death, like Damocles’ sword dangles.  In this end, those few costumed in an unknown deadly contract will see the truest face of All Hallows Eve.