Depicting that witchy aesthetic can be part of the fun of writing an urban fantasy novel. Crystals, fancy magical rituals, swirling doorways that rise from mist or dark shadows are cool. Using rose petals to cast a circle looks awesome and who doesn’t love a cupboard full of magical herbs and oils? But let’s face it, all this stuff requires investment. If you’ve got a character on the run, on a limited or realistic budget, or if you’ve got a character who may live somewhere without access to all the “stuff”, how do you build their magic?
May I recommend sigils and other magical symbols?
Sigils originally referred to the magical signatures for angels and other beings—which is still an amazing “who done it” urban fantasy tool. Maybe you’ve got a magical detective looking through crime scenes seeking the sigil or the perpetrator and tracking them that way… Every work a person does leaves their sigil calling card, which can’t be erased, but can be obscured.
Or maybe you’ve got a lot of characters communicating across a distance. The sigil may be the only way they can verify who did what and when. It becomes an identifying code.
Or you could use sigils like chaos magicians do. They take a word or phase they want to embody and create a symbol out of the letters. First, they write words or phrases of the desired result. Then they cross out all the vowels, then they get rid of repeat letters. Finally, they pull all the letters together into a symbol. Sometimes the symbol is burnt, or drawn every time they want to call that power/energy. Sometimes the sigil is a meditation or visualization tool. Sometimes it’s a banishing technique. Other times the sigil is used so often its original origins are forgotten from the conscious mind.
I love sigils because they are flexible, easy and cheap to make, and because they can have so many uses and meanings. But I also love sigils because even the least artistic of us can create something cool AND we could add it into a book with very little work. Plus that symbol can be drawn, carved, or even hidden in another work. There’s a lot of layers and levels one could build with sigils.
If a character created enough sigils, they could use it as their own shorthand language. It could have the mystery of hieroglyphics with the modern utility of stenography.
While most Kindle Unlimited authors are independent authors, there are a lot of wonderful traditionally published writers too. Susan Ee is another example of an author publishing through one of Amazon’s publishers and working with the Kindle Unlimited system to create a maximum audience.
Susan Ee’s work is marketed to young adults but the horror elements combined with griping story beats entertain all ages. The story told in the Angelfall series isn’t unique. I’ve read variations. The beats didn’t surprise me as they may have surprised the younger audience. But Ee creates full fledged characters readers can invest in. Even if we know the story, we don’t know how these characters will handle it, and that’s what will keep adult readers engaged.
Take Aways from Susan Ee’s Success:
1. Dark horror and the grotesque is for young adults too. Ee’s books do not hold back in exploring the darkness in humanity. She pushes body horror and explores all the ways people can be used. Neither the “good guys” nor the “bad guys” flinch from acting in inhuman ways. If “Angelfall” was a show or a movie series, I don’t know how it could get around an R rating.
2. Creating relatable personalities and rounded characters is more than good writing, it will broadens a novel’s appeal. Don’t shy away from differently abled characters either. Much of the story’s conflicts come from the characters’ physical and mental disabilities and how that impacts them.
3. This a great example of a book series with a strong first book but better follow-ups. Ee never faltered in her vision for “Angelfall” (or is she did, it doesn’t show in the final products). Writer’s fatigue or a series decline in quality is not a constant fact of life! The direction, pacing, and sense of stakes remains strong in each of Ee’s books.
Looking for other great Kindle Unlimited Series? Check out our earlier write up on Amy A. Bartol, Sara C. Roethle, T. A. White, Charlie N. Holmberg, and Meg Elison.
While most Kindle Unlimited authors are independent authors, there are a lot of wonderful traditionally published writers too. Charlie N. Holmberg is one author offering her work through Kindle Unlimited and winning the game.
I found Holmberg through Followed by Frost a take on the Ice Queen fairy tale that borrows elements of the original fairy tale while creating a new story. Her lyric descriptive writing and the characters she explores through her writing drew me in.
Later that year I read Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet and thought to myself “this style is a lot. it reminds me of Followed by Frost.” Turns out Charlie N. Holmberg wrote both. Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet is my favorite of all of her works to date. It takes the fun elements and themes in Followed by Frost and brings them to their largest showcase. There are several fairy tale character references. Marie explores some same territory Smitha did, though the characters approach the themes from two different personalities. At the core of all the action is an emotional and ethically based.
This year I’ve returned to Holmberg’s work and read Smoke and Summons and Myths and Mortals. Her writing continues to grow and evolve in ways I appreciate. These worlds hold the same completing characters but the live in a unique imaginary world that’s well thought out. Holmberg fleshes out the world and magical system in a way that feels seemless and effortless to readers (though the writer in me knows how hard it is not to shove in an exposition dump). Myth and Mortals ends with a cliff hanger I did not appreciate, but I enjoyed the whole so much, I’m looking forward to Siege and Sacrifice.
Holmberg is a fantasy writer to keep an eye on and I’m not the only one who appreciates everything her stories offer. Disney picked up the rights to Paper Magicians.
Unlike other pics for my Kindle Unlimited Series, Holmberg has her share of attention and some may ask why I highlight her. Truly, I enjoy her work and perspective. I see a lot of what I’d like to do in what she’s doing and I think our writing goals are similar. It’s hard not to look at someone succeeding in a way I want to and not mention her.
Take Aways from Charlie N. Holmberg’s Success:
1. Pretty and descriptive elements of a work can be a successful stylistic choice. Often readers and writer discuss how today’s market is over-saturated and we need to jump into the action right away. This suggests short prose that lack a singing quality, but Holmberg balances movement and description. Write out the description for the first draft and look to the second draft to balance pacing. The market doesn’t require brusque hops from action to action for success.
2. Traditionally “feminine” characteristics and emotional story lines work in fantasy writing. When readers/writers think “fantasy” genre we often think an epic scale battle and escapism. Holmberg’s works create personal emotional investment and often lack an epic “world in peril” element. The characters’ worlds are at risk, but the universe will be fine if these characters die or fail. There’s a market for emotional small scale fantasy, there may even be a demand for it.
3. Everything doesn’t have to be “sexy” or sexual in someway to create tension. Something I love regarding Homberg’s works is the way she can build tension without ever resorting to sexual tension. Yes some of her characters fall in love and face the traditional “do they love me back” dilemma but it’s never overblown. The characters set this controversy aside when mortal peril intervenes. They confront attraction when it keeps them from meeting their goals and they either embrace a relationship or move past rejection. Relationships in her books feel real, organic, and warm, not an element existing to drag out the plot.
4. Using fairy tale references in a work appears to either be popular or to help bolster a works attention or not hinder the work’s ability to reach a large audience. As a writer who uses a lot of myth and legend in my writing, this encourages me.
5. Take your time and perfect your story. Holmberg is very open regarding how many stories she queried before getting traction with “Paper Magicians.” The first or second book you write might not be the one, if you publish traditionally. For indie authors it’s more a message of “don’t be disappointed if your debut novel doesn’t break records.”
6. Have a posse of like-minded writers to bounce ideas off of. Holmberg is part of a Deep Magic e-zine that looks to create “clean fantasy.” Working together with other writers to keep your themes out in the public eye will help find like audience and also is a great service to other writers in the same genre. If you’re an Alabaman local, might I suggest our North Alabama Writers’ Group Meeting?
This series of posts has simple goals: provide some basic history on a holiday/event from the past and use that history to spring board potential writing prompts and themes. For some, the history on its own will be enough to come up with some story ideas. For others, I offered some starting points with themes, scenes, and possibilities I see for the holiday at hand.
Happy writing and please share a snippet or link to your inspired works ^_^ I’d love to read them.
The ancient Roman festival of Matralia takes place on June 11th.
Matralia is a lesser-known holiday honoring Mater Matuta. Free women who were single or in their first marriage would bring offerings of cakes or earthen cookware to the temple. Their sisters’ children sometimes accompanied them (but never their own).
While at the temple, the matron may lure a slave in, whom she would abuse (slap and drive from the temple), then she would place a garland around Mater Matuta’s statue and all the women there would pray for the safety and health of their sisters’ children.
Mater Matuta is an indigenous Latin goddess the Romans considered like or the same as Aurora (Goddess of the Dawn) and/or Eos (Greek Titaness of Dawn). Over time Mater Matuta also became associated sea harbors and ports. She was sometimes confused with Leucothea (Greek sea goddess). Considering both Aurora and Eos rise from Oceanus each morning to herald the coming day, it is easy to see how she could become connected to the watery realm.
Prompts: -Mater Matuta’s celebration centers on asking for favors for others, but the ritual includes cruelty to the most vulnerable in Roman society, what does this imply?
-Write a slave’s perspective on this celebration.
Do they have a supernatural experience or is it more cruelty they endure?
Does this day stand apart from other treatments they’ve received or is this another day in their life?
-Scene: Two sisters who’ve always gone together to Mater Matuta’s temple and brought each other’s children, this past year one of the sister’s husband died in battle and she remarried. The other sister must go alone to the temple, leave her children behind, and take her sister’s children.
Write either sister’s perspectiveWrite from the perspective of one child.
Write from the perspective of one husband.
Write from the perspective of Mater Matuta, why the one sister is lost to her now and how the other sister’s children suffer for it.
-Explore Mater Matuta’s motivation for calling on only single or first marriage women to worshipIs this a purity issue?
Is Mater Matuta looking out for the women and killing husbands (perhaps at sea) who mistreat their wives but she can only intervene once.
Both Aurora and Eos are known for sexual liaisons with mortals, maybe they use these festivals as an opportunity to scout out new bed mates?
-Why does Mater Matuta take in her sister’s children? Is she a patron for the motherless?
-Does Mater Matuta answer all the women asking after their sisters’ children? What does she want for the children she blesses?
-When does Mater Matuta hear these prayers or bless these children? What is the festival like from her perspective?
-Do we have a similar custom in today’s society? While many values family ties, is there a day where you seek only your niece or nephew’s wellbeing and what does that day look like? What would the supernatural force look like?
-If people were to celebrate Matralia today, what is the desired outcome and what are the rules you’d follow?
Do your characters omit cruelty to slaves or substitute it?
Do your characters maintain a temple or do they create a makeshift one?
Do your characters keep the old rules and only allow single women or women in their first marriage to participate?
Do it involve any of the traditional elements of the day or do they transform the practice?
2018 was a wonderful reading year. I beat my goal of 36 books by about 10. 17 of these books were nonfiction and not eligible to make this list. Out of 30 books, these are the top five fiction reads. Starting from least favorite to most treasured read. For an in-depth look at my 2018 reading check out Books Read in 2018.
5. Traitorborn– Has everything I like about “Hunger Games” in it but tells the story in a fresh, compelling way. My favorite aspect of this series is that there are not “good” characters (at least from my perspective). Most of the characters, our hero included, have a piece of the solution for their dystopian society and they are also holding on to part of the problem. It’s refreshing to have a complex group of characters I can empathize with some times and despise other times. Where so much conversations happening around me are polarizing, it’s nice to read a book that reaches for full open conversation and understanding, without surrendering one’s agency. For more on this series check out my Kindle Unlimited post.
4.Dragon Ridden– Don’t let the cover fool you, this was just fun and well written. There isn’t any messaging in it, it’s just an immersive fantasy read and sometimes that’s enough. Pure escapism, a well-developed fantasy world distinct from earth, and a cast of well-rounded characters. It’s enough. For more on this series check out my Kindle Unlimited post.
3. End of Days– Dark, thoughtful work with a great balance of action and tense “waiting”. Left me wondering about the conclusion all the way to the end and it leaves just the right amount open ambiguity to make me think about it for days afterward but still find satisfaction with the close given to us. I’m sorry “Traitorborn” is on its second book while “End of Days” is a complete series because I think if I could compare the conclusions of both books, it may flip their positions on this list. Still both books are wonderful. Sold to young adults but they hold positives for all age groups.
2. Card of Chaos– Complex, excellent execution, everything I look for in the retelling of classic fairytale/folklore. It begins with humor and ends in affection. I like how the author draws the reader in and connects us with this strange if familiar world. Loved the beautiful scenes, the deep philosophy and the language. It may be my second favorite book of the year, but it’s my first recommendation to others.
1.The Book of Etta– Enjoyed every second. I know this is a polarizing book because it explores gender roles, what gender is, and whether sex and gender can be two separate things. The beauty of this book: it can explore the internal struggle being genderqueer/trans/gay/bi ect often brings and ignore all the political bullshit that’s happening in our own world. Here we can enjoy a human vs self moment. We can see all the factors in the book which exacerbate the struggle and rail against them without hating our own culture. Sometimes the call to action in a book can cut short a person’s thoughtful introspection, but The Book of Etta lacks this baggage and I’m beyond grateful. Where the first book took a premise, I didn’t feel was true but expounded on it in a way that pushed me to read on, Etta felt right from the first words. I knew Etta, I’d been Etta, and I sometimes still am Etta. I knew Flora and have been her too. Heck, there was a part of me that felt like I’d been Alma before and that I knew her. The beauty of this book is that it allowed me to feel and it allowed me to celebrate so many aspects of who I am as a person. Everyone will have a different time reading it. But, it’s the jewel of my 2018 reading list.
Happy New Year! What were your five favorite reads of 2018? Was your reading list similar? Do you have any recommendations for me? What are your reading goals for 2019?
It has been a while since starting one of these recommend blogs. In reviewing the others, it seems I always pick up a book with hesitation. Tree of Ages is no different. While I was fascinated with the idea a tree becomes human (I have a love for plant stories and non-traditional sentience), I was worried it would be one of those “chosen one with amnesia stories.” We’d find out it wasn’t a tree becoming human but a human who became a tree and then returned human for— reasons. It’s a fantasy trope.
And Tree of Ages is about a human-ish character who became a tree returning to her original form with amnesia. So, if what I feared is true, why did I enjoy the series? First, because tree girl insists for the first third of the story arc she IS a tree and if she is not a tree, she prefers being a tree. It explores all the tree sentience vs human sentience desired, plus readers get to hear about tree superiority. I enjoy stories where human forms are not the default “best” choice. Through fantasy speculation of this variety, I think we invite conversations about different levels of humanity, and observing what may be just different instead of better or worse. It also creates compassion and likeness to the rest of nature.
Tree of Ages has a HUGE ensemble cast and all of them are developed with story arcs. There are fifteen characters I can think of just off the top of my head who connect with readers. Granted Sara C. Roethle has five books to make these connections, but she starts strong in book one with eight characters and she keeps adding.
I appreciated that the story in these pages was about characters. Yes, a bunch of action happens around the characters, but the action never drives the story, the characters decisions/desires/weaknesses move the plot forward. It’s refreshing to have a solid sense of place, history, and change while also allowing the characters to use personality to move forward.
Is the series perfect? No. I have conflicted feelings on how gay and bi characters were represented. Kudos to Roethle for including diversity of gender and sexuality. I loved how women were portrayed, but there are flaws in her portrayals of gay and bi characters. All of her gay/bi characters start off or remain villains. The one bi character is first portrayed as a lesbian and she falls in love with a male character as she “lightens” and becomes more of a good guy. I don‘t know this was intentional, but I recoiled from that effect.
A gay sailor dies in pain from poison in the swamps and he dies cursing the protagonist. This is sad because his death did not reflect his life. While we, the readers, had minimal interaction, it was clear he had longstanding relationships with two of the cast and he was developing a friendship with Finn, our lead. The bitterness he displayed in death didn‘t match his tone in life.
Aed’s daughter (whose name I can’t recall) appears to be a lesbian (she uses sexuality on both genders but her attraction seems to be fore women), and she is the antagonist for most the series. Even when she‘s not the antagonist, we have sympathy for her without ever liking her. She has a superiority complex and manipulates family and lovers in ways I find abusive.
Belinda, is the lesbian lover of Aed’s daughter and part of her guard. Her arc feels glossed over and rushed in the book, like Roethle couldn‘t figure out her motivations or place within the story. She becomes Finn‘s friend with ease, but she never connects with the crew on any side of the skirmish. She has the opportunity to form lasting relationships with five of the characters and never does, which leaves her an odd and floating in space character.
I’d overlook some of these messed up relationships but the straight counter parts are more healthy. There‘s the ever present annoying love triangle and there is a lot of unhealthy baggage with it. So much, I thought the characters would end up in a threesome (and note to writers, just add the threesome if that‘s what you want, don’t dance around it with a love triangle where everyone respects each other and is friends afterward). Having deep relationships with both people at the same time feels a little like exploiting each person since it lacks an open conversation, but each relationship makes sense and appears to have the right give and take. There‘s a marriage where the development seemed abrupt but over all healthy. The bi character‘s straight relationship is healing for her (which portrays straight relationships as a positive WHILE implying that gay relationships result from trauma so double bad). Even the villainous pair end up in what appears to be a loving straight relationship.
Overall, I recommend the series. It’s a series where the goals change as characters learn more and evolve, but where readers are always rooting for their favorites. I like that no one person’s destiny seems carved in stone and the cast changes rolls as the novels progress. I wish the inclusion of gay/bisexual characters was handled more mindfully, but there‘s so much unique going on in the series, I can still recommend it as a whole work.
Take Aways from Sara C. Roethle’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. While a strong sense of place and world building is necessary to creating memorable and lasting fantasy environments, it does not have to drive the plot. Set the story, let it present options, but don‘t fight if your characters pick a third path the setting doesn‘t seem to offer.
3. Make your story about the character relationships. It’s not “wishy washy” for characters to change their minds, become heroes/villains in their own right, or to decide something they never would consider 100 pages back. So long as the change develops during those 100 pages it becomes a compelling full study of the decision along with the results that come from making certain choices. 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.
4. Relationships can develop without a lot of angst or sexual tension. While there are problems with how Roethle portrays relationships like some of the people who end up together show what I consider friendship without the push to romance (this is bad because it perpetuates the idea that close relationships=sexual elements and that’s NOT true in real life or in fiction), she does a wonderful job creating loyalty and tenderness in her characters. As someone who skips sex scenes and rolls my eyes when there’s too much “attraction” build up in a story, I appreciated that she chose to skip it.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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.
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
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
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
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
Nothing’s Sacred: 3,000 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
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
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
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
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
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.“