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.“
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.
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
It’s that time of the month again! The time I round up all the open calls for submission I can find. This time around I took a queue from Chris’ post on Dragon Con and only added calls where the writer is paid at least $.01 a word. Until I looked for it, I didn’t realize how little some of these venues pay.
Shifters United: 20,000-35,000 words on urban fantasy involving shape shifters ideally non-traditional variety pay is a royalty structure
NonBinary Review: up to 5,000 words that have a clear connection to Dante’s Inferno could be the themes or the characters or setting. pays $.01/word
Heroes of the Apocalypse: 5,000-15,000 words with stories of “end of the world” author’s choice of how the end happens but the heroes must fight against the end of the world. pay is royalty based.
Our Loss Anthology: up to 8,000 words on loss/pain looking for a creative way to incorporate the theme pay is a profit sharing thingy
The Realm of British Folklore: There doesn’t appear to be any word count but he is looking for British Folklore theme. No specification on traditional vs more modern settings. Pays $.01/word
Barking Sycamore: up to 1,000 words creative unthemed issue that appreciates neuroscience diversity, queer, or poc characters. pays $.01 word
PseudoPod: 1,500-6,000 words looking for horror, dark, or weird fiction pays $.06/word
Spring Song Press: 1,000-10,000 words “Steam and Laces Steampunk anthology” fantasy speculative fiction. Pays $.01/word
Millhaven Tales: 2,000-8,000 words winter guidelines are action/adventure/western payment is a royalty based scenario
The First Line: 300-5,00 words “As we trudged down the alley, Cenessa saw a small ___________” pays $25-$50
Concrete Dreams: 5,000-10,000 words on urban/modern fantasy is a kickstart campaign with a poorly laid out website (which is why I linked to HorrorTree instead of their junk site) but they plan to pay $.04/word
Unlocking the Magic: 3,000-6,000 words in the fantasy genre (no scifi) Looking for the common stereo type of the mentally ill person being susceptible to magic, but using self care to enhance instead of threaten their abilities. A healthy look at how magic/religion/ceremony can play with mentally ill pay is $300/story
When I queried agents over my novel Follow Me: Tatter Veils, I got one personal rejection. The agent (and I apologize as I can’t find the email to name him) told me a major stumbling block I might encounter in pitching my novel is that I suggested it for multiple genres.
My mind makes connections. If someone followed my thought process, it’s like one of those mind maps except almost everything connections to each other some way. In all my work pulling together this massive 75,000 word work, I’d never thought opening it up as a genre crossover would limit my ability to market.
Since then, I describe Follow Me: Tattered Veils as an Urban Fantasy. It fits considering the book happens in present day world and introduces magical/mythic elements into an otherwise mundane setting.
Except, it also doesn’t fit. Follow Me: Tattered Veils is at its heart a book about obsession and stalking. The protagonist, Roxi, is living her daily life when Gerry, an ancient unpredictable fae being, deigns to take notice of her. From there, it’s a cat-and-mouse game of near brushes and tense attempts from Gerry to lure Roxi into his world. The novel culminates in a chase through faery land where Roxi must either save her friends and escape this dangerous world or surrender her autonomy to Gerry.
Could be Magical Realism. I use the concept of fae glamour to make these otherworldly beings hide in plain sight. I suggest this idea of two realities, the one we know and this other layer waiting underneath that Gerry, Roxi, and others work with. It isn’t the traditional secret society type deal, more like an alternative experience of reality.
But, I think Magical Realism has more magic integrated that’s just a shoulder shrug. Everyone knows about it, accepts it, and moves on. My magic systems imply they are real like Christianity and like Christianity, few people have or seek a genuine experience.
My colleague Lionel Green, suggested the back was “terrifying” and he read straight through that part “non stop”. It makes me wonder, is my work horror? There are both the real world and fantasy elements of the book that are horrifying.
In my heart, the book is a lot more about how a woman experiences the male gaze. In that way, I think Follow Me: Tattered Veils might be women’s fiction. The men who have read the book suggest that they “enjoyed reading it. Good on its own, but I’d never buy this book based on the description.” Does this feedback mean I’m marketing the book badly for both genders or is the work intended for a female audience?
This sort of bullshit was why I wanted an agent. Don’t they help you find and speak to an audience? What do they do? Because I had the idea, wrote it, edited it, and submitted it. So I’m just wondering when someone else comes in to help or if publishing is a solo journey.
Alas, I need to choose the genre too. Is there any part of publishing that isn’t a struggle?
Does anyone else have trouble identifying their genre? Do you think being in the right genre is core to success? Have you written anything that someone has labeled a cross over?
What about summarizing long works or picking which elements are most paramount? I am so invested in Follow Me: Tattered Veils, sometimes it’s hard for me to know what’s important. Any tips or tricks? Do I Google search what’s hot and sell it that way?
We’re really getting into crunch time for horror, fantasy, and science fiction writers. Calls for submissions are coming in by the dozens. Hope you have game face on for these next two months.
Thug Itch: 1,000-5,000 words horror, scifi, or speculative fiction centered around one of the listed scientific concepts (they will read five stories from each concept and choose one to be in the final anthology) pay is $5 for under 2,000 words and $10 for about 2,000 words
Corpus Press: 2,500-4,500 words Non-themed horror stories pays $.03 a word
18th Wall: 4,000-20,000 word on finding/interacting/discovering a lost book or lost books. There is a TON of prompts, suggestions, extra information in the post go there for more. It seems like such a cool idea to me The pay structure is strange.
Dead Man Tome: 5,000-7,000 words theme is Bikers vs the undead pays a $10 token and 60% net earnings
Zimmel House November Falls: 4,000-25,000 want a story that takes place in the fictional town called November Falls and they want the place to feel like a community, this is a romance publication but nowhere in the request does it demand a romance story no pay
Arsenika: under 1,000 words flash fiction or poetry all genres pays $30 for poems and $60 for flash
Gehenna &Hinnom:250-3000 word or 3001-5000 looking for weird and cosmic fiction if fantasy must be dark. $30 for short story $55 per longer story
Enchanted Conversations: Under the Hunter’s Moon:700-2,000 words 1,500 words is ideal theme is spook, spellbinding, or creepy in a fairy tale, folktale, or mythic settings “Absolutely none of the following: Sci-fi, dystopian, erotica, high fantasy, excessive world building, time-travel, futuristic or space travel.” pays $10
Grim Grit & Gasoline: put to 7,500 words it’s complicated but it appears like they are looking for fantasy/scifi/steampunk fiction that takes place in WWI with fairy tale elements interspersed sounds very cool pays $.01/word
Excession Press: 30,000-60,000 words horror, science fiction, weird western, or dark fantasy they response time is 3-6 months pay $300 advance with 40% royalties afterward
Consequence:up to 5,000 words no genre and while they state they pay writers, I didn’t see prices listed for short stories, perhaps prose? $10?
Nashville Review: up to 8,000 words welcomes poems, fiction, and novel excerpts of all kinds pay is $25 per poem and $100 for everything else
Red Room Press: 3,500-5,500 words the theme is American Psycho Serial Killers so looking for dark horror fiction about killers response time is 4-8 weeks and the pay is $100
Cherry Tree: didn’t see a word count? Looking for literary fiction pay is $20