Review: Make Me No Grave; The City in the Middle of the Night

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Make Me No Grave

by Hayley Stone

Hayley Stone is one of those wonderful, rare writes who can turn a phrase of great beauty and unusual insight, while never veering toward tiresome purple prose. I really enjoyed her writing in this book. I’m also a sucker for tough, competent women finding love with deserving men. This is a Western with magical elements that do play a significant part in the plot, so the novel does fall under (mildly) weird Western. My main issues are the slow pace at the outset and the sometimes muffled or diluted action scenes (there are a number of gun fights and hostage situations). However, I ended up rooting for the characters (Marshal Richardson and outlaw Almena Guillory). Their relationship was given enough time to develop organically, and this evolution was presented with care and nuance.


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The City in the Middle of the Night

by Charlie Jane Anders

I loved the writing in this book. Smooth and engrossing, with lots of emotion, without ever being overbearing. Just enough description to help us imagine the world, never so much to weigh the narrative down. I love secondary-world sci-fi, and this one hit the spot. However, the ending was underwhelming (the book stopped at a non-event rather than a more resonant scene) and felt rushed. A few threads remained dangling, fueling hopes for a sequel, but the author says there won’t be one. Overall, an enjoyable read, with a cool interplay of societal issues in human settlements, alien life and tech, and unforgiving environmental forces, as told through engaging, fleshed-out characters.

Reflections on Running a Fiction Contest

So Quarantine Quanta: A Drabble Contest is closed and I feel it was a great success. The subs were open March 17-31, and the results were posted on April 6, with just under 300 entries overall and with everyone having received their decisions (and the awardees having received payment) beforehand. Here are some observations from the process.

I have long been thinking about taking on some editorial duties, but have so far managed to stop myself by remembering that I have limited time and haven’t yet reached my goals as a writer that I promised myself I would reach first. This contest was a perfect opportunity to scratch the editing itch and test some ideas.

I used Google Forms for submissions. I have seen several markets do it successfully (off the top of my head: The Arcanist, tDotspec, and Longleaf Review), so it seemed like the (free!) way to go. The form was easy to set up with multiple layers of redundancy: form response, email alert of a new form response, and automatic placement of the entry data into a Google Sheet.

I did most of my work in Google Sheets, which was really convenient. Since the stories were short, I had submitters paste them into a text box, which would then be placed in the sheet, from where I read them. It was also easy to leave comments as I sifted through the submissions and I used color coding abundantly in order to stay organized: different background colors to mark up stories as read, likely no, maybe, likely yes, hell yes, and transferred from another genre (for cross-genre categories); different font colors to denote decision sent/done, acceptance sent/awaiting payment info, and payment sent.

In Gmail, I created email templates for a form decline, a shortlist decline with suggestions of potential markets where to send next, and an acceptance. The templates were absolutely essential to sending out many email responses with such a short turnaround time, and it was easy to add some personalized remarks when appropriate.

The contest had no entry fee and I accepted multiple submissions. The spirit of the contest was to get writers’ creative juices flowing; the no entry fee, I hope, lowered the submission barrier for many talented people who might be financially struggling, especially at this time. Unfortunately, the absence of an entry fee had some unintended consequences. There were many hits on my website from certain Google Classrooms, which I assume means that some teachers sent their class to submit to the contest. I  heard of this happening before, for example to the Weird Christmas contest, which ended up buried in subs last year, and I just don’t understand what the point is. I will not be providing these students with personalized feedback or a grade; presumably the teacher still has to read all the stories. By all means, a teacher should encourage their top few students to submit, but if the whole cohort submits, a majority of those entries are likely not going to be competitive. These class submissions create more work for the editor and I can’t imagine that the rejections encourage the students to write more.  What is the reasoning behind these assignments? Is it to force the students to complete something by a deadline? To see how it feels to submit? To get them to learn to read the guidelines and adhere to them? Anyway, if I do run a contest  this in the future, I am contemplating having a small entry fee, to prevent mass submissions.

A vast majority of submitters obeyed the guidelines: prose, each story of exactly 100 words, and no more than three submissions across all categories. I received one submission with well over twice the maximal length, two poems in verse, and one submitter who sent in more than the maximum of three. Given the number of submissions, I’d say this  wasn’t too bad.

I read each story multiple times. Those that received a form decline were read probably 3-5 times, while those that made it to the higher rounds probably two dozen times, if not more, as I was trying to fit as many of the ones I loved into the issue while maintaining a variety of topics and styles.

In terms of quality, I could have accepted twice, maybe two-and-a-half times as many pieces as I had. However, the contest was paid and it was advertised (and listed on The Grinder) with a lowest payment of 10 cents/word. Even though I greatly increased the number of awards in the end with respect to what was originally planned, I couldn’t pay anyone less than the posted minimum. At some point, increasing the number of acceptances further became financially prohibitive. However, rest assured that there are another 30-50 stories out there that are just plain awesome and I hope they all find homes soon, so that everyone gets to read them!

If I sent a shortlist declination, I meant it. That story was good and the only reason I couldn’t include it is that I was limited in terms of space (and, by space, I mean money) and, given the space, I wanted to showcase a certain mix of topics and styles. There were several excellent stories that just happened to be too topically similar to something else, and I could only pick one. The pandemic stories were so numerous that they warranted their own category, but there were quite a few topics with three or four excellent entries, yet only one accepted. There is a lot of talent out there.

I was dreading receiving hurtful responses to rejections, but I’m relieved to report that I didn’t get a single one. I attribute it to luck, no entry fee (so no one felt they were owed anything), and what I thought were encouraging declination letters. But probably mostly luck. The people who did respond to declines were all very kind, and thanked me for the feedback and/or for running the contest.

Judging this contest underscored two key elements that I feel are true when we talk about the evolution of one’s writing. Being that most people submitted multiple entries, I can say the following:
a) If someone could write at a high level, all their entries were at a high level; I might’ve liked one more than others (I made sure no one got more than one award in the competitive categories together), but they were all good, working stories. The converse was also true: If someone hadn’t quite reached a publishable level with their prose, that was evident in all their entries. So there is such a thing as objective writing skill, visible in all one produces.
b) There is also intrinsic subjectivity in these award selections. There are some writers who are quite skilled, but whose work just doesn’t resonate very strongly with me. I recognize the craft, but it doesn’t move me as much as some other people’s work. Consequently, this work doesn’t do well in my contest, but likely would’ve if someone else had judged. I believe it has to do with being on a similar wavelength as the writer, because, often, if one of their pieces resonated, more than one did.
So, as I discussed elsewhere, it is a combination of where one’s craft objectively is (above or below a quality threshold, and this is something a writer can work on) and a subjective component (whether a reader just likes the work or loves it). And, of course, logistical considerations from above (e.g., issue composition, number of slots).

This brings me to reading the entries of the writers I know. While I didn’t pay attention to who wrote which story during the initial selection, because it was easy to hide the name and email columns in the Google Sheet, once the time came to send out declines, it was gut-wrenching to do so to great writers whom I like and respect. This was my least favorite part of the experience.

Overall, what did I learn?

The timescale was short; that worked during the quarantine, but wouldn’t have worked if I’d had my regular schedule. It was a crunch, but I like to keep busy and it really helped me stay sane during the transition toward self-isolation. I could do this intense focused reading of submissions maybe once a year, but not more frequently, or else I fear I would get burned out really fast. I understand better now why magazines fold, why people have narrow and infrequent submission windows, and feel that those who have year-round subs over many years are definitely superheroes!

An entry fee might prevent being carpet bombed by submissions that really aren’t ready for prime time. But I am torn on the issue, even if the amounts are small ($1 or $0.50). Having entry fees would run counter to the spirit of the contest, and the benefit of openness and accessibility probably justifies the (minor) annoyance.

Google-based submissions were free and easy to implement, and a good choice overall. However, I assume there is a critical rate of submissions beyond which using a submission manager becomes a must. More than one person handling submissions might also make many of the benefits I drew from Google obsolete. But yes, for a one-time contest with a sole reader/judge, it worked out perfectly.

There are many talented authors out there, some of whom are so amazing it seems unfair to the rest of us mortals, and it was a great privilege to read everyone’s work. I am really happy I ran the contest, and I hope the readers enjoy the resulting anthology as much as I enjoyed creating it.

 

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Cover for the Quarantine Quanta story collection. Art by Daniele Serra.

Contest eBook PDF

Contest eBook EPUB

Contest eBook MOBI

Review: Siphon; The Warm Machine; My Sister, the Serial Killer

Siphon (Claybrook County Chronicles Book 1) by [Medina, A. A.]

Siphon

by A.A. Medina

Very good plot, excellent pacing, fleshed-out protagonist and three other key characters, great connection to the backstory without ever bogging us down with infodumps. I felt the opening was a bit rough, but once it got going, it became really engrossing. In fact, and this is high praise from me, I didn’t skip a single word — I felt really invested and compelled to continue reading. The style is raw (explicit, like in raw poetry) and rich in texture, but never slows the story down.

If you read a lot of horror, you won’t find this book disturbing; if you don’t, you might be a bit ruffled, but I really don’t think it’s too bad. There is some blood and gore, but they’re necessary within the context of the story and I found them meaningful and well executed.

Overall, very well done.


The Warm Machine (Humanity Series Book 1) by [Rain, Seth]

The Warm Machine

by Seth Rain

This is a near-future pre-apocalyptic novel focusing on the questions of free will, the limits of technology, and the place of religion (and effects of religious zealotry) in a modern world. I like the central idea and am looking forward to the sequel to this fast-paced thriller. I felt the prose in the first half was a bit uneven and occasionally stilted, which interfered with starting to care about the characters and getting into the story. However, I am glad I stuck with it, as around the halfway point the novel finds its footing and it’s smooth, immersive sailing from there on. The flashback chapters on the relationship between the protagonist and his wife feature some of the novel’s best writing, showcasing the author’s mastery at invoking emotion that is the staple of his excellent short fiction. Overall, this was an enjoyable read and I am looking forward to more by Seth Rain.


My Sister, the Serial Killer: A Novel by [Braithwaite, Oyinkan]

My Sister, the Serial Killer

by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Taut and hard-hitting, with clear, fluid, unassuming prose, a compelling plot, and realistic, complicated characters. The tension between love (romantic and familial), violence, and loyalty gives this short novel its life force as the female characters make choices in a world where their options are severely restricted. I really enjoyed the sounds, hues, and textures of an urban Nigerian setting.

Review: Two Novellas by D.J. Cockburn

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Arctic Adagio
by D.J. Cockburn
Published in 2019 by Annorlunda Books

I knew the author from his earlier novella Caresaway, which I really liked, and I wasn’t disappointed with his new work. Arctic Adagio (great title, by the way) is fast paced, well written, and a quick read (under an hour). This near-future murder mystery is well plotted, with engaging characters, clean and fluid prose, and a satisfying resolution.

The worldbuilding is done discreetly, through well-chosen details, and is quite effective. We leave being well aware of the crushing inequality and corruption that governs the world of Arctic Adagio. For example, a luxury cruise ship in this post-global-warming world where the world’s trillionaires hang out is named Ayn Rand. There are also interesting observations that enhance the story. For example, a trophy wife who came from poverty “…had yet to get the hang of authority. People born to it, like her husband, didn’t bother reminding me of it.”

Overall, a satisfying and swift Kindle read. Recommended.


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Caresaway
by D.J. Cockburn
Published in 2017 by Annorlunda Books

If you could cure depression at the cost of becoming a psychopath, would you do it? It turns out that, for many people, the answer is yes. But that’s not the most important aspect of this richly textured and well-written story. Caresaway is the name of a fictitious drug that, well, takes your cares away. We meet the drug’s developer, Edward Crofte, who was once a sufferer from deep depression and is now a successful and arrogant executive devoid of empathy. I don’t want to spoil the story, but let me say that the plot clearly shows what Edward has lost versus gained with the drug, how others respond to the drug and to him, and what people are ready to do (or not) to avoid feeling emotional pain.

 

News 09/07/19

It’s late summer 2019, so two years since I started writing and submitting short fiction — happy scribbling birthday to me! Let’s see what transpired since the last update:

New Publications and Acceptances

  • Dragon Texts in All Caps, Spelk, forthcoming. (prose poem/CNF flash)
  • Roots, Flash Fiction Magazine, forthcoming. (suspense/supernatural flash)
  • Protected Species, Jellyfish ReviewThe Sunday Octopus, July 21, 2019. (sci-fi flash)
  • Roman Holiday, 50-Word Stories, September 4, 2019. (literary micro)
  • Spittin’, The Drabble, July 8, 2019. (literary micro)
  • Lupus in Fabula, 50-Word Stories, June 19, 2019. (humor micro)

It was a relatively dry summer, but I wrote several new flash pieces that stretched me a bit, most of which are still out on submission, and had some micros published. The forthcoming “Roots” got snapped up within only two days of having been sent out. It’s my first venture into mystery/suspense, but I enjoyed it so much that it likely won’t be my last. “Dragon Texts in All Caps” is a piece I am really fond of, but have no idea how to classify. It’s nonfiction wrapped in a thin layer of metaphor, but it doesn’t have a narrative arc; it’s structured almost like an essay and reads like a poem. Can something be a nonfiction prose poem?

Honors

  • Jellyfish Review ran an ultrashort-turnaround-time mini competition under the theme Penguins Ignore the Police, with the prize being publication on their new blog The Sunday Octopus. I wrote and submitted “Protected Species” in the span of only 2-3 hours and it won! I never win anything, so this was a big squee moment for me and a confidence boost. I encourage you to check out the story; I think it’s pretty solid even if not perfectly polished; a bit of roughness around the edges helps it maintain its charm.
  • I am on the long list of the humorous short-story competition To Hull and Back with my story “Rough and Weepy,” which originally appeared in Riggwelter (issue 9, p. 42).  This is my second year on this long list and I am again one of only two Americans (this year we’re joined by a Canadian). The North American continent clearly needs to become funnier! Still, placing in the top 40 out of 582 entries ain’t too shabby.

Submission Stats

According to The Grinder:

2019

  • Submissions: 108
  • Acceptances: 12
  • Rejections: 60 (Personal: 16)

(I don’t consistently track micros or contests in the Grinder, so this is really for longer flashes and short stories, plus a micro here and there.)

Craft Development and Goals

  • I read slush for a professional market with a month-long submission window. You can read about the experience here.
  • One piece of nonfiction and one piece of mystery/suspense with supernatural elements written and accepted for publication (in keeping with my genre-broadening  goals from here). Unfortunately, no new humor or longer short stories in the last three months.
  • I have had several pieces held for multiple rounds at different pro-paying speculative venues and received a lot of positive feedback. Still no sale, but these motivate me to keep knocking on the doors of highly selective markets.

Good luck writing, everyone, and enjoy the nice weather!

Deep Dive into Slush

Not that long ago, I spent some time reading submissions for a pro speculative magazine. This was my first time as a slush reader at this level and it was overall an intense, enjoyable, and greatly informative experience. I’m really glad I did it and I am sure it will help me improve my own craft, going forward.

We read blind (no author identifiers) and were required to submit a score and brief comments on each story. We could see the remarks of other slush readers, but only after we’d submitted ours.

Overall, I read only about 10% of all submitted stories. I read some brilliant pieces and some truly terrible ones, with a majority somewhere in between.

My own score breakdown went something like this:

~10%  were the stories I really liked and thought were clearly publishable by the  market. Of those, a handful resonated so strongly that I was willing to champion them.

~25% were the stories that I considered fine, but just didn’t love. They had no particular flaws in the structure or level of writing, but I could take them or leave them.

~65% or just a smidgen under 2/3 were, in my view, unacceptable. They had clearly identifiable objective flaws (pointed out independently by several slush readers) or else had what were damning but perhaps more subjective flaws (issues that pinged my peeve radar, but not necessarily that of other slush readers; more on that below).

When an author receives a rejection from a magazine, it’s always a question if the story is objectively bad (and, by extension, if the issues are with a particular story or more holistic, such as the author simply not yet writing at a high-enough level) or if the rejection came as a result of more subjective reasons, either personal (e.g., readers or editors simply didn’t love the piece) or logistical (e.g., magazine recently published something on a similar topic; doesn’t fit with the rest of the issue).

Based on what I’ve seen comparing my comments to those of other slush readers, I believe that the answer to the above is something like this: Up to a certain threshold level of an author’s craft, flaws in the writing can be and usually are objectively identified. Above threshold, evaluation becomes much more subjective, as different readers respond more or less strongly to what are not necessarily flaws but matters of taste, involving sub-genre, theme, and style.

I would say that ~ 50% of all stories I read fell under below-threshold writing, where two or more slush readers identified one or two big flaws. Some stories were close but not quite there; others were fairly poor overall.

Common reasons for a story rejection which were routinely picked up by multiple slush readers:

  • Stilted prose, especially dialogue; rough transitions between paragraphs/ poor flow
  • No hook; boring; reader doesn’t end up caring what happens with any of the characters and isn’t compelled to keep reading
  • No conflict/weak plot; setting, worldbuilding, background, or character sketch supposed to serve instead of plot
  • Weak ending: unearned/twist (out of nowhere); illogical; ending too soon or too late after the climax; lukewarm and unsatisfying
  • Lack of internal consistency (illogical character actions within the context of the world)
  • Sadly, there were a few stories with blatant hate speech (especially misogyny) that I wish I could forget having seen

Around 40% of the stories were above threshold, but triggered my peeve radar to some degree, enough for me to consider them unacceptable or just not particularly enticing. This is probably the most frustrating range to be in, because these stories are generally competently written; they might get a hold/second round in the hands of the right slush readers or they might get declined by another group.

Here are some issues that didn’t sit well with me, but might have been fine with some other slush readers, who, in turn, had their own preferences that sometime resulted in them suggesting the rejection of stories that I found delightful.

Emotions. A good story has to resonate emotionally with the reader. We need to have a character to care about, usually because they care about something. However, I have a fairly low tolerance for melodrama and I wish that infirm or deceased family members (especially children) weren’t used quite so often to milk the readers’ tear ducts. This is something I hate in literary and speculative fiction alike — sick or dead babies, kids, and grandmas employed to manipulate the reader’s feelings when the story doesn’t have much else going on, especially in terms of plot.

Grief and loss are relatable, but they hardly exhaust the human emotional spectrum,  and certainly aren’t the sole or even the best motivator of characters. I wish sadness weren’t the central emotion as often as it is.

Plot. I love a clever plot, a plot that tickles my intellect, inflicted upon the characters with whom I can connect emotionally. That’s the way to my slush-reading heart. Several stories I read had what I felt was too unoriginal of a plot, as if plucked from a popular book/show/movie, but some other slush readers didn’t seem to mind, perhaps because they hadn’t consumed the same pop-culture products as me. If I find the plot delightful, I am willing to forgive a lot of other writerly sins. The same goes for humor; I’m a sucker for a genuinely funny story.

Style. I appear to have a relatively low threshold for purple prose, but my purple might be another reader’s gorgeous and lyrical. It’s not that I don’t like descriptive language, far from it; however, I have seen a number of stories where great language is supposed to mask a weak or nonexistent narrative arc. While this is a clear no from me, I know others will forgive a weakness in plot if the prose is beautiful.

Genre. I have a soft spot for sci-fi stories involving interstellar travel. Also time travel and parallel universes. OK, I love all sci-fi. In contrast, there are large swaths of fantasy that I am probably not the target audience for (generally anything involving magic, spells, potions, capes, or heroic quests). So even a perfect sword-and-sorcery story is unlikely to make me fall in love with it. I generally tried to stay away from scoring or commenting on such stories, because I knew I’d probably be too harsh simply because the topics were not to my personal taste.

Other. Setting/worldbuilding/background/character sketch used in lieu of plot is a big no-no. However, there was  one particular story I remember, where key elements of worldbuilding also happened to introduce a very personal conflict for the protagonist, i.e., worldbuilding was a large and meaningful part of the plot. This goes to show that you can do anything if you know what you’re doing.

Finally, I want to emphasize that I’ve read some phenomenal stories, stories that are way better than what I can write today and probably ever. Most were held past the first round, but still didn’t get picked for publication. I rooted for them and felt as heartbroken at their rejection as I do for my own stories.

The conclusion is both disheartening and hopeful. Even great pieces get declined; not everything will be everyone’s cup of tea, no matter how strong the writing; all we can do is keep reading, keep writing, keep getting better, and keep supporting short-fiction magazines with our submissions, volunteering, and, if possible, subscriptions, so that many more amazing stories from the slush can make it into the world.

News 06/10/19

In late summer 2019, it will be two years since I started writing and submitting short fiction. Time sure flies!

Here is what has happened since the last update in early January.

New Publications

MagdaleneThe Molotov Cocktail: Flash Legend ContestMay 2019. (dark literary)

Ephemera50-Word Stories, April 15, 2019. (literary)(reprint)(micro)

The Gold and Sand of DhahabAphotic Realm, April 5, 2019. (dark sci-fi)

Happily Ever AfterDime Show Review, March 21, 2019. (low fantasy)

Rimor MortisEllipsis Zine, March 11, 2019. (sci-fi) (reprint)

Troo RaccoonAltered Reality, February 15, 2019. (sci-fi) (reprint)

The FlaskTrembling with Fear, January 27, 2019. (dark sci-fi)(micro)

Honors

I am delighted to have placed in the Molotov Cocktail Flash Legend contest! I took 8th place with “Magdalene,” which I think is one of the best stories I’ve written so far.

Submission Stats

According to The Grinder:

2019

Submissions: 69 (Pending: 5)

Acceptances: 8

Rejections: 43 (Personal: 10)

I don’t track most drabbles or contests on the Grinder, so this is really for longer flashes and short stories.

My acceptance rate has gone down with respect to previous years mostly because I’ve become more aggressive about targeting pro and high-tier semipro speculative markets, i.e., I’m sending work to more of them (and thus getting more noes per story) than I did in the first couple of years. I’m still waiting for that first pro sale, but I’ve had several story holds with professional markets this year, even some that I thought would never touch my work. While it’s heartbreaking to get a rejection  after a lengthy hold and having allowed myself to develop delusions of grandeur,  I take it things are moving in the right direction and my stories are getting better.

I have several drabbles out on sub, one of them to a competition, all pretty good (in my completely unbiased opinion :-). I love drabbles; they are not easy to write well and are a great way (for me) to get back into the swing of things after a writing break.

I also have some long flashes out in the world, making their way through the slush piles. Most have had at least one previous hold at a pro market, so I’m really ready for them to find homes.

Goals for 2019

It’s interesting to see how I’ve done so far with the goals from my early January post:

  • Keep reading short fiction, and broadly so, in terms of both genre and style
    Doing pretty well, especially considering the workload at my job over the past few months
  • Keep working; keep getting better
    I wish I could write more, but I think the stuff that I do write keeps getting better
  • Write a few more longer pieces (2-4k words)
    I’ve written one short story at 2.7k words (genre: low fantasy) and had it published in Dime Show Review in March: Happily Ever After. Check it out!
  • Write some nonfiction, humor, and/or literary pieces in addition to focus on speculative fiction
    I’ve written several literary pieces, but not much humor or nonficiton. Everything I write these days seems to come out dark and scary!
  • Try for more anthologies. Try not to skip The Molotov Cocktail contests
    I’ve submitted work to several anthologies, had some holds, and I’ve placed in The Molotov Cocktail Flash Legend contest.
  • Keep improving knowledge of the publishing landscape. Consistently target selective markets — don’t self-reject!
    I’ve been doing this (*pats self on back*)

I had a really busy spring at work and ended up missing several submission deadlines that I really thought I’d make. I am bummed out about it, but the time (and energy) simply weren’t there.

I hope to make a few June and July deadlines (e.g., Cheap Pop and Mad Scientist Journal (closing!) in June; To Hull and Back humor contest in July), but I will also be reading slush for a pro speculative market this summer in the hopes of improving my writing, and the workload at my job has only somewhat let up, so we’ll see how things play out.

Good luck writing, everyone, and enjoy the nice weather!

News 01/19/19

2018 came and went, and what a great writing year it was!

Since the last update in early October (!), quite a lot has happened.

New Publications

Honors

I got nominated for the Pushcart Prize by Ellipsis Zine for my story “Mildew,” which made me really happy. It’s one of my favorite stories and I’m glad it was one of Ellipsis Zine‘s, too.

Acceptances

Unfortunately, the anthology Drabbledark II  ended up not being funded, so the stories were released back to the authors. I am happy that my dark sci-fi drabble “The Flask” found a great new home at Trembling with Fear and will appear online in the next couple of months.

Submissions

According to The Grinder:

2018

Submissions: 91

Acceptances: 20

Rejections: 55

2019 so far

Submissions: 17 (Pending: 9)

Acceptances: 1

Rejections: 12

I have written three new pieces over the past three weeks: two long flashes (~1000 words) and a short story of 2.6k words; I admit it was nice to get comfortable and stretch a little. There probably won’t be many more than  these three before May, as I have an unusually high workload plus a work trip every month well into the summer. But I plan on keeping the juices flowing by writing some drabbles and maybe vss365 on Twitter.

Goals for 2019

Ideally, I would like to make a pro sale this year (which is needed to become an associate  member of SFWA and/or HWA and/or join Codex). While this might happen, it also might not, so it’s partially out of my hands.

However, the goals that are within my control are to:

  • Keep reading short fiction, and broadly so, in terms of both genre and style
  • Keep working; keep getting better
  • Write a few more longer pieces (2-4k words)
  • Write some nonfiction, humor, and/or literary pieces in addition to focus on speculative fiction
  • Try for more anthologies. Try not to skip The Molotov Cocktail contests
  • Keep improving knowledge of the publishing landscape. Consistently target selective markets — don’t self-reject!