Tag Archives: anthology

Weird Antho Angst

It’s not the waiting the kills… it’s the waste.

One of the more common ways of getting into the writing business and building “street-cred” is to peruse the calls for submissions on sites like Duotrope.com, Ralan.com, and Submission Grinder. Those sites are great for providing loads of opportunity. The problem is that many of the themes listed are pretty specific. Most of them run along the weird paths of cross-genre or niche topics that are hell-and-gone from the mainstream.

Sure, it can be fun writing a story about zombie porn or purple unicorns, but it’s also exceedingly risky. And yes, I have a buddy who is in a zombie porn antho called 50 Shades of Decay, and I just had a story come out in a purple unicorn anthology titled One Horn to Rule Them All. I can say with confidence that the quality of stories in these off-the-beaten-track collections is on par with mainstream fiction, and can be even better as a result of the topic.

The problem stems for the fact that once you write the story, you have to wait weeks or even months to hear back on whether you made the cut. That’s the same as with any short story submission, certainly, but with one of these, the bar is sometimes a bit higher than “normal” fiction. With regular fiction the bar is established and fairly well understood by the community. With non-traditional anthos, however, you not only have to write a good story, you must more accurately discern the tastes or intent of the editor or publication putting out the call for submission.

It can be like trying to hit a kangaroo from orbit with a drunken koala.

(Just let that visual sink in for a minute).

Now, if you make it in, great. But statistically speaking, the odds are that you won’t make the cut. That’s where the real pain comes in. If your story isn’t selected, you have one to six-thousand words that you’re going to play hell placing elsewhere. I mean, what are the odds that Asimov or Fantasy & Science Fiction want something that was written specifically for someplace else? It can be done, but those are pretty long odds, especially if the story wasn’t good enough to make the cut for the antho.

There are no easy roads into the business, and while weird anthos are one of them, you may want to go with the more mainstream topics when you’re first starting. Once your writing is cleaner and you’re placing stories more frequently, or even at will, then it’s time to hit the weird stuff.

Book Launch: Veterans of the Future Wars

VFWCoversm All’s fair in love and war…and sometimes, the last thing you can do for your loved ones is to take up their cause as your own.

VFW: Veterans of the Future Wars is out now from Martinus Publishing. I’m honoured to be part of this military science fiction anthology assembled as as tribute to veterans. 10% of profits will be donated to Disabled American Veterans.

And so, my second post this month isn’t about love and murder. It’s about love and war. It’s about the love that soldiers have for the women and men in their units: their brothers and sisters in arms, the people they live with, work alongside, fight with…and all too often die with. And it’s about a young misfit who realizes, a little too late, that her comrades in arms are the family she’s never had.

What do you do when the only person to look out for you, the only person to really care about you, is taken away from you in a sudden, shocking act of war–before you’ve had a chance to appreciate what she’s done for you? For a young spacer named Jan, she finds herself honour-bound to become the soldier her unit commander always believed she could be. But her greatest enemy isn’t the Colonials who attacked her ship; it’s the devastating emotional aftermath of being a survivor, and that war may continue long after the Colonials lay down their arms.

Jan’s story, entitled “The Last and the Least,” is one of 16 short stories in VFW: Veterans of the Future Wars.  If you’d like to see an excerpt from the story and read a little more about the inspiration for this tale, you can check out my author interview at Three Cents Worth.

You can order your digital copy for Kindle of VFW: Veterans of the Future Wars from Amazon, or order a paper copy directly from the publisher.   Prepare to explore the Future Wars – and honour those who have fought before.

Book Launch: Fossil Lake

fossilDo you love the dark?

My latest short story release is in  Fossil Lake:  An Anthology of the Aberrant, out now from Daverana Press.  Mishipishu:  The Ghost Story of Penny Jaye Prufrock is set in a place modeled after somewhere I know and love:  a summer camp I went to many times during my childhood.  It’s one of 37 stories and poems  in this anthology of the aberrant.

Penny has spent most of her summers at Camp Zaagaigan, a place that offers her refuge from the rest of her life, which seems to fall apart more every year–but next year she’ll be thirteen, and too old to come back.  Fearful that growing up is going to cost her everything she loves, she escapes into imagination, and she’s even got an imaginary friend to share her journey:  a fossilized creature she dredged up from the sediment at the bottom of Lake Mishipishu.  Mythology, though, is a double edged sword, and Penny may not be prepared for the consequences  if she follows her new friend too far into the lake.

Setting a story in a real-world place was a pleasure and a challenge.  On one hand, I didn’t need to spend a lot of time worldbuilding the setting:  I simply dredged my memories and had a full map of the camp, a ready-made stage on which to enact my story.  It was also very easy to add a lot of sensory description, because my memories are still very vivid:  the feeling of the sand on the beach, the smell of the campfire, the sound of the waves slapping against the dock.  On the other hand, the major change requested by my editor was to cut out some of the unnecessary description that wasn’t critical to understand the story.  I probably could have gone on for twice as long if I’d wanted to describe every aspect of the camp that I’d enjoyed as a kid; but bogging the story down in irrelevant details wasn’t doing it any favours.  The final version of Mishipishu is leaner, meaner, and ready to sink its fangs into you.

If you’d like to meet the lake monster of Camp Zaagaigan, and the other horrors that can be found in Fossil Lake, you can order your own copy of the ebook right here for only $2.99.

I loved going to summer camp each year.  But sometimes, what you love can be the death of you.


Horror Comes Creeping…

Dark_Bits_coverV3-208x300Happy Hallowe’en and Blessed Samhain!

Like many other people, I’ve read a few Stephen King novels, and watched a few scary movies, particularly around this time of year.  And yes, perhaps I have a greater appreciation for zombies than most of my co-workers.  And okay, I don’t flinch away from putting the darkness in dark fantasy, and I feel that no honest war story can fail to convey the horrors of warfare.

But I never considered myself a horror writer.

I knew, however, that even as a newly published author, I didn’t want to fall into a rut:  the same themes, the same settings, the same sorts of characters.  I decided that this year – the year after my first publication – I would challenge myself.  So in addition to the military science fiction that I love, I spread my wings and wrote some stories to submit to a few anthologies outside of that genre.

The first of those anthologies was Dark Bits by Apokrupha.  Dark Bits is an anthology of “52 + 1” flash fiction horror stories.  I thought that a word limit of less than 500 words was a good way to try a, er, “little” something new.

It turns out it took all weekend to craft those 500 words (from someone who can routinely crank out 2000 words/day), because flash fiction comes with its own inherit challenges:  you need to develop your character(s) and convey the story arc, beginning to end, in a very limited space.  My first draft was almost twice as long as it needed to be; my major editing challenge was to tighten the work into the word limit, making every word count.  The end result is a tiny taste of terror called The Long Haul.

The Long Haul is a story best described as “Emily Dickenson is a long-haul trucker.”  Hop into the cab of a cross-country delivery gone wrong, brush up on your poetry, and hold on tight.  The first few miles will be okay.  Just be aware, there’s a long…a very long…way to go.

You can order your own copy of Dark Bits here:  http://apokrupha.com/dark-bits/  Books are available in ebook, Kindle, paperback and hardcover formats.  There’s also a 2014 weekly planner which includes a flash fiction story for every week of the year!

Bolstered by the success of “The Long Haul,” when I found out an editor I know was accepting submissions to an anthology of horror stories, I tried my hand at a longer-length tale.  I’m pleased to announce that next year, you can find Mishipishu:  The Ghost Story of Penny Jaye Prufrock in Fossil Lake:  An Anthology of the Aberrant, coming next year from Daverana Enterprises.  More gruesome details will be given closer to publication date…

If once is chance, and twice is coincidence, I’m not far away from “third is a pattern.”

I suppose that makes me a horror writer.  Among other things.