Tag Archives: Gregory D Little

The Submission Sanity Saver

Are you a disorganized person? It’s okay to admit it. We’re friends here, and this is a safe place. Here, I’ll go first. I am extremely disorganized. I don’t keep a calendar. My desk at work is a mess. I consider organizing things to be a hassle, and I detest hassle. I’ve long skated by on a better-than-average memory. That document from last week? It’s in the third pile on the right, the one that’s teetering on the edge of falling.

The problem is, as I’ve gotten older, my brain has gotten more full and, well, older. My once-vaunted memory has begun to fail me. Sooner or later I’m going to have to admit that, and start being more organized like a normal person. But probably not.

Still, there’s one organizational decision I’ve made that I don’t regret in the slightest: surrendering my short story submission process to Duotrope. Duotrope is a one-stop-shop website for submissions. Short and long fiction, nonfiction and poetry, Duotrope has you covered. They currently list over 5,000 markets, and continuously update their list as new markets become available. They feature a robust search engine where you can specify which criteria you are looking for in a market. They list acceptance rates, pay scale (or lack thereof), average response speed (or lack thereof) and each market’s page on Duotrope links to the market’s main site.

Simply put, I would be utterly lost without Duotrope.

Every time you submit, you complete an entry with the name of your story (stored in your account database), the venue and the date of submission. Duotrope starts counting days. When you get a response,  you update the entry, and the site uses your inputs to improve its own venue database. Better still, they keep records of every story you’ve submitted and which markets you’ve submitted it to. They even compare your acceptance rate to others who have submitted to the same market and give you a sense of how you’re doing.

Just this morning I was thinking to myself that I had a story out on submission. I couldn’t remember which venue or, honestly, which story, but I was fairly certain I’d submitted it awhile ago. Surely, I thought, I should have heard something by now. I logged into my account to see if I’d run over the expected amount of time for this market. Turns out my memory just wasn’t so hot (damn you, age!). I’ve still got sixteen days left until the story has been out past this market’s normal response times.

Now for the bad news. While the site was free when I began using it, eventually soliciting donations was apparently not enough to pay their bills. They have since gone to a pay system, which is unfortunate for those without much disposable income, but at $50.oo a year, I consider it a steal and well worth it. They even offer a free trial! If you do a lot of submitting and have been trying to keep track of it all yourself, I strongly suggest you consider giving them a try.


Greg LittleRocket scientist by day, science fiction and fantasy writer by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (sometimes during) classes. His novelette Some Say in Surf appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of The Colored Lens. When not working or writing, he enjoys the occasional video game. He lives in Ashland, VA with his wife and their yellow lab.

Leave the Spock Ears at Home: World Fantasy Convention

I’d wager a guess that most of our readers are neither independently wealthy nor possessing of vast amounts of free time. I’d also venture that most of you know by now the importance of networking in your burgeoning writing career. The old phrase “It’s not always what you know, but who you know” may be a massive cliche, but there’s a reason for that: it’s true.

So we know we need to show up at conventions, meet our fellow authors and hopefully get some editors and agents interested in our manuscripts. But for the reasons I mentioned above, we can’t just go to every convention that trundles up on the calendar. What’s an aspiring writer to do? What is the convention that gives you the greatest proverbial bang for your literal buck?

For you science fiction and fantasy writers out there, I humbly submit the answer: World Fantasy Convention. I like to think of it as Worldcon’s business-focused little brother. Whereas Worldcon is a fan-oriented event also attended by professionals in the writing industry, World Fantasy is all business. You won’t find anyone wandering around in cosplay there (so as the title says, leave your Spock ears at home), just writers, editors and agents who are interested in networking. Old friends and business contacts are caught up with, new friends and business contacts are made and through it all new opportunities are generated.

World Fantasy 2012 was my first convention and it was just what I was looking for. The afternoon I arrived (the day before the convention started) I met urban fantasy author Kat Richardson in the hotel elevator, and she was kind enough to introduce me around to her circle. I chatted with Pat Rothfuss prior to his panel. At the mass signing I ran into and chatted with epic fantasy author Scott Bakker. I talked with Norm Sherman, editor of Drabblecast, Mass Effect writer and author of The Palace Job Patrick Weekes, and lest I forget, I met a certain Evan Braun, author and blogger for Fictorians, an encounter that ultimately led to the post you are reading now. Make no mistake, this is the highest density of industry professionals you are likely to find at any convention. If you are looking for a convention to maximize your opportunities for career advancement, World Fantasy Convention is where you need to be.

Now, some tips:

-This con should be all about socializing. If you aren’t in a panel, you should probably be hanging out around the hotel bar. People will congregate there day and night. Even if you aren’t a drinker, the bar is the central hub of socialization for the con. If not the bar, find the hospitality suite and if not the suite, find the dealer room.

-Make an effort to figure out where and when the various parties will be held. They are thrown by publishers, sometimes to promote a new book release, sometimes just as a social event. A lot of times they aren’t advertised, so you may need to know someone who knows, so here’s where your people skills come into play. Be a pleasant person that people enjoy spending time with, and they shouldn’t be reluctant to fill you in on the details.

-Maintain good situational awareness. Just because people are at the con in a business mindset doesn’t mean they want to talk 24/7. If you see that agent you’ve been anxious to meet off by themselves but they appear to be busy checking their email, leave them be. The last thing you want is to make a poor first impression and be memorable for all the wrong reasons.

-Likewise, pay attention in panels if you’re looking for conversational icebreakers. If you’re shy like me, finding an excuse for starting a conversation is the hardest part. If you have something to lead off with, like “I really enjoyed your urban fantasy panel today,” that can make things a lot easier.

-Convince some of your writing friends to go with you. Writers tend to be shy, so you can all psyche each other up into approaching people who might otherwise intimidate you.

-Lastly, remember to relax and try to enjoy yourself. There’s no reason you can’t have fun and do your career some good at the same time.

This year’s World Fantasy Convention is in Crystal City, VA (I know the link says Washington, D.C., but any native Virginian will scoff at that) from November 6th – 9th. If you decide to come and see me wandering around looking shell-shocked, feel free to say hi!

The Inevitability of Myth

Guest Post by Gregory D. Little

Greg Little


The human brain craves stories at a fundamental level.  In fact, it’s the world’s most prolific writer, constantly stringing together chains of perceived events in ways that both flatter and preserve itself.  I’m not just saying that because I find it a flattering thought as a writer (though the irony is not lost on me).  Science supports the claim.  Modern psychology and neuroscience have uncovered hosts of mental biases and fallacies humans engage in constantly.  David McRaney’s amateur psychology blog (and book) You Are Not So Smart explores such topics as Confirmation Bias (where you selectively and subconsciously only notice evidence that corroborates your existing world view while ignoring all evidence to the contrary) in entertaining detail.  In Cordelia Fine’s wonderful book A Mind of Its Own, Fine demonstrates how the human brain constantly rewrites our perception of reality in order to construct only the most flattering of self-images.  And if you are thinking to yourself “Well, other people might do that, but I don’t,” then I hate to tell you, but you are doing it right now.

I realize this may seem to have little to do with a blog about writing and myths, but bear with me, I’ll get there.   Most of these mental fallacies and biases are heuristics, or short-cuts we use to cut corners with our mental processing.  The brain uses a lot of energy.  Over the generations it has developed these short-cuts as a way to save precious calories for better use elsewhere, like running away from that tiger that has been eyeing you.  In days past, it didn’t matter if you understood the complex nuances of a situation perfectly if taking the time and energy to do so got you eaten.  Most of the time an 80% solution was enough.

That leads directly into the second reason the human mind loves stories, that of self-preservation.  The brain is constantly looking for meaning and agency in things it observes.  The reason is simple.  Using our tiger example again, if the bushes behind you suddenly rustle, most of the time it’s just the wind.  A random event, not terribly interesting.  But on the off chance it’s your tiger friend preparing an ambush, maybe you’d better run just in case.  Our most successful ancestors found meaning in things that lacked meaning (another way to put this might be finding narrative where none exists) because doing so was a lot less dangerous than not finding narrative and attributing the rustling to random wind.  Because when you’re wrong on something like that, you don’t get another chance to be right.

So the human brain craves stories both for its own flattery and to keep itself alive.  Is it any wonder we love to lose ourselves in a good narrative, particularly one in which we know we aren’t going to be eaten by the tiger?  But how does this relate to myth?  In my view, myths are the combination of these two basic elements in their purest form.  Myths are the stories, the narratives we invented to explain the world around us while we still lacked the scientific framework we make use of today.  Myths are also the legends we passed down through the generations that show humanity at its best.  Myths feature noble heroes fighting wicked monsters, bad people getting their just desserts and children who fail to listen to their parents getting eaten by the wicked witch.  Has there ever been a purer metaphor for the existential terror every parent feels for the safety of their child than some of those old cautionary tales?

The world is never as simple as myth depicts it.  Real heroes are always flawed and always disappoint us when those flaws become public.  Sometimes bad people don’t get punished and good people do.  Earth is not sitting on the back of a giant turtle.  Life is complicated, but we crave simplicity.  We want black and white answers to moral dilemmas.  We yearn for incorruptible heroes and villains as easy to discern as Lord Voldemort.  We demand a universe that conforms to our very limited capacity for metaphor and common sense.  Myths show us the world as we wish it was.  For these reasons and more, the creation of myths was and will continue to be inevitable.  As writers, we would be fools not to consider that when we sit down at our keyboards.  These are the stories that have stood the test of time by tapping into deep wells in the human psyche.

In composing this blog, I started thinking about the word “myth” and its multiple connotations.  The meaning I’ve referred to up to now evokes grandiose images and archetypal tales.  But the word “myth” has another connotation, one that means simply “false”.  I said that we would be fools not to consider the power of myths in our writing.  But we would also be remiss in not considering this second meaning of myth.  Because the world isn’t as simple as we wish.  Quite often a mental short-cut isn’t enough, either in writing or in life.  And that realization can carry a power every bit as profound–if not nearly as simple–as that evoked by the myths we love.

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Rocket scientist by day, science fiction and fantasy author by night, Gregory D. Little’s short story “The Skylings” will be published in Azure Keep Quarterly in June.  His short fiction has additionally earned a Semi-Finalist and an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future short story contest.  He is currently hard at work on his third novel, a YA fantasy.  He lives in Fredericksburg, VA with his wife and their yellow lab.



The Pitfalls of Genre

Guest Post by Gregory D. Little

Greg LittleSo what genre do you write in?

I always inwardly cringe at this question. Genre is an inescapable part of fiction, and for good reason. It’s a useful tool. Necessary, even. Trying to talk about fiction without touching on genre would be like trying to describe the color red. The fact is that the human brain is hard-wired to simplify and categorize. It’s a necessary short-cut, one that keeps us from burning excess energy trying to remember too much detail.

Genre is just another means to that end. It’s a time-saver, a chaos-reducer. We all have limited time and money. Will I like this book? Well, it’s an epic fantasy, and I’ve liked other epic fantasies. Automatically your bet is safer. You pick up a book, quickly discern its genre, and are comforted. You can even tailor your decision to your mood. A mystery when you want to be thrilled. An epic fantasy when you want to feel wonder. Erotica when you want … well, you know.

So the genre of a story tells us what to expect. More than that, the tropes inherent in each genre know the shortest paths to evoking feeling. Every trope that exists does so because it’s tried and true. On some level, it works. When you select your fiction by genre, you are investing your money and time in that sense of certainty.

Yet the same part of our brains that excels in categorization short-cuts can lead us to prejudice and bigotry. And the certainty and safety of genre can quickly become a prison for the unwary writer. Must all noir begin with a mysterious woman entering the shabby office of a hard-bitten detective? Must epic fantasy always sprawl across many volumes and feature a world overflowing with detail? You’d be forgiven if you sometimes thought so.

Even more confusing, most genres have fluid definitions. Is Star Wars science fiction or fantasy? It has space travel, laser swords and aliens, but also magic. Most people would describe it as space opera, but I’ve also heard it referred to as a fantasy set in space. So it turns out the definitions of the various genres can’t even be agreed upon.

Yet fluid or no, the pressure to conform your writing to those genre labels is still there. Publishers love such labels. Categories make marketing easier, which makes selling things easier. Think how many times you’ve heard “If you liked X, you’ll love Y! It’s basically X with a new twist!” I think a lot of new writers feel compelled force-fit their writing into rigidly defined genres for the purposes of pitching and selling. I know I’ve felt that way.

Yet as I’ve started writing more frequently and regularly, I’ve begun to feel stifled if I try to color only within genre lines. It began with a shift in my reading habits. I still read plenty of works that fit comfortably within genre lines. But the books that really get me excited are the books that cross genres, blur the lines between them, or even actively subvert and reject them.

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville is a good example of what I’m talking about. Is it steampunk? Secondary world fantasy? Extra-dimensional horror? It could be all of these or none. All I know is that it blew me away when I read it.

Finding and reading such works is one thing. Writing them can be another. The tracks that familiar tropes wear into your mind over time are often so deep they are hard to notice. If you aren’t careful, you’ll find yourself tending to slouch lazily into those tropes even when you don’t mean to. Breaking out of them at all can be difficult. You’ll have to cultivate a healthy mistrust of your own brain, shooting down first, second, third ideas, anything that feels too comfortable. Because the brain will naturally default to ideas it’s seen and liked in the past. Learning when to trust such instincts and when not to takes practice.

Even if you succeed, there are pitfalls. Crossing genres in the wrong way can create problems with mixed tones. Avoiding or subverting too many tropes can undermine the emotional core of the work. If you tap into too few emotional shortcuts, the story will fail to satisfy the reader at all. It’s a balancing act, but in this writer’s opinion, it’s worth the risk. Because when those genre-busting stories work, there is-by definition-nothing else like them. And because the only thing more fun than reading such stories is writing them.

So by all means, experiment. Strike out in unexpected directions with plot, setting or character. Abandon your story’s genre entirely. Or if that thought leaves you too far adrift, pick out your genre’s more useful elements and lay them within your story’s foundation. Keep that foundation below ground. Then try to build something amazing atop it, something beautiful for its strangeness, something so different it worries you. Even frightens you. Follow your story wherever it takes you, even if that’s out across trackless ground.