Posts Tagged ‘The Writing Life’

Many of us cut our teeth writing short stories.  But how do you find markets for your work?  Consider submitting to anthologies.  This book will help you tailor your stories for the best chances for acceptance and publication.  So starts Amazon’s blurb for this short, 62-pageish guidebook by Weldon Burge, GETTING THE STORY STRAIGHT:  THE WHYS AND HOWS OF SUBMITTING STORIES TO ANTHOLOGIES (see May 16).  Why anthologies?  I always found them to be easier markets than magazines in my early years of writing fiction.  The odds are in your favor with anthologies because the acceptance rate at many magazines and journals, despite their proliferation now online, is discouragingly low.  Anthologies, on the other hand, typically have narrower themes — and the narrower the theme, the better your odds of acceptance.  Assuming, of course, that your story meets that theme.  Stories that squarely hit an anthology’s target will likely go to the top of an editor’s pile of submissions.

My thumb in this pie?  As Weldon continues:  As I wrote this book, I also asked other editors and writers (many of them contributors to Smart Rhino anthologies) for their observations, suggestions, and advice.  I’ve quoted them throughout the book, and I hope you find their opinions and recommendations helpful.  In other words, don’t just take his word for it, though he himself has worked both sides of the street as Editor/Publisher of Smart Rhino Publications as well as a writer submitting his work to various others, but hear it from (as it were) the mouths of additional horses.  And one of those added equines, c’est moi.

And that is that.  For more, or to order on Kindle, press here.

[T]his anthology is looking for well-written, spine-tingling tales of horror infused with black humor (gallows humor).  We are open to all categories of horror:  gore, psychological, killers, monsters, and occult/paranormal.  Twisted and tacky is a plus.  This is from the original call for MADAME GRAY’S CREEP SHOW and what’s not to love?  The guidelines said “original stories” and it just so happened I had one I’d written some time back, but the one market it had clicked with went belly up before it could be published and after that it just sort of languished . . . well, you’ve heard this sort of sad story before.  The title was “Wormbreath” and it’s about the joy of being dead — especially if you’re somewhat of a practical joker who’s had a bad marriage and don’t much like your daughter either — so “why not?” I thought and off it went.

Today brought the answer:  HellBound Books is pleased to accept “Wormbreath” for inclusion in MADAME GRAY’S CREEP SHOW!  With it was a contract along with details about sending a bio (already done!) and how page proofs for vetting should come around early October and to be ready for them.  Madame Gray would not be the kind to want to let grass grow under her feet.

Well, fair enough thought I, I like to see things published on schedule too, so just a couple of hours ago I completed step one, reading and signing the contract, and sent it back.

The email came from Eerie River Publishing editors Michelle and Alanna with an edited copy of the story:  We request that you check that the title, your name and the content are all correct, though also bear in mind that edits may have been made to streamline reader comprehension and/or to correct grammar and punctuation errors.  The edits in fact were almost entirely stylistic and fairly extensive, but that can happen, with my corrected copy going back this evening, the relatively few changes I suggested being for content, mainly to clarify a few locational details.

The story is “The Calm,” originally published in NEW MYTHOS LEGENDS (Marietta Publishing, 1999), set in colonial New England about unfortunate — dare one say “eldritch”? — things in the mountains where Massachusetts, New York, and what would become Vermont converge.  The book itself is IT CALLS FROM THE FOREST VOLUME 2 (cf. May 9, et al.) with another milestone reached on its journey to publication, more news to appear here as it becomes known.

The announcement from author/publisher Weldon Burge is already up as a tag on FaceBook.  From, as it were, the horse’s mouth:  I’m working on a how-to book on submitting to anthologies.  It’s coming along nicely and (I hope) will be valuable to short story writers everywhere.

Not only does the book contain advice from me as the editor/publisher of Smart Rhino Publications, but you’ll read great advice from Nancy Day Sakaduski, Jonathan Maberry, Joe Mynhardt, Andrea Dawn, Christine Morgan, James Dorr, Rick Hudson, Jeani Rector, Lucy A. Snyder, Jezzy Wolfe, Adrian Ludens, Shaun Meeks, Greg Smith, Joanne M Reinbold, Joseph Badal, Elizabeth Black, and L.L. Soares.

So it’s not so much “how to write” (though there may be some hints in terms of writing for certain markets) as “having written, how to get it placed,” from an editor/publisher himself who the new writer might submit to, and augmented by the thoughts/experiences of several of us who have sold a number of stories, including some which he himself bought.  So we ought to know, eh?  In my case, I’ve had work in three of Smart Rhino’s publications, ZIPPERED FLESH 3 (“Golden Age,” see November 28 2018, et al.), INSIDIOUS ASSASSINS (“The Labyrinth,” November 28 2018), and UNCOMMON ASSASSINS (“The Wellmaster’s Daughter,” September 9 2014), along with many, many other publishers’ offerings.

The initial contact on this was at the beginning of January when Weldon asked if I would be willing to answer some questions about anthologies and how they figured in my growth as an author.  Why not? I said (or words to that effect), and the result, with comments from the other writers cited as well, is a short ebook, at about 60 pages, tentatively titled GETTING THE STORY STRAIGHT:  THE WHYS AND HOWS OF SUBMITTING STORIES TO ANTHOLOGIES.  So if you’re a bit new to the game yourself, but would like to know more, keep an eye out for it from Weldon Burge and Smart Rhino Publications.

The email came five days ago, Monday, from Eerie River Publishing’s Michelle McLachlin:  Hi, I am in the planning stage for author interviews and story snippets for Volume Two authors.  If you are interested in having your profile highlighted please let me know.  If you would like the beginning of your story included in a snippet also let me know.  (You don’t have to say yes to either, no pressure!)  The story and book referred to are the French and Indian War set “The Calm” and IT CALLS FROM THE FOREST, VOLUME 2 respectively (cf. March 26), the story itself originally published in NEW MYTHOS LEGENDS in 1999 by Mariatta Publishing and which also appears in my 2001 collection, STRANGE MISTRESSES, from Dark Regions Press.  And so of this, its latest appearance-to-come, the email continues:  I haven’t set up a pre-order yet, but am planning that for mid June.  Until then, we will be doing some fun author highlights to get people excited.  More information of course to be here, with appropriate links, as it becomes known.

But first things first, I replied immediately:  Yes for both the profile and snippet, just send the details/information, followed with a reminder about the vintage computer I’m working with until COVID 19 required lockdowns loosen and I can get back on 21st century library machines.  No problem with that, though (we’d already worked basics out with the contract in March), and the next day saw the interview questions and other details (bio, picture, social media. . .) as a simple email which I then converted to RTF to move to the off-line computer, filled out, and — to get right to the punch line — all went back this afternoon.

Another stroll down Memory Lane (see November 30, 2019):  The guidelines said it.  “We’re looking for nursery rhymes, poetry, and stories that can be read and enjoyed by children of all ages.  There is no lower word limit on poems or nursery rhymes.”  Mine, however, would be a story, “Snow,” a 2000-word riff (more or less) on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”  An evil queen, a stepdaughter in training, height-challenged jewel miners.  The book in question, to be published by B Cubed Press:  ALTERNATIVE BEDTIME READING FOR PROGRESSIVE PARENTS.  Thus the story accepted; a contract signed (a drawn-out process involving coronavirus-related computer limitations, but so it goes, eh?); yesterday, Sunday, evening brought the edited copy of “Snow” from the publisher for my approval.  Then, following a lateish night read, I added in a few small corrections and back it went.

So despite the troubles of the world around us, the writing life continues as always.  Contracts. . . .  Approvals. . . .  The slow grind of publishing, but this book, I think, will be well worth the wait.  More to appear here as it becomes known.

Also for a shorter look-back, the promised preview of stories for Tell-Tale Press’s NABU CARNEVALE promotion (see May 2, below) has now gone live in the Press’s “Library,” for which one may press here.  Scroll down to the Fantasy section, the first section listed, and press to find mine, a dark fantasy titled “Ballet of the Dolls,” where it will be the second of four stories.

So we know the drill, both the amount and the particular publisher are being held back to avoid embarrassment on both sides.  Suffice to say, this time, it wouldn’t pay for even a small dessert.  Well . . . maybe a really small one.  But the point isn’t that, the point is that even during pandemic lockdowns the life continues, and that’s a good thing!

Life continues, the good with the bad.  As I write this, Triana has just had her supper.  Outside there’s still coronavirus, but as one unexpected local spinoff, at least for now one can ride city buses for free (albeit on a somewhat reduced schedule, and there may be fewer places or events to ride them to).  And then — the Writing Life — today brought the contract from BLACK INFINITY for “Waxworms” (cf. April 4, et al.), my story of insects and flying saucers and strange goings on in the West Virginia hills:  Please find attached the contract for “Waxworms”.  I’m sending these contracts as word documents, which should make signing easier for contributors, I hope.  Please sign and return at your earliest convenience during the next two weeks.

The document format was easy to handle, even for The Second Slowest Computer In The World (the slowest is being used exclusively these days for off-line work), and it went back about an hour ago to BLACK INFINITY Editor Tom English.  The theme this time out is “Insidious Insects,” with the issue expected to be published around early June.

This goes back to Tuesday, March 24, and an email from Michelle McLachlin from Eerie River Publishing:  Thank you so much for your patience.  We really enjoyed the story and I would like to officially notify you that it has been accepted into the anthology IT CALLS FROM THE FOREST:  VOLUME 2. Congratulations!  The story was titled “The Calm,” a reprint originally published in NEW MYTHOS LEGENDS (Marietta Publishing, 1999) and also in my 2001 collection, STRANGE MISTRESSES.  But then, the next sentence:  Attached you will find the contract, please review, complete all the highlighted sections including your name and story title, sign, and return this as soon as possible.  You will be getting a full page after your story for your bio, so please also email me an updated bio with any social media links you would like included.  No problem, of course, to provide a bio, but the label on the attachment said “DOCX.”  The Cave Computer, the “older” machine the coronavirus lockdown makes me use (the local library being closed) does not like DOCX.

This is not the first time the balky laptop has stood between me and a story contract, see, e.g., March 24 below where “Midnight Dark” and SHALLOW WATERS involved PDF translations (after an RTF attempt had resulted in an over bulky, multi-megabyte attachment) and ultimately photographing a printed out version signed extra darkly with a felt tip pen.  So here again a PDF switch allowed the contract to be read — which in turn uncovered two clauses that needed reworking — but was ultimately solved with a dodge as old as the laptop itself:  a TXT file.  Ugly, but workable.  And, happy ending, the printed-in signature added with other fill-the-blank items, the contract went back about mid afternoon, roughly two days after the initial acceptance.

So today the governor of Indiana has ordered residents, with a few exceptions, to stay holed up at home until April 6.  That is, for two weeks (well actually thirteen days), with April 6 also the tentative date for the public library to reopen (see March 16, 14) — though when the time comes both closures could of course be extended.  Meanwhile the writing life, even if curtailed, continues.

Thus yesterday, from Crystal Lake Publishing Editor Joe Mynhardt, came the email:  I’d love to publish “Midnight Sun” in the next SHALLOW WATERS anthology, out around Mid-April. . . , but with one small catch.  We may recall that “Midnight Sun” scored last fall in a three-way tie for third place in Crystal Lake’s Flash Fiction Contest for “Travel Horror” (cf. October 15, 11, et al.), part of the prize being prospective future publication.  So the time has come, but the catch was an up-front request for possible editorial changes.

Well, that’s part of the writing life too and, as I looked the story over, I did see one thing that bothered me about it, a passage justifying the title that otherwise didn’t seem to make that much sense.  So I changed the passage — but also the title, the story of a Los Angeles vampire’s Christmas journey to the far north now renamed “Midnight Dark.”  Then a round of small changes from the publisher’s side, my okaying some, re-changing some others, all taking far longer than they otherwise might have due to the underpowered Cave Computer at this end.

But then nobody said it would be easy, right?  The changes went in Monday night, a contract came today (more problems for the Cave Computer), and a photograph of the signed contract plus an RTF copy of “Midnight Dark” with its final changes went back to Crystal Lake this evening.  The book, when it comes out, will be SHALLOW WATERS:  A FLASH FICTION ANTHOLOGY, VOL. 5, with more to come here as it becomes known.

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