Publisher’s Spotlight: UFO Publishing

On April 1st UFO Publishing opens submissions for their sixth Unidentified Funny Objects anthology!  From Terry Pratchett to Douglas Adams, comedic speculative fiction is some of the most beloved of the genre and unfortunately too often overlooked by publishers.  So channel your inner comedian and get to submitting!

Not sure how to write comedy?  Check out these articles for my advice on where to get started.

  • In their own words: “We’re looking for speculative stories with a strong humor element. Think Resnick and Sheckley, Fredric Brown and Douglas Adams.  We welcome quality flash fiction and non-traditional narratives. Take chances, try something new, just make sure that your story is funny.”
  • Genres they accept: Speculative Fiction.
  • Word count limit: 500-5000 words.
  • Payment: $0.10 per word + contributor copy. Payment will be made upon acceptance. Our preferred method of payment is via PayPal, but you may request a check.
  • Simultaneous Submissions*: Unknown; my advice is don’t.
  • Multiple Submissions**: No.  Limit of 1 submission per author — even if you receive a response before the submission window closes please do not send another story unless directly invited to do so.
  • Schedule: Submissions open April 1 – April 30, 2017

Additional tips: “Puns and stories that are little more than vehicles for delivering a punch line at the end aren’t likely to win us over.  The best way to learn what we like in general is to read a previous volume. You can buy it here and also read the online stories for free.”  They also include a list of tired tropes.  Click on their submission guidelines page for details.

*This means whether they will allow you to submit this story to another publisher at the same time or not.

**This means whether you can send them more than one story at at time.

Reminders when submitting:

Read the publication:  Their stories are freely accessible on the site.  You have no excuse not to do your research and see what kind of style gets their attention.  It will also give you an idea of what’s been done before so you don’t end up sending them something too similar to a recently published story.

Read the guidelines: I don’t post everything required for their submissions, just the basics.  Furthermore, this is a static post.  Publishers change their submission requirements at will so it’s always a good idea to read and re-read them, even if you’ve submitted to them before.

Follow the rules: Do I really need to say this?  Don’t send pieces over the word count.  Don’t send content they specifically warn against.  Don’t send weirdly formatted manuscripts if they give you specific instructions.  “But Liz, I–” Nope!  No, no, no.  If you do not follow the rules you risk being a pariah to that magazine – and worse, editors can exchange notes on who’s being a pain.

Happy submitting!

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Encore! Miss Moneypenny’s Guide to the Symphony.

Part two of the Miss Margaret Moneypenny’s Etiquette Guide to the Apocalypse series.

Now that society has begun to rebuild itself, you may have noticed our cultural institutions reemerging from the rubble. The monthly concerts in tribute to our Dear Leader were of course the first of these, and since attendance has been made mandatory, we think that now would be an excellent time to brush up on concert hall protocol under the new regime.

Before you Leave

Dress casually.  While in years past cocktail attire was preferable on opening night, these days such blatant displays of affluence will mark you as one of the bourgeoisie and you may find yourself gunned down in a dark alley faster than you can say “Batman’s parents.”

If any of your children have survived past the usual rate of mortality, please leave them with a caregiver over the course of the concert, preferably one who can be trusted not to sell them into slavery.  Or, at the very least, one who will be willing to share a portion of the profits with you.

At the Concert Hall

If you are late in arriving, you may be asked to wait in the lobby and later escorted into a vacant seat at an appropriate moment.  You may take your assigned seat at intermission.  If you complain about this policy you will be conscripted into lavatory duty after the performance.  If you complain about this policy you will be detained indefinitely in a dissenters prison.  Children left in the care of a babysitter may be sold into slavery if they are not claimed by a relative within 48 hours.

It’s advisable to unwrap lozenges before the performance.  Patrons who make any ambient noise during the concert such as fidgeting, coughing, or the rustling of candy wrappers will be tranquilized by the nearest usher and billed for the cost.   Those talking will be shot.  (With a silencer, for obvious reasons.)

Clapping is encouraged for the entrance of the Concertmaster, any soloists, and the Conductor/Concert Maestro.  You may also clap between movements and at the end of each piece.  Please save all texting for intermission, but you may tweet your appreciation for the performance to Dear Leader at any time.  This is acceptable because the cellphone light from tweeting is totally different than when you send a text.  Those sending texts will be tranquilized (or shot if the tranquilizer supply is running low.)

After the Concert

Remember to tip your musicians.  Symphony members used to be paid in part by federal funds from the National Endowment of the Arts, but that was eliminated in the years preceding the Great Purge.  Now their participation in monthly concerts is mandatory, so they wouldn’t be eligible for monetary compensation anyway. Their reward is their devotion to Dear Leader, as well as the privilege of not spending their days in a dissenters prison.  They are, however, accepting donations from the audience so be sure to toss some spare change in the hat they pass around between movements.

If you recognize a symphony member after the performance it is impolite to ask them at which subway platform they play in their off-time.  That information can be readily found on their twitter account.


Whether you’re a newcomer to the symphony or a long time fan, everyone should enjoy these monthly tributes to promote unity and prosperity under the new regime.  Now that you know the basic protocol of the symphony you will be able to attend the concerts with confidence!

5 Do’s and Don’ts for an Amazing First Page

At the Atlanta Writing Workshop two weeks ago, I attended their signature panel called “Writers Got Talent”—a Page 1 Critique Fest.  Participants anonymously submitted the first page of their manuscript for critique by a panel of agents and publishers.  They got through 18 entries of various genres and skill levels and I took copious notes on their feedback. While I can’t share the manuscripts themselves, I did sort through the comments and found some pretty common trends across the board.

So, without further ado, here are your Do’s and Don’ts for writing an Amazing First Page:

Do’s (and where to find examples)

1.) Set the scene.  Who are your characters?  Where are they?  What’s going on?  These are three things you need to establish in your first page in a coherent way.  Good openers introduce the reader to your world and draw them in.  It’s also a great time to establish the tone of the work or the overlying themes.

Examples: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, or 1984 by George Orwell.

2.) Have a unique, memorable voice.  A unique voice will pull the reader into to narrative and gives them an immediate investment in your characters. I also noticed that the judges were more forgiving of other flaws if the voice of the piece captured their attention.

Examples: The Martian by Andy Weir or Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger for first person narration; The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and anything by Terry Pratchett for third-person POV that still retains its own unique voice.

3.) Draw them in with an intriguing set up.  You could start with some sort of action sequence that sets the scene or dive right into the premise of your story if it’s off the wall.

Examples: The Gunslinger by Stephen King, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson or either The Trial or The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.  (Tell me you don’t want to read more about a man who wakes up as a bug…)

4.) Tactile, sensory imagery is a plus.  If you’re going to start by describing the environment rather than establishing a quirky voice or introducing your main character, make sure the imagery is excellent and the scene is rich enough with sensory details to set the mood and immerse your reader.

Examples: The Scarlet Pimpernell by Baroness Orczy, Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind, Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe.  Anything gothic that relies on atmosphere could fit here.

5.) Send them something they can sell.  This is a little more nuanced, so bear with me.  Publishers are going to have their own tastes, but of the submissions that were read, humor, “classic” genre fiction (as in it read like it was written in the fifties), and tone that clashed with the intended readership were all tough sells.  Not impossible, but tough; agents and publishers just won’t accept work they can’t sell.  My advice?  Research your market and see if you can imagine your book on the same shelf as your contemporaries.

Snoopy
What not to do.

Don’ts

1.) Don’t go overboard with your action.  Your opening page shouldn’t jump around to different characters, different settings, or different points in time.  Why?  It’s hard to build momentum and investment in characters if you switch gears too soon at the beginning.  (This is also why a lot of prologues don’t work.)  Too many scenes lead to bad transitions and instead of drawing the reader in, you end up leaving them behind.

2.) Don’t introduce too many characters at once. Like with too much action, too many characters will be confusing for readers who are meeting your cast for the first time.  Even the Harry Potter series had catch-up chapters to reintroduce readers to the world.

3.) Watch your language.  The judges would get stuck on clunky metaphors and word repetition, which threw off their reading rhythm.  You’ll catch a lot of this if you read your opening page out loud, so be sure to proofread and find some betas who will be honest with you.  Ask them if there was anything they stumbled over when they first read it.

4.) Don’t fall in love with your own description.  This is the opposite problem of too much action in that it takes too long to build your momentum.  In a first page you have roughly one paragraph to set the scene and then it’s time to move on.  Keep up the pace and don’t indulge yourself with flowery prose.

5.) Don’t be cliche.  Turn off’s for the judges included pieces with stock characters, situations, or voices that were too much like what they had seen before.  To impress, you have to know what’s out there and prove you’re doing something different enough to catch their attention.  So how do you avoid tropes?  Check out small publishers in short story markets.  They’re not shy about posting what they’re seeing too much of lately.  (Don’t know any small publishers?  Check out my Publisher’s Spotlights for some ideas of who’s out there.)

Well, that’s all the advice I have for now.  Got any tips of your own?  Disagree vehemently with any of mine?  Leave a note in the comments and share your advice!

 

Publisher’s Spotlight: Third Flatiron

It’s been awhile since we highlighted a themed anthology publisher, so let’s take a look at the speculative fiction interests of Third Flatiron!  Details below:

  • In their own words: “We are looking for submissions to our quarterly themed anthologies… Please send us short stories that revolve around age-old questions and have something illuminating to tell us as human beings. Fantastical situations and creatures, exciting dialog, irony, mild horror, and wry humor are all welcome.”Role models for the type of fiction we want include Kurt Vonnegut, Arthur C. Clarke, Dan Simmons, Connie Willis, Vernor Vinge, and Ken Kesey. We want to showcase some of the best new shorts available today.”
  • Genres they accept: Our focus is on science fiction and fantasy and anthropological fiction. We want tightly plotted tales in out-of-the-ordinary scenarios. Light horror is acceptable, provided it fits the theme.
  • Word count limit: 1,500 – 3,000 words. Inquire if longer.
  • Payment: 6¢/word (U.S./SFWA professional rate)
  • Simultaneous Submissions*: No
  • Multiple Submissions**: No
  • Schedule: Please see the main page for upcoming themes.  Current themes as of this posting are:
    • Cat’s Breakfast” Reading period: Feb 15 – April 15, 2017
    • Strange Beasties” Reading period: May 15 – July 15, 2o17

Bonus Feature: “For each anthology, we will also accept  a few very short humor pieces on the order of the “Shouts and Murmurs” feature in The New Yorker Magazine (600 words or so). These can be written from a first-person perspective or can be mini-essays that tell people what they ought to do, how to do something better, or explain why something is like it is, humorously. An SF/Fantasy bent is preferred.”

*This means whether they will allow you to submit this story to another publisher at the same time or not.

**This means whether you can send them more than one story at at time.

Reminders when submitting:

Read the publication:  Their stories are freely accessible on the site.  You have no excuse not to do your research and see what kind of style gets their attention.  It will also give you an idea of what’s been done before so you don’t end up sending them something too similar to a recently published story.

Read the guidelines: I don’t post everything required for their submissions, just the basics.  Furthermore, this is a static post.  Publishers change their submission requirements at will so it’s always a good idea to read and re-read them, even if you’ve submitted to them before.

Follow the rules: Do I really need to say this?  Don’t send pieces over the word count.  Don’t send content they specifically warn against.  Don’t send weirdly formatted manuscripts if they give you specific instructions.  “But Liz, I–” Nope!  No, no, no.  If you do not follow the rules you risk being a pariah to that magazine – and worse, editors can exchange notes on who’s being a pain.

Happy submitting!