Publisher’s Spotlight: Sword & Sorceress

Today we’re taking a look at a little something for the ladies: Sword & Sorceress 33!  I’d heard of the anthology before, but I wasn’t aware of the history of the publication.  Check out the primer below, which I shamelessly pulled from Wikipedia:

The Sword and Sorceress series is a series of fantasy anthologies originally edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and originally published by DAW Books. As she explained in the foreword to the first volume, she created the anthology to redress the lack of strong female protagonists in the subgenre of sword and sorcery. At the time, most female characters in sword and sorcery were little more than stock damsels in distress, or pawns who were distributed at the conclusion of the story as “bad-conduct prizes” (Bradley’s term) for the male protagonists.

    • In their own words: “Stories should be the type generally referred to as “sword and sorcery” and must have a strong female protagonist whom the reader will care about…We are willing to consider stories set in modern times (urban fantasy), but we don’t buy more than one or two of those for the anthology. We always want something short and funny for the last story.”
    • Genres they accept: Fantasy, and occasionally urban fantasy.  Sword and Sorcery preferred, obviously.
    • What NOT to send:  “We do not want stories with explicit sex, gratuitous violence, or profanity. We are NOT a market for poetry, horror, or dark fantasy.”
    • Word count limit: 9,000 words or less. “Preference given to shorter stories. The longer a story is, the better it has to be. Long stories should be submitted early in the reading period.”
    • Payment: $0.06 per word as an advance against a pro rata share of royalties and foreign or other sales.
    • Simultaneous Submissions*: No.
    • Multiple Submissions**: “With regard to multiple submissions, do not submit more than one story at a time. If we’ve rejected your first one, you may send one more, as long as it’s before the deadline. We have occasionally bought someone’s second submission. We have never bought a third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, or eighth submission. If you send us two stories, and we don’t hold either of them, wait until next year to try again. Please do not re-submit stories we have already rejected (including stories rejected in previous years).”
    • Reprints: No.
    • Schedule: Monday, April 23 to Sunday, May 13, 2018. Stories received before or after this period will be deleted unread.
*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.Bonus content:The guidelines page has links to two pages by Marion Zimmer Bradley:

The titles are a bit misleading – while they sound like basic tips for new writers, the articles go in-depth regarding what they’re looking for in a story.  They include tips on how to read your work critically and revise so that your piece is in its most saleable condition.  (I wrote a similar piece in checklist form if you want to check that out.)

Go take a look; anything you can do to read up on the publisher’s preferences will give you a leg up on the competition and help improve your submission preparation for other markets.

 Reminders when submitting:

Read the publication:  Their published stories are available here.  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.

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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5 Ways to Break your Writer’s Block

Few things are as disappointing as sitting down to write and finding that you have nothing to say.  Maybe you have an idea of what to write but you just can’t get the words to come out right.  Maybe you’re looking for fresh inspiration.  Whatever your situation, here are five ways to kick start your muse.

1.) Create a Playlist

This is my go-to tactic to get in the mood.  Some people have favorite bands who inspire the imagination.  My favorites are usually Pink Floyd, Vast, Radiohead and (appropriately) Muse.  Another tactic is to use specific songs that fit the atmosphere or tone of what you’re writing.  For example, my ghost story set in Louisiana had me listening to “House of the Rising Sun” and “Hotel California” on repeat.

Want something without lyrics that you can use for a specific scene?  Go on YouTube or Google “D&D background music” to find the sounds of taverns, towns, chases or whatever fits the scene.  (Movie soundtracks are great for this too.)

2.) Pick a Writing Prompt

Ok, but what if you’re completely out of ideas with no idea where to start?  Try looking up some writing prompts.  Set a timer and force yourself to free write for an hour to whatever the prompt is, and see what spills out.  Here’s some sites to get you started:

There are tons of these out there, so if that doesn’t do it for you, get over to Google and do some digging.

3.) Get to Know Your Characters

A big cause of writer’s block is that you’re dealing with characters you don’t know very well.  If you know who your characters are – their wants and needs, how they’ll react when you put them in a dire situation – then you can work on giving them conflicts that will enhance the story and build towards their arcs.

Great!  So how do I get to know someone who doesn’t exist, Liz?  Well, short answer: personality quizzes.  (Don’t laugh.)  Try some of these and fill them out like you’re answering for a particular character.  The quizzes themselves might be dumb, but it’ll rewire your brain to start thinking like them, and treating them like a real person.

Want a deep dive that’s more than just the usual Myer’s Briggs?  Check out the Enneagram personality test.  I did a cursory search for that link but there are a few of these sites out there that can go pretty in-depth.  Even better, some sites explore how the types interact with one another, so you can see how your characters might get along – or not.  Try it out and see what insights it unearths.

4.)  Transcribe Passages from Published Works

This is more for when I know what I want to say but the words aren’t coming out in the right order.  If I’m having trouble just forming sentences, I’ll pull out a favorite book and skip to a scene I like, or one whose voice or word choice I envy.  Then I’ll physically type or write out the passage word for word.  Not just read it, but actually transcribe it.

There’s something about the act of manually putting one word in front of the other that reminds me what writing is supposed to feel like, and what a complete sentence looks like.  It sounds dumb, but honest to god, it really helps to mimic polished writing until I can take the training wheels off and go wobbling off on my own again.

5.)  Don’t Write

This sounds counter-productive, but sometimes the best way to write is to not write.  Has it been a long day/week and you’re completely spent?  Have you slept well lately?  How are are your eating habits?  When was the last time you got out in the sunshine?  If you’re not taking care of yourself, then writing is probably going to be a struggle for you.  Well, more than usual.

Make sure you take time for some self-care.  Turn off social media, go take a walk and let your mind wander.  Go get bored.  Boredom is a great way to break writer’s block, but you can’t get bored if you’re on Twitter all night or binge-watching Netflix.  You’d be surprised what comes to you when you’re able to decompress and let your mind wander.


Anyway, those are my go-to solutions for writer’s block.  Did I miss any of your favorites?  Got a writing prompt site that’s the best thing since shredded cheese?  Post it in the comments and help each other out!  Until next time, happy writing!

Funded!

I just checked on the Kickstarter this morning and we are FUNDED for Welcome to Miskatonic University!  Whooooooo!

Celebrate

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can click here to check out my previous blog post where I talk in detail about the anthology project.

There’s still time to back the Kickstarter if you want to be sure to reserve your copy in advance, and just a reminder that they’ve also got a stretch goal to fund the second volume, It Came from Miskatonic University which has even more awesome Lovecraftian stories.  Here’s more info about that:

“In the second, It Came from Miskatonic University, the setting and mood shift slightly as some of the barriers to that unknown are stripped away. So either the main character (or the whole setting) already knows some of the secrets to the unknown or the protagonist is themself part of the “unknown,” being a part of that secret world—whether a Deep One trying to save her human girlfriend or a powerful sorcerer on a mission—and thereby becoming a direct window to that unknown for the reader. These are the narratives where weird fiction blends with fantasy and science fiction. When the unknown has been revealed, accepted, and possibly even incorporated into the setting, we are flitting across weird fiction’s borders with other speculative fiction. It’s almost as if you’ve been learning a thing or two during your stay at MU.”

You can read more about it in this third interview with Scott Gable, which no lie, posted about an hour after my blog post went live on Wednesday.

Thanks, and stay tuned for updates as this project goes to print!

Welcome to Miskatonic University Kickstarter

Hi all!  I have some pending news I wanted to highlight today, which is a little different from my usual M.O.  Those who stop by will note that I like to announce whenever one of my stories is available to read, either online or when the publication drops.  Consider this something like a pre-announcement.

My Lovecraft-inspired short story, Through Cryptic Caverns, the Shoggoths Come at Night has been selected for inclusion in the upcoming anthology, Welcome to Miskatonic University brought to you by the fine folks at Broken Eye Books!  I had a lot of fun writing for this one; here’s what to expect from the anthology in their own words:

Welcome to Miskatonic University brings you modern tales of good ol’ MU. Each story shows a slice of college life at this storied and magical institution, steeped in the occult and part of the strange town of Arkham. Come visit this fascinating New England university—where science and magic, tradition and experimentation go hand in hand—and the quiet, secretive town on which it relies.”

My own contribution is the story of Bernice Jackson, a closeted southerner looking to get as far from home as her mother will allow.  She takes up residence in Waite Hall, where the campus – and her classmates – are not always what they appear to be…

Unfortunately you can’t read it yet, since this story’s publication is pending funding from their Kickstarter.  I’m a firm believer in advertising a product rather than soliciting donations, but if you back the Kickstarter for at least $7 you get a copy of the digital anthology, so this is more like reserving a pre-sale copy.  And hey, if you want to spring for a hard copy ($20 – $35) I’d be happy to sign it if you send it my way!

They’re funding two anthologies, with my story appearing in the first volume.  I read over the bios of my fellow contributors and their stories looks pretty cool as well.  Here’s a little more regarding what types of stories are in the two volumes:

“The first, Welcome to Miskatonic University, represents the first half of that spectrum. These are the tales with the unknown at their core, where relatively normal people in a relatively normal world come face to face with the unknown, and we get to see what happens. These are the stories most tightly anchored to our reality, to what we now. In the second, It Came from Miskatonic University, the setting and mood change a bit. And this isn’t a binary—not an either-or; it’s a spectrum with gradation in how these elements change. In these tales, that next layer of secrets have been stripped away. (It makes perfect sense that, after a century of uncovering secrets, a college might not be the same as it was.)”

If you want to know more about the project you can check out the Kickstarter page, or read up on the publisher’s interviews with A.C. Wise and Hellnotes.  Thanks for checking it out, and if it sounds like your cup of tea then I’d encourage you to contribute to the Kickstarter to make sure you get a chance to read it.

Thanks in advance!

Publisher’s Spotlight: Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores

I’m usually looking for somewhere to send speculative stories with a fairy tale bent, so today I’m happy to share submission information from Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores.  They open for subs in two weeks, so mark their next submission window on your calendar and take a look and what they’re interested in below!

  • In their own words: [Author’s note: this is where I normally copy/paste their description but they disabled that function on their website.  So the following is a paraphrase instead of the usual quotes.]  Well written speculative fiction in various forms from around the world.  Accepts serious and humor.  “If you use real existing science, please get it right.”
  • Genres they accept: Science Fiction, fantasy, myth, legend, fairy tales, and eldritch.  Also interested in fact-based articles and artwork.
  • What NOT to send:
    • Hard sells:
      • Vampires
      • Werewolves
      • Monsters in general
      • Anthro
      • Robots with feelings
    • Don’t send:
      • Horror
      • Hate
      • Blood and guts
      • Explicit language
      • Excessive violence
      • Angsty romance
      • Fan fiction
      • Sex
      • Axe-grinding
      • Downers (“Stories that leave readers feeling they’ve had the energy and joy sucked out of them.”)
  • Word count limit: 1,000 words or more, with shorter works preferred.
  • Payment: $0.06 per word for new fiction, $0.02 for reprints.  (See website for fact-based work rates.)
  • Simultaneous Submissions*: No.
  • Multiple Submissions**: No multiple subs to the same genre.
  • Reprints: Yes.
  • Schedule: Next window to submit: March 21 – 28, midnight EST to midnight EST.  Other submission windows are June 21 – 28, September 21 – 28 and December 21 – 28.

Also, they offer feedback upon request: “We don’t offer a comprehensive critique and will only mention the points that were most essential in our decision.  Please remember this is only our view, but you may find it helpful in potential rewrites.”  Interested?  Submit here!

Reminders when submitting:

Read the publication:  Their published 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.

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!


  • *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.

Video Essay Spotlight: Storytellers

If you’ve been hanging around here, you’ll know that I have a recurring series where I highlight short story publishers and give you the low down on what they accept and how to submit.  Today I’m proud to introduce a new series highlighting video essayists.

Why video essayists?  Well I, like many others, binge-watch an awful lot of YouTube.  Lately, my favorite content has involved some sort of meaningful dissection on the art of writing which helps me better understand myself, my process, and how to improve as a writer.  I’ve learned a lot from these channels, and I wanted to share some of their work with you.

First up is a channel called StorytellersThe following essay on how to write like a professional is what first drew me to their site.  I go back to this video time and time again for a pep talk when I feel like I’m not generating the content I want to at the rate I’d prefer.  It reminds me that yes, writing is hard, and lots of other writers feel this way too.  But it’s not an insurmountable problem, if you can overcome that resistance.

Highlights from this video:

“The professional knows that the mundane physical act of sitting down and starting to work sets in motion a mysterious process that produces inspiration.  The amateur waits for inspiration.  The professional knows that it will come after he starts.”

“Playing for money is the device he uses to adopt a working man mentality. As Pressfield states, the muse of inspiration loves a blue collar work ethic.  She loves the working stiff and hates prima donnas.”

Further reading:

If you love this video, check out more Storytellers content on YouTube.

If you love this video and want to pay them money to produce more content, consider supporting them on Patreon.

Want to know more about Steven Pressfield’s thoughts on professionalism?  Here’s the book that’s quoted on Amazon.com.  Feel free to pick out your favorite quote on Good Reads and tack it to your writing inspiration board.

Publisher’s Spotlight: The Arcanist

As I mentioned, my short story Inner Beauty is for Suckers was published on The Arcanist last month, and I wanted to give you all a more in-depth run-down of what they publish.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

  • In their own words: “We’re a new Medium-based literary magazine that focuses on fantasy and sci-fi flash fiction. We love magical worlds full of dragons and speculative looks at the future, and we think these two genres are important to our culture, which is why we want to give writers of these genres a new place to publish their work. One that pays them, too. (Yay!)”
  • Genres they accept: Science Fiction and Fantasy. “We understand that SF/F encompasses many different sub genres (like horror, for example) and we welcome those, too.”
  • What NOT to send:
    • No hate speech, racism, or any other offensive materials. This is a no-brainer.
    • No extremely vulgar stories filled to the brim with naughty words. We’re not saying that those can’t be good stories, but they’re stories we don’t want.

    • No excessive gore or violence unless it is integral to the story. If it’s in there just to be gross, it’s not for us.

    • No fan fiction. We want originality.

    • No poetry.

  • Word count limit: 1,000 words or less.
  • Payment: $50 per story
  • Simultaneous Submissions*: Yes, but let them know if accepted elsewhere.
  • Multiple Submissions**: Yes, but no more than three at at time.
  • Reprints: We prefer that your story be published here first. If you have already published it elsewhere, we can look but it’s a tough sell.
  • Schedule: Rolling submissions.

Sound good?  Then submit here!

*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 published stories are freely accessible on the site.  (Including mine.)  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.

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!

Bards and Sages 2017 Writing Competition

I am over-the-moon excited to announce that I placed first (!) in the 2017 Bards and Sages Annual Writing Competition!  I got the news a couple days before we crossed over into 2018 but couldn’t share until the official announcement went out this week.  Suffice it to say that I needed those days to collect my thoughts, lest my post on the matter be a series of excitedly jumping gifs.

Celebrate
(As opposed to just the one.)

Anyway, I’m really excited about this one because in addition to being my first win, the piece I wrote, Confessions of a Post-Modern Galatea, was one of my very first completed stories.  The original version wasn’t much more than a flash piece, but over the years it was revised and revised and revised until about a year ago, when it settled into its own at just over 6k.  I’m very proud of all the work I put into it, and extremely excited to share it with the world.

You should be able to read it as part of the Bardic Tales and Sage Advice X Anthology, set to premiere in August of 2018, most likely.  (I’m guessing based on past release dates.)  And if you want to get in on the action yourself you should check out information about next year’s competition, due to post in about April.

I’m really glad I kept working on this one for as long as I did, and I’m incredibly thankful for my writing group for giving me advice, edits and support over the last few years as I worked on this and many, many other submissions.

A strong start to 2018; here’s hoping it continues.

 

“Inner Beauty is for Suckers” now available at The Arcanist!

I’m excited to announce that my latest short story, “Inner Beauty is for Suckers” is now available to read on The Arcanist!

This story was originally conceived for a prompt given in the NYC Flash Fiction Competition, about a year ago.  I’ve signed up for NYC’s Short Story Challenge this year, so if you want to flex your writing muscles and see what comes of it, you should definitely check it out.

And while you’re at it, check out the many other flash pieces over at The Arcanist!  I plan on doing a full Publisher’s Spotlight on them sometime this month, so in the meantime catch up on a little light reading to see what kind of stories they dig.

That’s all for now, folks!  Have a Happy New Year and I’ll see you in 2018!

Publisher’s Spotlight: Lamplight

Been awhile, hasn’t it?  Halloween was yesterday, and if you’re like me, you want to hold onto that spooky feeling a little bit longer.  (Especially now that we’re getting bombarded with Christmas ads…)  So let’s take a look at a publisher offering chilling tales to tell in the dark, Lamplight.

  • In their own words: “We are a literary magazine of dark fiction, both short stories and flash fiction. We want your best. But then, doesn’t everyone? No specific sub-genres or themes, just good stories. For inspiration, we suggest ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘The Outer Limits’, and LampLight, Vol1 Issue 1 which is free.”
  • Genres they accept: We go for stories that are dark, literary; we are looking for the creepy, the weird and the unsettling.
  • What NOT to send: We do not accept stories with the following: vampires, zombies, werewolves, serial killers, hitmen, excessive gore or sex, excessive abuse against women, revenge fantasies, cannibals, high fantasy.
  • Word count limit: 7,000 words max.
  • Payment: $0.03 per word, $150.00 max.
  • Simultaneous Submissions*: Yes, but let them know if accepted elsewhere.
  • Multiple Submissions**: No.  If you do, they’ll all be rejected.
  • Reprints: Yes, provided it’s not currently available online for free. $0.01 per word.
  • Schedule:
    • 15 March – 15 May for the September and December Issues
    • 15 September – 15 November for March and June Issues

    Submissions sent outside of these periods will not be considered.

Got something perfectly spooky to send them?  Brush those cobwebs off and submit here!

*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:  The first issue is 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.

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!