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!

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3 Virtues of a Successful Writer

I’ve seen a number of articles discussing what not to do when it comes to writing, but when it comes to habits to emulate the advice seems to dry up.  After all, every writer is different – what works for some may not work for all.  So rather than habits, let’s talk about three virtues that all successful writers seem to have and how to translate those into success for yourself.

A Diligent Work Ethic

“I don’t like to write, but I love having written.”

It’s a common sentiment among writers to prefer accomplishment to the work that goes into actually writing something.  But if you’re ever going to be successful you have to learn how to finish what you start.  “Finishing” can mean any number of things from polishing a not-quite-there piece to actually sitting down to write in the first place.

It takes self-discipline to practice your craft, and not just the writing part.  You need to read your contemporaries as well as the classics.  You should have an idea of the history of your genre and be aware of where it’s headed with new publications.  You have to market yourself and engage in writing communities.  You have to research possible publishers and polish your work until it’s ready to submit.  Successful writers put in the work.

Humility

Successful writers acknowledge their flaws and want to improve their craft. You can’t do that without a dose of humility.  It can be tempting to write off publishers because they don’t understand your genius, but is it really helpful to tune out legitimate criticism?  When publishers tell you “No,” respect their decisions and use it as an opportunity to reflect and improve.  Listen to your editor, your beta readers, and anyone who is willing to read your work and offer helpful suggestions.  You don’t have to take every piece of advice you get, but humility means accepting that your work may not be perfect as it is.

In the same vein, humility can mean respect for fellow authors.  Sure, we’ve all read something we didn’t like and secretly wondered “How on earth did this get published?  My stuff’s better than that!” But with some humility you can take a long, hard look at what it is that made them successful and learn from it.  That will translate into success for yourself, rather than jealousy.   And as you get more experience, respect the up-and-coming authors who are trying to break into the market.  Successful writers pass on what they’ve learned to those who share their aspirations, rather than viewing everyone as competition.

A Resilient Spirit

This is sort of the opposite of humility.  It takes a lot of self-confidence to stare down a contest and say “Yeah, my story could win that.”  Submitting is an act of bravery, and perseverance in the face of rejection is the most important of all virtues.  Success does not come easy. As I said above, you have to put in the work.  You finish what you start.  You revise.  You take advice where you can get it.  Sometimes you do it all over again and the answer is still “No.”

Successful writers don’t give up, even after all that.  The great thing about writing is that you can do it for your entire life.  You never stop learning.  You never stop improving, so there’s no reason to get impatient with a lack of success.  The submission you send out today is bound to be better than the one yesterday because you’re always improving and evolving.  And if you put in the work and are humble enough to actively seek to improve yourself it’s really only a matter of time before that effort is rewarded.  But you can’t give up before that happens – not if you want to be successful.


What say you, readers?  Is there anything I’ve missed?  Anything you disagree with?  Leave your suggestions below in the comments so we can all learn from each other!

Publisher’s Spotlight: Strange Horizons

Strange Horizons is back!  After a brief hiatus, they are once again open for submissions weekly starting on Monday, and close when they reach their cap.  Details below:

  • In their own words: “We want good speculative fiction. If your story doesn’t have a speculative element, or strong speculative-fiction sensibilities, it’s probably not for us.   Some particular things we love, or are interested in:
    • Fiction from or about diverse perspectives and traditionally under-represented groups, settings, and cultures, written from a non-exoticizing and well-researched position.
    • Unusual yet readable styles and inventive structures and narratives.
    • Stories that address political issues in complex and nuanced ways, resisting oversimplification.
    • Hypertext fiction. If you have a work of hyperfiction you think might be a good fit for Strange Horizons, please query us to discuss how to submit it.
  • Genres they accept: Speculative Fiction.  (That’s the usual sci-fi, fantasy and various flavors of slipstream, etc.)
  • Word count limit: “We prefer stories under 5,000 words, but we consider stories up to 10,000 words. Note, however, that the longer the story is, the less likely we are to be interested…we have no minimum wordcount requirement; we consider short-short stories.”
  • Payment: We pay 8¢/word (USD), with a minimum payment of $60. SFWA officially considers us a professional market.
  • Simultaneous Submissions*: No
  • Multiple Submissions**: No
  • Schedule: Opens every Monday; “if and when the queue begins to significantly outstrip the reading, we’ll close for the week to give ourselves room to catch up.”

Bonus Feature: If you’ve never read Strange Horizon’s guide to tired tropes, give it a glance.  In addition to being hilarious it’ll hopefully make you rethink some of your trunk stories and challenge you to go beyond common slush problems.

The downside is that they don’t often explain why these tropes don’t work so it can be tempting to rationalize why your piece breaks the mold.  My advice?  Don’t.  Just don’t.  Find a different story to submit and in the meantime shop the other one out to trusted beta readers who can guide you away from the tropes.

*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!

To Serve Man: Dining Tips for the 25th Century

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

There is something to be said for tradition.  What can compare to a freshly laundered tablecloth, set with fine china and silverware?  Clearly, our dear Vermillion overlords agree, as they have enthusiastically adopted our custom of the formal dinner party.

That’s why, in this new age of co-species habitation, I’ve updated my classic etiquette guide to include tips for navigating the social circles of both Vermillion and Earthling alike.

Arrival

Guest:  Do not arrive early. You will want to allow time for the hostess to properly prepare for your arrival.  Catching her off guard is both rude and potentially fatal if you interrupt the delicate summoning ritual for the main course.  If you find yourself in the neighborhood a touch early, try taking a walk around the block to stargaze and observe the quiet majesty of the Vermillion race’s power, as they burn the home worlds of their vanquished enemies in the Horsehead Nebula.

Host:  Be sure you are completely ready by the time printed on your invitation cards.  While this sounds simple, in practice you must be sure to follow all 73 standard procedures for hosting the Vermillion race, listed on page 457b of the terms of surrender.  For the Vermillions, be sure to stock the bar with plenty of spirits and allow for the occasional late arrival, as Earthling time functions only in the fourth dimension.  It is rude to vaporize anyone on their first offense, and if they are more than an hour late, feel free to start without them.

Guest:    A hard and fast rule from here to EGSY8p7 is to never bring a guest, unless you have cleared it with the host in advance.  This may be a difficult rule for Vermillions to adhere to, as they reproduce asexually and seemingly at random.  If such an event arises, the gracious host should welcome the unexpected guest and always be prepared with an extra place setting.  Vermillions, if you feel the need arising it is prudent to excuse yourself to the restroom, where the larval mucus can be more easily cleaned off the tile flooring.

Dinner

Guest:  The typical Earth custom is to start from the outside silverware and to work your way in to the plate throughout the meal.  A good Earthling host will also provide chopsticks as an alternative, which are easier to handle with Vermillion appendages.  If you would like to use the Earthling utensils, observe the host and follow his lead.  Always wait for the host to remove his napkin first and set it on his lap.  This signals that the meal has begun.

Host:     Vermillions have a particular fondness for Chardonnay, which should be available with every course regardless of the dish served.  Feel free to have other bottles available for red meats and other courses so you may introduce the Vermillions to the world of wine pairing.  This is a great icebreaker if the conversation stalls or if an awkward topic is broached.

Guest:    It is wise not to mention intergalactic politics, unless it is the recent conquest of the abominable Cerulean race, may they perish in slow agonizing torture.  Do not under any circumstances attempt to cut off this conversation if a Vermillion guest chooses to pursue it.

After-Dinner

Guest:    Earthlings should always offer to help clean up, but it is impolite to accept this offer.  Remember, they are your guests, not your Zemeckian footmen.  Vermillions should not be expected to help clean up or even offer their services.  Do not forget your place as honored citizens of the Vermillion Empire.  Thank your hosts twice: once when you leave and again the day afterward by sending a written note, even after the most informal of events.

Host:     At the end of the evening, if guests are overstaying their welcome, it is acceptable to gently hint that it is time to leave by referring to the evening in the past tense: “Oh, what a lovely evening this was!” or by being direct but politely taking the blame: “I am so sorry but I am exhausted.  I have hardly had time to recover the jet-lag from our trip across the system.”  If this does not work, Vermillion hosts may begin vaporizing guests beginning with those who were more than 15 minutes late upon arriving.

Welcome to 2017

I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions.  I feel like January is this tumultuous time when everyone has unreasonable expectations about how much change they’re capable of superimposing onto their lives.  In February it’s best to sit back, take note of what you were able to accomplish and revise those goals so you might actually have a prayer of achieving some real change.

So, with that said… Whew.

Bit of a rough start, don’t you think?

Well.  Never mind all that.  Best to write it off as a free trial month and move on.

I’ve got some big things in store for this year.  Posts will be a little less frequent but hopefully a little more regular.  Last year’s schedule was a bit too tough to keep up and it led to an extended hiatus that I’d rather not repeat.  So, with that “revised expectations” theme in mind, let’s just take it slow with one post a week and see how we feel after that, how’s that sound?

Tune in next Wednesday for the premiere of a new series of short flash entitled: Miss Margaret Moneypenny’s Etiquette Guide to the Apocalypse.

I’ll see you then.

How To Research Publishers

Well, Flash Fiction has passed.  The comments are coming in and as you work on your revisions it hits you: you’ve really got something here!  You should publish this!  But where should you look?  Should you just google publishers and hope for the best?  (Short answer: no.)

I mentioned this briefly in my post about the Submission Checklist.  For a refresher, the first step in getting published is to research your market finish your story.  Sorry, got ahead of myself there.

What kind of story do you have?

This assumes that you have a finished story that you’re satisfied with, now you’re just looking to find it a good home.  Before you get started you need to categorize your story.

  • Genre
  • Style (is it literary? humorous? appropriate for young audiences?)
  • Word Count:
    • 0 – 300ish Micro Fiction
    • 300ish – 1,000 Flash Fiction
    • 1,000 – 5,000 Short Story  (Ok, some markets allow up to 10,000 or 12,000 for short stories but most I’ve seen top out around 6,000 max.)

For this example let’s say you’ve got a Mystery, in the style of a hard-boiled noir, approximately 2,500 words.  It has some gratuitous language, but at this point you’re not editing, just noting that could be an issue.

Searching for a Publisher

The next step is to search for markets by genre.  The Submission Grinder and Duotrope are both excellent sites for researching potential publishers and tracking your submissions. Why not Google?  Well, I’ve used it occasionally, but it’s not very useful.  You’ll occasionally find lists of publishers or sponsored content, but sometimes the information is out of date and a publisher may have closed.  You really need a dedicated site to find the best results.

I’ve used both and recommend either of those two sites above, but because The Submission Grinder is free to use, I’m going to use that one in this post.  Feel free to follow along.

To search you don’t need an account.  To log your submissions you do.  Let’s just worry about how to search for now.

sg_2

Ok.  So you click on the search field and then fill out the basics for your story.  Leave it as general as possible to pull the most results or use the filters to slim down.  I find that Story Subject and Story Style are best left blank – hardly any market uses those fields, even if they accept stories in that style.  The best thing is is fill in these three fields:

  • Genre
  • Story Length
  • Minimum Pay Scale
    • Pro: $0.06 per word or more
    • Semi-Pro: Usually between $0.01 and $0.05 per word
    • Token: Less than that.  Usually $5-$25 per story regardless of word count.

Applicable markets will fill in below, with Genres, Lengths, Payment Rates and Average Response Days listed on the side to help you pick what to find.  Once you find one that’s interesting click on the listing.

sg_3

Here’s a magazine that looks like a good fit for my example.  Since the piece is Noir in nature, their descriptive paragraph should catch your attention.  The other info seems to fit with the other criteria, so you should click on the Website and Guidelines links (in the red box) to read more about the publisher.

That’s important – sites like The Submission Grinder are primarily a search engine/database.  It’s up to you to continue researching the publication by going through the website and reading the stories available.  If you still think you can see your story fitting in with them go ahead and check out their submission guidelines to polish your piece.

If your story is a little over their word limit (10-20%) you can probably trim down enough to fit it to their limits without major revisions.  If the language is a little coarse/content is a little too grim you can do an edit to tone things down.

Which Publisher is right for me?

So how do you pick who to submit to?  Determine what your priorities are.  Pro-paying markets are always going to be more competitive.  Maybe you want to submit it to several places at once, so you only pick publishers who accept simultaneous submissions.  Maybe you want ones with the quickest turn-around because you hate waiting for an answer.  (Note: you may be in the wrong field if patience isn’t your thing.)

I personally like to pick magazines that I enjoy reading, whose stories I admire, and whose content seems to gel well with my own voice.  I feel like those magazines are the ones that have the highest chance of accepting me, even if the money isn’t as good.  If you’re getting a lot of rejections and you know that the work is good try shopping out your story to a lesser known market in a different pay bracket.  Smaller publishers are hungry for good stories – don’t overlook them.

Have a publisher you love that needs a little attention?  Want to ask about one you’ve found?  Leave a note in the comments!

Publisher’s Spotlight: Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines

Hello genre lovers!  You all know how much I love speculative fiction, but what magazines are out there for other genres?  Today we look at Mystery stories in the sister publications,  Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine!  Their guidelines are almost identical, but EQMM is more specific, so I’ve included their info below.

  • In their own words:Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine welcomes submissions from both new and established writers…  Almost any story that involves crime or the threat of crime comes within our purview… With the exception of a regular book review column and a mystery crossword, EQMM publishes only fiction. We are especially happy to review first stories by authors who have never before published fiction professionally. First-story submissions should be addressed to EQMM‘s Department of First Stories.
  • Genres they accept:We publish every kind of mystery short story: the psychological suspense tale, the deductive puzzle, the private eye case—the gamut of crime and detection from the realistic (including the policeman’s lot and stories of police procedure) to the more imaginative (including “locked rooms” and “impossible crimes”). We need hard-boiled stories as well as “cozies,” but we are not interested in explicit sex or violence. We do not want true detective or crime stories.
  • Word count limit: EQMM uses stories of almost every length. 2,500-8,000 words is the preferred range.  (But they’re open to almost anything.) AHMM suggests anything  less than 12,000.
  • Payment: $0.05 – $0.08 per word, sometimes higher for established authors.
  • Simultaneous Submissions*: Don’t submit to both at the same time:

Stories submitted to AHMM are not also considered by or for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, though we share the same address. Submissions to EQMM must be made separately.

Please do not simultaneously submit the same story to AHMM and EQMM. If we reject your story, for whatever reason, you are then free to submit it to EQMM (and vice versa).

As for whether you can sim-sub to other publications, they don’t say.

  • Multiple Submissions**: Unknown
  • Schedule: Open.  EQMM responded in about 3 weeks.  AHMM is longer, with a 6 – 8 month queue for their slush pile.

*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 publications:  You’ll need to purchase an issue of the magazines to 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!

I Hold Your Hand in Mine by Tom Lehr

Liz’s Note: Today’s “story” is actually a hilarious song by the fantastic Tom Lehr.  If you’re looking for excellent MicroFiction sometimes you need to look no farther than a talented lyricist.

I hold your hand in mine, dear,
I press it to my lips.
I take a healthy bite
From your dainty fingertips.
My joy would be complete, dear,
If you were only here,
But still I keep your hand
As a precious souvenir.
The night you died I cut it off.
I really don’t know why.
For now each time I kiss it
I get bloodstains on my tie.
I’m sorry now I killed you,
For our love was something fine,
And till they come to get me
I shall hold your hand in mine.

Political Satire: Comedic Writing (Part Two)

Note: Today’s regularly scheduled MicroFiction piece has been bumped to Wednesday in order to give everyone a little more time to think about Political Satire in time for the competition on Friday.

Political Satire tops the list of genres NYC Midnight writers are scared of getting.  I think a lot of that fear comes from the fact that people don’t understand it as a genre.  So before we get into what it is, let’s start by debunking a common myth:

Political Satire is not a bunch of jokes about politicians.

Quips about Donald Trump’s hair or David Cameron being replaced by a cat need not apply, not matter how clever your joke is.  So what is it?

Satire is a genre of writing that criticizes and attacks vice, folly and abuse, particularly of ruling parties or those in power. It is marked by anger and a desire to change or destroy that which it attacks. It has a definite target and often uses humor to make a specific point. It does not simply “make fun” of a subject but seeks to inspire change.  – TV Tropes

Here are examples that have elements of the genre, but not quite there:

  • The Jungle & Uncle Tom’s Cabin – these seek to inspire change, but they don’t use humor to illustrate their points.
  • Animal Farm – that’s an allegory.  Political Satire often uses allegorical elements, but a straight allegory is not the same thing as satire if it doesn’t have the humor.

Jokes about political candidates might be funny, but political satire doesn’t have to be overtly about politics to make a political point.

The plot of a political satire piece usually has nothing to do with the subject or message you’re trying to get across.  For example, both “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift and “Baby Cakes” by Neil Gaiman are, on the surface level, stories about eating babies.  But the point they’re trying to make is very different.

Swift’s piece is about British policies regarding the Irish and the cruelty and indifference towards the plight of the impoverished.  Gaiman’s piece (originally a short story but linked as a comic) will make anyone consider converting to vegetarianism.

Some points on this:

  • You don’t necessarily have to agree with the points in your political satire piece.  Gaiman has said, “For the record I wear a leather jacket and eat meat, but am quite good with babies.”
  • Hyperbole is your friend.  Obviously neither Swift nor Gaiman was actually advocating eating babies.  But if you’re really good, your satire might get mistaken for the real thing.
  • Political satire is timely.  Remember: it’s meant to inspire change.  So while you could write a piece similar to Swift’s regarding politics of a bygone era, it doesn’t really fit the spirit of the genre because the issue is already over.
  • Some issues are pretty timeless.  For example, Aristophanes’ Lysistrata is about women going on a sex-strike to protest a war.  It’s been adapted several times, most recently in the film Chi-Raq by Spike Lee.

 

Since we’re talking about Flash Fiction in particular, let’s look to the following examples of sketch comedy for ideas.  These are quick skits and would easily translate into a complete story that will fit in under 1,000 words and will give you a more modern take on what Political Satire is.

  • “What if Bears Killed One in Five People?” is a political satire of the issue of rape on college campuses.
  • Amy Schumer parodies a commercial to satirize the regulations limiting accessible birth control (and one other issue, if you watch through to the very end.)
  • Key & Peele use a skit about the zombie apocalypse to make a point about racism.

I hope you recognize these skits and the comics who produced them – hopefully Political Satire will be a little less scary when you realize you’ve already been exposed to it.  I suggest you check out more of their sketches, as well as South Park and The Colbert Report for other examples.

So, with that in mind, how do you write a Political Satire piece for the Flash Fiction Challenge?  Well, my advice is to pick an issue to write about.  What do you care about?  What’s in the news today?  Read through your Facebook feed and current events news pages to get ideas.  Embrace your inner snarkiness and start joking about it about!

 

Have any examples of your own or questions to share with the class?  Leave them in the comments below!