Wednesday, November 6, 2019

IWSG - Picking Up Steam

It's the first Wednesday of November, which means it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, helmed by Alex J. Cavanaugh!


Our co-hosts this month are:
Sadira Stone, Patricia Josephine, Lisa Buie-Collard, Erika Beebe, and C. Lee McKenzie! Be sure to stop by as thanks for hosting!

The last couple IWSGs I've really been struggling. My writing wasn't going well, submissions weren't being picked up, and it was taking me a long time to turn stories back around after rejections. It felt like I'd never get back to writing again.

Then suddenly, the words and ideas and enthusiasm were back! I've been getting much more done, and am feeling closer to my old self. So this month I'm just celebrating that! The insecurities are still there, but I'm so happy to be able to write again. And to care about it instead of looking at it like it's a job I'm failing, but have to do.

The optional question this week is: what's the strangest thing you've ever googled while researching a story? 

Wellll...I write horror. I've researched things like the effects of poisons, deadly flora and fauna, Christmas songs, how long certain injuries would take to heal, what damage tools might do to various body parts, laws in different states, what it feels like to drown, serial killers, acids and bases, odd phobias, the symptoms of the "date rape drug," etc.

I can't update my stats tonight, because I'm switching everything to a new computer, and I'm working off that computer right now, but I haven't moved over my spreadsheet yet, and it's late! So next month I'll have to do this month's stats and next month's. (I took last month off from doing it since I was in the doldrums.) I will give you a sneak preview: I got a couple acceptances and one story has been short listed. Yay!

Coming up this weekend, I'll be doing a reading in Denver!


Links will have to wait, too. I just got back from a trip at 9 PM tonight, cleaned a week's worth of cat boxes, caught up on some day job work, and I really, really want to go take a hot bath and go to bed. I hope to post some photos next week from my beach vacation! As well as some foibles that accompanied the trip.

How have you pulled yourself out of the doldrums in the past? How is your writing going? Are you submitting? Any news? What's the strangest thing you've ever researched?

May you find your Muse.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Share the Love, a Reading, ShaNoShoStoWriEdSubMo, & Links!

Hello! It's Halloween, which is my favorite holiday. Although I recently had an epiphany that it's not the day, but the month leading up to it. When else is the macabre so acceptable to everyone? I'm also a huge fan of fall, so horror + fall = AMAZING!

I've got a reading come up in Denver:


And look! Our reading is #13. How fortuitous!

Each Halloween I put out a table full of books for all ages. For years I've been saving friends' signed books on my shelves after reading them, feeling like that was the way it should be, but then I had another epiphany (so many epiphanies in this post): shouldn't I be sharing their books out instead of keeping them on a shelf? So this year I'll have a bunch of books by friends. From here on out, if I attend a signing I'll just have them sign their books instead of personalizing them. That way, people get a signed book for Trick or Read.

Last weekend I went to MileHiCon. Friday I did a reading of a story I haven't yet sent out for publication. Saturday I participated in something called The Reading Game. Like The Dating Game, TRG has three options (authors) behind a screen, and one player (reader) asks questions until they decide who to "date." The chosen author then gives the reader a book/books. Third time was the charm, so after being up there three times, someone chose me. Woot! Sunday I did a panel on Wry Characters We Love. All in all, it was a good weekend, full of walks, food, friends, and that contagious creative energy that comes from writing events.


With November just around the corner (okay, it's not a corner, it's a step away), many of you will be doing NaNoWriMo. I'll be doing my usual ShaNoShoStoWriEdSubMo, so here are my goals for that:

1- Finish Nuts!
2- Finish one short story per week in November
3- Get all previously written short stories edited and on submission

That should be plenty for the month, I think.

Now for some links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Shooter Literary Magazine is seeking short stories, essays, poetry, etc. with the theme "supernatural." Pays for publication. Deadline November 17.

Claw & Blossom is seeking prose and poetry with the theme "ring." Must contain some element of the natural. Pays $25. Deadline November 25.

Bronzeville Books is seeking short speculative fiction stories with a "twisted love" theme. Up to 3150 words. Pays $.05/word. Deadline November 26.

Ninth Letter is seeking short fiction, poetry, and essays in varying windows through February 28. Pays $25 per printed page.

Dragon Soul Press is seeking short stories with the theme "lost love." 5000 to 15,000 words. Pays for publication. Deadline November 30.

Black Beacon Books is seeking mystery short stories and novellas. 2500 to 7000 words for short stories, up to 25,000 words for novellas. Pays for publication. Deadline November 30.

Jay Henge Publishing is seeking short fiction for three anthologies: Sensory Perceptions, Whigmaleeries & Wives' Tales, and Sunshine Superhighway. Flash to 20,000 words. Pays $5/1000 words. Deadline November 30.

Do you keep all fellow authors' books, or do you donate/sell them? Do you do Trick or Read? Are you doing NaNoWriMo? Are any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.



Friday, October 11, 2019

Horror List Book Review: Invisible Man


I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling and M.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.)


It's been almost a year since I last reviewed a book on here. Back in January, right before everything went chaotic in my life, I reviewed Naomi's Room. As with everything else, I'm trying to get back to my old normal.

This week I'm reviewing Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison.


I'm going to be honest. When I saw this title on the list, I thought it was THE Invisible Man, which is actually by H.G. Wells. But this book is on a list of scariest books ever for very different reasons than Wells' story.

Ellison's Invisible Man is a stark look at society, individualism, identity, and, most obviously, race. The examination of race is split between two different areas: the deep South and Harlem.

I wish I'd reviewed this after first writing it. It's been probably about eight or nine months. I read it just before things went upside down. I remember the raw emotion I felt while reading this gorgeously written book. The frustration, the anger, the sadness, and a host of other emotions. But I don't remember specific examples I could pull and more precise reviews to give you.

The "horror" of this book is the way people treat other people, the things that happen that are looked past or ignored. The way we train others to be, and are in turn trained to be. The wrong we can do, and the wrong that can be done.

If I remember right, we never get a true name for the main character. This is part of his invisibility.

All I can tell you is that everyone should read this book. Written in 1952, it flows in a beautiful arrangement of words that belies what we're reading about. To close, I'll put the opening paragraph of the prologue here:

"I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids--and  might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination--indeed, everything and anything except me."

I rank this right there with "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "The Handmaid's Tale" for commentary on society and a vivid, depressing look at the resilient and downtrodden in our society. The invisible, as it were.

Now for some links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

HorrorAddicts.net is seeking horror stories set in the Victorian era for Dark Divinations. 2000 to 5000 words. Pays $10. Deadline October 31.

Flash Bang Mysteries is seeking flash mysteries. 500 to 750 words. Pays $20. Deadline October 31.

Utopia Science Fiction is seeking optimistic SF. 100 to 6000 words. Pays $15.

Mura Magazine is seeking poetry, flash fiction, and visual art. Less than 1000 words. Pays $1 CAD/100 words.

Czykmate Productions is seeking horror flash and short stories (plus graphic art). Pays $2.

The Bronzeville Bee is seeking speculative fiction, crime, and YA short stories. Up to 3000 words. Pays $.05/word.

Have you ever read Ellison's Invisible Man? How about the other books I mentioned? What are your thoughts? Do you find the subject matter chilling? Any of these links of use? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.




Wednesday, October 2, 2019

IWSG - Read to Write

It's Octooooooooooooooooooooober!

Oddly, it's been in the 80s here until today. I'm ready for fall weather.

It's also the first Wednesday of October, which makes it time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group.
Hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the IWSG is all about seeking and giving support from/to fellow writers. Anyone can join. Just click on Alex's name to sign up. Then post the first Wednesday of each month and visit fellow IWSG'ers.

The co-hosts this month are  Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Mary Aalgaard,Madeline Mora-Summonte, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

The optional question this month is "It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another writer. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

Personally, I believe writers should be readers. Being a writer is a constant learning and growing experience. Unless you're only reading one author for all time, it's highly doubtful you're going to write just like them. On the other hand, you can learn a lot from other writers and your responses to their work. You can learn just as much about what not to do as you can learn about what to do. I find that an author doing something wrong can make me see the errors in my own writing.

I'm currently waiting on some submissions to either get accepted or rejected so I can start putting together my next collection. I like to put some new stories in with old ones, and am thinking of doing more new ones this time around, but I want to see what I have available first. So no submission stats this month!

In lieu of my usual posts, I wanted to share S.A. Larsen's recent release!

It’s finally here!
New cover. Completely rebranded. Same corpse-raising middle grade adventure.
MOTLEY EDUCATION: The Urd Saga, book I
by S. A. Larsen
Ages: 8-12
Pages: 354
Ellysian Press, September 10, 2019; Second Edition

"A deftly crafted ... and entertaining read!"
Midwest Book Reviews - Children's Watch 2017
Motley Junior High: School for the Psychically and Celestially Gifted Terms of Enrollment
Signed: Ebony Charmed

Ebony should be excited about entering sixth grade to further develop her skills. And she would be. If only her lame abilities let her see more than three ghosts.

Struggling to live up to her gifted family, Ebony is horrified when she is branded a Seeker: someone who is neither Sensory nor Luminary. To top it off, her Deadly Creatures and Relics project – transforming a measly stick – seems destined for failure.

But there are doors to other worlds where creatures have been watching her. And when the truth emerges that her project is more than a stick, she knows she must act. Along with her best friend Fleishman and his pet lizard, Ebony finds herself wedged between prophecies and quests. Oh, and saving the entire spirit world from annihilation.

Ebony is not ready to be a hero. But a dark presence has already stolen more than one local kid. And this time, her failure is not an option.

*FIRST PLACE WINNER, CHILDREN'S CATEGORY, 2016 NEW ENGLAND BOOK FESTIVAL!*
*Bronze Award Winner, 2017 Feathered Quill Book Awards for Best Juvenile/YA Fiction*
*Winner - Purple Dragonfly Awards 2017, Honorable Mention; ebook*
*Gold Medal Award Winner - Literary Classics Book Awards 2017, Grade School Fantasy*
*Gold Medal Winner - 2017 Readers' Favorite International Book Awards, Children's Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Order signed books from The Children’s Book Cellar via message.

About the Author
S.A. Larsen is an award-winning author, childhood apraxia of speech advocate, and Maine-iac ice hockey fan, who has watched more hockey games than she could ever count. She also has a soft spot for the strange and misunderstood, which might explain her love for dipping plain chips in ketchup. Her favorite stories push the boundaries of our world and open harbored emotions to inspire and challenge the heart. She's the author of Motley Education: The URD Saga Book I (Ellysian Press, 2019; second edition), a fantasy-adventure for middle grade readers and Marked Beauty-her debut young adult fantasy-romance (Ellysian Press, 2017). When she's not chasing her characters around a cemetery or antagonizing them with the wonders of young love, she lives in the land of lobsters and snowy winters with her husband and four children. Visit her cyber home at salarsenbooks.com, find her on Twitter @SA_Larsen and Instagram sa.larsen, or on spookymiddlegrade.com, where she does most of her spookiness brewing up all sorts of creepy ideas with a group of #SpookyMG authors. Stop by for a visit . . . if you dare.




What are your insecurities? Do you think writers should also be readers? Isn't S.A. Larsen's new cover great? Have you picked up your copy?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Guest Post: Down & Dirty Social Media Tips

Today I'm welcoming Jennifer Lovett Herbranson, author of Social Media for Authors: Book Marketing for Writers Who'd Rather Write. Jennifer is a marketing whiz. She's used it in her military career, and has long helped with social media aspects of marketing for Pikes Peak Writers. I highly recommend her book. As a preview, she's given us some social media basics.


My down and dirty social media tips
  •  Pick one. Instagram is hot right now and about as happy a place as you can find on the Internet. Use up to 30 hashtags but rotate their usage so you don’t seem like you’re spamming those categories.
  • Stories. Best use of Instagram right now is Stories. If you’re a storyteller, these are made for you! Post one a day or every other day.
  • Groups. Best use of Facebook right now is Groups. Organic reach on a Facebook Page is abysmal unless you pay for ads. However, with Facebook’s algorithm change, they are prioritizing friends, family and groups. If you have a street team or want to start one, use Facebook Groups to do it.
  • Tweet away. If you’re looking for industry professionals to connect with, get on Twitter. #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) is a quarterly agent ask for specific types of manuscripts. Check them out. They just might want what you’ve written.
  • Content calendars will save your life! I know planning is a pain but if you do it, you’ll give yourself so much time back in your day for writing your book. Use paper and pen or a scheduler like Buffer to help you plan that content.
  • Email is gold. Yes, it is. 25-30% open rates can’t be beat anywhere. Just don’t spam your subscribers with crap. Give them good progress reports, updates and fun news about you, your public persona and the world you’re building. 
Check out “Social Media for Authors: Book Marketing for Writers Who’d Rather Write” in ebook and print on Amazon. Jenny gives you permission to throw the traditional marketing playbook out the window and develop your own using these principles:
  • You do not have to be on every social media outlet.
  • You do not have to post every single minute of every day.
  • You need a plan. Plans create efficiency. And effective plans grow your readership and give you time back in your day.
Get it on Kindle Unlimited at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07X99T2G4

Follow Jenny!
On Instagram @writernationjen
On Twitter @writernationjen
On Facebook @Writernation








What do you think about these tips? Interested in the book? 

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Human Trafficking: Not What You Think It Is

I attended a RMMWA (Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America) meeting last week on human trafficking. The information was eye opening. Some of it I knew, but much of it I didn't. So I thought I'd pass it along since I keep talking to people who say they're including some aspect of human trafficking in their books/stories. Be aware that it's a heavy and depressing topic.

The presenter was Brittany Austin, from LCHT (Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking.)



Her initial definition of human trafficking: A severe form of exploitation for labor (including sex) through the use of fraud, force, or coercion. 

There are three categories:

1. Those under 18 involved in commercial sex acts (probably the one we hear most about).

2. Those 18 and over involved in commercial sex acts through force, fraud, or coercion.

3. Those forced to perform labor and/or other services in conditions of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery through force, fraud, or coercion (the one I think fewest people consider when thinking of trafficking.)

An incident must involve one of the following (not one from each category, just one of any of these) to qualify:

Action: Recruit, Harbor, Transport, Provide, Obtain
Means: Force, Fraud, Coercion
Purpose: Commercial Sex Acts OR Labor or Services

Some examples that you might not think of in terms of the means are things like threatening to deport someone, threatening to hurt a family member, or even using a type of blackmail where you threaten to reveal something private and/or embarrassing.

**Sex acts can include stripping and other similar acts, not just prostitution.**

Trafficking often uses a person's needs that are not being fulfilled to coerce them. (Examples: "I'll be the mom you've never had," "I'll marry you so you," "We'll be your family.") Teens/kids will do something to help their single mom, as another example. Those silly ads we see on lamp posts that offer excessively high pay for a mystery job are often targeting youth.

Some simplified examples of how they use a person's needs to get them to perform labor, etc.:

1. Someone suffering from abuse/neglect will fall for the offer of a relationship of some sort.

2. Someone who is homeless will fall for offers of food, shelter, and family.

3. Someone with a marginalized identity can be coerced with acceptance.

4. Someone with an inability to access the job market can be coerced with offers of income.

**Marginalized communities are especially vulnerable**

Immigrant labor force makes up 22% of Colorado's labor force.

Many people know or have some manner of relationship with their trafficker. Interfamilial pimping is a big thing. Arranged marriages can also be examples of human trafficking in some circumstances.

Trafficking tends to come across as being about young females, often white (the white slave trade, etc.). This is what is most often depicted in fiction. However, it is young and old, male and female, white and people of color. It can be anyone.

Sean Crumpler was a human trafficker caught in Colorado. He ended up sentenced to 50 years. He had ten to fifteen LGBT+ boys between the ages of 16 and 21 in his home. Some of them had disappeared from California. In exchange for food, shelter, and gifts, they had to capitulate to his sexual needs.



Ski resorts, agricultural areas, and construction sites are places where immigrants are often recruited directly from their country and brought up to Colorado to be forced into a type of indentured servitude. Often, they get here with promises of a job and somewhere to stay, only to discover their wages are garnished for the transportation, the building they're required to stay in, food, etc. As they continue to work there, they continue to rack up dues, never making enough money to be able to escape. In one local case, the only time they were allowed out of the disgusting building they were being kept in was for work and church attendance on Sundays. A nun noticed their degenerating conditions and reported it, which is how they were found. Not only were they being held due to debt, but their families were threatened. When the perpetrator got out, he kept good to his promises, and traveled to Mexico to go after family members.

Something I've dealt with personally is teens that answer those mysterious ads promising tons of money. They are then transported somewhere for "training," only to discover they're now far from home, often unsure of where they even are, and that they owe money for the transportation and training after the fact. These are the teens you see knocking on doors and selling things like magazine submissions that are not for a local school (for example). They are typically being dropped off in neighborhoods, and must make a certain amount of sales if they want to eat that night. They will be picked up many hours later and taken to a hotel room or similar place, where they all stay in one room. They often have no means to try to reach out to family (or have no family to reach out TO). I've seen these kids selling in my area before, and when I looked up the company they worked for, this exact situation was described. All I knew to do at the time was ask the boy if he was okay. I wish I'd known more about this and had offered to call someone for him or get him to safety somehow.

Here are some red flags and indicators:

- Unexplained injuries
- Evidence of prolonged infection or untreated injuries
- Repeated bacterial, yeast, STI infections
- Dental issues
- Exposure, repeated motion injuries
- Cardiovascular and respiratory problems
- Tattoo branding (there are Denver tattoo parlors that have contracted with people to brand the people they are trafficking, and this likely exists all over the U.S.)
- Evidence of sexual trauma
- Not making eye contact
- Individuals not in control of their own identification documents
- Someone claiming to speak for or on behalf of a victim
- Individual has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story and/or exhibits a loss of sense of time or place
- Individual claims to be visiting, but has no real understanding of where they are or even where they're from
- Youth having relationships with older unexplained adults
- Individual with no idea when his/her last last medical/dental checkup was
- Individual exhibiting PTSD symptoms
- May be in crisis or downplaying injury/illness
- Confused/out of it

Some additional facts:

25% of children worldwide are victims of modern slavery

Women and girls make up 71% of modern slavery victims

Debt bondage affected half of all victims of forced labor imposed by private actors.

In Colorado, you can call 866-455-5075 or text 720-999-9724 to report suspected human trafficking. LCHT.

Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance: 303-861-1160.

You can visit the website for the National Human Trafficking Hotline for more information, including stats in your own state.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline can be called at 888-373-7888 or texted at 233733.

Now for some links. Please bear in mind that I'm not endorsing them, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Dragon Soul Press has a number of anthologies open for submissions. The one closing soonest is Organic Ink: Volume 2. No theme, just poems. Pays in royalties. Deadline September 30.

Backpacker is seeking off-the-trail stories from true lovers of the wilderness. There are many categories freelancers can break into. Pays $.40 to $1.00/word.

Funicular Magazine is seeking "quality fiction and poetry that shocks, surprises, moves, and tickles us." Pays $25/piece to $10/printed page, depending upon submission type.

Flash Fiction Magazine is seeking flash fiction of 300-1000 words. Pays $40 per story in their anthology, but nothing for those published online.

Dream of Shadows is seeking fantasy and horror short stories. Up to 1500 words. Pays £20 per piece.

Did you learn anything new about trafficking? Did you know how widespread it was? Any submission links of interest to you? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.






Wednesday, September 11, 2019

New Releases!

Really, NEW should be in quotes. I haven't updated available stories recently, so figured that now was a good time, because one of them is available to read online for FREE!

You can click HERE to read "Dearest" for free at Tales From the Moonlit Path.

Before that came out, I had the following releases:

My story "Where I Woke Up" is in The Desperate and the Damned. A woman wakes up in a house with no escape. Even worse, she has no memory of who she is.


"Tent City Horror" is in the second issue of the newly  relaunched Sanitarium Magazine. What happens when a creature stalks the homeless populace in a tent city? And who might be responsible?



Finally, "Shelter From the Storm" is in Vagabond 002: Apocalypse Edition. Finding shelter in a post-apocalyptic world filled with caustic air is tricky. Especially when something dwells beneath the sand.



Now to get update the website. Oy. I'm falling behind!