Monday, December 30, 2013

2014 Goal Setting and Inadvertent Hiatus

Oh boy, it's that time again. Time to set some goals for myself. I hate to call them resolutions, but I do like to look at the year to come and consider what I'd like to accomplish before the end of the next year.

Before I do that, I wanted to say a belated Merry Christmas! I took a somewhat inadvertent hiatus last week. My laptop died. My NEW laptop died. Apparently, it has hardware issues. I had access to other computers, but knew I wouldn't be able to do the Wednesday links post or photo post (I have my photos on my laptop, as well as the spreadsheet where I list any links I come across that I want to pass along). Luckily, my superhero hubby was able to take everything off that hard drive, put it on a new one in a different laptop that is currently either a temporary loaner or just my new laptop until we get this all worked out. I decided it was a great reason to give myself a break for a week, and ducked out of work-related items, as well. It was a pretty good break, all things considered, but I stressed about the things I should be doing, so not as good a break as it could have been.

Anyway, I'm back! I hope your week was wonderful.

Back to goal setting.

What did I achieve this year? 

  • I sold my first paid short story (only to have the magazine tank). 
  • I joined a critique group.
  • I jumped into a fun collaborative writing project, and though it may never see a completed novel out of it, I don't feel like I wasted my time. It was a valuable experience.
  • I un-trunked my first novel, because I decided it was worthwhile, and I have a plan of attack.
  • I nearly finished my second novel. Soooo close now.
  • I finished quite a few short stories.
  • I participated in some great online projects, including the Tree of Life and Composers for the Philippines.
And I'm sure there are other things, but this is a good list for now, I think.

What would I like to achieve in 2014?

  • Better self-discipline.
  • Finish novel #2.
  • Edit novel #1.
  • Submit at least three short stories.
  • Work out a better schedule (this is a perpetual goal...and one I never seem to achieve.)
  • Spend more time writing.
  • Do something writing-related that makes me nervous. Example: Submit to a pro-paying market I think I stand no chance of getting into.
  • Write something different than what I typically write. For instance, a genre I don't dabble in typically. Romance? Erotica? Steampunk? 

Okay, enough goals for now. I wanted to make a do-able goal list. I'm tired of stressing myself out.

What are your goals for the year (or any time period)? Do you like setting goals for yourself, or would you rather avoid that whole rigmarole? When was the last time you did something in writing that scared you? What are your achievements for the year (I don't care how minor)? Do you keep your goals minor or do you like to use them to really stretch yourself? 

May you find your Muse.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Composers for Relief: Spes et Libertas

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday week. I took a bit of a hiatus to enjoy family time and get some work done.

As I slip back into things, I wanted to share my entry for Composers for Relief, put together by Samantha Restreake Geary, Peter Ebbinghouse, and others. Composers for Relief is a collaborative effort, first by composers from multiple countries, and then by writers, asked to write pieces full of hope inspired by the gorgeous musical pieces put together by the composers. All proceeds from sales of the album, Composers for Relief: Supporting the Philippines, and of the upcoming e-book anthology featuring the written pieces (due out in January 2014), will go to Gawad Kalinga (Give Care), a charity supporting the people of the Philippines with food, assistance in rebuilding, and much more.

The piece of music I was moved to write to was Spes et Libertas (Hope and Freedom), composed by Iliya Zaki. You can go to Samantha's blog and look in the right sidebar to listen to the music as you read.

Spes et Libertas


Bezumond struggled against the ropes that bound him, skin tearing as the fibers dug in, tightened. The whip fell upon his back again.


His flesh ruptured, blood flowing down his back in a torrent, but still the whip was brought down upon him, feeding the fight that grew within him.


His people stirred, moved by the stoicism with which he withstood the enemy's torments. They turned against their captors, fought for their lives.


This would be the last time the lash would touch his back, for if his people could rise against this invasion, so too could Bezumond. As the braided leather arced through the air toward the torn flesh of his shoulders, he ripped his hands free of their bonds and grabbed the whip before it could strike him again. He heard the call of his people, scattered voices at first, but they rose even as the fighting continued, swelling together into a roar, a wave of sound that signaled to their enemies that there was no beating down the people of this kingdom.

No, there was no winning against men with souls of flame. No fierce storm, no crashing wave, no possible weapon could equal the power Bezumond's people bore within them.

He joined his men in this fight for their salvation. He met fist with fist, blow with blow, bodies clashing around him.

The man he fought drew a sword. Bezumond was unarmed, but he carried the only weapon he would ever need. Within him was the drive to save his people, the determination to see them through this. He could no more let them down than he could take his own life or the life of his dearest love, she who bore his unborn child within her, waiting on the other side of the gate to be saved. 

He unleashed the power that hungered within him, power that had been subdued by suffering as hope was stripped from him and from his people. The man fell before him, his brethren soon to follow, no match for Bezumond and his men. Where once his men had given up, resolved to die and have done with it, they now held the vision of freedom, and that hope burgeoned within them as they fought back.

The tide had turned.

No more were they overpowered, subjugated. No more were they held beneath the filthy boots of their invaders. A fierce glow overtook the battlefield as the sparks within each of them lit, flared up into the gallant flames they had once been. Their remaining enemies saw this, and fear filled them, took over their beings, for they held no flames within them. They were weak, cowardly, mere shades. Looking back, Bezumond couldn't understand how these gutless marauders had taken control, twisted his people's lives into the hell they'd been living. Not living, no, suffering, tolerating, barely surviving.

No more.

Solomon, his general, came up beside him, an axe at his side, stolen from one of the horde. Out of his chest grew a bright white light, flickering from him, seeming to surround him, to fill him even as it was created inside him. Bezumond knew the same was happening to him, to all of his men. His people, noble and righteous, would once more know peace and contentment, but this time they would be wise, as well.

Even as he thought forward to what they must do, their enemies fell at their feet, dying one by one, slayed by the brave men who stood beside Bezumond, prepared to take back everything that rightfully belonged to them. Theirs was a desire for life that could not be quelled. No one could destroy them now.

Inspired by their victory, but not sated, he and his men marched forward to reclaim what had been stolen. For theirs was a kingdom that would thrive forever, an empire of the soul.

May you find your Muse, as I did above. My thanks to Sam for presenting this opportunity to us.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cutlass Cover Reveal & Links

In lieu of [Mostly] Wordless Wednesday, I'd like to present Ashley Nixon's Cutlass cover!

Publication Date: April 23, 2014
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy

Notorious pirate Barren Reed has one thing on his mind: Revenge against the man who killed his father. So kidnapping his enemy's fiancĂ© seems a perfect plan…until he actually does it. 

Larkin Lee is more than a pretty face and fiancĂ© to a powerful man. Her fierce personality is enough to make any pirate want to push her overboard. 

But when the King of the Orient comes to Barren with a task—to find the Bloodstone, a powerful gem thought only to exist in legend, Barren sees another opportunity to destroy his enemy. Together, Barren, Larkin and a crew of pirates set off to find the stone, only to discover it caused the death of Barren’s own mother and Larkin’s, too. As his strongest allies turn into his greatest enemies, and the life of the girl he kidnapped becomes more important than he ever dreamed, Barren’s quest for revenge becomes a fight to save the Orient.

Ashley asked us to share a pirate joke with the release, so here's mine (from

Question: What's a pirate's favorite Christmas carol?
Answer: We Three Kings of Orient Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

You can find Ashley at:

Ashley is giving away two $25 Amazon gift cards. One via the Rafflecopter drawing you'll find at the bottom of this post, the other on her Facebook page (find the link above).

Now for some links!

Accepting Submissions:

The Cafe Irreal is a quarterly webzine looking for flash fiction. Irreal is the genre, meaning a fantastical fiction that isn't focused on realistic characters or situations, or even on satisfying endings. Up to 2000 words. Pays $.01 per word, with a $2 minimum. Winter deadline is January 1, for publication February 1.

Dark Oak is closing submissions for Big Bad 2 - An Anthology of Evil, Volume 2, on January 1. Short story, 3000-9000 words. Royalty payment. They want your baddest bad guy stories.

Mega Thump Publishing is accepting short stories for a horror/sci-fi hybrid anthology: What Has Two Heads, Ten Eyes, and Terrifying Table Manners? Deadline January 1. Pays $20 and a contributor copy. They want scary horror/sci-fi in the fashion of Alien, Event Horizon, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Chicken Soup for the Soul has several calls coming to a close soon. My Guardian Angel - December 31, The Cat Did What? - January 5, The Dog Did What? - January 5, Reboot Your Life - January 30. Non-fiction poems and stories up to 1200 words. Pays $200 upon publication. 

Cecile's Writers Magazine is open for submissions year-round. They seek authors with intercultural voices (see the link for an explanation of this). They accept flash fiction, short stories, novel excerpts, personal essays, and memoirs. I didn't find mention of payment, so you'll want to look into that.

Essence Magazine is looking for stories. Must send proposals first, not actual stories. Payment is not mentioned. See link for descriptions of types of articles.

Drunk Monkeys will open for submissions on January 1 (they closed down during the holidays). They accept short stories, poetry, TV recaps, interviews, art, comics, photographs, videos, and essays. Unsure of pay.


Human Echoes Podcast is holding a flash fiction contest. 1000 words at most. Talk about aliens and what would have happened if they'd come around way, way back in the day. Deadline is Christmas Day. Prize is $10 and your story produced in podcast form.

Blog Hops:

This is more of a Book Club than a Blog Hop, but M.L. Swift is holding The Progressive Book Club 2014 the third Wednesday of each month. Choose a book and post a review/discussion on it. That's it! Of course, you'll also want to hop around and visit the other readers.

L.G. Keltner is holding her Endings Blogfest to celebrate her second blogging anniversary. January 9. Post about an a book, a movie. Or talk about how you end stories. Make it mean what you'd like to and post an ending.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Anything you're interested in here? Anything to share? Any good publication news (rejections count! It means you're out there submitting!) How do you like Ashley's cover? Any good pirate jokes to share?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Bad Santa Blog Hop - Christmas Outsourced

Christmas Outsourced, A Bad Santa Entry

"Kringle, you owe us for last year's toy-making. What makes you think we'd do it again?"

"Come on, man, you know I'm good for it. We're talking about Christmas here!"

"Forget it. I get a check, I won't send someone up there to kick your ass. But we're out. Find someone else to slave over toys for no pay."

Kris threw down the phone, the sound of jingle bells clanging as it hit a pile of them laying beside his desk. "Shit!"

Who was he going to get to make toys this year? The elves had walked out on him three years ago. Christmas wasn't terribly profitable. Well, not if your name was Santa Claus. Or Kris Kringle. Or St. Nick. Or any one of a billion other names it seemed people had for him. He was thinking of changing his name to George Smith and retiring to Florida. The world would get over it. Besides, the greed out there was horrific. No one REALLY deserved the gifts he was leaving. His Naughty list had grown so exponentially, thanks to lack of discipline, that he now had to fudge the Nice list just to keep kids on there.

He grabbed a candy cane and jabbed it in his mouth as he thought. Peppermint always got his brain working.

"Hmmm, who can I sucker into it this year?"

Flipping through his bedraggled Rolodex, Kris muttered. Maybe someone would bankroll Christmas this year. Oprah? Trump? Gates? Branson? He'd burned those bridges already.

No money bags meant no labor, which meant no toys. Maybe he could beg the elves. Gaffle would be the one to talk to. He'd always had the power to convince the others of anything. Then again, he'd been the one to declare they should all leave.

"All we are is slave labor. This prick doesn't care about us; he's used us for centuries. No pay, unless you count hot chocolate. No benefits (a pair of pliers does not a dentist make). I've heard there are plenty of jobs in India. Who's with me?"

Kris poured a finger of scotch, eyeballed it, poured a few more. Who was counting? Those tiny little bastards had abandoned him just like that. Not one miniature hat left behind. They'd even stolen a bunch of his tools when they'd gone.

"Rat finks."

The reindeer had moved to greener pastures. Literally. They got fed pretty well to work in America one season each year. Free food and a warm bed, year-round. Rudolph had looked sadly behind him before taking off into the air with the others. He'd been the only one to look back.

A frigid tear slid down Kris's cheek as he accidentally chomped down on the candy cane. "Bah!" He threw it across the room; it made significantly less noise than the phone had.

Then it hit him. No, not the candy cane. Penguins! Where better to outsource to than Antarctica?

"Yeah, penguins. Those freaky, flightless little twerps won't know what hit 'em."

This entry rings in at 500 words exactly. There's still time for you to write up your own Bad Santa story for the hop and enter at Bullish Ink.

How do you see Bad Santa? You think he's outsourcing? And do you think he has more or fewer kids on the Nice list these days?

May you find your Muse.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Cover Reveal - The Headhunters Race

I'm delighted to be a part of Kimberly Afe's The Headhunters Race cover reveal! Behold!

Sixteen-year-old Avene was sentenced to prison at thirteen for a crime she didn't commit. Now she has a chance to win her freedom back – if she enters the Headhunters Race. Second prize isn't so bad either, an upgrade to the Leisure Prison if you make it to the finish line. To win either prize, Avene and the other prisoners must navigate one hundred and fifty miles of dense forest, desert, and worst of all, cannibal territory.

With a mechanical collar timed to strangle the prisoners if they're not back in nine days, Avene allies herself with seventeen-year-old McCoy, another prisoner that insists on helping her at every turn and a boy she's trying hard not to fall for. Together they battle nature, other prisoners, and the timed death collars to win the coveted prize. But when Avene is tested with one deadly conflict after another, she realizes there is more at stake than winning her freedom – first she has to survive.  

Kimberly is the mother of two awesome kids, wife of the nicest man in the world, and her dog's best friend. She works by day and writes middle grade and young adult science fiction and fantasy novels in her spare time. She lives with her family in the beautiful Sonoran Desert.

You can find her in the following places:

Website     Goodreads     Twitter     Facebook     Blog

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday - Ice, Ice Baby & Links

For [Mostly] Wordless Wednesday, how about a random pattern from the ice of a frozen pond? Just because.

And now for some links.

Please bear in mind that I'm not personally vetting any of these publications. I haven't research the validity of any of the below publications/contests/blog hops. Please do your due diligence before submitting to any publication or contest.

Accepting Submissions:

Mystichawker Press has reopened their anthology, Campfire Howls, for submissions until it is full. Combine the mystique of the cowboy with the terror of the werewolf. Pays $5, plus a contributor copy.

Martian Migraine Press is open for submissions to their anthology, The Conqueror Womb: Lusty Tales of Shub-Niggurath. They seek stories that both titillate and terrify. Deadline December 15. Token payment of $10CDN.

Skye Warren is putting together an anthology: Take the Heat. Deadline December 31. Payment $100.

Angry Robot is opening up to unagented submissions. December 31 deadline. They're seeking novels in the genres of Sci-Fi, Fantasy and WTF. Novel-length. Paying market.

Kaleidoscope is a "crowd-funded anthology of diverse contemporary YA Fantasy." They have already attained the funding successfully, so this is a definite. Deadline December 31. Pays $.05/word.

The Midnight Diner is open for submissions through December 31 for short fiction, poetry, and artwork. Genre work with a Christian slant. Pays various flat rates, dependent upon type of submission. $60 for short stories.

Sirens Call Publications is taking submissions for several types of publication. Flowers Are Overrated, romance/erotic anthology, December 31, pays royalties plus contributor copy. The Odd & The Bizarre is a horror anthology, January 31, royalties plus contributor copy.

American Style Magazine accepts articles from art lovers. Fee is negotiable upon acceptance of article.


Spinetingler Press is holding their 2013 Christmas Ghost Story Competition. 1st prize is 100 pounds and guaranteed inclusion in a future anthology. Deadline THIS FRIDAY, December 13.

Blog Hops:

Bullish Ink is holding their Third Annual Bad Santa Blog Hop. December 9-21. Judge's Winner receives a $25 Amazon GC; Reader's Favorite wins a $15 Amazon GC. Write a piece of flash fiction, up to 500 words, to air Santa's dirty secrets.

Any of these of interest to you? Seen any interesting shapes in the ice this winter? Anything to share? Publishing news to share?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Roasting "The Bird", CheersFest 2.0

Today's the day of the CheersFest 2.0, where we honor Arlee "Lee" Bird.

CheersFest 2.0 is being hosted by Mark Koopmans, Morgan Shamy, David Powers King, Stephen Tremp, and Alex J. Cavanaugh.

We've been asked to answer four questions:

Why did Lee come up with the A-to-Z Challenge?
There's an issue sweeping the globe wherein people are losing the ability to alphabetize. Lee realized the issue and stepped forward to do his civic duty to educate the masses.

If someone dreams about being a juggler, what does it mean?
Straight up, it means they've got too much going on in life, that they feel like they're juggling important things. On the other hand, it could mean your brain is doing gymnastics.

Is a post by Mr. Bird worth two in the bush?
No jesting here, of course it is!

Who could play Lee in a documentary?
Paul Newman. Come on, tell me you don't see it...

Write a flash fiction piece, 100 words, with the required words:

The challenge was on, the room full of jugglers sweating in their intricate outfits. (One wore a suit of feathers.) They eyeballed each other, sneering and snarling, and then they began tossing jibes at each other.

"You couldn't juggle two oranges if they had strings attached!"

"Oh yeah, well you couldn't catch a bowling pin if it had super glue painted all over it!"

Just as it looked about to come to blows, he walked in, the Man in the Brown Coat. He was a legend, a man they'd all heard of, one they all respected. The Bird. And he didn't need a feather suit to prove it.

"What's up fella's? Ready for the show?"

Feathers fainted, one tiny yellow bit of down floating gently to the ground.

And that's when everyone else in the room knew they'd already lost the challenge.

Now for my caption:

Carl looked at the pin with trepidation, knowing that it could only keep him upright for so long before it lost its balance.
All jests aside, I give my thanks to Lee for all he's done for the blogging community, for bringing so many of us together, and for creating something that a multitude have enjoyed these past few years. His support has meant a lot to me, and I hope for his success. Thank you for being you, Lee!

May you find your Muse.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Lexa & Julie's Dream Destination Blog Hop

I'm a little late to this one (though still on time, really, so no lashings necessary). There are so many places I dream of going that it's hard to narrow it down to a dream destination. You see, I always thought I'd travel the world when I grew up, yet the only place I've been outside of the United States was Tijuana, Mexico when I was 18 years old. We basically went there to underage drink, so nothing I'm particularly fond of all these years later.

Each time I think I've decided on THE place to mention, I think of another place I want to go to just as badly. I thought about cheating and running down a list of each place I so badly want to visit, but looking around I see that people have pretty much stuck to one place, so I'll refrain from cheating. This time.

So where is my current dream destination (current meaning today), as requested by the delightful ladies, Lexa and Julie as they celebrate their book releases?


Peru combines so many things I'm looking for in a travel destination. The sentinel mountains, harboring the ruins of Machu Picchu. The exotic Amazon river teeming with species I've read so much about, but never seen. Pink river dolphins, people! Manatees. Giant river otters. Anacondas? EEK!

By Photographer: RubykPhotographer: Rubyk [CC-BY-SA-2.5 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

They even have their very own mystery of the ages: The Nazca Lines. 30 figures etched into the sands of the desert, fully visible only from the air, yet created well before they had the capability of human flight. How did they create these? And why? Oh, surely you guys know by now how much I love a good real-life mystery!?

By Unukorno (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

I would delight in the rich cultural heritage of Peru. In learning more about the country. Of seeing the history outlined throughout the country, its buildings, ruins, and people.

So today? Today my dream destination would be Peru, for it's a place that has danced its way into my imagination and beckons for me to learn more, to dance, to celebrate, to explore.

Where would you go? Have you been to Peru? Is it on your list at all?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Insecure Writer's Support Group & Links

It's that time again, folks! The first Wednesday of the month means Insecure Writer's gather together to discuss their insecurities. Anyone is welcome to join this support group, created by Alex J. Cavanaugh. You can sign up here.

Do you constantly think about what you want to write, only to sit down and struggle with what to write (as in, which one?) or how to get started? Do your stories and characters run through your head all the time, yet elude you when you try to get them onto paper? Am I sounding a bit like an infomercial right now?

I attended a great workshop led by author Angel Smits this past month, and I wanted to share a bit about it for my fellow insecure writers. It's the second time I attended one similar to this that she's presented, and I always leave feeling inspired. Plus, I always leave with words on the page.

Angel gives us the tools to shut off our internal editor, our voice of self-doubt and criticism, by using improv writing. She gives ideas on multiple ways to get started writing, while evading your internal editor. First off, give your editor a name. Mine is Smurgle.  Next, set a timer for a certain amount of time and start writing. Doesn't matter what you're writing. You can write "I don't know what to say." You can write "I don't feel like doing this." You can write your grocery list. You can write whatever you want, as long as your pen stays on the paper (or your fingers keep moving across the keyboard). This activity disengages your editor and gets you in the writing mindset.

After that, you can use a variety of prompts. Pictures from a magazine, quotes or snippets of writing chosen at random (not necessarily the beginning of a sentence), random words, postcards, anything that may trigger a writing topic for you. Set a timer each time and start writing. Don't edit it as you go (though I will often cross out something I just wrote down and then continue immediately, I'm breakin' the rules). Just write. Write, write, write, until that timer ends.

Would you believe that she has written her novels over a series of Thursdays through the years with her improv group? In the two hours they meet, she takes each prompt as a jumpstart to the next section of her book and keeps it going. Pretty amazing.

I'd like to start doing a bit of this timed free writing when I sit down to write. Maybe it will become part of my writing routine, maybe it won't. But I can't know until I try. I've also joined up with some friends to start an improv writing night we had previously been doing, so I'm looking forward to that.

I accomplished a lot with my writing Monday, but Tuesday I sat there undecided on what to start on. Today I need to get some writing done again.

Yours, in Insecurity!

Now for some links.

Please bear in mind that I am not personally vetting any of these publications. I haven't researched the validity of these offers. Please do your own due diligence before submitting to any publication.

Accepting Submissions:

The Capilano Review publishes "venturesome experimental writing and art" and is looking for submissions. Submission deadline is February 28 for the spring issue. Pays $50 per printed page. The theme is languages.

Workers Write is seeking poetry and prose from the cubicle dwellers point-of-view. 500-5000 words. December 31 deadline. Pays $5 to $50.

Angelic Knight Press is taking submissions for their anthology Demon Rum and Other Evil Spirits. Deadline December 31. I didn't find any indication of payment for this particular anthology, but their overall submission guidelines state quarterly royalties and a copy of the book. More information on this specific publication here.

Infinite Acacia is seeking short stories for a collection, Infinite Science Fiction. Deadline December 31. 2000-6000 words, Science Fiction. Pays $.01/word. They also have a short story collection entitled Mother Knows Best, same deadline. Pays 10 Euros, plus a contributor copy.

Firbolg Publishing is seeking environmental horror short stories for the fourth entry in their Enter At Your Own Risk series. Pays a flat $40 fee. Deadline is December 31.

Crossed Genres is taking submissions of Science Fiction and/or Fantasy short stories with the theme of "Runaway" for their April issue. Pays $.05/word. Deadline December 31.


Suspense Magazine is holding the Terri Ann Armstrong Short Story Contest. Deadline is December 31. Must be in the suspense/mystery/thriller genre. No cash prize is mentioned. May be published online or in their print publication.

21 Peaceful Genders is an anthology on Transgender healthcare being run as a contest. December 31 deadline. First prize is $500. This appears to be run by two individuals, rather than a publishing house, so please do your research before entering.


The Kindle Book Review, along with their partners, is giving away a $500 Amazon shopping spree (HOLY COW!) from now through December 15. This is a Rafflecopter giveaway, with the standard types of tasks in order to earn entries (like x on Twitter, share on Facebook, etc.)

Blog Hop:

Mark Koopmans is hosting the 50 States of Pray Event on Christmas Eve (December 24). The intention is for everyone to post a prayer, a thought, a hope, a regret, a memory, or a wish in about 100 words. It's a simple hop with a lot of heart.

What's your insecurity? What's your inner editor's name? Do you do constant battle with them? Any of these links of interest to you? Anything you'd like to share? Any publication news?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, December 2, 2013

How'd You Do?

It's December! Which, of course, means time will suddenly shorten, squish together, eat itself like the infinity snake. Cut everything you think you'll get done in half. Right? Okay, maybe that's just me. The craziness is already starting to smear itself across my calendar.

But December also means that NaNoWriMo has come to a close. Thusly, so has ShaNoShoStoWriEdSubMo.

How did you guys do? How many completed their goals for the month (whether NaNo or otherwise)? How many didn't complete their goals, but still feel good? How many are pounding their heads into walls right now?

Well, stop it!

If you got even one word written, one plot planned, one character created, pat yourself on the back. Beating yourself up will just make you have more trouble moving forward. No self-abuse or flagellating. The holidays can be stressful enough without beating oneself up.

As far as ShaNoShoStoWriEdSubMo, I didn't have any hardcore rules like NaNo, so I'm feeling pretty good about it. I touched base with my novel that needs editing, my WIP that I'm working on finishing, and I got some writing and editing done on short stories. Was I as productive as I envisioned myself? No. But I'm cool with it. This was a crazy month, and I knew it going in, so I told myself what I could do would be just fine, that anything accomplished was progress beyond what I had already.

I hope everyone's feeling good, or at least okay, with their progress over November.

And I hope Thanksgiving (or the weekend) were good to you, as well!

Are you setting goals for December? Or do you take the month "off" from writing pursuits? If you're setting goals, what are they? If you aren't, do you typically set yourself goals or go where life takes you? How was Thanksgiving?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday - Golden Scale & Links

For today's [Mostly] Wordless Wednesday, I want to give a shout-out and a big thank you to Al Diaz, aka Father Dragon. I'm sure many of you are familiar with him, but if you aren't, I encourage you to check out the Dragon Cave. The Dwarves are very welcoming.

This week, Al gave a lovely tribute to a number of the blogging community. I was flattered to be included in it. The Dragon is a wonderful friend to have made here in Bloggy Land, and I'm delighted to have made his acquaintance. He's warm, welcoming, sincere, creative, and clever.

When he offered up the Golden Scale Award, he did so with the following words:

"Displaying the Golden Scale Award on your blogs implies that you've promised to become your own hero. It means you won't wait for any special thing to happen so you can be happy (i.e. when I get this or that I'll be happy; when I no longer suffer this or that, I'll be happy).

The Golden Scale Award is not for the things you did, but for the things you'll be doing to be happy on daily basis. It's for the courage you promise to show when facing adversity. The determination you promise to have when standing for your dreams and for what you believe in. It's the wisdom of knowing life is sometimes way too difficult but overcoming those difficulties is the only way to grow into a better person and to learn something. We face our fears to find ourselves and our own worth.

There is no wisdom without experience, and knowledge is empty without wisdom. Accepting this award means you are willing to work hard to start working miracles in your own life. I want to make clear I am not suggesting you stop believing on a High Power. I believe too. I am just inviting you to take responsibility of your life, like I did, and release all your true potential.

This promise I ask of you is not to me, but to yourselves. I won't know if you keep it or not. I will go on with my life and fight my own battles, seeking to win my personal wars. But if there is any kind of Father Dragon's essence I can give you, this is it. It's up to you to take it or leave it."

Thank you for the tribute, Al! I'm only too happy to accept the requirements.

Now for some links.

Accepting Submissions:

The Dreadful Cafe is putting out their second anthology, Thresholds, and they're looking for submissions of fiction and art. Specifically, they'd like something that crosses genres and meets the theme of crossing boundaries/thresholds. Short stories pay $125, novelettes pay $250. Art pays on a scale. Open deadline, but will close when the desired number of entries has been reached.

Weird Tales just opened for submissions this last week. They're seeking entries with the theme of either Nikola Tessla or Ice. They will also be holding a flash fiction event online soon. Pays $.03 per word.

Writers Market has put out a call for entries for the 2015 Guide to Self-Publishing. They're taking pitches for topics through December 15. They aren't seeking writing craft pieces, rather the how-to's and tips for self-published writers. They pay competitive wages.

Red Paint Hill Quarterly is seeking poetry for their next issue. Deadline December 15. They also have an upcoming anthology focusing on relationships with mothers. Poetry, deadline February 1. I'm not sure about payment at this time.


This is a contest with an honorable backing. Story Share is holding a writing contest to find low-literacy stories to support beginning readers of all ages. Cash prizes for 11 winners.

Apex Publications is holding A Merry Little Apex Christmas Flash Fiction Contest. These should be Christmas stories with a dark Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror theme. Deadline December 16. 250 words. All entrants will receive a copy of Apex Magazine. The winning piece will be published on the Apex blog, with the winner getting a short story critique, payment of $.05 per word, and a year subscription to Apex Magazine.

Blog Hops:

Brenda Drake is holding the Pitch Wars, Mentor Wishlist Blog Hop. This blog hop allows you to submit a query and the first five pages of a manuscript for mentoring. There is a 24 hour submission window open on December 2. There will also be an associate Twitter Pitch Party. Thank you to Samantha Redstreake Geary for bringing this Blog Hop to my attention! 

I hope all my fellow Americans have a Happy Thanksgiving, eat tons of yummy food, and spend more time with your families than out shopping the Black Thursday sales. And to all my non-American friends, I hope you have tons of yummy food and family time, too! Because who says it has to be Thanksgiving for us to enjoy those things?

Anything of interest above? Has anyone submitted to these publications in the past? Anything to share? 

May you find your Muse.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Critique Partners Versus Beta Readers

Last week I discussed critique groups as a whole, and whether they were a good idea. I got a lot of great feedback on the topic, but wondered if people were talking about beta readers, rather than critique partners, in some places.

So what is the difference?

That's the question. When is a critique partner a beta reader, and vice versa? I'm willing to bet there will be quite a few differing ideas on this, so I'm going to throw out what the terms have meant in my head, and then I'll look forward to seeing how others define the two.

Beta Readers

To me, a beta reader is someone who will take the manuscript in its entirety and read it for an overall view of the manuscript. Basically, a detailed review. They're reading it as a reader, not a fellow writer. Their opinion is meant to give you an idea of what your audience might think. Is the book readable? Does it have good flow? Are the characters interesting? Would they purchase this book?

When you seek a beta reader, you're looking for someone to tell you whether anyone would read the book, not necessarily for specifics on character arc, grammar, etc. You want to know about the general readability of your book from them.


Critique Partner

A critique partner, my understanding, is someone we want to read the book as a writer. They're looking for the dynamics of writing. Story and character arc, realistic characterization, plot, theme, grammar. They should be looking at your work with the eye of someone who has experience with the dynamics of writing, someone who has experience writing and/or has attended various workshops and conferences and can give an educated opinion. Rather than looking at what the reader has to say, their opinion should be closer to that of agents and editors. Instead of saying, "Would someone buy this at a bookstore?" as a beta reader would, they should be asking, "Would an agent/editor give this a second look?" Is it salable? Is it ready?

By Roxy,

I have an awesome beta reader (not that I've given her anything recently) who intermingles the two. Though she isn't a writer, she has a great eye, and she is accustomed to beta reading/critiquing her husband's work (he is an aspiring screenwriter). For me, that is perfect, and just what I need. She catches problems with the story flow, the characters, grammar, etc. But she's looking at it from a reader's point of view, not a writer's.

On the flip side of that, I have my critique group, made up of people in various stages of their writing journey. They bring writing knowledge to on the dynamics and specifics to the table. I find having both of these a helpful part of my writing journey, each for their own reasons.

This is just how I see it, in brief. What's your opinion? Have I fudged the two? Do you see the definition of these two terms in a different way?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday - Cannibal Tomato & Links [Mostly] Wordless Wednesday photo is [Mostly] weird.

See, we put our tomatoes in the window to ripen, and one of them got forgotten, but rather than just get all mushy and rotten, this one apparently started reproducing and cannibalizing itself.

I don't know how well you can see these, but in the first one, the tomato is sprouting like crazy...from the inside!! And in the second one, you can see an entire root system within the tomato.

Am I the only one who's never seen anything like this before?! We're going to plant it, possibly after slicing the bottom open to let the roots free, and see what happens.

By the way, this one was store-bought, and is not a GMO product. I sort of want to cut it open and see what it looks like, but then we can't plant it. Or can we?

Now for some links.

Please bear in mind that I am not personally vetting any of these publications. I haven't researched the validity of these offers. Please due your own due diligence before submitting to any publication.

Accepting Submissions:

The New Ohio Review is currently in their open submissions window. This one closes December 15, then is open again from January 15 to April 1. Paying market. Literary market for prose and poetry.

Picayune Literary Magazine is taking submissions through December 15 of short or flash fiction, poetry, black and white photography, and black-line art. Pays with one contributor copy.

The Lindenwood Review is taking submissions through December 15. Accepts fiction, poetry, and essay. Pays in a contributor copy.

Strange Musings Press is seeking romantic stories that make you laugh. They can be any genre, as long as they involve a romance and are humorous. Deadline is December 30. Pays in royalties and an e-book copy.

The Apalachee Review is always open for submissions. Fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry. Pays two contributor copies.

Puritan Magazine is always open for submissions of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, interviews, and reviews. Paying market (pay differs per type of submission).

Martinus Publishing has a variety of anthologies taking submissions right now, with varying deadlines. The topics include: Veterans of Future Wars (December 31 deadline, pays in royalties); Altered America (December 31 deadline, pays in royalties); Life of the Dead (open until filled, pays in royalties); We Were Heroes (opens December 1, pays in royalties); To Hell With Dante (opens December 1, pays in royalties).

Of Interest:

Speaking of accepting submissions, here's a list of the "Hottest, Newest Lit Mags (Begun in 2012 or 2013)." This list was put together by The Review Review.

This one's been going around a lot lately, but in case you haven't seen it, here's a map of the Most Famous Book Set in Each State, presented by the Business Insider.

Any of these of interest to you? Any submission/publishing news? Anything we should know? Have you ever seen a tomato do this? Did any of the books catch you by surprise? How many did you guess?

May you find Your Muse.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Critique Groups: Yay or Nay?

After a sizable hiatus, my critique is finally going to meet again tonight. We started this summer, but were all so incredibly busy that we only met twice before having to pause. While I'm not sure we're really any less busy, I'm excited to be back at it.

One resounding thing I've heard over and over in the writing world is "You must get a critique group!" It's usually said forcefully, but with a pleasant smile. Inside they're saying, "Get a critique group or FAIL!"

By Alice,

Okay, maybe that's a little dramatic.

At conferences, conventions, and workshops, I repeatedly hear that writers need a critique group, that a critique group can help you get your manuscript ready for submission. Some people swear by them, with thanks to critique groups showing up in the front of books.

However, there's also an outspoken contingent who say critique groups can ruin your book, or possibly your self-esteem as a writer. That it's poison to go into a group and deal with people who rip your work apart. Some cite groups they've gone into where there was at least one really nasty person who did nothing but criticize, never giving construction criticism, just nastiness.

I've witnessed several panels where an argument has ensued over whether or not you should join a critique group.

In my opinion, you should try it out and see if it works for you, but only if you're interested. Don't be bullied into deciding one way or another. Do you feel your manuscript could benefit from having a fresh pair of eyes on it (or a few)? Have you read your book so many times that you have it memorized, so you can't pick out any issues? In that case, it would be a good idea to seek out a critique group. Be sure you are prepared to do critiques, as well as receive them, and that you're dedicated to the group. Otherwise, you shouldn't start until you can be completely dedicated. Critique groups work both ways, and you need to be a full partner in it.

On the other hand, if you feel there's nothing to fix, that it really wouldn't matter what they're going to say to you, skip it. You won't be open to what anyone is saying, anyway, so this isn't an option for you. In order to get anything out of a critique group, you must be open to hearing what other people have to say.

There's another reason not to do it, as well, though, which comes up on the opposite side. If you will be too open, if you'll take everything they say and think you need to make those changes, you should probably avoid it, as well. I feel like you have to have some confidence in your story to be able to get it critiqued. Of course, that's true for submitting it, too. If you have no confidence, you could end up tearing apart your story while stressing yourself out and questioning your ability to write, all because you couldn't pick out the useful feedback from the white noise.

I'm not saying it's easy. I'm starting over on a book that very nearly became a trunk book, all because I took everything to heart that was said in critiques. When I couldn't reconcile my opinion with several mixed opinions, all of which differed from each other on various aspects of the story, I gave up.


Once you decide whether a critique group is for you, you've got to hunt one down. If you have some writer friends whose opinions you trust, see if they're interested in starting a critique group. They don't have to be local; you can email the critiques. We like to meet in person, but I think that's because we enjoy the social aspect of it, as well.

If you don't have writer friends you'd like to start a critique group with, you can check into local writer's groups. Go to meetings they offer and meet other writers. Check on their website, any forums they may have, etc., and see if they have any critique groups or if they have a mechanism with which to hook you up with any.

If that fails, start searching online. There are Meetup groups you might be able to find online by plugging in your location. Search for forums or online critique websites. There are some websites dedicated to allowing online critiques, but you must earn them by giving critiques first and maintaining a certain amount of points.

Once you've found or created your critique group, figure out the group's rules and get started! How are you expected to submit? What does the critique consist of (flow, grammar, answering specific questions, numerical judging, etc.)? How long will you have to do the critique? When do you need to get your piece in by? Will you email it or meet in person? If you're meeting in person, will you get the piece in advance to go over and make notes on so you can come prepared to the meeting? How many words/chapters will you submit at a time? How often will you critique?

Getting these and other questions hammered out in advance will make your life easier as you go into the critique group world.

Tell me about your experiences with critiques. Are you strongly on one side or the other (pro or con)? Have you had any especially nasty experiences in critique group? Any wonderful ones?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday - I Von' to Suck Your Blood & Links

I took the kids to Bent's Old Fort, a trade fort set up in south-eastern Colorado in the 1800's. I got some photos of the fort and the area around it, but I felt like sharing the leeches with I did! Of course, the original burned down and this is a re-vamp, but it was made from measurements a man had taken before, so they tried to rebuild the fort as lose to the original as possible. In one little cabinet in one little room on the second floor, there was a lovely container marked "LEECHES." You've gotta' be able to cleanse the humors and whatnot.

Before we get to the links, I'd like to thank E.J. Wesley and Roland Yeomans for e-books I won recently. Can't wait to read them! From E.J. I got a copy of the "Death by Drive-in" anthology. From Roland, I got "Her Bones Are in the Badlands."

Now for some links. (Please bear in mind that I am not personally vetting any of the following. I find information and pass it along. Always due your due diligence and research a possible publication or contest before submitting.)

Accepting Submissions:

An open audition is being held for travel writers by Great Escape Publishing and International Living. No experience necessary.

Match Books is taking submissions for their Fantasy Anthology: Urban Legends. They're looking for kick-ass female protagonists. Deadline December 6, short stories. Pay unknown.

The Head & The Hand Press is accepting submissions for multiple publications. For Asteroid Belt Almanac, they're looking for short fiction, narrative non-fiction, and visual art. Pay unknown. Deadline December 13. The Breadbox Chapbook Series is open to literary fiction and non-fiction essays of a certain length. Ongoing. They also take manuscript submissions.


Spark is holding a contest with the theme "Winter." Either poetry or prose. $500 1st place prize, one for each category. No entry fee. Deadline is midnight, December 2.

Zizek Press is holding an ongoing contest for fiction and non-fiction, as well as a Bad Fiction Contest with the deadline December 10. Cash prizes.

Harper's Bazaar is holding a short story competition. Their theme is "Spring," and the deadline is December 13. The winner will get to choose an antique book and spend a week on a private island.

Blog Hops:

M.J. Joachim and Tina Downey have put together The Holiday Food Drive Blogfest. November 18-20 blog about a local food bank or charity to bring attention to them. Donate or do something to help them and let your fellow hoppers know what you did.

Julie Flanders and Lexa Cain are holding the Dream Destination Blog Hop December 5-8. Just post about where you would travel if you could go anywhere in the world.

Any of these of interest to you? Anything to share? Ever shared a pond with leeches (I have)?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day

I'm not going to do a full blog post today. Instead, I'd like to offer my thanks to our soldiers, veterans, and their families for all they do and have done.

For a great post on some of our heroes, please visit Writing From the Peak for Jennifer Lovett Herbranson's post, What Writers Can Learn From Warriors.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Resurrection Blogfest II: Scaring Myself

Today is Mina's Resurrection Blogfest II, wherein we resurrect one of our posts from the last year and share it with all you lovely people a second time.

I went back and forth on what to re-post, and finally ended up with something that seemed to fit the badge image. Note: I did edit it to remove a mention of a blog hop I had coming up, but did not edit the body of the post itself at all.

Originally posted on December 17, this is...


Do you ever get so lost in your fantasy world that you freak yourself out?

I do.

When I was a teenager, my family loaded up in the Pickle Mobile (our 8-seater Dodge van), all seven of us, and we took a road trip from Colorado Springs to California, then up the Pacific Coast Highway to Oregon.

The Pacific Coast Highway is gorgeous, at least the parts I remember (it's been awhile, other than just a stretch in Oregon).  However, at night it's dark, and much of it is enclosed by trees.  Small, privately owned businesses used to line it (can't speak for now), and their empty black eyes stared at us, reflecting our headlights before absorbing them and going dark once again.

Flickr, Axel Hartmann 

We believed in driving through the night, and the hour was late enough that there was no one else on the road for long stretches.  The isolation closed in on us as the younger kids fell asleep, leaving only my parents and I awake.  The van was massive, and the empty spaces surrounding my sleeping siblings yawned behind me.  A car came up behind us, matching our speed, never altering from the pace we set.

I began to spin a tale of who might be in that car behind us, and what they planned for us when they got us to just the right spot.

At first, my parents laughed.  Gosh, wasn't I funny?  But at some point the laughter stopped, and silence reigned in the front seats of the van.  My dad's foot pressed down on the gas in an unconscious gesture of unease.  My mom's hand clutched the door handle.

And in the back, all alone in that yawning darkness, I began to believe my own tall tale.  A sensation of electric unease worked its way up my spine, and I wanted desperately to undo my seatbelt and crawl up into the space between my parents.

It should be noted that the vehicle behind us kept up with the speed, even when my dad accelerated.

There were no open gas stations, no 24 hour restaurants.  Even private residences were darkened, closed up.  There was no one that would know if something unimaginable were to occur on that mostly deserted stretch of highway.

Then the car turned off, and we all chuckled uneasily.  Phew, escaped that homicidal maniac.

The thing is, we all knew there was no psycho behind us.  But the setting was right, and I was so intent on my story that our reptile brains kicked in and took us into fight or flight mode.

I do this all the time.  Especially when I'm writing horror, or when the lights are out and there's a sound in my bedroom I don't recognize.  When my husband is out of town, and I'm all alone in bed, I run through every possible scenario as I try to drift off to sleep.  I run through what I'll do if the alarm goes off.  I terrify myself thinking that someone may have entered the house when I was out with the kids, and they're just waiting for my breathing to relax before they creep out of my closet.  I fear that someone can take my babies out of their rooms without my hearing it.

Flickr, Luc Viatour © GFDL,
Hubby just got back from a business trip to Australia, and the week was a rough one.  There was not one night I got a full night's sleep, due to various crazy things happening.  Two nights ago, the power went out for an hour and a half, starting at half past midnight.  Go check a moon calendar to see how much moon there was out there...I think a sliver that night!  As I crept through the house to get to the one place I knew we had a working flashlight, I first looked out the front door to be sure it wasn't just my house that had lost power.  After all, I read and watch horror/thrillers all the time.  I know what happens when they're coming for you.  THEY SHUT OFF YOUR POWER!

After I saw that our entire neighborhood was pitch black, I needed reassurance that someone HAD power.  After all, I live near NORAD, and an EMP isn't out of the question, right?  Would that violate the stone walls of Cheyenne Mountain?  I don't know.

Happily, up on one of the burned hills stood a lit up Christmas tree.  Someone had power!

Okay, not terrorists then.  Not unless they had it out for my little suburban neighborhood.

My flashlight only reached so far; it was just a tiny one.  I shivered my way through the house, hunting down candles and a lighter.  The darkness seemed to be alive, constantly moving and changing in my peripheral vision.  We have a big open area with vaulted ceilings, and the open space around me was somehow creepier than when I was in the regular layout of the living room.  I couldn't see or feel what was above me or around me.  I began to imagine more than just shadows coming up on me.  The hair on my neck stood up.  A shiver worked its way up my spine.  My heart pounded.  My throat filled with the sands of the Sahara.

Did I mention I was watching American Horror Story when the power went out?  I don't find the show at all scary while watching it, but apparently a power outage was just the thing to add a slight edge to its frightfulness.  A man in a freaky leather sex suit would blend in perfectly in the shadows.  And what about creepy mutant babies?  What about all the things NOT in American Horror Story?  Things with tentacles, gaping maws, razor sharp teeth, talons.  What about that dude waiting in my closet?  The monster under the bed?

Once I had candles lit, things were much improved.  A warm glow surrounded me, and I could see the entire room, though the hallway was all the blacker for the light around me.  As long as I kept it in view and had my back to the wall, I was fine.

Flickr, Brenda Starr
Except for the silence.  When they say silence is deafening, they're right.  I kept feeling the need to pop my ears, because the silence was a pressure against them.  All the things that make electronic noise and mask the creaks are gone.  No snoring refrigerator.  No buzzing television set.  No humming machinery.  Silence.  Deep and awful.  And out of that silence arose sound after sound, creak after creak.  It was windy out, and somewhere the air whistled and whispered in vague and terrifying ways.  Branches scratched along the side of the house.  The back porch shifted, and it was so black outside that, even sitting in a darkened room, I could not make out whether there was something out there.


One of the endless nights before that, as I lay in bed with the lights out, I made the mistake of dangling a foot off the bed.  I was perfectly fine until a single thought crossed my mind.  You know that thought you get when your foot is exposed from beneath the covers.  I could almost feel something reaching for me, scuttling about under my bed, saliva trailing down its chin as it prepared to yank me under into its hellish lair.

Of course, I yanked my foot back under the covers, but the darkness had won.  It had filtered into my brain, taking root while I was otherwise occupied.  A scuffing sound became a grotesque creature crawling toward me along the carpeting.  That clicking was someone, or something, at my window.  What was that in the corner?  Was that pressure on the bed?  Was something in here with me?

I'd been working on a zombie tale involving children during the day, and my daughter, all of five itty bitty years old, burst into my room around 3 in the morning.  At first, she didn't say anything, just exploded through the door and shuffled over to the side of the bed, her hair in disarray, her outline the only thing visible to me.  Thank goodness she didn't groan at me.

Just as in the van all those years ago, I knew none of this was real, that not a single one of these fears would come to life.  I knew my daughter was no zombie, that there was nothing under my bed.  There was no one in my closet (hell, I'd checked).  That didn't stop the thoughts from occurring to me, flitting through my head until I latched onto them.

The funny thing is that when my hubby is here, I don't wake him up if I hear a noise; I investigate it myself.  I've always been that way, even as a teenager.  I guess there's something comforting in knowing there's someone around to hear you scream?  Someone that can do something about it?  That's all I can think of for the sudden fear that grips me when he's gone.

Not to say I don't freak myself out plenty when he's here.  I do.  Sometimes it's just a bit amplified when there's no other adult in the house.

So, yeah, I've got an active imagination, but I know I'm not the only one.


Do you have an overactive imagination?  Do you freak yourself out sometimes?  Any notable examples you'd like to share?  

May you find your Muse.