Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Checking in with 2021 Goals

This past January I set some SMART goals in my post SMART Goals for Writing, School, and Health, and I actually did really well sticking to them, which is the point in SMART goals (the acronym means Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Constrained). While I'm not setting goals tonight, I did want to revisit my goals for 2021 and see how I did. Plus check in on how writing went this year.

School Goal: 

Complete 28 more credits by March 31, for a total of 48 in the first term.

Actual Achievement: 

I completed 40 by March 31. I then went on to finish, for a total of 84 credits, by the end of second term, which was September 30. I actually finished in mid-September and got my Bachelor's in Business Administration Management. 

Writing Goals: 

Short Stories - 2 3000-word stories by June 1

Novel - Get WIP to 50,000 words by June 1

Nonfiction - Outline craft book by June 1.

Actual Achievement: 

Short Stories - Met and exceeded. I just know I posted May 5 I'd written two short stories that week. Not sure how many more I'd written in the months before that. Probably only one or two because of school taking precedence.

Novel - Didn't touch it.

Nonfiction - Done. And at this point it's written, beta read, and nearing done on the edits. Plus, I've almost got a completed cover! So exciting!

Submission Stats Summary for the Year:

75 rejections

4 acceptances

Health Goals: 

Exercise - Complete at least 10 minutes of exercise each day through March 1

Weight - Lose 2 pounds by April 1

Diet - Get back on a keto diet by March 1

Mental Wellness - Meditate at least 5 minutes each day through June 1.

Actual Achievement:

Exercise - I highly doubt I made this. Withdrawal is hard. I'm still dealing with it (from a fibromyalgia medication--there's more information in my original linked post). I know I did my best to go for walks and do some yoga and tai chi, and I did it at least several days per week, but not daily. I also got out on several hikes. The below photo was of my last hike at Blodgett Peak. 

Weight - Didn't happen then. Turns out it's nearly impossible to lose weight on that fibromyalgia medication until the dose is low enough. I'm now down to about 3mg in the painfully slow taper I'm having to do, and have lost 9 lbs in the last few months.

Diet - Nope. Instead, pressed by school, we started doing Hello Fresh so the rest of the family could contribute and take some of my load off. Trying to add a restrictive diet to that wasn't going to happen and probably isn't going to happen until I'm completely off the fibromyalgia medication.

Mental Wellness - Mostly done, but I know I missed some days. A lot of times it was bedtime meditations with an app to help me sleep. 

I'm feeling great about my accomplishments in 2021. Are they perfect? Nope. But what I accomplished, I did despite major health issues. I FINALLY got my BS degree at 43 years old. I'm about to publish my first craft book on a topic I'm passionate about. I'm making progress in tapering from a horrific drug, despite the obstacles thrown up. I hiked more this year than I have since the health issues started. I fought to get my daughter diagnosed with autism, and she has thrived this new school year. I successfully finished two seasons of my podcast. And so much more.

Next year will be better. But this year I'm happy with what I did.

Did you set any sort of goals for 2021? Have you revisited them yet? How did you do? Did you accomplish anything you're proud of this year? 

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

C. Lee McKenzie Release - Shattered & Horror List Book Review - 1984

Well, hello!

First, I wanted to shout out C. Lee McKenzie's newest release from Evernight Teen: Shattered. Having read about her research for this book and important issues that were addressed, I'm intrigued and can't wait to read it!

Libby Brown is a topnotch down-hill skier, who is only a day away from qualifying for the winter Olympics and her shot at the gold, but someone's out to make sure she doesn't make the team. Two questions thread throughout. Who's responsible for Libby's "accident"? And will Libby's life be shattered forever?





I wanted to update an event that I'd put out incorrect information for. The Pikes Peak Writers Write Brain "A Horror Panel to Die For" is not free. It will cost $20 to attend it online. Write Brains are usually free, so I'd mistakenly assumed this one would be, too, and had shared that information out, so that's my mistake. My fellow panelists will be Carina Bissett, Sumiko Saulson, and Clay McCleod Chapman. The event is January 18, 6:15 to 8:15 PM, online.

For more information and to register, you can go to the event at the Pikes Peak Writers website or the Facebook Event page for A Horror Panel to Die For. There will be a gift card to Barnes & Noble given out to an attendee, and I'm working on a giveaway of my own, as well, to be announced at the event.

I'm looking for help in getting the word out about the release of my craft book The Business of Short Stories. This will not occur until January, but my last couple releases have been rushed, and I'm trying to do things better this time! You can sign up to help by clicking here to go to my Google Forms sign-up link. Thank you! I'm so excited about this book!

Okay, I think it's been since September that I did a horror book review. Holy cow! I meant to be doing one per month, but new books call to me and I heed those calls. What can I say?

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

This week I'm reviewing 1984, by George Orwell.

This one was a brain thumper, for sure. It took me a while to get through it, not because the writing was bad (it absolutely wasn't), but I often found myself floundering to feel like there was a point. That's probably not quite what I mean to say. I got the point. I got where it was going. But it took so long to get there that I got frustrated and felt like I was flopping around waiting for something interesting to happen. Then when it finally did, it went pretty quickly. The point, of course, was to show us what the MC's world was like so we could get a feel for the totalitarian state, and then very slowly show how he started questioning and thinking and investigating and doubting.

Now, George Orwell has a lovely, literary voice, and he had good descriptions. I felt like he'd gotten so excited and into his concept that he thought we'd all want to be in there with him. For example, there's a chunk that is actually you, the reader, reading a secondary manual in the form of a book within this book. 

Also, I'm not really sure how I felt about the characters. Especially Winston, the MC. I'm not sure I really liked him, so it was curiosity that led me forward, not so much caring for the character.

Here's the thing. I think Orwell was brilliant, and that he took in a lot of the things happening in his time (the late 40s, I believe) and actually foresaw things in the future with great clarity. There are specific things he mentions that did come to pass in a way, such as using the body against itself with lie detector tests. 

I don't think that reading this book when I was younger and didn't really care about politics would have given it the same impact it had on me reading it now. So I would recommend if you read it as a teen in school that it might be worth it to read again and measure your responses and how different it feels to you now. I think that would be a fascinating experiment, and I'm a little sad I can't do that. 

I think that people of all political stripes could read this and be absolutely horrified at the state in the book, but also how visionary Orwell was. I realize that many will read it and aim that against their opposing party, but I really feel that it's reflective of ALL parties and government in the U.S., though obviously to an extreme level. And, of course, in other countries, as well. Orwell wasn't American. This book wasn't about America. Not intentionally. It feels a bit like a warning that was ignored. Is it satire? Dystopia? Can an apocalypse be political? Are all forms of politics fated to become satires of themselves and exactly what their creators were trying to avoid?

I can definitely understand why this book made it on the top 100 horror books list by Nightmare Magazine. I'm trying not to get political, but I'm honestly not sure how to review this book without doing so. It is, in point-of-fact, political. 

In an interesting aside, I scrolled through the reviews on Amazon for this book after reading it to see what others were saying. Partly because I was having trouble deciding if I *liked* the book and I was also just trying to process it, which took some time. It's a lot. Anyway, the reviews completely confirmed for me that people in various countries felt the book applied to their government/country AND that U.S. reviewers were totally aiming it at the opposing party and the government (so recent reviews were basically either calling out the Biden administration or the Trump administration, and I'm willing to bet money that going backwards would yield the same results for previous administrations). I'm not really sure if I find that hilarious or disconcerting. Both, I'd say. To me, it's applicable to all politics in the U.S. these days. Isn't total buy-in to the totalitarian state exactly what the government wants in the book? Do as I say, not as I do.

War is Peace

Freedom is Slavery

Ignorance is Strength

This is repeated throughout the book. Disturbing.

I feel like I could write a book about this book and still not feel like I processed everything as completely as I'm trying to. Fascinating book. Just maybe have a second one on hand to take breaks until it gets to the good part. Also, if you can get the one with an afterword by Erich Fromm, that's worth a read.

Have you ever read 1984? Did you do so as a teen, as an adult, or both? Did it hit you differently at different ages? Have you picked up your copy of Shattered yet? Did you sign up to help with my book release?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

WEP - Beautiful Husk & Open Markets

 I haven't participated in WEP in forever, and felt like I needed a writing exercise since I've been working on nonfiction. Check out the WEP blog to read other entries or submit your own.

Beautiful Husk

Tagline: Some must bear witness, an echo only of the horrors they see.

He bends over the water as he has for what seems like forever, staring into his own eyes. From my outsider's view, he is quite beautiful. His hair falls in gentle waves to his shoulders, reflecting the sun with a golden sheen that almost burns the eyes. His jawline is sculpted and strong, standing out severely the more weight he loses. He has not eaten, nor bent to take a sip of the water which so entrances him. 

The closer I get, the more I see that he's not so beautiful after all. His skin is dry and flaking from his face and forearms, the only exposed areas visible to me. It drifts like snow to land upon the water, causing only the slightest ripple before dissolving and disappearing.

His lips, once so soft and full, have withered to a thin line of dull, wrinkled flesh. Once I would have kissed him. Now I wouldn't dare for fear his lips might crumble.

At first, he spoke, if only to his reflection, mumbling "You're beautiful."

I whispered back, "You're beautiful."

But now he stays silent, engrossed, immoveable. Cursed as I am to only repeat the words of others, I'm doomed to an equal silence, a watchful statue who cannot intervene.

This morning, I willed the morning dew to slide just right along his jaw to those wizened lips. It traced his cheekbone to the hungering hollow of his cheek...

     ...ran to the corner of his mouth...

                  ...traced the line between lip and chin...

                              ...slipped through the cleft...

                                        ...and splashed from the point of his chin to the water.

He has grown weak, his forearms shrinking from muscled to gaunt, his back bowing, spine pressing against the dirty white of his shirt. Still he stares, wasting away. His stomach stopped rumbling days ago.

As his head grows heavier, his neck slack, the reflection he loves so dearly gets closer and closer, drawing him in, an inch away from a kiss. Now a centimeter. Now...

In desperation, I step lightly onto the water and skate toward him. The fish and water bugs watch my approach, bubbles rising from gills and mouths. They have gathered beneath the surface, looking up at this strange, but handsome, man. They do not understand.

I do not understand.

I draw nearer and see that his crystal blue eyes are bloodshot, red pulsating through the white. The corners are crusted, as are the edges of his lips. Up close, the sun setting, his golden hair now looks drab and filthy. It hangs limply, frizzy strands punctuating his face. Blood encrusts his nose. 

Diving, I drift beneath his reflection. Looking up at him through the water, I see what he must see. The liquid hides the crust and flaking skin, the damaged hair, the bloodshot eyes. From here, he's as beautiful as when I first saw him...when he first saw himself. It smooths him, blurs the hard edges.

I fear shattering his reflection. If there's a spell, I may be drawn in. Still, I must do something. 

Kicking my feet, I rise.

He gets closer. The water grows warmer.

I break the surface in time to hear his final,



I can only echo the sound, tears running down my face to mingle with the water.

Lost within himself, Narcissus is no more.

554 words, NCCO (I'm treating this like a spontaneous prompt, so it's unedited)

Now for markets accepting submissions in the next month. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence when submitting.

Starry Eyed Press is seeking science fiction for their anthology One-Way Ticket to Epsilon Eridani. 2000 to 10,000 words. Pays in royalties. Deadline Spring 2022 (including this here since it will close once full).

Knight Writing Press is seeking your trunk stories that you think didn't get a fair shake for the anthology Particular Passages 2. Up to 7000 words. Pays in a royalty split. Deadline is January 1. (Side note: I know the owner of this press and he's an honest guy.)

Off Topic Publishing is seeking stories and poems for the anthology Wayward & Upward. Stories must be inspired by a track from the electrosymphonic album by the same name as the anthology, by Spinoza Gambit. 1500 to 3000 words. Payment is $100 CAD for stories, $50 CAD for poems. Deadline January 30.

Dragon Soul Press is seeking romances involving time travel for their anthology Everlast. 5000 to 20,000 words. Pays in royalties. Deadline January 31, 2022. (Note that they're still open for sexy fairy tales for Rogue Tales until December 31). 

Cloaked Press is seeking science fiction stories for Spring Into SciFi. 3500 to 9000 words. Pays $15. Deadline February 5.

Word Balloon Books is seeking short stories in the following themes/genres: Rockets & Robots/Science Fiction Adventure, Beware the Bugs/Fantasy or Science Fiction, Paradoxical Pets/Fantasy or Science Fiction. Under 3000 words preferred. Pays $.01/word advanced against royalties. Deadline February 11.

Qwerty is seeking fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and more. Current theme is Folklore & Fairy Tales. Up to 5000 words. Pays $10 CAD. Deadline February 15.

Have you visited the other WEPers? Have you tried participating? Any of these publications of interest? Anything to add?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

IWSG - Beta Reads & ShaNo Results

It's time for the December (holy cow!) Insecure Writer's Support Group post.

Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the IWSG exists so writers can get and give support about their insecurities. Anyone can join. Simply click on Alex's name and put your blog on the linky list, then hop around to visit your fellow IWSG'ers.

This month's co-hosts are PJ Colando, Diane Burton, Louise – Fundy Blue, Natalie Aguirre, and Jacqui Murray!

The optional question this month is "In your writing, what stresses you the most? What delights you?"

Editing probably stresses me out the most. Not so much line editing, but content editing and trying to tweak it to be better. I love the first draft, because I can just free flow my writing and write whatever comes out. The stress comes in reeling that in.

Speaking of which, my craft novel on the business of short stories is out to beta readers right this second, with today being the day I've asked them to get their comments back to me. As I posted on Facebook, it's nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time. The first ones that have come in have been encouraging, so that's good. 

Keeping it brief today, so I'm going directly to my submission stats for November. Doing this each month keeps me on my toes.

8 submissions

9 rejections

1 story withdrawn with an assumption that it's rejected

1 story published

18 stories on submission, with several needing to be turned around

In terms of my ShaNoShoStoWriEdSubMo goals, I met the word goals for the current craft novel and completed it. However, I was too eager to get to initial edits, so didn't bother with the short story writing goals. With two appearances scheduled in mid-January, I'm trying to figure out how realistic it would be to move up my timeline on the craft novel release. If it isn't reasonable, I'll at least need to have some shwag available to get it out there since I have a signing mixed in there.

Did you meet your NaNo or other monthly goals in November? What are your insecurities? What stresses you out about writing? Did you submit anything this month?

May you find your Muse.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Patricia Josephine's Birthday & Anniversary Scavenger Hunt

Welcome to Patricia Josephine's Scavenger Hunt!

Find the clue and head on over to Patricia's blog to find the other participants. Gather at least five, then comment on her blog, including both a Happy Birthday and a Happy Anniversary. You'll be entered in the giveaway.

Good luck and happy hunting! And Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary to Patricia!

To save the world, Erin needs a zombie.

Every human in the world becomes a zombie when they die. But Erin refuses to accept the world as it is now. She’s heard about a cure locked away in a lab in Upper Michigan, and she plans on retrieving it. To do so, she needs a zombie. Not just any zombie, though.

Zee is Erin’s link to the lab. His connection to the living world is her bargaining chip. But only if she can teach him to control his mindless impulses.

Can a zombie be trained? Or will Erin be Zee’s next meal and become a zombie herself? The fate of humanity rests in her hands.

The Cure is a post apocalypse story about redemption and saving the world.
Steam rating: None.

Add to Goodreads.

Also, I had a new release recently. My short story "Psychosis" appears in Madame Gray's Vault of Gore. Only check it out if you're okay with gore and heavier horror.

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Submission Roundup December

Here's the next month's worth of submission calls. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these companies, merely passing along their calls. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

United Faedom Publishing is seeking submissions for three romance anthologies: Cozy Romance, LGBTQ+ Romance, and Romantic Fantasy. 8000 to 10,000 words. Pays $20. Deadline December 1.

The Abbey Review is seeking short stories, screenplays, and poetry. Maximum page count is up to 30, depending upon submission type. Pays $30. Deadline December 1.

Samjoko Magazine is seeking short fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and screenplays. 1000 to 4000 words. Pays $20. Deadline December 15.

Chicken Soup for the Soul is seeking stories in the following themes: Humorous stories (November 20), Kindness (November 20), Preteens (December 20), Teenagers (December 20). Up to 1200 words. Pays $200. Deadlines are in parentheses with their themes.

Worlds Enough is seeking stories for Fantastic Detectives. 5000 to 15,000 words. Pays $20 + royalties. Deadline December 30.

Dragon Soul Press is seeking short stories for their anthologies with the following themes/titles: Rogue Tales (November 30), Everlast (November 30), Surge (December 31). 5000 to 20,000 words. Pays royalties for the first year. Deadlines are in parentheses next to the titles.

Sliced Up Press is seeking short stories for the anthology Monstroddities. 1000 to 3000 words. Pays $50. Deadline December 31.

Stormdance Books is seeking short stories for Grumpy Old Gods. 3000 to 4000 words. Pays royalties. Deadline December 31. 

The Quiet Ones is seeking horror stories in the theme True Love Never Dies. Up to 3000 words. Pays $25. Deadline December 31.

Manawaker is seeking short stories for Felis Future: An Anthology of Future Cats. No hard word limit. Pays $.01/word. Deadline December 31.

Workers Write! is seeking stories and poems with a musical theme for Tales From the Key of C. 500 to 5000 words. Pays $5 to $50, depending upon length. Deadline December 31.

Any submission calls to share? Any of these of interest?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

IWSG - In the Throes of NaNo

 It's time for the November Insecure Writer's Support Group!

The IWSG was created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and exists to help writers support each other through their insecurities. Anyone can join. Simply, click on Alex's name above and sign up on the linky list.

The co-hosts this month are:

Kim Lajevardi, Victoria Marie Lees, Joylene Nowell Butler, Erika Beebe, and Lee Lowery!

The optional question for this month is: 

What's harder to do, coming up with your book title or writing the blurb?

Honestly, both are harder than writing the actual content for me, but I'd say the blurb is harder than the title. I'm not great at either.

My insecurity this month has to do with the business plan I'd made for the next year. I had intended to take the year to completely get off a medication I'm slow tapering off from (it will take me until July of 2022) in order to avoid the more brutal aspects of withdrawal, but also to put the business degree to full use and fulfill a hefty one year business plan I'd put together. But life happens, and with medical bills racking up, plus unexpected expenses of home and vehicle ownership, I'm having to search for a job and rethink everything I'd planned for the year. It sucks, but it's life. And most of the medical bills are mine, and completely uncovered by insurance. It also means the time I was hoping to also recover from my last fibromyalgia flareup is null and void. And round and round we go. 

I haven't sat down to redo my business plan yet, because I need to have the job first and to know what type of hours I'll be working. And the fibro's still not great, which means I'll have some heavy fatigue after I start the new job. So I'm giving myself about a month after I get the job to sit down and redo the business plan.

I'm a little down in the dumps, but I was already lucky my husband could support us while I returned to school over the last year. I'll suck it up, and I'll still make things happen. Just probably not all the things.

Speaking of which, I passed 30,000 words on my craft book, and I'm feeling good about where it's going. Of course, at around 27,000 words, I suddenly had the "this book sucks and nobody will be interested" calamity. Still working through that.

Okay, time to go over my submission stats for the last month. In October, my stats were:

12 submissions

9 rejections

1 acceptance

1 story assumed rejected or lost (no response, and no response to query)

23 stories currently on submission

Also, I was interviewed on a podcast, Living the Dream with Curveball. His show's about people who inspire, and there are all kinds of great episodes to check out. They're pretty short.

Are you NaNoing? Have you been submitting? Any news to share? What are your insecurities? How are you dealing with them?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

ShaNoShoStoWriEdSubMo 2021

I wasn't able to post last week, because our internet was down. To get the podcast up, I drove around until I found free wi-fi at a Carl's, Jr., then stayed in the parking lot long enough to get the podcast up. It was 2:30 in the morning, and I learned that McDonald's is surprisingly busy at 2:30 in the morning, at least when it's right off the freeway. I also learned that Starbucks shuts off their wi-fi at night, and when you try to sign in, they tell you to come back during business hours. The below picture is a tired me waiting through the drearily slow upload.

So this week you get what would have been last week's updates before I get to my ShaNo plans. (And for those who aren't familiar with my annual twist on NaNoWriMo, an explanation.)

First, I had a short story come out in a mystery anthology with a sense of humor. 

Available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle

I also did a reading for Stories Live! which can be found on YouTube. This was the Halloween episode, so most of the stories are dark and twisty. It's always fun to do this!

Okay, ShaNo time. For those who don't know, because my main focus has long been short stories, I've always set my own relevant goals for the month of November, which has allowed me to hijack the energy for the month while getting things done that will matter to me in the long wrong.

ShaNoShoStoWriEdSubMo stands for Shannon's Novel and Short Story Writing, Editing, and Submitting Month. 

Funnily enough, this year my primary project happens to be a book, though it's non-fiction. I'm over halfway done with it, so that will be reflected in my goals.

25,000 words on current non-fiction WIP

Write 2 new short stories (we'll approximate 10,000 words for this, though the actual word count will vary)

Finish 2 in-progress short stories (approximately 5,000 words)

Turn around any short stories that get rejected

Edit 2 stories waiting for edits

Submit at least 2 additional short stories

Do you participate in NaNo? Do you do your own version? What are your writing goals for November?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Submission Roundup Oct/Nov

Time for the roundup of places accepting submissions with deadlines between now and mid-November! Bear in mind that I'm not endorsing any of these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Hellbound Books is seeking short stories for the anthology The Toilet Zone: The Royal Flush. These are NOT meant to be stories about the bathroom. Instead, they're short enough to be read while on the toilet. 2500 to 4000 words. Pays $5. Deadline October 31.

Untreed Reads is seeking short stories for the anthology I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight. This is a mystery/crime anthology where each story must be based on a one-hit wonder. 3000 to 5000 words. Royalty split. Deadline October 31.

Lostboys Press is seeking submissions for their anthology Heroes. These should be retellings of known characters in a different setting. 3000 to 9000 words. Pays $50. Deadline October 31.

Ghost Orchid Press is seeking stories for Beyond the Veil: Queer Tales of Supernatural Love. Must have dark and/or supernatural elements. 1000 to 6000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline October 31.

Madhouse Books is seeking stories for the anthology Dark Secrets. These should be short stories about "sinister secrets and hidden evil." 3500 to 7000 words. Pays $10. Deadline October 31.

Eerie River Publishing is seeking horror stories for It Calls From the Veil. Supernatural elements. 2000 to 6000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline October 31.

Other Worlds Ink is seeking stories for Save the World. Must be cli-fi (climate science fiction) about hopeful futures involving solutions to help climate change. 2500 to 15,000 words. Pays a flat fee between $50 and $100, depending upon word count. Deadline October 31.

Table/FEAST Lit Mag is seeking stories between 1000 to 4000 words. Pays $30. Deadline October 31.

Death in the Mouth is an anthology seeking horror stories by people of color. 1000 to 6000 words. Pays $.08/word. Deadline November 1.

The Future Fire is seeking speculative stories with a noir flavor. Up to 17,500 words. Pays up to $50. Deadline November 1.

Queer Toronto Literary Magazine is seeking stories by queer individuals. Up to 2000 words. Pays $15. Deadline November 1.

JANK is seeking submissions for Solarpunk Sunscapes: Optimistic Visions of the Future. 500 to 7500 words. Pays $.02/word. Deadline November 1.

Chicken Soup for the Soul is seeking stories with the themes Kindness, Humorous Stories. Up to 1200 words. Pays $200. Deadlines are for between October 31 and November 20.

Dragon Soul Press is seeking stories for Rogue Tales (dark, sexy fairy tales) and Everlast (couples who meet due to time travel). 7000 to 15,000 words. Pays royalties for the first year. Deadline November 30.

The Gravity of the Thing is seeking stories for Stranged Writing: A Literary Taxonomy. Written pieces must showcase defamiliarization. 6 to 3000 words. Pays $5 to $25. Deadline November 30. 

Anything to add? Any of these sound interesting? Are you submitting?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

IWSG-October Thrills

 It's the first Wednesday in October, so it's time again for the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, this group serves to seek and provide reassurance for our insecurities. Anyone can join. Simply click on Alex's name and put your blog on the sign-up list.

This month's co-hosts are: Jemima Pett, J Lenni Dorner, Cathrina Constantine, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, and Mary Aalgaard!

This week's optional question is: In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?

I don't have many hard and fast lines. In writing horror, there are lines I'll cross that others might not, but there are also places I don't want to tread, such as pedophilia. In terms of language, I won't say words I wouldn't say in real life, such as racist terms, and I don't aim to put in a bunch of profanity, but I do cuss in real life, so it will show up in my writing some. I tend to keep it mostly clean except for the lesser cuss words, though. Short version: I try not to set too many hard limits in advance. If I write something that makes me too uncomfortable or that won't sell, I'll remove it.

As far as insecurities, October tends to be my busy month for appearances (horror and all...), and this year is no different. But I've found that being home for a year without really going anywhere or seeing anyone undid all the progress I'd made with being around other people. It doesn't come naturally for me to be outgoing and be able to talk to people. I'm very introverted, though I enjoy presenting, which makes no sense. So my insecurities are about whether or not I can still pull off the appearances and make them look natural, rather than being stressed. I think I did well at my first appearance of the month this past weekend at MileHiCon, so that's good.

Speaking of which, I had three panels and one reading. The reading was in a genre I don't write (utopian), so I wrote a flash piece that was utopian, but still had a touch of horror (utopia gone wrong). I was nervous all weekend until I read it, but got positive feedback, so shew. The panels all went well. I was moderator on two of them, and we had some good conversations about overused tropes, short stories, and revisiting childhood favorites.

I've got two more online appearances this month, so if you're interested you can attend from anywhere. I'll be doing a reading (story TBD) online via Stories Live Wednesday, October 20, at 7:00 PM, along with several other people. This is FREE on YouTube! You can access the page on my appearances tab, and I'll post about it on my Facebook that day. It does stay online, so I'll add the video to my appearances tab once it airs, too. Also, I'm doing a horror panel Saturday, October 16, from 12:30 to 3:30 PM with some awesome horror writers, but this one is $20 and will be via Zoom. The link for this is also on my appearances tab, if you're interested. It's put on by Pikes Peak Writers.

Time for stats! I post my submission stats each month to keep on top of things. In September, my stats were:

10 submissions

10 rejections

Sent 2 queries on stories that had been out for a long time

Pulled 1 story after not hearing back on the query (the other one was a rejection)

Currently have 24 submissions out

Not a ton to report, but it feels good to be back in the groove. Work is progressing on my NF WIP and I finished one short story and one piece of flash fiction. I'd like to get a short story done each week on top of the non-fiction book work, but there's been a lot going on, so I'm not going to beat myself up.

How about you? Are you getting work done? Any submissions? How about acceptances? What are your insecurities?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Horror List Book Review: Slaughterhouse Five

Remember this? I'm slowly, but surely, getting back to my old routines. Now that I'm done with school, I can get back to the best horror list!

I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling andM.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.) To see the books I've reviewed so far, you can view the list at the end of this post where I rank them.

This week I'm reviewing Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut.

This is my first time reading a book by Vonnegut, and I may be hooked. His prose is quick and almost rhythmic sometimes. Fluid. There are quotable bits ("How nice--to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive.") and other impactful parts that aren't as quotable. 

In this book, we follow a character named Billy Pilgrim, a soldier in WWII who was present at the bombing of Dresden. The memories/scenes shared show the uselessness, hopelessness, and ineffectualness of war. There are no great battle scenes in this one. Instead, there are lost soldiers and quick captures.

The narrative jumps back and forth in time, ostensibly because Billy has become disconnected from himself and jumps to different time periods. At some point, he was kidnaped by aliens, or so he relates, much to his daughter's chagrin. The reader never knows where they'll be next, or what might cause the leap. 

A satire on war, there are comic moments, but also deeply horrifying moments that are intentionally thrown out in a lackluster way. The words "so it goes" punctuate many of these moments.

The horror in this lies in the psychological aspects of war and what humans do to each other. Understated and almost comical at times, the horror is still there.

I'm glad I finally read this one after decades of hearing about it. It's definitely a lesson in writing horror that doesn't look like horror on the outside.

Have you read Vonnegut? What's your favorite book by him? Have you read this one? What did you think?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Recent Books Read & Recommendations

 This week I figured I'd share some books I've read recently that I'd recommend:

Wonderful, calming, inspirational book of a woman's post-cancer journey to climb 100 summits in Japan within one year. Includes tidbits about foods enjoyed in the region, too.

A murder mystery in the style of Agatha Christie and Mary Roberts Rinehart. A group of co-workers from a tech company get stuck in a ski lodge after a massive avalanche must figure out who's murdering them one by one.

A beautiful, lyrical, but dark literary piece about the damaging cycles shared by the women in a family. Murder, abuse, and loss. Some sensitive themes.

A book written in the 90s about what we're doing to teenage girls that kills their strength, their bravery, and their individualism in their teen years, and what to do to get that back. Deals significantly with media, society, and culture. 

I posted asking people to recommend anything they've read lately that they'd recommend to others, and these were the answers I got:

The Ladies of the Secret Circus, by Constance Sayers

When the Stars Go Dark, by Paula McClain

The Last Thing He Told Me, by Laura Dave

Haunted Castles: The Complete Gothic Stories, by Ray Russell

The Last Final Girl, by Stephen Graham Jones

Severance, by Ling Ma

The Thursday Murder Club, by Richard Osman

Know My Name, by Chanel Miller

Sinner, Priest, and American Queen, by Sierra Simone

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee

Tell Me, by Anne Frasier

My Best Friend's Exorcism, by Grady Hendrix

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Vampire Slaying, by Grady Hendrix

The Codebreakers, by David Khan

Angels & Demons, by Dan Brown

The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown

The Gift of Fear: Surviving Signals That Protect Us From Violence, by Gavin de Becker

Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain, by Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD

A Master of Djinn, by P. Djeli Clark

All the Murmuring Bones, by AG Slater

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert B. Cialdini, PhD

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

My Name is Memory, by Ann Brasheres

Still Life, by Louise Penny

Dragon Weather, by Lawrence Watt-Evans

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. Schwab

Monarchs of the Sea: the 500 Million Year History of Cephalopods, by Dana Staaf

Sweet Silver Blues, by Glen Cook

Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon

The Searcher, by Tana French

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong

Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor

Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir

The Wonder, by Emma Donoghue

Sorrowland, by Rivers Solomon

We Were Never Here, by Andrea Bartz

The Lost Apothecary, by Sarah Penner

Torchship Trilogy, by Karl Gallagher

Love, Lies, & Hocus Pocus, by Lydia Sherrer

Level Six, by William Ledbetter

We Are Satellites, by Sarah Pinsker

Wanderers, by Chuck Wendig

Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller

These Toxic Things, by Rachel Howzell Hall

Getaway, by Zoje Stage

Cat Among the Pigeons, by Agatha Christie

About Grace, by Anthony Doerr

The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig

A Thousand Brains, by Jeff Hawkins

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

Live Girls, by Ray Garton

Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis

I also asked for recommendations of nonfiction books on the following: McCarthyism, the black plague and other pandemics, and the World's Fair, due to my own curiosity. These were the recommendations (some were clearly fiction, but I included them anyway):

World's Fair, by E.L. Doctorow

All the World's a Fair, by Robert Rydell

Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, by Ahmed Rashid

Of Plagues and Peoples, by William H. McNeil

Guns, Germs, & Steel, by Jared Diamond

The Speckled Monster: A Tale of Battling Smallpox, by Jennifer Lee Carrel

The Doomsday Book/Fire Watch, by Connie Willis

The Stand, by Stephen King

Flu, by Gina Kolata

The Hot Zone, by Richard Preston

1939: The Lost World of the Fair, by David Gelernter

I hope you find a good new read from this list!

Have you read anything lately that you'd recommend? Or do you know of a book you'd recommend on the topics I asked about (McCarthyism, pandemics, the World's Fair)? Have you read any of these, and would you agree with the recommendation?

May you find your Muse.

Blue Swoosh, by OCAL,

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Short Story Tips: Choosing Where to Submit

I was asked some questions about submitting to short story markets recently, and I thought it would be a good topic for a blog post. There are a lot of markets out there, which means countless options for your stories. So how do you choose where to submit?

First, we'll get the obvious stuff out of the way. 

The number one item to look for is that the genre requested by the publication matches the genre of your story. Submitting a mystery to a speculative fiction market isn't going to fly, no matter how good that story might be. Publications will list this information on their submission guidelines pages, but it will likely also be obvious from other aspects of the web page.

Some other things to consider:

Magazine or anthology? 

This may not matter to everyone, but it's something to consider. With an anthology, your story is in an actual book. They're usually put out by small presses in an attempt to bring in more readers for the single author books they put out. Their readership may be lower than a magazine, but that certainly isn't a hard and fast rule, and it completely depends upon the publisher.

Hard copy, e-copy, or audio?

Some magazines are put out in a paper version, some as online/email only, and others are put out as podcasts. There are, of course, also publications that come out in all three or some variation of them. If this is an important detail for you, make sure you check out what format the publication will be in, and don't submit if you don't like the format.


Pay can vary widely, with the offering being anything from zero pay to pro pay. With zero pay, you may get a contributor copy or a discount on copies. Pay could be royalties or a profit share, with no guarantee of a minimum amount of payment. It's important to consider whether you're okay with the payment offered before submitting. It's completely up to you, but I have two specific recommendations here. First, start at the top. You'll never know if your story is good enough for pro pay if you don't submit to a pro pay market. As you get rejections, you can trickle down to semi-pro, then token. Just don't start by selling yourself short. Second, if you're going for a royalty-type payment, understand that you may never see a dime. For me, this isn't an automatic no. I make the decision based upon the publication itself, and whether I'd like to work with them, what their reputation is, etc. Some of my favorite publishers to work with have been those that paid royalty split or a token amount. I'd work with them over and over, even if I never saw a dime. A category I didn't mention previously is charity pay. In this case, you don't get paid, but any profits get donated to a specific charity. Make sure they list the charity in advance. If they don't, they may be trying to pull one over on you. Plus, you want to be sure you support where they're donating it.

Pay to Play

There are markets that charge for you to submit a story. My personal rule is to not submit to anyone I have to pay for the privilege. However, my personal opinion on it is by no means the be all and end all on the subject. Plenty of people choose to pay to submit. One thing you might consider is what reason they give for asking you to pay. For some, it's to support their ability to pay those they publish. For others there might be a different reason, such as the ability to pay their staff (most magazine staff is unpaid, and are doing it for the love.) make sure you're okay with their reason for asking you for money to submit. (Side note: some give the option to pay for a critique or a quicker response. I also don't opt for these, but you may want to, especially if you're just starting. You have to decide what's best for you. I personally believe you shouldn't pay to be published--your goal should be to GET paid.)

In addition to those things mentioned above, there are plenty of other things to consider. Look into the market you're submitting to and make sure you're okay with everything you see/hear/read. For example, as shallow as it sounds, I look at the covers of their other publications (and the one they're taking submissions for if it's posted in advance, which often happens with anthologies). If I don't like the quality of the covers, I may not submit. I want to be able to be proud of what I'm in, and that includes the exterior. Reputation is even more important. If you've seen authors complaining about working with them, you should consider whether you want to do so. At least if it seems like the author is giving valid reasons. Are they hard to work with? Did they cheat the author out of pay? Do they provide trustworthy contracts?

If there's anything that makes you doubt wanting to submit, maybe consider why that is. Even if it's just a bad feeling that you can't quite put a finger on. That means you've seen something that put you off, whether you realize what it was or not. This is something you'll be attached to as long as it's in print. Make sure you're okay with that.

Places to look for submissions:

Duotrope (paid service)

Submission Grinder


Horror Tree

Published to Death

Authors Publish (sign up for the newsletter)

Search for Facebook groups with "open call" in the name.

Did I forget anything? Do you have any questions on this topic or have another you'd like to see answered? What are some reasons you've decided not to submit (or that you overlooked and wish you'd seen)? Do you know of any resources for finding publications that I haven't mentioned?

May you find your Muse.

Microphone Clipart, OCAL,

Nosmoke Clipart, OCAL,

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Submission Roundup Sep/Oct

I haven't done a submission roundup in a while, so this one should catch us up until mid-October.

Bear in mind that I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence when submitting.

Reckoning is "seeking speculative fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry about environmental justice[...]" Up to 20,000 words. Pays $.08/word. Deadline September 22.

Dragon Soul Press is seeking stories for anthologies with two themes: History and Heroines. Both must involve dragons. Up to 15,000 words. Pays in royalties for one year. Deadline September 30.

Madhouse Books Publishing is seeking stories for "a steampunk adventure anthology" entitled Clockwork Chronicles. 3000-7000 words. Pays $10. Deadline September 30.

Angela R. Watts and Michaela Bush are seeking fantasy stories with the theme light in the darkness for Where Giants Fall. 2000-8000 words. Pays in royalties. Deadline September 30.

Chicken Soup for the Soul is seeking personal pieces on Angels, Kindness, Grieving/Loss/Healing, Messages From Heaven, and Miracles. Up to 1200 words. Pays $200. Deadlines are September 15 and 30, depending upon topic.

Black Coffee & Vinyl is seeking literature, visual art, and music around the theme of The City. Up to 2000 words. Pays $50. Deadline September 30.

Corvid Queen is seeking fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction and feminist retellings of fairy tales. Up to 5000 words. Pays $5. Deadline September 30.

Cicada's Lament Literary Magazine is seeking Southern gothic/horror pieces with the theme of (Re)birth. Disabled and LGBTQ+ writers only. Up to 5000 words. Pays $5. Deadline October 1.

Kandisha Press is seeking slasher horror by women for Slash-Her. 3000-5000 words. Pays royalties. Deadline October 1. 

Taking the Lane is seeking feminist books and bicycles in space stories. 1000-6000 words. Pays a guaranteed minimum of $50, with final dependent upon Kickstarter. Deadline October 1.

The Last Line is seeking stories that end with the line "Welcome to the family." 300-5000 words. Pays $20-40. Deadline October 1. 

Quill & Crow is seeking stories that give Grimm's Fairy Tales a unique twist. 5000-8000 words. Pays $40. Deadline October 5. 

Any submission calls to add to this? Are you familiar with any of the publishers?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

IWSG - It's Writing Time!

 Ack! I'm late getting this up, but caught up in work on the podcast last night and totally forgot to get the post written ahead.'s the first Wednesday of September, which means it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, this group exists to seek and provide support to insecure writers. Anyone can join. Just click on Alex's name above and put your blog on the linky list. Then hop around and visit your fellow IWSG'ers. 

The co-hosts this month are:

Rebecca Douglass, T. Powell Coltrin @Journaling Woman, Natalie Aguirre, Karen Lynn, and C. Lee McKenzie!

Since it's mid-afternoon and I'm just getting this post up, I'm going to keep it brief. 


I'm just waiting to get that shiny diploma in the mail. 

That also means I've started planning out writing-related business, but I'm also trying to take it easy for a bit. Completing a Bachelor's in less than a year has left me in a weird sort of mental limbo. It was the only thing I could focus on if I wanted to make it happen, and now with that removed my brain is just kind of twitching in my skull, because it doesn't know what to do. But I've already sat down and set some deadlines, plus started a plan, and I'm looking forward to doing all the writing things!

My submission stats this month (you'll notice there's quite a difference from past months):

In August, there were:

16 submissions

2 acceptances

6 rejections

21 stories currently on submission

I hope your summer was magnificent, as it draws to a close. 

Have you been submitting? What are your stats? Any good news to share? What are your insecurities?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

IWSG - One More Month!

 It's August, which means it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the IWSG exists for insecure writers to gain support, as well as give it. Anyone can join. Simply click on Alex's name and link to your blog, then be sure to hop around and visit other participants from the list.

This month's co-hosts are 

PK Hrezo, Cathrina Constantine, PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, and Sandra Cox! Be sure to drop by and give them a visit, plus some thanks for their hard work.

This month's optional question is: What is your favorite writing craft book?

Mine is still "On Writing," by Stephen King. He knows what he's doing, plus what he's supposed to be doing. It's inspirational and informative. I always feel ready to jump into writing after I read it.

This month's insecurity: reviews. I posted asking people to review my books if they've read them, and got ONE review. One. I'm still getting monthly royalties (teeny), but searching on my name doesn't bring up all my solo books, and the ones it does bring up, don't pop up first. There's a Reverend Lawrence Shannon that pops up first. If people can't find me, they certainly can't buy my books. I've seen people offer free books in an attempt to get reviews, but even that doesn't usually work. Anybody have a secret they're willing to share? I intend to hit the ground running as soon as I finish school (three more classes!), and having more reviews would certainly help. Tips?

Okay, time for writing stats. Again, with school being top priority until I finish, I'm not super active, but I did get some submissions done.

In July:

5 submissions

7 rejections

1 short listed

3 requests to send something else

0 acceptances

I hope to be posting that I'm done with school by the September IWSG. Wish me luck!

What are your insecurities? What's your favorite craft book? Have you been submitting? Any great news to share?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Damien Larkin's Release: Blood Red Sand

 Mars will run red with Nazi blood…


After World War Two, Sergeant McCabe knew the British army could send him anywhere. He never imagined facing down another Nazi threat on Mars.


In New Berlin colony, rivalry between Generalfeldmarschall Seidel’s Wehrmacht and Reichsf├╝hrer Wagner’s SS threatens bloodshed. The Reichsf├╝hrer will sacrifice everything to initiate the secretive Hollow Programme and realise his nightmarish future for humanity.


McCabe, Private Jenkins, and the Mars Expeditionary Force must overcome bullet, bomb, and bayonet to destroy the Third Reich. While Jenkins fights to stay alive, McCabe forms an uneasy alliance with MAJESTIC-12 operatives known as the Black Visors. Will this be the final battle of World War Two or the first confrontation in an interstellar war?


Release date – July 6, 2021

$17.95, 6x9 trade paperback, 252 pages

Science Fiction - Military FIC028050/Alternative History FIC040000/War & Military FIC32000

Print ISBN 9781939844781 / EBook ISBN 9781939844798

$4.99 EBook available in all formats

Order from Ingram, Follett School Solutions, or publisher direct


“Brilliant follow up to Big Red.” – Tripp Ainsworth, author


“I’m awed by Damien Larkin’s imagination… So truly Heinlein.” – Phil Parker, author


“Blood Red Sand is top class military sci-fi with plenty of heart pounding action sequences, excellent characterisation and a growing sense of mystery that readers will crave to uncover.” – Book Nest


Damien Larkin is an Irish science fiction author and co-founder of the British and Irish Writing Community. His debut novel Big Red was longlisted for the BSFA award for Best Novel. He currently lives in Dublin, Ireland.