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.