Wednesday, April 27, 2022

April Media Roundup

It's been a big TV watching month for some reason. I tend to float to one streaming service or another and ignore the others, but I've been as ADHD in my TV watching as I am in my daily life. In short, I've been all over the place, so I'll be naming a few favorites. 

Before we jump into those, though, C. Lee McKenzie contacted a few of us about sending our writing wishes for the year, and she collected these on the Insecure Writers Support Group blog: Author Wishes for 2022.

Here are some media I've enjoyed in the last month or so:


Star Mother, by Charlie N. Holmberg

Star Mother, by Charlie N. Holmberg

This one was sent to me by a friend. It wasn't the sort of book I'd usually read, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. This is pure fantasy. A woman from a village volunteers when the Sun calls for a new Star Mother, knowing it means her death, but will bring honor to her family. But something strange happens. She delivers the star...and lives. Though the Sun is willing to keep her in his palace, she opts to go back home, only to find that things are not the way she left them.

This one had the tension of warring celestial gods, romance, the fickleness of humanity, and two people brought together to flee those hunting them. Creative and spellbinding.

The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides

I saw the movie when it came out, and remember it being well done, but the book itself was gorgeously written, though flawed. It's told from the POV of several boys in a neighborhood, who find themselves fascinated by a household with five teenage girls. Ultimately, each girl will commit suicide. This isn't a secret. The entirety of the book is about the lead up to it and the boys (only one is the narrator) examining the why and what led to this choice.

On the one hand, the reader can't help but also be fascinated along with the boys. On the other, there's a taint of misogyny to the whole thing. What the boys are often thinking about, even after the tragedy, is how much they wanted in the girls' pants and what a shame it is to have wasted five beautiful girls. At the same time, the narrator never addresses the shallowness of the boys (or the men, when they grow up). If this were a true look back, a true attempt to analyze what went wrong, they should have also discovered it was their complete lack of viewing the humanity of the sisters instead of what they could possibly offer the boys in terms of bubble gum kisses and soft warmth. 

These girls are victims of everyone. Of the boys who watched through their windows with an erroneous sense of curiosity, but a lack of depth. Of their parents. Of their teachers. Of the people in the community. Of every single person who knew things were weird in that house and never did anything to help those girls. And I do feel the book intends to point this out. Above all else, these girls were failed. And the reader sees just how easily that can happen, how easily children's lives can go wrong when the "village" looks the other way. 

Each girl has a surface personality different from the others and beautifully rendered, which is why it took me a while to realize how shallow the narrative was. Of course these boys can't know the inner workings of the girls, so we see what they see when the girls are at school, or peering out a window, or running into the front yard to surround their ill Dutch elm and save it from the folks who've come to chop it down. We only get a slight taste of each character, because of the way the story is told. It's effective. Intriguing. And the city of Detroit is a character in itself.

Heartbreaking. Gorgeous. Whimsical. Problematic.

Crime & Passion: Three Short Stories, by Francelia Belton

This isn't novel length. It's a collection of three short stories (just as it says on the cover). They're all crime stories, not mysteries. In each, a woman deals with a crime, whether as the victim or the perpetrator. Each plot is interesting and well written, drawing the reader in to see what will happen. 


The Bubble, Netflix

The Bubble

This movie was exactly what I needed. Absolutely ridiculous. Hysterical. I knew from the cast that I had to watch it. It's rather pandemic-meta. The cast is brought back for a sequel to a cheesy creature feature, but the pandemic is on, which means they must deal with quarantine, then remain at this hotel in a "bubble" of safety so no one will bring the virus in and expose everyone else. But what happens when you trap an eclectic group of narcissists together and make them quarantine two weeks at a time in their rooms? The quarantine montages are hilarious. It gets even better when a lunatic is brought in to do security. Definitely worth a watch if for no other reason than to shut your brain off.

Siege, Shudder


This is a 1983 film, set during a police protest in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In fact, it contains real footage from the real police protest that occurred there in 1981! It's the kind of gritty, gun-filled movie you'd expect from the early 80s but what caught my attention was how severely it hit home in this day and age. Police are picketing, so a group of people intending to take over the power vacuum (calling themselves the New World Order, if I remember correctly), decide to use their newfound power to harass the folks in a gay bar. But it goes too far (of course it does) (Trigger warning for hate crimes), and the sole survivor of the slaughter escapes to a nearby apartment complex, where the residents hide him and prepare to fight back. 

What originally drew me was the ridiculous image (above). I thought it was going to be a comedic take on a siege in the city that would involve a bunch of yuppies. The photo is misleading, though, and the topics are much deeper than I imagined, even if they're presented in the wrapping of an 80s horror film. What happens if there are no police? Who will fill the power vacuum? Who will suffer the most? Who will stand up against those who abuse their power? In this case, it's on a very small scale, but I feel like it's an interesting commentary on some things that effect both political sides. And that's all I'll say about that.

Oh, and there was no one I would have classified as a yuppie in the cast of characters, so I'm still confused by the image.

Low budget and shot in 14 days in the apartment complex some of the filmmakers actually lived in, it's an interesting film. And I am, after all a child of the 80s and the gritty films of the day (cough, Dirty Harry, cough, Death Wish, cough), so I can appreciate the style.

TV Shows

House, Peacock


Yes, that's right. It took me this long to watch a show that originated in 2004. Everybody kept telling me how much I'd love it, so they annoyed me right away from it. Now that no one is pressuring me (hear that, Doctor Who fans??), I've finally given it a chance, and I quite enjoy it. Though as a walking, talking medical mystery myself, the whole of them repeatedly getting the diagnosis wrong and mistreating the patient before they finally arrive at the real issue is pretty stressful. The rest of the characters make up for House being such a jerk. It's like a crime drama, but medical instead. I wonder if I paid enough attention whether it would always be the third diagnosis that's correct, just like the crime show formula that shows us the third person accused is the real villain?

Killing It, Peacock

Killing It

We're not far in yet, as a new episode is released weekly, but this show's great for some dark humor. Unable to get a loan, the MC needs $20,000 to start his dream business. An ill-fated ride in an Uber shows him a way to make a quick buck AND possibly win a contest that will bring guessed it...$20,000. Hunting pythons in the Florida swamps is good money, but it's not without its challenges.

The Glades, Hulu

The Glades

Yep, another old one. I just completely missed this one. Probably because I don't have cable, and haven't since the first season of "Fringe" came out. That's all I know. Another crime show, yes, but the main character is interesting and the crimes are different, so I'm in.

The Thing About Pam, Hulu

The Thing About Pam

Based on a true crime, this is done in such a fun way. A Dateline anchor is doing the voiceover, which makes it a tad different. But the real standout here is Renee Zellweger. She is amazing in the role of Pam, a woman who *may* have murdered her friend and manipulated everyone around her into thinking it was her friend's husband. She manages to manipulate the police and the murdered friend's family so everyone is on her side. Even the DA and the judge, who are besties in the small town. Zellweger is so amazing that I had to go look up the real crime, because I was so angry. I can't put into words how excellent her acting is in this role. The character is absolutely loathsome, a complete psychopath who pulls no punches and has no compunctions about hurting anyone in her path, even if it's just emotionally. I highly, highly recommend this one. Zellweger had better get nominated for an award. Entertaining, well-paced, emotional, and a stellar cast.

What are you watching or reading? Anything in the past month that you'd recommend? 

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

WEP - A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall

My WEP entry is below!

I have a story in Particular Passages 2, and it is now available for pre-order. There's no theme, just good short stories!

This Books2Read link will take you to anywhere it's up for pre-order. Note that Amazon does not yet have it up, and likely won't do pre-order.

Plus, Unsettling Reads put out a TOC for Summer Bludgeon, in which I have a "Grease" themed mystery short story.

My WEP entry's different than you probably expect from me at this point. Check out the other entries at the WEP (Write...Edit...Publish) blog.

As the Time Approaches

Tagline: Courage is what we make it.

Lacy stood, looking out the window at the ominous clouds in the distance. Her breath fogged the glass, belly touching the window sill, where the sharp edge pressed a crease. Cold penetrated the thin veil between inside and outside, causing goosebumps to burst across her skin like an encroaching army.

She crossed the room and sat down at the table once more, the blank page staring back at her. Yet again, she picked up the pen, pressed the tip to the yellow of the legal pad on top of the first line. The words would not come, but the tears did, a hot flood down her cheeks, soaking the paper.

Angrily, she threw the pen across the room, where it landed with a clatter. That single dot stared back at her like a judging eye. 

Outside, the first light drops hit the window like tiny needles.

Her stomach moved, a ripple that rubbed the table's edge. The baby was awake. 

She placed her hand against the creature moving inside her and rubbed, soothing through layers of tissue. Sometimes she felt like the baby cried, even though there was no way for her to know for sure, out here, so far removed from the life growing within her. She wished she knew what the baby was thinking, what it was actually doing. She felt oddly isolated from it. As if her own body was a shield between them.

Hunger filled her, and she thought perhaps it was a message directly from the baby. Feed me, mama.


There were so many reasons this letter shouldn't be written, and only one saying it should. But that one, oh, it was a big one.

She wasn't showing yet, not enough that she couldn't still hide it. If anyone had noticed her clothes getting bigger, looser, less form-fitting, they hadn't said anything about it. There wasn't much more time, though. Soon, she wouldn't look a bit chubby around the middle, but like a full-fledged mom-to-be, rounded belly a dead giveaway that she was soon to be a pariah.

From schoolbooks to baby shoes, innocence to motherhood.

Part of her knew he needed to know, but she knew exactly how he'd react. He'd never give up everything for her and the baby. He had promise. He was going to be something.

That's how it had been for her, too. Before.

The raindrops plumped up, pelting the glass faster now. Distant thunder rumbled.

She got up, went to the pen, picked it up. The cheap casing had cracked, but the tip was intact and no ink leaked from it. She set it down next to the pad and pattered to the pantry, bare feet cold on the rough, aged wood. Inside the pantry were pastry tarts, brown sugar and cinnamon, her favorite. She pulled out one of the crinkly, metallic pouches and brought it with her back to the table.

This time she started writing, the words flowing, spreading across the damp paper. It helped that she told herself she could always rewrite it or tear it up. She needed to get the words on paper, tell the truth, reveal it all.

Besides, her parents would be home soon. If she didn't finish it now, she might never work up the courage to try again.

A vibrant white light exposed the room, blinding her momentarily. In that same moment, thunder burst into the room, vibrated within her.

The baby kicked, rolled, then settled.

Lacy put a hand to her belly once more, this time needing the soothing as much as her baby.

"A hard rain's gonna' fall, sweet one, but I'll make sure you're okay. We're both going to be okay."

615 words. NCCO.

Have you read the other entries? What does the image inspire for you? What about the song?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

April Submission Roundup

There are a wealth of open calls right now, which jives seasonally, but I'm also wondering if the pandemic ended up creating some  new publications. Either way, we should take advantage of it!

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

Rough Cut Press is seeking experimental work in all genres. Theme is Dust. Up to 650 words. Pays $25. Deadline April 27.

Black Angel Press is seeking gothic ghost stories for an anthology. Doesn't have to be set during Victorian times. 3000 to 5000 words. Pays £5. Deadline April 30.

Off Topic Publishing is seeking poetry and flash fiction for "Home: What Is It and How Do I Get There?" Up to 1000 words for flash and 60 lines for poetry. Pays $15 CAD. Deadline April 30.

Brandon Applegate is seeking short horror and dark fiction for "It Was All a Dream: An Anthology of Bad Horror Tropes Done Right." 1500 to 4000 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline April 30 (extended deadline for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ of May 7.

Kopfkino Media is seeking twisted horror fairy tales for "Midnight in the Dying Garden: Fairy Tales for the End of the World." 1000 to 7000 words. Pays $15 to $150 CAD. Deadline April 30.

Fiyah Lit Mag is seeking stories by black people of the African diaspora with the theme food and cuisine. 2000 to 7000 words. Pays $.08/word. Deadline April 30.

Strange Horizons is seeking stories by Southeast Asian and the SE Asian diaspora for a special issue. 2000 to 7000 words. Specific pay is not listed, so I'm assuming it's their usual $.10/word. Deadline April 30.

Jellyfish Review is seeking stories with memorable characters. Up to 1000 words. Pays $25. Deadline April 30.

Tourmaline & Quartz Publishing is seeking fantasy stories involving wintery elements for Kingdoms of Wrath & Ice. 5000 to 7500 words. Pays $25. Deadline April 30.

The First Line is seeking short pieces with the first line: "Thomas hadn't expected to be alive when the town's time capsule was opened." 300 to 5000 words. They also take poetry and nonfiction with varying requirements. Pays between $5 and $50, depending upon submission type and length. Deadline May 1.

Red Dog Fiction is seeking powerful crime short stories for the anthology Gone, which is also the theme. 3500 to 6000 words. Pays £30. Deadline May 1.

The Last Girls Club is seeking feminist fiction with the theme "Sex Work is REAL Work." Up to 2500 words. Pays $10 to $25. Deadline May 1.

The Other Stories podcast is seeking dark fiction and horror short stories with the following themes: Octopuses (deadline April 15), Ageing (deadline May 1), and Faeries (deadline May 15). Word count not specified. Pays £15

Kelp Journal is seeking stories set in a beach locale with a neo-noir feel for The Dark Waves of Winter. 3000 to 6000 words. Pays $35 + royalties. Deadline May 1.

Bennington Review is seeking innovative work that is both graceful and reckless. Word count not specified, but pay is by typeset page. Pays $20 to $200. Deadline May 8.

Alan Squire Publishing is seeking short stories or creative nonfiction addressing the need to escape, flee, or run. Speculative fiction. 500 to 3000 words. Pays $30. Deadline May 9.

Shooter Literary Magazine is seeking fiction, essays, poetry, and memoir with the theme Out West. 2000 to 6000 words. Pays £25. Deadline May 9.

Egglplant Emoji Lit is seeking comedy/humor short stories. 1000 to 5000 words. Pays $25. Deadline $25.

Stories Rule Press is seeking urban fantasy novelettes with the theme/title "The Wizard Must be Stopped." 7500 to 10,000 words. Pays in royalties. Deadline May 15.

Weird Little Worlds is seeking speculative fiction about mothers for Mother: Tales of Love and Terror. 1000 to 3000 words. Pays $.05/word. Deadline May 15.

B Cubed Press is seeking short stories set in a fictional world (a short story is provided at the link) for Scott's Planet. 500 to 5000 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline May 30.

Dragon Soul Press is seeking horror short stories for Haunt. 1000 to 15,000 words. Pays in royalties. Deadline May 31.

Hellbound Books Publishing is seeking vampire horror stories for Vampires and Such. 4000 to 10,000 words. Pays $5. Deadline May 31.

Eerie River Publishing is seeking horror stories with a fire theme. 1500 to 7000 words. Pays $.01/word CAD. Deadline May 31.

Hellnotes is seeking dark stories that include the HP Lovecraft creature Azathoth and the theme of order out of chaos for Azathoth: Ordo ab Chao. 5000 to 7000 words. Pays $.05/word. Deadline May 31.

Alienhead Press is seeking horror stories about Halloween ghosts for Literally Dead. 2000 to 4000 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline May 31.

Plenty to choose from!

Any of these of interest? Anything to add? 

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

IWSG - Writing Affirmations

It's time for the April Insecure Writer's Support Group, a meeting of creatives supporting each other through our insecurities. 

Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, we meet the first Wednesday of each month and post about whatever might be bothering us or inspiration for other folks. Anyone can join. Simply click on Alex's name and sign up on the IWSG tab.

Our co-hosts this month are: Joylene Nowell Butler, Jemima Pett, Patricia Josephine, Louise - Fundy Blue, and Kim Lajevardi!

The optional question is: Have any of your books been made into audiobooks? If so, what is the main challenge in producing an audiobook?

Two of the books I've been in have been made into audiobooks, but none of my personal ones have. I'll be reading the answers to this question with quite a bit of interest since that's possibly an upcoming project for me!

Since I'm gearing up for the five workshops I'm teaching at Pikes Peak Writers Conference at the end of this month, here's some inspiration to my fellow writers, positive affirmations, if you will:

1. You're never too old or too young to be a writer.

2. There is no wrong way to do this writing thing. Or this publishing thing.

3. There's nothing wrong with the genre or genres you enjoy writing.

4. Write what you love.

5. Never stop learning, growing or exploring.

6. Learn the rules so you can break them.

7. A story rejection is not a rejection of YOU.

8. Bleed on the page.

9. All writing is writing.

10. Dream.

11. There is an audience for every story.

12. Somebody appreciates something you've written.

13. Keep going. Persevere. You can do this.

Now it's time for my monthly check-in on my submission stats. I do this to keep myself accountable. It's been a slow month. In March:

1 submission

2 rejections 

1 acceptance

1 story came out in a publication

20 stories currently out on submission

3 stories in limbo until I turn them back around and submit them

I also got a rejection from an agent on my novel, BUT she liked my writing and asked me to submit my next project to her. I'd call that a positive rejection!

What are your insecurities? What's your favorite writing quote? Do you have an encouragement you find valuable? Have you been submitting? What has your month looked like in terms of submissions, rejections, and acceptances?

May you find your Muse.