Tag Archives: anthology

Alice Unbound Guidelines Update

Alice in Wonderlnand, Through the Looking Glass, fantasy, speculative

Sir John Tenniel’s famous Alice illustrations. The Griffin, the Mock Turtle and Alice.

For those writers thinking it’s too late to get something in for May 31, know that the deadline has been extended to July 15. I’m just not getting enough stories of the caliber needed for an anthology.

If you are submitting, read all of this post–to the end. People are ignoring the proper submission format and I won’t read a story until it is sent double spaced, with word count, and full contact info on it. That should be easy enough to do, you would think. And page numbers, please.

Now, I’m seeing a lot of the main Alice characters so remember, if I have five Mad Hatter stories I might have to select the best. Alice, White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat are all becoming very popular. And tea parties and rabbit holes. I’ll post the expanded guidelines at the end of this but here are a few important things to keep in mind, Stories:

  • should not be rehashings of the same old tales.
  • need to take place in the modern world or the future
  • can take place on another planet
  • can be steampunk but if you stick it in Victorial England you need to bring it forward
  • can be time travel but know I don’t like these tales much as they can get too convoluted (but I do like most Dr. Who)
  • can be combined with characters from other times/place
  • should be as original and unique as possible–the farther you veer away from rabbit holes and tea parties, the more original it will be

Remember these rules of writing:

  • do not tell me someone was upset or mad; show me
  • watch for passive action–seek out words like was, could, would and try to replace them
  • plot–you must have one, even in a poem, and conflict–either resolve it or show the fail
  • use all five senses–this helps give setting and atmosphere
  • do not put a veneer of SF or fantasy on a story that isn’t–ask yourself if the story would work without the SF/fantasy element–if yes, then it’s not spec
Lion and unicorn, Alice, Through the Looking Glass

Sir John Tenniel illustration.

What is Alice Unbound about?

Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) explored childlike wonder and the bewildering realm of adult rules and status, which clashed in bizarre ways. Many characters in his tales are anthropomorphic, whether talking cards, crying mock turtles or saucy Tiger Lilies. Over 150 years later, people still recognize characters from Carroll’s works. Who doesn’t know of vorpal blades and tardy white rabbits, protagonists and antagonists that resonate in a primal part of the human psyche? They hearken to the mysticism and mystery of the ancient world, when one wondered how the rain fell, or which gods empowered madness through drink, or whether a person was separate from an animal or could become one.

Centuries passed and myth became fairy tale, evolving to resonate with each era, showing the triumphs of the common man, the humble and generous woman who outsmarts tempters, jailers, and evil stepmothers, or the trials and tribulations of seeking the unknown. Carroll’s characters jumped forward, not just following the regular metamorphosis of an age-old tale, but leaping off the cliff of the familiar into something altogether new, different and endearing. We might not truly want to live in the world of Alice or have to deal with mad queens and bandersnatches, but what if that Wonderland ceased to exist on a separate plain, and melded with our modern world? How would these characters fit in, and what would they bring or change? Are we ready to accept Alice Unbound into our hearts and let the Jabberwock in the back door?

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was Carroll’s most famous work but there are other stories and poems (some within the greater works) where madcap creatures abound. Alice Unbound should contain an element of the speculative and may embrace fabulist, weird, myth, SF, fantasy, steampunk, horror, etc. Other speculative elements or characters may be combined in any way. I don’t want to see rehashings of Carroll’s tales but new stories taking place in a modern or slightly futuristic world. Your tale may take place in Wonderland but only if it has connections with this world. That’s not someone thinking about having a drink at the café they miss but actually integrating modern elements. If you have a talking cat, it must be recognizable as the Cheshire Cat. You should not be copying Carroll’s style but telling a new tale in your voice. Too many stories submitted with the same character will limit chances of the story being accepted. NOTE: I am getting many Alice, falling through rabbit hole and Cheshire Cat related stories. Which means competition will be harder in these areas. You might want to look beyond these elements.

Whether the Mad Hatter, the mock turtle, or Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, write a new tale. QUILTBAG or people of colour as characters are encouraged. Alice doesn’t have to be white and blonde. I will accept any characters from the following works . I have not read everything so if you want to write about another character that fits into Carroll’s fantastical tales, please write first and ask.

  •  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  •  Through the Looking Glass
  •  The Hunting of the Snark
  •  Phantasmagoria

These are story examples only but not requirements:

  • The caterpillar is the owner of a medical marijuana store but turns out to be part of a moonlighting superhero team by night.
  • The Walrus and the Carpenter’s strange relationship is strained farther when they both fall for a mermaid, who crusades for the murdered oysters.
  • The Snark is as elusive as the Sasquatch, but when they vie for the same space in an endangered environment, what happens?
  • The last Jabberwock is captured and used to battle an overpopulation of vampires.
  • From space comes a delegation that looks a lot like the card soldiers. They have a concern with Earth for harbouring fugitives from their world.
  • A company has perfected an AI that emulates the Mad Hatter, something to help run parties and liven them up. What could possibly go wrong?

Writers must be Canadian citizens (living in Canada and/or paying taxes in Canada) or permanent residents of Canada. LGBQLT, POC are encouraged to submit. I will read cover letters last and will choose stories on merit first. This resource may be of use in your research: www.alice-in-wonderland.net

Payment: .05/word CDN (that’s 5 cents a word, not a half cent)

Length: 2,000-5,000 words. Poetry: minimum 1,000 words (and 2 may be submitted at the same time: submit each in a separate document and submission).

Simultaneous submissions: No; if you submit to me, please do not send it anywhere else until you receive a rejection.

Multiple submissions: You may send one story, or two poems. Please wait until I’ve sent a rejection before you send anything else. I may hold some pieces until the submission window is closed.

Acceptances: Final acceptances will go out a month after the submission window closes.

Manuscript format: Please use standard manuscript format (Google William Shunn): double-space (except for poems), no extra spaces between paragraphs, indented paragraphs, title, etc.) This also means full contact information on the first page, unless you want me to attribute your piece to someone else. Failure to follow formatting may see your piece rejected without being read. Canadian spelling would be awesome but I won’t turn down a story that comes in UK or US spelling. Submit .docx, .doc, or .rtf only.

Deadline: Extended to July 15, 2017

Publication Date: April 2018 (tentative)

Rights: First English-language rights & non-exclusive Anthology rights for one year from publication (print and eBook).
Submit here: https://exilepublishing.submittable.com/submit/77982/alice-unbound

 

3 Comments

Filed under entertainment, fantasy, horror, myth, poetry, science fiction, Writing

Alice Unbound: Call for Submissions

Hello, world, and happy new year.

books, publishing, collection, reprints, ebooks, Smashwords, writing, book production

Creative Commons: Ninha Morandini

I can’t guarantee I’ll get more posts out this year but I can start with a bang. I last co-edited Playground of Lost Toys with Ursula Pflug. The anthology was nominated for an Aurora Award, as well as one author being nominated for an Arthur Ellis Award, and three longlisted for the Sunburst Award with Catharine MacLeod’s Hide and Seek winning in short fiction. Now, to hopefully repeat that sucess, I will be editing an anthology of speculative fiction, due to be published by Exile Editions in the spring of 2018. Read on for Alice Unbound guidelines.

Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) explored childlike wonder and the bewildering realm of adult rules and status, which clashed in bizarre ways. Many characters in his tales are anthropomorphic, whether talking cards, crying mock turtles or saucy Tiger Lilies. Over 150 years later, people still recognize characters from Carroll’s works. Who doesn’t know of vorpal blades and tardy white rabbits, protagonists and antagonists that resonate in a primal part of the human psyche. They hearken to the mysticism and mystery of the ancient world, when one wondered how the rain fell, or which gods empowered madness through drink, or whether a person was separate from an animal or could become one.

Alice in Wonderlnand, Through the Looking Glass, fantasy, speculative

Sir John Tenniel’s famous Alice illustrations. The Griffin, the Mock Turtle and Alice.

Centuries passed and myth became fairy tale, evolving to resonate with each era, showing the triumphs of the common man, the humble and generous woman who outsmarts tempters, jailers, and evil stepmothers, or the trials and tribulations of seeking the unknown. Carroll’s characters jumped forward, not just following the regular metamorphosis of an age-old tale, but leaping off the cliff of the familiar into something altogether new, different and endearing. We might not truly want to live in the world of Alice or have to deal with mad queens and bandersnatches, but what if that Wonderland ceased to exist on a separate plain, and melded with our modern world? How would these characters fit in, and what would they bring or change? Are we ready to accept Alice Unbound into our hearts and let the Jabberwock in the back door?

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was Carroll’s most famous work but there are other stories and poems (some within the greater works) where madcap creatures abound. Alice Unbound should contain an element of the speculative and may embrace fabulist, weird, myth, SF, fantasy, steampunk, horror, etc. Other speculative elements or characters may be combined in any way. I don’t want to see rehashings of Carroll’s tales but stories taking place in a modern or slightly futuristic world. I’ve seen many of the Alice as well. If you have a talking cat, it must be recognizable as the Cheshire Cat. I will consider a few very select poems, but they must have a storyline and not just be an observation or an image. You should not be copying Carroll’s style but telling a new tale in your voice.  Too many stories submitted with the same character will limit chances of the story being accepted. The anthology needs to go beyond Alice in every way.

Whether the Mad Hatter, the mock turtle, or Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, use Carroll’s elements and characters to write a new tale. QUILTBAG or people of colour as characters are encouraged. Alice doesn’t have to be white and blonde. I will accept any characters from the following works . I have not read everything so if you want to write about another character that fits into Carroll’s fantastical tales, please write first and ask.

  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

    Lion and unicorn, Alice, Through the Looking Glass

    Sir John Tenniel illustration.

  • Through the Looking Glass
  • The Hunting of the Snark
  • Phantasmagoria

These are story examples only but not requirements:

  • The caterpillar is the owner of a medical marijuana store but turns out to be part of a moonlighting superhero team by night.
  • The Walrus and the Carpenter’s strange relationship is strained farther when they both fall for a mermaid, who crusades for the murdered oysters.
  • The Snark is as elusive as the Sasquatch, but when they vie for the same space in endangered environment, what happens?
  • The last Jabberwock is captured and used to battle an overpopulation of vampires.

Writers must be Canadian citizens (living in Canada and/or paying taxes in Canada) or permanent residents of Canada. LGBQLT, POC are encouraged to submit. I will read cover letters last and will choose stories on merit first. This resource may be of use in your research: www.alice-in-wonderland.net

Payment: .05/word

Length: 2,000-5,000 words. Poetry: minimum 1,000 words.

Submission window: Feb. 1 to May 31 at: https://exilepublishing.submittable.com/submit Please go to this site to see some expanded information.

Simultaneous submissions: No; if you submit to me, please do not send it anywhere else until you receive a rejection.

Multiple submissions: You may send one story, or two poems. Please wait until I’ve sent a rejection before you send anything else. I may hold some pieces until the submission window is closed.

Acceptances: Final acceptances will go out a month after the submission window closes. I may ask for rewrites before making a final decision.

Manuscript format: Please use standard manuscript format (Google William Shunn): CDN spelling, double-space (except for poems), no extra spaces between paragraphs, indented paragraphs, title, etc. Failure to follow formatting may see your piece rejected unread.

Now, don your Mad Hatter’s cap, clean out the teapot and start writing.

24 Comments

Filed under fairy tales, fantasy, horror, myth, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, SF, Writing

Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Abrahamson & Renwick

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short stories

Playground of Lost Toys is available through Amazon published by Exile Writers

Karen Abrahamson’s “With One Shoe,” and Alex C. Renwick’s story “Between the Branches of the Nine” are two of the last three stories in the Playground of Lost Toys, with Geoffery Cole’s “Wheatiesfields in Fall” in between. When editing a themed anthology, the editors always look at balance. Are there too many SF stories and not enough fantasy; are there authors of various genders; are there too many doll stories, etc.

As well as that balance, after we’ve selected the final stories, we need to decide on what order they should appear. Do you put all the SF together, do you put the train stories or the chess stories together? There were many ways to arrange everything. Because several of the stories are very dark and horrific and some are lighter and uplifting, would it make sense to put the darkest next to the lightest?

In some cases we eased readers toward the dark and then eased them back away. Cole’s story is humorous and SF. Abrahamson’s is a tale of hope and a mystery. Last was Renwick’s, which deals with games of the gods and it seemed a great way to end the anthology with the cyclical and immortal aspect of time. Karen comments first on her tale.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

 When I heard about the anthology theme it gave me a little shiver down my spine. I immediately had the idea for the story and so I just had to write it. I haven’t written a lot of short fiction over the years as I seem to prefer novel length. This was a chance to practice the short form.

  1. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?

    fantasy, magic, mystery, swings, toys, hope, speculative fiction, Karen Abrahamson

    Karen Abrahamson is the author of several serial novels. She also writes as Karen L McKee.

Funnily enough, yes it does. I had very vivid dreams as a child and one of them was of a magical swing. In my dreams I could swoop down and rescue my family and friends from evil giants and escape afterward. Writing the story was just a natural extension of the scenario of what would happen if a child really did leave on such a swing.

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

Hope and how society kills hope through our expectations and institutions. I’ve been doing some work with youth in my day job and I hear so much about the importance of youth finding their passion in order to successfully transition to adulthood. The trouble is, too often we tell young people that their passion is impossible, like you can’t make a living as an artist so you’re better off becoming a lawyer. This story is about the desperate need to be what you are.

  1. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?

I was surprised and a lot pleased that “With One Shoe” turned into a detective story. I’ve written a lot of fantasy and romance, but these days mystery really has me by the throat. I had fun with experimenting with that jaded Harry Bosch-type voice. I can see myself writing more like that.

  1. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

Hmm. Lots to tell. My first mystery novel, Through Dark Water just came out this fall under the name K.L. Abrahamson. I also have an urban fantasy series, The American Geological Series that involves map magic, with the first book, Afterburn, currently available for free. Finally, along with a number of romantic suspense novels set internationally, I have a paranormal series, The Unlocking Series set in the sunny Okanagan. Book 4 was out over Christmas, Book 5 in January and Book 6 in February. More mystery and fantasy will be coming out next year. You can check out my novels at www.karenlabrahamson.com

Alex C. Renwick’s “Between the Branches of the Nine” is a great adventurous romp with two warriors bent on besting the other.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

I’m a huge fan of the short story form, and always excited to be invited to participate in any worthy anthology endeavor. Shortfic FTW!

  1. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?
gods, Norse, fantasy, games, speculative fiction, Alex C Renwick

Alex C. Renwick’s tale deals with Norse gods and the game pieces they move through Midgaard.

My Norwegian grandmother had one of the most amazing private SF paperback collections I’d ever seen, all stirred together with her illustrated Scandinavian mythology books and cheesy 1970s Harlequin romances. She came to live with us when I was about ten years old, and nothing in her library was off limits. The character Sigunna’s name is a nod to my gran’ma Sigrid.

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

I’m fascinated by the uncaring nature of the universe. We’re conditioned (by dint of being human) to try to attribute reasonableness and pattern to the courses of our individual existences…but the universe doesn’t care, no matter who or what is—or isn’t—running the show. Fate, Cosmic Intelligence, Ancient Norse Gods, Random Molecular Trajectory: we’re just ephemeral playing pieces on a vast and unfathomable board.

  1. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?

I so rarely write full-tilt fantasy! Fun stuff. Had a blast.

  1. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

I’d urge everyone to read another fantastic Canadian anthology from Exile Editions, cover to cover; (it) was one of the best contributor’s copies I’ve received in ages: The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir. Other current short stories of mine are just out or out soon in Tesseracts 19: Superhero Universe, Blurring the Line, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and PS Publishing’s Postscripts anthology, Breakout. If you’re up for more sword & sorcery mayhem check out my “Ravenblack” in Women in Practical Armor from Pacific Northwest micropress Evil Girlfriend. Anyone in this neck of the woods in 2016 can come find me at Seattle’s Norwescon, or around the known universe at alexcrenwick.com.

Leave a comment

Filed under crime, Culture, fantasy, myth, Publishing, travel, Writing

Writing: The Playground of Lost Toys

books, publishing, collection, reprints, ebooks, Smashwords, writing, book production

Creative Commons: Ninha Morandini

“Usually at least once in a person’s childhood we lose an object that at the time is invaluable and irreplaceable to us, although it is worthless to others. Many people remember that lost article for the rest of their lives. Whether it was a lucky pocketknife, a transparent plastic bracelet given to you by your father, a toy you had longed for and never expected to receive, but there it was under the tree on Christmas… it makes no difference what it was. If we describe it to others and explain why it was so important, even those who love us smile indulgently because to them it sounds like a trivial thing to lose. Kid stuff. But it is not. Those who forget about this object have lost a valuable, perhaps even crucial memory. Because something central to our younger self resided in that thing. When we lost it, for whatever reason, a part of us shifted permanently.”

Jonathan Carroll

Ursula Pflug and I will be co-editing a speculative anthology titled The Playground of Lost Toys. This will be published by Exile Editions, in time for the holiday season. See below for guidelines.

Our childhood toys embodied our emotions. We just knew our favourite doll loved us, and that our toy soldier was as brave as we would be if given the chance. A child easily attributes magical powers, personality or secrets to a coloured stone or a twisted stick, but don’t we continue to do so as adults, just in different ways? Certain objects accrue power from the home or the landscape, absorbing our dreams and wishes, and the elemental energies that lie buried in a sandbox, hidden in the closet, or in the bole of a tree.

writing, Canadian anthology, Steve Vernon, Colleen Anderson, Tesseracts 17, Edge Publications

Get writing and send us your best.

Stories should touch on wonder, mystery, dread, awe: the delight when a strange toy appears, or loss when a cherished plaything is broken. A tale might, for example, explore the classroom ritual of show and tell, or the lost and found box in the corner of the gym in the moon colony.

Toys are often gendered so that beloved hockey stick might belong to a girl and the flying figure skates to a boy. Dolls reflect not just societal notions about gender but also about diversity; Mattel, for example didn’t issue a black Barbie till the late 60’s and then amidst controversy. These tensions can all be rich sources of speculative inspiration!

anthology, writing, submissions

Creative commons: photosteve101, flickr

What if there was a Matryoshka doll where each smaller container held mysteries to the seven wonders of the world, or a toy spaceship that entered other dimensions? Imagine a paper fan that controls the wind, a whistle that calls back the dead, a Chinese tiger hand puppet that protects. While these suggestions are fantastical, we also want stories about “normal” toys in science fictional or fantastic settings. Additionally, the toy itself needs to appear or disappear, to be “lost” or “found.” This need not be the core of the story arc, but it should be an element. Toys don’t have to be physical but could be metaphorical or allegorical as well.

Speculative subgenres from steampunk to magic realism will be considered. Excessive gore will be a hard sell. Sex is okay, if it’s integral to the story. Tales that are multi-faceted and go beyond a simple nostalgic trip down memory’s lane will have a better chance. We welcome QUILTBAG and/or People of Colour authors. At least 90% of the authors must be Canadian (or pay taxes in Canada); we can consider only a small percentage from other locales.

SUBMISSION LENGTH: Original, unpublished prose up to 5,000. Slightly longer works are okay but query for longer lengths. No reprints, no multiple submissions. Canadian spelling. Please follow standard manuscript format. If you don’t know what that is google William Shunn’s manuscript format. If we reject your story before the deadline, you’re welcome to send another.

PAYMENT: .05/word

SUBMISSION PERIOD: Feb. 1, 2015-Apr. 30, 2015 (midnight PST)

RIGHTS: English World rights, one-year exclusive print and digital, non-exclusive reprint rights, Exile Editions

PUBLICATION DATE: Nov. 2015 (tentative)

SUBMISSIONS: Through submittable. (this link might not work until Feb. 1)

NOTE: If your address is outside of Canada, please indicate whether you are Canadian expat (and paying taxes to Canada) or what your citizenship is. We have very limited space for stories from outside of Canada.

We are getting a LOT of doll stories. Please note the guidelines. While a doll story or maybe two could be accepted, we won’t be taking all that many. This is to be a diverse anthologies that covers toys that were, toys that are and toys that are yet to be.  Think about the word “toy.” What do people toy with? There are adult toys; computers are toys, people are toys, animals have toys, aliens have toys. Go wild! Make something up and think outside the sandbox!

4 Comments

Filed under entertainment, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Writing: Demographics of Tesseracts 17

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 from Edge Publications, will be out this fall with tales from Canadian writers that spans all times and places.

Okay, I said I would give a breakdown of the types of stories and the areas that people submitted from for Tesseracts 17. Since this was a open theme, stories could be any subgenre of speculative fiction or poetry. From what I could tell we received more stories than most Tesseracts anthologies of the past. The submission window was six months long, which was  a bit too long in my view.

Steve Vernon and I live on opposites coasts and have never met, though we’ve co-judged before and I asked him to do an introduction to my reprint collection Embers Against the Fallen, so we communicated through Facebook as well as using Dropbox to record entries and leave our comments. And let me tell you, some of them will be kept in lockdown in a tight metal box until the very Earth explodes. You see, when we’re leaving comments and have read the fiftieth submission of the day and are tired and have seen yet another timid wife and brutish husband tale or yet another zombie munching its way through humanity, we tend to leave snide and very cutting remarks that we would never forward to the author. (I did once do so by accident while editing for Chizine and I was mortified. The author took it with good grace and luckily I wasn’t that horrible–I apologized though.) But some are very funny, and that Steve, he’s downright hilarious and sardonic.

Anyways, (cough) I would like to think that Steve is still speaking to me though I believe I drove him crazy with my highly organized, extremely color-coded (colors!), tab-enhanced Excel spreadsheet. I’m very visual and I like being able to find the Alberta entries at a glance or the Quebec ones. Steve was probably left spinning in a psychedelic haze more than once. But in the end, we worked fairly well together and were probably about 80% unanimous on our decisions. The closer we got to the final choices the more we varied in some ways. If I was editing alone, not all of these tales and poems would have been my final selection, nor Steve’s, but we compromised.

On top of that, we had to balance between provinces and territories (for those not from Canada, we have ten provinces and three territories). Other aspects to watch for were making sure there weren’t all male or all female authors, that we had some new authors as well as experienced. In that regard, it was relatively easy to get a balance of genders as the final pieces we chose were already pretty evenly divided. And while we would have needed to re-balance if all the stories were fantasy and only one or two SF, it turned out we could live with what we had though it wasn’t half and half, but then, more fantasy is published in general these days than SF. Last, but not least, we also had to consider how the stories and poems fit together. We had some very good ghost stories but then it’s a popular trope and this wasn’t a ghost anthology. We also had some very good (and not so good) werewolf stories, as well as vampires, zombies and other reanimated creatures, but again, it wasn’t an undead anthology.

There were stories that were brilliant but we just couldn’t take too many fairy, or alien, or wendigo, etc. tales. Some of the pieces we rejected made me weep at having to let them go and I would have loved to do a subsidiary anthology of all the ones that got away (that would be a great title). Brian allowed us 100,000 words for the anthology. We scrimped and squeezed and hardcore edited some submissions down to their extra tasty, crunchy essence. I held two poems past the bitter end but Brian said, no room at the inn. In fact, we probably went over the word limit since we never included the author bios in our final count. That final number, including my introduction and Steve’s afterword, came to 99,441 words, more or less.

All of these factors made it trickier to edit than, say a theme-anchored anthology on dumptrucks or space dumptrucks. But in a way, it was interesting to see what Canadian (meaning born here, living here now, or born here and living abroad) writers would send if they could send anything at all. Tesseracts 17 paid close to (even a little more than) what other anthologies pay so it was on par there. The nice long submission window meant that some people sent us their trunk stories right off the bat. The early birds got a chance to send in rewrites, if we were holding the stories, or could try again if we rejected.  Those that came later in the final flood month didn’t get that luxury unless we were holding into the third round of reading.

I’ll start with the easy demographics. These may not be completely accurate. I became too busy to do this earlier and a couple of months have passed. But here we have the totals. I will try to give a breakdown of types of stories on another day. We received:

  • 449 individual submissions
  • 104 individual poems (The poetry number might be slightly off because I can’t quite tell if some were poems or not.)
  • 340 stories of varying lengths

Further breakdowns:

  • 4 poems were accepted
  • 25 stories were accepted
  • 14 accepted pieces were by women
  • 15 accepted pieces were by men
  • 305 individuals submitted
  • 139 women submitted (approx. as some names began with initials or could be male or female, additionally one translation was writer and translator were female)
  • 166 men submitted (approx. as some names began with initials or could be male or female, additionally two translations were male writer, female translator, which I included here but could be part of the women [141])
  • 5 was the highest number of stories submitted by one person
  • 15 was the highest number of poems submitted by one person
  • 16 was the highest number of individual submissions by one person
  • 3 translations were sent (female translator; 2 male, 1 female writer)
  • 4 collaborations were sent (including the 3 translations)
  • 1 story was rejected unread because it came in near to 10,000 words, far past the specifications on the guidelines
  • 2 stories came in that were not speculative: 1 was a history of Wounded Knee. The other was excellent and we would have taken it if we could have found one speculative element. It was very Canadian too. (You know who you are.)
  • 1 submission was neither read nor rejected because the person did not read the guidelines, sent us a story chapter,  wanted our address to send us buckets of other chapters and when we said to reread the guidelines, he said “reread my submission.” Sorry, buckaroo, in this case you pissed off the editors.
  • 2 people submitted far more than the allotted number of stories/poems allowed at one time. While the guidelines stipulated no more than 5 poems or 1 story, and although we were pretty grumpy about this, we actually read them all. The authors who did this should have known better because they were pros but hey, I’ve made mistakes as well.
  • 1 author got to submit just past the window closing because she had sent an email querying and saying she thought something had gone wrong.
  • 1 author did not get to submit past the submission window because it was over two weeks past the deadline and we just couldn’t .
  • 1 author sent a submission without the story attached. Since it was past the closing deadline, we rejected the non-submission (included in the above numbers)
  • 3 authors sent in stories with track changes and their editing included. This certainly did not put them onto the winning track. Writers, yes, edit and proofread your stories but get rid of track changes when you’re submitting.

We also had a few first time authors. In some cases these stories take more editing to polish them but we had a mandate to have some new or first time writers. We had chosen one story and sent an acceptance, conditional upon working with us and rewriting. We never heard from that young author. If this was me, even at the stage of having published stories and poems,I would have seriously worked with and responded to the editor.

We asked for several rewrites early on, when we were still holding stories and poems but the deadline hadn’t been reached. Of the rewrites, we did take a few pieces. Other writers, once we had accepted the pieces, had to do rewrites or edits. We did at least three edits on some pieces as Steve and I would each go over them, thus catching things that were missed or didn’t quite flow. One poet chose not to go with a second rewrite, which was unfortunate. Authors should remember that they do not have to take every edit an editor suggests but they then have to argue why they don’t think the edit makes the piece stronger. There is leeway for discussion and when that far along the track, an editor isn’t asking for two rewrites if they plan on rejecting the piece.

Still, we all have our own ways of dealing with writing and editing. I will try to come back with a second post that will delve into the breakdown of writers by province and territory, and the types of stories we received. Again, it’s been a while since I read these so this will be the least accurate and most subjective breakdown of all.

Tesseracts 17 is due for release on October 1.

9 Comments

Filed under art, entertainment, fantasy, horror, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Just Another Cyber Monday

I don’t have a lot to report in the writing scheme of things. I’m working on some stories and reading slush still for Tesseracts 17. We’ll probably have another batch of rejections and “hold for further consideration” to go out in the next few weeks. Remember, if you’re submitting, you must be Canadian, expat Canadian or living in Canada. We’re looking for something from every province and territory. So far, there are very slim to no pickings for NW Territories, Nunavut, Yukon, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Manitoba. I would love to see stories or poetry from these areas, as well as from younger writers. Spread the word.

In the meantime, if you would like to pick up my book, Embers Amongst the Fallen, for your shelf or as a holiday gift, it’s on sale till tomorrow for $10.95 instead of $16.95  (UK and Euro prices are cheaper as well). This is for the print version available through Amazon. I’ll put the e-version on sale in a week, if I have time. This is a reprint collection of speculative stories, from fantasy to SF, with a bit of darkness sprinkled in between.

In the non-cyber world, I recently realized that Vancouver doesn’t seem to have much of a speculative community. There are writers and artists scattered about but we don’t always know each other. I noticed how much stuff Toronto does (colloquia, readings, other author events) and that Calgary has IFWA (Imaginative Fiction Writers Association) and I thought, why should they have all the fun?

So ,last Friday I held a cocktail party and invited writers and spouses/children to come to my place and mingle. It turned out to be a lot of fun and about 20 people came (my place isn’t large so it worked well). Everyone enjoyed themselves so we’ll try another one in January. I’m hoping that as we build community, ideas will germinate and grow and we’ll be a force to be reckoned with. Chizine Publications also sponsors the Chiaroscuro Reading Series in Toronto. In April we’re hoping to launch in Ottawa and Winnipeg and I’m hoping we can do the same in Vancouver. This will involve published authors reading from their work and receiving an honorarium, and raffles for bags of books at a bar. I’m still searching out venues that would work and be central enough that people can get to them on various forms of transportation.

If you’re another Vancouver speculative writer, reader, artist, drop me a line and I’ll make sure you know about the next Specfic Cocktail Party. In the meantime, get out there and read.

 

4 Comments

Filed under art, Culture, fantasy, horror, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Book Review: Danse Macabre

danse macabre, death, dark fiction, horror

Images of people accosted or dancing with Death were very common after the Black Death decimated Europe’s population in the Middle Ages.

Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper is an anthology edited by Nancy Kilpatrick and put out by Edge Publishing. These tales are about Death and its personification. Like a Harlequin romance, you pretty much know how it’s going to end. In Harlequins the woman gets her man. In Danse Macabre, every tale deals with dying. Originally I sent in a concept to Nancy for this anthology, but she rejected it. In some ways, I didn’t quite understand that she truly wanted tales where Death is personified. (However that  idea will soon be out in Bibliotheca Fantastica as “The Book with No End.”)

Death is a man, a woman, a specter with scythe and hood, a wisp of grey, a bird, or a skeletal neuter. The one form of Death I did not come across, which I thought I might, was the black dog, but perhaps that image is used more for the devil. But I was curious to see what the anthology embraced, and Nancy is a good editor so I was intrigued. There are twenty-five tales and one verse titled “Danse Macabre,” which opens the anthology, so it’s meaty.

The term “Danse Macabre” refers to the dance with death. Medieval images in paintings and engravings depicted skeletons and other forms of Death interacting with the living.  For this anthology Death is the one character who you know will be there in the end. However, Death does not always prevail and is in fact set upon in different ways. There are stories here, with Death as an unwelcome companion, or where someone pleads or tries to make a deal. In some cases they try to stay Death’s hand, seduce, understand or hunt the Reaper down. Many of these stories are from the viewpoint of the person coming to terms with or fighting Death. Yet just when I wondered if any individual story would be from the point of view of the Grim Reaper, indeed the viewpoint changed. Sometimes Death hunts, sometimes he courts his prey or feels loneliness or love.

I don’t know if I had any preconceived notion of this book but as I began to read I was delighted. You

dark fiction, horror, death, personifications of death, Nancy Kilpatrick

Danse Macabre, edited by Nancy Kilpatrick and published by Edge Publishing

might not think so but for a collection that is truly macabre and is the essence of the word, I didn’t find most of the tales depressing. This is both an indication of the skill of the authors and how they wove their tales, and of Nancy’s careful honing of just such an anthology. I’m actually hard pressed to say which tale I liked best or least, but I’ll try to point out a few that stick in my memory. The verse “Danse Macabre” by Ian Emberson was good. It didn’t grab me completely but it had a coquettish air and a wry humor. The last line delivers the punch like it should.

Another aspect of this anthology that I particularly liked was that the tales take place in different times and different cultures. They’re not all 20-21st century stories set in North America. The first story is Lisa Morton’s “The Secret Engravings” about Death visiting Hans Holbein with a commission for danse macabre engravings. This one is well crafted and has an superb twist when Holbein realizes the horror of what he’s done. Many collections and anthologies begin and end with the strongest stories, to pull the reader in and leave them with a good impression. This story stayed with me past finishing the collection.

“Death in the Family” by Morgan Dempsey looks at an unwilling apprenticeship. Yet Dominik defies and turns the tables, which are turned again. Perhaps an ironic tale of leaving a legacy. The theme is echoed, but shown differently in Dan Devine’s “The Physician’s Assistant,”  but both show how death is a constant companion to those in the healing arts.

Timothy Reynolds’ “Blue-Black Knight,” “Totentanz” by Nancy Holder and Erin Underwood, Angela Roberts “A Song for Death” as well as “An Appointment in the Village Bazaar” b S.S. Hampton Sr. address the dance with Death through art, whether painting, dancing, singing or playing music. These stories were all strong and evocative with Reynolds looking at a moment of communion with the Reaper, while a balancing of accounts takes place in “Totentanz.” Roberts’ tale of a woman working in the deathly wards of those taken by the influenza and “An Appointment” have at their essence deals and trades made with Death. Sometimes the characters win out or the trade is taken and sometimes they just do not go gentle into that good night.

Not all the stories stayed with me and I don’t have time to review each one. A few I didn’t care for but I found that even those drew me in and were well written, so really the overall level of this collection is high. The two biggest names in the collection are Tanith Lee and Brian Lumley. Lee’s “The Death of Death” is about a woman who hones herself till she can see and follow death throughout the world. She is on the ultimate hunt and this tale is rich with personality and style. Probably my least favorite story was by the best known author. Lumley’s “Old Man With a Blade” is very short but to me it relies on you knowing his Necroscope characters and premise and it left me flat, traveling the least distance of all the stories.

While I liked many of the stories a great deal Opal Edgar’s “Elegy for a Crow” stood out in intensity and horrific effects. It made me really think about what would happened if death did not come but life still tumbled through its miseries and accidents. The final story “Population Management” by Tom Dullemond is probably the only story in the collection that is more SF than fantasy. Yet as an ending it’s fitting and somewhat more sinister, even if wry, when Death is taken out of a more human hand. I would say Danse Macabre really isn’t horror despite being about death. There are a few stories that are indeed horrific or disturbing, but overall this collection, far reaching in style, eras, cultures and viewpoints, is about life and living. I give it 9 scythes out of 10.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, fantasy, horror, life, science fiction, Writing

Writing: Speculative Fiction Tropes

writing, anthologies, speculative fiction, Edge Publishing, short stories

From Tesseracts 15, Edge Publications.

Steve Vernon and I have started reading some of the submissions for Tesseracts 17. This is a yearly anthology of speculative fiction, usually by Canadians, those living in Canada and expats. The theme this year is “Speculations: From Coast to Coast to Coast.” We’re trying to highlight fiction and poetry from all provinces and territories, but quality will be the prime criteria.

Another thing to mention: Know, and I mean really know (don’t just presume you know) what proper manuscript format is. It’s not single spaced, it’s not a block of text with no indents, it’s not tabbing across the page instead of hitting “Enter” to move to a new paragraph, it’s not using the space bar instead of the Tab key, it’s not justifying both sides, it’s not using bizarre fonts. We haven’t received all these errors yet, but we have received most of them. If you’re not sure what proper manuscript format is, go to William Shunn’s Proper Manuscript Format for short stories. You can’t go wrong if you do this.

As in many genres of writing, speculative fiction has some popular tropes. If you write something in a familiar trope (a common or overused device), then you have to make sure it has a unique twist or that the language sings. We’re at the beginning of the submission window so stories are only trickling in right now, but here are a few tropes I’ve seen here and at other times when editing.This isn’t saying they’re bad, but if you’re writing a story that hits any of the ones I’m about to mention, make sure they’re really good and have something new to tell.

  • vampires–yes they have been done to death (haha!), and I’ve done a few myself so what is new about this version?
    tropes, fiction, writing, publishing, hero's journey, good vs evil

    Luke, I am your trope. Star Wars is a classic good vs evil but it’s more than that.

  • the underdog wins the day–it doesn’t matter if it’s Jack and the Beanstalk, the geeky computer nerd, the scrawny barbarian or an actual dog; it better be good and/or truly funny (and humor isn’t easy to write).
  • transformations–I was a human and turned into something else, I was something else and became human. Sometimes the metamorphosis is fascinating but it’s not the full story. I’ve written a few of these myself. The outer conflict is what the body goes through; the inner conflict is the psyche and these tales need both. How does a transformation change the protagonist and the world?
  • ghost story–the dead haunt us in different ways or commune among themselves. What’s new with your spook?
  • visiting your past/future–whether it’s time travel, a shamanic journey or body transferral, you better be doing more than just avoiding yourself so you don’t cancel you.
  • Eureka! I’ve discovered/invented it–Is the discovery the main story or should it be a tale of what happened after it was used?
  • the secret garden/the world beyond–whether you (you, meaning the character) create it, find it or can’t get back to it, how does it impact on you and your world beyond Alice in Wonderland?
  • the magic being–whether a genie, an angel, the devil you know or the robot you don’t, it’s not about their difference so much as it is about you react to them and integrate or destroy them.
  • descent into madness–is it Dante’s inferno, or just your sick twisted mind? Maybe we’ll never know but it better be entertaining.
  • the quest or journey–hi ho, hi ho it’s adventuring we go.
  • the altered world–something in the character’s world has changed. Do they survive, adapt or be consumed?
short fiction, collection, Embers Amongst the Fallen, speculative fiction, reprints

Embers Amongst the Fallen will be out in print by the end of October.

I’m sure other tropes will come to mind but that’s all I can think of now. However the thing to note is that it’s not bad to use a trope. It’s better to use it consciously so that you can make sure you manipulate it away from a tales that’s been done too often. Here’s another: good triumphs over evil. This is almost a primal human hope and we like stories that uplift, but the world isn’t so cut and dried and stories with nuances can be more enlightening, thought-provoking and entertaining.

I’d like to see some stories come in that take place in the past or far future, on a different world, have a different culture, in a time other than now or medieval, steampunk, cyberpunk, etc. We’ve received a few but I’m hoping for true diversity

Just to compare, my reprint collection Embers Amongst the Fallen, which has 14 reprinted stories and two new ones breaks down into the following statistics (of course some of the tales could fit in more than one category):

  • four vampire tales (the future, an alternate world, the past, and in India)
  • five tales of transformation (which was part of the original title)
  • four magic beings
  • one journey
  • two altered worlds

I’d be interested to see how others would categorize my tales. Sometimes a tale can be a journey and a transformation in an altered world, but which trope influences the story the most?

Here’s a bonus, also on tropes. One Thousand and One Parsecs

5 Comments

Filed under Culture, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Writing: Rejection Letters

Ah rejection letters, how I hate thee. Who doesn’t? We all want to be perfect and have all our pieces sell first time out. Chances are that if I was writing in the 50s I would be selling most pieces, but then probably some of my stuff would be banned since mindsets have changed since then.

One thing you can usually depend on when writing and submitting work is that you’ll receive back some indication as to whether your piece is rejected or accepted. A rejection might not be more than a boilerplate email, where the same message is sent to all rejectees. It might be a short personal note, with even a brief indication of why the editor didn’t accept it. Sometimes rejection letters are a combo of boilerplate with a personal note. And some editors have different degrees of rejection letters, from no thanks ,to no thanks but send us your next.

There are a few magazines that don’t send rejection letters, such as AdBusters. Personally, I find this rude and if I can go to the effort of sending my work in they should be able to go to the effort of hitting reply to send a response. I find I don’t really tend to send to magazines where I can’t gauge when they’re done with it, or I might simultaneously submit (sending to more than one publisher at the same time).

Interesting to note that as I was recently throwing out old rejection letters I found long talky rejections from editors. These were

writing, stories, writing submissions, rejection letters, rejections, editing, anthologies

Ah, rejection, too constant a companion. Creative Commons: http://gettingpublished.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/coping-with-rejection/

from the 90s when the internet was still a youngling and letters actually came in the mail, and I guess, editors had time. I didn’t even remember being on first name basis with some of the editors who took time to tell me what worked and what didn’t. Maybe some day I’ll do a post with the best of those letters, because you know, I had keep those ones.

But, I ran into another area of rejection that turned out to be grey where I thought it was black and white. Some publishers will do reprint anthologies. A regular anthology might be all unpublished fiction, a mixture of published and unpublished or all published pieces. The reasons for a full-on reprint anthology could be it’s the best of starfaring giraffes or the year’s best bizarro fiction. It might also be done because the publisher can’t afford to pay high enough rates and reprints are often paid at a lower rate, or because the topic is small enough there just might not be enough material without having old and new, or as a retrospective. There are different reasons but reprint anthologies are handled differently.

In some cases, such as the Year’s Best that Ellen Datlow edits, she will have read a galaxy of stories already (I think she might be cloned). If you have a piece you think she might not have seen you’re encouraged to send it in to her. For other reprint anthos the onus is on the author to send the piece. With Ellen’s it could be either the publisher or the author. They run the gamut.

I’ve had some honorable mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and the Year’s Best SF. In those cases, either the publisher submitted or Ellen had already read them. I found out about the honorable mentions in most cases from the editors, though once, for my story “Hold Back the Night,” which received mention in both Year’s Bests I only found out about three years later when I was doing a google search.

With other topic specific ones I’d send in my story and get either a rejection or an acceptance. This year I’d submitted to a couple of others, and in one case I received no letter. I just happened to see the list on another group. I sent an email, since it was a friend and said, “What, not even a rejection letter?” To make the long story short, the editor believed one doesn’t send rejection letters for retrospective anthologies, like Ellen Datlow’s, but then I don’t know if I sent her a story if I’d get a note or not. I was under the impression that if I submitted work I’d get a notice, even if only a group email of those in the antho. The editor was under the impression that no notice was necessary.

We actually both had reasonable expectations of what we thought was standard. Neither was really wrong. I suggested though to save on time and annoyance for everyone that it would help to clarify guidelines so that people aren’t emailing constantly wondering if they missed the notice. Making guidelines clear and succinct helps writers know the rules for each publication. So saying, “Do not respond before four months have gone by. If you have not heard from us until then, please query.” Or “Due to the volume of submissions we will not be sending out rejection notices. Table of contents should be listed by X date.”

So there you go. Just when you think you have it figured out, some new twist let’s you know there’s still room to grow. Now if I could only have it all figured out on how to be a millionaire in my writing. 😉

 

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, Publishing, Writing

Writing & Life

Last night I did, not my first reading, but my first reading at the Vancouver Public Library. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a reading and the last was at Orycon, Portland’s science fiction convention, last November. Strangely, I was nervous all over again but since I’ve done enough acting and readings in front of people I reminded myself to take breaths and not rush. My most common nervous issue in reading is to start talking too fast. It must have worked because my friends didn’t notice I was nervous.

I read part of “An Ember Amongst the Fallen” from the Evolve anthology to a moderate sized audience. Rhea Rose, Mary Choo and Sandra Wickham also read from their works. Since we had a time limit, I chose the beginning of the dinner scene and the mounting conflict between some of the guests and my main character Buer, who wants to rekindle a relationship with his old flame.

If anyone ever asks, the names are significant in the story. Beside Buer, there is Camiel, Sammael, Ronobe, Arkon and Jeanine. Except for the very human name of Jeanine (the person who is bucking trends and the equivalent of a vegetarian in a vampire world), the rest are names of angels or archangels, or fallen angels. And yes, this does refer to the title of the Fallen, for in this world the vampirii call themselves the Fallen and their religious system is rooted in this belief and that God is the Great Deceiver. Some of the names have specific meanings, while others don’t in reference to my story. I will often use some subtle symbolism of names in my stories, if I think it’s important, though the reader may never know.

The Barnes and Noble reviewer thought I should be writing novels on vampires but I’m not sure I could do one in this world. Perhaps I could but I would have to tread carefully, not because of religious leanings of the vampirii, but to make sure this does not replicate the Planet of the Apes scenario. That’s been done and I’m aware of the similarities of that world and mine. However, whereas Planet of the Apes was a social comment on racism and black suppression (just as District 9 was), my story is different with humans as food. But both have a hominid as a lesser being.

“Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha,” which went to press yesterday and should be out in Horror Library Vol. 4 in the next month, is quite a different story. If “Ember” is a morality tale, then “Exegesis” is an amorality tale. It is a story of otherness and the alien. Not aliens but alien. I’ll be interested to see what people think of this one.

In the meantime, VCon is this coming weekend, Oct. 1-3. It’s Vancouver’s SF convention (gaming, media, costuming, writing) and unfortunately it’s often plagued by disorganization and a lack of communication with the local writers. Despite that, some people have managed to get us down for a reading on Sunday (somewhere around 2 or 3). And considering I wasn’t invited to attend and they never answered my emails, I’ll be at the book launch on Friday at 7 pm. More info can be found here: http://www.vcon.ca/

And I will most likely be at Orycon in Portland on Nov. 12-14. “Exegesis” will be out by then so perhaps I’ll read from that. And in the meantime, I am determined to finish off this Mary Magdalene story, so I can start on another, darker story that might be vampire and might be something else entirely. I’m working that out, and I think it’s time to visit Ireland in a story since I’ve been there and the setting is needed.

4 Comments

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, fantasy, horror, news, people, Publishing, science fiction, Writing