Tag Archives: submission guidelines

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

 

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Writing: Expanding on the Playground of Lost Toys

trunk stories, submission guidelines, lost toys

Trunk stories are valid, if they actually fit the theme.

I realize that when one puts up guidelines for a themed anthology that you will always get trunk stories, those tales already written that have not yet found a home and that might just fit the theme even if not tailored toward it exactly. Trunk stories can be perfectly well-written stories that just don’t mesh with what’s out there, or they may be your B grade stories, never selling because something just didn’t gel in the telling.

I’ve sent trunk stories to anthologies before and I’ve sold some and not sold others. It’s fine to do this. And sometimes you write a story for a particular theme but it’s not accepted, so you try to sell it elsewhere. With Tesseracts 17 we saw a number of superhero stories because there had just been an anthology on superheroes. We saw a few green man stories because there had just been an anthology on the Green Man. There was a story from each of these that we nearly accepted.

playgrounds, lost toys, speculative fiction, fantasy, SF, guidelines

Now here is a great playground, and it’s made by humans. Or perhaps it’s a toy. Creative Commons: Sizuken, Flickr

The Playground of Lost Toys is experiencing this so far, to some degree. I suspect that many of the tales we’ve received were already in existence.There are tropes within all fiction and while many great tales come from them, the fact that they’re tropes mean that they’re popular themes. There are hundreds if not thousands of ghost stories. Likewise, we’re getting a lot of doll stories. It’s a toy that is universally recognized. I’m beginning to suspect that some people are also getting stuck on the “toys” aspect without really thinking about what toy means.

We will accept a few stories (possibly) about dolls or trucks but the anthology is not a doll anthology. If it was, then we would only want dolls. It’s speculative fiction so this opens quite a realm. Google some images and see if they give you an idea. Combine words that are unlikely, such as alien and playground.  Or toy and magnolia. Here are some further suggestions, to get the creative juices flowing:

  • What would be a Sasquatch’s toy?
  • Boy toys–are they cars or men who are playthings, such as in the realms of Faery (this isn’t an erotica anthology either so be careful if you use this)
  • Game consoles–maybe they change the world or the person.
  • Computers–how many games do people play on their electronic devices
  • Games–board games will be considered as toys for this
  • What would you, an animal, or an alien toy with?
  • What would an Ent find to be a toy?
  • Do snakes have toys?
  • Playgrounds have slides, swings, ladders, etc. These can all be considered toys.
  • What would be a toy’s toy?
  • Is it a toy or is it a being?
  • Sentient  or self-aware toys.
  • Are there beings where toys are sacrilegious?
  • Are there aliens with no concept of toy and on finding one they..
  • Synonyms for toy: plaything, game, model
  • Places where toys are: playgrounds, chests, rooms, stores, manufacturers, middens heaps, museums
Dr. Who, toys, SF, fantasy, anthology submissions, guidelines

Dr. Who’s sonic screwdriver. It whirs, it has lights, it’s functional, but is it a toy too? Copyright BBC

Let your imagination encompass the act of playing and see what comes up. The full guidelines are here, and you can submit your story as well: https://exilepublishing.submittable.com/submit. Note that 90% of the anthology has to be Canadian. We’re looking forward to weird and wonderful tales.

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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!

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How Writers Get to Be Slaves

writing, paying markets, speculative fiction, authors, paid to write, nonpaying writing sites

Salon.com Stockphoto: NickS

I haven’t talked about writing in a while but with the new year and the holidays out of the way I’ve been doing a submission blitz, as well as getting caught up on some reading for CZP. In my search for new or interesting or well-paying markets I’ve been going through www.ralan.com (the best site for speculative markets) and www.duotrope.com (the best site for poetry and fiction with average response times listed). There are some things that have started to irk me, which have always annoyed me but continue to perpetuate a bad precedent.

Forget about the wage freeze in your everyday job; if you’re a writer, then Charles Dickens made more than you and the amount people are paid hasn’t changed much in decades. That’s a bit of an overstatement. Sure, we hear about the J.K. Rowlings and the bidding wars for manuscripts like The Horse Whisperer, but in fact most writers are not being paid more than they once were decades ago.

In fact, I’m pretty stupid because the best place to make money as a writer is article writing for magazines, where you can average $1-2/word. Speculative fiction has a professional rate of .05/word. A few pay more than this. Many pay less, such as .01, .025, etc. Then there are the “for the luv” markets, those that pay in “exposure.” I don’t send to these markets unless I make a mistake in reading the guidelines. Maybe if I was just starting out I would, to get credits, but the rule is: start with the highest payer and work your way down.

Should you be selling your first SF or fantasy novel you might get $6,000-$8,000 as an advance against royalties, and never see more. I’m talking about the big publishing houses here, not the small or independent presses, and not about ebooks, as I don’t have enough information. But guess how much a first novelist made thirty or forty years ago? The same amount. So if you compare payments to writers against cost of living, we’re making less and less every year. And people expect it all for free.

writing, authors, submission guidelines, nonpaying markets, paying writers

What would you give to have your writing seen? Creative Commons: Greg Gladman Flickr

While I understand the want and urge to publish a magazine or anthology (I want to edit one myself some day) I think that an author should at least be paid something for their efforts. I’ve stopped writing and submitting to the erotic markets because they now want to pay $25 for a story. It’s not worth it at all for me to write something new for that. Meager as it is, my limit is around .03/word though I’ve made exceptions for particular anthologies. For poetry, I’ve been paid anywhere from $5 to $100. I usually will look for $10 or more markets and of course starting at the top.

My first clue that a market doesn’t pay when looking at their site is that pay isn’t obvious. Yes, some say, we don’t get paid so neither shall you, with the perverse logic that everyone should suffer equally. But more often than not they say nothing, as if they’re embarrassed to admit they don’t pay. Just say it up front, folks.

My annoyance meter hit the limit when I looked at www.short-story.me. Not only do you have to hunt to see if they pay (you won’t find it) but they have their contract displayed. Enough magazines do this and it’s not a problem but they’ve even gone so far as to copyright protect their contract. Seriously? It’s quite the contract too for giving away your print and online rights for free and no promise of even a print copy in return for your work. The writer gets to edit, because they won’t, and warrant that their work is theirs, though short-story me gets everything with very little in return.

I emailed them and this is how the conversation went:

I can’t seem to find what you pay on your site. Could you tell me what it is for fiction and flash stories?

Hi
We don’t pay.
Thank you
So you have a copyright protect contract to protect your rights but offer the author nothing? Would you expect a shoemaker to supply shoes for your shoe store, or a farmer to give vegetables to your store without paying them? Think about it. That’s what you’re doing to your writers.

I won’t get an answer, because they don’t care. Writers are considered little better than slaves for these markets. The site is about what you’d expect for one that doesn’t pay its authors. The stories have grammatical, punctuation and usage issues though not a lot. I only read four stories, or parts of them, and the quality is (cough!) okay but an actual editor would have helped. Some are overly descriptive, some have talking heads, or banal or cliché language. Oh well, short-story me is one in probably hundreds of sites that take advantage of hungry new authors. There are sites that don’t pay and take less advantage but the whole overofficiousness of the contract bugged me. This site does give writing advice but I wouldn’t recommend it for submitting. I’d start with the paying markets, after you know your craft.

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Publishing: Trials of a Slush Reader

There will probably be more than one post like this as I dig through the various manuscripts that I’m reading for CZP. Slush reading novels is far different from stories or poems, in some ways. You’d think it would be straightforward but it’s not.

The best way to irritate the hell out of a slush reader is to do some silly things like go for an artsy font; bold it, italicize it in spots, change the size. The publisher will decide in the long run on the look and while some italics or bolding are required in a story, too much of it on nearly every line is like eating a whole cake at one sitting.

Easy to read fonts are the way to go because we’re not reading one of these things, we’re reading dozens. Our eyes get tired, we have pages and pages to read and if something other than the story gets in the way, then we don’t get to reading the story without already being annoyed. Times New Roman if you’re not sure.

Double spacing is standard manuscript submission format (there are some exceptions). There is a good reason for this. It used to be, when everything was hard copy, that the editor would have to make notes and edit on the page, and there was no space if it was single spaced. Besides that mechanical consideration, it is easier to read when double spaced and when you have to read many manuscripts and sometimes skim through paragraphs to see if the plot is progressing it’s the best default.

Why can’t people read the instructions, or submission guidelines as we call them? It’s one thing to fudge your font or your border margins slightly. If we ask for three chapters only, don’t send the full manuscript. If we say we want a synopsis too, then send one because we won’t know the full arc of your story with only those sample chapters and we won’t read the full book on spec. If we say send it in .doc or .rtf, we mean it.

The final thing, if we reject you, is not to write back insulting our nationality (or what you think it is) insulting our education level (or what you think it is) and basically telling us that we haven’t realized your edgy genius. I try to say something nice when rejecting a manuscript as well as some reasons why it didn’t work. Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint or narrow down nicely without a more thorough reading. There may be several reasons that it’s not right for a publisher from style to readability. But the next person that insults me for rejecting their manuscript will get blacklisted as well as get a very pointed smackdown as to why exactly their manuscript sucked so badly that it would never be bought.

Sure, you might be rejected a hundred times and then go on to have a best seller. Go for it, but if you piss off the publisher and their slush readers, you’ll have to go elsewhere. When I submit pieces to publishers I understand the busy-ness of editors and I appreciate any comments. If I get a rejection that says, “It wasn’t right for us” I know it might be a form letter, they may not have time to say more, or they didn’t like it for whatever reason but didn’t want to go into it. I accept it. If I get even a sentence saying what was good or bad I appreciate it because any insight helps and it’s rare.

Most of the people I’ve had to reject have been thankful for the comments. The whiny and bitchy ones are becoming memorable and they will not get much of my time the second time around. Should CZP still accept submissions from them they better hope they go to a different slush reader. Of course, we all talk amongst ourselves so we’re aware of the buttheads out there. Be forewarned and do it right the first time.

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Writing: Submitting Poetry

Okay, I know I just wrote about this in the last few weeks but really, it sometimes pays to hit people over the head. In fact some of these rules apply just as equally to submitting other works as fiction.

Chizine has three poetry editors. Carolyn and I assist Sandra. We also correspond regularly with each other and offer opinions on whether we think a poem is good or not. When reading many submissions, and often bad ones (the ratio of bad poems to good ones is higher than it is with fiction, from what I’ve seen), we might lose perspective. So then we ask each other, Is this good? Does this make sense? I don’t get it.

Sandra distributes the poems to us so she sees everything. Now editors make rules, not because they have nothing better to do, but to manage submissions. And magazines have rules about what they like to print. A smart writer will read these guidelines before submitting. Admittedly some magazines can be overly weird and picky in their particular submission guidelines and do things backward from everyone else. Most magazines ask for double spaced, indent, no extra space between paragraphs, a readable and regular font. Some want you to do single space, no indent, space between the paragraphs, and it seems it’s just to be contrary. Frankly I would stick with an industry standard and if I accepted a piece, then ask the author to reformat to what was needed. But mostly you need to acquiesce to the idiosyncrasies of the magazines and their editors.

We ask for poems to be embedded in the email. Sending an attachment will have your piece summarily deleted. We say no rhyming poems and we mean it. If you are Leonard Cohen, you might be able to send us a rhyming poem but otherwise, don’t bother. If you thought you had the best poem ever and it rhymed, remember that you’re already starting out with a strike against you as we tend not to accept/like them. I told one author she could try but only if she thought it was quite different and very good. I haven’t read it yet but her chances are just smaller because of that, and should I like it, I then have to convince Sandra.

So when poor Carolyn received a submission of about six poems, it broke so many rules that she bluntly told the author what he did wrong. We don’t set a limit on number of poems in one submission but a wise person will send no more than six. Three to five is a common number. First, we don’t take simultaneous submissions. Some authors do them anyways and hope not to be caught. The best way to be caught at it is to put all their email address in the “To:” line of your email. This author did this. Second, the author sent a form letter. Third, he didn’t read any of our submission guidelines. And fourth, not only did he send rhyming poems, he sent the worst ones possible. The following isn’t his poem but is of the same caliber. My advice to any writer, if you write like this, just don’t send your poems out, at all.

I went for a beer
with nothing to fear
hoping for cheer
but something quite queer
made me veer
and now I fear
I’m nowhere near

Yes, they were all this bad. And to top it off this writer (I use the term loosely) signed his name with “The poet and scholar.” If you have the audacity to call yourself “THE” poet, negating the existence of all others you better back it up with credentials including that you are your country’s poet emeritus and have won awards equivalent to the Booker and Governor General’s awards. And if you are the poet who did these things, just be happy that I haven’t put your name down.

In fact, although we haven’t started such a list yet, this guy could get himself on a blacklist. And yes, some magazines start blacklists. If you threaten the editors, send nasty letter, consistently ignore all guidelines, you will be put in the trash file. Bad writing alone won’t get you blacklisted. But idiocy will.

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