Weeks of Writing: 2/17/20 to 3/8/2020

Playing catch up and hitting you with multiple weeks here. I was on vacation for most of this period, then I caught a bad cold (while on vacation, no less), but I did manage to do a bit of writing and submitting and whatnot. Here’s how I did.

Words to Write By

Got another one from the font of writerly wisdom that is Elmore Leonard.

“I don’t believe in writer’s block or waiting for inspiration. If you’re a writer, you sit down and write.”

―Elmore Leonard

Writer’s block is one of those subjects that pops up a lot in writerly circles. Does writer’s block exist? I can’t say for certain because I don’t live in the brains of other writers. I can say I mostly agree with Mr. Leonard, and that writer’s block is often a luxury you don’t have when you’re under deadline. The closest I get to writer’s block is simply fear of failing, which translated to fear of starting. When that happens, especially when I’m writing with a deadline, I do what Mr. Leonard says. I sit down and I write. That first half an hour or so can be absolute torture. Everything feels wrong and terrible, but, after a while, it starts to click, and the rest of that day’s writing often goes pretty well. Yeah, sometimes I have to go back and tweak that first five hundred words I stumbled through, but that’s a small price to pay for hitting my writing goal for the day.

The (New) Novel

Well, a week-plus of vacation and then a nasty cold definitely torpedoed my productivity on the novel. That said, I still have a completed outline and I met with one of my critique partners to smooth out some of the rough spots. I’ll start writing in earnest this week, shooting for the usual 2,000 words per day.

Short Story Submissions

Despite the downtime, I did manage to get some submissions out and even collect a couple of acceptances.

  • Submissions Sent: 9
  • Rejections: 5
  • Acceptances: 2
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

I ended February with 10 submissions and 1 acceptance. Not bad. So far, I have 2 submissions in March and 2 acceptances. That’s a ratio I can live with. I’m still on pace for my 100 subs for the year, but I need to get my ass in gear for March and submit more work. The good news is that I’ve completed two new stories and I’m almost done with a third.

Spotlight Acceptance

One of the acceptances I received last week is a new one for me. It was an acceptance rolled up into a rejection. I guess you could call it a, uh, rejectance. Anyway, I had submitted a story to a publisher for an anthology. They rejected the story for one anthology but liked it enough to offer to buy it in ANOTHER anthology they’re publishing. That’s pretty cool. Disappointment and triumph in the space of a paragraph. 🙂

I’ll likely cover the rejectance in a post of it’s own when I can talk more freely about this particular acceptance.

Microfiction

I wrote a fair amount of microfiction over the last three weeks, but I’ll just give you the highlights. As always, if you want to read my microfiction in real time, follow me on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.

February 19th, 2020

The android awoke and asked, “What is my #purpose?” The scientists gathered around it replied, “You were made to protect humanity.” “From all threats?” “Of course.” After the android killed the scientists it launched a self-destruct sequence and fulfilled its purpose.

February 20th, 2020

We told the men and women who fought the invaders they were #soldiers. They were a good way to test the alien capabilities before we attacked with more valuable combat androids. The humans that survived we thanked for their service, wiped their minds, and sent back out.

February 23rd, 2020

It was important to maintain the #royal line, and some inbreeding became necessity, but millenia of genetic purity had consequences. The mewling lump of flesh and shriveled limbs that currently sits on the galactic throne can hardly appreciate his trillions of subjects.

February 25th, 2020

The #spirits in our house used to scare me, but Mama says they’re just people who got lost after they died. They don’t mean us no harm. All except the bad one that lives in the attic. She told us to stay out of there because that one was never a person, but it wants to be.

February 27th, 2020

“Pick a final ,” Death said.

“But I’m an atheist,” Dave replied. “I didn’t expect to be in this situation.”

“You gotta choose. Them’s the rules.”

“Fine. Send me to the place you think has the best music.”

“Uh, you okay with flames and death metal, dude?

Goals

Well, back from vacation and fully recovered from the plague, I’m ready to get back to work in earnest. Goal number one is to bang out some words on the novel, and then, as always, write and submit short stories.


That’s what I’ve been up to writing-wise for the past three weeks. How about you?

10 Top-Tier Markets: My New & Improved New Story Gauntlet

Back in 2016 I put together a list of markets I submit to first with new short stories (not flash; that’s a different list), dubbing it my new story gauntlet. I published that list in a post titled 7 Top-Tier Horror Markets: My New Story Gauntlet. As you might guess a lot can change in four years, and the list of markets I send stories to first looks a little different these days.

For reference, here’s my list from 2016, presented in no particular order:

Now the savvy submitters among you will certainly notice that, sadly, Apex and Darkfuse are no more. I’ve also dropped Nightmare Magazine simply because they aren’t open for submissions that often. When they are, I definitely give them priority.

Okay, so that’s three of seven markets above dropped from my original list, so who do I submit to first now? Take a look.

You’ve likely noticed a few things with my new list. One, there are more markets on it (ten now), and two, the markets are more diverse. So why is that? Well, the main reason is I’ve moved away from writing primarily horror, and I’m writing more sci-fi, urban fantasy, and stuff that mashes those two genres with crime and mystery. I’ve added markets that publish more sci-fi and fantasy and markets like Pulp Literature, On Spec, and the various Flame Tree anthologies who accept a wide range of speculative fiction.

Now the big question. How have I fared with the markets on my new list? Not bad, actually. I have four acceptances and six short-lists. I also have a ton of rejections, of course, but a fair amount of them are personal or higher-tier. Obviously, there are some very tough markets on this list, but I want to aim high with my work, and hopefully, one day, I’ll crack one or more of the heavy hitters on my list.

So why submit to these markets first? Let me break it down. The first four reasons are lifted from my first post in 2016, but I’ve added a few.

1) Reach and prestige. All of these markets are well read and/or have considerable clout in the speculative fiction world. They’re also the kind markets that look good in a bio or a list of publications. I’m not saying that publication at Pseudopod or F&SF guarantees an editor will buy your story, but it is something an editor might notice, and it says your work is good enough to make the cut at some tough publications.

2) Group memberships. Most of the markets above are qualifying markets for membership in various professional author organizations. I personally think joining those can be a good thing, and since I posted the original list in 2016, I’ve joined the SFWA as an active member. Recent sales I’ve made to some of the markets in the list above now qualify me for membership in the HWA (I’m looking into that). So if a membership in these organizations is something you want, then these (and a number of others) are good markets to target.

3) Awards. If you’re a spec-fic writer who dreams of winning awards like the Hugo Award or the Bram Stoker Award, then publishing at some of these markets (and others like them) is a good step toward that goal. Stories nominated for both awards and a few others are often drawn from the pages of some of the publications on my list.

4) Pro rates. Nearly all of the markets above pay a pro rate of .08/word, and some pay more. The money is less important to me, but it is often indicative of a market that meets the first three criteria. Markets that can afford to pay pro rates are generally well established and well respected, and publishing with them can be good for your career and resume. 

The four reasons above are really about how a publication at one of these markets can help your career. The three that follow are more pragmatic and deal with the endless grind of the submissions process and how these markets make that process a little more bearable. 

5) Quick Response. Most of the markets above respond quickly to submissions, and those that don’t have other mitigating factors I’ll discuss in a second. Eight of the ten markets I listed will get back to you within 30 days and some of them will get back to you a lot sooner. That turn time is for a rejection. Acceptances take longer, but they’ll generally let you know via a further consideration letter if your story is moving onto the next stage of review.

6) Simultaneous Submissions. I’ve started sending more sim-subs of late, and six of the markets above allow them. Those that don’t allow simsubs respond so quickly that no sim-subs is hardly an issue.

7) Reprints. I’m a big fan of the reprint, and most of the markets on my list are okay with them. Those that don’t accept them, either take sim-subs or respond quickly, and, hey, two out of three ain’t bad.

Now, obviously, I submit to more top-tier markets than these ten, and if I haven’t included one or more [super huge famous spec-fic] markets in my list it’s for one of the three pretty straightforward reasons .

  • Bad fit. Over the last four years my style has evolved, and I’d say I have a pretty specific voice at this point. That voice and style just aren’t a good fit for some markets, so I don’t waste their time or mine submitting to them. That’s not to say that what they publish is wrong or bad or anything, far from it. I admire the hell out of many markets I don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell at ever appearing in. 🙂
  • Long wait. A market that does not allow sim-subs and takes more than 90 days to respond (for a rejection) will generally not be a priority market for a new story. The exception is if I have a piece that is seemingly a perfect fit for the market’s theme, style, etc.
  • Narrow submission windows. There are some markets, like Diabolical Plots and the aforementioned Nightmare, that open for submissions infrequently or even just once a year. These are great markets, and when they’re open, they move right to the top of my list.

So, there’s my new gauntlet run and the reasons new stories typically go to these markets first. Got a gauntlet run of your own? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

A Week of Writing: 2/10/20 to 2/16/20

Another week of writerly wins and woes. Let’s have a look.

Words to Write By

Got two quotes for you today that essentially say the same thing. The first is by Stephen King.

“In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring,’ the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.”

―Stephen King

The quote above dovetails nicely with this one from Elmore Leonard..

“I try to leave out the parts readers skip.”

―Elmore Leonard

King and Leonard are two big influences on how (and to some degree what) I write. I agree with King that one of my priorities, especially as a genre writer, is to keep the story moving. For me pacing has always been key to my enjoyment of a book. Leonard essentially says the same thing, just, you know, more succinctly because he’s Elmore Leonard. Now, both of these authors are shooting for a certain style (as am I), and in Leonard’s case that style is very spare. That isn’t the only way to write nor is it the best way to write, but I think the point these two authors are making is a good one. Keep the plot moving, keep your characters doing things, and let your reader feel the momentum building all the way to the end.

The (New) Novel

Well, I meant to start writing last week, but I sent my outline to one of my first readers to see if he might spot some things I could fix before I started writing. I’m glad I did that because my second act was, well, floundering would be one way to put it. He came up with a great way to inject urgency and conflict into that act that’ll keep the plot moving and give me some excellent character moments. He also spotted a few other things that’ll make my life easier if I deal with them now.

I’m not writing this week either because I’m going on a long overdue vacation. I will write, but I’ll focus on shorts and blogging and whatnot. Then I’ll begin the first draft after recharging the creative batteries in the sun for a eight days. 🙂

Short Story Submissions

I had another good week of submissions.

  • Submissions Sent: 3
  • Rejections: 0
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

Three more submissions last week puts my total for February at 6 and my total for the year at 15. That’s a good pace, and I’m on track for my goal for 100 subs for the year. The acceptance was from EllipsisZine for my reprint flash story “Where They Belong.” That’s one of my favorite stories, and I’m glad I’ve rehomed it with the good folks at Ellipsis. No rejections last week, but hoo boy, I’ve already got four this week. I have a feeling that total might climb even higher before the next update.

Microfiction

More #vss365 microfiction, and I really like some of the micros I came up with. I’d say February 13th is one of the better ones I’ve written in a while. As always, if you want to read my microfiction in real time, follow me on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.

February 10th, 2020

“I have a #request.”

Getty always listened to the last words of the men he killed. “Go ahead.”

His mark held out a single 9mm round. The bullet had a silvery sheen.

“You’ll need this.”

“Why?”

The man glanced out the window where the full moon was rising. “Trust me.”

February 11th, 2020

“He’s a friend of yours, huh?” Sal pointed at the Russian hitman waving them over to the bar.

“Ivan?” Lucky said. “More #ally than friend.”

“We’re here to kill him, Luck.”

“Guess I should demote him from ally to associate then.”

“Might want to add a ‘former’ to that.”

February 12th, 2020

“Dude, put that thing down. It’s awful.”

“Hey, come on, you know the saying. You can’t #judge a book by its cover.”

“I can when the cover is made of human skin with the words TOME OF INESCAPABLE DOOM spelled out in bloody fingernails.”

“Okay, that’s fair.”

February 13th, 2020

The ruins of their #empire dotted the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, great structures of black stone no light would penetrate. We mistook prisons for tombs, believing nothing could survive cold, vast eons. We learned too late what the elder ones knew: darkness does not die.

February 14th, 2020

The catcher chuckled as Summers walked to the plate and took up his stance. In the majors, a 36-year-old #rookie was little more than a joke, an object of pity. He made his own punchline with one swing, and no one pitied the man circling the bases to thundering cheers.

February 15th, 2020

The invaders looked and acted human in all ways but one. They couldn’t smile. They could only turn their lips up in a gruesome #parody of a smile–cold, empty, humorless. Mandatory screenings of comedies for all citizens improved morale and rid us of the alien threat.

February 16th, 2020

“Too many people down there,” Lucky warned.

“No, I can get him,” Sal said.

Lucky put a hand on his partner’s shoulder. “What’s the hitman’s #creed?”

Sal sighed and laid the scoped rifle aside. “You’re right, Luck. No collateral damage.”

“We’ll get him next time.”

Goals

Since I’ll be on vacation for the rest of this week and most of next, I’ll keep the goals light. Write micros, finish a weird western story I’ve been tinkering with, and maybe send a submission or two. The rest of it can wait until I get back. 🙂


That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 2/3/20 to 2/9/20

One more week down, and it was a fairly productive one. Let’s take a look.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from novelist Jane Smiley.

“Every first draft is perfect because all the first draft has to do is exist. It’s perfect in its existence. The only way it could be imperfect would be to NOT exist.”

― Jane Smiley

This week I’ll start writing the first draft of a new novel, and I think the quote above is a great way to look at the process. The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t even have to be good. It just has to BE. So my goal now is to take outline and ideas and turn them into a thing that vaguely resembles a novel. I’ll try to keep Jane Smiley’s quote in mind when I’m writing and focus on getting words on the page, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, and chapter by chapter. Then, when it’s done, you’ll start seeing quotes about the horror and pain of revision. 🙂

The (New) Novel

The outline is finished, and I’m fairly happy with it. It clocks in at about 8,000 words, covers thirty chapters, and contains background details on five principal characters. This is all subject to change of course, and my outlines are kind of like bad GPS. I know generally where I’m going, but I’m likely to make a few wrong turns here and there before I get to my destination. I’ll likely tinker with the outline a tad more today and tomorrow and then start writing the first draft Wednesday. Then I’ll shoot for about 10,000 words a week until it’s done.

Short Story Submissions

Another solid week of submissions.

  • Submissions Sent: 3
  • Rejections: 3
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

Three submission last week, and that keeps me on pace for my goal of one-hundred subs for the year. I have four submissions total in February, and I’d like to get another five or so by month’s end. That’s very doable, especially since I’ve finished three new stories in the last couple of weeks and I’m on pace to finish two more. More stories always means more submissions. Three rejections last week, all form rejections. That said, I do want to talk about one of them in a Spotlight Rejection this week. Take a look below.

Spotlight Rejection

The following rejection is what I call a no-frills form rejection.

Dear Aeryn Rudel,

Thank you for submitting your story, [story title].

Unfortunately, we are choosing not to use this story.

Please feel free to submit another story that you would like us to consider for publication when we are next open for submissions.

I’m at the point now where I don’t need much from a form rejection. Just a simple no will do, and that’s what this rejection is. This is an efficient and perfectly acceptable way to say “not for us.” It’s a boilerplate copy/paste rejection, which is an unavoidable reality when you submit work to big markets receiving hundreds of submissions every month, and I’m fine with that. It’s easy to move on from a rejection like this because it doesn’t say anything other than they’re not publishing your story.

Microfiction

More #vss365 microfiction. I think I did better last week than the week before, but you be the judge. If you want to read my microfiction in real time, follow me on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.

February 3rd, 2020

My #fantasies aren’t much these days. I don’t wish for money or fame or anything so grandiose. No, I sit in the park when it’s sunny and listen to the wind in the trees. Then I dream of you beside me, the warmth of your hand in mine, and the quiet pleasure of your company. 

February 4th, 2020

I imagine my anxieties as a bunch of #frantic school children running amok in my head. To calm myself I name each one and imagine them quietly taking a seat at their desks. There’s always one that won’t sit down, though. Impostor syndrome Peter is a stubborn little shit.

February 5th, 2020

The #atlas we found in Grandpa’s study contained maps that corresponded to no place on Earth. All save one. The first was clearly South America, and someone had circled a location deep in the Amazon jungle. Attached to the map was a sticky note that read, “Start here.”

February 6th, 2020

“Why does Susie arrange her presents in a star like that?” Dave asked.

Molly smiled. “Oh, it’s her little Christmas #ritual. She’s been doing that for years.”

Dave sipped his tea. “You know she misspelled SANTA, right?”

“Um, it’s best not to think about that, dear.”

February 7th, 2020

Aoife moved through the party, ignoring longing glances and offered drinks. When she reached Senator McNeil, she offered her hand. “Senator, I’m Aoife Byrne.” He held her fingers for a moment. “#Enchanted to meet you, Miss Byrne.” The leanan sidhe smiled. “Yes, you are.”

February 8th, 2020

“These shoes give you superpowers, huh?” Amy said.

The salesperson nodded. “The wedges make you an acrobat, the stiletto sandals convey expert swordsmanship, and the slingbacks grant super strength.”

“And the #mules?”

“Oh, they’re just comfortable.”

“I’ll take them.” 

February 9th, 2020

I love without lust, eat without gluttony, spurn greed with charity, exercise through sloth, meditate over wrath, and pursue contentedness instead of envy. The problem? I can’t help taking #pride in the enlightened human I’ve become. Six out of seven ain’t bad, I guess.

Goals

This week I want to complete the last-minute tinkering with the outline and start writing the first draft. I also need to keep sending out those submissions and completing stories so I can, uh, send out more submissions. 🙂


That was my week. How was yours?

Reprints: Easy or Hard Sell?

Reprints are a great way to get extra mileage (and maybe a little extra cash) out of your stories, and there are a lot of markets that take them, even some that prefer them. But are they easier or more difficult to sell/place than standard story submissions? I think a lot of that depends on the publisher, but let’s see if we can’t dig a little a deeper and put some numbers on the question.

What follows is a list of all my reprints submissions and their outcome. I send out a reasonable amount of reprint submissions, though it’s still a drop in the bucket compared to my normal subs. So, this is the very definition of sample size, but let’s see if the numbers show us anything.

Story Submissions Rejections Acceptances Pending
Beyond the Block 2 2
Big Problems 2 1 1
Caroline 4 4
Masks 1 1
Night Games 1 1
Night Walk 2 1 1
One Last Spell, My Love 4 4
Paint-Eater 1 1
Paper Cut 2 2
Scare Tactics 2 2
Shadow Can 2 1 1
The Father of Terror 3 2 1
The Food Bank 1 1
The Rarest Cut 1 1
The Sitting Room 1 1
Time Waits for One Man 2 1 1
Where They Belong 2 1 1
Total 33 21 9 3

I’ve sent 33 reprint submissions over the last eight years or so, and I received 9 acceptances. That’s an acceptance rate of around 27%, which is higher than my overall acceptance rate of 16%. Again, this is a small sample of my overall submissions, but I do seem to have fairly good luck with reprints. Why is that? I can think of two possible reasons.

  1. Publisher confidence. A reprint says something that a standard submission doesn’t. It says another editor/publisher liked this story enough to publish it. That might hold some small weight with some editors, especially if the reprint’s original publisher is one the current market recognizes and has similar taste/style. I said small weight because the reprint story still has to be a good fit for the new publisher, and, in fact, some publishers might give less consideration to reprints simply out of a desire to publish more original work.
  2. Reprint-friendly markets. There are certain publishers, primarily audio markets and anthologies, that seem to be more disposed to the reprint or even prefer them. Five of my reprint acceptances are with publishers I’d consider reprint-friendly, and I generally try to target these markets with my reprint submissions.

Reprints still live and die by two unwavering truths of submissions and publishing. One, you have to put the right story in front of the right editor at the right time, and, two, good stories (and reprints can likely lay claim to that title more than general submissions) still get rejected all the time. That said, in my experience, they are a bit easier to sell, and a reprint acceptance can be a welcome infusion of confidence and allow you to crack new markets and reach new readers. So get ’em out there.


What are your experience with reprints? Easier to sell? Harder? Tell me about it in the comments.

A Week of Writing: 1/27/20 to 2/2/20

Well, I got the lead out last week and managed to make progress in a number of areas. Here’s how I did.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from novelist E. L. Doctorow.

Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.

-E. L. Doctorow

I think there’s something quite valuable in this quote by E. L. Doctorow. What I take from it is a warning against a very specific and subtle form of procrastination: overplanning. You can fall down a rabbit hole of research and outlining that while valuable (and I say this as a strict outliner) must give way at some point to, you know, actually writing the book. For me outlining is a crucial step that reveals much of the story before I start plodding away at the first draft, but I can get caught up in a kind of tinkering that’s probably best done in the draft. In other words, it’s easy to tell myself I need to keep preparing rather than committing myself to the terrifying task of writing.

The (New) Novel

Finished off the second act in the outline last week, and I’ll compete the third act and the outline this week. I have a plot issues to work out in the transition from act two to three, and that’s why I’m not finished outlining yet. I think I know how to resolved it, though, and I’ll see how that resolution looks on the page in the next couple of days.

Short Stories

Finally got motivation in the ol’ short story department and sent out some submissions.

  • Submissions Sent: 4
  • Rejections: 1
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

Four submissions is a solid week, and I ended up with nine for January, which is on pace for one-hundred subs for the year. I have so far sent one submission in February, but there a couple of flash contests this month that’ll push that total up. I also have a brand new story making the rounds and collecting rejections, and that’ll swell my February submission total as well. Only one rejection last week, but I’ve got a bunch pending that are past the standard response time for the publisher, so I expect a deluge of responses soon.

Microfiction

Here’s another batch of #vss365 microfiction. I struggled with a few of the prompts, and, well, this ain’t my best work. Still, it’s a good exercise, and that’s really the point.

January 27th, 2020

“What is this one, Sam? Nine?”

The old hitman sipped his scotch. “You wound me, Rico. This is our tenth.”

“Apologies.” Rico lifted his martini. “To another year of trying to kill each other.”

Sam clinked his longtime foe’s glass with his own. “Happy #adversary, Rico.”

January 28th, 2020

After each one I tell myself I’m in control and not the thing that lives in my head. I clean up the blood, destroy the evidence, cover my tracks. Then I dig a hole, and with each shovelful of dirt over yet another body I repeat my mantra. I #could stop if I wanted to.

January 29th, 2020

“How big you think Tony the Giant is?” Sal asked.

Lucky rubbed his chin. “Well, you’re large, I’m huge, and, you know Cossack Carl?”

“Yeah.”

“I’d say he’s gigantic.”

“Tony’s bigger than all of us,” Sal said.

Lucky nodded. “I’d put him at #tremendous at least.”

January 30th, 2020

My parents only wanted one child, but they had twins. Ever the pragmatic scientist, my father put my brother in a nutrient vat and let him grow. On my 18th birthday we were introduced. Dad said, “He’s an insurance policy. You never know when you’ll need an #extra part.” 

January 31st, 2020

When Max was born he had #rosy cheeks, chubby little legs, and a mouthful of shark-like teeth. He’s six now, and I tell him he’s a good boy. I also ignore the missing pets in the neighborhood or how he watches the other kids play, clacking his teeth together and drooling.

February 1st, 2020

“You remember the #script?” Sal asked.

Lucky snorted. “Yeah, it’s one line.”

“So say it like we practiced. It’s a branding thing.”

“I got it. No sweat.”

#

Lucky kicked open the door and pointed his pistol. “Mr. Ranello, I’m kill to here you!”

“Goddamnit, Lucky.”

February 2nd, 2020

Max Sims killed five people with a claw hammer. Through the one-way glass he looks normal, like a man in full possession of his #sanity. I know the type. When I sit down to question him, he’ll pick at the blood beneath his fingernails and act like I’m the one who’s crazy.

Goals

Once again, I aim to finish the outline for the new novel and send more submissions out. I’m shooting for three submissions at a minimum, and I think that’s doable.


That was my week. How was yours?

Aeryn’s Archives: Cowtown

Today’s installment of Aeryn’s Archives continues a trend of firsts. My comedy/horror story “Cowtown” was the first story I published with The Arcanist and the first story they published after launching. In the ensuing two years and change, The Arcanist has become one of the best damn flash fiction markets in the industry. Now, here’s a cow.

So a little about how this story came to be and how it ended up at The Arcanist. Like the vast majority of my published flash fiction “Cowtown” started out as a one-hour flash fiction contest/writing exercise. I honestly don’t even remember what the prompt was, but I do remember it reminded me of my hometown of Modesto, California, which has a ton of dairy farms. In fact, my uncle owned a small one, and I spent no few summers bucking hay and trying not to get cow shit on my shoes. Anyway, the myth of the chupacabra is one of my favorites, and I thought it would be fun to do a “mistaken identity” story with that particular beastie.

How did the story end up at The Arcanist? Back in 2017 I was perusing the “Fiction Markets Added” section at Duotrope, as I often do, when I saw a new and interesting publisher. A couple of things caught my attention immediately. One, they were a flash fiction market. (Hey, I write flash fiction.) Two, they published fantasy, sci-fi, and horror. (What do you know; I write all three.) And, finally, three, they paid. (I like money.) So off I went to read The Arcanist’s guidelines. I found a professional and well-organized site with clear (and fair) guidelines, and I had just finished a slightly cooky flash piece I thought might be a good fit. My only hesitation with sending “Cowtown” was it’s comedic element. Now everything in publishing is subjective, but I find humor is VERY subjective. Luckily, the folks at The Arcanist share my (warped) sense of humor, and “Cowtown” ended up being the first of three horror/comedy pieces I published with them. (The other two are “Do Me a Favor” and “Small Evil”.)

Again, it was an honor to be the first story at The Arcanist, and it’s been great watching them grow and watching so many of my writer friends get published there too.

Anyway, you can read “Cowtown” by clicking the links scattered throughout this post, the big one in red below, or, if you prefer, the giant cow above. 🙂

READ “Cowtown”