2Q22 Update

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It’s that time again, writers, readers, and everyone in between. How were my writing and submission exploits during the second quarter of 2022? Read on!

Words written = 5,026
Submissions = 24
Rejections = 21
Acceptances = 1
Shortlists/Holds = 0
Publications = 0
Rewrites = 0
Withdrawals = 0

If you think this looks a lot like my first quarter, you’re spot on. This time around I wrote 1500 words more, had three fewer submissions but three more rejections, and had one fewer acceptance. I’ll take the status quo at this point. It’s better than a regression.

It was an interesting quarter for two reasons. First, those 5000 words were not attributable to any new works. All 5000 were additions to existing works. About half went to finishing (finally!) my WIP middle grade novel that I started during last year’s NaNoWriMo. That’s how close I was before getting sidetracked. Another quarter went to finishing a story I’ve been collaborating on with a friend. We’ve been working on this story for years, but life kept getting in the way. The irony is, after all that work, we need to cut it down by about half to fit under the word limit for a submissions call specifically requesting collaborative works. The last quarter of my quarterly word count went to expanding three other stories.

The second interesting thing about the quarter pertains to where my submissions were as June 30 approached. About a week out, I sat at 12. Thanks to a bit of luck as to what markets were open and a bit of free time, I was able to double that to squeeze in a respectable 24 submissions.

The one acceptance was by the Virginia Writers Club Journal. I’m a member of both the Virginia Writers Club, where I currently serve as Recording Secretary, and its Northern Virginia chapter, where I currently serve as Vice President. In the past, the state club’s journal didn’t have much in the way of acceptance standards for works submitted by members. However, this year, that changed. A new editorial board was installed and now includes editors tasked with raising the bar for works accepted for publication. I’m pleased one of mine made the cut. I’ll, of course, share publication details once released.

From a writing standpoint, I’m both excited and a little scared by this quarter. On the one hand, I’ve been using my runs to plot my next middle grade novel, which I’ll write during this year’s NaNoWriMo. It’s going well. I have most of the plot mapped out, maybe needing only 2-3 more scenes. Also, the family and I are going on vacation. I’m hoping the lack of reliable internet and it being the summer will leave me time in the evenings to write rather than catch up on work.

In addition, yesterday, I submitted to the Virginia Writers Club’s Golden Nib writing contest. As the president of my local chapter the last three years, I was not eligible to submit to this contest. Now that I’ve taken a step back, I am pleased to be able to submit again. Hopefully, the story I chose stands up to the competition better than my submissions several years ago. The judges of this competition over the years have not favored genre work, which is pretty much all I write. Maybe I’ll throw in a poem for something different.

The scary part is I’m not sure what to work on. I have one idea for a short story and another for a flash story. These have been bouncing around in my head for awhile, but I’ve never felt the urge to write them. Maybe it’s time I get them on the screen. There’s no sense waiting for lightning to strike.

That’s it for those three months. How’d your quarter turn out? Any writing triumphs or failures?

1Q22 Update

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I’m a little late on this. I’m not going to lie. The first quarter of this year was tough, probably tougher than any quarter the last two years and those involved a global pandemic. An extended family member passed away; one of my kids was out of daycare for nearly a month, reeking havoc on work and family life, and I ended up in the hospital briefly. Still, it could have been worse. I could live in a country that was invaded and now lays in ruins while its people continue to fight off the foreign aggressor. It sounds like a great story idea if it weren’t so sad and too soon. Still, I am a horror writer now, so maybe there is an idea to be mined there.

Let’s move on to happier thoughts, if my minimal writing exploits can be considered happy.

Words written = 3,509
Submissions = 27
Rejections = 18
Acceptances = 2
Shortlists/Holds = 0
Publications = 1
Rewrites = 0
Withdrawals = 2

I wish I had brought my laptop to the hospital. For those of you who have had the pleasure, you know there is lots of downtime. I could have gotten some more writing in. Most of those words this quarter went toward the current middle-grade sequel WIP. I also managed to sneak a new flash story in there and add to an existing story in an attempt to raise its words to drabble length. For those not in the know, a drabble is an exactly 100 word story. Yes, I took a 50 word “dribble” and increased it to a 100 word “drabble.” That drabble wasn’t accepted, but that same market accounted for one of my two acceptances discussed below.

The two acceptances last quarter were appreciated. One I discussed here. Alien Dimensions #22 contained my story “Field Log.” I’m still pleased that story found a home. It was difficult writing a “found footage” story, so I am glad an editor appreciated the effort.

I was pleased with the second acceptance, as well, which was the drabble market mentioned above. The story itself also was an experimental piece. Titled “Agenda,” it is told in the form of a meeting agenda. Plenty of markets ask for experimental forms, and I’ve seen plenty of stories told in the form of lists, which I enjoy. This was my attempt at something similar but different. Oddly, the story clocked in around 160 words, but to qualify for the market that accepted it, I needed to get it down to 100 words. That was another challenge altogether. When the publication date is released, I’ll share the details.

I also oddly had two withdrawals. One was a mere oversight. A certain publication had a lengthy submission window. Toward the end of that window I submitted a story forgetting that I’d submitted a different story at the beginning of the window. The submission guidelines clearly state multiple submissions are not allowed. Always read and reread the submission guidelines!

The second withdrawal was more bittersweet. I had submitted a collection of short stories for a book contest that I qualified for and that only comes around every two years. A story in that collection fit a market perfectly, the submission window for which opened a little after I had submitted the short story collection. I submitted a sim sub and went about my day, but then the standalone story was accepted! I spent days agonizing over whether to withdraw the short story collection, trying to determine if the exclusivity period for the short story would expire before the winners of the book contest were announced. The numbers didn’t add up. I hate math. Otherwise, I have no regrets. “Field Log” found the perfect home, and I can submit my short story collection in another two years.

What goals do I have for the current quarter? I already added 1000 words to the middle grade WIP. I’m maybe a scene and a half from finishing that book. I plan to complete the first draft, give it a good edit, and then have my oldest daughter read it while on vacation over the summer. She’s the right age group, so it’s great to get appropriate feedback.

Of course, I will continue submitting – always be submitting! I’d also like to finish a short story a friend and I started years ago. Such is life. Finally, I want to brainstorm the book I’ll write during this year’s NaNoWriMo. I have the germ of an idea for a story set between the two middle grade books I wrote the last two years during NaNoWriMo. Now all I need is some good running time before November to hash out the plot.

That was my first quarter of 2022. Let me know in the comments how yours went.

International Publication

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I am pleased to announce the next publication of one of my stories. “Field Log” will appear in Alien Dimensions #22. The ebook version will be released February 22 and is available for pre-order on Amazon here.

For some reason, I have it my head that this anthology series originates in Australia. That’s international to me as I sit on my couch in the United States. However, with the internet, aren’t all publications pretty much international these days? (*Stop stealing my thunder, Rational Self!*)

I’d wanted to submit to this anthology series for some time. It has exceptionally specific submission guidelines as to its content. The editor wants stories involving aliens in a futuristic setting. Nothing should be set on Earth, unless that version of Earth is unrecognizable, and the story should be adventurous and fun.

Luckily for me, I had such a story. I wrote it three years ago and had submitted it to a couple publications but with no takers. I suspected my story would fit this market well, with one exception. For the longest time, the maximum length in the submission guidelines was lower than what my story clocked in at. I thought about doing a little cutting but ultimately decided, in this case, it would do the story a disservice. (Trust me, I don’t always think that with my work. I have found on several occasions that having to cut a story down to meet a submission criteria has benefited the story.)

Finally, my patience paid off. The editor upped the maximum story length. I was in business! Thankfully, the editor agreed that “Field Log” was a good fit for the anthology.

This was a challenging story to write. First, the story involves a human interacting with members of two alien species. The idea for the alien species came from a couple science articles I read in the newspaper. So some of their stranger characteristics are taken from actual animals here on Earth.

Second, the story is in the “found footage” genre. Think The Blair Witch Project. It is told solely through what is seen in a series of recordings. While I typically write in close third-person or third-person limited, I had never written something that completely eliminated the narrator. I enjoyed the challenge but probably will not repeat it.

I am excited to start the year off with a great publication. I hope there are more to come, and I hope you will check out Alien Dimensions #22.

4Q21 Update and 2022 Goals

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It’s time to see how I closed out 2021 and then check in on how I did for the entire year. I also failed to provide my annual NaNoWriMo recap last month, so I’m tossing that in here too.

  • Words written = 16,100
  • Submissions = 24
  • Rejections = 17
  • Acceptances = 0
  • Shortlists = 0
  • Publications = 0
  • Rewrites = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

The amount written was significantly higher during the fourth quarter, which has been typical for me the last several years thanks to the NaNoWriMo bump. The submissions were only a couple off my usual of 25-30 during a quarter. Rejections matched that of 1Q. Based on my numbers last year, editors plow through submissions during 2Q and 3Q but took it easy the other two quarters. Most disappointing was the lack of an acceptance during the fourth quarter. That torpedoed my goal of at least one acceptance a quarter.

The bulk of the quarter’s writing (about 15k) went to the middle grade novel I started for NaNoWriMo. It’s a sequel to the one I wrote during last year’s challenge. Unlike last year, I didn’t finish; and I still haven’t finished. December came, and all those things I had put off in November to write came home to roost. I did manage to crank out three flash (or shorter) pieces, two of which in the last week of December while on vacation. Even so, my vacation wasn’t as productive as usual. Something else to work on in the new year.

So how do the numbers for all of 2021 look?

  • Words written = 24,725
  • Submissions = 108
  • Rejections = 97
  • Acceptances = 3
  • Shortlists = 1
  • Publications = 3
  • Rewrites = 1
  • Withdrawals = 1

The numbers don’t lie. My volume of writing was pitiful. At least I kept up with submissions, and once again cracked the 100 mark. I came close to that mark with rejections as well, but I have less control over that number. Three acceptances/publications isn’t terrible for me, but every writer wants more.

I don’t plan to make many adjustments as far as my 2022 goals. I’d like to hit 100 submissions again. I already submitted one yesterday. 99 to go. On the flip side, I already received my first rejection of 2022. I’d also like to average one acceptance a quarter. Acceptance droughts are never pleasant.

As for words written, that’s a tough one. My total has decreased every year since a high in 2018 (my first full year of writing). I’m going for it and setting a 40,000 word goal. One of my three volunteer positions ends this month, so I’m hoping that will free up a little time. Now if only the day job would cooperate.

By way of specific projects, I intend to finish the WIP started during this year’s NaNoWriMo, as well as a short story I’ve been co-writing with a friend that took the back burner last year. I’d also like to complete another pass through my first middle grade novel and maybe get that professionally edited before starting the whole querying process. And, of course, fire out various short stories. Fresh stories always means more submissions.

How productive was your fourth quarter and 2021? What writing goals have you set for 2022? Let me know in the comments.

3Q21 Update

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Happy Halloween! Since I’m a horror writer now, it makes sense for me to post my quarterly update on October 31. Or this is finally when I had time to post. Either way, how’d I do? How’d last quarter hold against prior quarters? Let’s find out.

  • Words written = 1,170
  • Submissions = 27
  • Rejections = 32
  • Acceptances = 1
  • Shortlists = 0
  • Publications = 1
  • Rewrites = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

My 3Q21 is almost a mirror image to my 2Q21. The word count was down, but who’s quibbling over 1170 v. 2050. Either is anemic. The submissions (27 v. 29) and rejections (32 v. 31) were spot on. I even had a single acceptance, keeping alive my streak (and goal) of one a quarter.

As I said, the words written weren’t much to look at. They consisted of adding about 900 words to the middle-grade novel I wrote last year and am currently editing, and the rest went to a flash story I needed to lengthen to open up more submission markets.

What’s my excuse this time? There’s the usual over-scheduled schedule. However, I’ve been thinking about it, and I think it’s something else. As I’ve mentioned here in the past, I do the majority of my writing brainstorming (i.e. working out plot points and developing new ideas) while on my morning runs. Due to a foot injury, I haven’t run since May 19. Developing ideas and plots on my runs in turn motivates me to write. No running = no brainstorming = no motivation. Either I need to heal, or I need to find another brainstorming process.

The one acceptance and publication is a reprint short story. The good folks at MetaStellar published “Cramping Your Style” on their website. Read for free here.

What’s on tap for 4Q21? This is usual my best quarter words-wise thanks to National Novel Writing Month in November. This year, I’m writing the sequel to the middle-grade book I wrote during last year’s NaNoWriMo. As is often the case with writers, I have the beginning and ending worked out in my head. I simply need to flesh out that pesky middle. Here’s hoping inspiration strikes at some point in November.

Summer Vacation – 2021 Style

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This summer, the family took a road trip to several state and national parks in New Hampshire and Maine. None of us had every been. It felt like an extension of our time in the Smokey Mountains over Spring Break back in April. When you don’t want to catch COVID, avoid people by going to giant parks.

I often experience some of my best inspiration and motivation to write while on vacation. It makes me wonder how productive I would be as a writer without a pesky day job. (There’s also that pesky income that comes with the day job.)

Unfortunately, this was not one of those trips where I was inspired to write. Instead, I was inspired to edit. I furiously edited my middle grade work-in-progress before departing. I wanted to churn out another draft, so my daughter could read it during the trip. We also were visiting my cousin’s family, and I wanted her son to read it as well. Both are in the target audience for the book, and I wanted their feedback both overall and on the specific language used, i.e. did I use terms that 7-8 year olds understand.

During the trip, I edited a couple stories that needed revisions but mostly needed to be lengthened before they went off to their next submission. That added a few hundred words to my quarterly total, but not too much.

I also edited a novella of a fellow writer in the Northern Virginia Writers Club. The novella was set in the South, and being a Southerner, he asked for comments on its authenticity. I readily obliged.

Then I tackled a stack of magazines that had piled up. They tend to do that throughout the year until I tear through them all at once, like on this trip.

Finally, it was time to come home. Our two weeks were up, and I’d barely written a thing. I still felt productive. I often find that editing gives a similar satisfactory feeling to writing, once it’s done. It’s kind of a slog during. It’s an especially nice feeling when you reread what you wrote, realize it’s not total crap, and know you’ve made it better with the edits.

I’m still hoping to get some more words in this quarter. I have about six weeks. I would love to get a couple stories written before October when I’d like to turn to outlining my NaNoWriMo project. I’ll have more on that with my 3Q21 update.

Reprints, the Gift that Keeps on Giving

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When I first started writing – all of four years ago – I didn’t give much thought to reprints. I didn’t even know what a reprint was. I should have though. I own a bunch. Every anthology of classic science fiction stories I’ve bought through the years contains nothing but reprints. I had no idea at the time, but all those stories had appeared previously, likely in the pulp magazines during the Golden Age of Science Fiction. (As an aside, I’m currently reading Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction by Alec Nevala-Lee; so this era is very much on my mind.)

As a novice short story writer, acceptances still don’t come all that often. I’m sitting at a baker’s dozen at the moment. When a publisher accepts a story, I’m elated. I promote the release. And I move on, primarily focusing on writing new material and continuing to submit my other stories that still need a home.

Maybe I should rethink that after my most recent acceptance. The good folks at Metastellar: Speculative Fiction and Beyond accepted my reprint “Cramping Your Style” for publication on August 18. For those keeping county, I’ve submitted a total of two reprints one time each; and both have been accepted. That means I’m batting 1.000 on reprint submissions. Gotta like that average.

“Cramping Your Style” is a middle grade soccer story with a speculative twist. If you want to read it for free, come back on the 18th. I’ll have a link to the story on my Publications page. And give some love to MetaStellar on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mag_meta, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MetaStellarMagazine, and on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MetaStellar.

2Q21 Update

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Another quarter makes like a staked vampire and bites the dust, so it’s time to look back at my writing exploits (or lack thereof).

  • Words written = 2,050
    • Submissions = 29
    • Rejections = 31
    • Acceptances = 1
    • Shortlists = 0
    • Publications = 1
    • Rewrites = 0
    • Withdrawals = 0

My submissions were right in line with last quarter (28 v. 29), and I’m on track for my goal of 100 for the year. I was sitting at 57 as of the end of the quarter and have sent two more since.

Rejections were up. I suspected my rejection number from 1Q21 was unusually low. While I hoped that meant a couple submissions were under further consideration, no such luck. More likely several editors pursued other interests away from the slush pile. How dare they!

I technically had one acceptance, thus meeting my goal of one a quarter. My story, “Lottery Winnings,” appears in the Summer 2021 Journal of the Virginia Writers Club, a publication of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry written by members of the Virginia Writers Club. The bar for acceptance wasn’t too high, but I appreciate being included.

The amount of actual writing I did was pitiful. Those 2050 words went toward three projects. About half were spread across two existing stories that needed a little editing before heading off for their next submissions. The other half went to a new horror flash fiction story. It’s based on a gate that I saw while on vacation to the Smokey Mountains in March. In fact, it’s pictured in the featured image for this post. I knew the first time I drove by (it was on the way to our rental) that I needed a picture and it would inspire a great story. And it did! I just need an editor somewhere to think so too.

Other than that horror flash story, I’ll admit I’m in a bit of a creative funk as far as ideas for new stories go. However, I have been doing a lot of editing. I’m even finally editing my middle grade WIP. I went old school and printed out a copy, and now there are blue ink edits all over the clean, white pages. I prefer blue over red. My beta readers, who were awesome, for the WIP consistently had two comments. First, I should mention a couple characters early on, who play a larger role later in the story, so those characters don’t appear to come out of nowhere. The second was I should flesh out the description of a couple scenes. The latter point I had suspected and had asked my beta readers specifically to look at. I thought the former point was spot on as well, and I’ve done just that. There happened to be a perfect spot in the story early on where I could name drop those characters.

Despite consistently adding to the text, with the few cuts I also made, the WIP only grew by about 900 words. But I’ll include those in the tally for 3Q21 since I finished editing in July. I plan to ask my oldest daughter and her cousin, both who are in the target audience for this middle grade book, to be my final two beta readers. I’ll see how these harshest of critics react.

This is where I outline my goals for the next quarter, but I’m drawing a blank. Once I get comments back from my two young beta readers, I plan to do another thorough edit of my middle grade WIP. I also have an idea for a story, but I’ve been debating whether it’s of flash length or a more typical short story length. Part of this may be related to my laziness. It’s much less time consuming to work on a flash story. I should simply start writing and see what length the story wants to be. The family is going on vacation again later this summer. Maybe I can find several quiet nights to hammer out this story and see where it takes me.

That’s it on my end. How’d your quarter/month/week of writing turn out?

Apparently, I’m a Horror Author

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I’m not sure when it happened, but I write horror now. Two of the last three stories I’ve sold have been solidly in the horror genre. The most recent, “Camping with the Carnival,” was just released today in Night Terror’s Vol. 14. Check it out in eBook, print, or Kindle Unlimited. An eAudio version will be out soon.

To give you a little background, my family went COVID-camping with my sister and brother-in-law last autumn. They had been on their own weeks long camping vacation (what better way to have a social distant vacation), and we met them for the weekend at their last stop. That night, my sister described some of the stranger people they’d encountered at their campsites. I immediately thought those people would make fantastic characters in a horror story. And they did.

I’ve sold to this market before. My story “Shadow” made it into Night Terror’s Vol. 6. The odd part is my sister also inspired that story. I wonder what it is about her and horror stories.

Below is a little taste of “Camping with the Carnival.” I hope it wets your appetite for me.

***

A dark stain blanketed the tent floor. An equally dark trail ran over the entry lip, continuing through the campsite and out onto the road. Something about the ichor smelled familiar–like the blood of its usual prey–but not quite the same. This caught the intruder’s attention. It ducked inside, shaking the entire tent in the process and uprooting several of the stakes securing it to the ground. It paid no attention to the stains adorning the remaining tent walls like a gruesome Rorschach test. Licking its lips to remove the last of the sample it had tried, the figure turned back to the slick trail, following it toward the campground’s communal firepit.