I’m a writer; apart from assembling book covers out of stock photos, I don’t art. But I do keep tabs on fiction magazines (mostly fantasy, horror, and science fiction) who are looking for cover artists and illustrators. Below are some of the many markets out there for artists. They’re looking for cover art, banner art, and illustrations; some take reprints, while some are looking to commission original work. For more information, click the magazine name–all links go to artist guidelines.

If you know of something that should be on the list, let me know. Good luck!

(WARNING: I’m not affiliated with any of the following markets, aside from being published in a few of them. I don’t keep very close tabs and can’t promise all the information below is up to date and correct. As when submitting fiction, always, ALWAYS read the guidelines on their website before clicking SEND.)



What they want:

We are interested in professional-level, mostly realistic work. Photographs are not normally used, but artists illustrating for us have worked with photos, using surrealistic effects.
The illustration must be able to visually interpret the story in such a way that it accurately represents the story, hooks the reader into reading it, and doesn’t give away the ending. The subject matter of the stories usually contain a wide range of things that you must be able to draw. We would like to see an ability to illustrate an entire scene; one that not only has a character or characters, but also has a detailed background. You must know anatomy, perspective, balance, and figure proportions. We are not a comic book company, so please don’t send samples of comics pages.

How to submit:

Send four to six samples of your best work. Do not send us your originals. Send only copies. They can be photocopies, stats, slides, transparencies, or tearsheets.

For either black and white interiors or color covers, you can use any medium. Many of our artists use pencil, pen & ink, airbrush, watercolor, scratchboard, etc. Electronic files are acceptable as long as it is in Mac format, eps or tiff, but please send a disk – DO NOT E-MAIL THE FILES!

Please include a self-addressed stamped, business-sized envelope for a response, or a large one if you want your samples returned to you.

Apex Magazine

What they want:

We offer $60 for digital reprint rights for cover art.

How to submit:

If you’d like for your art to be considered for Apex Magazine please send an email to lesley@apex-magazine.com that includes a link to your online gallery. We do not commission original work for the magazine, only preexisting art.

Ares Magazine

What they want:

We need cover and interior art. We can work with most media — oils, 3D, Photoshop — but we are particular with respect to the subject matter. See the genre list, below. If we know what game title and theme we wish to use for the next issue, we’ll post it so you can provide submissions in line with what we seek.

How to submit:

Please eMail all submissions to submissions@ossgames.com.

Bards and Sages Quarterly

What they want:

Cover Art: Art should tell a story in its own right, and not just be a character sketch. While artists may submit a low resolution file for consideration, we will need a 300 dpi or better file for publication.  We will consider reprints of images that have not previously appeared as cover art elsewhere.

How to submit:

Artwork can be either black and white or full color, and should be submitted as a jpg, png, or tiff file attachment. Art should be sized for 8″ x 10″ page (full bleed). $25 plus one copy of the print journal

Bete Noire

What they want:

At this time, we are only accepting interior artwork.  It must be your original work and in black and white only, no color artwork will be accepted for the interior of the magazine. And it should go without saying that the artwork should be dark in nature.  However, we cannot accept anything with graphic nudity or sex.  Dark humor is always an interest to us, so if you have a comic of dark humor send it along as long as it’s no more than six frames. We are also accepting black and white photographs for the interior of the magazine.  All photos must be original and dark, but again, just like the artwork we cannot accept anything with graphic nudity or sex.

How to submit:

All artwork needs to be in JPEG format and attached to the email.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies

What they want:

We only buy a few pieces of artwork a year, so we don’t take submissions of artwork. But we are interested in names of artists and links to their portfolios, so that when we are ready to buy art, we can check out their work.

How to submit:

If you’re an artist and would like us to put your name on our list to check out the next time we’re looking for artwork, please take a look at our past Cover Art, to see what sort of artwork we like (usually landscapes or vistas of fantastical-looking places). Then feel free to send us your information using our Contact page, and include links to a couple of your pieces that you feel might show the sort of vibe we’re looking for.

Black Static

What they want:

We are always happy to hear from artists wanting to illustrate stories and/or supply cover art.

How to submit:

Send us a portfolio through the post that we can keep on file, or use this website’s contact form to point us to your website or gallery.

Cemetery Dance

What they want:

We solicit all our cover and interior artwork directly.

How to submit:

Query first with samples. At this time, Art Director Mindy Jarusek would prefer to receive and view artwork samples and submissions online, if possible. Please do not send LARGE attachments. Links to your website, online samples, or a web-based portfolio would be best. If you must send attachments, please email first for our requirements. For all artwork related questions and submissions, please contact art@cemeterydance.com and Mindy will reply if she’s interested in seeing more. Thank you.


What they want:

Cicada seeks talented artists who are making thoughtful (or flippant), beautiful (or unsettling), exuberant (or quiet) comics, zines, visual poems, sequential graphic narratives, or any other work in image and/or text. We commission original stories from a brief pitch, and give developmental feedback through the production process.

How to submit:

We’re always looking for new artists! If you’re interested in sharing your portfolio with us, email cicada@cricketmedia.com.

Cricket Media:

What they want:

Illustrations are by assignment only.

Before submitting, be sure to familiarize yourself with our magazines.  Sample copies are available for viewing at the Cricket Media Store where you can also purchase a current issue. Issues are also available at many local libraries.

How to submit:

PLEASE DO NOT send original artwork. Send postcards, promotional brochures, or color photocopies. Be sure that each sample is marked with your name, address, phone number and website or blog. Art submissions will not be returned.

The Dark

What they want:

We purchase pre-existing pieces of art and rarely commission original art for covers.

How to submit:

Submit an inquiry along with samples (preferably a link to an online gallery).


What they want:

The Drabblecast is a vibrant art market, with more than 300 original pieces generated. Lay your eyes upon the maddening scope as you scroll through back episodes. All styles, media, and skill levels will be considered.

How to submit:

To donate your talents and join our art core, contact art director Bo Kaier at bo@drabblecast.org and express your intention. A portfolio link or some work samples will help Bo pair you with a story.

Expanded Horizons

What they want:

We are looking for high-quality artwork that furthers the mission of the magazine.  Please read our general fiction submissions guidelines, as those apply here too. All work should be speculative fiction themed. We are also interested in artwork that illustrates existing stories available on our site. If you decide to illustrate a story, please mention the story title in your e-mail.

How to submit:

The files should use one of the three standard web image formats: JPG, GIF or PNG, saved at 72 dpi.  Please do not submit more than three pieces at one time. If the total filesize is over 2 MB, do not send the files in e-mail – use a free web-based filesending service or some alternate method. (Ask us if you need assistance.)

Fantasy Scroll Magazine

What they want:

We are looking for interesting art that complements the type of stories we publish: speculative in the science fiction, fantasy, or horror genres. We publish four times a year so we need four covers and a few images for each issue.

Since we publish speculative fiction, your art should be a match to the stories we like. We are talking about robots and dragons, castles and spaceships, swords and lasers. Anything goes; the weirder the better.

How to submit:

We have a dedicated art submission form that you can use.

Future Science Fiction Digest

What they want:

We’re seeking non-exclusive rights for high-quality art to be used as issue covers. We’re also asking for the rights to use issue cover art to produce promotional items such as bookmarks and banners as well as to display the partial crop of the image at the top of the issue’s web page. We pay $200 per image.

How to submit:

If you wish your artwork to be considered please reach out via email or social media and provide a link to your gallery.

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly

What they want:

HFQ is looking for quality banner art to accompany each new issue. Please review art from the past two issues to see the style we prefer. Image dimensions should be approximately 850 x 250 pixels.

How to submit:

If you’d like us to consider your work please email a link to the website where your art is displayed.

InterGalactic Medicine Show

What they want:

All illustrations and artwork in IGMS are by assignment. If you wish to be considered for art assignments, we would like to be shown samples of your work.

How to submit:

After filling out our submission form , you will be asked either to send us a .zip file containing .jpg files showing your work in black and white or color, or provide us with a link to your website, where we can see free and easily accessible samples of your art at a size that lets us see details of your technique.


What they want:

We are looking for primarily full-color illustrations to serve as cover art. In addition, we occasionally feature both color and black-and-white sketches, comics, cartoons, photography, loose odds and ends that might also fit elsewhere. Elsewhere is typically with the Horoscopes, so typically humorous, though that’s not a rule set in stone. We currently do not commission new cover artwork or pieces to appear with individual stories and poems.

How to submit:

If you would like to share a link to your online gallery, please do so, preferably indicating art that you would like us to consider.

On Spec

What they want:

We accept submissions from Canadians and non-Canadians. We accept both existing art and proposals. Note that if you’re sending in a sketch for a proposal, we still require an example of your colour work. Please include ONLY pre-existing works in colour as we print the cover in colour. Include your website–we can take a look of other examples of your work. We pay $400 for cover art (both pre-existing and original), plus $50 for interior art. The artist owns their artwork–we only license the artwork as part of the front cover and interior of an issue. Our cover dimensions are 5.25 width by 8 height in inches (note that images can be scaled down to a similar ratio). We incorporate the following: the On Spec logo, price and other information in an upper corner and the contributor’s names.

How to submit:

We only accept JPG files through Submittables. If we feel your work fits as a cover, we will contact you to discuss using an existing artwork OR commissioning an original for the magazine.

Persistent Visions:

What they want:

Persistent Visions is looking for illustrators to provide art to complement our stories.

How to submit:

If you would like to be considered, send an email to our art editor. Please include a link to your portfolio, your typical turnaround time for a single-page full-color illustration, and your rate.

Strange Horizons

What they want:

Beginning in January of 2014, Strange Horizons will run artwork with one story each month. This artwork will be commissioned or selected by the fiction editors to accompany the story’s tone and content.

How to submit:

If you would like to be considered as a potential artist for Strange Horizons, please send a link to your portfolio and/or up to 3 example image files (as links or attached as .png or .jpg, not more than 1000×1000 pixels) to art@strangehorizons.com.

Turn to Ash

What they want:

Turn To Ash is a horror fiction zine. I’m looking for submissions of short fiction and black and white artwork.

How to submit:

Artwork subs can be made in whatever file format works best for the artist. If we agree on printing your artwork in Turn To Ash, we’ll work out the best way to get print-ready files into my hands.  All submissions can be addressed to “Ben”, “Benjamin”, “Editor”, or “hey, you”.

Uncanny Magazine

What they want:

Uncanny pays $100 for reprint art.

How to submit:

Please feel free to email art queries to uncannymagazine [at] gmail [dot] com with a link to your portfolio.


What they want:

We generally pay $35 for single images, and $75 per short story illustrated, which involves 2-3 full-page images, and some smaller incidental drawings to decorate the pages. Higher amounts will be offered for especially detailed illustration projects. If an illustration is chosen to also act as the cover of an issue, you will receive an additional $15. For an idea of how we illustrate our stories, you can look at our free minizine, though we now require all illustrations to be in color.

How to submit:

To apply to be an illustrator, please submit 1-5 pieces that best display your style and talent, as well as links to your portfolio or website where your work can be found.


Want to learn how to send out your short fiction to magazines like a pro? Check out my Total Beginner’s Guide to Submitting Short Fiction for Publication.

Was this useful to you? I wouldn’t turn down a delicious coffee.

Or check out the book I assembled with my sister Megan Engelhardt, Wolves and Witches: a Fairy Tale Collection

It’s year-end writing-stats time!

HOW WAS 2015?

Not my greatest!

Between starting a new job and a powerful, persistent Crisis of Writing Faith (TM) I went months without reading, writing, or submitting. Which is not a good strategy for achieving strong writing stats. That’s not to say nothing happened–I had a lot of cool achievements throughout the year, almost entirely thanks to work I did in 2014 and earlier–but I’m really hoping to get my submissions train back on the rails in 2016.


Not bad, thank you!

The big change to my writing income was that I started making book covers. (In case you needed additional evidence that there’s more money in selling services to writers than in writing, but I digress.) I ran a series of blog posts wherein I practiced for free in public, then made a bunch of premade covers and got some commissions. It’s a skill I’m glad I started learning, and as you can see in the pie chart, a pretty nice boost to my writing/publishing income.

Untitled“Sold Previous Years” means I logged the sale prior to 2015 and only this year got paid for it. “Flat” means I was paid a flat rate, i.e. not royalties.

“Trad-Pub Royalties” come entirely from Wolves and Witches, the collection of fairy-tale retellings with my sister Megan Engelhardt that came out in 2013. “Self-Pub Royalties” come from the my three self-published reprints, primarily The Lair of the Twelve Princesses with the vast majority of those sales through Amazon but some through Smashwords and its partners. (Incidentally, Lair is on sale this week for 99 cents, a complete coincidence that it fell at the time I made this post.) (That was a fiction.)

And check out those affiliate fees! Amazon Associates has been pretty good to me. If you have a website that you link to Amazon from–even a Twitter!–you should sign up. It’s a trickle, but it ain’t nothing.

Those numbers are pretty similar to 2014, for the record.


Here are my stats:

  • 69 rejections
  • 15 sales
  • 7 submissions still pending

I didn’t do a particularly good job with keeping my pieces in circulation this year, and a lot of those rejections were for poems sent 3-5 at a time. Not only that, but I’m almost out of inventory. Despite myself, I did make some sales–including some pretty neat ones.




You guys! This year my work was podcasted, included in a Year’s Best anthology, reprinted in gift-edition hardback alongside hilariously famous classic horror authors, and translated into French. That’s neat!


Dreadful! I wrote all of, what, four short stories (two for Rhonda Parrish, bless her heart) and a couple poems? I did finish one novel edit and make serious progress on two more, plus I put tens of thousands of words into novels that remain unfinished. Like many elements of this blog post: it’s not nothing, but it’s not what I expect of myself.


The big goal is to have two of my YA fantasy novels fully revised by World Fantasy Con, which I’m attending with Megan Engelhardt. (It’s my birthday weekend, and next door in Ohio! YOU SHOULD COME.) That will put me at three query-able manuscripts.

Meanwhile, I’d like to return to #10bythen, or ten submissions per month. I’ve also got an adult fantasy novel to complete, and I hope to spend NaNoWriMo 2016 on original work instead of rewrites. Then there’s the whole “actually producing new stories and poems” thing which I hear is PRETTY INTEGRAL to selling new stories and poems.


Link me your 2015 stats post, or tell me in the comments what you accomplished!

wolves-and-witches-cover_fullAmanda C. Davis and Megan Engelhardt are sisters. Their stories and poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies from around the world. They wrote Wolves and Witches to collect their fairy-tale retellings and because they wanted to create something together. The volume sold to World Weaver Press and the book was released in 2013. So far their stories have been performed in competition, adapted for podcasts, read aloud at conferences, and discussed in book clubs. Wow!

Wolves and Witches contains retellings of Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Diamonds and Toads, the Twelve Dancing Princesses, the Little Mermaid, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel, the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The new edition contains interviews with the authors and a set of discussion questions for book clubs or classrooms.

Here are ten short stories and poems

from Amanda C. Davis and Megan Engelhardt

that you can read right now for free!

1. The Instructions by Amanda C. Davis

Elves never work for free. A darkly funny modern take on The Elves and the Shoemaker.

Read it: The Instructions at Daily Science Fiction

2. Untruths About the Desirability of Wolves by Megan Engelhardt

Traumatic experiences in your childhood can really mess with your head, but Little Red Riding Hood swears she’s fine.

Read it: Untruths About the Desirability of Wolves at Enchanted Conversation

3. Crown of Bells by Amanda C. Davis

The Disney version of Beauty and the Beast turns the servants into objects, but some tellings curse the servants with invisibility. In this poem, a servant learns to be invisible.

Read it: Crown of Bells at Mirror Dance

4. The Witch of the Wolfwoods by Amanda C. Davis

Granny is hiding something. What big teeth she has! A poem twisting the intentions of an underestimated character in Little Red Riding Hood.

Read it: The Witch of the Wolfwoods at Enchanted Conversation

5. The Long Con by Megan Engelhardt

This sly story wonders why an accomplished magician like Rumpelstiltskin even wanted someone else’s child. And he’s not the only one who wonders.

Read it: The Long Con at Daily Science Fiction

6. Song of Snow by Amanda C. Davis

Before Snow White and her Prince start a new life together, they have business to take care of. A juicy, sweet love poem with poison at the core.

Read it: Song of Snow at Enchanted Conversation

7. A Shining Spindle Can Still Be Poisoned by Amanda C. Davis

What do princes expect to find, when they awaken princesses who haven’t been seen for a hundred years? This poem retelling of Sleeping Beauty has bite.

Read it: A Shining Spindle Can Still Be Poisoned at Goblin Fruit

8. The Peril of Stories by Amanda C. Davis

The witch who kidnapped Rapunzel (Mother Gothel, in some tellings) truly wanted a child. A beautiful, talented, and most of all, obedient child. A story about stories.

Read it: The Peril of Stories at Enchanted Conversation

9. Her Dark Materials by Amanda C. Davis

Cinderella’s fairy godmother isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. A poem about magic.

Read it: Her Dark Materials at Enchanted Conversation

10. The Best Boy, the Brightest Boy

The Pied Piper of Hamelin kidnaps a village full of children–and oh, they have such fun–but he only really needs one. A wicked story about wild, enchanting music.

Listen to it: The Best Boy, the Brightest Boy at Drabblecast

Get more fairy tale retellings in Wolves and Witches at your favorite online bookseller!

Witches have stories too. So do mermaids, millers’ daughters, princes (charming or otherwise), even big bad wolves. They may be a bit darker—fewer enchanted ball gowns, more iron shoes. Happily-ever-after? Depends on who you ask. In Wolves and Witches, sisters Amanda C. Davis and Megan Engelhardt weave sixteen stories and poems out of familiar fairy tales, letting them show their teeth.

We read all our stories aloud before submitting them–they’re meant to be fun to read and easy on the tongue. Try them out as prose and poetry pieces for competition, oral interpretation pieces, or readings for class–or just because reading aloud is fun!


Buy me a coffee at ko-fi.com

Craving something longer? The Lair of the Twelve Princesses is a 9000-word sword-and-sorcery novelette, retelling the tale of the twelve dancing princesses featuring a soldier, her genie, and a castle full of treachery, available now at Smashwords or Amazon.


My premade ebook covers are designed to get your novel out the door with a dynamic cover quickly and seamlessly. Each cover is unique and sold only once.* I’m initially focusing on romance, young adult contemporary, new adult, and women’s fiction, but check back often for new covers. (If you don’t see exactly what you want, I’m also available for custom coverscontact me for a quote.)

How It Works:

  1. Fill in the form below with the required information.
  2. I’ll add your information to the cover you chose and email you a low-res proof copy.
  3. After you approve the cover and send payment (PayPal or check accepted), I’ll email you the final 1400 x 2100 pixel version in the format of your choice.
  4. Questions? Don’t hesitate to ask!

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34 roadrage
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35 secret
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36 kingdomcome
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19 tulip
#19 – $35
20 littlehouse
#20 – $35
21 couplekissing2
#21 – $35
22 poppies2
#22 – $35
23 scarytree
#23 – $50
24 suitman4
25 snowyroad
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26 purplecorn
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27 bluetrees2
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28 pinkclouds
– $40
29 yellowswamp
– $35
30 staircase
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31 suitman3
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32 bluesky
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*I use stock photos**, so I can’t promise the image is exclusive to your book, but I won’t resell my designs. After they’re claimed, they’re gone!

**Right now all of my source photos come from CC0 sites like Gratisography, Skitterphoto, Unsplash, and the like. I’ll send you information about the specific images used on request at purchase. I suppose that means you could hunt down these photos and create your own versions, but my typography is ace, and you don’t want to miss out. ^_^

This post first appeared on World Weaver Press as “When to Trash Your Flash” in July 2013.

This mess has to go.

A couple of weeks ago, my local writers’ group issued a flash fiction prompt, and I completely bombed it. I made four wildly different attempts. All were terrible. This isn’t unusual; I write a lot of flash fiction, especially prompted or to theme, and I end up retiring most of it right away. This time, when I griped on Twitter about discarding all those bad stories, someone ended up asking: Well, how do you know if your story is a dud?

Good question!

I don’t explicitly use a rubric to decide whether to put a story into circulation or throw it into a locked drawer, but I probably could. Here’s the one question I ask myself when I suspect a story isn’t working:

Is it really a story?

Most of my stories fail by not actually having all the elements that make a story satisfying and salable. They’re oddly easy to skip. I like to use the definition Marion Zimmer Bradley gives in her essay What Is a Short Story?:


This is meant to apply to commercial genre short fiction, and a genius can break any guidelines they want, but I write genre and am no genius. I could write reams about the meaning of “likable” in this context, but I take it as “someone you don’t hate reading about”–whether you’d actually want to meet them or not. Writing dark fiction, I also don’t believe that achieving the goal is strictly necessary, although I do believe the failure to achieve it should be the climactic point, and that failure should be the character’s own fault.

Personally, my failed stories almost always fall short on the points of ODDS and EFFORTS.

Here’s a storyline I write a lot: a character wants something, does what it takes to get it, and succeeds. This isn’t a story. There’s no opposition–the “odds” are unimpressive. People following me on Twitter know that I bake a lot, but I only tweet about the disasters. Nobody wants to hear about the time you made a cake according to the recipe and it turned out fine. They want to hear about the time your cat dropped something in the batter.

Here’s another storyline I used to write a lot, when I was new and did more horror: something bad happens to a character, who tries to escape, but can’t. The problem’s not that they fail, but that a) the “odds” didn’t initially spring from their own wants or actions, and b) the “goal” is a return to normal. It’s hard to make a satisfying narrative out of such tenuous cause-and-effect and such a commonplace goal.

They look like stories: they’re about yea long, they’re fiction, they’re made up of words. They sure feel like stories when I’m writing them. But taken as a whole, they don’t hold up.

So if this thing I wrote is not a story, what is it? When I’m able to stand back and really evaluate a failed story, I can usually reframe it as a different form of writing. Maybe it’s just a proof-of-concept for an interesting storytelling mechanic. Maybe it’s a scenario worth exploring further. Maybe I was just test-running a new character type. I never regret having written what I wrote; something about it must have intrigued me enough to do it. Running a quick eye over Bradley’s definition, however, tells me whether to retire it (NEVER to delete it–nothing’s THAT bad) or to send it on into the world.

I rarely manage to “fix” a piece of flash fiction. It’s more efficient for me to just write another piece. Speaking of which, I finally got back on that local writers’ group prompt. Fifth try, almost done. The main character wants something, and goes for it, but runs into unexpected opposition and has to either overcome the problem or change her goals. Sounds like a story to me.


wolves_and_witches_tinyTo read the stories and poems I didn’t trash, check out Wolves and Witches, a collection of dark fairy tale retellings with Megan Engelhardt, from World Weaver Press, 2013. Or you can find all my available work on my Read Free page and bibliography!


More writing advice:

Cataloging My Kinks – How to find the story elements you’re passionate about writing.

The Total Beginner’s Guide to Submitting Short Fiction for Publication – The name says it all: getting started confidently and effectively.

Wounds on Our Fronts: Failure and Success – How long should you keep submitting a story that’s racking up rejections? Longer than you think.

Motivation-Encouragement Profiles – Figuring out what makes you write more and what helps you to love it.

It’s year-end writing-stats time!


So much!

I learned to love making book covers.

She's got a sword, a genie, and three days to live. When the going gets weird, all you can do is stick by your friends and hang on to your brains. Coming soon from Megan Engelhardt! Were-eels. For Heather Ratcliff on the occasion of her foot surgery.

This year I really opened up my writing revenue streams by reprinting some of my work to Kindle, Smashwords, and QuarterReads. They’re not STRONG revenue streams, but they’re not nothing.



I slipped into WorldCon for a day and WFC for three, which was 100% delightful on both counts. You guys are so great in person!!

I underwent a thorough and harrowing fifth revision of a certain novel, which is nearly done, at last.


Here are my submission numbers:

  • 81 rejections
  • 14 sales
  • 21 submissions still pending

I am way happier with those numbers than I am with last year’s. They’re more in line with what I like to see from myself. Those sales include five stories to pro-paying markets, four audio reprints, two poetry sales, and, fingers crossed it comes through, a foreign translation reprint.




I had a weird year!

I got about 110k new words written, which has been my yearly pace for a very long time now. (Last year was a fluke.) That pace delivered me about 17 finished shorts and poems, another 25k on last year’s novel, and an embarrassing assortment of unfinished nonsense.

Did I mention revising nearly an entire novel for the fifth time?


I’m aiming for what I consider a fairly easy 3k/week pace, which will still wildly increase my output of new words, depending on how hard I cheat. I have quite a few unfinished and imperfect stories to whip into shape. I’m planning to complete my adult fantasy novel, rewrite one other YA fantasy novel, and start seeking an agent for the YA fantasy that’s nearly done. I plan to keep up with #10bythen, or ten submissions per month. (I assume saying all this will help me actually do it.) I don’t have any convention or additional self-publishing plans, but who knows what will come up.


Link me your 2014 stats post, or tell me in the comments what you accomplished!

NaNoWriMo starts in two months (*pauses to let the hyperventilation pass*) and I’m in once more, for my third (!) year as a Municipal Liaison and tenth (!!) year participating. I write year-round and I’m never short of projects, but I like to use NaNo to experiment, indulge, connect, and generally enjoy my hobby that, these days, tends to feel more like work.

I also like to do NaNo with a new, standalone story idea. To that end, it’s time for me to run my best off-season writing exercise.

I don’t have a name for it. (So if you’re clever, suggest one–maybe something like Gail Simone‘s recent #MyThemesAre.) I take a blank sheet of paper, write FAVORITE STORY ELEMENTS at the top, and list twenty or thirty things I currently think are awesome.

In fandom they’re called “kinks” whether or not they’re of a sexual nature, or “squees” (as opposed to “squicks”) whether or not they’re positive moments. Most of these can be found cataloged on TV Tropes–but don’t go there, it’s more important that you name them yourself, and also TV Tropes is an Internet tar pit, where productivity goes to die. Look, I didn’t even link to it.

Types of story elements include:

Character archetypes or subtypes
Emotional beats (ex., “David Tennant cries in rain”)
Very Important Opinions
Plot twists
Forms of dialogue (ex., “snappy”)

Everything goes in the list, no matter how weirdly specific, fleeting, or inconsequential. And it doesn’t matter if they work together or not. Even opposites are fine! It’s less of a checklist than a wishlist.

The quicker you write, the better; the goal is to draw from your id, so the list is as potent as possible. It’s also a good way to suss out what’s made an impression on you recently, that you might want to explore on your own. My list this year includes “allies who kind of hate each other”–thanks, Guardians of the Galaxy! They can also be valuable insight, if you do them regularly. Why did I love X book so much? Why do I never get sick of writing Y? Why are my curtains blue?*

Once I’m done, I don’t try to form a story out of what I’ve got. I just read it over and bask in how awesome it would be to use those elements. Then I put it away. But it’s brought those elements to the front of my brain, so when I do start coming up with a NaNo idea–a proper idea, with all the important parts–those elements are ready and waiting to attach themselves to the structure, and make everything awesomer.

And, you know, if I DO end up writing about, say, an ocean ghost who falls in love with a warrior nun trapped in a seabird’s body…I can’t say I wasn’t warned.

*A reference to this meme, about which I have Strong Feelings, summed up as: If it was YOUR brain that made the curtains blue, take a minute to figure out why it chose blue over every other color.

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