Daily Science Fiction and the Itsy-Bitsy Teenie-Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Word Count

Breaking news!  By breaking, I of course mean, “I read about this last week and am just getting around to telling other people about it!”

Daily Science Fiction has moved their maximum accepted word count from 10k down to a lean 1.5k.  The announcement came and went as a header for a story with little fanfare, an e-mail I deleted because I am an idiot and reflexively delete stories once I am done reading them.  There was no notice on their Face Book page, nor any mention of it on the main DSF website that I could find other than an edited submissions page that reflects the new word count limit. I do not think this is a negative move, as the owners and editors of DSF may do as they very damn well please with their submission guidelines and, as I recall from my deleted e-mail, are moving towards shorter stories in response to their audience’s desire for a more true “quick-fix fiction” story in their inbox each day. This shorter word count will also strip away the longer stories typically published on Fridays.

DSF is a voracious market that demands literally hundreds of stories a year to keep pace with its publishing schedule and I can not blame them for moving to smaller stories for shorted processing times in regards to slush pile navigation and the necessary editing process that touches stories of all lengths. It also helps cut back on the cost of paying authors, which even as an author who has and will continue to submit to DSF, I don’t see this as a bad thing. DSF will keep their 8 cents a word payment and I respect that a lot. If this was a cost-saving maneuver on their behalf then I would prefer that they take shorter stories and maintain their status as a Qualifying Short Fiction Venue for SFWA.

Daily Science Fiction is an awesome market, and I highly encourage anyone with a shorty-short story to throw their hat into the slush pile.  No, wait, throw your story into the slush pile. You would probably ruin a hat doing that.

 

 

BOOM. I’m back.

Two truths and a lie, and then a bunch of links:

1) Working on an early draft of a novel is boring.

2) There is a place in my town that sells “drinking chocolate” that is right across from our main library branch.

3) I returned all of my library books on time, as I always do.

 

First Draft in 30 Days is a how-to book that will, in theory, help you crank out a highly detailed outline that can be gently jostled into a first draft. I found it worth the trip to the library, and suggest you give it a read through if you have trouble organizing your plot.

Scared Yet remains a fantastic study of scary stories and if you haven’t discovered Kris Straub yet then you are just flat missing out.

She Walks In Shadow will hold open submissions for their Lovecraft inspired anthology. The submission pool is open to female-identifying authors only, and they will start taking submissions in November.  I want to submit to this real, real bad so we’ll see what sort of Lovecraft vibe I can shake out of my brain. What I don’t know about eldritch horrors I can make up for in a weirdly expansive collection of man made industrial incidents and I have all sorts of thoughts on how closely the two are related.

Scared Yet? A Study in Horror

Found a cool thing and I’mma share it with you! I’m like a golden retriever that brings back websites instead of sticks.

I highly recommend that you check out the video series “Scared Yet” by Kris Straub. Straub is the author/illustrator of the ongoing webcomic Broodhollow (excellent) and the notorious creepy-pasta “Candle Cove” (also excellent). In this serious Straub takes on the task of studying the more popular scary stories that have spread throughout the Internet, dissecting both their intent and construction to determine if the piece is a success or failure.

 

 

“Scared Yet” is a great resource for writers, regardless of how invested they are in the horror genre. It’s a great way to see how stories attempt to evoke a specific reaction from their audience and how it can go both wrong and right. Straub is respectful in his critiques as he seeks out weak stories not to shame their creator, but to show the flaws in its execution and where it might be improved. Pacing, believability, and what an author can and cannot expect of their audience are discussed in a broad sense that is not aimed towards authors but an author can certainly gleam some good information from each episode.

Go check it out!

Diabolical Plots Reviews “The Witch’s Cat”

Diabolical Plots, in case you weren’t aware, is a cool website that does a lot of literary reviews. One of their more impressive feats is their devotion to reviewing each and every Daily Science Fiction story that gets published. You can also find The Grinder on their site, which is a story submission database and a great tool for researching available markets.

Here’s what they had to say about my story:

A tribute of a town’s savior shows up at the doorstep of a young lady’s home in The Witch’s Cat by Kalisa Ann Lessnau (debut 9/5 and reviewed by Frank D). The companion of a Witch takes to the protagonist when its master dies. The Witch did much for the town. The people she helped all whisper their thanks to the cat (named Sampson) as the protagonist walks tours the community. Sampson contributes to the bonfire while the town performs one last tribute to the Witch, surprising them all, but the magic of the witch has not stopped giving, after all.

“The Witch’s Cat” is a tale that had me guessing throughout. The Witch had left a lasting mark on the local people, she being an icon like many leaders throughout history. I really had no idea where this story was heading and its conclusion is one that I whole-heartedly approve of. Very nice work indeed.

RECOMMENDED

I appreciate the positive review, and am very proud to have earned a recommendation from them. Whee, thanks, Frank D.! I would have posted this review even if it were neutral or negative, because I see all reviews as a learning experience. Sometimes the lesson is “people are cray” (especially if you read some of the reviews on GoodReads and Amazon, yikes) but for a minor-league author like myself it is just good to know that someone out there is reading my work.

As an unrelated bonus, please enjoy this informative video in regards to the Oxford Comma:

Book Review: The Drowned Forest by Kristopher Reisz

[Editor's Note: a version of this review is also on my GoodReads page. It is my hope to begin reviewing more books in this blog, as I review podcasts, in an attempt to bring attention to the things I think others should check out.]

The Drowned Forest

The Drowned Forest by Kristopher Reisz is a book that has stuck with me over the last few days. I highly enjoyed it and hope that many others will as well.

The story follows Jane, a teenage girl who is trying and failing to deal with the loss of her best friend, Holly. Jane is in the center of a very religious community and holds God in every aspect of her life. However, the faith that she so heavily relies on offers little comfort in light of the fact that Holly’s spirit remains trapped in the waters she drowned in.

I was following the story along willingly until I reached a scene that caused me to put the book down, ponder what the hell just happened, then immediately pick the book back up to see what would happen next. The story is quick-paced, spanning a week’s time, and as soon as the action kicks in it does not lag.

The characters are believable and feel real. The details of the world are engaging (damned if Reisz cannot convey the awful, sticky heat of an Alabama summer) and are woven into Jane’s thoughts. We are spared any spoon-fed explanations and are simply offered the world of The Drowned Forest as it is.

There folklore in this story is some of the best this side of the Mississippi. There are root workers, circles drawn to ward off spirits, and the power of mojo. Reisz brings a haunting, hungry force into Jane’s world through the history that surrounds the titular drowned forest and I am so sorry that people ditched on the incredible mythos he is laying down in this story.

The protagonist begins the story as a sheltered, heavily-religious teenager who is trapped in her grief over the loss of her friend Holly. The religious aspect of Jane’s life is intentionally suffocating. It reflects the way that, although perhaps Jane cannot yet see for herself, those around her see their own struggling or non-existent faith. But a protagonist is built to change, to alter their own perspective and see the world in a different way. Regardless of your own personal religious views (or lack thereof, that’s cool too), I hope that you give The Drowned Forest the chance it so richly deserves.

Bonus fact: As a role-playing nerd I can totally see this as a viable setting for a campaign.

Podcast Review: Writing Excuses

“This is Writing Excuses! Fifteen minutes long because you’re in a hurry and we’re not that smart!”

Out here in the vast wilderness of the Internets an intrepid browser could probably discover an infinite amount of professional advice on any given topic. Naturally, much of the advice is sarcastically quotation-marked “professional” at best, and you can only filter out so many of the crazies by analyzing whether or not it looks like they used Geocities-izer to make their site before you stumble across someone that has the pretense of actual knowledge.

So, gentle listener, how does one divine true and authentic information from the Intertrons in a safe and timely manner, without running the risk of clicking on a site that once seen, cannot be unseen?

First you read my reviews. And then you go listen to Writing Excuses.

Hosted by bonafide authors Brandon Sanderson and Dan Wells along with verifiable web-comic creator Howard Tayler, this podcasts is a veritable font of useful information for writers. A quick-fix of advice and opinion from the viewpoints of established authors who are willing to share their experience in podcast form. I believe the audience intended for this podcast is new or unpublished authors, but I think a writer of any level could gain some usefulness information out of Writing Excuses.

Relevant Links:
Main Site
…honestly, the main site is all you need. Each host has links to their own blogs, you can find the iTunes and RSS feeds right on the front page.

And why not, here’s the Wordle you get for the Writing Excuses website:

Wordle: http://www.writingexcuses.com/

Can’t say they’re not consistent when it comes to mentioning their sponsor.

Episode Length: Fifteen minutes on average. Occasionally longer, depending on how verbose the hosts are feeling about a particular topic.

Release Schedule: A new episode is released every Sunday.

Each episode focuses on one particular topic that relates to writing in some way. Example topics from previous episodes are:

The Anti-Mary Sue episode
Trimming
How to Write Without Twists
Plot-vs. Character-driven Fiction

Look at those topics! They’re positively brimming with…topicability.

Each host in turn will share their ideas and experiences, and do their best to show how their information can be utilized by the listener. Their approach is friendly and welcoming; this is the kind of podcast that, could it be worn, would be your favorite hoodie from college. Brandon, Dan and Howard work together to host the majority of the episodes, but there are frequent guest hosts who are in turn harnessed to give a fresh view.

The hosts will touch on both the creative and business ends of writing, which will be much appreciated by aspiring authors. It is not enough to know how to write a story, or even how to edit it and make it presentable to editors, but how, where, when to submit, how to approach editors and publishing houses, what to expect after you actually write something! It is refreshing to see a creative task explained and examined with reason.

Content Rating: Clean. They may occasionally drop a very tame swear word. Or mention monkey poo.

Unintentionally Good Part: Writing Excuses Episode 632. Trust me.

Unintentionally Bad Part: This podcast is niche-niche-nichy. Even for aspiring authors, the advice generally pertains to only the science fiction/fantasy genres, so this podcast will attract only a very specific audience.

Drinking Game: Have a brass monkey every time they use a monkey as a plot device in their writing prompt.

Writing Prompt: A secret organization has implanted a device into your head that records your every thought for a live-steaming podcast. Go!

Guest Podcast Review(!!!): H. P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast

[Kalisa's Note: Hello, and welcome to my very first guest post! Woo! This podcast review is brought to you by the nimble fingers of Kristopher Reisz who is fresh off the release of his latest novel, The Drowned Forest. You can find more information about him at the end of the review, and trust me, he's worth the looksie-loo. Enjoy the review!]

H. P.Lovecraft Literary Podcast

H. P. Lovecraft is one of the patriarchs of horror literature; however, delving into his stories can be a prickly endeavor.

Writing during the 1920s and 30s but admiring the authors of the 1880s and 1890s, Lovecraft merged a florid Victorian prose style with a pessimistic, post-World War I outlook. What’s more, his stories don’t have much, well, story-ness. They lack a lot of the things we expect from stories like character development or rising and falling action. Instead, his stories center around accounts–letters, half-remembered dreams–of a vast, interconnected pantheon of alien god-monsters.

So why do fans of an odd, obtuse author continually reinterpret his creations through novels, movies, music, RPGs, clothing, video games, and any other medium you could name? That’s what the H. P.Lovecraft Literary Podcast wants to help you understand.

Relevant Links:
Main Site!

iTunes!

Podbay!

RSS Feed!

Most episodes of the H. P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast (it’s friends call it HPLLP) focus on a single Lovecraft tale. (Some of his longer stories get a series of episodes.) The hosts, Chris Lackey and Chad Fifer, walk listeners through the plot–accompanied by dramatic readings of choice sections–pausing frequently to explore the more literary aspects of the story: symbolism, possible inspiration, how the story fits into the larger Cthulhu Mythos, etc. Sometimes they bring in guests like Lovecraft biographer S. T. Joshi  or theologian Robert M. Price to up the pointy-headedness of the discussion. Lackey and Fifer have a relaxed, chatty style that comes as a relief when you’re struggling through Lovecraft’s archaic language and tangled plot structures. (The dude loved to tell a story-within-a-story. Sometimes he tells a story-within-a-story-within-a-story.) They have excellent taste in dramatic readers and special guests as well, using both to highlight what makes Lovecraft’s work so unique and disquieting.

The HPLLP boys have been at this for awhile now, and they’ve worked through nearly all of Lovecraft’s stories. They’ve moved on to reading weird fiction from other writers like Ambrose Bierce and Guy de Mauspassant. They’ve also moved to a subscription model, offering access to their newest stories for the death metal-tastic price of $6.66 for four months. However, several years worth of their older, Lovecraft-themed episodes remain available for free.

Content Rating: Caution suggested. Lackey and Fifer don’t work blue often, but they do let the occasional cuss word slip. Also, they are talking about terrible beings whose merest glance strips a man of his sanity the same way the hunter skins a rabbit. So. . . there is that.

Average Episode Length: Between 30 and 45 minutes, with some shorter mini-episodes sprinkled in between.

Drinking Game: Sip whenever Lovecraft describes something as “eldritch,” “blasphemous,” or “fungoid.” Chug every time the narrator faints in horror.

Release Schedule: Once a week, more or less.

Unintentionally Good Part: Lackey and Fifer struggling to pronounce names like Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep, and Celephaïs.

Unintentionally Bad Part: The hosts hemming and hawing and tying themselves up in philosophical knots before finally admitting
that, yeah, Lovecraft was pretty racist.

Unrelated Rating: Seven non-Euclidean angles out of five

Who Are You, Kind Stranger?: I’m Kristopher Reisz, an urban fantasy writer! My novel The Drowned Forest is out now. It’s about Jane, whose best friend drowns in the Tennessee River. When her friend comes back, twisted and wrong, Jane has to put her to rest while figuring out how to move on from the tragedy herself. You can learn more and read an excerpt at my website.