Dawn Chorus

Are you in the mood for an angel love tale? I have a brand new short story — Dawn Chorus — out in Kraxon Magazine. Kraxon specializes in flash length science fiction and fantasy stories, 1000 words each. If you’re looking for a nice monthly dose of bite-sized fiction, check it out!

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Aliens – The Truth Is Coming

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I have a short story out this week in a brand new anthology by Tickety Boo Press, UK. Aliens – The Truth Is Coming has a great line up of authors, with a wide variety of takes on the theme.

From the publisher:

Many of us look up into the wondrous night sky and know that we are looking at a galaxy full of life. It doesn’t matter that we haven’t discovered definitive proof of it yet – we know it’s out there and, perhaps, looking back at us, wondering the same thing in return.

The stories in this anthology explore myriad ideas of what ‘extra-terrestrial’ could mean. Not only to humanity, but to individuals. 

You will read stories of invasion, stories of loss and discovery, stories of trickery and subjugation, and so much more.
This anthology throws the doors wide open, and all you need do is step through… 

And here are the authors:

Foreword and Acknowledgements by Andrew Angel

Stories:

In Plain Sight by Juliana Spink Mills

Geometry by Alex Davis

Gods of the Ice Planet by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Island Visit by Nathan Hystad

Even the Klin Are Only Human by Bryn Fortey

A New Dawn by Liz Gruder

Rent by Steven Poore

Salvage by MJ Kobernus

The Devil’s Rock by William Anderson

The Man Who Wasn’t Dead by Terry Grimwood

We Three Remain by Stewart Hotston

Welcome to Cosmic Journey by Michael Chandos

The Zoo of Dark Creatures by Leslie J Anderson

Here by Tim James

 

You can find the anthology on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Write ’Em Up(dates)

True fact: once I wrote an entire novel to a 2-song soundtrack consisting entirely of Fall Out Boy’s Immortals and My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark (Light Em Up). There, aren’t you glad you know that now?

So what’s new or old on the writing front, soundtracks aside? I handed in the final pre-publisher’s-edits version of Heart Blade around a month ago. Sometime over summer I should be getting revision notes back from my editor, the lovely and very talented Teresa Edgerton. This is both exciting and terrifying. I’ve had lots of great peer beta readers and critique partners, but this will be my first professional edit. Gulp.

In the meantime, I have a short story to revise for a fantasy anthology that will be out at the end of the year with Heart Blade’s publisher Woodbridge Press. The anthology has a truly great line up of authors, and I’m thrilled to be in it. I also have a new novel I’m working on, a science fantasy YA. I’m coming up to the halfway point on this one, and hoping to get a first draft nailed down before things start to get real with Heart Blade.

In blogging news, I’m putting my Spotlight interview series temporarily on hold. But only because I’ve joined the sffworld.com team and will hopefully be doing lots of interviews for them instead. I’m really pleased about this, since I love their website, and am looking forward to working with the SFF World team.

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Writing perch during a quick June trip to visit family in Brazil.

 

One last snippet of writing news I forgot to share back in May: I won the April 300-word writing challenge on sffchronicles.com. This is really cool as there are so many talented writers on the Chrons, and competition is always fierce! The 300-word challenges are open to any speculative genre and run off a visual prompt. This time the prompt was a photo of a bird’s skeleton. Here’s my winning entry; it’s a bit dark and not very summery, but I hope you enjoy it.

  

Tiny Bones

I crouch down in the garden, poke them with a stick. Small things, wispy and fragile. “Just a bird,” they would say. “Leave it alone, Sarah. It’s just a dead bird.” 

It’s raining again. There’s been nothing but grey since the Weeping began. I haven’t seen the sun in over two years. I hate this rain, the feel and the smell of it. It trickles off the bird bones and sinks silently into the moss. 

The bones are truly minute. If I picked them up, I could cradle them in my hand.

I wanted to cradle Sam, too, but they wouldn’t let me. He was so small when he was taken. Not even a proper baby yet. He never felt any pain, they told me. But what do they know? What do they really know of tiny bones and hearts and souls? 

He was the fifth, this year alone. Since the Weeping, no child lives in this aging compound of ours. One by one, fading, failing. In this diseased world, we scream and rage, but still the silent killer strikes, deadly accurate, picking off our young ones one by one. 

We bury the bones, bury them deep in the hidden place so they can’t come back, not like Marion’s Ava who killed three people before we trapped her in blankets and ran her through the wood chipper.

Because when they come back, they’re not human. Not any more, not after the Weeping. 

But I don’t care. I want my Sam. I leave the bird’s tiny bones alone and make my way to the hidden place. I sink my fingers in the rain-damp soil. And then I begin to dig.

Have Book, Will Read #10

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May showers bring spring flowers, right? Connecticut has finally begun to sprout its seasonal green and, being the reluctant gardener that I am, nothing better than to put off the weeding with a good book or three. Here are some of my latest…

Recent Reads: Heart thumping, nerve jumping.

This month I finally got around to reading Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older, which has been on my list since it came out last summer. It was every bit as good as the reviews promised. Teenage artist Sierra Santiago discovers the secret world of shadowshapers and a family legacy she had no idea about. Her planned summer of friends, parties, and art becomes instead a race to end a plot against the shadowshapers before she and her friends get caught in the crossfire.

Shadowshaper is alive with art, music, and magic, and Daniel’s prose sweeps us right into the beat of the warm city nights, plunging us into the heart of Sierra’s world. And oh, that cover!

I really enjoyed Pierce Brown’s page-turner Red Rising. So I was pretty excited to get my hands on the sequel, Golden Son. The second book in the trilogy really kicked things up a notch by widening the plot to take in the broader Gold politics between the planets, Luna and Earth. Things get even bloodier in this one, and the death toll rises steadily.

However, with a cliffhanger ending (nooooo!), I was really glad that the last in the series was already out. Morning Star continues the wider plot of book two and brings it home to a nail biter of a climax. I did find, though, that picking this up straight after Golden Son meant I had to take a break halfway through, as the violence and deaths were getting to me. Pierce’s novels are excellent reading, but the pace is relentless and it got a little overwhelming. I definitely suggest mixing it up with lighter (aka less bloody) reading material!

Another book I finished this month was The Haunting of Lake Manor Hotel, a horror anthology by my own publisher Woodbridge Press. (Wow, it feels weird and cool to write that!) Now, I don’t usually read horror, but it was hard not to be enticed by Anna Dickinson’s delicious opening story, The Boy by the Lake, or the tagline: ‘13 Rooms. 13 Guests. 13 Stories.’

This shared world anthology is a great read, even for wimpy wussy types like me. It never got too heavy, so if (like me) you’re a novice horror reader, this is definitely one to try. The stories were nicely varied with something for everyone, from the creepily eerie, to the beautifully haunting, to the downright weird and wonderful. Eyeballs, anyone?

Now Reading: Imagined pasts and futures.

I’m halfway through another anthology, Kristell Ink’s Fight Like a Girl, which I’ve already mentioned a couple of times on the blog. A great variety of stories so far, and some really interesting takes on the subject. Definitely one worth checking out.

Because I like to mix up short stories with novels, I’ve just started Muezzinland by Stephen Palmer. I really enjoyed Stephen’s Beautiful Intelligence and the sequel novella No Grave for a Fox, and Muezzinland – although actually written long before these two – is a sequel in terms of the timeline of the author’s imagined future. I haven’t got very far yet, but it’s nice to be back in Stephen’s world.

To Read: Fate of worlds…

Up next on the to-read list is Sunset over Abendau, the sequel to Jo Zebedee’s excellent Abendau’s Heir. If you like your space opera a little on the dark side, this is definitely the series for you.

I just won a copy of A Thousand Pieces of You and the sequel Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray, courtesy of the author and The Pixel Project’s most recent campaign. The multi-dimensional travel plot sounds great, and I love the tag line: ‘A thousand lives. A thousand possibilities. One fate.’

Another book I picked up the other day is The Summoner by Gail Z. Martin, first in her Chronicles of the Necromancer series, which was highly recommended by a friend. The blurb sounds great, and I’m in the mood for a little traditional fantasy so this should do the job nicely.

With so many good things on my list, I think I shall continue to ignore the garden weeds. I’m calling it ‘organic reading’, and I can’t think of a better way to spend a May afternoon! Trowels down, and books up. And that’s the way I like it.

Have Book, Will Read #9

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Oh, hey! It’s April already. April means my birthday, which means books. Because a girl can always do with more books, right? And with so many recent releases I’ve been keeping busy. Here are some of my latest faves…

Recent Reads: On the road… Quests, journeys, escapes, and revenge.

I absolutely loved The Art of Forgetting: Rider by Joanne Hall. In fact, I liked it so much I went straight into the sequel and concluding novel, The Art of Forgetting: Nomad. I’m a sucker for a good coming-of-age fantasy tale, and this one takes interesting detours as it follows a boy’s journey to become a cavalry officer.

Hall’s prose is crisp yet flowing, and she does a masterful job of treading the line between overly sparse and heavily ornate description that so many epic fantasies have trouble with. Rhodri’s tale begins with the familiar setting of the military schoolground, but never quite settles into the expected, keeping us constantly on our toes. And when Rhodri eventually turns his back on everything he has worked for, Hall gives readers a refreshing shift in her main character’s viewpoint that sheds new light on the story.

Javelin Rain by Myke Cole was one I’ve been waiting for, ever since Gemini Cell arrived in 2015 and I devoured it in one day. And the sequel certainly didn’t disappoint. Those of you who read my blog will know I’m a big fan of Cole’s high-octane military fantasy novels. He writes incredibly fast-paced stories with great action sequences, but he also serves us well-thought-out characters with a lot of heart.

Javelin Rain begins exactly where Gemini Cell left off, with Jim Schweitzer on the run with his wife and small son. But escape is hard when you’re an undead former Navy SEAL being chased by a hoard of super zombies with a penchant for blood and carnage. And to make things worse, the man behind those zombies may have motives of his own for the actions he carries out in the name of his country. Sounds intense? It is, but at the same time Cole isn’t afraid to take a pause and give his readers touching and very human moments.

I bought Road Brothers by Mark Lawrence a while back, but it got buried under a pile of other to-reads and somehow I never got around to it. Making up for lost time, I ended up gobbling down the whole thing in two days. This one is a treat for fans of Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy: a compilation of short stories on Jorg of Ancrath and his band of outlaws.

I loved Prince of Thorns and the subsequent Broken Empire books, so I really enjoyed this opportunity to get a better look at some of Jorg’s crew. The stories bring us a mixture of exploits and backstory, and as a bonus feature they all end with a short commentary by the author on the character and why he chose that particular approach for that story. Written with Lawrence’s trademark poetic flair, the collection plays with different narrative styles so it never feels stale, and you never quite know what to expect as the author skips from one character to another. Well worth reading, but familiarity with the Broken Empire world is helpful, so if you haven’t tried Lawrence’s work I’d recommend starting with Prince of Thorns.

Now Reading: Shivers and shenanigans.

I’m halfway into a brand new anthology by the also brand new Woodbridge Press, The Haunting of Lake Manor Hotel. Now, horror isn’t a genre I’d usually read, but since I’m familiar with quite a few of the authors I was willing to lock away my usual fear of things that go bump in the night and try it out. So far, so good: I’ve already been blown away by the opening stories and I haven’t had to resort to a nightlight yet. Yet being the imperative word here.

To Read: Fight or flight…

Another recent launch on the anthology scene is Fight Like a Girl (Kristell Ink). Edited by Roz Clarke and Joanne Hall, this collection of short stories about female strength sounds amazing. With a great line-up of authors writing everything from space opera to urban fantasy, and a tagline on Amazon that says, “These are not pinup girls fighting in heels; these warriors mean business,” this has to be my kind of book. Oh, and it has an awesome cover, too.

I’m a huge Brandon Sanderson fan, and you can never have too much Wax and Wayne, so up next on my to-read list is Bands of Mourning, the latest in the Mistborn saga. I always enjoy Sanderson’s carefully constructed magic systems, and the swooping, soaring Wax and Wayne stories unite this with a certain element of lightness and fun that are a pleasure to read.

So that’s my roundup for April. I hope you’ve found some great reads of your own; with so many great releases this year alone, the tough decision is where to start!

Spotlight on Writing Horror with Gwendolyn Kiste and Scarlett R. Algee

Horror narratives are an integral part of our human history. Folktales have dark tendrils that go back for centuries. The Ancient Greeks created gods out of fear and terror. Every culture has a bogeyman, a gashadokuro, a strigoi. From the oral storytelling of the past to the modern day campfire tale, scary stories are everywhere.

Even epic tales of glorious deeds would be nothing without that undercurrent of fear. Remove the ringwraiths from The Lord of the Rings and half the tension immediately falls away. Without a White Witch to face, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is just a tale of talking animals. And A Game of Thrones without the White Walkers is simply a rather bloody story of political intrigue.

In literature, horror fiction harks back to eighteenth century works such as The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, with nineteenth century gothic novels like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula cementing the genre. By the late 1800’s, horror had already hit the (silent) screen, and horror as a film and TV genre is still wildly popular today.

But what does it take to write a good horror tale? It’s not enough to just throw in a few monsters and things that go bump in the night and hope they’ll do the job. Crafting a good scary story – one that gets under your skin and keeps you awake at night – is an art. My two guests are experts in that creep factor, and they’re here to point your ghosts and ghouls in the right direction. They both have short stories in a brand new anthology by Woodbridge Press, The Haunting of Lake Manor Hotel (“13 Rooms, 13 Guests, 13 Stories”). I haven’t had a chance to peek at it yet, but I’m planning to… Just as soon as I buy myself a new nightlight!

Gwendolyn Kiste is a speculative fiction author whose work has appeared in a wide range of publications including Nightmare, Shimmer, LampLight, Flash Fiction Online, and Three-Lobed Burning Eye, as well as Flame Tree Publishing’s Chilling Horror Short Stories anthology. Gwendolyn edited the anthology A Shadow of Autumn: An Anthology of Fall and Halloween Tales in 2015. She has written and directed several feature-length films, and her plays have been produced as part of the Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Scarlett R. Algee writes speculative fiction and designs steampunk jewelry. Her work has been published in Cthulhu Haiku I & II, Morpheus Tales, Zen of the Dead and Sanitarium Magazine, among others. She is currently a submissions reader and chapbook editor for Sanitarium Magazine. Besides the upcoming Lake Manor anthology, she has also previously collaborated with Gwendolyn in the anthology A Shadow of Autumn.

Juliana: Welcome Gwendolyn and Scarlett. So tell us, why the interest in horror, both as a reader and a writer? What first drew you into this particular genre?


Gwendolyn: Horror has always been part of my life. Both my parents loved horror, so we were always reading horror literature and watching horror films. So many people think of horror as something dark and subversive, but it seems the most natural thing for me as an artist. I’ve always reveled in my own weirdness, wearing it like a badge of honor since I was a child, and fortunately, horror is a great place for the weirdos.

Scarlett: I had the traditional, religious Southern upbringing, so I grew up with the idea that horror was well, “sinful”. I didn’t agree with that and I still don’t, but for a long time my access to the genre was limited. I didn’t start reading horror till I was in high school, and didn’t start watching it till I was over 30, so I’m making up for lost time here! Maybe for me it’s a belated rebellion. That said, horror is a great medium for working out frustrations and testing limits.

Juliana: The question you’ve probably answered a million times but we still want answered: where do the ideas come from? How do you imagine that lurking darkness while going about your daily life?


Gwendolyn: I’m a visual person, so small images often inspire me. A browned apple. A horseshoe driveway. A clawfoot bathtub. Out of those single images, I like to extrapolate and create a whole world with that focal point in mind. In particular when I’m writing horror or dark fantasy, I’ve found that you can extract a remarkable amount of the foreboding from the mundane. There’s so much darkness hiding in everyday life. All you have to do is look a little closer to find it.

Scarlett: Some days I honestly wish I knew! I get a few ideas from the daily news, or other things I read, or writing prompts on Reddit. But for a lot of my writing, ideas just show up in whole cloth and I often don’t spend a lot of time wondering where they come from. They have fangs and claws, after all.

Juliana: What do you usually build your stories upon? Is it a plot concept, a character, a feeling you want to evoke? How do you like to start out?


Gwendolyn: It often starts with a moment or an emotion. Maybe the way I feel when I hear a song or see a certain photograph or even how reading a specific story has affected me. From there, it’s my goal to capture that subjective experience, almost like putting a pin in a butterfly. What I’ll write tends to have little to no relation to what initially inspired it beyond a small symbol or an aspect of setting. When I start out to write a story, I usually have a general idea of where I’m headed, though I love to discover details about the characters as I go. It makes the act of creating a bit of a mystery when you’re able to learn about this world while you’re writing it.

Scarlett: For me, I usually start with a plot concept, a “what if”. I like to start with an ending, if possible–the whole process just comes together best if I know the end at the beginning. And sometimes, a character will just pop into my head and start talking. You can bet I’m quick to pin that person to the couch and start taking notes, because you can learn amazing things just by listening to that new inner voice.

Juliana: How can a horror writer avoid falling into worn tropes? Or is it more of a case of twisting tropes to create something fresh?



Gwendolyn: There are still so many aspects of horror left to examine, especially the emotional devastation that horrific scenarios can cause. As long as writers push themselves even a little bit, we can find new ground to cover. I’ve seen a lot of great concepts in recent short fiction, so whether a writer creates something entirely different (e.g. a new kind of a monster) or reworks existing tropes, there’s plenty of potential to explore human nature through the lens of horror.

Scarlett: We should always keep reaching. There are so many aspects of human nature that don’t get touched on nearly enough–let’s see more of the emotional/psychological facets of horror. Less gore/vampires/werewolves/zombies; those are getting a bit tired, especially in literature. (No offense to Walking Dead fans!) If you’re into monsters, the world’s mythologies are fulI of critters that haven’t been explored, that need to be dug out and brought to light. For me, the greatest monsters are humans themselves, and we’re still figuring ourselves out.

Juliana: Do you find – as a reader and as a writer – that there are fundamental differences when it comes to horror in short stories and in novels? Are there different expectations, limitations, or allowances?


Gwendolyn: I do think there are differences between short stories and novels. As a reader, I will admit that many horror novels fall flat for me, only because that sense of dread can be hard to sustain through 80,000+ words. However, when I find a horror novel that does work well, it’s truly transcendent. For example, I love Shirley Jackson’s longer works—The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Although short stories will probably always be my first love, a great horror novel is seriously worth its weight in gold, and the reader has the opportunity to learn so much more about the setting and the characters that inhabit it. With short fiction, which is where I have the most experience as a writer at this point, the author is challenged to craft an entire world in a very limited space. So both mediums have their advantages and their drawbacks.

Scarlett: Obviously with a horror novel you have more room for character development and more time, so to speak, to play with those extra little details that make characters memorable. In short stories, you’ve really just got one chance to get everything across because of your word-count limit. At this point I’m entirely a short story writer, and that format really tests your ability to be clear and concise. Your margin of error is tiny. With novels there’s the very real problem of keeping up your pace without lagging, and without giving too much away too early–nothing peeves me more than being able to see the ending coming before I’m halfway through the book.

I’ve actually come to prefer anthologies.

Juliana: Religious tales, folk stories and mythologies are full of violence and the threat of darkness. Why do you think there is such a deep-rooted fascination with evil and horror? Why is this a genre that endures and flourishes?


Gwendolyn: Human beings will always experience fear. It might be the fear of the dark or fear of death or fear of the outsider, but no matter what, we’ll always have something to dread. So that makes horror at once universal and timeless. Across cultures and across centuries, we share that common experience. That’s why you can read ghost stories from the Victorian era or monster tomes like Frankenstein and still relate to the material. Obviously, good writing plays into it as well, but it’s also that universality that keeps us coming back.

Scarlett: I think the human fascination with horror, with darkness and evil, comes at least partially from our understanding of the atrocities we’re capable of. We’re just as afraid of the darkness inside ourselves as we’re afraid of the darkness outside the cave–possibly more.

Fear is such a universal, primal feeling–Lovecraft called it “the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind”–and yet, oddly enough, it can be fun to be frightened. Our brains get some kind of kick out of it. And to that end, horror works really well. You get to explore actions and feelings you’d never remotely consider in real life. You get that jolt of adrenaline, that vicarious thrill, but none of the consequences.

Juliana: To finish up, a bit of fun. Which are your favorite fictional scary creatures? Can be from literature, movies, TV, graphic novels, or any other.


Gwendolyn: I’m a big fan of ghouls. There aren’t nearly enough stories about them, though I love the ghoul segment from the 1980 Vincent Price movie, The Monster Club. And I’ll also give Scarlett a shout-out here and recommend everyone check out her ghoul story, “The Tomb Wife,” in Zen of the Dead. It’s one of the best stories I’ve read in a long time, and she does a fantastic job of exploring the nuances of the ghoul character as well as the world in which the ghoul resides. Great stuff, and very creepy.

Scarlett: Awwww, I love you too!

My personal favorite single character is Cthulhu–but he’s been exploited so much he’s not scary anymore, at least not to me. It takes a lot of work to portray the Big C convincingly. In terms of creature types or classes, I love cryptids. Even though none of them are proven to exist (and some have been explained or disproven), that element of the unknown, of “heeey, this just might be possible,” can be deeply unsettling.

Juliana: Thank you so much for joining me here and giving us a deeper glimpse into writing horror. And now, where’s that nightlight? 

Find book reviews and blog posts on writing and publishing at Scarlett R. Algee’s website, www.sralgee.wordpress.com. Scarlett tweets as @scarlettralgee and she has an author page on Facebook. For her jewelry designs, check out Copperwalk Designs on Etsy.

Visit Gwendolyn Kiste’s website – www.gwendolynkiste.com – for further information on her work, as well as blog interviews, news and posts on writing. You can find Gwendolyn on Twitter @GwendolynKiste and Facebook.

Both authors have stories in the upcoming anthology The Haunting of Lake Manor Hotel, by Woodbridge Press. Preorders should open up this weekend, and publication date is set for April 12th. There’s a terrific lineup of talented authors, so if you’re looking for a great read by a brand new press, remember to check it out.

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Spotlight is a monthly blog feature. Check out February’s Spotlight on Making Time to Write with Anne Lyle and Elspeth Cooper. Next up in April: Spotlight on SFF Forums.

Spotlight on Short Story Writing with Nathan Hystad

Canadian speculative fiction writer Nathan Hystad isn’t afraid to dip his toe in any waters, however deep they may be. His preferred genres are horror, paranormal and science fiction, but he’s been known to write fantasy on occasion, along with a whole line-up of strange and mysterious sub-genres.

Nathan has published stories in four anthologies so far, with another four submissions already accepted into anthologies this year alone. His work has also appeared in a growing list of online magazines. And I haven’t even mentioned his flash fiction yet!

Although Nathan is currently working on a novel, he has focused mainly on writing short stories, which is a whole art form in itself. To squeeze worldbuilding, character background and an entire story arc into anything between 300 and 10,000 words takes a lot of skill, as those struggling to edit their 250,000-word epic fantasies will agree. So I was pleased as anything when Nathan agreed to answer a few questions on short story writing.

Juliana: I’ve tried my hand at a few short stories and they’re surprisingly hard to write. What is it about short stories that appeals to you?

Nathan: When I started writing, I jumped into a novel. I quickly realized I had no idea how to write well, so I started to write shorter pieces to work on the basics. Then I found I had a lot of ideas creeping out of my head and the only way to get them all out was to write. I really like shorts because you can start a world, and have a cool story in a few days, and move on to the next thing. I also like the ability to write so many types of stories and genres. There is something nice about being able to do a complete story in a short time, as opposed to writing a book. I find my writing time is sporadic, so shorts have worked well for me.

Juliana: What do you find is the hardest part in the process?

Nathan: I think the wow factor is the hardest part. It’s also hard to pack a full story into so few words, with no ‘telling’ so you have to show and hint at things properly. Short stories aren’t for everyone, and a lot of readers never buy or think of anthologies. I think they are a great way to see a variety of ideas on any particular subject. So you have to have something special in them, whether it’s a theme, character, or zinger of an ending.

Juliana: Would you mind sharing a few tips for short story writing?

Nathan: Sure. In my stories, I like to start with an intro that sets the mood. Mine are usually a little strange or dark, so I sometimes have a scene introducing the ‘monster’ with some tension. To sell a story, you need to have a good start. Some publishers get so many submissions that regardless of the payoff, the start has to grab them instantly. It’s the old ‘Hit the ground’ running idea we hear about as writers. It is very important. The next scene tends to slow down and builds until the climax. There is nothing better than reading something and knowing something will happen, but not knowing how or when. I also love to do a doozy of a last scene. One thing I am working at doing is focusing on one character for the most part. The stories where I’ve had too many POV’s (Point of views) tend to not be received as well. So keep it simple, and don’t jump around too much. The more stories I write, and the more beta feedback and publisher feedback I get, the better I’m getting at knowing what is being looked for. I adapt quickly and I think it’s because of this that I’ve been able to place a decent amount of stories in a short time.

Juliana: Do you write a story to fit a certain theme, say for an anthology? Or do you write the stories as they come to you and then try to find them a home?

Nathan: I have done both. I started by writing for a few calls and then just kept writing an assortment of stories. There are a lot of places to place a Ghost story, or horror in general. It’s the more specific that are harder to place if they aren’t accepted to the specific submission call. So it varies, and I like that. I guess the more specific ones would be much harder to place if they are rejected, and rejection is a big part of the game. So at this time I haven’t written a lot of stories for the very specific ie. Lovecraftian Robot Romance set in Canada.

Juliana: Leading on from the last question, what are your top sources of inspiration?

Nathan: I loved the serial TV shows growing up. Are You Afraid of the Dark, Goosebumps, when I was a kid…then Outer Limits, and Twilight Zone. Also X-Files, Star Trek, Star Wars…all of those influence the way my brain thinks of ideas. I also read a lot. There is never a time when I don’t have a book on the go, so my imagination is always being spurred on by something new and exciting.

Juliana: You’ve been having a lot of success with publishing your stories. What are your publishing tips? Is it simply a case of perseverance or is there more to it?

Nathan: I think that some of it was luck. Kraxon Magazine gave me my first ‘Yes’ with Central Park in the Dark, and I will forever be thankful for that. He has given a lot of great people’s stories a home on his site. Then Tickety Boo Press took ‘A Haunting Past’. I think getting over the initial hump of getting published was all I needed. With that I got some confidence, and I also have had amazing people at my side. With people like you, Juliana, helping me with Beta reading, and improving my stories, I have been able to have polished pieces that might stand out for that reason. So it is imperative that you send as polished of a piece as possible. Don’t write a first draft, and fire if off into the world. Get it beta read, and take the advice of your colleagues. An outside perspective is very important in making sure your pieces are always improving.

I remember talking with Em (E.J.Tett) about it, and she said that it can be like a snowball. Once you get a yes, the momentum keeps going. That being said, you have to work your butt off to get those yeses. You have to keep writing, subbing, writing, and subbing. Not every story needs to be put out there to the world, but as an author, we know which ones we really want to find a home. Then you can get to know some of the publishers, and maybe next time you can get in with them because they enjoyed your work, and you were nice to work with etc. I have also made a habit of trying to spread myself out there. I think getting stories into multiple publisher’s anthologies is a good way to make contacts and network.

If I can give one piece of advice, it’s this. Never give up. Even though I’ve started to see a lot more acceptances, my spreadsheet of submissions has much more Red (rejection) than Yellow (acceptance). So when you start out and get the rejections, and they were kind enough to give you any criticism, use that to better your story, or your next story. Don’t get upset, and dejected, just keep working at it and keep writing and subbing. It will all eventually come together.

Juliana: Would you mind sharing some of your favorite authors with us?

Nathan: I have always been a huge fan of reading fantasy. I don’t write it often (though I do have a fantasy short being published this year) but I love to read it. Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Robin Hobb, and Stephen King probably top my list. I read a lot of authors and they all bring something different to the table for me, whether it’s me learning from them or just getting lost in their stories.

Juliana: Thank you very much, Nathan, for taking part in the blog’s first Spotlight, and sharing such great advice. And… is it weird that now I really want to read some Lovecraftian Robot Romance set in Canada?

Nathan Hystad can be found blogging on his website, http://nathanhystad.com, and his work is in the anthologies Malevolence: Tales from Beyond the Veil, Whispers from the Past: Fright and Fear, Tales Told in the Dark 4, and Beyond Science Fiction May 2015. Some of his magazine work includes Kraxon and Saturday Night Magazine (for the last, type Nathan Hystad in the search box on the stories page to find his three shorts).