Submit Your Stories Sunday: Darkness and Chillers

Jennifer Shelby

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday. Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. I’ll follow it up with a book to inspire your writing and a small collection of writerly articles to fuel your craft.


Curse the Darkness: an Anthology of Dark Fiction

Eligibility: Original, speculative stories written on the theme of darkness from 3 000 to 10 000 words. Think Doctor Who‘s Vashta Nerada.

Take Note: the editors specifically request stories that will make them “afraid to turn off the lights.”

What makes this call stand out: this is Unlit Press’ inaugural anthology and they are offering writers good rates from the start. This suggests they are confident that their marketing strategy will put…

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May 16th, 2018

Shower ideas. They’re the best, right?

This morning I was hit with a bolt of inspiration whilst washing my hair. Some people sing in the shower, others try to plug plot holes or divine a character’s motivation. Whatever floats your boat, so to speak.

I quickly hammered out some notes in a Google Docs file before scampering off to work, wishing I could stay home and further elaborate on my thoughts, but the important part was I got to preserve them. Other distractions prevented me from fleshing them out more than I’d like this evening, but I’m still very happy to have those notes captured and ripening on the vine, so to speak.

It also occurred to me today that the current planning / outlining stage I’m at with this project is not unlike plotting / drafting plans for a house. I never was any good with my hands, but I caught myself wondering if this is how people feel when they’re physically building something from the ground up, or are rebuilding a carburetor or some other automotive analogy at which I’m completely failing here.

It feels good, is what I’m getting at, and I hope to feel more of it in the not-too-distant future.

May 11th, 2018

(So I accidentally made this a site page a few days ago instead of a blog post. Whoops. Originally written on May 7th, but posting it here now because why not? Live and learn.)

Oh hey, look. It’s May. There goes that whole ‘maybe I’ll update this blog every week in 2018’ idea.


Anyway, at the risk of setting myself up for failure once more, I’ll see what I can do from here on out.

Things have been going well on the writing front as of late. I can officially say that I’m a published author, having had one of my short stories included in Chillers from the Rock in March. I’ve also managed to win a flash fiction challenge as well, which was an unexpected yet very pleasant surprise. Both are thanks to Engen Books, which is run by an amazing group of people and features many talented writers.

I’ve yet to really dig in on something bigger than short stories (of which I’m working on a few for the next From The Rock series and a flying anthology for 2019), though I do have plans. I keep meaning to dig into it, but never do for a variety of reasons.

My latest excuse: I’m waiting for Scrivener 3 to come out for Windows. I’m good at creating distractions and (also, how do you pronounce Scrivener? Is it skriv-uh-ner or skryv-ner? See what I mean?) I have it for my Mac, but my intent is to work on things on a USB flash drive I can use to swap between the laptop and the desktop. Until I have the same software on both, though, I’m afraid something will get messed up in between.

A friend of mine asked me last night if the short story I’d had published would lead to anything bigger or not, and that’s really inspiring me to push forward with things once again.

So, I’m calling myself out now: even if I can’t get the actual project started, there’s no reason I can’t continue to outline and plan using Google Docs or something similar in the interim, right? Right.

So, here goes nothing.

January 23rd, 2018

RTX anyone? Announced earlier today, RTX Austin 2018 will take place from August 3rd to the 5th this year, a departure from the normal early July dates.

I went on a whim last year; with my wife having a couple of conventions she wanted to attend herself, I saw RTX tickets were on sale last January and picked one up because why not? I was a fan of RWBY (still am), was interested in some of their other things (ditto), and knew at least one person who lived in Austin (who has since moved, however), so it made sense. It was an adventure, as I’d never been to Texas before. I had no real idea what to expect, but I wanted to give it a shot.

Boy, am I glad that I did. Austin is a great city, and, even though I was nervous about staying sort of on the outskirts, it wasn’t hard to navigate at all. I ended up using Lyft a whole bunch, something I’d never used before (or since, as we don’t have it here), but it wasn’t difficult or complicated. It actually was kinda nice, as all the drivers were friendly and talkative, giving me some more insight on the city itself and some of the people that lived there. And yes, everything everywhere was air conditioned, thankfully.

The convention itself was amazing. I know I haven’t gone to very many, certainly not of that scale – the inaugural PAX East, Emerald City Comic Con 2013 being the largest – but it was such a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. Going alone had me a little nervous, even though I knew a few fellow attendees who I met up with there, but I never once felt out of place or awkward.

If you bought a general weekend pass, you were given one autograph session code as well. The VIPs, who get two each, got to pick their sessions first, so I didn’t get one with anyone I really knew, so I chose to meet another group of people I’d heard of: the guys from Kinda Funny. Meeting them was amazing, and only made me a bigger fan of them. They do a daily (M-F anyway) gaming podcast that I’m up-to-date on after 100+ episodes now, because they’re awesome. Looking forward to their panels and another autograph session if I can manage it this year.

So, yes. I want to go back. They have a new ticket level this year that interests me, the Weekend Plus package. It’s a cross between Platinum (which was VIP last year) and a Weekend pass, which includes two autograph sessions and some other perks. You don’t get into the Friday night party, which, eh, and I don’t care much about priority lines as all the panels I wanted to see last year weren’t a problem to get into, provided you didn’t mind sitting further back. Being tall has its advantages that way too, I ‘spose.

Tickets go on sale in February, and I’m definitely going to be picking some form of pass up at that time. If you’re looking for something awesome to do, I highly recommend checking it out.

January 1st, 2018

So, it occurred to me earlier that, while I failed to write in this blog daily for 2016 (and didn’t every try for 2017), I can begin that whole process anew today. I think I’ll keep the goal to just once per week, in order to make it more realistic, but must say that I’m a little excited at the possibility of living up to this goal.

Will I have a lot to say? Probably not. I am looking forward to the challenge of keeping it up, however. I’m not really one for New Year’s Resolutions (see: making this one two years ago and failing, for example), but I do like the general idea of trying to improve one’s self. Writing is something I want to improve, so here we go.

Last year was actually a pretty good year for me, writing-wise. I set a goal in mind (to create something by a specific deadline), met the goal (finished said thing and submitted it in time), and also started meeting with my cousin on a weekly basis in February to discuss our writing. That was the biggest part; even when we didn’t have anything new to review or talk about, we still made an effort to meet up and at least talk about things. I really hope we follow through with that in 2018 too.

The 2017 NYC Midnight Flash Fiction challenge was pretty fun as well, even if I didn’t make it to the second round this year. The first round consists of two challenges that everyone gets to do, and the top five in each group move onto the second round into new groups, then the top four of those groups make the finals. In 2016 I got there, but fell short this year. It was very fun, though, and I got some useful feedback. More importantly, I got to write in two unfamiliar categories, and did pretty well with them, so there’s that. As a result, I signed up for the 2018 NYC Midnight Short Story challenge, which takes place later this month. We’ll see how that one goes.

Of course I’ll try to write about more than writing, but that’s what I’m focusing on right now, so there.

Welcome to 2018. Upward and onward.

November 8th, 2017

The results came back today on the second story submissions for this year’s NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. While I did much better with this one, I won’t be progressing to the next round this year.

Overall, it was another great year. I received a lot of useful feedback on both stories, from both the judges and some of the other competitors over on the site’s forums. It’s a great experience, having to come up with an idea, write it, and refine it, all over the course of 48 hours. It really pushes you to just write and put something out there, which is often the problem. It’s much less intimidating than NaNoWriMo (which is started again and which I am trying, but am not holding my breath, haha) but gets the creative juices flowing just the same. Part of that may be that you actually have to pay to officially participate, as opposed to NaNo, which is free, but I digress.

For those who are curious, I’ll add links to both of this year’s entries at the end of this post. Looking back I’m happy with them both, especially the second one, which scored better with the judges. Neither of them were in my wheelhouse – the first genre was action/adventure, the second historical fiction – but I think I learned a lot from completing them both.

Onward and upward, as they say. 🙂

Story 1: Better Than Nothing

Story 2: Us And Them

July 10th, 2017

July 10th, 2017

I’m writing this from my hotel room in Austin, Texas, where it’s currently 36C outside and I’m betting it’s not that warm back home. A quick check online says it’s 27C in St. John’s, so hey, that’s not that bad actually, but still.

I came here for RTX, the annual Rooster Teeth convention. It did not disappoint, with the exception of Friday (we’ll get to that in a bit). While I know I’m looking at a small slice of the city through the lens of someone on vacation, I really had a great time here.

The trip started off on my arrival Thursday afternoon, following a slight delay from the Houston to Austin short hop connection flight. The heat smacked me in the face as soon as I walked outside, and, rather than mess with apps such as Uber or Lyft that were new to me, I just took a regular cab to my hotel. It was a little more than $25 USD, which I’ll compare to the Lyft ride I’m going to take back now in a little bit.

It was a laid back day, as I simply just checked into the hotel, went and got my badge at pre-reg in the Austin Convention Centre, then picked up a few things for the next few days – bottled water and granola bars for long days at the con – and had some of Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken for supper, which was easily the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. It was an early night then for me, especially because of the 2.5 hour time difference.

Friday started out with a good lunch at Whataburger, which I’d heard about and tracked down one with the help of Lyft – seriously, this app made travel very easy and inexpensive during my stay here, and I highly recommend it. The meal was pretty good, and then it was off to the con.

Friday was the most frustrating day con-wise, because they had to add metal detectors for people to go through in order to enter the exhibition hall. This, sadly, is for a good reason, given what happened in Phoenix back in May this year, but the problem was they only had 2 detectors at each entrance. This made for incredibly long lines to get in, which was bad enough, but this was also the first full day of the con. This meant anyone who couldn’t get to pre-reg on Thursday also had to line up in a humongous line just to get their badge to get in period, let alone into other things.

I was lucky enough to get here on Thursday so that was one less long line – it took me about 2 hours to get mine on Thursday, some people reported waits of 3-4+ hours on Friday – but then it took me well over an hour to get into the exhibition hall when I tried at around 4pm. The exhibition hall closed every day at 6pm, mind you, and on Friday the con started at 12pm, though registration lines started at 8am. Still, not a lot of time. Some people who only opted for a Friday pass were unable to attend many panels and the exhibition hall because of this, which really sucks.  The same went for weekend pass people if they didn’t get their pass on Thursday, so they could’ve missed out on autograph sessions as well.

I had the weekend pass, so it didn’t affect me nearly as much, long wait aside, but I can see why so many people were and still are pretty upset. I was still able to catch a few panels, get my autographs in with the Kinda Funny people – I posted the video they made for me here, fyi! – and get in to pick up some swag, but others weren’t so lucky.

The good news is Rooster Teeth listened and fixed it for the rest of the con, adding several more metal detectors and putting them all in one hall with several lanes for people to line up in instead of one huge line with only two. This made my entry time to the hall on Saturday less than 5 minutes or so, and likewise yesterday. Too little too late for those poor Friday folk, but they did fix it and unfortunately that’s all they could do.

Friday night’s supper was a good feed at PF Chang’s before heading back to the hotel with a headache. Not sure what caused it as every day I prepped myself with sunscreen, drank lots of water, made sure to eat, etcetera, but there you have it. It was a nice, quiet night in at any case so it’s all good.

Saturday was a great day for a number of reasons. I didn’t want to see anything until after lunch so I took a Lyft to a nearby mall for the morning, which was a nice break from having nothing accessible near the hotel and no little stores or pharmacies near the convention centre really. I was there for lunch and then went back to the con.

It was mainly great, however, because I got to meet two years-long friends in person for the first time, Alex and Sam. Alex and her boyfriend went to RTX as well, and Sam currently lives here. I got to attend some of the panels with Alex and her partner, and it was a great day in general, especially with the Kinda Funny panel and the RT Podcast being amazing. After that I got to hang out with Sam, and we had fun playing board games at a local spot called the Emerald Tavern Games & Cafe, which was such a cool place. We have something similar to that in St. John’s now I think but I wish we had more places like it, or that I’d had access to that kind of place when I was a kid, wow.

Sunday was the last day of the con sadly, but it was great. The RWBY panel kicked ass, and even though there was a long wait before it started there was an energetic crowd and a lot of fun was had in the waiting. I took a video of a Bohemian Rhapsody singalong but Facebook made me take it down for copyright reasons, bah. I saw that with Alex as well, then her and her boyfriend left to go home. I stuck around for another panel and then the hall for a bit before going to try some bbq at Cooper’s, which was great (I tried using a fork and knife at first before a worker encourage me to just dig in and yum!) then picked up snacks and went back to the hotel.

I capped off Sunday night with a trip to the Alamo Drafthouse to see Spiderman: Homecoming, which was great by the by, and while waiting for the doors to open I went to a neat comic book store named the Dragon’s Lair nearby that was also awesome and had people playing games in the back too. They were the only people who knew where Newfoundland was when I told them where I was from, haha.

And today I only ventured out for lunch, having some In-N-Out Burger to see what it’s all about. It was ok, but gotta say Jack in the Box was better – I had that at the Houston airport during the wait to get here.

And now it’s almost check out time, whoops! So off I go, a whirlwind end to a whirlwind weekend in Austin. So much fun, I’m going to miss it, but I can’t wait to see my wife and cat again. 🙂

June 11th, 2017

Oh hey, I still have this thing.

I could’ve sworn I’d used it since January, but I’d have been wrong. I certainly thought about using it, to be sure, but I never updated it until now.

What’s changed since then? Well, nothing and everything, I suppose.

Work is still as stressful as ever (which I won’t go into here), writing remains just as difficult, and I still have far too many movies, books, games, etc. to enjoy.

In the everything column, I realize as I write this that my nephew wasn’t born when I last updated. That’s kind of a big deal; his middle name is mine (poor kid). I’ve also been meeting regularly with a cousin of mine to discuss how our writing is coming along, which is definitely helpful inspiring even if I haven’t accomplished all that much; I have ideas. No, wait, sorry: ideas. Ahem. And I’ve been reading more as of late, which sort of ties into the inspiring column too, but it also means I’m getting through some of the backlog, one page turn at a time.

So things aren’t all that bad. This is what I focus on and tell myself, at any rate.

Perhaps remembering I have this outlet and actually using it will help too. If nothing else it’ll help me remember how to use italics, yes? Yes.