Lessons Learned: Tips for Getting Your Short Stories Published

I want to start with a disclaimer: I’m not an expert here. Anything but. At the date of this post, I have 15 published stories. I’m still a newbie to publishing. But in that time I’ve sent out a boatload of submissions to nearly every market that might be able to use one of my stories. With every rejection/acceptance I feel like I learn something new about the crazy world of short story submissions. Hopefully this advice can save you some time. When I first started sending my stories out, these tips would have been a huge help.

Make Sure Your Story is Perfect

This is the best place to start. You’ve poured your heart and soul into your short story. But, before you send it off, you should take that extra step to make sure that every word is exactly where it needs to be. Run spell check. Do a slow read through to make sure you haven’t missed any omitted words and to catch any awkward phases. Also: here’s a formatting tip. Many places I’ve submitted to in the past prefer the Shunn Manuscript Format. It’s a common enough request that I now format all stories I write this way (unless the market states otherwise).

Know Your Markets

Do some research. I write horror fiction. I use websites like Dark Markets or Horror Tree to find places to submit my stories. Then, once I find a location that I might have a story for, I read the submission guidelines. And when I say ‘read the submission guidelines’ I really do mean that. Look at word count, formatting tips, and stick to them. The short story market is competitive enough without making it harder on yourself.

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Stay Organized

Once you get a bunch of stories out on submission calls, it can get a little tough to track where they are and how long they’ve been out. I like to use a Google Spreadsheet to track what stories are out and what stories still need to be submitted. It makes my process a lot easier when it comes time to draft that e-mail or upload that story into Submittable. It may seem silly. But hey! Baby steps are still steps.

And perhaps, most importantly:

Don’t Lose Hope

Sending out a lot of stories gets you a lot of rejections. Seeing that same form rejection over and over again can sap you of any hope that you will ever get published. I’ve been there. Believe me. A lot of writers have. The first Harry Potter book was rejected by over a dozen publishers. Stephen King had so many rejection slips early in his career that he had to use a spike in his wall to hold them up. Every rejection I receive is an invitation to get better. I always try to remember that the only way to improve is to keep my head down and keep writing. Even when it hurts.

Those are some small tips. Hopefully my myriad of failures will help you on your endeavors. What lessons have you learned from your submissions? Feel free to comment below.

Battling in the Arena: ‘Red Sands’

It’s the last week of the month so that means it’s time for a little Shameless Self-Promotion. This will be short and sweet. Well. Mostly.

This week we’ll be looking at:

My story ‘Red Sands’ published on thewritersarena.com. Read the story here.

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The Writer’s Arena is a genius idea. Basically the site gives two writers ten days to write a story based on a very specific prompt. Once the stories have been turned in they’re put on the site and they’re voted on by both a team of judges and by the readers of the site. I’ve participated in this literary grudge match twice and both times I’ve LOVED it. My story ‘Red Sands’ was from my first visit. My prompt was ‘Sand’  for this go around.

One problem I have as a writer is focus. This was a fantastic challenge in a lot of ways. The 10 day timeframe forced me to narrow my focus. The prompt kept me reeled in. And the voting made me work extra hard to make the story just right.

This go around in The Writer’s Arena made me realize something. Being challenged is a good thing. Creative muscles are just that. If you don’t flex them they can get weak.

Thank you for tuning into Shameless Self Promotion. Please follow me on Twitter, Instagram and also check out my Amazon page. I’ll see you all very soon!

Book Review: Deadfall Hotel

Note: this review originally appeared on my old blog (The Fiction & Film Emporium). I hope you enjoy.

Deadfall Hotel by Steve Rasnic Tem

Published by Solaris

Plot is as follows:

This is the hotel where our nightmares go…

It’s where horrors come to be themselves, and the dead pause to rest between worlds. Recently widowed and unemployed, Richard Carter finds a new job, and a new life for him and his daughter Serena, as manager of the mysterious Deadfall Hotel. Jacob Ascher, the caretaker, is there to show Richard the ropes, and to tell him the many rules and traditions, but from the beginning, their new world haunts and transforms them.

It’s a terrible place. As the seasons pass, the supernatural and the sublime become a part of life, as routine as a morning cup of coffee, but it’s not safe, by any means. Deadfall Hotel is where Richard and Serena will rebuild the life that was taken from them…if it doesn’t kill them first.

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Deadfall Hotel is a haunted place. When the novel begins, with Richard Carter and his young daughter Serena taking on the job of the new management position for the haunted hotel, they aren’t sure what to expect. They are told by the current manager, an eccentric man by the name of Jacob Ascher, that the hotel is perfectly safe.
That can’t be further from the truth.

The hotel defies all forms of logic. Doors lead to nowhere. Staircases, depending on when you climb them, lead to different places. The guests are almost never human. And, when they are, something is terribly wrong. The book unfolds in a series of powerful vignettes. Richard and Serena moving in. Jacob attempting to teach Richard the day to day dangers of running a place that seems to have a life of its own. Danger comes from all angles. A guest that has a literal taste for children. A religious group that is harboring a deadly secret. Richard’s quest for understanding is a major through line as he struggles with the nightmarish logic of such a place. Through these episodic chapters, the relationship between Richard and Serena evolve.

Before the novel begins, Richard’s wife and Serena’s mother dies in a terrible accident. From that event, the novels theme comes to the forefront. Grief is a major force behind each story. The lengths that our characters must venture to find release from their pain is chilling.

As a gothic horror novel, Deadfall Hotel really works. Rasnic Tem’s prose is lyrical and dense, each description and plot turn helping to grow the titular hotel into the mysterious oddity that we receive. That being said, some humor, mostly from Richard’s confusion and Jacob’s cryptic instructions. Jacob and Richard’s interactions, from the calm veteran to the terrified newbie are a major highlight.

This isn’t a pop horror novel. I think, as a genre, horror is often scoffed at as being lesser than it’s more lofty, serious kin. ‘Deadfall Hotel’ destroys that old adage by being equal parts intelligent and terrifying. It’s clear that Rasnic Tem had something to tell us. A lesson to pull from the shadowed halls of the ‘Deadfall Hotel’.

If you are looking for a violent horror novel, you may want to look elsewhere. The threats, while just as tangible as a serial killer or the like, often come in the form of more psychological adversaries. In this hotel, your nightmares have a way of coming after you. While it may be light on bloodshed, the novel’s palpable atmosphere and world building are second to none. I’ve already ordered Steve Rasnic Tem’s newest novel. It’s been quite some time that I’ve read a horror novel that feels so grounded and yet so fantastical. Every chapter is a surprise. Every character is perfect.

I can’t wait to check back into the Deadfall Hotel. I hope to see you there.

 

 

My Three Favorite Stephen King Novels

Last week I wrote a post outlining my three favorite Stephen King short stories. While researching stories I got thinking about all of Stephen King’s longer works and all the scares they’ve given me over the years. His books are often cement block sized monstrosities. Stephen King has published 54 novels. I want to take the time to highlight some of my all time favorites. Cool? Hold on to your butts because here we go.

Salem’s Lot

‘Salem’s Lot’ is Stephen King’s second novel. This is the novel that introduced us to so many things that turned out to be King staples. Huge casts of characters. Working class towns. You grow to hate/love these people. When tragedy finally befalls Jerusalem’s Lot, it hurts.

IT

Pennywise the Dancing Clown. The Loser’s Club. Derry, Maine. ‘IT’ is not only one of my favorite Stephen King novels, it’s one of my favorite novels PERIOD. The sheer breadth of terror and imagination poured into this 1,489 page behemoth is awe inspiring. Pennywise is one of literature/films greatest monsters. Derry is a city, that by the time the story wraps up, feels alive. And, unfortunately for our heroes, it is rotten to the core. WE FLOAT. WE ALL FLOAT.

11/22/63

This one got me right in the feels. ’11/22/63′ belongs to his more recent string of novels. This novel may have a lot less supernatural horrors (it does have time travel though), but it’s not a slouch when it comes to the scares. The evils here are resoundingly human and that makes them all the more blood chilling. Watching Jake Epping (a everyman teacher) experience love and loss in a long-gone time is riveting. You know that tragedy is coming. And you can’t help but keep turning the page to see exactly how it plays out.

Those are my three! I love nearly everything Stephen King has written. Making this list was pretty tough. What are some of your favorites? ‘The Shining’? ‘The Stand’? Let me know in the comments below!

My Three Favorite Stephen King Short Stories

If it wasn’t for Stephen King I would not be a writer. I think most horror writers would probably say the same thing. When I was 13 I was drawn in by King’s behemoth horror masterwork ‘IT’. But, when my stepmother saw me pick it up, she suggested I read a less scary book to start me off in the world of Stephen King. She handed me ‘Pet Sematary’. I devoured it and moved on to ‘IT’, then ‘Carrie’, then ‘Salem’s Lot’. I spent the next couple of years scouring local thrift stores for dog-eared copies of King’s bibliography. I loved them all. And as much as I love his novels, I think his short fiction has stuck with me the most.

A podcast I really enjoy (The Lovecraft Ezine Podcast) had a episode recently where they discussed their favorite Stephen King short stories. That conversation brought me back to all those hours I spent going over all my favorites. So, without further ado, these are my three favorite Stephen King stories!

‘One for the Road’ – Published in ‘Night Shift’

For my first story here I wanted to start with one of my first favorites. ‘One for the Road’, published in his first collections, feels like a classic horror story in every sense. A quiet bar. A blizzard. Vampires. It might not be the most original tale, but it makes up for it with pure atmosphere.

‘The Moving Finger’ – Published in ‘Nightmares and Dreamscapes’

Let’s get weird. ‘The Moving Finger’ brings it in spades. This story was my introduction to Weird Fiction as a genre. A simple conceit wrapped around a unforgettable image makes this story a mean little beast. From the little details (the game show) to the maniacal wrap-up, I love every word of this one.

‘1408’ – Published in ‘Everything’s Eventual’

When it comes to haunted hotel rooms, everything does seem eventual. We’ve all heard this kind of story. Shoot, Stephen King has written about these kind of things before. But over the course of this novella (I know, I’m kind of cheating, it’s not a short story) we see receive a legend of a VERY haunted hotel room. The intro takes it’s time before allowing our protagonist Mike Enslin into that room. Paintings change. Demonic voices howl through phone receivers. ‘1408’ is a masterpiece and is one of my favorite Stephen King stories.

There you have it! Those are my three. Am I crazy for loving these? Feel free to yell at me in the comments below or chime in with your all time favorite stories!

Recommends: Horror Writers (And Some Short Stories to Start You Off) Part 1

Horror and weird fiction is in an amazing place right now. With so many great authors doing such awesome things, it can be hard to know where to start. I wanted to write a little post to recommend some writers to check out, as well as some short stories they’ve written to ease you in. This is not an all-inclusive list (that would be impossibly long) and I intend to do follow-ups to this post in the future. Cool? Cool. Let’s jump in!

Laird Barron
The Story to Get You Started: ‘Blackwood’s Baby’ from The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All

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Laird Barron is my current favorite author. His style is wholly unique. It’s a mix of white-knuckled adventure tales and truly awe-inspiring cosmic/weird horror. I know it’s common for people to say “So scary it gave me NIGHTMARES” but, in my case, it’s true. I was staying at my in-laws and reading my Kindle while my wife slept next me. I read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open before shutting my Kindle down. One of his stories from his newest collection leaked into my dreams. It was scary. And I loved it. ‘Blackwood’s Baby’ has all of his trademarks in spades.

Orrin Grey
The Story to Get You Started: ‘Painted Monsters’ from Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts

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Orrin Grey writes monsters. And I don’t think anyone does them better. This collection is chock full of them. My favorite story (though I like them all) is the title story ‘Painted Monsters’. I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t. I will say this though: It’s crazy, fun, and filled with references to decades of horror cinema. This story is the final story in the collection and I feel like it’s a terrifying wrap-up to all the stories that came before. It’s Orrin Grey’s fiction distilled. Just be careful. It’s a little slimy.

John Langan
The Story to Get You Started: ‘The Revel’ from The Wide, Carnivorous Sky & Other Monstrous Geographies

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I feel kind of dumb when I read John Langan. Which, if you think about it, is a good thing! His fiction is dense and smart, and he often slices up the genre, usually reveling (pun intended) in all the gooey bits beneath. This collection is solid all around, but I think ‘The Revel’ is a good jumping off point. It, like most of John Langan’s work, is uniquely structured. It’s a werewolf story, a look into the tropes of horror film, and one heck of a story all around. If you like your horror intellectual, this is a great place to start.

That’s all for now! There are plenty of writers that I love that deserve acclaim, and I can’t wait to fill you in! Until next time everybody…

 

Writing Goals for 2017

Hello everyone and welcome to the New Year! 2016, for the most part, was a great year for me professionally. I wrote some great material and had some major successes for publishing. But, like anything in life, there is always room for improvement. Today I wanted to outline a few goals I have for the upcoming year. A few things I can strive for to reach the level in my writing career that I want. Sound good? Okay. First things first…

 

1. Finish a Novel

I think this is kind of a big one. I’ve had false starts too numerous to name and I’m honestly a bit sick of it. My newest project, a Gothic Horror novel, is coming along nicely. I’ve been doing heavy plotting to avoid getting derailed. 2017 will be the year that I finish one up.

2. Publish 5 Stories

You might be thinking to yourself, “Logan, 5 seems like a kind of arbitrary number.” Well, dearest reader, in both 2014 and 2015 I published 4 short stories, which is an even more arbitrary number. My big mission for this year is just Career Improvement. Pushing myself to write more and aggressively submit is the next logical step.

3. Read 50 Books

Another number with ‘5’ in it. Most professional writers would tell you that one key to becoming a better writer is to read a lot. And this is the way it starts. I’m four books in already. Must… keep…. reading….

4. Network

Not social network, though that may be a factor. No, I want to get talking with some other writers! Make some connections! I know there are other writers, just like me, looking for input and support. We all want to improve. Sometimes having a like-minded friend is a good step.

Okay! That’s four goals. Finish a novel, publish more, read more, and network. I hope 2017 will be awesome. As always, please follow me on Twitter @logan_noble and follow this blog! Do you have any writing goals (or any goals for that matter) for the year of our Lord 2017? Comment below!

Until next time…

Next Article: Wednesday the 25th.