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Posts Tagged ‘Aunt Ursula’s Atlas’

I have a couple of short stories that I’ve been sending around, the chill SF “It’s a Dirty Job” and the fantasy, “Call Me King.” As the rejections start to come back — and yes, that’s a reality — it’s also why I published my first book, Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, because I had so many stories without markets left to submit to — and I think that’s enough parentheticals for now…

As the rejections start to come back, I’ve realized that my list of potential markets is wildly out of date. One of the things on my Super Fancy Goal Tracker is an order-of-submission list. When rejections come back, I can just send to the next market without allowing myself to fret and mope. However, glancing up there, I see a date of 2015 is on it.

So in addition to pushing on with Prisoners of the Wailing Tower, I need to do a new market study. What, you may ask, are the factors I consider in ranking my submission order? There are a few main things:

  1. Word counts accepted, genre, pay rate, and other basic information. Higher pay rates, obviously, are more attractive. I also pay attention to what rights they ask for and their payment terms. A low per-word rate that grabs all rights is far less attractive. Paying on acceptance is far more attractive vs. paying on publication.
  2. Some markets do not pay at all. They might offer copies as payment, or “exposure.” There is a thick, weedy discussion among authors about these kind of terms. I, personally, will not submit to those markets. I am a professional. I do expert work and I deserve to be paid for it.
  3. Is the market well known and reputable? A lot of my other factors are linked with the most reputable markets anyway, but if most elements are similar, I always try the well-known markets first. Who knows, they might even accept me!
  4. How recently has this market published anything, and what precisely did it publish? For short work, the choices are magazines or anthologies. I’m okay with both, but I want to know because the production process is longer for anthologies. More important is the publication history. If they haven’t published anything in over a year, the publication might already be dead and they just haven’t admitted it.
  5. I read carefully for any “poison pills” in the fine print. If they state that they won’t reply unless they want to buy the story, that’s a poison pill for me. This is another thick, weedy discussion among writers, but I personally will not submit to those markets. My time is important, and I won’t be left guessing. There’s also been a bit of stink lately about a particular market’s plan to publish a list online of the stories and authors they reject. This seems like a deliberate shaming of the authors, and I have no plans to submit to that market, either.

So that’s that I’m going to be doing this weekend.


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One thing you might not know about me, if you are new to my blog, is that I’m a crossover author. I write all fantasy, but some is for children and some is for adults. My stories often occupy a no-man’s-land between the two. Especially with shorter work, it can be really hard to place stories for publication. (I mean, it’s always hard, but still.)

Word count is one important distinguishing factor. Juvenile magazines typically want stories that are 700 or 800 words. Only a few will take work as long as 1,200 or 1,500 words. A typical short story of mine is between 2,000 and 3,000 words. So you can see that cuts me out of those markets, unless I make a case to serialize a story. (This has yet to happen.)

Even more important, though, is the story’s point of view. For a children’s story, the POV really must be a child, or someone with a childlike perspective. This is why lots of children’s stories have animals as the viewpoint characters. Conversely, a story that is intended for adults might include children, but the point of view will clearly reflect an adult’s perspective.

This distinction is in my mind because I’ve recently finished a story that — miracle of miracles! — came in at 600 words. That makes it ideal for juvenile markets, and there is an important child character, too. But, it is not a children’s story. The POV is an adult, and her thoughts reflect an adult’s concerns like taking care of a disabled child and growing enough food to feed them both. There’s also a dark twist at the end that no child POV would envision.

I often get caught in this bind with editors. Adult publications reject my stories because the tone is deceptively gentle and a child is present. They thus assume it is a juvenile story. But juvenile editors reject my stories because they are too long and the POV is an adult. What’s an author to do?

What I did was to self-publish my misfit stories into the collection, Aunt Ursula’s Atlas. It was my first self-published book, in 2016. You should take a look. And, what the heck! If anyone out there is curious about about children’s publishing, go ahead and toss your questions my way.


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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As I work through refocusing my outreach, one puzzle is how to describe my books when people ask about genre. I try to push myself beyond easy categories and stereotypes, but here’s where it bites me in the butt.

Starting with the broadest definition, I write fantasy. That’s a no-brainer. My books are full of magic and magical creatures. From there is where it gets foggy.

There’s High Fantasy, which involves the great and powerful with their big wars and political intrigues. But there’s also Low Fantasy, which involves the small and powerless, and is often humorous in nature. In Swords and Sorcery, individual warriors struggle against malign magic and corrupt empires, while they themselves are no angels.

Then there’s Urban Fantasy, where mythical creatures/monsters interact with people in the modern world. There’s often a strong element of romantic tension. Last but not least, there are Fairy Tales. People are always re-imagining beloved fairy tales.

So where do my books fit in? I’ve written somethings in almost all of these sub-genres. Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, for example, is contains several stories in the fairy-tale style. The Gellboar is a form of Urban Fantasy. The Weight of Their Souls is Swords and Sorcery. But most of my books are much harder to pin down.

Take The Seven Exalted Orders, for example. It’s High Fantasy because it ponders political and philosophical questions like who decides how mages use their power. It’s not High Fantasy because the protagonists aren’t among the ruling elite. This would make The Seven Exalted Orders a Low Fantasy, except that it lacks broad humor. Calling my books Medium Fantasy just sounds boring.

For those of you out there who have read my books, I’d love your perspective on this question. What should I call my genre in order to attract readers who are likely to enjoy my work? High Fantasy, Low Fantasy, something else… And I’d love to hear your reasoning.


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A snippet from “The Dragon Stone”

Here is my latest snippet, which happens to include one of my all-time favorite lines: “Keep screaming. These people just love the screaming.” (This line must be read with heavy sarcasm.)

The line is from my short story, “The Dragon Stone,” which is included in my collection, Aunt Ursula’s Atlas. (It’s my featured book, over there on the right.)

In this story, I was playing with the idea of a maiden tied to a rock. The villagers had accused her of witchcraft. But instead of attacking her, the dragon came to rescue her. I was also playing with the idea of an alliance between dragons and witches. (I really need to follow up on that some day.)


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Here is part two of my short story, “The Winter Wish.” Those who have read my collection, Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, will recognize this as an indirect sequel to my lyrical fantasy, “Dandelion.” Think of it as my holiday gift to you. Enjoy!


THE WINTER WISH, Part 2
by Lucy D. Ford

“How I wish I could see the winter’s snow,” sighed the grimchild.

He gazed up, between the dismal towers. Stinging ashpall made eyes dull and hopeless. Only when he looked down… What was that?

On the ledge beneath the window, just at the corner, a stubborn plant clung to a miserly crack. Soot grimed its saw-tooth leaves, yet still it held a single stem aloft. A soft ball balanced atop this stem, pale as true dawn under a layer of smudge. The grimchild held back a cry of joy, for he feared what Nanny would do to such a delicate thing.

Drawn by instinct, he pushed the window open and cautiously leaned out. Fingertips stretched toward the ledge. Almost he could touch it. Almost… Then his feet lifted from the floor and his weight tipped forward. Common sense made him jerk back, though not without a low cry of sorrow.

With the merest brush of his breath, the dandelion loosed its seed. Each tiny pilgrim hung by its own gossamer sail. The harsh wind snatched them and they spun high and low. Each was a dream escaping the gloomy prison of the Withertines.

The grimchild watched until he saw no more. His feet were back under him, sensible and safe, but the cold, hard floor held a dragging weight. He wondered if he would ever escape the Withertines.

As for the dandelion seeds, the dirty breeze sailed them over the Shearwire Fence and out across the Chokedust Plain. Spirits flagged above the Crackstone Wash, and they might have fallen there, except a little Windkin flitted by. It played a while, swirling and dancing and spreading them wide.

At last a gossamer seed was left, just one. Within that one trembled the whisper of a wish. The windkin heard that cry. It spun about and sent the tiny messenger floating toward pine-clad mountains. The silken puff drifted higher and ever higher. It whisked above the pines and up the cliffs until it came to rest on the very tip of the Cloudtorn Peak.

There it found another crack, no larger than its cranny on the window ledge. The seed nestled into the dark with its precious dream.

Soon tiny roots began to spread. They reached into the crevice, digging steadily, and those roots made the crack grow. Bits of rock flaked loose, clearing patches of raw, bright stone. An arc formed, and with a trembling snap a great eye flicked open. More cracks spread, faster and faster. A second eye took shape. A pair of sharp ears twitched free of the rock. Nostrils flared. A longer slit took on the shape of a jagged mouth.

Change was racing now, sketching shapes that had always been hidden in the stony spire. The Cloudtorn Peak shook and crumbled. A great horny head slowly lifted toward the sky. Mighty shoulders heaved free, unfurling crystal wings. Then a scaly back, hips, long tail edged with icicle daggers.

The snow dragon gazed out, seeking the root of its wish. A far, dull glow caught its eye. Below the lofty peak, beyond the Chokedust plain, the Withertines glowered its light through the noisome ashpall. The dragon snorted jets of frost. The great maw opened and a roar turned the air to icy fog. Beneath its wings, bits of freezing fluff drifted down upon the stately pines.

Stretching, the snow dragon shook loose the last shard of stone that imprisoned its talons. Vast wings beat and chill air whistled through frozen feathers as it soared aloft. Downy puffs fell thick behind. High over the barren gravel of the Chokedust Plain it glided, across the Shearwire Fence, until it circled the metal spires and smoke stacks of the Withertines.

All night the snow dragon circled. Snow mingled with the ashpall, gathering soot as it fell between concrete towers. Snow settled on the filthy rooftops and the bitter asphalt. It washed at least the outermost layer of grime from smeary windows.

Inside their factories, grimkin shivered and dared not look up. They feared this was the end of all Industry, and they were determined to wring every last bit of wealth from it.

The grimchild knew nothing of this, for Nanny had drawn the drapes again and their rooms were always chilly. Only, in the morning, her shriek tore the grimchild from sleep.

Racing to the window, he gasped at the vista of gentle white flakes settling endlessly upon the town. Screeches echoed up from below as motorcars skidded. There was crashing and cursing, too.

“What is this?” cried Nanny.

The grimchild knew the answer, but he did not say it for fear she would shut the drapes again. Shivering with delight, he watched as winter visited the Withertines for the first time beyond memory. Just once he caught a glimpse of the gleaming white dragon who soared above the ashpall.

“Of all the things,” Nanny complained, trembling. “And shut that window! You’re letting the heat out.”

Obediently, the grimchild slid the glass down. He looked around their barren chamber, the plain slat furniture and the hard bed where he slept.

“Of all the things,” he murmured.

Nanny said the Withertines was all the world and there was nowhere else to live. Now he knew she was wrong. There was a world outside the Withertines, where lovely things could still be found. One day, he wanted to see them all.

So while Nanny tutted and fussed at the falling show, the little grimchild picked up his book and began to make a plan.

The End…?


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From the dawn of time, the dragon has been the ultimate monster. Always lurking, looking for a virgin maiden to devour. I decided to play with this trope when I wrote my short story, “The Dragon Stone.”

You know the setup, right? A young woman, accused of witchcraft, is dragged to the stake. She must die for her evil ways! In the village of Terncliff, they have a Dragon Stone where witches are offered to the sea dragon, as payment for their crimes. Although young Aldrina is a witch, she has never hurt anyone. And when the sea dragon comes — let’s just say, the outcome isn’t what the villagers were expecting.

You can read the full story, “The Dragon Stone,” in my collection, Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, at fine e-booksellers everywhere.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Aunt-Ursulas-Atlas-Fairy-Tales-ebook/dp/B01N0RIQSS

Other formats: https://www.books2read.com/u/bxg6qP

Or in paperback: https://www.createspace.com/6939815

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And cymbals crash as the door flies open. Ta-da! Aunt Ursula’s Atlas is here.

So I’m super-excited, in my stoic way. After years of searching out markets for my retro fantasy short stories, I’ve taken the leap to self-publish a collection. It’s a little bit scary, but mostly fun, to bring out a book on my own initiative.

 

DFMAP10_8x8

Cover illustration by Margaret Organ-Kean.

On a high shelf, in a hidden library,
There is a book of unknown wonders.

Open its pages. Explore mysterious lands.
See for yourself what lies within
Aunt Ursula’s Atlas.

So what’s inside?

Dragons, of course! And a unicorn. Some witches. A dryad. A dwarf. Thrilling adventures and hard lessons to learn. All this for $3.99.

Eleven short stories for middle grades — that is, grades 4 to 6. Half are in the fairy tale style you might remember from my podcast, The Dragon King. The others are an assortment of fantasy styles.

Where can you get this wondrous-ness?

Right now, it’s available only as an e-book. Trade paperback is in the works. It’s in Apple, Kindle and Epub formats, through a variety of outlets. I hope you’ll follow your favorite link and give it a try.

General purchase hub (links to Apple, Nook, Kobo, 24 Symbols, Inktera). Others soon to be available include Page Foundry, Scribd and Tolino.

And, of course, Amazon.

Not exactly a purchase link, but here’s Goodreads as well.

One last thing

Reviews! If you do buy the book, I sure could use some reviews. I’ll be contacting a few friends about specific publicity, but any one of you could add it to wish lists, mark it to-be-read, and otherwise help spread the joy.

Thanks for being so awesome!

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