Sunday, February 22, 2015

Book Review: Zorgamazoo

Title: Zorgamazoo
Author: Robert Paul Weston
Genre: Children's Book, Fantasy


A Zorgle's a creature that's rare to be found.
They live out of our sight and far under the ground.
When one catches the eye of Katrina Katrelle
(Our brave heroine in this upcoming tale),
Her caretaker, Krabone, calls her a pain
And threatens to cure her by mincing her brain.
Off runs Katrina, but to her surprise,
She again spots that Zorgle with her very eyes.
Mortimer Yorgle, or Morty, he's called.
He's on an adventure that's just a bit stalled.
You see, all the Zorgles of Zorgamazoo
Have vanished without leaving much of a clue.
Now Morty must find them. Yes, that is his quest.
(He's not a detective but doing his best.)
Katrina's intrigued. She agrees to help, too.
What perils await them at Zorgamazoo?


As you might guess from the summary, this is a 280-page chapter book written in rhymes, much like Dr. Seuss. It had the potential to be a disaster, but it actually works pretty well, once you get used to the sing-song-y voice. The story is clear and exciting and full of imagination. It's a book that begs to be read out loud, good for class story time or before bed reading, and maybe not as good for SSR.

Katrina Katrelle
Katrina Katrelle, our heroine, is brave and spirited and smart, despite an awful upbringing. She lives with an aunt who wants to lobotomize her for seeing Zorgles. After running away, Katrina nearly gets stabbed by a vicious child gang. This is a dark fantasy, so there are some frightening situations and threats of violence--but nothing most kids can't handle. In the end, Katrina rises above her circumstances and proves adept at facing adversary and obstacles head-on.

Morty the Zorgle
Though I like Katrina, I think Morty, the Zorgle, is the real heart and soul of this tale. Like Bilbo Baggins and other reluctant adventurers, he's not sure how he got caught up in this quest and he frequently doubts his own abilities. In contrast to Katrina's horrendous home life, Morty has a wonderful relationship with his father, a former adventurer, now bed-ridden. Though his father can't join in Morty's adventure, he's there in spirit. This comes into play in a crucial, heart-warming scene where Morty realizes how many lives his father has touched.

Although it's supposed to be Morty's quest, Katrina takes it over. She has all the good ideas and does most of the work. I kept waiting for Morty to have his big heroic moment, but when it came, I was a little disappointed. I guess I had higher expectations for him.

The adventures of Morty and Katrina were fun and fresh, filled with Zorgles and Windigo Beasts and creatures I can't even describe about without spoiling the surprise. I love Robert Paul Weston's imagination. One of my favorite bits was a lottery machine, its cranks and gears all lovingly described, that selected heroes for the quest. Overall, Zorgamazoo is an vivid adventure sure to spark wonder (and rhyme) in its readers.


This is just a short rant. It's nothing against Zorgamazoo but more of a discussion about what is or is not appropriate for children's books. In other words, is it acceptable to put children in danger, to threaten them with horrible violence or even death?

I say yes.

Granted I'm not a parent myself, but I do remember being a child. I felt safe and I felt bored and I wanted to have adventures. Books were my escape. I didn't want to read safe children doing boring things, I wanted danger and excitement and a chill up my spine. Instinctively, I knew that books would never kill off a child (until A Taste of Blackberries horrifically shattered that illusion), so I didn't take the fear of death all too seriously. It was just another part of the game.

I bring all this up is because that's how I ended up hearing about Zorgamazoo. I had a discussion with Christy, a member of my Writer's Group (who is a parent), and she agreed. Children's books can be messed up and that's not a bad thing. As proof, she offered up Zorgamazoo, which she and her kids enjoyed, even though it began with a tirade of verbal abuse heaped upon the main character and the subsequent threat of a lobotomy.

I think Robert Paul Weston is simply carrying on the tradition of some of our finest children's books authors, who think nothing of exterminating an entire town by boiling them in water (Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who) or having a group of nice-seeming women conspire to exterminate at least one child per week in a myriad of horrible ways (Roald Dahl's The Witches).

A lobotomy seems rather tame in comparison.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Weekly Update: 2-20-15 Money and Courage

Monday was President's Day, and I spent the beautifully warm holiday showing my patriotism by doing taxes. I was pulling my hair by the end of it. All this time spent entering numbers for everything from mutual funds dividends to business start up costs to dental bills to the interest on my student loans, and none of it mattered. I made too little money. I might as well have just showed them my W2 form with a big "POOR" stamped on it.

The rest of the week got better, though, as I received subbing jobs on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday--or double the jobs I got for the whole month of January. In addition to the gleeful anticipation of depositing money into my dwindling checking account, one of the classes I got to sub for was English and (shock) I got to teach some of it.  Which is always fun for me. I love to lead class discussions about areas I'm passionate about.

The sophmores were about to read Julius Caesar. We had some extra time in class and for a minute, I thought about reading my own version of Shakespeare's tragedy, "The Character Assassination of Julia Kaiser," but at the last second, I chickened out. It's funny, because I can do a dramatic reading of  Shakespeare without batting an eye, but when I have to read my own work, I freeze. It's like--well, that time in drama when I had to do a dance monologue in front of the class. I feel embarassed and vulnerable.

Obviously, this is a bit of a problem, since, as a writer, presumably I'll have to read my work in front of others at some time. It's a skill I have yet to develop. Not just the reading, but gathering the courage to do it. To face the imperfections of my own work, while being judged by a group of people, any one of whom might shatter me with a yawn. It's tough.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Book Review: Masks

Title: Masks (Book 1 of The Masks of Aygrima)
Author: E. C. Blake
Genre: Fantasy (Sword and Sorcery with a smidgen of Dystopian)


In Aygrima, every adult wears an enchanted mask as a symbol of loyalty to their ruler, the all-powerful Autarch. Any treachery, and the mask will shatter. For 15-year-old Mara Holdfast, donning the mask means she's finally ready to learn to use her Gift of magic and follow in her father's footsteps. It is the crowning moment of her young life.

And then it all goes horribly wrong.

Maybe she shouldn't have lied on her test, saying she saw only the coppery-red strands of magic when in fact the whole spectrum of the rainbow was laid out before her. Maybe she should have turned in that lunatic boy she found in the basement, the one ranting about an unMasked army. Whatever the reason, Mara is ripped from her home. Friendless and afraid, she'll need to rely on her budding magic if she wants to survive. But if she can't control it, she may find herself facing a fate worse than death.


The first chapter is a little choppy, skipping from Mara age 6 to Mara age 13 via a series of scene cuts. But once Mara comes of age, Masks settles into its rhythm and reads quite smoothly. Between the mystery of why Mara's masking went so horribly wrong and a series of action-packed plot twists, I found the book hard to put down. (In fact, I didn't; I finished most of the book in one sitting.) The ending nicely wrapped up the whole story, while still leaving enough of a sequel hook to make me want to read the next book in the trilogy.

One of the reasons the book is so compelling is that Mara, its central character, faces danger constantly, sometimes due to circumstances, sometimes due to her own choices. With every challenge she meets, she grows. Over the course of the book, Mara goes from blissfully ignorant to aware of the injustice in her society to passionate about saving the innocent. Unlike most novels, where the hero's idealism triumphs over evil, Mara stumbles, makes mistakes, and, in some cases, screws things up pretty badly. This saves both the plot and the character from being too predictable.

The book gets dark at times. Supporting characters meet horrible fates right as you start to get to know them. Rape looms in the background and actually happens to one character, though the reader does not see the act itself. The material isn't graphic, but it is intense.

I bought this book because the concept of a society filled with masked men and women intrigued me, and I wanted to know more of how the magic worked. While the masks played a central role in the plot, a few points about how their magic worked remained foggy. For instance, masks shatter when put on the face of a "bad person," but how exactly does it define "bad?" From what I can tell, child molesters and rapists were tolerated at least some of the time.

On the whole, Masks is a fast-paced, solid fantasy with plenty of twists and turns and a main character you can root for.  I enjoyed it and I'm interested in reading the sequel.

Rant (Spoilers)

Normally, I rant about things I like or dislike about a story, and whether anyone else shares my opinion, at least I know how I feel. For this rant, though, which is about realism in fantasy, I'm not sure what conclusion to draw. Can fantasy be realistic? Should it be?

But let me start from the beginning.

Mara often points out during the course of her adventure, that certain things don't happen to her like they do "in stories." Since Mara has never been established as being a great reader or as a person with a highly idealized notion of life, I can only assume this is EC Blake taking a dig at unrealistic tropes and cliches of fantasy novels. And so we have horses which are a pain to ride, characters who frequently need bathroom breaks, and the climatic rescue scene that fails horrifically.

I appreciate these variations. But for all that, I did not see Masks as realistic.

Considering all the danger Mara goes through, she escapes more or less unharmed. When her mask breaks, she has a master healer to take away her scars. When she finds herself in the grip of a rapist, he puts off the deed until she's in the perfect position to defend herself. When she finds herself in a den of rapists, the boss finds an excuse to keep her from being their play thing. When she passes out in that same den, they put her in the hospital and leave her alone.

Don't get me wrong; I'm glad she was never raped. It just seemed like the universe was conspiring a little too much to keep her safe. The most obvious incident happened at the end. Mara, facing unbearable guilt, contemplates suicide. But before she can enact the deed, one of her friends, who had been healthy before, stumbles in, bleeding, dying, with no one to help her. It's up to Mara to heal her, and, in so doing, eases her conscience.

The other major roadblock I had was Mara's magic, more specifically, how powerful it became.
In this world, many people can't even see magic, let alone use it. Those who can, usually see it as one color. They can use it for one purpose (like healing) and must harvest it in limited quantities from a black stone. Mara, on the other hand, can see all spectrums of the rainbow, use magic for almost any purpose she wants, and draw it out of people's life force. It's a power that dwarfs even the Autarch, the supposedly all-powerful ruler.

This makes it clear, whatever fantasy tropes EC Blake meant to avoid, he hit the greatest one smack on the head. Mara is, for better or worse, "the chosen one."

But is that a bad thing?

I enjoyed the book. If Mara hadn't been constantly in danger, I would have been bored. If she had been raped, I'd have been devastated. I might not like that Mara has so much power, but if she had no magic at all, it might not have been as much fun. The whole purpose of a fantasy novel is to enjoy a world with no possibilities. How much realism do we really want to swallow?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Weekly Update: 2-14-15 Single's Awareness Day

A few days ago, I dreamt I was getting married. It was a nightmare.

In my dream, I stood in front of a mirror in a tight-fitting white gown, feeling a swell of panic flood me. It wasn't me. It wasn't what I wanted. I felt trapped. I had to get out. But it was the day of the wedding, all the preparations were made, all the money spent. How could I wriggle my way out of the situation without disappointing everyone around me?

I've never had much of a desire to get married or settle down, and sometimes I wonder if that means there's something wrong with me. Am I immature? Am I selfish? Am I missing out on life? When every song on the radio extolls the importance of falling in love, I wonder what it means that I don't really care to. I'm content to have my dream, my friends and family, and my nice sunny strolls around the park, where I can see flowers bloom in February and listen to birds sing.

Attitudes are changing about single-dom, but it seems that if you are single, you need to be "independent." You need to have the car, the house, the money in the bank. And if you don't? Well, then you're just pathetic. Like one of those basement dwellers the parents yearn to kick out. You're useless, you're lazy, you're a burden to society.

Sometimes I think, if I had a spouse and a family, at least then I could take comfort in that partial success. If I live with my aunt and uncle rent-free, pay for groceries, plan and cook meals five night a week, keep the house relatively clean, work a part-time job, volunteer at the library, and write novels in my spare time--well, clearly, I'm a parasite. But if I were married and did the same thing, I'd be a housewife and that's acceptable.

These are just my own thoughts, my own internalization of what I think society expects from me and the ways (I fail) to measure up. I have to constantly remind myself that I can define success and happiness for myself, that I don't need to live up to some vague, idealized, and ultimately superficial notion of success. Life is more than having all the things people think you should have. Including a relationship.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Travelogue: The Fowler Museum and Ramayani

Date: Saturday, January 31, 2015
Location: Los Angeles (primarily UCLA and Westwood are)

My cousins and I are close. We like to get together every now and then. Somehow, I end up planning many of our day trips, but I don't mind. It gives me a chance to steer the agenda to my objectives. Mwahaha. Aren't I devious?

In this case, I wanted to do some research. I'm setting a book I'm writing in April, "Counterfeit Diamond," in a magical version of Dutch-colonized Indonesia. It's not the easiest country to research, but I did discover that the Fowler Museum had Indonesian artifacts and that there was an Indonesian restaurant nearby. I presented my agenda to the cousins ands was surprised by their enthusiastic response. So the date was set and we were off.

The Party of Intrepid Adventurers (minus Krystal who took the photo)

Seven of us went on this adventure: me, Mitchell, Krystal, Kevin, Alyson, Nathan, and Nathan's girlfriend Cindy. Mitchell and Krystal picked me up around 9:30, while the rest of the party set off in a second car a short while later. It was a warm, sunny, clear day, and since it was Saturday, the traffic was relatively light.

Stop 1: California Donuts (Korea Town)

This was actually the pick of my cousin Kevin.

California Donuts, a corner donut shop in Korea Town, in an unremarkable block, distinguished by the line of people trickling onto the sidewalk. If you squeeze past them and stare at the case, you'll see a wide variety of donuts with toppings that will bring out the inner kid in you. 

Our First Stop

 Green-frosted donuts, pink-frosted donuts with sprinkles, donuts topped with Saturday morning cereals, donuts with cookies crumbles, donuts topped with bacon. They also have an Oreo donut in the shape of a panda, but those were unavailable today.

Our car arrived first. Parking in the parking lot was out of the question, but fortunately, we found a spot along the sidewalk of a nearby residential zone after only 5 minutes of mostly stress-free searching.

The line went fast, and while we were still deciding, it was time to order. I bought a box of six mostly normal donuts, figuring that everyone else would buy only one or two specialty donuts and fill up on my cheaper ones. That didn't really pan out. As it turned out, it was almost impossible to buy one.

Afterwards, Krystal and I stood in the parking lot, taking selfies and not caring a wit if we looked like tourists. Mitchell directed the second car to the parking lot. Once we all had our donuts, we set our boxes on the trunk of Mitchell's car, cut them into fourths with plastic knives, and began passing around donut pieces like hors d'oeuvres.

Donut tailgate party!
 Here are some of the donuts we ate:

   Maple Bacon Bar (The boys loved it. The girls weren't so keen.)
   Fruity Pebbles (The cereal provided a nice crunch.)
   Snickers (A whole Snickers bar was baked into the donut, along with toppings of chocolate chips and nuts. It was too much.)
   Samoa (Based off the girl scout cookie, with coconut flakes and chocolate on top. Taking a bite of with a piece of the real cookie was good, but the rest tasted ordinary)
   Cinnamon Toast Crunch (I thought the frosting was a normal glaze randomly colored purple, but it actually had a different, slightly creamier flavor. It was pretty good.)
   Japanese Green Tea (Matcha has a distinctive strong, bitter flavor that was missing here. The Matcha could hardly be found.)

We stood and we ate and those who bought milk drank it and we had a good time together.

Stop 2: The Hammer Museum (UCLA)

The Hammer Museum is a free art museum open to the public. It's on the part of UCLA that bleeds into the city. I wanted to go there, for three reasons. One, I like free museums. Two, it was conveniently located midway between my two true destinations: The Fowler Museum and Ramayani. Three, I discovered that parking was a mere $3 all day on Saturdays and Sundays. Score!

Inside the Hammer Museum
We all arrived by 12:30 and spent the next half hour exploring the galleries.

The Armand Hammer Collection, which was half-hidden on the third floor, contained a pretty thorough Who's Who of Western art. In one little room was stuffed paintings by Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, Remembrandt, and Titan, to name a few. Mitchell admired the huge religious paintings where the figures in the bible were dwarfed by the magnificent surroundings. I liked a pair of contrasting Van Goghs: dismal gray landscape of his home country of the Netherlands and his signature flurry of colors in France.

We also browsed a couple of galleries holding temporary exhibits. On the ground floor was a display of Francis Upritchad figurative sculptures of tricksters and non-conformist characters, including an old woman with face half in yellow and half in blue (could she be a Bruins fan?) and a green-faced red-head with colorful clothes. They were arranged near paper mache crocodiles and dinosaurs. I liked this exhibit more than the others, which showed a sculpture made of guns and a bizarre video.

Sculpture by Francis Upritchard
The people at the desk told us dancers were performing near the gift shop, but the first time we saw one, we thought she was injured. A woman, alone on the staircase, lay in such an broken position, it looked as if she'd taken a nasty fall. We asked if she was all right. She didn't answer.  Uncertain, we continued up the stairs and saw three more women in contorted poses moving very slowly. We figured it was art.  All the dancers were very quiet, and something about their windblown hair and dull faces made me think of mannequins.

Walking UCLA

By the time we got out of the museum, it was 1:00. I wanted to go to the Fowler Museum on the other side of the campus.

We walked. Why not? We're all young and in decent shape, and it was really just a little over a mile. The sidewalk was on a slight incline, but nothing too steep. Stores showed displays of Valentine's gifts and Bruins paraphernalia. But once we came to the campus proper, it was quieter, with shade trees and beautiful buildings.

I model a shade tree in UCLA
 We came to Bruin Plaza and immediately got distracted by the statue of a bear (UCLA's mascot), the Sports Hall of Fame, and, worst of all, a giant campus bookstore. That bookstore nearly sunk us. In an ironic, I was the one who had to tell everyone to stop looking at books and get going.

Up until then, the walk was straight north on Westwood Boulevard, but after Bruin Plaza, we turned right, up what looked like a hill with billboards advertising clubs. A million stairs loomed, but before we had to climb them, the route turned north again, to a grassy quad complete with lounging college students and--I kid you not--a brick castle in the background. The castle was beautiful, but we had no chance to check it out, because the Fowler Museum was straight ahead.

Looks like a brick castle to me.

Stop 3: The Fowler Museum (UCLA)

The Fowler Museum is another small, free art museum, but its focus is more on artifacts and non-Western art. Inside, the main corridors made a square around a courtyard housing a peaceful fountain and a some palm trees.

Fountain in the courtyard of the Fowler Museum
 The main exhibit was called Intersections, and featured artifacts from around the world. Surprisingly, most were made in the 19th and 20th century. Now, I was trying to research Indonesia, so I spent most of my time here, but I won't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say, I took notes on Indonesian betel cutters, textiles, puppets, and a video about the baroung, which looked like a Chinese New Year Dragon and is used in religious ceremonies.

Across the hall sat the second permanent gallery, Reflecting Culture. It housed silver treasures such as a piece by Paul Revere, a cup rumored to belonged to Rasputin, and a huge ship made of silver. Compared to the European highly ornamental plates, cups, and tea pots, America's silver pieces plain and boring.

Artifact in the "Intersections" display
I also wandered a temporary exhibition called World Share that included glass African statues, a bicycle piled high with boxes, razors suck in Styrofoam, a pyramid of colorful paper wads, and several bird houses nailed together on the wall. Actually, it was interesting, because the shine and colors would draw you in, but you wouldn't know what anything was until you took a second look.

There was also a display Contemporary Art from the Emirates, but I didn't have time to do more than glance at it.

Stop 4: Ramayani Indonesian Restaurant (Westwood Boulevard)

It was 3:45. Time for a late lunch, early dinner.

Walking south down Westwood Boulevard, we passed Thai restaurants, Japanese restaurants, Chinese restaurants, Greek restaurants, Indian restaurants, French restaurants, Persian restaurants, Lebanese restaurants, and a store called Nathan's Bagels that advertised falafel and sushi. But we were on a mission to try Indonesia food.

Ramayani was the name of the restaurant we sought. I was supposed to be blazing the trail, but I got distracted by my second-take of Nathan's Bagels and fell behind. Suddenly the alarm was called. "There it is!"  My party disappeared into a store front. 

Alyson models her meal in Ramayani

 I barely had time to glance at the yellow awnings, before I found myself stepping inside, going 'round the wooden statue of the dancer, passing the shelves of exotic groceries, and being seated in a long table in the corner. One side faced a window and the wall showed a painting of a woman in rice fields. The restaurant was clean and beautiful, our waiter was extremely polite, prices were affordable, and the food came quickly.

None of us had ever eaten Indonesia food before, so I made it a rule that we all had to order something different and taste each other's food. This, however, made getting good nearly impossible, for as soon as a dish came, we were passing it around the table like a Thanksgiving meal, scooping sample on our plate.

Here's some of the food we ate:

   Otak Otak--gourmet fish cakes grilled in banana leaves (They arrived rolled up like cigarettes with a side of sweet, peanut satay sauce. The white steamed cake had a mildly pleasant fishy flavor.)
   Guimie Dan Pangsit Goreng--braised noodles topped with chicken and mushrooms sauce served with fried wontons (The noodles were chewy and toothsome. It also came with a clear broth.)
   Ayam Sauce Ramayan--crispy chicken pieces smothered in a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce (The chicken was crispy with just the right amount of char, and the sauce was sweet and thick and tasted of pineapples. Yum!)
   Gule Kambing--lamb stewed in a curry of 15 aromatic Indonesian spices (The curry wasn't spicy at all. The lamb was tender, with hardly any of that funky aftertaste lamb tend to have.)
   Nasi Goedeg--young jack fruit and coconut milk stew served with a combination plate of chicken curry, egg, and rice (This was mine, and I think it had the most exotic taste. The jack fruit was floral and unusual. The stew also housed something nutty and dense--tempe, perhaps--and stewed meat. The hard boiled eggs had an interesting a sweet and spicy red pepper relish on top of it.)

Otak Otak
On the whole, the food was reminiscent of Thai food, though it seemed a bit sweet, rather than spicy. Our meal was delicious. We ate it all up and were satisfied.

Then it was time for dessert. Now, the menu contained many perfectly nice foods, and we did in fact order Ice Shanghai, a combination of mixed fruits, mung beans, and grass jelly topped with vanilla syrup and condensed milk. The grass jelly was brown squares that tasted odd but pleasant, and the mung beans were green with the texture of firm gelatin and no flavor at all.

But something less pleasant lurked on the dessert menu

Ice Durian--sweet durian, brown sugar, and coconut milk

Food Dare: Durian

Durian is the infamous food that Andrew Zimmerman, who made a living eating boiled sheep heads, wouldn't eat. I saw an episode of Chopped where the judges described it as smelling and tasting like garbage. So, of course, I had to taste it for myself.

The waiter tried to warned us. He said that very few people enjoyed the taste.

"That's fine," I said. "I like trying new things."

Fruit Feared by 1000 Chefs
The Durian arrived in a parfait glass, lurking underneath a crush of ice. The mix of fruit chunks and juice looked an unappetizing sludge color. It didn't reek--we had to press our noses to the glass to sniff in any aroma at all. I was relieved that the garbage smell was closer to moldy water than chicken fat on a hot day.

Believe it or not, my heart actually pattered in my chest as I thought about tasting it. I gripped my spoon, but I was robbed of the drama of the moment, when someone took the cup and unceremoniously downed a big spoonful.

The boys hated it. The girls were more tolerant. Alyson said it tasted like raw onions, which it sort of did. First it tasted of raw onions, then of custard, then back to raw onions, with the faint odor of garbage lingering in the back of your nose. I didn't like it, but I will go on record saying it was not the worst thing I ever ate. Natto (slimy fermented soy beans) was much more disgusting.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Weekly Update: 2-6-15 Interview and Disney Costumes

The big news of the week is that I got my first author interview from Michelle Knowlden. In her monthly segment, "Friday Breakfast with an Author,"she asked me about my novel, my writing process, and my upcoming projects. You can read all about it in the link below:

Michelle has interviewed many authors far more established than me, so it was a real honor to be part of the club. I have to admit that it still hasn't quite clicked that I'm an author yet. I feel like a writer... but with a book now available to the public. Maybe it will start to sink in during the launch party.

* * *

In other news...

This Friday was Senior Dress Up Day at Brea Olinda High, where I was subbing for the third day this week. (Yay for jobs!) The theme seemed to be Disney. Now high school students are too old for the sanctified princess gowns sold at the Disney Store and not yet rich enough to drop loads of money on a custom outfit. This leaves them with whatever they can scrounge up from the closet and their imaginations. I was impressed and bemused by the costumes that some of them came up with.

Disney Costume #1

White pants
White sweatshirt stuffed with pillow
White swim camp
Paper mask
Baymax from Big Hero 6

Disney Costume # 2

Red tunic with gold trim
Yellow baseball cap with lid facing up
Yellow foam cut into a semi-circle and stapled on lid

Kuzco from The Emperor's New Groove

 Disney Costume #3

Wife beater
Hawaiian shorts
Ice cream cone with no ice cream

Ice Cream Guy from Lilo and Stitch

It's amazing what you can create with a odds and ends and a little imagination.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Paying Markets for Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Stories

Updated: Jan 27, 2015

Although I prefer long fiction, I do write the occasional short story and I try to submit them for publication. By and large, I've failed. In the meantime, though, I've developed a "cheat sheet" for the different markets, which allows me to scan through the list and decide where my story has the best shot. It's by no means exhaustive, but it's a good place for the aspiring writer to start.

What Kind of Markets?

Rather than splash my work everywhere, I decided to be ambitious and try for the best of the best. Therefore, with few exceptions, most of the markets on the list are:

  • Trustworthy: These are professionally published magazines, not scam artists. Most of these magazines get exclusive worldwide rights to your story for a year. You still own that copyright and once that year expires, you can post your work wherever you please. I said most, but I don't make that guarantee. Always read the contract and make sure you know what you're getting into.
  • Cost-Effective: They pay well. On top of that, there are no reading fees or nonsense of that type. I'm already a broke writer. I'm not going to be nickel and dimed. Many of the magazines do suggest you read them before submitting. However, many also offer free content on their website. So the list also doubles as a great place to hunt down free short stories.
  • Prestigious: Many of the magazines have won awards and published famous authors. If you publish here, you can brag about it on your resume.
  • Difficult: Of these markets, I've been published only once in Daily Science Fiction, after about five tries. It takes a lot of persistence and heart-ache to make it. 
  • Slow: Most of these places don't allow multiple submissions, which means you can only submit one story at a time, or simultaneous submissions, which means you can only submit that story to them. Response times vary from a few days to a few months. To top it off, occasionally they get too many stories and refuse to take any new submissions until who knows when! 

In general, these are the kinds of things the magazines are looking for:

  • They want your original work. Nothing based off TV shows or movies or books, even ones where the copyright has expired.
  • They want things that have never been published. Nowadays I think that includes websites, so don't post it to your blog or put it in your Writer's Group's anthology unless you're absolutely sure it's all right. 
  • They do not want queries. Don't try to pitch them an idea for a short story. Just send them the completed manuscript.
  • They want it edited. It doesn't have to be absolutely perfect, but it should be pretty darn close.
  • They do not want re-writes. If they reject you, just take it to the next publisher ands move on.
  • They want manuscripts submitted electronically. Very few will take mailed manuscripts. Plus, you have to pay postage and printing and that adds up.
  • They do not want emails. Most have their own service where you can log in and submit. This is to reduce the risk of a virus infection.
  • They want it formatted their way. This could mean anything from what font you use to what sort of document you can submit to whether or not you need a cover letter. Before you submit, take a few minutes to review their rules, lest you accidentally disqualify yourself over nothing.

One last note. I've focused on markets for short stories, but many of these magazines offer opportunities for artists, poets, and nonfiction writers. So if you have interests in those fields, you may want to look into some of these.

My Markets

Daily Science Fiction

Web Address:

Submission Info:

Type of Magazine: Daily Online Magazine (Free)

Pay Rate: 8 cents a word

Interested In: Flash Fiction (between 100-1500 words) with speculative elements. Flash fiction series are fine, just note it in your cover letter

Not Interested In: Horror, Erotica, Military SF

How to Submit: Create Author Account and Log In. Submit manuscript in plain text on web form. (Basically, copy and paste.) Write "End" at the end of your story. Do not put your name, email, etc. in the manuscript--that goes in the account. Cover letters not needed; just put in your name.

Other Info: Since it's free, why not subscribe to Daily Science Fiction and wake up to find a short story in your email box every morning, Mon-Fri? Short stories are archived on their website. The submission process goes in two rounds. In Round One, they eliminate 80% of the stories they receive. In Round Two, they eliminate half of the Round One stories. If you make it past that, your story will be published.

The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Web Address:

Submission Info:

Type of Magazine: Print and Digital Bimonthly Magazine (Subscription)

Pay Rate: 7-12 cents per word

Interested In: Fiction, up to 25,000 words. They get too much fantasy, not enough SF or Humor

How to Submit: Submit through mail or through website, using a .doc, .docx, or rtf file.

Other Info: They are extremely picky on how the manuscript is prepared and have a sample document listed here:

Clarkesworld Magazine

Web Address:

Submission Info:

Type of Magazine: Hugo award-winning Monthly Print/ Digital Magazine (Subscription)

Pay Rate: 10 cents a word for the first 4000 words, 7 cents a word after that

Interested In: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Fiction from 1000-8000 words, though 4000 preferred.

Not Interested In: Extensive gore, sex, profanity. Also, they have an entire long list of cliches/ themes they're tired of on the information page

How to Submit: Submit online. Your name and contact information go on an online form. Your credentials go on the cover letter. Your manuscript can be submitted as a .doc or .rtf file. Response time is usually 2 days

Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show

Web Address:

Submission Info:

Type of Magazine: Bimonthly Digital Magazine (Subscription)

Pay Rate: 6 cents a word

Interested In: Fantasy and SF of any length

Not Interested In: Anything above a PG-13 Rating

How to Submit: Type your email address into their online submission form and they will email instructions on how to submit. Include your contact information in your manuscript. Up to 3 months response time.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Web Address:

Submission Info:

Type of Magazine: Biweekly Digital Magazine (Free through email, Subscription for Kindle)

Pay Rate: 6 cents a word

Interested In: "Literary Adventure Fantasy" That is, character-driven fantasy set in a well-developed and unique secondary world. Steampunk and Weird West is okay. They prefer under 10,000 words.

Not Interested: SF, Urban Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Myths, Slapstick Humor

How to Submit: Email them at The subject line should read "Submission: (Title of Your Story)" If you don't include the word "Submission" the spam filter will delete it. The manuscript should be prepared in Standard Manuscript Format (for a good example, see the link at The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy). Include contact info in the manuscript. Must be .doc or .rtf. NO .docx. If worse comes to worse, paste text directly onto email. Include cover letter with your credentials, but without a synopsis. Response time is usually 2-4 weeks.


Web Address:

Submission Info:

Type of Magazine: Hugo award-winning Digital Monthly Magazine (Free online content with Subscription options)

Pay Rate: 8 cents a word

Interested In: Fantasy and SF of 1500-7500 words, 5000 words preferred. Also accepts 12 novellas a year.

Not Interested In: Erotica, poetry, fanfiction

How to Submit: Stories must be submitted online through Moshka Online Submission System. Contact information is included on the form. On the cover letter, please include story length, publishing history, and credentials. Manuscripts must be prepared in Standard Manuscript Format (They give this link: .rtf or .doc only

Other Info: They are interested in diversity. As of writing this, they are open for submissions for their "Queers Destroy Science Fiction" special, which means that only stories written by someone identifying as "queer" are accepted. Also as of now, it is closed for normal submission due to high volume and doesn't say when it will be open.

Asimov's Science Fiction

Web Address:

Submission Info:

Type of Magazine: Monthly Print Magazine (Subscription)

Pay Rate: 8-10 cents for up to 7500 words; 8-8.5 cents after; $1 per line of poetry, up to 40 lines

Interested In: Character-driven SF, from 1000-20,000 words

Not Interested In: Borderline fantasy is okay, but no Sword and Sorcery

How to Submit: Online Submission SystemContact information is included on the form. On the cover letter, please include story length, publishing history, and credentials. Manuscripts must be prepared in Standard Manuscript Format ( .rtf, .doc, .docx Response time usually 5 weeks

Other Info: accepts mailed submissions, too


Web Address:

Submission Info:

Type of Magazine: Monthly Print Magazine (Subscription)

Pay Rate: 8-10 cents for up to 7500 words; 8-8.5 cents after; 6 cents per word for serials; 9 cents a word for fact-based articles; $1 per line of poetry, up to 40 lines

Interested In: SF stories in which future science or technology plays an integral role in the plot. They prefer short stories 2000-7000 words,. novellas 10,000-20,000 words, and serials 40,000-80,000 words. They also accept fact-based Nonfiction written in lay terms about 4000 words and poetry

How to Submit: Online Submission SystemContact information is included on the form. On the cover letter, please include story length, publishing history, and credentials. Manuscripts must be prepared in Standard Manuscript Format ( .doc only Response time usually 2-3 months

Other Info: Reluctantly accepts mailed submissions

Apex Magazine

Web Address:

Submission Info:

Type of Magazine: Monthly Digital Magazine (Subscription)

Pay Rate: 6 cents a word for fiction, plus an additional 1 cent per word if they choose to podcast your story; poetry is 25 cents per line

Interested In: Fantasy, SF, Horror.  In their words, "Works full of marrow and passion, stories that are twisted, strange, and beautiful." Fiction up to 7500 words. Poetry up to 200 lines.

How to Submit: It seems like you can either email editor Lesley Conner at or submit an online form. I don't see any information on types of documents. Manuscripts must be prepared in Standard Manuscript Format ( Up to 5 poems may be submitted at a time

Other Info: Your story may be selected for a podcast and will be forever archived on the website, though you still have the rights to publish your story elsewhere after the contract expires

Strange Horizons

Web Address:

Submission Info: (general) (fiction)

Type of Magazine: Weekly Online Magazine (Free)

Pay Rate: 8 cents a word

Interested In: Speculative Fiction: SF, Fantasy, some Horror up to 10,000 words, though 5000 is preferred.

Not Interested In: They have a whole list of tired plots here:

How to Submit: Send your story to the submission gateway; NO EMAILS. (Note: the submission gateway closes if they receive too many stories, but reopens every night at midnight Eastern time.) Cover letter optional. Response time 40 days.

Other Info: "Strange Horizons is incorporated as a non-profit corporation in the state of Utah, USA. With an all-volunteer staff and a limited budget for advertising and self-promotion, the magazine's financial resources are devoted to professionally compensating writers for publication rights to their works." In addition to fiction, they are also looking for art, poetry, nonfiction, podcast readers, and reviews.


Web Address:

Submission Info:

Type of Magazine: Print and Digital Bimonthly Magazine geared to a YA Audience (14+) (Subscription)

Pay Rate: up to 25 cents a word for fiction; up to $3.00 a line for poetry

Interested In: Fiction, all genres, from flash fiction to 9,000 words; Nonfiction up to 5,000 words; Poetry

How to Submit: Must create an account; NO EMAILS. Send completed manuscript as a .doc, .docx, .txt., or .rtf file.  Include word count (fiction/ nonfiction) or line count (manuscripts) and phone, email, and mailing address. Allow 3-6 months response time.

Other Info: Their "Creative Endeavors" section is open exclusively to writers age 14-23. It seems to be more of a contest and has different themes.


Web Address:

Submission Info:

Type of Magazine: Children's Literary Magazine (Age 9-14) (Subscription)

Pay Rate: 25 cents a word for Fiction and Articles; up to $3.00 a line for poetry; $75 flat rate for activities

Interested In: Contemporary Fiction; Historical Fiction; SF and Fantasy; Myths, Legends, and Folklore. 600-900 word stories preferred; 1200-1800 word stories acceptable; they will occasionally serialize stories up to 6000 words. Also interested in Nonfiction, Poetry, and Activities

Not Interested In: Sex, disturbing situations, abuse

How to Submit: Go to the online submission form "Submittable," register/ login-in, and follow instructions. NO mailed submissions or emails.

Other Info: Cricket is part of a Media Group that has several other magazines (including Cicada) aimed at a younger audience.

Flashfiction Online

Web Address:

Submission Info:

Type of Magazine: Online Monthly Magazine (Free Email or Subscribe)

Pay Rate: $60

Interested In: Complete stories from 500-1000 words. A particular fondness for SF and Fantasy, but all genres welcome

Not Interested In: Poetry. Anything over 1000 words. See this list: No erotica, porn, graphic sex, or violence.

How to Submit: Submit online using Submishmash. Click on your genre, create an account/ log in, and submit. Format in Times New Roman or Courier New font, 12 pt. Double spaced, left alignment, one-inch margins. NO author name or information anywhere in your manuscript. (They want anonymity.) Put name and info in cover letter. doc., rtf., txt. only. NO docx.

Contest: Writers of the Future

Web Address:

Submission Info:

Type of Magazine: NA

Pay Rate: Prizes of $500, $750, and $1000 awarded every quarter; one grand prize of $5000 awarded every year

Interested In: SF and Fantasy short stories and novelettes of up to 17,000 words written by non-professional writers

Not Interested In: Poetry, children's story

How to Submit: The Contest is open only to those who have not professionally published a novel or short novel, or more than one novelette, or more than three short stories, in any medium. Only amateur writers need apply! Can send via mail or through the website. Entries submitted electronically must be double-spaced and must include the title and page number on each page, but not the author’s name. (This also goes for printed version--they want it anonymous.)

Other Info: Contestants retain all rights to their work. No entry fee. Writers judged by professional authors. Winners work goes in anthology. Illustrators of the Future Contest as well.


* This is a less traditional market, and the stuff I wrote about in the "What Kind of Markets?" section doesn't necessarily apply. However, I'm adding it because I have experience publishing on it.

Web Address:

Submission Info:

Type of Magazine: UK-based Free App that let's Readers purchase stories or read for free

Pay Rate: 0-??? (Ether decides whether your book is available for free or for a cost. If your short story can be purchased, your payment comes as 20% of sales.)

Interested In: Stories and Poems of all genres under 6000 words

How to Submit: Create an author's account. DO not sign up for silver membership unless you want to pay money. Submit word document. Response in 90 days.

Other Info: Last year, I wrote an article about publishing on Ether here: The three stories I've submitted were all accepted, but I didn't actually get paid for any of them.

More Markets?

Want even more places to submit? Scan these websites for a list.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (general) (list)

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has a list of Qualifying Professional Markets for Short Fiction, which basically means a list of reliable, professional short story publishers who pay well.

Storyville: Where to Send Your Stories

My friend Ned gave me this link and it's very extensive. The article includes lower paying publishers, different genres, and thoughts about the particular publishers.