Writing Resources

Interview With Science Fiction & Fantasy Author Clare Deming

Fantasy Author Clare Deming

Clare L. Deming lives in New Jersey and once applied to be an astronaut. She writes both science fiction and fantasy, and her most recent work can be found online in Perihelion SF and in the Universe Horribilis anthology from Third Flatiron Publishing. Clare is continuing to work on short fiction, as well as two novels: Starblight (space opera) and Badge of the Black Dragon (alternate history/fantasy).

When not busy writing, Clare spends her time fencing. She has been competing in sabre for over fifteen years, traveling across the United States and to Europe. She has been ranked nationally and has lost to Olympians. Clare is also a licensed pilot, and flies a Cessna 172 when the weather cooperates.

Q: How and when did you get started as a writer?
A: I remember writing stories as early as elementary school, followed by some scattered attempts through high school. A couple of years after I finished college, I realized that I had some free time on my hands, so I decided that I wanted to write. I read some “how-to” books and joined a critique group, and I’ve been working at it ever since.

Q: How do you usually find your ideas? What do you do when you get stuck?
A: My early ideas were nebulous things consisting of a single aspect of a story: an interesting character trait or a glimpse of a place. These would come from all kinds of places – a conversation I overheard, a scientific article, a piece of artwork, or the occasional strange dream. These weren’t stories by themselves though. I usually work by taking a promising idea and asking it questions. So for a character that is obsessed with Chinese fortune cookies, I’ll want to know why he collects them. Then I’ll throw obstacles in the way. One way to think of this would be to ask, “What is the worst thing that could happen to this character?” followed by, “How would he react if someone ate his fortune cookie collection?” Make terrible things happen to a character and figure out how this person would react.

When I get stuck on a particular story, I have to think about why this has happened. Sometimes I have written myself into a corner, or I don’t know what should happen next. If I step away and come back to the story later, this will let me look at the plot and characters in a fresh way and the path will become clear. The other approach that I take is to make something explode. Sometimes this is literal, other times it translates to having something shocking and BAD happen to my characters.

Q: Can you give us your advice on how new writers should handle rejections?
A: Assume that you’re going to get them. I try to think about my submitted stories in terms of “when will I get the rejection?” rather than “will the editor publish this one?” I’m a pretty optimistic person, so one other way to think about rejections might be to tell yourself, “Okay, well the story wasn’t right for that editor, but maybe the next one will buy it.” Then send it right back out.

Q: What made you choose the Fantasy as your main genre? Did you attempt any other genres?
A: I grew up reading both fantasy and science fiction, but was drawn to more fantasy writers – Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, David Eddings, Terry Brooks, and Mercedes Lackey. If I picked up any mainstream teen novels, I was bored. So in my writing, it is a familiar and favorite place to be. I’m also rather obsessed with swords, so of course that lends itself more to the fantasy genre. I don’t mind spaceships, rayguns, or aliens, so I also write science fiction, and I’ve dabbled in horror.

Q: Did you ever self-publish? If yes, how was that process for you, if no, why not?
A: No, I haven’t. I wouldn’t rule out self-publishing as an option, but for now I would rather focus my efforts on writing. Most of my work is short fiction, so I don’t think it’s worth the time for me to learn the ins and outs of this process until I have something more substantial to put out there.

Q: Where do you see the traditional publishing going in today’s world?
A: I’m not sure. It certainly is changing, and I think it will take time to settle out.

Q: How many revisions do you usually go through with your work? Do you find it easy to let a manuscript go to the publisher?
A: This can vary, but usually two. I typically write a first draft and send the story to my critique partners. After receiving feedback, I’ll do one revision that attempts to correct the larger issues like character inconsistencies, logic and plot-holes, and unclear worldbuilding. Sometimes this level of revision only involves rewriting a few paragraphs, but other times, I’ll just start over with a blank page. The second revision is for proof-reading and word choice. In this pass, I look for repetitive words, excess adjective and adverbs, and typos. I’ll also read the story out loud.

Q: Who is your favorite author? Why?
A: Growing up, my favorite author was Anne McCaffrey, and at one point I had read everything that she had written. More recently, I’ve grown in love with Lois McMaster Bujold. Her characters are amazing, and she is such a versatile writer. Her work stretches from space opera to fantasy (with some unique worldbuilding), and the Vorkosigan series is so hilarious at points, that I’ve been in tears. I wish more people knew about her books.

Q: Do you have a special place or ritual for writing?
A: There are a few places that I write, depending on my mood. I usually prefer to write at home, rather than at a coffee shop or library. My only computer is my laptop, so my work area changes. Often I will write at my desk, but in the afternoon, the sun glare bothers me. I’ll also lie on the couch, or sit outside if the weather is nice.

Q: What is your final advice for new writers?
A: Read a lot. Read something similar to what you would like to write and study the language and the way that the author puts the characters and the plot together. Then write a lot. Even if you think that your idea sucks, try writing it out. You never know how it will turn out. Lastly, if you’re trying to get your work published, find a good group of critiquers to give you constructive feedback.

Fantasy Author Clare DemingClare, thank you for answering my questions and for the helpful tips you gave us. Good luck with your next project!


To check Clare’s works, use the links below:
Clare’s Blog
Follow Clare on Twitter


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Micro-fiction – Story in six sentences

I found this by accident and I thought I should share it. If you like short fiction, really, really short, but a bit longer than one sentence, drive your browser to this blog:


The tagline of the website is: What can you say in six sentences. The idea is pretty clear, I think. Write a story in six sentences. Submit it and if they like it, it will show up there. Here are the submission guidelines.

Good Luck!


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Call for Submissions: Cancer Anthology

Many people are touched by cancer every day. It’s a terrible disease that has taken thousands of lives. I personally have family members who passed away due to cancer, and I have a lot of friends who went through the same thing. So, I was intrigued when I saw the call for submissions for an anthology based on cancer.

It’s an anthology edited by Rhonda Parish and published by Wolfsinger Publications. I immediately submitted a story and then I decided to write this post and share it with other people. So, here is the information:

They are looking for stories up to 7,500 words long and poems up to 40 lines long.

Please follow standard manuscript formatting when submitting (http://www.shunn.net/format/story.html) and send your submission to editor (at) wolfsingerpubs.com as an .rtf file.

Put ‘Cancer Submission – “the title of your submission” – your last name’ as the subject of your email.

No simultaneous submissions, please.

No reprints.

Payment is $10.00 advance with an equal share of 25% of royalties.

Deadline: June 30, 2013

Here is the official page for more information:

Good Luck!


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The 2013 Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest

The 2013 Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest The National Space Society and Baen Books applaud the role that science fiction plays in advancing real science and have teamed up to sponsor this short fiction contest in memory of Jim Baen. The contest has been open for submissions since October 2012, but they close their doors on February 1st. The winners will be notified not later than March 15th, so if you submit, you only have one month and a half to know if it’s a winner or not.


  • Write a short story of no more than 8,000 words, that shows the near future (no more than about 50-60 years out) of manned space exploration.
  • No entry fee. But please only submit one story…your best one!
  • No reprints.
  • Deadline – February 1, 2013

To read more and send your submission go to:

Good luck!


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Open submissions for a one-sentence story mini-anthology


Matthew Bennardo,  co-editor of the science-fiction anthology Machine of Death, which was a #1 bestseller on Amazon in 2010, will edit an anthology of one-sentence short-stories. If you never dabbed into this type of writing before, it’s challenging but also rewarding. It doesn’t take a long time to come up with a 300 word sentence that sounds good, but it takes good craft. So, go for it, submissions are open from December 10 until December 24:

One-Sentence Story Mini-Anyhology

Good luck!



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13th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition


If you have a polished short story of 1,500 words or less, it’s not too late to submit it to the 13th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition.

You can win $3,000 cash and a paid trip to the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City.

Here is a detail of the prizes, and a link to the submissions below:

Entry Deadline: December 17, 2012

One First Place Winner will receive:
$3,000 in cash
Their short story title published in Writer’s Digest magazine’s July/August issue
A paid trip to the ever-popular Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City!
A copy of the 13th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition Collection
A copy of the 2013 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market
A copy of the 2013 Guide to Literary Agents

The Second Place Winner will receive:
$1,500 in cash
Their short story title published in Writer’s Digest magazine’s July/August issue
A copy of the 13th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition Collection
A copy of the 2013 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market
A copy of the 2013 Guide to Literary Agents

The Third Place Winner will receive:
$500 in cash
Their short story title published in Writer’s Digest magazine’s July/August issue
A copy of the 13th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition Collection
A copy of the 2013 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market
A copy of the 2013 Guide to Literary Agents

Fourth through Tenth Place Winners will receive:
$100 in cash
Their short story titles published in Writer’s Digest magazine’s July/August issue
A copy of the 13th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition Collection
A copy of the 2013 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market
A copy of the 2013 Guide to Literary Agents

Eleventh through Twenty-Fifth Place Winners will receive:
A $50 gift certificate for writersdigestshop.com
A copy of the 13th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition Collection

So, go ahead and submit your story to the 13th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition

Good luck!


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Writer’s Digest Writing Challenge Ending Today


I know, I know, it’s a bit late for this one, but you still have till the end of the day to complete it. It’s a simple writing challenge from Writer’s Digest:

In 25 words or fewer, write the opening sentence to a story incorporating these three words: fresh, hair and tangled.

The winners are selected by a process of elimination that involves the WD editorial staff and the votes from the public. Whoever is selected can see their name in the next issue. So, what do you have to lose?

Go for it:
Writer’s Digest Writing Challenge

Good Luck,


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Interview with Science Fiction Author Alex Shvartsman

Science Fiction Author Alex Shvartsman

Alex Shvartsman is a writer and game designer. His adventures so far have included traveling to over 30 countries, playing a card game for a living, and building a successful business. Alex resides in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and son.

I met Alex at Lunacon 2012 and later he joined the same critique group I belong to– Writers of the Weird. He’s a prolific story writer and an entrepeneur who recently took on a publishing project. I wanted to get some insights into his life as a writer and a publisher as well, so the idea for this interview emerged. Please enjoy, and don’t forget the links at the bottom where you can access some of Alex’s stories.

Q: How and when did you get started as a writer?
A: I wrote my first science fiction story when I was eleven years old. It was about five hundred words and probably much worse than I remember, but I was very proud of it at the time.

Then I took a brief twenty-four year break from writing fiction.

Fast forward to the summer of 2010. For years I’ve been telling myself that I will get around to writing science fiction when I have free time. Summer of 2010 was when I finally realized that I will likely *never* have free time. I’ll either get my butt into a chair and begin writing, or I won’t.

So I did.

It took me about three months to make my first short story sale. In the following two and a half years I sold about thirty short stories, including nearly a dozen to pro paying markets. I still feel like a bit of a pretender when hanging out with “real” writers but SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) considers me a “pro” now, according to their guidelines, and who am I to argue with an opinion of such an illustrious organization?

Q: How do you usually find your ideas?
A: I steal them from South Park.

Twice I’ve had stories published which, readers would point out, use plots similar to something that was done on South Park. I don’t even watch that show!

In all seriousness, ideas are easy. Every writer has a ton of them, way more than they can ever hope to commit to paper. Turning a cool idea into an engaging, interesting story with three-dimensional characters and original plot, that’s the hard part.

Q: Did you ever get any rejections? If yes, give us your advice on how new writers should handle them.
A: Every writer gets tons of rejections. Even the really good ones, let alone someone like me. In 2012 I made approximately 150 submissions to date, and sold about 15 stories (including reprints). That’s 135 rejections right there.

You have to develop somewhat of a thick skin when it comes to rejections. It’s especially important to remember that the editor is rejecting the story, not you as an individual. Good magazines may read 300+ stories for every one they buy. By necessity they will turn down lots of perfectly good stuff. Don’t get discouraged, and keep writing, improving, and submitting.

I’ve had a number of stories that sold (some to pro paying markets) after receiving 15+ rejections. Just because a number of editors didn’t buy your story doesn’t mean the next one won’t, either.

Q: You write a lot of short-stories, what makes you enjoy them more than a novel?
A: I love reading short stories and enjoy writing them. Part of it is time commitment. I write part time (a few hours a week, really) so the ability to complete stories and see some of them published goes a long way in the instant gratification department.

I especially love flash (stories under 1000 words in length). My writing style is very laconic and is well-suited to this format. While many writers I know have a hard time keeping the word counts down, I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum – I find it much more difficult to write longer stories.

Even so, I have a number of novel-length ideas and hope to begin working on a novel sometime in a near future.

Q: Could you tell us the challenges that you faced as a writer whose first language is not English, and how did you manage to overcome them?
A: First, a little background for those of your readers who are not familiar with my history (aka almost all of them): I was born in the former USSR and my native language is Russian. I moved to the United States at the age of 13 and only then began to learn English.

The greatest problem is confidence. Is my command of the English language sufficient to write quality prose? Will potential readers and editors take me seriously? Do I dare take chances and push boundaries in my writing that someone might misconstrue for lingual faux pas?

These are issues I’ve had to struggle with and, to some degree, still do. As with most writing problems, the right answer seems to be to just keep writing.

Also, I do make annoying mistakes with my tenses and misuse “a” and “the” a lot. To this day. Thank God for the copy-editors.

Q: You recently took on a publishing project called UFO. What prompted you to start it, how did it go, and will it continue?
A: I grew frustrated with the lack of quality humor markets in SF/F, so I set out to create one. I’m no expert. This is my first project as an anthologist and a publisher. But I do have an extensive business background which I relied on to make decisions for creating this book. The result is Unidentified Funny Objects, an anthology of 29 humor stories including tales from Mike Resnick, Jody Lynn Nye, Ken Liu and Lavie Tidhar. I’m very pleased with how the book turned out.

As to whether it will continue – I hope to make it into an annual anthology. But it will come down to money. If I’m able to sell enough copies to cover my costs and the copious amounts of time I had to sink into the project, then there will be plenty more where this one came from. So if you want to see more humor anthologies, please visit http://www.ufopub.com/ and pre-order a copy of the book.

Right now is good. I’ll wait here until you get back.

Q: Where do you see the traditional publishing going in today’s world?
A: Digital publishing will continue to grow, which will make it easy for anyone to become a ‘published author.’ It takes minutes to format your manuscript and begin selling it on Amazon and other such places. Because of that, curated content becomes more important than ever. As readers, we will have to rely on the publishers and editors we trust to identify quality content. So in that sense respectable publishers will remain crucial going forward.

Q: How many revisions do you usually go through with your work? Do you find it easy to let a manuscript go to the publisher?
A: I write relatively clean first drafts (so I’ve been told) though I write them very slowly. A few hundred words per hour, typically. Even so, I meddle with the story endlessly and will typically send it out on submission because the deadline is approaching, or because I’m just sick and tired of the story and want to move on to something else, even though I know that I could keep playing with it for weeks on end.

In most cases I’ll do dozens of minor tweaks but rarely any major revisions. Much of it depends on the feedback from the critique partners and beta readers.

Q: How much importance do you put on the online writer’s platform in today’s social media world?
A: Social media is hugely important for getting your name out there. But, ultimately, the quality of your work speaks for itself. No matter how loudly you self-promote on Twitter, a single publication in a top magazine will probably do more to raise your profile than months of self-aggrandizing online.

Of course, the optimal strategy is to do both. Did you hear about my story on Nature.com

Q: What is your advice for new writers?
  1. Keep writing. It’s a craft and it takes enormous amounts of time and effort to master it.
  2. Join a critique group. Don’t rely on your friends’ opinions of your writing. They’re biased and usually too kind. Get competent strangers to rip your manuscripts into shreds and then rewrite them to be so awesome that even the crankiest critics will have no choice but to love the end result.
  3. Keep submitting. Don’t give up. It may take days or it may take years, but not sending a story out there at all is the one way to guarantee it won’t get published.
  4. Support the markets you want to be published in. Buy anthologies. Subscribe to the magazines you submit to. Donate to the online ‘zines which post fiction up for free.
  5. Go to ufopub.com and order a copy of Unidentified Funny Objects. Because of all the reasons in the bullet point above, but mostly because it’s an awesome book made of awesome and covered in awesome sauce. Trust me. I’m a writer.

Science Fiction Author Alex ShvartsmanAlex, thank you for answering my questions and for the helpful tips you gave us. Good luck with your next project!


To check Alex’s works, use the links below:
Alex Shvartsman Bibliography


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NaNoWriMo Progress


It’s been two weeks since NaNoWriMo started, and I am on track to finish it this year. I am already up to 30k words as we speak, so way ahead. I aim to finish the first 50k minimum required by Nov. 24, and then I’ll have 6 more days to flush it out a bit and do some editing…

Needless to say, there’s not too much update on the blog, as I am using any free time to write for NaNoWriMo.

If you are also working on your NaNoWriMo novel, all the good luck!


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National Novel Writing Month 2012

For whoever doesn’t know, the National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is an annual writing event in which authors around the world try to complete a 50,000+ word novel in 30 days. The competition takes place in the month of November of each year, so you have one more day until it starts.

I think it’s a great tool because it teaches writers the power of writing routine. If you have to produce 50,000 words in 30 days, you better write an average of 1,666 words per day or you won’t finish. If you start and you can do it, what prevents you from writing one novel a month? See my point?

So, I suggest you jump on it! Even if in the first year you don’t finish, the exercise itself will give you a tremendous boost!

NaNoWriMo: http://www.nanowrimo.org

Good Luck!!

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