July 26, 2013


Earlier this week I sold two more stories. Stupefying Stories picked up “An Indelible Feast” and “The Storyteller.” And while every new sale is sweet, what makes these special is that they are my 50th and 51st original short stories accepted for publication.

I made my first short story submission on May 10, 2010.  I submitted “The Skeptic,” my first story, which I wrote the month prior, to Clarkesworld, from which it was promptly and politely rejected.

It has been 41 months since I began writing that first short story. This means I’ve averaged more than one original short story sale per month over the course of my writing career so far! And that’s not even counting reprints, podcasts, and translations.

I am incredibly thrilled to be so far along the writing career path after just a few short years. There are plenty more milestones for me to conquer, and I’ll be gleefully working on those in the coming months!


UFO2 Submissions Update – May 17

May 17, 2013


We read just over 350 submissions to date.  Everyone who submitted prior to 5/12 should have heard from us by now. If you haven’t, please query ASAP.

I accepted seven stories so far, totaling 35,000 words. There are three more invited headliners who haven’t turned in their stories yet (they aren’t late; they have two more weeks) so that’s up to 18,000 more words. That means the competition for the remaining space in the book is going to be very, very tough. We are holding on to nine more stories in the final round of consideration so far, and more are sure to be added to that list. Already had to turn down some truly excellent stories and there’s a long road to travel yet.

Any reasonably good anthology, magazine issue, or contest gets far more quality submissions than they can use. It’s the nature of our field — supply always greatly outpaces demand. So if you got a rejection from us, or from anyplace else, please don’t take it personally. The editors aren’t merely looking for a good story — they’re looking for stories they can fall in love with. And that’s a very tough act to pull off, especially since tastes are highly subjective. Just keep sending it out there, until the story finds the editor who will think it’s perfect.



It Came from the Slush Pile

May 6, 2013

It was only yesterday that I wrote a blog post about the UFO slush pile and had this to say:

This doesn’t mean that you can’t sell us a zombie reality TV story about a road trip in space. But it won’t be easy.

Challenge accepted! Less than 24 hours later, this story showed up in the UFO inbox.

Unfortunately I can’t include it in UFO2. A certain level of familiarity with the slush process is necessary to appreciate it. And reading the previous blog post is a must for an even better experience. But I thought it would make a perfect blog post, and also serve as a warning to all those who would submit real zombie/alien/reality TV stories to our slush pile, or any other. So I offered to buy the non-exclusive rights to post the story on this blog.

This is the author’s first story sale, and I’m thrilled to be a part of that.

Without further ado, presenting



By Rachel Winchester

“Thank you for seeing me on such short notice, Dr. Rostrum.  It’s hard to find a psychiatrist who’s taking on new patie… — of course, I can call you Bob. No problem.

“But, this gets a little personal, and if I could call you Doc– right, yes, I guess you’re used to hearing personal stuff. OK. Bob it is.

“Right, 50 minutes. So…it all began when I was reading submissions for a short story anthology. Science fiction stuff, supposed to be funny. You wouldn’t think there would be that many people willing to put in that kind of work for a shot at $100 or so, but there were thousands of submissions.

“I drank coffee and read manuscripts and drank more coffee and read more manuscripts until my eyelids felt like thresher blades and my eyeballs throbbed with each of their harvesting passes. I divided the stories into piles: FUNNY and NOT FUNNY. Then, to my horror, I realized I had to add another pile.


“I mean, I like some zombie movies, but I don’t get why they’re a thing, you know? They’ve got to be a symbol for something. Maybe because no one owns zombies. I mean, Lucas, or I guess Disney, isn’t going to sue anyone over zombies.

“And the submissions kept coming. Story after unfunny story about zombies, Bob. ‘I Was Married to a Zombie’, ‘Road Trip with a Zombie’, ‘We Can Zombie It For You Wholesale’, and ‘Do Zombies Dream of Electric Brains.’ And the worst part, Bob?  The absolute. Worst. Part? The zombie stories with bonus-gratuitous-rape.

“It was a veritable Penthouse Forum for Zombies.

“But I’d promised the editor I’d read them all. I didn’t even consider stopping.

“Then I got one in Comic Sans.

“What? No, I’m okay, I’m good…it’s just that…thinking about that font…I can see it…and…

“I’m good, seriously. Right here. Right here on the couch, Bob. See? Breathing normally. But thank you for the water. I think I’m ready to continue.

“Yes, there’s more. I know, you’d think it couldn’t get any worse than Com…that font. But it did. It did.

“Something about seeing a manuscript sent in looking like second-grade teacher’s syllabus jerked me awake, that’s the only way I can explain it. It made me realize how completely irrational it was to be living on coffee and Luna bars, reading slush. It made me realize that I’d been a total bitch to my partner every time she came in to suggest I take a shower or change my clothes. It made me realize that in the background, I’d been vaguely aware she was talking to a camera crew in the other room. About me.

“I know, I know, it sounds like paranoid delusions. But trust me, it wasn’t. It was much worse. You see, I realized then that I was on a reality show.

“Something called True Lives of Starving Writers. They were inter-cutting shots of authors slaving over pirated copies of Scrivener on refurbed laptops, voiceovers about how one guy had to switch to generic beer because he couldn’t afford MGD anymore, not until some magazine accepts his zombie porn story. Then they’d show me just shredding the submissions, and, God, they would even show my relationship coming apart. As you probably know, Bob, my partner had been telling the viewing audience about how she was trapped in this totally loveless marriage.

“I was mortified. I would never…I mean, sometimes I get into my writing, but I never thought I’d cut into our time together, and certainly not for slush.

“Also, and I have to explain this, the inner workings of the slush pile are sacrosanct. I’m doing this to pay my dues too, and learn from the submissions to make me a better writer. I would never go on a reality show and talk about it. And Darla…Darla would never go on one either.

“That’s when I knew something was really wrong. I knew it like I knew the sensation in my a–… my posterior–wasn’t from too much coffee and Luna bars. And I know you’re going to think I’m crazy, but–

“Heh, yeah, I guess you would hear that a lot, Bob. But really, the pain in my…posterior, what I thought was the pain of reading a story with too many zombies and a vampire thrown in for good measure? That pain was actually a probe. An alien anal probe.

“Aliens had kidnapped me, beamed me up, and were making me believe I was on a reality TV show about science fiction writers, and they were doing it because they were on a road trip and they were bored.

“You got that, Bob? I was a goddamn travel game some alien teenagers had picked up during a road trip pit stop on Earth.

“As I realized my plight, a gizmo on the aliens’ space-van dashboard started to beep. It got louder and louder…the aliens started to run around the van, tentacles flailing over their heads.  But I knew that sound. I sat straight up in bed, my alarm clock beeping at top volume. I was in my own bed, and whole thing was a dream!

“But, Bob…waiting for me, on the desk in the corner, were all those unread submissions.  And there, on the floor next to the desk, were three piles of manuscripts:  FUNNY, UNFUNNY…and ZOMBIES.


Rachel Winchester (@RaqWinchester) was born in Roswell, NM, and believes her love for science fiction was inevitable.  She has lived and worked around the world, including in Bucharest, Kuala Lumpur, Sana’a, Athens, Caracas, and Los Angeles. She now works as a government consultant.  This is her first story sale.

UFO2 Submissions Update

May 5, 2013


First of all, thanks again to everyone who pledged and promoted our Kickstarter campaign. We are fully funded and are able to produce the book in the fashion we wanted to, without cutting corners!

We received around 150 submissions in the first four days of May. The associate editors and I have been reading furiously to try and make sure that we respond very quickly and don’t hold anyone’s story hostage unless we’re seriously considering it for inclusion. As of right now, everyone who submitted on or before May 2 should have heard from us, either with a rejection or a round 2 bump. If you did not receive a response to your story submitted prior to May 3, please query us.

Here is a brief list of things we’re seeing too much  of among the submissions:

– Stories with contact info and byline still intact. I have to manually remove them before sending them over to the readers for anonymous consideration. This makes me sad.

– Zombies

– Stories that aren’t funny in any way, shape or form. We’re not sure why they were sent to us instead of a venue that isn’t seeking humor.

– Zombies

– Cliche aliens, usually with some sort of probing thrown in

– Reality TV stories

– Zombies

– Vampires

– Road trips complete with every road trip cliche, except they’re space road trips in space. Usually with a pit stop on Earth.

– Zombies

This doesn’t mean that you can’t sell us a zombie reality TV story about a road trip in space. But it won’t be easy.  When I see the word ‘zombie’ in a submission my eye begins to twitch, I extend my arms and walk around the office for a while moaning “rejeeeeect” — so you have to overcome that. Good luck.

Things that I would like to see more of:

– Unusual settings and scenarios. There are only so many times I can read a story about mythological gods in modern setting or aliens landing in rural America. Surprise me!

– Stories from international authors. We are actually doing quite good with that, so far. We have received stories from all over the world, and want more! Keep in mind that, while we are not considering reprints, we’ll make an exception for stories that were published in another language, as long as they have not been previously published in English.

– Art. We still need a cover artist/designer and possibly interior artists. While I am talking to a couple of people, we haven’t settled on anyone yet — send me a link to your portfolio soon if you wish to be considered!



2012 Year In Review

December 31, 2012


In 2010 I began writing fiction and managed two token sales.

In 2011 I made my first professional sale and began building a bibliography.

And 2012 has been the best year yet.  Here are some of the highlights for me this year:

* Qualified for full SFWA membership.
* Was accepted to and attended the Viable Paradise workshop.
* Edited and published my first anthology project.
* Attended my first SF convention as a guest/panelist.

And although I’m proud of each and every one of those accomplishments, perhaps the most important achievement for me is this:

* I now believe that I can sell what I write.

This sounds less impressive than it actually is. But the truth is, confidence is hugely important. The ability to write fiction without second-guessing myself, without wondering if the latest story I’m working on is at all viable, is liberating and something I’m only recently able to do. The “pretender” syndrome of “I’m-n0t-a-real-writer-I’ve-just-been-lucky-with-a-few-short-stories” is more difficult to shake than you might expect. But statistics are on my side, showing that most of what I write consistently sells, at least at semipro level.

In 2012 I completed a total of 24 short stories, totaling almost exactly 50,000 words. Of those 24, I felt that 20 were good enough to submit (and may yet revisit the remaining four and fix them up).  I already sold ten of them (7 to pro-paying markets). I also sold almost every story I’ve been submitting since 2011.

Part of this success is due to submitting very aggressively. I spent time researching new markets, tried to make sure I never had too many stories hanging out on my hard drive without being out for consideration somewhere, and was perfectly willing to have the story debut in a smaller market rather than remain unpublished.

Write1Sub1 challenge (which I will continue in 2013) had helped. Also, my goal of hitting a total of 200 submissions kept me going as well. Sending out 200 submissions in a year is *hard*. I barely managed it, shipping off a few stories this past week just so I can reach that number. Here are my statistics for the year:

Submitted: 203

Currently out on submission: 13

Lost / never responded: 1

Rejected 159

Accepted: 30

There were also a number of stories accepted in 2012 which I submitted in 2011. A total of 35 stories (including reprints) were accepted in 2012. Of these 35 stories:

10 sold at pro pay (5c+ per word)

16 sold at semi-pro (1-4c)

3 sold to token markets (2 to Every Day Fiction and 1 to Toasted Cake. I donated the payment back to those markets)

6 reprints were donated without pay (5 to podcasts, one to a charity anthology).

And the stories that are still circulating? Although there are a few oldies I really like and can’t quite let go off, most are recent work, from late 2012, and I have every confidence that they will find quality homes soon!

So what’s the plan for 2013?

I actually expect LESS sales next year. Because I want to spend more of my time on writing novel(s), editing, and translating. So with that in mind, my 2013 goals are:

* Complete at least one novel and begin shopping it around to agents/publishers

* Continue to participate in the Write1Sub1 initiative and write at least one new short story per month.

* Translate into English at least two SF/F short stories by Russian authors

* Attend at least one major SF con (something like WorldCon or World Fantasy) and a few smaller ones

I wish everyone the best of luck with setting and accomplishing their own 2013 goals. Happy New Year!



My New Submission Cover Letter

August 25, 2012

Nothing could possibly go wrong.


Anthology Submissions Update – The Fifth Hundred

July 30, 2012

This week, the Space Chicken is a happy chicken.

It took nearly ten days for us to process 100 more stories. The Space Chicken looked upon the received submissions and saw that they were very good. Well, maybe except for a few.

A whopping thirteen of the stories made it past the first round of reading (as opposed to just nine in the previous round) and two of those thirteen bypassed the third round and sailed on to acceptance. Because they’re awesome.

Of these 100 submissions we sent out 41 form rejections, 57 personal rejections (including round 2 rejections with feedback and comments from multiple readers) and two acceptances.

Of the 517 total submissions received to date, Duotrope is showing 159.

We’ve managed to respond to almost everybody within 24 hours, either with rejection or a round 2 bump. Only a handful of stories took 1-2 days. Maintaining this pace of reading hasn’t been easy, but we’re committed to continue offering fast response times and providing as much personal feedback as possible.

There are now 14 stories accepted into the anthology, totaling a bit under 46,000 words. There are 13 stories in round 3, totaling 24,000 words. So nothing has to be cut. Yet.


Rated R

Both of the stories accepted into the book this week are decidedly NOT appropriate for younger readers. They’re awesome, but we wouldn’t recommend that either be read as a bedtime story. There is some cursing (moderate), sex (not graphic) and other things we don’t want to expose children to. I had to think long and hard about these stories but, ultimately, I decided that good comedy often pushes the boundaries, and I’d rather produce a hilarious volume that might put off a few of the more prudish readers than a toothless, mildly amusing book that’s safe for a thirteen-year-old.
Preview Story

I’ll be posting the entire Jake Kerr’s story very soon, probably toward the end of this week. Watch this space!




Anthology Submissions Update – The Fourth Hundred

July 19, 2012


It took approximately nine days to review 100 more submissions. The overall volume has come down a little and we’re averaging just over 10 subs per day. Of the 100 stories responded to, 43 were form rejections. All others had at least some additional comments from me or the other readers.

Only nine stories out of 100 advanced past the first round (this made the Space Chicken very cranky indeed!) Of those nine stories, I bought one and advanced one more into the third round. The other seven have been rejected by the “death panel.” I also received back a requested rewrite and bought that story, too.

As it stands right now, there are twelve stories accepted into the anthology, totaling approximately 38,000 words. There are 13 stories in round 3, totaling just over 24,000 words.  So there’s still plenty of space, but there’s also around 40 days remaining and I predict a Darwinian struggle among the round 3 stories for a few remaining spots in September.

Duotrope is showing 122 out of the 407 submissions we received to date.

We’re seeing too many:

* Zombie stories, Vampire stories, Demon/Hell stories, Alien Gray stories.

Not that there’s anything wrong with those, but your Zombie story submission will have to be better than all the OTHER zombie story submissions we’re seeing, because we don’t plan to dedicate the book to any one trope. If you have several stories in your inventory, the metagame choice would be to send one that revolves around a less-tired concept.

* Stories that are longer/shorter than what the guidelines ask for.

I don’t mind reading a 4200 word story very much. But when a writer sends it in without asking, that means they either didn’t bother to read the guidelines, or didn’t care. In either case, I’m already predisposed against their story before I begin to read it. Unless its downright brilliant, it will end up in a form rejection pile.
We’re not seeing enough of:

* Flash fiction

Only two of the stories I bought so far are 1000 words or less in length. Only two more flash stories are in round 3 at the moment.  I’d like to see more quality flash, but remember that a flash story should optimally still have a good plot arc.

* Humor

You would think that submitting humor to a humor anthology is a no-brainer. You would be wrong. A great many submissions we get are either mildly humorous or merely upbeat. I want stories that stand a chance of making the reader laugh out loud. Not every story in the anthology is going to be laugh-out-loud funny, but you will have a *far* easier time advancing past the ‘slush’ stage  if yours manages this feat.
Please keep submitting. It will keep the Space Chicken happy, accelerate the next Anthology Submission Update blog post, which you’ve now grown to love and crave, and might possibly net you a rejection like this one.



Anthology Submissions Update – The Third Hundred

July 11, 2012


We breezed through another 100 stories and Space Chicken (above) says this was a bit of a rough batch. Only 7% advanced to the second round, of which I bought one (and will likely be buying another one, pending a rewrite). Yet a third story (which was also a requested rewrite) advanced to round 3, where we now have a total of 11 tales.

I didn’t get a chance to write this post right away, so we’re at 325 submissions total right now. Duotrope is showing 98 of them. So my fourth post will likely be in just a few days.

Anthology Submissions Update – The Second Hundred

July 3, 2012

We have now read over 200 submissions, so I’d like to provide another look at our statistics and process.

I bought three stories from the second 100 subs, now totaling 7. 16% advanced to the second round (as compared to 25% from the first batch).

Three stories from the 2nd 100 advanced to the third round. There are now 10 stories in round 3.

One story each from first and second hundred received a rewrite request and I’m waiting for the authors to decide if they want to make the changes.

There are presently exactly 214 stories either on submission or already responded to at UFO. 71 of them have been recorded on Duotrope.

I’m a huge fan of reading these sort of statistics at other markets, so I hope others will find these updates of interest, as well.