Monthly Archives: May 2018

Writer Wednesday – Calls For Submissions

If you’re writing for publication, you’re probably familiar with the submission process and the never-ending search for places looking for stories or poems. There are a lot of market listings out there, Reddit groups, Facebook group, and websites devoted to calls for submissions. I’m going to be sharing some of the bigger names along with the ones I use on a regular basis.

It used to be the best resource was Duotrope but I don’t really utilize the service enough to pay the fees for it. I use my own tracking system and visit enough various sites that the interviews and such don’t yet really call to me. And I’m a long way from needing the new to me section for photographers.

My most used resource is The (Submission) Grinder which is mostly what Duotrope was before they added all the extra features to go with their fees. It has a very easy to use interface and a pretty extensive database. The search function sets it apart from a lot of the newsletter type call listings. If you have a story that’s looking for a home and don’t want to do the fees over at Duotrope, try the (submission) Grinder.

If you write speculative fiction, Ralan is the best. It isn’t really searchable but it has great market notes, anthology calls, and fairly up-to-date information. Looking through the graveyard (under the heading Sub-Static) is a journey through my own personal submission tracker – I’ve submitted to a LOT of now dead markets over the last 20 years.

For mostly non-paying opportunities, the Classifieds section of Poets & Writers has a good selection (and contests with fees too) but sometimes you come across a project that is really interesting or worthwhile.

Excellent Newsletters: Winning Writers, Funds for Writers, Dark Markets, Published to Death, The Practicing Writer, and Writer’s Weekly.

Other Amazing Resources: Absolute Write, Writer Beware,  and New Pages.

There are a lot of other resources out there and I certainly don’t know all of them. If you have a favorite that I haven’t listed, please let me know what it is!



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Knowing Enough to Know I Don’t Know Enough

Flowers in the Woods (image: Sarah Wagner)


I posted before about getting back into photography as a way to get my artsy fix without making quite the mess I make doing other things – like painting or building strange things out of fabric, starch, plaster, and glue. Well, very quickly I discovered that film is going to be a LOT more expensive in the long run than is really worth it for me and I had a little money left over from my birthday. Bargain and thrift hunting is a thing I thoroughly enjoy and I managed to find a very old first generation dslr dirt cheap. I went Pentax because my best lenses all work with Pentax. Transitioning from a Pentax k1000 to a k100d is a lot more difficult than I imagined it would be. Figuring out the lighting has been the worst and I really think a lot of that is because I wasn’t the very best at lighting to start with. It also seems that I have been using one of my lenses wrong pretty much forever.

I know enough to play with it and enough to know what it is I need to get better at. And enough to know that I need to find an adapter to make my dad’s Nikon lenses fit this camera body and the right adapter to make my longer zoom fit this body as well.

All the Ferns but none were red. (image: Sarah Wagner)

I prefer subjects related to or at least in nature and my backyard is really pretty uninteresting so I convinced the husband and kids to go with me to the local state park to hike around and let me find interesting subjects. I was pretty worried about how the body would deal with that – I’ve been doing really well lately but I know when I come back from conventions, I’m all over achy and sore. You reach a point where, in weighing the options, the reward with worth the risk. In this case, the reward was practice and pretty ferns. I got to explain to my oldest all about fiddleheads. Only one tiny shoot was still curled that way in the plants that were close to us. Some were not yet fully unfurled but no longer in that small state.

My lovely Freds!

We only did one trail and I was disgustingly sweaty and dirty by the end of it but I didn’t fall, didn’t trip over anything, and the only thing really bothering me was my left foot which never stops hurting anyway. We’re coming up on the anniversary of the first big inflammation that brought about my diagnosis and yesterday was the most physical activity I’ve been able to do since then. Dirt is so much easier on all my joints than pavement! Next time we’ll try a different trail and hope for the same.

I’ll probably share more pictures as I learn more and get better. I can see in my head what I want to do with my camera but it’s going to be a while before that really works. I do need some kind of light (I have the built-in flash and a hotfoot flash but sometimes, I need a little more for the lens that doesn’t have an aperture ring) and a tripod as my hands are a bit on the shaky side but I really do enjoy the whole process. I did when I was a kid too. I guess I forgot over the years how much fun it could be to take pictures of places and things that aren’t people. Plus, I’m a lot more observant when I’m hunting for pictures than I am pretty much any other time.



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Filed under Fun, Life, photography, Rheumatoid Arthritis

This Skin Could Be Better

But, that’s what makeup is for! I know I’ve complained about my icky red splotchiness that is either related to the medication I’m on for RA or the RA itself. Either way, same deal. I’ve tried several concealers, several foundations (it’s the whole reason I signed up for two different sample boxes for several months so I could play around and try things and see what I found. I’ve mostly found stuff that doesn’t work as well as I want it to.

I don’t really do reviews on the makeup stuff but I’m making an exception today because I am super impressed. Foundation can be ridiculously expensive for the stuff that works (hence trying the sample boxes!) but worth it when it does. My skin is super sensitive to boot so I’ve had a very hard time finding stuff that works. I was using bare minerals bb cream with concealer but it didn’t do much at all for the redness really. Color me surprised when my answer turned out to be super inexpensive. My favorite concealer is twice as expensive as my current favorite foundation and that’s just awesome. Even better, I can get it at my local Wal-Mart, no shipping, no wait, no long drive to the pretty shiny makeup place where I want to spend all the money.

If I were willing to post a before pic, I wouldn’t feel the need for the makeup! Face: Flower Beauty Light Illusion foundation, eye: BH Supernova, kohl, lip: Maybelline unnude Matte Ink in Visionary (I think)

Drew Barrymore’s line, Flower Beauty, has a Light Illusion Foundation that is quickly becoming my favorite thing ever. I do wish the SPF was a little higher but yeah. It’s light, blends well, evens out my skin tone, and doesn’t make me break out. It’s very moisturizing so I do use a little mattifier on my forehead but the rest of my skin tends toward dry so it works out pretty well. My redness and splotchiness isn’t as bad as it could be and it’s much worse to me than anyone else but this makes me feel quite lovely. Enough that I’m writing about makeup!  Without makeup, I’ve got old bruise shades under my eyes, red across the nose and cheeks and chin, the occasional random bumpy hive along my hairline, and a small scar at the edge of my mouth that are all practically invisible. None of the other foundations I’ve tried have made me feel quite as comfortable in my own skin. Definitely worth the $14.00.

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Writing Wednesday – Editors

When you reach a certain point in your journey, it is time to bring on the editors! I don’t mean your BFF who took a few advanced English classes either. There are some who honestly believe that they don’t need editors. Yeah, no. I have met a LOT of writers in my life and I have never met anyone who didn’t need an editor. I’ve read a lot of self-published work that really needed an editor. I’ve read books from the big five where the editors were certainly having an off-day when they worked on that book (or the writer decided s/he was better than editors). You need an editor, you need an editor, EVERYBODY needs an editor!

I have always loved my editors. They really are working toward the same goal – they want your book or story to succeed because it helps them to succeed. You are too close to your own work sometimes to see the flubs and inaccuracies. Yes, there are some terrible editors out there – I’ve come across a couple myself – but they are a minority and it doesn’t take them long to out themselves as terrible.

If you go the self-publish route, I highly recommend an editor – you WANT to put out the best work you can. If you’re going the more traditional route, editors are unavoidable and awesome both.

I have mostly been incredibly lucky with my editors. They’ve been great professionals who really do know what they’re doing and what they’re talking about. I have always taken the position that, unless there’s a really valid reason I can back up with factual research, the editor is probably right. I have no problem rewriting sentences or cutting scenes that were there more for me than for the story. You always hear the phrase, “kill your darlings,” and for the most part, I agree. Sometimes, a line is so good it’s worth making an argument for keeping or moving but, for the most part, if you really love it, it’s probably there more for you as a writer than for the story and you can keep it in the file.

I have a file where I keep all my really precious “darlings” that were more for me than for my stories and generally, I turn them into other stories or poems and both the originating book and the next project are both better for it.

That’s not to say all editors are created equal. Or publishers for that matter. My horror stories are at least small ones. I had one non-fiction editor who accepted my work and then stripped out everything that made it mine before it went to publication. I signed all the things, she was absolutely within her rights to do it but, honestly, I don’t even understand why she accepted my story in the first place. It wasn’t a paying gig and I’ve never seen a physical copy of it so really, it doesn’t matter but I definitely was upset when she sent me the final approved copy, just so I could take a look. It made me sad more than anything as the story was very personal. Years later, I can say that she was probably right for her vision of her collection of essays but it probably wasn’t the right collection for my story (too late now though!).

The other terrible editor I came across had zero business being an editor in the first place. I love little ezines and new magazines and I don’t shy away from submitting things to a new publication that has a beautiful landing page or an interesting premise. At one point, I sent a poem set to a pub run by a guy I knew. He accepted one of my poems then turned around and brought on an editor who had zero experience who took that poem, ripped it apart – literally moved lines between stanzas, changed words so they no longer fit the meter (though in her defense she probably didn’t understand that there was a meter as it looked free verse if you weren’t paying attention). I tried to explain, she got snippy, and I pulled the poem because I really don’t do drama that way. I later sold it to a really great magazine (and a note in my email from a reader who loved it as it was meant to be).

Editors are there for more than silly grammar and punctuation problems (though I humbly apologize to all my editors from the past, present, and future, for my comma happy typing style!). They help you keep the continuity and make sure hair color, eye color, names, and personality doesn’t change during the story in ways it’s not supposed to. They aren’t going to annihilate your story just because. They want you and your work to succeed. Remember, the better you do, the better your story does, the better reputation they get, the better they do too. Editors are friends, not foes. If you have one, thank them don’t argue with them. Yes, your work is precious and awesome but I promise you, it’s not perfect.

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Of Comics, Conventions, and Peopling

Over the weekend, the family and I went to the 3 Rivers Comicon. The people who run it were nice enough to give me a press dealio and recommendation on a panel to make sure I went to. I did. It was awesome and I have a new series to read out of it too! I discovered that there’s a girl’s comic discussion group too – I may even try to attend in person sometime down the road. I got to meet a writer/artist who was part of one of the series that I loved in high school (even if I didn’t realize it was based in comics until much later in life, now I have most of the series in really beautiful, collector condition. I’m missing the last 12 but I’ll find them!). For most of my response and reaction to that, check out my post over at The Geek Girl Project.

The comics part of it, the neat art, the neat stuff, the artists and writers – all of that is really awesome but for me, the best part was that I peopled really freaking well – I talked to people I didn’t know about things I’m passionate about (even if one of those conversations had nothing to do with comics at all but interesting rocks. Did you know there’s a whole zen-like thing devoted to interesting bits of rock? Suiseki is a real thing I didn’t know about before. My most interesting rocks are generally kept on brass stands but I might have to look at some wooden ones eventually.). I know for most people, actually managing to talk to people without being an idiot is not a noteworthy thing and I am still quite hopeful that someday it won’t be notable for me either. It might actually happen if I have more days like yesterday. But I count yesterday as a huge win in the Sarah Successfully Peoples column so, suck it anxiety!

My fingers were not completely cooperative (one awesome lady at a geek girl brunch organization was kind enough to fill out a mailing list form as my handwriting was being atrocious in that moment) and my foot whined a lot but really, I didn’t come home half as sort or hurty as I usually do from spending a day at a convention or fair. I think some of that was definitely that my meds are really working better and I’ve been able to move more and better which makes it so I do move more and better and it’s a wonderful cycle of healing and getting better (and I’m so grateful for that!). I did absolutely need my cane by the end of it and I was moving pretty slowly but it could have been (and has been in the past) so much worse!

So I’m home, recharged, refreshed, and ready to work. Someday, I would love to create comics but ultimately, I think what I’m doing now, the books that I’ve got, that I’m working on, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing.

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Filed under Anxiety, Comics, Convention, Event, Geek, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Feeling Like Myself

For the first time in like a year really. I’ve had a pretty good week this week. I’ve gotten a LOT of words written, I sent out a set of poems, I made a dent in Mt. Laundry, read two multi-chapter volumes of a manga series (Blue Exorcist), a how-to manual, and I even made some art and put some new things into the Etsy shop. I think my one foot is just always going to be sort of sore now but I went up the stairs like I used to, before all this started! I had bloodwork done and didn’t bruise like it sometimes does, my meds didn’t make me the least bit ill, and I found out that I’ve been using one of my camera lenses wrong from the first moment I got it in 1993.

I’m mostly trying to stay busy because when I’m busy, I don’t obsess over the submissions I have out and I also don’t feel the need to munch and snack all the time. When I’m not snacking, I’m much better at losing weight. It’ll be different when I can really move better but I think that’s going to take time before I’m at that place.

I have a lot on the list of things I want to do and I’m working on it, slowly but surely. Ultimately, the goal has always been the same – I want to write a book that really matters to someone. I’ve had a lot of books that mattered to me and I want to give that to someone else. I want to make art that moves people and things that people want to have in their homes on display. If I can do that while feeling almost human? Even better!

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Filed under Books, Interesting, Life, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Writing Wednesday – The Tools

Writing is very simple. Ultimately, all you really need is a writing implement and paper or electricity (depending on your preference). It’s something you can do anywhere, any time, without much preparation. I have been known to scribble down a thought on a paper napkin or, in a real pinch, my jeans or my skin. But everyone had a different ideal writing situation.

Software: Please note that I haven’t used Apple anything since my Apple IIgs a few decades ago and have been a Windows user since the very early 90’s. I use Microsoft Word now but prior to that, I used Open Office and never had a complaint. If you don’t have access to Word, Open Office is very user-friendly. I have not tried Scrivener but I have used yWriter and, if you need a little more organization than a standard word processor can handle, yWriter is pretty amazing. I do use the free version of Grammarly but I find it’s most useful in making me rethink my word choices sometimes. And it catches most of my comma problems (which I’m certain my editors appreciate!).

Implements: Some writers have a favorite type of pencil or pen and I’m no different. Mirado Black Warrior pencils are hands down my all time favorite pencils ever. They almost quit making them. My now husband bought me a case of them for Christmas in 1999 because we were told they were going to quit making them. I actually haven’t had to buy pencils for me since then (because no one ever gets to use my pencils but me). Since my RA, I’ve had a lot of adjusting to do with all things writing because of my hands and I discovered the Dr. Grip pens because my son likes fat pens and it is honestly just the greatest pen for my difficulties. I can even use the gel-style pen on my really swollen days because it requires no pressure and is big enough that, as long as I can bring my fingers to my thumb, I can write. At least for a little while.

Reference books: The internet is great but sometimes you really want to thumb through paper. Years ago, I had a really great grammar manual that I gave to someone who needed it even more than me (and that’s saying something!). One of these days, I will remember which one it was as replace it but until then, I have an old AP style manual and the Describer’s Dictionary on my desk at all times. I don’t use them often but I like having them right here to supplement my Google-fu. I also love to hunt down new to me but old if not ancient research materials in junk shops and used book stores. I love finding a bit of inspiration for a story in an old book. I just need to build myself a library to keep them all in…

Hardware: I am not the person to give recommendations of any kind of computers. For me, as long as it runs, hooks up to my external drive, and is compatible with my vertical mouse (if you have arthritis, look into one of these it is AWESOME). It helps if it runs the software I want but most machines do anymore. I like the idea of a tablet but I’ll be perfectly honest, a laptop is about as small as this mama is going to get. I hear great things about bullet journals but I’ve never had the time, dexterity, or talent for that.

Assistive Technology: Speech to Text software. I have tried several but can’t find one I like. I’ll be perfectly honest though, I don’t know that it would really work for me in the long run. I really just feel stupid talking to myself in my house. Mostly, I have trouble finding one that doesn’t flub my words up. I talk too fast for most of them and edit more than I should have to. It did help me get through last season’s Face Off recaps when my fingers weren’t working well but even typing slowly and painfully is better than all the speech to text software combined. Especially the almost right one that won’t let me curse. That just irritates the snot out of me. My software shouldn’t get to censor me. I’ve mentioned my fat pens and my vertical mouse already but I also use compression gloves on really bad days that have made a world of difference when my hands hurt. Having physical limitations doesn’t mean you have to put your writing on hold.

What are your favorite tools? The software or books or AT that you can’t be without?

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Happiest of mother’s days to all the moms and mom figures. I hope you all had a really marvelous day and that you got to do exactly what you wanted to do!

The other day, I posted about the boy’s play… I got his permission to share!

The kid “learns” to dance.

The kid sings.


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So proud, I’m about to burst

I need to be a little bit braggy right now. My oldest kid has always been a ham, relishing in the spotlight (he is definitely his granddaddy’s grandson!). From the first moment that it was an option, he’s been on the stage. Right now, it’s high school productions but he is always amazing at it. I know, I’m his mom, I have to say that but really, it’s true. He gets a little annoyed sometimes about always being the comic relief type characters (Roger in Grease, LeFou in Beauty and the Beast, and now Willard in Footloose) but he keeps getting that role because he’s so damn good at it (and it doesn’t hurt that he’s willing to get pantsed or thrown across the stage or use a plunger like a microphone).

Last night was the opening night for Footloose. I was a little confused how they’d take that particular movie and make it a musical but it actually really works well – fun script! My kid had the entire theater in stitches especially when his character is trying (and failing spectacularly) to dance. It doesn’t hurt that he’s built like Jack Skellington, all limber and lanky which can either be an awkward jumble or a high kick to beat all high kicks. His physicality is just amazing and he’s downright fearless. I want to be more like him when I grow up.

He can do the real drama too – he was Poe in an Evening With Poe, doing The Raven and absolutely floored me (and a lot of other people). I can’t wait to see what this kid is doing ten years from now. The best way I can explain him is he’s like Danny Kaye and Jeff Goldblum in one body and it really seems like he was just born knowing how to fall in the craziest way possible. At least now, he doesn’t hurt himself when he does it.

If my husband gets a good clip of tomorrow night’s performance, maybe I can talk the kid into letting me share it because he really is crazy awesome. I know I wasn’t the only one laughing so hard I was nearly in tears.

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Filed under Interesting, kids, Life, Parenting

Writing Wednesday – Public Speaking

It’s one of those things I really am not comfortable doing but speaking is a part of writing. It mostly comes after the publication part unless you’re an active poet. It’s an important part of getting to know your base and connect with them. My dad was awesome at it but it did not pass down to me. I speak, even to a small group, and I can start off strong but by the end, I’m a shaky, trembling mess of a woman who really would rather sink into the floor than do it again. I’ve always been that way. But, there was a time when I did it anyway and I’m doing my best now to do it anyway again.

1997 reading at Borders. I’m the one in black as usual.

When I was young and brash, I was a part of a reading at a very lovely Borders in Pennsylvania as part of a group of writers who’d been published in a small local magazine. That was the last time I’ve ever participated in an in-person reading. I’d done a few poetry nights at coffee shops during that same year prior to that reading. About ten years ago, I did a phone interview on a radio show and read from a novella and absolutely had a little panic attack (and you can hear it as it builds to boot). I haven’t sought out more opportunities since then, though I did a recording of a short story of mine that found it’s way to a radio show/podcast and that’s fine, no nerves, no twitching (and it’s still available too).

Yesterday, I went to that local writer’s group I wrote about a few weeks ago. I took my oldest kid with me for moral support (poor kid always gets dragged into stuff so I don’t have to do it on my own) but I went. I’m happy to report that, so far, this is not one of the judgy, preachy, picky groups but one where I think I can do some good while I grow and stretch as a writer too. From the people I met, it seems like it might be a really good fit, where I can help and be helped and learn things I didn’t realize I needed to know. You can’t beat that. One of the things this group does is a monthly assignment – a prompt type thing. I did mine and it ended up being more of a poem than a story but I read it. Before I was done, I was shaking and my voice was trying to swallow itself but I read all of the 178 words. And I’m planning on doing it again. And again. And yet again.

I don’t know that’s I’ll ever be as comfortable as my current favorites to watch (there is some language warning in the links if you’re at work or sensitive): Neil Hilborn  or Rachel Wiley, but I’d like to be comfortable enough to share that part of me, that poetry that lives inside me but struggles to get out.

I am not good at peopling but practice makes, not perfect yet, but better. With each craft fair, each face to face, I get a little less me and a little more that person I’d like to be. I write because I love it because it is who and what I am but I also write to publish and part of that is marketing. When you take a story to market, you’re not just selling that story, you’re selling yourself. You can’t really build your base if you aren’t participating in interactions, real world or online, both matter. I’ve been working hard at doing better with that. If you get a chance, go to your local writer’s group, find a slam (and if you do, tell me how!), join Toastmasters – practice the public face of the craft. Go somewhere no one knows you and if it all goes wrong, try again later.

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Filed under WIP, Writing