The Insecure Writer’s Support Group Wants to Know My Purpose

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group meets monthly, online, to support you: a writer. You can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Sign up by clicking here.

This month we owe our co-hosting thanks to Jemi Fraser, Kim Lajevardi, L.G Keltner, Tyrean Martinson, and Rachna Chhabria! Don’t hesitate to stop by and tell them what a great job they’re doing.

We’re also dipping our toes into the deep end this month with the question: Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.”  Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

Now, I don’t know about keeping civilization from destroying itself. This seems like a very tall order for any writer and honestly very intimidating. I write romance, okay. The civilization saving aspects of romance are quite few, although we do have plenty of marriage, relationship, & healthy attitude about sex saving bits. Also my reason(s) for writing change nearly every day. Sometimes from minute to minute. I’ll do my best to pin the fog of my thoughts to a tree for you, though, and list some of my reasoning here.

I write what I write because:

  • I enjoy writing, although sometimes ‘enjoy’ translates as ‘bitterly detest’.
  • Romance is a genre which has meant a lot to me, personally, and I would love to give someone else that feeling of ‘it’s me! Those are my exact problems! But in a BOOK’. It’s a pretty amazing feeling of belonging.
  • I’ve been the type to disappear into daydreams my whole life. Writing is my attempt to exorcise the haunting daydreams and bleed their little bodies dry as black ink onto pale paper.
  • It only works about half the time. Daydreams are persistent poltergeists.
  • If I was in charge of the universe, I would hand out happily ever afters to everyone. No matter what that ‘happy ending’ looked like, if it involved a romance or decidedly did not, I would make sure all humans had their personal movie script happy ending. EVERYONE. NO ONE WOULD BE SAFE FROM MY POWER.
  • Since I can’t hand out happy endings like candy, I write them instead. Then readers can pick up my book if the plot calls to them, slip into the world for a little while, experience someone else’s love story, and kind of squiggle their way into a happy ending by osmosis. It works.
  • A good, fluffy, fun read is great escapism. I am all in favor of escapism. Has anyone looked around lately? We could all use a quick side-door out of 2020 for a short break, and I aim to provide that break.
  • Romance is female-centered, femme-power, affirming, emotional, strong writing and I am proud to be a part of this very eclectic genre.
  • I do not hear old-fashioned attitudes about ‘unrealistic bodice-ripper trash’ and will, in fact, direct you towards many well written articles, studies, and thoughts about why this attitude is not only outdated but incorrect.

Bookish Events Which Should Totally be a Thing

Our society is a very media centered one, I’m pretty sure we can all agree on this. Sometimes I do wish it were a tad more focused on print media. Specifically, books. What a world we could have if being a bookworm was seen as perfectly standard instead of, say, turned into amusingly dorky personality traits for movies and niche memes. (For the record, I do LOVE the memes.)

Can you picture it? Can you see a time/place where you could walk around in a bookquote Tshirt, reading as you stroll, with another stack of books waiting in your super cute bookish tote bag, on your way to wait in line for the used bookstore to open, and no one would bat a single eyelash. In fact, they might even recommend another book while you’re both in line anyway.

I can see it all in my mind so clearly that I’ll go ahead and list a few fun ways books and reading might be incorporated into everyday life. I present to you: five bookish events which should totally be a thing.

Holidays Specifically for Reading

This is already a thing in Iceland and has been for decades, I don’t see why we can’t make it a holiday tradition everywhere else. ‘Christmas Book Flood‘, or Jolabokaflod, is the tradition of giving books as presents on Christmas Eve and then also giving everyone the time to sit and actually read their present. Whilst sipping hot chocolate. Yes. Perfect. Where do I sign the petition to make this happen here?

Literary Getaways

Like a company retreat or a yoga weekend, except better because it would be devoted to books. Everyone would be socializing—sitting adjacent to each other and reading the same book totally counts as ‘socializing’ to us booknerds, by the way. Book clubs could all get together to celebrate their current read at a pretty, forested, isolated location. TELL ME THIS DOESN’T SOUND LIKE HEAVEN.

City Bookstore Tours

Imagine entire tours dedicated to just the bookstores in a city. You’d pay for your ticket, get into the tram, and spend a blissful day or three being driven to each store. With guides to tell you interesting facts about the history (in 1973 this was the first location to offer erotic romance books for sale!) snack stops, and plenty of time built in to read your new purchases at local parks or coffee shops.

The Emmys, For Books

Hype and glamour and a red carpet for the author and their entire publishing team on release day. Fans cosplaying. Scrawled signatures as the author walks by. Pundits speculating about the plot twists in those TV runway talk shows which no-one actually watches anyway. And awards being handed out left and right, for best cover design, perfectly set typography, and catchiest writing playlist.

Uninterrupted Reading Time

It could be (AND SHOULD ALREADY BE) normalized that when someone is reading, you let them read. Like the unspoken but super strong rule that you sit at the other end of the bench when another person is already sitting. No one tells us to do it, it’s just a thing which everyone knows to do. Well, an open book should also be a universally acknowledged non-verbal signal to leave this person alone.

Where to Submit Short Stories for Your Author Toolbox

This is the final Author Toolbox post for 2020 because we take November and December off (HOLIDAYS!). But don’t worry, you haven’t missed us. You can always sign up on Raimey Gallant’s website and catch us when we start posting again in January, 2021.

For the last Author Toolbox post of 2020 I’d like to share with you three years of my experience in submitting. I love writing short stories. I also love submitting them to magazines, anthologies, and websites and getting accepted. Ahhh, that feeling when you get the email and see ‘we would love to feature your story in our issue’. It doesn’t happen often, so I absolutely treasure each and every acceptance. You probably have your own method to track submissions, but I use spreadsheets. (SO MANY spreadsheets.) My columns are titled:

  • Submitted To (the name of the publication/website, so I don’t forget and try to submit the same story a year later, haha, goodness no, of course I’m not speaking from personal experience and have never done such a thing)
  • Date Submitted
  • Response Time (a lot of places state when they should reply by and it’s helpful to have that date written down so I can remember to send a probing email)
  • Rejection (this column fills up fast, let me just say)
  • Accepted!
  • Payment? (if the publication offers payment which plenty do not)
  • Notes (this is almost always a link to the publication’s submission page, it’s just helpful to have it right there and easy to click on.)

Below will follow a bewildering list of places to submit to, a note on when they take submissions, plus what they pay. Most of these publish Fantasy, SciFi, Horror, or a mashup of those three. A few are more Literary Fiction or just kind of general fiction? Read the submission guidelines, is what I’m saying. I admit freely that I would always rather submit to the presses with more fun names (Zombies Need Brains! Pseudopod!) before the boring generic ones, but that could just be me.

I’d recommend highlighting everything, copying, and then pasting it straight into your own spreadsheet or document so you don’t have to track down this page every single time you want to submit a story. Please feel free to do this, this is my written consent for you to copy and paste any content from this post. Consider it an online digital present for your holidays, and for the members of the wonderful Author Toolbox community, and I’ll see you all next year.

  • Clarkesworld submit here, pays 8-10 cents/word
  • Apex Magazine (no simultaneous submissions) submit here, 6 cents/word
  • Strange Horizons (no simultaneous) submit here, 8 cents/word
  • Boulevard (Nov-May only) submit here, 100-300$
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies submit here, 6 cents/word
  • Deep Magic (clean SciFi only) submit here, 6 cents/word
  • Diabolical Plots (JULY only) submit here, 8 cents/word
  • Cloaked Press (Fall Fantasy, Spring SciFi) submit here, 10$ or author discount on book.
  • Grimdark Magazine (closed currently) submit here, 7 cents (AUD)/word
  • Lamplight Magazine (Mar-May, Sept-Nov.) submit here, 3 cents/word
  • Independent Legions submit here, 100$
  • Stinging Fly (Nov. Dec. only) submit here, €30/magazine page
  • Third Flatiron (quarterly) submit here, 8 cents/word
  • Haunted Waters Press (ongoing themed anthologies) submit here, up to 8 cents/word
  • New Myths (Jan-Feb, June-July) submit here, 30$ minimum
  • Cosmic Roots and Eldtritch Shores submit here, 6 cents/word
  • Pseudopod submit here, 8 cents/word
  • Fablecroft (ongoing anthology calls) submit here, 100$ AUD/story
  • Thuggish Itch through Gypsum Sound Tales publishing submit here, 5$-10$ AUD/story
  • Zombies Need Brains (themed anthologies through Patreon) submit here, 8 cents/word and then 25% of royalties from anthology
  • One Story (Jan-May, Sept-Nov.) submit here, 500$/story
  • The Dark Magazine 1 week response time (!) submit here, 6 cents/word
  • Electric Spec (flash fiction, quarterly) submit here, 20$/story
  • Hypnos Magazine submit here, 1-3 cents/word
  • Tales From the Moonlit Path submit here, 10$/story
  • The Arcanist (flash fiction) submit here, 50$/story
  • Black Warrior (Dec-March, Jun-Sept.) submit here, unsure if pays?
  • East of the Web submit here, unsure if they pay?
  • Havok (flash fiction) submit here, no payment
  • Cemetery Dance (currently closed) submit here, unsure if they pay?
  • Coffin Bell submit here, no payment

Book Tropes: The Grovel in The Novel

Sometimes I’m in the mood for a super specific, really niche trope. It’s like a food craving, where only that certain brand from that one store will do. In this case it’s a good old grovel. Not the little token apology with immediate making-out, ohhh no. I want the real down-and-dirty, sincere, I-fucked-up, oh-my-god-I-was-so-dumb, dawning realization.

It doesn’t particularly matter to me which character (hero or heroine or all three heroes in a reverse harem) is doing the groveling. There just has to be understanding of the fact that whatever they did hurt their beloved. I need to end with the feeling that we are on an emotionally even level and an equal footing. The scales have been balanced, there’s been true remorse expressed, forgiveness has been earned and I can close the book feeling extremely satisfied.

The Immortals After Dark series, by Kresley Cole, has some of the best groveling you’ve ever read in nearly every book, but especially in Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night

Lothaire, also by Kresley Cole, has a journey with the emotionally constipated hero groveling; while Demon From the Dark has both hero and heroine asking for forgiveness. And let us never forget Dark Skye for this list.

The Darkest Secret, by Gena Showalter, also has some heroine groveling, along with deep empathy from both characters.

Barbarian’s Redemption, by Ruby Dixon, has THE MOST emotional scene of understanding and true remorse from the hero I’ve ever read. Period.

To Seduce a Sinner, by Elizabeth Hoyt, has a beautiful, intimate groveling gesture from the hero which makes my heart squeeze every time. It’s just the best.

A Kiss to Remember, by Teresa Meideros, both hero and heroine grovel, plus there’s an amnesia plot. Win-win.

Duke of Pleasure, also by Elizabeth Hoyt, my favorite type of ohhh-I-fucked-up realization from the hero (YASSS).

The Prize, by Julie Garwood, has some old-skool groveling, which might not seem like enough to more modern readers but which I found satisfying coming from a conquering Norman warrior.

Her Protector’s Pleasure, by Grace Callaway, the hero has to confront the definite ways he totally misjudged the heroine AND HE DOES. Humbly. Also the entire plot of Callaway’s The Lady Who Came In From the Cold is structured around answering the question; ‘how much groveling pays for a decade-long lie perpetrated by your wife, and when does that groveling cross the line into all right you need to accept this sincere apology, you emotionally constipated idiot?’

Daring and the Duke, Sarah MacLean, I haven’t personally read but I’m told it contains excellent grovel from the anti-hero main character.

And I don’t read a ton of contemporary romance but I do know Courting Catherine, by Nora Roberts contains a good, sincere apology from the hero.

Love and Other Words, by Christina Lauren is a super emotional second-chance romance spanning literal decades with a little mutual groveling sprinkled in.

Kiss an Angel, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, has an over-the-top gesture involving a tiger.

Too Close to Call, by Tessa Bailey, is more about the sex than the groveling but there is some empathy and understanding going on in-between the dirty talk.

And Dear Author has the awesome article about the reasons for a grovel and why we find it so satisfying which got me started on this whole list in the first place.

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group Works Hard

The purpose of the IWSG is to share and encourage. To gently prop you up when you’re falling down, and allow you to offer that prop to other authors as we go. The first Wednesday of every month we meet (online) to share stories, air insecurities, and lend a helping hand. Come join by clicking here.

The awesome co-hosts for the October 7 posting of the IWSG are Jemima Pitt, Beth Camp, Beverly Stowe McClure, and Gwen Gardner!

And the October 7th question is: When you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if latter two, what does that look like?

When I think of the term “working writer”, it immediately makes me picture someone who a) writes regularly and b) is always getting better at writing.

A) Let me clarify, first thing, that by regularly I don’t mean every single day for hours. We can’t all be Stephen King, alright. For various practical reasons, what I mean by ‘regularly’ is ‘as often as possible in as productive a manner as possible’.

B) The main criteria for working writer, in my mind, is someone who treats writing as actual work. Like it’s any other job which requires time and effort. There are always ways to develop the profession, to improve, to stretch and grow. Great Literary Gods, the topic of marketing ALONE is enough to keep me burning the midnight-Google-oil. There is always something new to learn.

Whether I see myself as a working writer depends entirely on how well I think I’m fulfilling these two criteria. Some days I feel like I’m doing pretty good, getting into a writing routine, actually finishing some manuscripts. That’s a good day! On the other hand, there are days I’m pretty sure everyone knows I’m a huge fraud sitting on a throne made of lies. (Everyone including, for some reason, my high school English teacher whom I have literally not spoken to in fifteen years. Go figure.) I’ve fallen out of my routine, I’m doing a terrible job, and NOTHING is getting finished. Those are not-so-great days.

I feel as if writing should go exactly like this:

Everything ticking along, falling softly into place, the words flowing like pure, perfect Writing Clockwork

When a lot of the time, what the writing actually feels like is this:

Yes, including the Ron Swanson mustache. It’s that kind of a day.

Some days go along just like this:

And then there are the days when the ideas are landing like bird splats, the house is filthy, the kids are whiny and hungry, there are 800 errands to get done and it’s just:

I suppose it’s all a matter of balance, and reminding myself that I’m always learning something from my mistakes.

Book Tropes: I’m A Damsel, I’m In Distress, I Can Handle This. Have a Nice Day.

Every once in a while I’m in the mood for a SUPER specific, niche type of trope. In this post, it’s the typical Damsel in Distress situation, but with an atypical damsel. I want the kind of book where:

  • things are going down, it’s getting grim, the odds are against them
  • the hero has literally *just* said something like, “We’ll never make it!” or “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”
  • then the heroine strolls in all unconcerned and takes out the enemy without chipping a nail
  • while the hero looks on with a mix of shock, pride, and awe.
  • the heroine has no time for your doubts, she is here to get shit done
  • the sort of book which makes me pause my reading and make the “YAS, Queen” face.
  • If you’re in that mood too, this list is for you.

Savage Desire, Tiffany Roberts (Or really any of the Infinite City series, please just go read all of them, you’re welcome.)

Any book by Ruby Dixon, Ruby specializes in these types of heroines, but Bound to the Battle God is a fab example.

The Midwinter Mail Order Bride, Kati Wilde

Magic Bites, Illona Andrews

Halfway to The Grave, Jeaniene Frost

ANY KRESLEY COLE BOOK EVER but specifically Wicked Abyss or Sweet Ruin.

I’m sorry I don’t have more contemporary recs for you, but I’m told From Lukov, With Love, Mariana Zapata has this trope

Also Red Lily or Vision in White, Nora Roberts

Yes! Capable heroines do exist in historical romance like An Affair to Remember, Karen Hawkins

Lord of Scoundrels, Loretta Chase, with Jessica, the OG badass heroine

The Prize, Julie Garwood

Her Protector’s Pleasure, Grace Callaway

Forbidden, Beverly Jenkins

The Social Media Beast Requires Regular Feeding from Your Author Toolbox

This is an author toolbox blog post. The toolbox is a group of authors who come together to learn, share resources, and grow. Non-author friends who are in publishing are also welcome to join in. We’re going on three years strong now! Come check our group out and see what you think.

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

In this day and age authors have to put ourselves out there, hanging weightless in cyberspace with multiple tentacles dangling into the ether.

We need a platform. We’ve got to have an online presence. It’s necessary to network. Because this day and age is cruel. No? Just me thinking that? Anyways. *nervous cough*

There are websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, podcasts, all asking for your online attention and participation. There are writer’s associations, critique groups, pitch fests, twitter pitch fests, conferences, panels, and countless other writing related events needing your digital or even physical presence (or they will need your presence again when it’s safe and the age of COVID is finally over).

beaker panic
*quiet internal Beaker screams*

None of it is a bad thing, per se. I’m not railing against social media. Ranting would be pointless, anyway, since these things are the way the world is. There is no real substitute for getting out there and making connections. I’m grateful for the multiple methods available to me when it comes to getting out and being social (internal Beaker screams notwithstanding).

At the same time, I realize that not being a very social person puts me at an automatic disadvantage in the arena. I am social-skills disadvantaged. There needs to be a support group for this. Except, no one would show up. Because-social anxiety. <insert sad deflated trumpet noise here in memorial of my terrible idea>

In summary: the social media beast requires regular sacrifices from introverts like me.

Being an extrovert comes with its own challenges, I’m sure. I just can’t write a post about how to deal with them—I wouldn’t know where to start. What I can do is list some of the ways I’ve found to limit and/or deal with the issues that come from being antisocial in a social butterfly world.

introvert gif
Sometimes it’s both

Here are some tips, from one introvert to any others, about how to minimize the pain while maximizing your interaction on social media.

  • Learn to love the internet. Online opportunities for networking are nearly limitless, and there are so many different directions you can go. Also, it’s online, so you don’t have to actually put yourself in multiple stranger’s faces all day every day. The Internet is, like, tailor-made for us. We can write, and re-write, and edit every conversation before anyone else sees it. Initiate what contact we like, when we like. All the anxiety of unexpected communication is now gone.
  • BUT! Pick the niche that works best for you, and focus on it. Find the online outlet you love best and become an active, valuable participant.
  • In other words, don’t feel like you have to expose yourself all over every social media outlet, particularly the ones you don’t really like. That’s a recipe for burnout. Also, people can die from exposure. Scientific fact. Quality, over quantity.
  • You don’t ALWAYS have to have something to add/post. Just listening actively and asking good, pertinent questions is valuable.
  • There are a lot of other introverts out there. It’s possible we are now running the internet? Anyway, once you find your tribe and settle into your niche, things get a lot more comfortable, I promise.
  • When it comes to actual social events that need you there, internal screaming and all, pick the ones that you think will have the most value for you. It’s okay to limit yourself to one a year, or ten a year, once it’s safe to attend again. Just don’t give yourself the excuse to stay home and never leave the Internet bubble. Push outside your comfort zone as much as you feel like you can once we’re safely vaccinated, we’ve achieved herd immunity, and these events have started again.
  • Mentally rehearse, ahead of the event, what will be happening and how you might want to react. Example; an online live event. You’ll be meeting other authors, who may ask your name and what you write. Prepare a short biographical speech ahead of time and practice it. (And yes, we the socially anxious do actually practice our “lines” before meeting new people. Otherwise we freeze up and stutter and blurt and spend the next six years beating ourselves up over how dumb we sounded and wincing every time the memory surfaces and we’re a social mess, just go.)
  • It’s easier to interact when it’s something you feel passionate about. You’ve rehearsed your introduction, but now someone wants to improvise. Panic! But if both of you are querying, or hate writing a synopsis, or both love Star Wars (except for Episode III, ALL DEADLY DEATH FIRE TO EPISODE III) you have common ground to retreat to. Rehearse a few questions beforehand that can help you find the common ground so the panic doesn’t shut your conversation down if someone wants to add-lib.
  • Fake it til you make it. The more you act like an extroverted social person, the more confident you’ll get with it. It becomes easier and less scary as you practice. New situations will always be anxiety inducing, but at least the things you’ve done before will become more like comfortable, old, slightly cruel friends.
  • Keep a healthy sense of humor. Your kids will bust into the middle of a Zoom meeting about writing erotic romance. Or you’ll experience technical difficulties. No matter what, something will go tits up. It helps a lot to remember you’re allowed to laugh about it.

avoid people gif


If you’re also learning to navigate a social world, I’d love to hear what strategies you use! Throw them in the comments for me.