F – Fantasy and Fiction

Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.
Lloyd Alexander

Stories are fantasy, but in this fantasy we are free to explore life, truths, and our own experiences. We can try on different roles, live vicariously in different eras, and struggle with different villains.

Stories are so important to us that we set them down in books, then in plays, movies, and television. From early childhood we were enraptured with them and made up our own in play.

I don’t know if it’s metaphor or vicariously living with the protagonist or the natural rise and fall in tension. I’m not sure if it’s anticipation, the wonder of “what’s next,” or the need to tell our own stories  until we’ve fully accepted them.

Stories teach, warn, comfort, thrill, amuse, and challenge. Fables, urban legends, adventure—stories both entertain us and resonate in us. I recognize it. I know it. I can’t say I understand it. From the first gathering of tribes, there have been stories. How many story lovers have written a thesis or dissertation on the humanity of stories?  Not enough, I think.

Stories communicate ideas, beliefs, the state of society in all its horror and splendor. I can’t imagine a life without stories, can you? We tell them at work, with friends, to ourselves.  We relate the events of our lives with a beginning, middle, and end.

To listen to and tell stories is to be human.

Why do you think humans developed stories? What is it about stories that binds us?


Looking for Great Free (Sci-fi and Fantasy) Fiction? Check Out These Online Magazines

Looking for Great Free (Sci-fi and Fantasy) Fiction? Check Out These Online MagazinesDo you like reading free stories? A lot of people, surprisingly, don’t know that many online magazines and journals provide free access to their content. And that’s why I’m here today. I’m about to open up a world of free story nuggets — and you will never be short of reading material again.

Since I’m a predominantly literary and speculative fiction writer, that’s what I tend to read. Literary journals typically require a subscription, but many will showcase one or two pieces from their latest or past issues. They are worth reading, especially if you’re thinking about sending a piece of your own.

Speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, and horror) magazines tend to have more content available for public consumption. Below I’ve taken the time to amass a list of a few of my favorite magazines that offer free and easily accessible fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

Speculative fiction (horror, sci-fi, fantasy):

Daily Science Fiction: This online journal publishes science fiction and fantasy (and everything speculative in between) flash fiction. If you subscribe, you get a free story emailed to your inbox each weekday. That means a daily dose of 500-1500 words. But the entirety of their selection is available on their website.

Fantasy Scroll Magazine: This is a newer magazine (it only has three issues out), but I was delighted by one of the stories I read and have continued to read it since.

Strange Horizons: This magazine has a huge database of stories they’ve published, all accessible free of charge. From their site: “Strange Horizons is a magazine of and about speculative fiction and related nonfiction, and has been shortlisted for or won Hugo, Nebula, Rhysling, Theodore Sturgeon, James Tiptree Jr., and World Fantasy Awards.”

Tor.com: Tor.com is the short story version of Tor the publisher of novels, and has a ton of quality fiction. One of their short stories won a Hugo this year, actually.

Clarkesworld Magazine: Clarkesworld publishes a new issue each month. The magazine itself has won the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine three times, and the fiction they’ve published has also seen a fair share of recognition. You can read stories freely on their website or pay the subscription fee and help support the magazine.

Abyss & Apex: You can find fiction, non-fiction, and poetry here. All of the spec-fic variety. They have a yearly subscription of only $5.00, but you can access stories and poetry online for free.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies: This magazine appeals to my personal taste as it distinctly publishes literary speculative fiction. My two favorite genres combined into one perfect package! If you’re like me, in that aspect, this magazine comes highly recommended.

(Note: All of the above-listed magazines, except for Fantasy Scroll Magazine, are publications counting toward membership with the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Also called the SFWA.)

Other Online Magazines/Journals

Narrative Magazine: This is not a speculative fiction magazine. But it’s one of my favorite literary magazines. They have a story and poem of the week, which you can get via their mailing list (or by accessing their website). As a normal (free) subscriber, you can read a huge amount of content. If you feel like paying the fee, you get what’s called a backstage pass, and you have free reign. But even if you opt not to pay, you won’t be disappointed with the stories available to you.

Flash Fiction Online: If you’re short on time — on break, reading something with your morning coffee, on the bus — this is the place to go. FFO is accepted by the SFWA, but I am putting it here because they actually publish more than speculative fiction. In fact, they pretty much publish any and every genre imaginable. No matter what you like to read, you’re sure to find something here that interests you.

In Conclusion . . .

I highly, highly suggest paying subscription fees to the magazines you love reading. It helps them fund their writers (and maybe eventually you, should you attempt to publish) and in turn allows them to continue providing you with great stories. But if you can’t afford to pay, then simply giving a shout out to the authors and magazines you love can help them a ton.

Got any other journal or magazine suggestions? Know any for other genres that you’d like to share? Let others know in the comments!

Twitter Holds Free Mini-Seminars Daily

Twitter Mini-SeminarsOnce I let go of shyness and started talking to people on Twitter, I’ve learned all sorts of wonderful things.  However, Twitter isn’t just platform-building social fun.  Twitter is also a great source of free “seminars” and writing groups.  If you have not yet experienced a Tweet Chat, consider finding a few that interest you.

While my focus is narrow, these are the chats in which I participate (and can therefore recommend):

  • Mondays: #writersroad at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.  General writing topics. Follow co-moderator @HeatherMcCorkle.
  • Tuesdays: #writestuff at  9 p.m. Eastern Time.  General writing topics with links to resources. Follow @penpaperpad.
  • Wednesdays: #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction Fantasy Writer Chat, follow @sffwrtcht) at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.  Authors and publishing professionals participate in Q&A.  #genrechat at 9 p.m. Eastern, focuses on science fiction, fantasy, horror. Follow @genreundergroun.
  • Fridays: #writeclub runs practically all day (missing six hours of the 24).  These are word sprints with a great bunch of writers (with a little friendly competition between Australia, UK and USA writers).  Follow @FriNightWrites.  Word sprints happen all week whenever two or more want to go.  The Sprint Shack also runs throughout the week with @TheSprintShack.
  • Sundays:  #fantasychat starts at 8 pm Eastern Time with questions from the moderator and answers/discussion from participants. Moderators are @WarrenCBennett and @MarilynMuniz.  #blogchat begins at 9 Eastern and focuses on aspects of blogging, follow @MackCollier.  #nostalgiachat starts at 10 p.m. Eastern Time and also formatted in questions from the moderator and answers/discussion from participants.  Topics vary by week. Follow @bekiweki

Nurph and Tweetchat make things faster and easier to read (and add the chat hash tag for you).  Tweetdeck allows you to create a column for the chat if you prefer that method.  I don’t have experience with HootSuite, so I’m hoping someone will add to this in the comments.  If you have any questions, feel free to send me a tweet @TheWritingHabit or post here.

Basic etiquette for twitter chats:

  • Sit in on the first session or two to get familiar with the discussion format and tone, but
  • don’t be shy about answering questions (whether general or Q&A)  Always add the hash tag to your tweets so other participants can see them.
  • Compliment where appropriate, encourage where you can, and commiserate when warranted.
  • Be a polite guest and be yourself.  Follow other chatters who interest you.
  • It’s nice to thank the moderator or guest at the end as well.
  • Sample anything that looks interesting and enjoy!

Are you a Twitter Chatter?  Which chats do you find the most helpful and/or the most fun?    New to Twitter Chats?  What do you think of trying one?  Would there be interest in a Sarcastic Muse chat?

Book Review: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Thought I’d share my review of one of my favorite fantasy novels: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. It only took me six years to finally write it, but I’m happy that I found the time. This is a novel that has inspired me in countless ways and been a good friend in many strange places.

Book Review: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

Dreaming and Writing – And everything in between


Two nights ago, I had a fantastic dream about going to the moon. I remember it in vivid detail — the colors, my fears, my emotions. The ‘what goes up, must come down’ attitude and the longing. But for what, I won’t say, because that might give away my story idea. The fact remains, however, that this is not the first time a story was born from my dreams.

I suppose I am lucky that I tend to remember my dreams, at least for a period of time. Some of this is purposeful. I realize that I am dreaming while I’m dreaming, and because of this, I can focus on the little things: the interactions of the characters, the clarity of the world. I can focus on the story.

I’ve read that other authors have also retrieved story ideas from their dreams, so I wonder, is this a normal phenomenon for writers?

I feel like dreams are the gateway to the imagination — what happens when we don’t have the outside world to keep us in check with how things are ‘supposed to be’ in the world, but rather how they could be. Dreaming allows the subconscious to work with ideas, to ask why and how and what if in a world that could, feasibly, be limitless.

Imagine what the world would be like if our dreams were real. Makes for a good story, doesn’t it?

I like the ‘could be’ in reality, in unreality, in dreaming. I like the blend. Our own realities are all different. Who’s to say that the moon I see is the moon you see, or the moon the neighbor sees? Who’s to say the moon is really the moon at all? I like throwing reality in unrealistic situations — because who is to say I can’t?

Who is to say that I can’t go to the moon? Who’s to say I’ve never been?

Perhaps that is from where my sort of ‘love’ for fantasy was born, from the determination to have an endless creative field day. Maybe that’s why I like pieces of literary fiction. These pieces have a way of turning everything upside down and making me believe in the realness of them. They tell the truth with lies; they draw the sky with words that gasp. They breathe poetry in paragraphs with the dark side of the moon.

They leave messages that make us question. They make me question things — the state of the world, the state of my world — the way I question my dreams. Could this happen? Is this real? Does it matter?

I don’t like writing by the rules. Rules are useful if they serve a purpose, sure, but honestly, I’ve never cared about proper storytelling or the so called ‘writer-how-to’ books which tell you all the things you should be doing to be successful. I have different standards for myself. I ask: Can I make people believe this the way I did when I imagined it? Can I turn a dream into reality? Can I make the world sing, even for a moment?

A logical person might say: “You’ve never been to the moon.”

Luckily,  I am not always a logical person. I am a writer and I say: “Yes, yes I have. And it was real enough to me.”

It was so real that I have all the words in the world to describe it, and I’ll make you believe it too.

Do dreams inspire your story ideas? What’s your take? Please leave your thoughts below in the comments!