Failing at NaNoWriMo & Winning at Rejections

Pic from memeshappen.

This year, because I am susceptible to peer pressure and I just love saying yes to things, I participated in NaNoWriMo.

I was off to a great start early in the month—racking up the daily word counts, writing scenes, figuring out characters, going hard at the cannibalism, etc.

But then I hit a wall, and I never got through it or around it. I spent a few minutes every day writing crap and then worse crap, because if I couldn’t hit 50k words, I was at least going to open that document and type into it every day.

And I did! I have 20k words that I did not have at the start of the month. I mean, at least half of those words can be deleted and never mentioned again, but I have SOMETHING where before I had nothing. My protagonist, Beth, is alive. She doesn’t know what the fuck she’s doing, but she EXISTS. I know her voice. I know (most of) her origin story. And when I can bear to open that document again (in February? Maybe?) I will get back to her and figure some things out.

So my verdict as a NaNo newbie is this: Do it if you want to, as long as you won’t be mad at yourself/give up/despair at the end of the month if you don’t hit that 50k wordcount goal. (I will be doing it again next year—maybe working on the same novel! Maybe writing more terrible terrible crap!) It’s fun to connect with other writers who are also NaNo-ing, whether you’re celebrating wins or encouraging each other or just sort of crying together because what’s in your head won’t come out on the computer screen. Yay community!

In other writing news, things are pretty wonderful.

In 2022, so far, I’ve submitted to journals/magazines/presses/podcasts/agents/etc. 152 times. That’s a mix of short stories, poems, essays, a short story collection manuscript, and a poetry chapbook manuscript.

I’ve gotten 13 acceptances, which I’m so grateful for. Big thanks to:

50-Word Stories for publishing “Not Yet,” and for naming it Story of the Week;

The podcast Terrify Me! with Antony Frost, for reading my short essay “Meeting Nancy” on the show;

50-Word Stories, again, for publishing “Emissaries,” and for naming it Story of the Week;

Defunkt Magazine, for publishing “Falling to Pieces,” in their “Anatomy” issue, and for their continued awesomeness as friends;

Nocturne Magazine for publishing “Still Love” and for stunning me with a Pushcart Prize nomination (I will be forever grateful);

Monstrous Books and Crystal Lake Publishing for accepting “No Rest Nor Relief For You With Me Dead” for the upcoming anthology Shakespeare Unleashed (I screamed when I opened that email);

Black Hare Press (Australia) for publishing “I Take” and “Ghost-Knocking” in their Nom Nom Halloween drabble anthology;

Hearth & Coffin for publishing “Research Cycle” in their “Creature Feature” issue;

Ravens Quoth Press for accepting “Wanted” for their upcoming Psythur 1 anthology;

CultureCult Press for publishing “Rest for the Wicked” in HAUS: Anthology of Haunted House Stories;

Diet Milk Magazine for accepting “Dare You” for their Gothic Advent Calendar “In the Bleak Midwinter;”

And to someone who is working on a not-yet-announced project who invited me to submit and then accepted my story (I will holler about that when I can!).

Thanks, too, to all the editors who sent me a dozen-plus kind and encouraging rejections this year (including two for the poetry chapbook). While there’s disappointment for me in those, there is also a lot of hope, and I take them as a sign of good things to come.

I’ve already hit my #100rejections goal, and I’ll sail past it by the time all the responses come in for 2022 submissions. (Thank you to my 100 Rejections buddies and to everyone in all my writing groups for celebrating those Rs with me!)

I have so much more to say about this year, but one long, gushing blog post is enough for now.

“Research Cycle”


Published in Hearth & Coffin Literary Journal, Volume 2, Issue 3

The results weren’t ideal—she’d liked her assistant. Ken? Keith? Quiet, eager. But feeding the subjects had been his job, and he’d signed the liability waiver. Anyway, wasn’t science about taking risks? She was an explorer, a revolutionary, and until this morning, Kyle (Kevin?) had been, too.

To read more, visit Hearth & Coffin.

“Still Love”

Published in Nocturne Horror Literary Magazine, Issue 2, Fall 2022


When my left hand turned to stone—
whorled gray marble smooth
as a promise, fingers fused in a cold clenched fist
too heavy for my husband to hold
he just switched sides, he loved me
still, we stayed connected
at the movies, the farmers market, shadows
melting into one wide shadow
stretching across the sun-dried pavement.

Visit Nocturne to keep reading!

HAUS: Anthology of Haunted House Stories Ft. “Rest for the Wicked”

The abandoned plantation and ancient mansion have remained empty for 120 years, until three delinquents decide to investigate the haunted property one night

An author of ghost stories decides to visit the spookiest place in England, Dartmoor. He wants to write a terrifying story, but ends up embroiled in a horror story instead!

To find out the reason behind Chris’ strange death, his brother begins to piece together audio recordings and journal entries chronicling events leading up to it

Hungry and lost during a journey, the sparring couple Andy and Claire come across a house for sale. They are greeted by a strange woman who welcomes them inside No 16

HAUS – CultureCult’s anthology of Haunted House stories features 34 pieces of fiction from 33 authors around the world!

Published by CultureCult Press, Oct. 2022 and available here.

NOM NOM: A Black Hare Press Anthology Ft. “I Take” & “Ghost-Knocking”

Hallowe’en Horrors in tiny tales.

Vampires, djinns, spirits, werewolves, trolls, banshees, elves, mummies, skeletons, carnivorous jack-o’-lanterns, evil-seeking clowns, Halloween purges, sexy-but-hungry succubi, genius loci scarecrows voraciously guarding their pumpkin patches, revenge of the Hallowe’en candies.

But don’t worry, between 100-word gory bites you’ll have a moment to catch your breath before the next soul-eating creature climbs out of the grave…

Published by Black Hare Press, Oct. 2022, and available here.

“Falling to Pieces”

Published by Defunkt Magazine in the Anatomy issue, September 2022.


It was a tiny tear at first—barely noticeable.

Just her left ring finger detaching a bit. No big deal. Leah added a strip of silver duct tape and hid that with a flesh-colored bandage, then she got back to work, answering the phone and greeting customers and hustling hustling hustling at Giovanni’s Ristorante in the city’s second-trendiest neighborhood.

[Click link for more!]

“It’s about my own roots,” an interview with NIGHTLIGHT podcast’s Tonia Ransom

Tonia Ransom, creator of the NIGHTLIGHT podcast and Afflicted: A Horror Thriller Audio Drama, talks about the importance of showcasing Black horror authors and their work, and explains her own personal connection to her passion projects.

Q: How did you get started in podcasting, and what led to NIGHTLIGHT?

A: I’ve known since the early 2000s that I wanted to bring back old-time radio, but that was before podcasting so I knew I’d have an uphill battle to climb to make that happen. When podcasts were first introduced, I realized I could create shows just like old-time radio without having to convince studio or radio execs to give me a chance. It still took another 15 years or so for me to actually do it, but I finally started podcasting in 2018. NIGHTLIGHT was a compromise between my original vision of old time radio, and something that could be produced for less money, hence the sound effects and music over a narrated story. I always knew I wanted to start a horror podcast, so that was never a question. I wasn’t quite sure what shape that would take, but after a report came out detailing the demographics of short story authors and I saw how underrepresented Black folks were, I knew I wanted to create a space that gave Black writers opportunities, and for readers/listeners (and Hollywood!) to find more Black writers.

Q: Afflicted, your forthcoming audio drama, has been getting a lot of attention. What is most exciting about this project? What can fans look forward to?

A: The most exciting thing about Afflicted is that it’s the show I’ve wanted to make since before I started NIGHTLIGHT. Not just because it’s a full-cast audio drama, but because it’s about my own roots—the superstitions I grew up with and living in a rural town in East Texas. For me, it’s a love letter to the family I’ve lost over the years, and many characters are named after or modeled after loved ones that have passed. It’s me sharing my heritage with the world, and honoring those I’ve loved and grieved. As for what fans can look forward to—we’re premiering on Halloween, so if they’re missing Lovecraft Country or True Blood, Afflicted is a great way to scratch that itch.

Q: Your projects have brought together Black authors, voice actors, and production team members, and given them an important platform in the horror community. How can friends and fans continue to support you in that?

A: The biggest thing that supports this work is the NIGHTLIGHT Legion—that’s what I call our patrons. They fund this whole operation, and if not for them, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. Secondary to that, sharing the podcast with friends and on social media is huge. Podcasts need listeners to get more patrons, and to better monetize their shows. Without people writing reviews, telling folks about the podcast, and sharing it on social media, NIGHTLIGHT doesn’t grow, and our platform is limited. So basically, money and word of mouth—both ideally, but either helps immensely and is always deeply appreciated.

Q: You are busy with NIGHTLIGHT and Afflicted, but your brain never stops. What are some other project ideas you’re considering? And how can people stay up to date on your latest news?

A: Oh boy! I’ve got tons of other ideas for podcasts that’ll just have to wait a bit because producing a podcast is lot of work! Aside from that, I’m working on a book about the biology of mythical creatures, and how they could exist in the real world. I’m also working on adapting a short story of mine to a short screenplay. During October, I’m usually all over the place, so folks can attend online events, or in-person events to connect with me and learn about writing, podcasting, and more. The best way to keep up with what I’m doing is to follow me on Twitter @missdefying. One day, I’ll update my website (tonia with a list of appearances and such, but I’m so busy doing things that I don’t have time to document the things I’m doing 😉 It’s a good predicament to have, though.

Support Afflicted through IndieGoGo here.

Are you a Black horror author? Are you interested in submitting your work to Tonia and NIGHTLIGHT? Visit for details.

“Dear Editor, thank you for considering…”


I have 42 submissions out.

I want to say something about Schrodinger’s cat here, but I’m shit at anything to do with math or science, and would probably screw it up. My point is that I have 42 unknowns floating in the universe. They could get accepted, rejected, or languish in an abandoned email folder.

(Running total for the year is 70-something, with a handful of acceptances. Your girl can take rejection.)

All I want to do is write and revise, or chat with my writer friends about writing and revising, or read cool books. Every sub call sparks an idea, several of which I actually try to draft because I’m finally making time for it. I stay up late, ignore other obligations, and put off chores. I work with a mentor, enroll in classes and workshops, and have applied for a poetry scholarship. I have one story ready to go on the first, and another under construction for a different sub call.

And ideas for 4-5 book-length manuscripts, that I’ll write fuck-knows-when.

(This week, I’ve spent head time with a monster in a hotel, two women flirting over a fresh corpse, an amorous portrait, an Irish sea creature, and other creeps, I guess making me the biggest creep of the bunch.)

I hope there’s quality in all this quantity.

My “become a writer” game plan has three prongs. 1. Write and submit so damn much that by laws of probability, some stuff has to get accepted. 2. Write so much that my craft improves bit by bit. 3. Don’t stop.

Submitting work to magazines and anthologies is a demonstration of hope and stubbornness (and once or twice for me, spite). At this point, stubborness is in the lead.

Go, stubborness, go.

On Becoming a Writer and Learning To Be Vulnerable: Guest post by Carol Weis  

Carol Weis is the author of the memoir, STUMBLING HOME: Life Before and After That Last Drink, published by Heliotrope Books in NYC. She also wrote the Simon & Schuster picture book, When the Cows Got Loose, and the poetry chapbook, DIVORCE PAPERS. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, AARP, Independent, Salon, ESPN, Guideposts, Cosmo, and numerous other venues and has been read as commentary on NPR.

Unlike many of my writing peers, I never dreamed of being a writer. I mean, I barely made it through college. As a former actor, professional cook and baker, I seemed to have a penchant for creative pursuits, but becoming a writer was never one I considered. Then I got sober. And found I had so much I needed to say. Words in the form of primitive poetry started making their way onto whatever scrap of paper was available. And upon mastering the art of revision, I soon had enough decent poems to submit for a chapbook. 

After unearthing some of my childhood trauma in therapy, I started writing children’s books to appease that ever-present three-year-old still squirming inside of me, the one who was abandoned by a mom sick with tuberculosis for a painfully long time. Her constant need for attention dominated my life and called the shots for many years. 

Writing kid’s books seemed to assuage some of her long-ignored angst. 

At least for awhile.

But when I realized there was always an addicted character showing up in my middle grade and young adult manuscripts, I sensed I needed to shift gears and write about myself. In an achingly honest way. At first, it came in the form of  journaling, and since my daughter had reached her teen years and our fights were more frequent and ferocious, I suggested she journal with me, which turned into a mother/daughter memoir project that still seeks a publisher. And thanks to my daughter’s incessant prodding, after years of telling my wild stories at family reunions and other gatherings, I started a memoir of my own, having no idea where it would take me. So frantic to get down all the memories as they rushed in, I finished the first draft in four months, something I would never advise anyone to do. 

I wrote mostly from my bed, which at the time I called my office. The vulnerability I felt from the words and scenes that poured forth made me want to hide forever beneath the covers. During that time, my body broke out in a vicious rash, with my legs, arms, and back erupting in what I surmised was the rage I felt from the writing. Exposing things I had buried for years. Things I’d even hidden from myself. It got to the point, I only wanted to take walks at night, so I wouldn’t run into any of my neighbors or friends who knew about my book project. I hadn’t felt that kind of vulnerability since I was a kid, or since I first got sober. 

I was writing the same way the memoirists that I loved to read wrote. In a way that made me connect with what they were saying, that took me to the pit of my darkest self. In a way that helped me let go of some of the shame I carried for so many years. In a way that made me feel a lot less alone. And as I wrote for those painful four months, and revised those equally painful four years, I hoped my words would do the same for others. Because making ourselves vulnerable on the page does just that.  

And after all, isn’t that the reason we write? 

“[B]e surprised by the process,” an interview with Jessica McHugh

Jessica McHugh is a novelist, a 2x Bram Stoker Award®-nominated poet, and an internationally-produced playwright running amok in the fields of horror, sci-fi, young adult, and wherever else her peculiar mind leads. She’s had twenty-five books published in thirteen years, including her bizarro romp, The Green Kangaroos, her YA series, The Darla Decker Diaries, and her Elgin Award-nominated blackout poetry collection, A Complex Accident of Life. For more info about publications and blackout poetry commissions, please visit

Here, she answers a few questions about her art, and how she got involved with blackout poetry.

Q: How is the experience of reading/absorbing blackout poetry different than that of traditionally written poetry?

A: I think the main difference is the amount of time you spend reading the piece, especially if the “blackout” portion is more complex and/or takes on the personality of the poem, which is what I try to do with my work. If the source material is apparent, I might spend even more time reading and re-reading, because the blackout poem sometimes honors and uplifts the original piece, whether it was intentional or not. And while I prefer to include a typed version of the poem with my pieces, not everyone does that, and if the blackout art doesn’t create a legible path for the eye, the poem might be more difficult to read/interpret and require a little more work to enjoy.

Otherwise, I think it’s a pretty similar experience. I’ve written poetry and monologues using blackout poetry techniques without actually creating a blackout piece, and I don’t think most readers would know I used a nontraditional method if I didn’t mention it. It’s an incredibly fun and versatile art form.

Q: With your unique work, you have carved out a niche in the horror writing community. How has the support of that community bolstered both your books/work and your sense of self as an artist?

A: It’s been an interesting journey, for sure. Since my first novel publication in 2008, I’ve had ups and down with my career and seen several iterations of the horror community. I’ve seen folks band together, I’ve seen them devour each other, I’ve seen people lose relevance due to an unwillingness to change with the times, and I’ve seen people going through darkness flourish with the support of their peers and come out better and brighter on the other side.

I count myself incredibly lucky to have found lifelong friends in this community and support throughout the phases of my career. Despite experimenting with playwrighting, my young adult series, and other mediums, I remained focused on horror novels and short stories and thought I’d stay on that trajectory. I never would’ve guessed that after 14 years and 25 published books, I’d be a 2x Bram Stoker Award nominee for my poetry, but I also never expected to fall in love with blackout art so quickly after I started playing around with it in early 2019. Nor did I expect such an outpouring of support from the community. While I will continue to write in whatever genre and format strike my fancy, the way blackout poetry rekindled my artistic passion after a long period of doubt, and how my horror friendos lifted me out of my gloom and doom to embrace my new artistic endeavors, makes me think blackout poetry will be a massive part of my life forever

Q: Can you tell us more about your Little Women blackout poetry? How it compares to or differs from your work in Strange Nests and A Complex Accident of Life?

A: Absolutely! My 3rd as-yet-untitled blackout poetry collection, inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, is definitely my most ambitious project so far. It will have 155 poems to coincide with the novel’s 155th anniversary in 2023, which is triple the number of poems in both A Complex Accident of Life and Strange Nests. That wasn’t my original intention, but I’ve come to realize that “original intentions” don’t matter much when it comes to these collections. A Complex Accident of Life only became a collection because Jacob Haddon of Apokrupha saw me posting Frankenstein blackout poetry and reached out about compiling the pieces. Strange Nests wasn’t planned either; it was more of a coping mechanism after my brother passed away in January 2021 and transformed into something so much more. So I’ve rolled with the punches and allowed myself to be surprised by the process. Deciding to make a lot more poems from Little Women has opened up the narrative in a huge way and allowed me to explore weirder paths, giving the collection more of a cosmic horror feel while remaining a fierce tale of sisterhood, selfhood, and feminine rage. While an official release date has not been set yet, it will probably be available from Apokrupha around April 2023. 

Q: Finally, is there a text you have your eye on for a future project? Are you willing to share what that is?

A: For collections, I’ll likely keep using classics written by women for as long as possible, and while I’d have to verify these are in the public domain, I’d love to play with Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, and pretty much any Agatha Christie. Outside of that theme, I’m also eager to make some creepy holiday pieces from A Christmas Carol. But really, I’m open to giving anything and everything a shot. I’ve found beautiful poetry in the most unlikely places, and I never get tired of discovering the hidden treasures within. 

To commission your own blackout poem, contact Jessica here.

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