Blog Archives

Picture Prompt

Check out today’s prompt over at The Dabbler and don’t forget to sign up for my email newsletter starting in September.

Snow Day

There’s a big snowstorm here in Toronto, and while everyone else may be miserable about it, I’m thrilled. Why? Because snowy days make for the best picture prompts:


The storm from inside…

Please post the first sentence of your response in the comments below.

The Birthday Prompt

Today’s prompt–to write a story about one of your characters’ birthdays–may seem simple, but it isn’t.

Why’s that? Because of one extra rule I’m going to throw in:

The birthday celebration you’re writing about must be correct to their culture and must also be different from what’s usually done in our culture–how different is up to you.

Some thoughts to get you started:

  • In medieval times, they often didn’t celebrate birthdays. Instead babies were named a number of days–sometimes years–after their birth, and their Naming Day was celebrated.
  • Many cultures send their kids on pilgrimages or vision quests when the kids become adults.
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t even CELEBRATE birthdays–what if you’re character’s mad because if they lived in the next town over, they’d be having a big party, but their parents don’t believe in that stuff?
  • Not all cultures give gifts on birthdays, and in some, it’s common practice to only give gifts that will be useful.

I hope that will help get you started. Please post the first sentence–or paragraph if it’s short enough–of your response in the comments.

My response:

For my tenth birthday, my mother took me to Free Cove. I’d always wanted to see the capitol with its four towers, representing the four great families of our nation.


Today I’d like to share three themed anthologies with you. Not all of them will pay much for your story, but they’ll all pay something. The best part about these anthologies is that they’ll allow you to see your name in a book–if you’re stuck in novel revision like me, it’s probably the only way you’ll see your name in a book for a while.

Each of these anthologies have a theme. Some are more specific than others. I’ve stayed away from anthologies which are tribute to famous(usually dead) authors and their mythologies, but there are usually a few of those published each year if you’re interested.

Please remember that I do not post full guidelines here and to read through the websites thoroughly before you submit.

Mermaid Tales: An Anthology will be published by Lucky Thirteen. They want stories of up to 20, 000 words about mermaids–other than The Little Mermaid, that is. Being a start up, they can only afford to pay $10 for stories of up to 10, 000 words and $20 for stories of up to 20, 000 words. However, this looks like a fun little anthology to be involved in and contributors will also be allowed to buy copies at production cost for a certain period of time.

The Inanimates I is seeking stories of between 3, 500 and 15, 000 words in which one of the main characters is an inanimate object with the fears and feelings of a human. They don’t want any dolls or dummies though, so be creative. They’ll pay an unspecified flat rate for each story and a contributor copy or two. Again, this sounds like more fun than profit.

The Mothman Chronicles is the highest paying of these anthologies, prepared to pay five cents per word up to 4, 000 words for stories involving the mothman. The stories do not have to be in known mothman territory. They do however have to be sent in by July 1st, so start brainstorming your ideas tonight.

Remember to thoroughly read the guidelines, to edit your story until it sparkles, and to enjoy the process. Themed anthologies are a fun way to get your name out there and to see yourself in print–so take advantage of them this summer and submit to as many as you can write stories for.

Prompt time July 1st

All the best stories are driven by character wants and needs. To truly understand your characters, you must understand what each of them wants and needs. Sometimes those are not the same things, and come directly in conflict with each other. The same can be said for our own lives. Sometimes we know what we want, but not what we need. Other times we don’t know either.

While great stories can be written without full understanding of oneself, the best writers are constantly trying to understand themselves better. It is this constant drive to understand ourselves that gives us the willpower to seek understanding with our characters.

In light of that, today’s prompt is one I would like you to do for yourself–and one of your characters.

What is your definition of true love?

Young Markets

If you’ve ever used Duotrope’s Digest to find a market for your work, you’ll notice that beside the name of some markets they’ve put the word “fledgling”. The word indicates that the market is less than six months old. Six months is used as the marker because most new markets fold within the first six months.

Today I’ve gathered three new markets that would love to see your work and will even pay you for it.

Specutopia is a brand new magazine looking for only the best speculative fiction. Their definition of speculative fiction includes science fiction, fantasy and everything in between, but doesn’t include horror. If they like your work, they’ll pay you one cent per word. They’d like to pay you more, but starting up a magazine, even electronically, costs money and they need to pay for their bandwidth. Oh well.

Abomination Magazine is a slightly less new magazine that, unlike Specutopia, would love some horror stories. In fact, they’d prefer you to scare their pants off. So much so that they won’t accept your story if it doesn’t scare them. However, they’re still only going to pay you one cent per word because they’re broke too.

Fantastic Frontiers Magazine I think this is the oldest one on today’s list, and this market is also the highest paying. They’d like to see your fantasy and science fiction stories of up to 2,000 words. Unlike the other guys, they had some proper money to get themselves started, so they’re willing to pay you three cents per word instead of one. Don’t you feel like you’re moving up in the world? Well, that’s only if they like your work.

Don’t forget to keep submitting your work. Every time you get a rejection, send that story back out. Every time you get depressed, write something new and send it out. The only way to get published more is by writing, editing and submitting more. Quite a number of writers spend months working on the writing and editing part and never get to the submission part. Start submitting now, and you’re one step ahead of all of them.

Author Interview: EJ Newman

Today I’m very proud to introduce EJ Newman, an author who I’ve been following online since a few months before she got her first publishing contract. A long, long time ago I discovered her blog, then I subscribed to her short story club, and now I’m subscribed to the Split Worlds stories. The short stories delivered to my inbox inspired me and made me fall in love with Newman’s writing.

A couple years later, I’m thrilled to say that she’s decided to join us here at Dianna’s Writing Den for an interview.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your novel, 20 Years Later?

20 Years Later is the first in a trilogy set in London twenty years after almost everyone was
killed by something the survivors only refer to as ‘It’. The city is divided into territories run
by gangs and is a very dangerous place to live. Amongst the dust and bones, an extraordinary
friendship develops between Zane, Titus and Erin, three teenagers who come from very
different backgrounds. Titus’ sister is kidnapped by one of the more secretive gangs. As they
search for her, they meet a girl called Eve and discover a dark secret beneath London.

2. When did you first know you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

About two years ago I think. I’ve known that I will always be a writer for longer than that,
but it was about two years ago that I realised I really didn’t want to do anything except write
fiction and I needed to find a way to change my life to make that possible.

It’s been hard, scary and there have been sacrifices, but I have never been so happy and so
fulfilled as I am now as a full-time fiction writer.

3. What was the original inspiration for 20 Years Later?

The easy answer is that it grew organically, driven by the characters and the geography of
post-apocalyptic London.

The complicated answer is that I was watching my boyfriend of the time (now my husband!
) starting to play a new game on the PS2 with a very cheesy opening sequence about a post-
apocalyptic world. I remembered how much I loved various post-apocalyptic books I’d
read years before and had a sudden urge to tell a story set in post-apocalyptic London. Only
problem was that I was deep in a ten year long writer’s block. It was so deep I even forgot I
used to write. So I had to tell the story a different way: running a roleplaying game for my
partner and two friends.

There wasn’t a particular plot I had in mind right at the start. The Red Lady was the first
character who popped into my head, Jay was the second. I walked around London, looking at
potential territories and the three players described the kinds of characters they wanted to be.
I built the world around the Red Lady’s Hunters, the Bloomsbury Boys and the requirements
of the players and the story grew over about two years I think. Then I stopped running the
game for logistical reasons and a few months after that I had finally got to the point when I
could start writing the book. But that’s a whole different story!

4. How did you first get the idea of your free short story club/mailing list?

I can’t honestly say there was a light bulb moment, I think it crept up on me, like a friendly
cat. I noticed that a lot of bloggers, particularly in America, particularly in the self-help
/ business entrepreneur spheres were running monthly newsletters and I liked the idea of
building a community that I could communicate with in a different space to the blog which is
open to the world. I also wanted a way to share my stories without posting all of them online
for obvious reasons. I think those wants and being inspired by people in a different online
sphere just got chucked into the melting pot of my brain and the short story club was born.

5. Can you tell us a bit about the Split Worlds stories?

The stories are being released every week for a year and a day up until the launch of the first
book in the series on November 1st 2012. At the time of writing this, the 23rd story has just
been released.

Each story is a glimpse into the world I’m creating for my novels, some of the characters that
appear in the stories will be in the novels too, and I’m seeding little snippets of information
in the stories that will make reading the novels a richer experience. For example, in the first
novel one of the characters recalls an incident in passing which is actually one of the flash
stories released – it doesn’t have a negative impact if someone reads the book without having
read that, but if the reader has, my hope is that they’ll feel a little rush of excitement – they
know what happened in depth.

It’s hard coming up with a new idea every week, but it’s also building the world, which is a
big part of my work anyway.

6. Do you think that the short story club/mailing list has helped you market your books?

That’s impossible to tell in any real sense, as I don’t know how many of the subscribers have
bought my book and not told me! I don’t think it has hurt, but I don’t use it as a hard selling
tool anyway.

7. What advice would you give to someone just starting to write flash fiction?

As I say later on, I have a dislike of advice about writing, but if I were really, really pushed,
and that someone hadn’t written much before, I would say read a lot of flashes first to work
out what works for them. The #fridayflash hashtag on Twitter is a great way to get a weekly
sample of lots of different writing styles all within the flash discipline.

Flashes are hard to write, they need to be satisfying and tightly written. Every word counts. I
think the key is finding a relatively simple idea that doesn’t need more than one, or at a push
two scenes, and telling the story in the most simple, yet interesting way possible.

8. What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever heard?

Writers write (as opposed to just talking about it).

I see so much terrible advice it makes me want to scream – but the thing I don’t like the most
is writing advice in and of itself. I wasted a lot of time reading about how other authors wrote
books, when I just knuckled down and worked hard to discover my own process, I made a
hell of a lot more progress.

9. What do you define ‘writing success’ as?

Wow, that’s a good question! It varies I suppose. One thing’s for certain; a satisfying
definition of success constantly shifts, it differs depending on what stage of my writing career
I happen to be at. Once all I wanted was to finish a first draft. Then it was actually writing a
decent book! Then it was getting published, and now? Well, I suppose it would be getting the
second book in the trilogy picked up, getting an award or being a bestseller.

Those are external markers of success of course. On a day-to-day basis writing success is
beating anxiety and getting the words down. The key to not going mad as a writer (or at least
more mad) is to not compare yourself to other people. I’m friends with some very successful
authors, and I have to actively rein in envy (only natural) and also stop myself comparing
how well they’re doing to my perception of my own success so far. It’s not a competition, and
as a friend said to me, the only person I should compare myself to is the person I was in the
past. So maybe internal markers of success are more important.

10. What are you working on right now that readers can look forward to?

Well, from now until November 1st there will be a new Split Worlds story every week and
it seems that quite a lot of people look forward to those, which is lovely. Then there’s the
five book series for people to look forward to. I’m working very hard, have written nearly a
quarter of a million words since October last year, so there is a lot on the way!

I don’t have a date for them, but there are the remaining books in the 20 Years Later trilogy

You can purchase a copy of 20 Years Later here.


Emma lives in Somerset, England and drinks far too much tea. She writes dark short stories,
post-apocalyptic novels and records audiobooks in all genres. Her debut short-story collection
From Dark Places was published in 2011 and she’s celebrating the recent publication of 20 Years
Later, her debut post-apocalyptic novel for young adults. Emma recently secured funding to write
a new five book urban fantasy series called the Split Worlds and is releasing a short story every
week set there. Her hobbies include making Steampunk costumes and playing RPGs. She blogs
at, rarely gets enough sleep and refuses to eat mushrooms.

Twitter: @emapocalyptic

Prompt Time April 27th

We all have different memories of our families, and most of us have physical mementos, objects by which we remember those we’ve lost. These physical objects–jewellery, books, anything once loved by our loved ones–sometimes become as precious to us as the people we represent.

My grandmother spent Tuesday night digging some of these mementos out of my old room at my mother’s house. She returned to me some of the most precious books I own: special edition fairy tales from my dead aunt, guide books I got on my trip to Scotland, old notebooks I haven’t looked at in years.

Today I’d like you to write about these mementos. Not about your mementos, but about your characters’ mementos. You can learn a lot about a person by walking into their room and looking at their most precious objects. Today you’re going to find out exactly how much.

Write a scene in which your character is contemplating at least one of their most precious mementos.

Please post your first sentence in the comments.

My first sentence:

“I was taken away from everything I love at the end of my childhood. Unlike normal kids, my childhood ended abruptly one day when my mother told me we needed to hide from the Gods.”

Canadian Markets

I’ve always been proud to be Canadian. Maybe it’s because Canadians are polite. Maybe it’s because Canada’s really, really pretty. Maybe it’s just because at least our politicians, while not the most intelligent or trustworthy, aren’t warmongers.

Whatever it is, I’ve noticed that Canada isn’t really given the recognition it deserves. Many of the best modern musicians, actors, artists and especially comedians, are from Canada. Here in Canada the arts thrive, aided by hundreds of grant programs, government-funded arts education programs and library-run creative programs. We may not have the same level of control over the mainstream media as the Americans, but with a tenth of their population, how can we be expected to?

More importantly, us Canadians like to do it ourselves. With a fondness for literature and a do-it-yourself attitude stolen from the pioneers, Canadians have created hundreds of magazines, dozens of which are specifically looking for fiction. Over the last year or so I’ve discovered many of these markets for writers, some of which pay small fortunes.

Today I’ve decided to share with you three not-so-famous Canadian magazines that will pay quite a bit for your fiction.

Descant Literary Magazine is a Canadian magazine, coincidentally run by the same people who run Now Hear This, the literacy company I worked for last year. They accept short fiction, short essays, reviews and poetry, and they pay $100 flat for accepted works. They prefer paper submissions and they do mention that it could take a long time to get a response and to go from acceptance to publication.

FreeFall Magazine is a quarterly Canadian magazine accepting poetry and prose. They also run occasional contests. FreeFall will pay you $5.00/printed page for published works.

The Fiddlehead claims to be the oldest literary journal in Canada. I can’t tell you for sure if this is true or not, not being well enough educated on the history of Canadian literary magazines(maybe I should do some research…) but what I do know is that they’re looking for short fiction up to 6,000 words and poetry. The other thing I know is that they’ll pay you $40/printed page when your work is published.

On my journey to discover Canadian literary culture, I’ve learned that Canadians tend to give fiction and poetry quite a high monetary value. Some of these pay rates made my jaw drop the first time I found them. I dream of someday being published by one of these magazines–maybe you should make it one of your goals, too.

If you’d like a more comprehensive list of Canadian literary journals, you can find one here.

Prompt April 13th

Happy Friday the thirteenth! Originally today’s prompt was going to be based off of a single emotion, but in celebration of the fact that it’s Friday the thirteenth, I decided to go for a more… morbid prompt:

Write a story beginning with a character sitting at the very front, looking out the front window of a train when someone jumps in front of it.

Please post your first sentence in the comments.

My first sentence:

I’d always joked about seeing a jumper, so when it finally happened my first thought was ‘hmm, I thought the splat would’ve been louder’.