Wednesday, October 6, 2021

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words....

It's Insecure Writer's Support Group day! For this first Wednesday of the month, we have a few authors from Dark Matter: Artificial who got creative with ways to encapsulate their stories in a visual image. Click the pictures to view them full size! Is a picture worth a thousand words? You'll have to read the stories in Dark Matter: Artificial to find out! We hope they help pique your interest and pull you in--and it was fun to use our imaginations in a new way!

Stephanie Espinoza Villamor - Artificial

Kim Mannix - Rift

Tara Tyler - Sentient

Deniz Bevan - One to Another

Olga Godim - Nano Pursuit

Elizabeth Mueller - Resurgence

Mark Alpert - Vera's Last Voyage

Read the stories that inspired these images in Dark Matter: Artificial, available on Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble!

Our next post will be on the next Insecure Writer's Support Group day, Wednesday, November 3!

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Contest Deadline!

It's deadline day! If you haven't entered the Insecure Writer's Support Group 2021 Annual Anthology Contest, today's the last day (September 1, 2021)! If you're polishing up your manuscript, be sure to get it in by today as a formatted Word file to The genre this year is Sweet Romance and the theme this year is First Love. More details can be found on the Insecure Writer's Support Group website.

The authors of Dark Matter: Artificial sure know what it's like to work up against a deadline. We've all been through it in order to submit our stories for last year's anthology! What was the process like? A few authors share their experiences below.

Stephanie Espinoza Villamor: It took me a while for my IWSG anthology idea to fully form. Once I had "the one" story idea I was excited to write about, I just had to make the time to write (usually while my young son was asleep) in order to make the deadline. When I try to write a novel, I often don't know exactly how the story will turn out. But when I write a short story, I usually have the ending in mind and it's all about getting to that ending in a logical way where everything introduced in the story is "paid off" or resolved. Once I've made it to the end I...rejoice! And then prepare for editing. I typically show my stories to a small group of friends in two different critique groups, ask for feedback (Google Docs is helpful for this), and then start the rewrites until the manuscript draft feels as strong as possible--usually a week or two before the deadline (sometimes a day or two before the deadline!). I don't like to submit at the very last minute just in case something goes wrong, although I've done that a couple times in grad school....

Tara Tyler: When I hear the IWSG topic, I either immediately think of a story or I just don't feel it. Like this year's contest, I started but couldn't feel it, so I dropped it. Since I have more time in the summer to write, I usually at least put together an outline. Once I start the first draft, the flow of it tells me if I'll be able to make the deadline. I actually like deadlines--they motivate me! The word count is where I struggle sometimes. If my word count gets too long, I have trouble cutting away words while trying to keep the soul of the story vibrant.

Deniz Bevin: All of my recent short stories seem to happen the same way: I get an idea (usually in the summertime!) and have to write down the entire story right away before I lose it. This is how my anthology story came to me. I've had other stories I've entered over the years in the various anthology contests but I don't think those other ones fit quite as well into the theme or the tone of the collection. After I've written the story in my mad rush, I type it up (if it was written on paper) and complete one or two rounds of edits before sending it out to beta readers. Then another round or two of editing, and yet one more if I've decided to submit it somewhere. There's always something to tweak...
One of the best parts of the IWSG Anthology process has been seeing the story published and finally being able to call it done!

Olga Godim: I always try to have sufficient time when I write fiction to a deadline. Never do it at the last minute. Fiction needs editing, at least two rounds for a short story. And I would never send an unedited entry to a competition. So I plan in advance, with plenty of time built-in, and usually submit my story days or even weeks before the deadline.

Elizabeth Mueller: I rather enjoyed my experiences writing for the IWSG. I start off mulling over the theme and listen for the mood that I want to come across: Do I want it to feel scary? mysterious? mournful? adventurous? After stewing over it for a while, I sit down, pray for inspiration, creativity,  and motivation. I finish it in one sitting before I get back to it for editing before creating the query letter for submission: the most challenging part sometimes is crafting a clever summary!

Speaking of short story anthologies, the Insecure Writer's Support Group book club is reading two of the IWSG anthologies in the month of September: Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime and Parallels: Felix Was Here. Chcck out the IWSG book club on Good Reads! (

Learn more about IWSG at: It's been exciting being a part of one of their anthologies and we look forward to seeing what the next anthology will bring!

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Dream Cast for the Big Screen

In today's fun post the authors of Dark Matter: Artificial weigh in on who they would cast to play their characters on the big screen! Which actors and actresses do they envision as perfect for each role? Read on and see if you agree!

Stephanie Espinoza Villamor - Bryan in Artificial
I often write characters inspired by the people and communities around me, so I'm always picturing a diverse cast! Lina is Hispanic, like so many of my family members. And even though Bryan is an AI, I kept thinking of my own husband, who happens to be Filipino. So I would cast a Filipino actor like Paolo Montalban, who I remember best as the prince in the 1997 Cinderella movie I watched as a kid.

Kim Mannix - Aunt Faye in Rift 
If I had a chance to cast Aunt Faye in a film version of my story, I would like her to be played by Frances Conroy, because she is very similar to the mental picture I had of Faye when I wrote the story. I also love Frances Conroy's work on the American Horror Story series, and just about everything else I've ever seen her in, and I think she could capture the free-spirited and eccentric nature of the character well.

Steph Wolmarans Namiu in The Utten Mission
Jasai Chase-OwensI loved him in The Expanse. He is not afraid to take on a role in science fiction, and he did a fantastic job of showing the internal struggle of his character to meet others' expectations while still fighting for what he believes in.

Tara Tyler - Absi and Grav in Sentient
In a film, I would choose David Tennant (for Absi) and Michael Sheen (for Grav). They starred in the hilarious series Good Omens playing an angel and a demon who had to work together to save the earth.

Deniz Bevan - Maja in One to Another
Isn’t it funny, I have faces for all the characters from my novels and novellas, but none selected for my short stories! I’m going to go with Maja, the main character. I’d love to cast Natalie Portman in the role!

Charles Kowalski - Mauvil Khaztaru in Resident Alien
As I was writing "Resident Alien," I couldn't help seeing F. Murray Abraham as Mauvil Khaztaru. The smug, supercilious manner he demonstrated so well in Finding Forrester would be perfect for the role. As for the young protagonists, I'd be delighted if they became the vehicle for hitherto unknown up-and-comers to get their big break.

Olga Godim - Alexa in Nano Pursuit
I would cast Emma Watson into the role of Alexa. But Emma Watson as an adult, not a child.

Elizabeth Mueller - Zarynah in Resurgence
Since Zarynah isn't the point of view character, I'm spotlighting her! I would cast Karen Gillan to play her.

Mark Alpert - Vera in Vera’s Last Voyage
I don't really know who would be the best actress to play Vera Rubin, the late astronomer who was the real-life model for the main character of my short story "Vera's Last Voyage." Playing the role of a scientist is tricky, but a few performers have managed the feat well; for example, I think Eddie Redmayne did a terrific job of portraying the physicist Stephen Hawking in the movie The Theory of Everything. I love Cate Blanchett, and she has incredible range, so perhaps she would be a good candidate for the Vera Rubin role.

You can find all these characters in their stories from Dark Matter: Artificial, available on AmazonKobo, and Barnes and Noble!

In our next post on Wednesday, September 1 . . . it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group annual anthology contest DEADLINE! The authors will recap what it was like to write a story for an IWSG contest deadline. Don't forget to finish up and send off your story entries by then if you haven't already!