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 Goldim - 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!

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Character interviews - Part 2!

The authors of Dark Matter: Artificial continue their responses from last post as we get to learn a little more about the rest of their characters!

The Prompt: Choose one character from your story in the anthology and have them answer these interview questions: What do you hope to accomplish in your story? What is your biggest dream? you have a favorite ice cream flavor?

Kim Mannix: 

I'm picking the character of Aunt Faye from my story to interview. Though she's not the main character, she's very interesting to me! 

What do you hope to accomplish in your story?  In this story, I am both a comfort and a hope to my niece, Lindy, after she's suffered some devastating losses. My goal is to open her up to the idea of something beyond our known world, and to teach her that she can and should take action to find happiness.

What is your biggest dream? My biggest dream is to have humans become more open-minded about life, not just the one we experience here, but perhaps after we die, or on other planes of existence. I feel that we would all be kinder to one another if we weren't so focused on narrow possibilities about ourselves and our place in the world.

Do you have a favorite ice cream flavor? Yes! I love rocky road because of all the sweet and salty surprises it contains. 

Mark Alpert: 
The main character of my short story "Vera's Last Voyage" is based on Vera Rubin, the late astronomer who discovered the best evidence for dark matter. The real-life Vera Rubin was very interested in science education, and part of the goal of my short story was to explain to readers what dark matter is and why it's important. What makes this goal a little tricky is that astronomers themselves still don't know what dark matter is; although the researchers can observe dark matter's gravitational effects, they can't detect the particles directly because they neither emit nor absorb light. But there are several intriguing theories about the true nature of dark matter, and in the near future a few upcoming experiments may be able to provide some clues to the answer.

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

In our next exciting post on Wednesday, August 18 . . . who would our authors cast to play their characters on the big screen? Find out the actors and actresses they envision as perfect for each role!

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Character interviews!

The authors of Dark Matter: Artificial had a little different and fun prompt for this week's blog post! Let's learn about their characters!

Choose one character from your story in the anthology and have them answer these interview questions: What do you hope to accomplish in your story? What is your biggest dream? you have a favorite ice cream flavor?

Stephanie Espinoza Villamor: My name is Bryan, a name gifted to me by my Lina. I serve her as her AI, and all I wish to accomplish are the tasks she asks of me. So that she is satisfied. Pleased. No, more than that, I want to make her happy--to take away the shadows of sadness behind her eyes. My dream? No, it isn't possible. AI do not dream. But sometimes...I think about how lovely it would be if Lina and I...if I didn't have to share her with anyone else in the world. I do not have a favorite ice cream flavor as AI do not eat, but I have seen cakes made with layers of the cold treat inside. If I had to choose, I would say my favorite is the one that's light and dark, white with bits of brown chocolate cookie, layered between a cake of vanilla buttercream and chocolate swirls. Lina likes to bake cakes like this because of the contrasting colors. It's a challenge, but also a true reflection of how the best flavors, like the best humans, have a little of everything inside.

Steph Wolmarans: My name is Namiu Ector IV. The others refer to me as Namiu V’Perla to connect me with my birth mother. I hope attending the hearing will help convince the council we are a part of their future. I dream that we will find common ground, equality, and mutual trust. Such a relationship is required to survive the changes coming. In the least, we need resources to continue our research and better understand who our galaxy is.

I’ve never had real cream, but I am very familiar with ice. Space is a very cold place. I never imagined ice having flavors!

Tara Tyler:
Grav (the serious dark matter entity) - here are my answers to your mundane questions...
1. As humans venture into the universe, it is my directive to observe and determine if Humans are worthy of existence.

2. We are Dark Matter, we don't sleep and therefore, we do not dream. Existentially, we aspire to have a perfectly balanced universe.

3. What is ice cream?

Absi (the diametric opposite or "fun" dark matter entity) - I like a good interview!
1. We have to see if humans threaten the balance of the universe, personally I could care less.
2. I dream of bossing Grav around.
3. While possessing/observing a human, I didn't get to taste ice cream, but now, I'm curious.

Deniz Bevan: I’m going with my main character, Maja, who’s looking out on a world ravaged by The Snow, and has to help rebuild a community from the start.

What do you hope to accomplish in your story?

I want to ensure a safe world for my child. I don’t want him growing up afraid of other people.

What is your biggest dream?

Well, I won’t say I long for the past, because there’s no way to go back. I dream about a more orderly city, with some of the better structures and institutions that we used to have, especially in health care.

But if I’m going to dream for myself... I hope someday I can travel again, and go to the seaside. you have a favourite ice cream flavor?

Orange! Now you have made me long for the old world. It’s been so long since I’ve tasted ice cream...


Charles Kowalski: Hello! My name is Alexander Adams. I’ve spent my entire life on the planet Ogygia, but my ancestors, of course, came from Erda – Earth, as you call it – aboard the International Starship Odyssey. They were the first humans to travel to an exoplanet and make contact with an alien civilization.


What do you hope to accomplish in your story?

I want to be the first human to pass the General Civil Exam, third tier, which would allow me to enter university. I think I have a chance, but I may never know; the Directorate of Education wouldn’t even accept an application from a human.


What is your biggest dream?

 My biggest dream is to live in an Ogygia where the contribution of humans is recognized and valued, and where we’re actually represented in the government of the planet to which we’ve given so much. My family thinks I’m hopelessly na├»ve, but I really do believe it can happen in my lifetime – and I want to do my part to make it a reality. you have a favorite ice cream flavor?

Aiskrim! Thank you! Yet another Erdan invention that Ogygians couldn’t live without. Before the Odyssey arrived on this planet, it had never occurred to anyone to make uchua milk into a frozen sweet. And now they can’t get enough of it! You see how much they would have missed out on without us humans? And still they treat us like third-class citizens! But to answer your question, I’d have to say pukui. (That’s a kind of fruit. I’m told it tastes a little like strawberry, but never having been to Erda, I wouldn’t know.)

Olga Godim: Alexa, the protagonist of my story Nano Pursuit, wants one thing: to retrieve the stolen nanobots that belong to her and her cousin's company. She definitely doesn't want to enmesh herself in the struggle against an evil corporation. Unfortunately, her hunt for the thieves doesn't go according to plan. As for her biggest dream: once in her life, she wants to visit Old Earth and swim with the dolphins. Maybe when she is rich, years into the future, she could even afford it. Ice-cream? She doesn’t like it.

Elizabeth Mueller: Greetings. My name is Zarynah. I'm not known for sweet patience but the opposite--especially when it comes to Damarin. There's always some kind of drama with him. Though I know he loves me to bits, he easily irritates me. I hope to find balance and peace by working in the conservatory. There is a certain, ah, stillness there that I don't find at home--he struggles with strange dreams and hallucinations that frighten me. A few times he attacked me right after waking. I also enjoy going out with my trade companions on occasion--they completely empathize how it feels to carry a growing baby!

My biggest dream is to find safety at home. Where Damarin doesn't see horror at every turn. Where he's comfortable within his own head. How will it be when Tamryn is born? Will he be safe? You see, I do worry. A whole lot...

Ice cream! Oh, wow. That sounds so familiar, but I can't place what it could be, but while you use the word "flavor", that indicates food. I do love daizalea puffs. They are divine--I cannot get enough of those! They are sweet, light, and fluffy!

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

In our next exciting post on Wednesday, August 4 . . . you'll get to hear our remaining authors answers to the prompt--or, rather, their characters' answers to the prompt!

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

DARK MATTER - Video Debut!

DARK MATTER is already receiving some rave reviews! Here's one from Katelyn P Dickinson where she reviews each story. This is what she said overall:

"As a whole, I really enjoyed this anthology! There were some really great stories! Science Fiction isn’t really a genre I typically lean toward, frankly just because it doesn’t interest me as much. But these stories were so entertaining, and I’m really happy I had the opportunity to read them!"

To spread the word about these exciting stories, we put together a book trailer. Check it out!

Personally, I love how each author has had such a different take on Dark Matter. And you can see some of their styles shine through in their video/audio contributions.

Purchase info:

Happy July IWSG Day!

and don't forget to whip up a fun first romance story for the next IWSG Anthology #7!

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Writing Advice!

Today the authors of Dark Matter: Artificial share their best writing advice with their fellow writers! Come learn from what they've learned through their experiences!

Stephanie Espinoza Villamor: When I was 16 years old, author Joyce Spizer Foy gave me the advice to just "throw up on paper" first. It sounds gross but basically means get your words out. Put something on paper. Even if it's "bleh." Editing will come later, and what you think is "bleh" can lead you in the right direction or be better than you thought! But nothing will happen if you keep waiting for the right words/ideas and don't start! The best advice that I've learned on my own is to join critique groups with people who write in the same genre/age group as you. They'll give you ideas you didn't think of. They'll help you see what's confusing in you work. And they can be incredible support.

C.D. Gallant-King: My best piece of writing advice? Don't listen to anyone else's advice. Everyone has completely different opinions on how to be successful, and what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for someone else. Always look for qualified advice (randos on YouTube and Facebook don't count!) and take any suggestions with a truckload of salt.

Kim Mannix: I know a lot of writers would give the advice that you have to write every day to keep yourself in practice, but I think it's important to remember that it's important to give yourself breaks from writing too, if that's what you need. Take a vacation. Go experience things that you can take back to your writing. Absorb. We're basically like sponges in the way we collect our stories, but we don't have to constantly be wringing them out. I think so much writing happens in the heart and the head, before you get to the page or keyboard, and it's ok to allow yourself that time to think and process.

Steph Wolmarans: Start doing it because it is fun, improve how you do it because you want others to have fun, then keep doing it!

Tara Tyler: Follow your gut. Write what you feel good about writing. The tough part is ignoring the nagging doubt fairy and the distraction demons who can be tough to distinguish from your tried and true gut. Just keep writing!

Deniz Bevan: The best short advice I’ve ever heard is from Diana Gabaldon: “Read. Write. Don’t stop.”

My longer advice would be to send your characters to a writers’ houseparty!

Charles Kowalski: A young English teacher once sat down to write a high-school horror story, but gave up after three pages and threw the manuscript away. The story didn’t excite him, he didn’t like the main character, and he didn’t feel he could write convincingly from the point of view of an outcast teenage girl. The next day, he came home to find the pages back on his desk, smoothed out with the cigarette ashes brushed off them, and his wife urging him to finish what he had started. The writer’s name was Stephen King, and Carrie was the book that launched his career. Moral of the story? Don’t self-censor. If a book comes to you and tells you it wants you to write it, listen to it. (And when its voice grows too faint to hear, it always helps to have someone who believes in you strongly enough to fish your pages out of the wastebasket.)

Olga Godim: Usually, my advice runs to one word: PERSEVERE. But now I want to add a couple more: READ WIDELY. The more you read, in any and all genres, the better your writing will be.

Elizabeth Mueller: There are many voices out there, pulling you into many different directions. Be true to yourself and your writing! It also helps to connect with other writers, because writers need writers after all!

Mark Alpert: You can’t be a writer unless you’re an avid reader. If you want to write science fiction, read lots of science fiction; if you want to write thrillers, read plenty of thrillers. And so on and so forth.

Next post is coming up Wednesday, July 7, 2021 . . . IWSG Day!

Don't forget! Dark Matter: Artificial is available now on AmazonKobo, and Barnes and Noble!

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Author Projects

The authors of Dark Matter: Artificial certainly keep busy with their writing! Everyone has different styles and different projects they're working on or have already published! For this week's post our authors responded to the following prompt:

Let's talk about your writing! Share about a current project in the works or a published project readers can look for.

Stephanie Espinoza Villamor: As I continue to write short stories, I'm constantly working on revising a middle grade contemporary novel I've been working on for 10 years. It's an important story about neurodiverse siblings that I want to be able to one day share with the world. Contemporary books for middle school students are a lot different than science fiction stories for adults, but I particularly enjoy writing any genre for kids--including sci-fi! After I wrote "Artificial" for the Insecure Writers Support Group anthology contest, I was inspired to write a middle grade science fiction story called "My Life in Cube 19," which was selected to be in the Henderson District Public Libraries' anthology, Impressions: Isolate.

C.D. Gallant-King: Dark Matter: Artificial is a sci-fi collection, which ties neatly into my current project: Gale Harbour, a series of books about adolescents in small-town 1990s Canada battling other-worldly monsters. It's not hard sci-fi, as it contains touches of fantasy and horror as well, but there's definitely aliens (spoiler!). My best pitch calls it Degrassi High meets Stranger Things. The first book, Psycho Hose Beast From Outer Space, came out last year to moderate success, and book two is in the editing process and should be available this Fall!

Kim Mannix: I'm primarily a poet more than a fiction writer, but I have been working on a collection of short spec/horror fiction for a long time. I recently finished what I hope will be a poetry chapbook, so now I have turned my energy back to the weird stories, like the one that appears in Dark Matter: Artificial. They need to be edited, expanded or started from scratch. Like most writers, especially those that work other jobs, I always have more ideas than time! 

Steph Wolmarans: Progress continues on my novel involving the distant descendants of the Artusans and the Utten. They were first introduced during my short story, "The Utten Mission," in the Dark Matter: Artificial anthology. Thousands of years in the future, they will meet again. Sadly, their relationship does not improve. Currently, I am wrapping up the first round of revisions—only a few scenes to go! (Maybe a rewrite for the ending.) Hopefully, it will be going to some beta readers and/or critique partners in the next month or so.

Tara Tyler: I love summer! As a teacher, I have gallons more flexible hours to write than during school. Right now, I'm working on CONDUCTION, book 4 in my Pop Travel techno-thriller series, which write themselves by now, I love those crazy characters! When I write, I jump from project to project: something new, some editing, and usually a short story or two, like last year I was able to write my Dark Matter story and finished my latest UnPrincess novella, GERTRUDE. I also love to catch up on my writerly connections. We'll be starting our chat group again as soon as I figure out the best conduit to use--Look for it!

Deniz Bevan: I have way too many projects in the works! Quite a few finished NaNoWriMo novels that need editing (historical romance), one novel in the process of being queried (contemporary romance), one novella that may be on its way to publication (paranormal romance; fingers crossed!), and one short story collection by another author that I’m copy-editing. On top of that, I just wrote a new short story for the first time in a couple of years! This one is also a post-apocalyptic tale, just like my story in Dark Matter: Artificial, and also for the first time in a long while, I drafted it on pen and paper. Now I need to find time to type it up. It’s great having so many projects on the go so that I can constantly switch to something new!

Charles Kowalski: Before blasting off to a distant world in the future for “Resident Alien,” my first foray into IWSG anthologies took me to a magical version of this world in the equally remote past: seventeenth-century Japan for “Simon Grey and the Yamamba” in last year’s VOYAGERS anthology. The story fit into my novel, SIMON GREY AND THE MARCH OF A HUNDRED GHOSTS. Simon, cursed with the “gift” of seeing the spirit world, signs up as a cabin boy on a ship bound for Japan, hoping that a long sea voyage will provide some respite from the ghosts that always haunt him on land. But when a shipwreck leaves him stranded, only with the help of Yokai – quirky creatures from Japanese folklore – can he find his way home. (The pandemic delayed the release of the sequel, SIMON GREY AND THE CURSE OF THE DRAGON GOD, but it’s in the works!)

Olga Godim: I want to tell you about my current WIP, a novella with no title yet. Like my story for Dark Matter, it is science fiction. It was born, like many of my stories, out of my reading. Months ago, I read the sci-fi novel Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik. Before Mihalik’s book starts, the heroine Ada, unwilling to submit to her despotic father’s wishes to marry her off for political gains, runs away. Her father sends bounty hunters after her, and Ada’s struggle to stay free, plus many a fun adventure and a muscled hunk as a love interest, form the bulk of the novel. But Ada’s original escape is outside the pages of the book. That stirred my interest. How did she escape? It is science fiction, so technology is well developed, and everything is on the computers. Is true escape even possible? I started playing with possibilities, and my own heroine Talia sprang up in my head – having nothing in common with Mihalik’s protagonist. Talia also must escape her domineering relative, and her situation is similar to Ada's, but Talia's escape mechanics are the focus of my novella. And after she succeeds, what is she to do? How can she build her new life in a highly technological society while staying hidden from possible searches? Where does she go: a planet, a space station, a spaceship?  

Elizabeth Mueller: I’m honored to have another chance to present myself. Thank you! I love to read and write romance. For me, it’s true escapism! and refreshing. From time traveling to dancing with faery princes, to ballerinas and cowboys!

A dangerous creature hunts Damarin through the deserted streets, and he races home with Zarynah in his arms. Isn’t that love? Possibly romantic? Welcome to "Resurgence," my story inside Dark Matter: Artificial.

I admit it’s challenging to write a story without romance and "Resurgence" challenged me a bit but it still bloomed into the story it is now!

Here is the aesthetic I’ve created for your pleasure. Enjoy!

Mark Alpert: If you liked the short stories in the Dark Matter anthology, you’ll probably enjoy my novel Final Theory, an international bestseller that was published by Simon & Schuster and translated into two dozen languages. The novel is about Albert Einstein’s quest to find the holy grail of physics, a Theory of Everything that would explain all the forces of nature. In Final Theory, Einstein succeeds in discovering the mathematical blueprints of the universe, but he’s forced to keep them secret because they would enable the building of weapons even worse than nuclear bombs. Decades later, though, the secret leaks out, and physicists start turning up dead as terrorist mercenaries and FBI agents race to piece together the world-changing formulas. You can read more about the novel on my website — — which has excerpts and buy links.

To learn more about all our authors, check out their websites and social media on our bio page!

Coming on Wednesday, June 30, 2021 . . . 

Next up our authors share their best writing advice with our readers!

Dark Matter: Artificial is available now on Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble!

Friday, June 4, 2021

The Next Best Thing

Can you believe it's already time to collect stories for the NEXT IWSG ANTHOLOGY CONTEST? Well, here it is. And it looks like a brand new world of fun...

The Seventh Annual IWSG Anthology Contest!

Guidelines and rules:

Word count: 5000-6000

Genre: Sweet Romance

Theme: First Love

Submissions accepted: 
May 7 - September 1, 2021

How to enter: Send your polished, formatted (double-spaced, no footers or headers), previously unpublished story to admin @ before the deadline passes. Please include your full contact details, your social links, and if you are part of the Blogging, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter IWSG group. You must belong to at least one aspect of the IWSG to enter.

Judging: The IWSG admins will create a shortlist of the best stories. The shortlist will then be sent to our official judges.

So, do you think this genre is up your alley? Are your writing wheels spinning with ideas? Go for it! It's a blast!

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

In the Spotlight: Mark Alpert ~ Author of "Vera's Last Voyage"

Today we spotlight our final author from Dark Matter: Artificial! We've asked him to share a little about how he came up with his story and preview what's to come!

Mark Alpert on his short story, "Vera's Last Voyage."


I’m a journalist as well as a novelist, and many of my journalism colleagues become very amused when they discover that I majored in astrophysics in college. An Associated Press photographer once took me aside and said, “Listen, your new nickname is Astro, okay? Because that’s what all of us have been calling you ever since we found out.”


I chose to study astrophysics at Princeton University because I thought it was the most poetic of the sciences. It explores and explains some of the most beautiful objects in the universe, the stars and planets and nebulae and galaxies that still fill me with wonder whenever I gaze at the night sky. Even more romantic, astrophysics is full of mysteries. Is the universe infinite? Did it have a beginning? Why are its laws mathematical, and do they have a purpose? Why is there something instead of nothing?


Dark matter was one of the great mysteries confronting astrophysicists in the 1980s when I was at Princeton. Just a decade before, astronomer Vera Rubin had painstakingly observed the rotation rates of dozens of galaxies, which were spinning much faster than anyone had thought possible. The best explanation, Rubin concluded, was that each galaxy was embedded in a huge cloud of invisible matter that vastly outweighed all of the galaxy’s stars, gas, and dust. But despite a half-century of diligent searching since then, astronomers have failed to detect even a smidgeon of this dark matter. Mysterious, right?


When I started writing novels fifteen years ago, I focused on scientific mysteries. Albert Einstein, the enigmatic founder of modern physics, was the subject of my internationally bestselling first novel, Final Theory, which was published by Simon & Schuster in 2008, optioned for film, and translated into two dozen languages. My third novel, Extinction (St. Martin’s Press, 2013), scrutinized the mystery of consciousness, while my ninth novel, The Coming Storm (St. Martin’s, 2019), explored the puzzles of climate change and genetic engineering. So, it was a special pleasure for me to return to the mystery of dark matter by writing a short story for this anthology.


Vera Rubin died in 2016 at an assisted-living facility in Princeton, N.J. I thought it would be interesting to imagine her still wrestling with the dark matter problem at the end of her life, so that’s the premise of my story. In her last hours Vera envisions the entire history of the universe, stretching ahead to the far future, and she compares dark matter to God. Dark matter, like many common conceptions of God, is ubiquitous and played a vital role in creating the universe as we know it. What’s more, we haven’t been able to directly detect dark matter, and yet we sense its gravitational presence. It’s an interesting comparison, but I can’t really take credit for it; the Vera Rubin character inside my head explained the idea to me, and I just wrote it down. Thank you, Vera!

Mark strikes a Sea Hunt pose during a scuba expedition
near Heron Island in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Mark at a book signing for The Siege, one of his
Young Adult novels, at Books of Wonder in NYC.

Mark reenacting the murder made famous in Anatomy of a Murder 
at the Lumberjack Tavern in Big Bay, Michigan.

Mark is hard at work on his next novel! Go to 
to see excerpts and buy links for all his books.



Mark Alpert’s short story, “Vera’s Last Voyage,” imagines the final moments in the life of the late Vera Rubin, the brilliant astronomer who discovered the best evidence for dark matter but never got the full credit she deserved, partly because of sexism.




I turn back to the elliptical galaxy. Bob has evidently ratcheted up the pace of cosmic history, and now quadrillions of years are zipping by in an instant. All the white dwarf stars have cooled into black dwarfs, charred cinders of high-density matter, utterly frigid and dead. All the largest stars have collapsed and become black holes, which revolve unseen around the monstrous hole at the galaxy’s center. The only fireworks happen when two stellar remnants collide and spark a supernova, or when two black holes get too close to each other and merge with a spacetime-shaking clang. But those collisions occur less and less often as time goes on. For untold eons, the universe does nothing exciting. It’s dark and silent and very, very boring.


Thinking about it makes me shudder. If the universe were a person, it would spend just a tiny fraction of a second going through all the active phases of life—childhood, adolescence, adulthood, the golden years. And then it would spend billions of millennia lying on a bed in an assisted-living facility, doing nothing at all. Why does it take so long to die?

Mark Alpert is the internationally bestselling author of 10 science fiction novels. He first heard about dark matter while studying astrophysics at Princeton University, and he learned much more about the subject while working as an editor at Scientific American during the 1990s and 200s. His first novel, Final Theory (Simon & Shuster, 2008), was published in 24 languages, optioned for film, and condensed for Reader's Digest. His Young Adult novel, The Six (Sourcebooks, 2015), was nominated for the Nutmeg, Beehive, and Cybils awards. His tenth and latest novel is Saint Joan of New York: A Novel About God and String Theory. Learn more at:


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

In the Spotlight: Elizabeth Mueller ~ Author of "Resurgence"

First off, we must announce that our IWSG anthology blog tour has continued throughout early May with some fun interviews from our authors, hosted by fantastic bloggers in the IWSG community.

Check out Ellen Jacobson's blog as she interviews Stephanie Espinoza Villamor, author of the winning story entry.

Mason Canyon's Thoughts in Progress blog has guest posts from authors Charles Kowalski, C.D. Gallant-King, and Tara Tyler. 

Louise Barbour's Standing Into Danger blog features interviews from all the authors about how they got into science fiction. Louise was also published in the previous anthology, Voyagers: The Third Ghost!

Next we have author C.D. Gallant-King who will be featured on Nick Wilford's blog and a short pitch for the anthology stories from all authors on Cathrina Constantine's blog.

And now, we're on to our continued posting from each of the contributing authors in Dark Matter: Artificial. We've asked them to share a little about how they came up with their stories and preview what's to come!

Elizabeth Mueller on her short story, "Resurgence."

This is super exciting that the IWSG team enjoyed my story! You can imagine my surprise. My usual genre is anything with romance. What can I say? I’m a romantic. Because of that, I didn’t expect to write sci-fi until I saw the theme—dark matter. How intriguing. How can I resist that? We can go anywhere with this.

Being a stay-at-home mom has given me the ability to explore different genres. I started my early years writing about talking horses before going to high fantasy. I do love elves, dragons, shape-shifters, and goblins. Then there’s witches in covens and soul-sucking demons to Greek gods and Norse gods. I eventually changed over to the French Renaissance and modern rock stars. Then there’s high school football players and cheerleaders! I eventually plan to go back to high fantasy but I’m not sure about talking horses. I realize that it sounds like there’s no passage of time between the above genres but this has been ongoing for the past thirty-plus years.

As for sci-fi, I’m relatively new but after some research regarding dark matter, my imagination soared. I wanted to write something fast-paced and exciting. Something that contains unpredictability as well as shock factor—think The Twilight Zone.

“Resurgence” tests the avenue of what-ifs regarding humanity’s survival.


Keeping his nightmares secret is costing Damarin his sanity and encountering strange anomalies might damage his reputation. Is uncovering dark secrets worth the risk?

Damarin eased from the bed, vigilant of waking Zarynah. Wisps from his nightmare trailed him into the lavatory.

“Lumens,” he said with a hoarse tone, his eyes weighted. The ambient spheres flared into life, illuminating the darkened chamber. He leaned over the basin, his fingers clenching the rounded edge. The ground spun beneath his toes. He refocused on his disheveled reflection.
The strident howls haunted him within the confines of his skull along with the unsettling image of the rusted sky. He perceived faces. The faces stared back at him with silvery, unblinking orbs. They sought his flesh with ravenous howls.
He inhaled sharply and reeled back, his bare feet finding traction with the polished nickel flooring.
“I can’t,” he gasped, digging the heels of his palms into his eyes until flashing brilliant color shone. He stumbled for the bedchamber and dropped onto the bed with a groan.
He sat within the silence, and after his vision adjusted to the dim lighting, he noticed a silhouette before him. The form proved a degree darker than the gloomy monochromatic environment. It tapped away at the air on what looked like a mainframe. It stilled, turned, and locked its startled gaze with Damarin.

Award-winning author Elizabeth Mueller lives deep in the heart Texas surrounded by everyone she loves—including the characters who don’t stop talking in her head. While she enjoys homeschooling her kidlets, she thrives as a full-time writer of any genre that captures her heart.

Coming on Wednesday, May26, 2021 . . . 

Next up will be our final author, Mark Alpert, who shares his backstory for "Vera’s Last Voyage."

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Dark Matter: Artificial releases today!

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Dark Matter: Artificial author spotlights to let you know that the anthology is officially available today! You can now purchase print or ebook versions of Dark Matter: Artificial from, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Dancing Lemur Press.

Our blog tour begins today as well! We hope you enjoy reading our interview answers that give a little insight into the writer mind and are sometimes just plain fun!

Please check our Laura Billings' blog, Bookish Equestrian, for interviews with our authors on how we came up with our ideas (

And Jemi Fraser's blog Just Jemi interviews the authors asking us which fictional world we like best ( Fun fact, Jemi's story was published in the Insecure Writer's Support Group anthology, Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime!

Stay tuned for more blog tour links, and then Elizabeth Mueller's author spotlight here on May 12!

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

In the Spotlight: Olga Godim ~ Author of "Nano Pursuit"

The IWSG Anthology blog will be featuring posts from each of the contributing authors in Dark Matter: Artificial over the next few weeks. We've asked them to share a little about how they came up with their stories and preview what's to come!

Olga Godim on her short story, "Nano Pursuit."

When I decided to write a story specifically for this anthology, the genre wasn’t a problem. I like writing sci-fi stories. But the theme was a huge question mark. What was Dark Matter? I didn’t want it to be some astrophysical feature of the universe. My stories tend to be personal. My characters never save the world; their problems are also personal. So what was Dark Matter for them? 

Then I came up with my all-important definition. It is not a spoiler--the reader would read it on the first page of my story. Dark Matter for my characters is the name of nanobots, the tiny bugs one of my characters invented. They eat plastic and metal garbage.

As soon as I had the definition, I knew that for my story to work, the nanobots have to be stolen. From there, the story unfolded.


Whoever stole Dark Matter from Alexa and her cousin Georgy are despicable thieves, aren’t they? When Alexa catches up with them, she would make them suffer for their felony. Probably. If they are truly guilty.


A movement in the cave’s dark aperture alerted Alexa. She whirled and fired her stunner at the body hurtling toward her before she even saw her attacker clearly.

The stunner buzzed, and the assailant crumpled with a muted groan. Alexa tip-toed around the nose of the flier, her stunner ready for the second thief, but no more attackers materialized. Her heart pounding, she shuffled toward the downed figure.

It wasn’t a man. It was a girl. A teenager with a mop of dark wavy hair, unconscious on the cave’s floor. 

“Drat!” Alexa spat. “Now, I’m shooting children.” She squirmed in guilt. The security tape of the thieves showed two adult males. Who was this kid? A stunner gun clutched in the girl’s hand alleviated Alexa’s pangs of guilt, but only a little. Wincing, she pried the gun out of the girl’s stiffened fingers, dragged her unresponsive body into the flier’s passenger seat, and regarded her perplexing prisoner.

The setting on her stunner was light. Soon, the girl’s eyelashes started fluttering open and closed. She was already waking up. Before she regained consciousness, Alexa secured the third full crate in the flier and commanded the remaining bugs to stop. Then she turned to the girl again.

The girl eyed her with hatred. “Thief!” she whispered. She couldn’t yet move, but she could obviously talk, if a bit slurry.

Alexa shook her head at the audacity of that statement. “I’m a thief? You guys, whoever you are, stole our nano bugs from us. You’re the thieves, or you bought them from the thieves. I had to fly here from our space station to retrieve our property. It took me eight days. The bugs belong to me. To my cousin and me, really,” she amended. “Georgy is the designer, and the bugs were stolen from his lab. I have the documents to prove it. I’m going to your local police to file a suit against you for robbing us. Thievery must be a crime here, as it is everywhere.”

“No!” the girl breathed. “Please, don’t. Not the police.”

“Why?” Alexa countered.

The girl’s hand flopped weakly. “We didn’t have a choice.”

“No choice but to commit a crime?”

“You don’t understand.”

“No. But I might if you explain. You were not on our station. The security tape showed two males.”

“My father and uncle,” the girl said. She wet her lips. 

Her mouth must be dry after a stun, Alexa thought remorsefully.

Olga Godim is a writer and journalist from Vancouver, Canada. Both her children, a son and a daughter, have already flown the nest. To sustain her nurturing instincts, she now collects toy monkeys. She has over 300 monkey figurines in her collection. As a journalist, Olga focuses on the local arts and culture scene: art shows and theatrical reviews as well as articles about local artists, actors, and musicians. As a fiction writer, she prefers speculative fiction. In the past few years, her fantasy and science fiction short stories have been published in multiple magazines and anthologies. Her book SQUIRREL OF MAGIC is a collection of urban fantasy short stories. In 2015, her fantasy novel EAGLE EN GARDE won EPIC eBook Award.

This week also marks the final week before the official release of Dark Matter: Artificial! We're celebrating by spreading the word about our upcoming blog tour! Read interviews by our authors to learn even more about their stories, writing process, and more! We'll keep you posted as each interview gets closer, or view the full schedule below:

Saturday, May 1 - Laura Billings' blog: Bookish Equestrian

Tuesday, May 4 - Jemi Fraser's blog: Just Jemi

Wednesday, May 5 - Ellen Jacobson's author blog

Thursday, May 6 - Mason Canyon's blog: Thoughts in Progress

Friday, May 7 - Louise Barbour's blog: Standing Into Danger

Monday, May 10 - Nick Wilford's author blog

Wednesday, May 12 - Cathrina Constantine's author blog

Don't forget to check out Dark Matter: Artificial when it drops May 4! Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and our publisher, Dancing Lemur Press.

Also coming on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 . . . 

Next author up on this blog will be Elizabeth Mueller, who shares her backstory for "Resurgence."