Tag Archives: essays

In The Shallows

by John Vicary

"in the shallows" by John VicaryThere is a sea in faraway Israel where nothing grows. It is called the Dead Sea, although it was not always known as such. In ancient times, it was invoked in many tongues, but most often it was named Yām ha-Mizrahî: the Eastern Sea.

A man may lie in the less famous shallows of the sister of the Sea of Galilee and rise to the top without effort, buoyed to the surface by science or faith. He need only to gaze upon its barren shores to delineate the foothills of history, when other men may have tried to float in the same sea and failed the test. How much does man trust in his knowledge and how much does he heed the pull of those stories from his youth? The joy drains from that swim like water from a cracked vessel, and he wonders if he had lived at that time in this land of Canaan if he would have escaped the brimstone fate that awaited so many others. His gaze traces the horizon and a twinge gnaws his gut. The sheltering arms of the waves remind him of a different embrace in years already spent.

Two angels had descended from heaven to give warning to the righteous, his mother had told him long ago. He could still hear her voice as she told him her favorite biblical tale.

“Disguised as two men, the angels tried to pass Lot’s house on their way to Sodom, but he insisted they break bread with him,” Mama said. “In those times, it was a solemn duty to give hospitality to those in need.”

“I’d recognize them, Mama,” he said. He imagined the men with a certain golden glow or perhaps an errant feather peeking from under their cloaks. “I’m special.”

“Of course you are, sweetie,” she answered, pulling the blanket up to his chest as she readied him for bed. “But there’s no way to know by looking. That’s why it’s always important to be kind, especially to strangers. Maybe you’ll be talking to an angel all along.”

Finish reading the rest of this poem in Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah, or download the book at:

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It’s Raining Again, Let The Deluge Begin

Deluge: Stories of Survival & Tragedy in the Great FloodWhat would happen if a sudden torrential downpour destroyed all of America in the space of 40 days and 40 nights? What if a volcanic eruption on the moon Io resulted in a massive raining down of sodium chloride in which a future exploratory party from Earth was caught up and their space-to-surface vehicle destroyed? What if ….

Submissions Now Open For Deluge Anthology

The most asked question the garden gnomes have received in the past two months is, When will Deluge: Stories of Survival and Tragedy in the Great Flood come out? Sorry, but we’ve been dragging our feet–for a number of reasons (and not all of them bad).

But here’s the bottom line: We don’t have enough quality submissions yet to answer that question.

We have probably half the number of flash fiction stories I’d like to see and no poems or essays. Curiously, we received more short story submissions for this anthology than we did for either of the previous two–Garden of Eden or Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah. We’re not sure what that means.

What we didn’t get were any essays, nor did we receive any poems that we’d consider. So I’d like to talk about what we’d like to see and then open the door to possibilities.

Can A Poem Be Speculative?

If you have read Frederick Turner’s epic poem Genesis, then you might answer in the affirmative. But that poem is written in a formal style, and that’s not what we’re looking for. Although, you might say we’re interested in poems that deal with epic themes.

In a nutshell, these are the types of poems the garden gnomes enjoy:

  • Narrative – They may be lyrical, but they must be narrative. If you don’t know what this means, don’t submit.
  • Poetic – Sorry, but we have an aversion to prose poems, which may contain poetic elements, but they are prose. On an electronic reading device, most readers will not be able to tell the difference between a prose poem and a flash fiction or short story. Therefore, we’re more interested in poems that have a distinctive poetic form whether they be free verse or formal.
  • Speculative – The poem must deal with a “what if?” It can fall into a horror genre, fantasy, science fiction, a punk genre, or any of the other speculative fiction genres, but it should approach the subject matter with speculative awe.
  • Weird – Let it be weird. The weirder the better.
  • Literarily awesome – We’re not looking for literary poems. There are journals that will publish these. If it would fit into Poetry magazine or The New Yorker, we don’t want it. If you could submit it to Tin House, Rattle, or any poetry journal with the word “Review” in its title, then we don’t want it. If you’re not sure where you could send it to have it accepted, but you still believe it is high quality poetic limestone, then send it our way.
  • Flood-related – Address the anthology theme.
  • Long – We want at least 50 lines and up to 500. Lines. Not words, not characters.

We realize it is more challenging to pen a poem than a short story or flash fiction story. If you can’t do it, don’t try. This is a challenge for the poets. However, we reserve the right to move away from poetry if we can’t find what we’re looking for.

What’s a Speculative Essay?

We garden gnomes have always been surprised that we don’t get many attempts at essays. It’s not even hard to write one. And we’re not really asking for long ones. We’re just asking for essays that address the theme in a more creative way than an academic essay would answer anything (do they really answer anything?). Types of essays creative nonfiction we’re interested in include:

  • Reported essays – Take the theme, do some research, interview an expert or two, and write a damn good story, creatively. No stodginess.
  • Personal essays – Have you survived a flood? Do you know someone who has? Have a personal take on a flood? Take us there. Think Hunter S. Thompson meets Annie Dillard with an Edgar Allan Poe twist, or a dash of Philip K. Dick.
  • Creative essays – An essay generally starts with a statement or a question then proceeds to answer it. The use of facts, figures, anecdotes, etc. all serve to support the main idea. But we’re looking for something a little more creative. Not a linear logical argument, per se, but more of a journey through a maze that takes us from Point A to Point B and a personal discovery. Give us a denouement.
  • New Journalism – Gonzo, personal narrative where you are a part of a larger story. Combine fact with fictional technique.
  • Hybrid essays – Fact with a little fiction, as opposed to fiction with a little fact. Make a point, but don’t be afraid to stray from the thin lines of reality. If it’s interesting, we’ll consider it.

A speculative essay may start with a “what if” question or end with one. What if Hurricane Katrina had gone further inland? Could it have destroyed Baton Rouge the same way it took down New Orleans? What if it went west and destroyed Houston instead? What if global warming accelerated to the point where all world coastal cities were under water within ten years? What if the Great Flood was local and only affected those in present day Iraq.

There are a ton of directions you could go with a flood-related essay. Use your imagination. Tell us a story that could be reality TV.

Is Speculative Fiction Dead?

We still want flash fiction and short stories. If for some reason we don’t get enough publishable poetry or essays, we’ll fill up the anthology with more fiction. That can’t be bad, right?

You’re welcome to send us a novelette up to 20,000 words. If we like it, we’ll publish it and pay you for it. Otherwise, we are accepting additional short stories and flash fiction stories from 300 to 10,000 words. Read more on our BLAS anthologies guidelines page. For more specific information regarding Deluge: Stories of Survival & Tragedy in the Great Flood, check out the guidelines page for that anthology.

The deadline is midnight EST November 23, 2014.

Send your submissions to submissions @ gardengnomepubs.com. Send your questions to editor @ gardengnomepubs.com.

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Sulfurings: Current Needs

If you haven’t heard by now, Garden Gnome Publications is taking submissions for its second anthology in the Biblical Legends Anthology Series. The first anthology – Garden of Eden – has been on the shelf for almost two months. We’ll be taking submissions for Sulfurings until April 7, 2014 at midnight EST.

But what are we looking for, exactly?

Our official guidelines say we want narrative poetry, essays, flash fiction, and short stories, but we’d like to take this time to elaborate on those current needs. So here goes.

Narrative Poetry

Last week we discussed the difference between narrative poetry and lyric poetry. Since then, we’ve received at least a couple of palatable poems. But not all of them match our length guidelines.

The garden gnomes prefer longer poems, although the reason may not be clear.

Longer poems give the poet more opportunities to be creative with the theme. We think it may be prudent to drop the minimum line length, but we’d still like to see at least a couple of longer poems just for the sake of diversity. It takes a lot of chutzpah to pull off a long poem in the first place, so if you have what it takes, we’d love to see it.

More than length, however, what gets most poets is theme.

While we’re looking for poems that address the theme of the anthology, we prefer subtlety in this area. Tangential awareness, metaphor, indirect reference, and derivative expressions are encouraged.

In other words, instead of addressing the theme directly, we’d be more delighted if poets hinted at the theme through language and imagery. Readers should come away with a sense of mystery and intrigue, or perhaps scratching their heads. Remember, this is speculative fiction, er, poetry. Speculative narrative poetry. Whatever that means.

Speculative Essays

We’ve struggled with the proper term for what we’re looking for in this category. Simply calling them “essays” won’t do because we’re not expecting the typical expository writing that involves a thesis statement backed up by facts and logical analysis. We’re more concerned with taking the reader on a journey, a storytelling journey in a creative manner that doesn’t involve storytelling in a fictional sense.

The closest thing we can come up with in comparison is what journalists call a reported essay. One term is “creative nonfiction,” but that’s so vague it almost has no meaning.

Still, the term “reported essay” is problematic because it tends to be personal in nature with elements of reporting. There’s nothing wrong with that and if the garden gnomes received a reported essay that is worth publishing, well, we’ll publish it. But the subject matter of our anthologies might prove personal narratives in the form of reported essays a bit too challenging. Therefore, we prefer “speculative essay.”

A speculative essay can take any form as long as it isn’t fiction, however, it can use fictional techniques to tell a story and may even include elements of journalism or academic writing. The goal is to tell a compelling story that educates, informs, intrigues, entertains, raises questions, or some mix of the above.

Flash Fiction

The garden gnomes believe flash fiction has become popular enough that most people know what it is by now. Nevertheless, we’re looking for stories that are 300-1,500 words. Stories do not need to be linear or follow any particular narrative structure. In fact, they can be downright experimental (like this memorandum, for instance) as long as they adhere to the theme and address the speculative question posed by the garden gnomes.

Short Stories

It’s not hard to figure out what a short story is. Anything between 1,501 and 10,000 words with a beginning, a middle, and an end that tells a compelling story within the theme of the anthology and which addresses the speculative question posed by our call for submissions. We could use a few more of these for the Sulfurings anthology. We hope you’ll consider submitting your story by midnight EST on April 7, 2014.

We are also taking stories, flash fiction, speculative essays, and poems for the next anthology, Deluge.


We have not stated our needs on novelettes to date, but we’re open to receiving stories that address the theme of our anthologies up to 20,000 words. We have not decided what we’ll pay for these, but if you feel like you can address the speculative theme and tell a compelling novelette-length story, we’d like to see it.

So there you have it, straight from the garden gnomes. We hope this clarifies some of your questions. If not, feel free to query editor @ gardengnomepubs.com. If you are ready to submit your flash, essay, short story, poem, or novelette, please do so by reading our submission guidelines and sending your document to submissions @ gardengnomepubs.com.

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The Bible As Literature

by AmyBeth Inverness

AmyBeth Inverness Bible as literatureThe Christian Church was central to my upbringing. No one could beat me at Bible trivia. I could recite the Beatitudes and the Ten Commandments (I can’t anymore) the twelve sons of Jacob (still can) and I was pretty good with the books of both the Old and New Testaments. I can still name all the minor prophets, but I have to sing them. (I prove this via Youtube.)

It wasn’t until I was in high school and allowed the indulgence of choosing an English class that went beyond basic grammar and sentence structure that I began to put together the random trivia and assorted stories into some kind of perspective. The class was “The Bible as Literature.”

I had never before realized how much an author’s own society and environment affect their writing. It’s not something that can be avoided, unless the story is reduced to a set of inarguable facts. Even then, a writer might describe something they see in terms they and their contemporaries can understand, even though it is not entirely accurate. We don’t know whether the ladder in Jacob’s vision (Genesis 28:10-17) was a literal ladder, an analogy, or his best description of something else that was beyond his comprehension.

My husband and I read some not-so-ancient fiction out loud to our youngest daughter starting on the day she was born. I’ve always loved L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, but it wasn’t until reading them out loud as an adult that I realized just how different the language is. These books were written in my own language in my own country only a hundred years ago, yet the sound and the flow of the words is markedly different from anything written today.

The stories in the Bible were written not just hundreds but thousands of years ago. It’s not just the flow of words that is vastly different. Rather, it is the very way that ideas are conveyed in those words that has changed across time and cultures.

In my high school English class, one book we read in its entirety was the story of Job. Job is unique in that it isn’t written as a historical account but as a story with God, Satan, and the angels as characters with dialog. This story meant something else to the ancient Hebrews than it means to me. For example, I’m not okay with the idea that all Job’s children died, even if he did end up with more offspring at the end of the story.

The Christian Church is still a large part of my life today, but it’s no longer just a collection of neatly encapsulated narratives to me. I can see the words that ancient peoples were inspired to record, both for their contemporaries and for history. The New Testament’s letters were written specifically to individual churches in various cities. Yes, there are lessons to be learned from them, but the reader must keep in mind who was writing the letter, to whom it was written, and why it was written. Paul wasn’t sitting around thinking “Well, I’d better make darn sure this thing is still relevant two thousand years from now!” He was writing to his fellow Christians in fledgling churches.

Whether studying the Bible from the point of view of a Christian believing it to be the inspired Word of God, from the point of view of a secular scholar who does not believe God exists, or from anywhere in between, the Bible as literature is a varied, epic work. From the straightforward listing of who-begat-whoms (which held extreme importance for the ancient peoples) to the wild visions of Revelation, seeing what our ancestors chose to preserve for posterity and how they chose to present it informs us when we strive to do the same.

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice, and an outcast of Colorado by temporary necessity, AmyBeth Inverness is a creator of Speculative Fiction and Romance. She can usually be found tapping away at her laptop, writing the next novel, or procrastinating by posting a SciFi Question of the Day on Facebook and Google Plus. When she’s not writing she’s kept very busy making aluminum foil hats and raising two energetic kids and many pets with her husband in their New England home. AmyBeth Inverness is a featured writer in Garden Gnome Publications’ Garden of Eden Anthology.

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Come, Partake In Our Sulfurings

sulfur rainAs we await the return of our last couple of contracts from writers for the stories going into the Garden of Eden anthology, we are now beginning to take submissions for the next one. The theme for the second Biblical Legends Speculative Fiction digital anthology is Sulfurings.

It’s pretty simple what we’re asking writers to do. Give us a short story, poem, flash fiction story, or essay (loosely) concerning the inhabitants of the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as they struggle to survive amid the sulfur raining down upon them from above.

Our only stipulation is that none of the characters can be Lot or his family. Tell us who the characters are and how they survive.

Stories can be apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic – during the sulfuric rain or in the aftermath. We just want them to be good.

On poetry, we’re looking for narrative poems of 50-500 lines. Find out more about our BLAS submissions guidelines and our general submission guidelines. Just don’t make us suffer.

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Deadline Extension For The Garden Of Eden Anthology

Deadlines are necessary evils. On the one hand, they serve as closure for a project that, without a definite end in sight, could go on forever. On the other hand, they provide writers with the necessary motivation to get writing and to complete that project they’ve put on the back burner.

Recent events have encouraged me to re-consider the established deadline for the Garden of Eden anthology. That deadline was going to be tonight at midnight EST.

I put a lot of thought into that deadline. I gave writers four months to prepare for it, but because Garden Gnome Publications is still in its infancy, it’s unreasonable to expect that word has spread to all corners of the globe. The gnomes are humble enough to know that we haven’t even penetrated the first corner yet. But we’re hopeful.

Nevertheless, one writer pointed out that today’s deadline is right at the end of NaNoWriMo, so many writers are focused on kicking out their 50,000 word tomes. Believe me, we understand.

On another note, the gnomes have received some great entries, however, we feel like we could use a few more. Therefore, we’re extending the deadline to midnight EST on Tuesday, December 3, 2013. We hope this will give writers a chance to complete their NaNoWriMo novels and get us a few more submissions to offer readers of the first anthology.

What Kind Of Submissions We’re Looking For

I thought it might be beneficial to discuss what we’re actually hoping to achieve with this anthology. While we’ve received some excellent submissions so far, we have noticed that there is a bit of a disconnect between our hopes and some of the submissions we have received. Therefore, an elaboration is offered to help clear this misunderstanding up.

First, there is a reason we’ve dubbed our anthology series Biblical Legends Speculative Fiction Anthology Series. The idea is to use the Bible as a starting point for the imagination.

We are not necessarily interested in stories that lift up the Bible as the true Word of God, a necessary and inspired holy book, or the Truth. That said, we have no interest in dismissing stories that do so if those stories are good.

The “Biblical” in the name of the anthology series is simply a reference to a body of literature contained within the Bible. Our intent is to focus on stories and legends within the Bible that have an element of absurdity to them when viewed from an early 21st century perspective. Their truth or falsity is not our concern. What we want are stories that use the legendary tales themselves as a jumping off point.

We thought the Garden of Eden would be the perfect starting point – for a number of reasons.

  1. It is the first story, or legend, in the Bible where humans are the focal point.
  2. As legend, it is the genesis of the Bible’s overall story arc – at least where humanity is concerned.
  3. Thirdly, we just thought it would be fun.

The reason we’re calling the story anthologies “speculative fiction” is not as obvious as we initially thought. Speculative fiction is not an easy-to-define genre. It can include any number of fantastical elements that might include:

  • Science fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Weird elements
  • Supernatural elements
  • Utopian or dystopian story lines
  • Apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic tales
  • Superhero or superhuman characters
  • Alternate histories
  • And other miscellaneous oddities

Trust me, we’re interested in all of the above. Your only limitation as a writer is your imagination. We encourage you to go hog wild. We have imposed only one limitation – please, no Biblical characters.

Why No Biblical Characters?

Look at any submission guidelines and you’ll discover that there is always a reason behind them. Writers do not have to agree with those reasons. But if you want to get published, then it’s in your best interests to take note of those guidelines and follow them.

The garden gnomes decided to stipulate one restriction – no Biblical characters – for one simple reason: We want to encourage the speculative aspect of “speculative fiction.” It’s too easy to fall back on those old paradigms that have captured the human imagination for millennia.

There have been countless variants of the Adam and Eve story. While many of those are speculative, we believe they are overdone. It’s time for something new. We’re not interested in new takes on old paradigms. We want new paradigms. We want to take the stories that people are familiar with in new directions – myth and reality be damned. That is the essence of speculative fiction, in our view. “Make it new” is not just for poets and disciples of Ezra Pound.

From time to time, we may allow the inclusion of Biblical characters into a particular anthology. When so, it will be noted. Otherwise, we ask that writers do their best to honor this restriction.

The Garden of Eden’s Greatest Needs

We’d love to get more flash fiction and short stories. You can never have too many submissions to choose from. At least, we’re not so overwhelmed – yet – that we would change our minds on that point. But those are not our greatest needs.

In order for our vision to be most perfectly fulfilled, we’d like to see more narrative poems and essays submitted.

Narrative Poems

Narrative poems are hard to write. Believe me, we know this. But we want narrative poems, as opposed to lyrical poems, for one simple reason. They render more easily to the digital format.

Another reason we insist on narrative poems is because the anthologies are intended to be stories. Stories by definition are narratives. And we want longer narratives because our intent is to publish only one poem per anthology. We want it to be a good one.

In this day, there are few poets writing narrative poems. Most poetry is “free verse,” which is really prose with line breaks. So why not write prose?

While prose does not necessarily lend itself to narrative form, per se, we believe the two go hand in hand quite nicely. Therefore, we’re looking for long narrative poems in the range of 50 to 500 lines. But understand a few things about narrative poetry, specifically what it is and what it isn’t.

  • Narrative poetry does not necessarily exclude lyrical qualities. As an example, I’d like to point your attention to a narrative poem titled “On The Road Home” by yours truly. It was published in the November 2012 issue of Ygdrasil as the Post Scriptum. We encourage you to read this poem and take note of its many lyrical qualities, including many formal poetic elements, while remaining true to the narrative form.
  • Secondly, narrative poetry can be surreal or avant-garde. Here’s another narrative poem that includes many formal and free verse elements with some concrete poetry and avant-garde qualities, as well. Warning: It’s a long one. But notice how the poem moves through it’s narrative using visual elements, backward lines, indents, and odd elements that take the reader by surprise. I hesitate to use this as an example because many of the visual elements found on the web page could not be accomplished in an e-book, so this is not really what we’re looking for. It is an example, however, of how creative you can get with narrative poetry. For that, I’d say it’s well worth a read.
  • First and foremost, narrative poetry tells a story. That’s what we want: A story told through poetic elements on the digital page. Get creative, but please stay within our guidelines. No Biblical characters and no lyrical verses.

The two biggest mistakes we’ve seen so far with poems submitted for The Garden of Eden anthology are 1) the use of Adam, Eve, and the serpent and 2) poems being too short and lyrical in nature. These poems are automatically discarded and not considered. We really want your speculative narratives.


Essays pose a different challenge. We’ve had a couple of submissions for essays but nothing that has me excited – yet. I’m still looking for that one perfect essay.

We’re not necessarily looking for expository or academic writing. We use the term “essay” loosely. What we really want is creative nonfiction that says something interesting about the theme. Hear how Lee Gutkind defines the genre of creative nonfiction:

In some ways, creative nonfiction is like jazz—it’s a rich mix of flavors, ideas, and techniques, some of which are newly invented and others as old as writing itself. Creative nonfiction can be an essay, a journal article, a research paper, a memoir, or a poem; it can be personal or not, or it can be all of these.

What we’re looking for are thoughts, expressions, and personal writings that explore the theme in new ways or that give us a new take on the theme. If we received an “essay” about the Garden of Eden for our anthology which we believed was worthy of publishing, our hope would be that it would give us something to mull over and cause us to think differently about our lives. We don’t know what that means precisely, but we know what it doesn’t mean.

We want something creative, something imaginative, something outside the bounds of tradition. We want it well-written and thought-provoking. We want it to incorporate all elements of genre writing without falling neatly into any genre. If that makes any sense.

Can we tell you what we want? No. But we’ll know it when we see it. It’s up to you to help us realize it when it presents itself.

Our Final Invitation

Having said all of that (we apologize for the length), we’d like to send out one final invite to writers, poets, and creative essayists to send us your best work. Give us your take on the Garden of Eden theme, and please follow our general submission guidelines. We’re looking forward to seeing what forbidden fruit you have to offer.

As always, feel free to ask your questions in the comments.

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