It's that time again where we look back and have ourselves a good cry over everything we've accomplished in the past year (and then shamelessly grovel at your feet asking for money…or food…or lotto tickets.) And we did this all from a volunteer staff - did I not mention that we're all volunteers here? I didn't?! Well, now you know! 
       So we've published 12 amazing stories over the last 12 months, ran our third annual short story contest (see below for results!), released 12 podcast episodes, and basically made the world a better place, all on a shoe-string budget. Don't believe me? See below:
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       Do you like what we do? Do you enjoy our fun, snarky little 'tude and silly videos? How about our aim towards publishing stories based on quality and not what the screaming little tyrants - the cancel-culture mafia - are pushing. Do you appreciate that? And I know you do, because you tell us all the time! Well then, there's no better way to show your appreciation then by showering us with your hard-earned dollars, whether by direct donation, or by becoming a Paying Member (and gaining access to all those perks!).
       Do you love Story Unlikely, the stories we publish, and everything we're doing for the literary community? Then help us out and throw us a few bucks! Can you really expect us to take over the world on our current budget? 
       I don't think so.
Danny Hankner
Danny Hankner

“Every great story begins with a snake." - Nicholas Cage (who probably approves this message)
       Our annual short story contest was a huge success, with over over 2,500 submissions received! Our benevolent volunteers worked tirelessly to sift these down to the top three winning stories. So here we are, proud to announce our winners, finalists and honorable mentions (and may I mention that all Paying Members who receive honorable mention or higher received personal feedback from our very own editor-in-chief - of which numerous stories this year did!). Congrats to the winners and everyone whose name made it this far - the competition was fierce, and ya'll earned your certificates. So plaster them all over your social media feeds to proudly declare to the world, “I almost won an international writing competition!…but not quite.”
Winning Stories
1st place - Five Miles to Epworth by Zack Harmes (will be featured in September issue)
2nd place - Range Unknown by Josie Turner (will be featured in August issue)
3rd place - The Pack by Sarah Cannavo (featured this issue!)
Andrew Hughes - The Thousand Mile Track
Brittany Rainsdon - Rainbow Baby
Robert Stahl - Dead Presidents
Wulf Moon – Grasshoppers Against the Jar
Wulf Moon – The Weeping Tree
Wulf Moon - Time Dusting
Bani Gourab – The Song of the Sea
Cassondra Windwalker – Moss
Charlena Kea – Rain Again
Mike Barretta – The Stone Carver
Rob Nisbet – Toll of the Ferryman
Honorable Mention
Andrea Corsi – The Secret of Knock Out Roses
Anna Green – With all my Heart
Brian Ellis – Life Ltd
Caitlin Pyper – The Marriage
Daniele Bonfanti - Don’t Look Back
Dennis Regan – Valley Voices
Garret Barr – City of Palms
Khalila Soubeih – The Arduous Process of Smoltification
Leon Peter Blanda – Tragedy + Time Travel =
Lindsay Barbagallo – Muse
Malin Sofia Kjellin – Santa Cruse
Martin WÆrn - We were our own Captains
Mauricia Castila – A Serious Man
Page Getz – Not in the Room
Raymie Martin – The Journey
Roger Sheffer – Madam Jiji’s Auto World
Simon Ong – Great Grandmother’s Birthday
Stephan Mathys – A Fitting Consequence
Zain Deane – See for Yourself

       If you see your name up there, send us an email requesting your certificate (we have a ‘Don’t Ask Don't Send' policy, so if you don't ask, then we won't send, if that wasn't already clear - unless you're a Member, of course; we will send those out automatically!).
       For those who didn't land on the above board (sorry, no participation trophies here), listen up. Next year's contest is right around the corner - with a bigger prize package and even more competition and exposure. Do you want to take a real shot at winning? Then give yourself a leg up by doing the following:
       1. Read our back issues. This is the single best thing you can do to prepare yourself - see what the authors we're publishing are putting out there, and get an idea for what we're after.
       2. Learn from the best by reading our Writer's Gym, which features in-depth articles on writing by some of the best writers in the business. For example, one of our featured authors is a guy named Wulf Moon. If that name isn't familiar (we've published his work previously), take a peak up at the finalists - Moon managed to snag not one but ALL THREE stories (Paying Members can submit up to 3 stories, FY!), and remember, this is from an effectively blind contest. We didn't know his identity until placing was established. For all three of his stories to be contenders is just astounding! And equally as impressive, Moon's writer's group - The Wulf Pack - managed to find their way to 5 out of the top 9 spots. Incredible! So yes, Moon knows what he's talking about, and you should absolutely listen to our shameless membership plugs so you can do well in this contest too! (or read his book, or both!)
       3. Join our community. Talk about all things writing. Learn. Grow. Become the best writer you can be! Right now we're offering a free trial until the end of the year, when we plan on launching our critique forum. Did we mention our Paying Members get half off? And by the way, the percentage of Members landing on the those top spots is significantly higher than those submitting for free. Clearly they're doing something right.

       As mentioned, we're going to increase the prize package! How high will we go? Well, that all depends on how many new Members sign up over the summer. This is how we pay the prize package (duh). Less revenue = less gold. Luckily, our membership is doing quite well, but why settle for mediocrity? So sign up already, take advantage of all those perks, and help up the prize package! And just so you don't think we've sold out to all the money-grubbers out there (which is absurd, because we don't get paid for this), take a look at our snazzy new Contest Submission Song by clicking the link below - if that doesn't get you amped about a short story contest, we don't know what will…
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(beautiful / Immersive / Poetic)
The Pack
By Sarah Cannavo
       I know all their voices by now. I should; they howl every night in the woods outside our window. Darkness falls, the moon rises, and they begin, one, then another, another, until all of them have joined in: mother wolf, high and mournful; father wolf, deep and somber; their cubs who are no longer cubs, cracking voices carrying a pain beyond their years. Overlapping laments, yet each still distinctly their own, woven together in a melancholy chorus that seeps through the cottage walls and leaches into my dreams, haunting me even once daylight breaks and the last echo fades away, for I also know what it is they howl for.
       They came last winter, when the moonlight glittered silver off the icicles lining the roof and the pine trees shivered in the wind, their sorrow piercing the night like a dagger. I didn’t know then which wail belonged to each wolf, only what they meant, but that was enough to turn my blood to ice, freeze my heart in a way the winter’s cold couldn’t. It’s all right, he’d told me, taking me in his arms, drawing me away from the window—but even then looking over my shoulder, as if perhaps he could see what I couldn’t. And perhaps he could. They’ll be gone soon. They won’t stay.
       But they stayed through the winter, filling the long dark nights with their howls, and they were still here when spring melted the snow and brought the world back to life—they’ve been here ever since, no matter the season, no matter the weather. During the day, when I venture into the woods to gather mushrooms and herbs, mosses and flowers, or when my husband goes hunting, we find tracks; in the mud left behind by spring rains, in the rich dark earth of summer, half-hidden beneath fallen autumn leaves, breaking up a smooth white spread of snow. At first, I couldn’t tell the tracks apart; they were just a myriad of paw prints ranging through the woods. But I know them better now, too, know that there are seven, seven wolves in the pack making their presence known nightly, in calm weather, in storm, in sweltering heat and chilling, killing cold. I imagine them bedraggled, their coats soaked with rain and splattered with mud; I imagine their fur crackling with frost, their breath steaming hot and white in the darkness. Through it all, they stay. Through it all, they howl.
       They never let me see them when I enter the forest in daylight, and I’m never sure if I truly feel their eyes on me as I travel through or if my senses are just playing tricks on me. When the moon is bright enough I can glimpse them from the window, though, sometimes only shadows, dark forms darting between the trees, and sometimes I catch flashes of fur: rich brown, thunder-gray, black as night and pale as snow, blue eyes, brown eyes, gleaming back at me until I have to turn away. Every night they steal closer, closer; soon they’ll be scratching at the cottage door, still calling for the one who was lost—the one who left them.
       My husband, bless him, does his best not to react, but still I catch his tension as we clear away the dinner dishes and the sun starts to sink toward the horizon, as we lie entangled in our bed after love; still I catch how his eyes flick toward the woods when he thinks I’m not looking, as they did the night the wolves first began to howl, and how can I blame him? To him, they aren’t just mother-father-brothers-sisters, they’re Mother-Father-Brothers-Sisters; he knows their voices, knows them, better than I ever could, no matter how long he’s been gone.
       He smiles and tries to kiss my concerns away, assuring me he’s mine, only mine, now and forever. But in his sleep he growls, pants; his limbs twitch as if giving chase, leaping for the kill. When I can’t sleep - which is more and more as of late - I listen to the wolves and watch him, and as I smooth his tousled auburn curls back from his forehead and look down at the face of the man I love, features I know every line of even in the blackness of our room, I wonder. Have they shown themselves to him the way they won’t to me? Have they run with him when he goes off hunting, streaking through the sunlit greenery around him the way they once all ran together; has he seen them, not as shadows in the night-black wood but close enough to look into their eyes, to touch them?
       I can’t help but picture it, the pack stepping soundlessly into the clearing where he’s tracked a deer, his quarry bounding away unnoticed as he lowers his bow and turns instead to the wolves moving closer, eyes bright and fur rippling as they surround their beloved prodigal; I picture the look on his face, his hand trembling as he reaches out for them—I can see it so clearly it’s as if I’m there watching it happen instead of home beside him, both of us somewhere else entirely while we lie mere inches apart.
       When he wakes in the morning it’s my turn to smile, reassure him that I slept well, tease him about the stubble shadowing his jaw just as I have ever since we married. But as he rises from the twisted sheets to bathe and dress, the night’s howls echo in my mind, overlaid upon the memory of his restless form as he ran wild through his dreams—dreams I have no part in, dreams I can’t share.
       If he has seen them he hasn’t told me, no doubt to spare me whatever pain he thinks hearing so would cause me. If I ask he’ll tell me; I married a good man and an honest one, and whatever he won’t volunteer, he won’t lie about, either. But I don’t. So many times I think I’m finally going to, the words rising in my throat, my lips parting, and then he smiles, catching my hand and squeezing as I set our breakfast bread down on the table, or I glance over to where he sits reading aloud as I do my sewing, his face softly illuminated in the glow of the crackling hearthfire, and the question withers on the tip of my tongue. I love him and he loves me, and that matters more than anything else.
       So it goes until winter comes again, ice lacing the windowpanes and the snow a thick shroud over the earth, the howls from the forest as insistent and relentless as the cold that whispers through every crack in the cottage walls; so it goes until the night at the fireside when I finally sigh, “Go.”
       “What?” he says, eyes wide.
       “Go,” I repeat, putting aside the shirt I’m mending and standing, and he sets down the book he was reading from and follows suit.
       “Are you sure?” he asks, his blue eyes searching mine, and I nod. It’s the winter solstice, the longest night of the year; darkness fell early and brought the wolves with it, and though his voice has been even enough as he’s been reading, though he’s laughed at my jokes and made his own, he’s been restive ever since the howling started, fidgeting as if something’s moving beneath his skin that he can’t shake, his shoulders tightening further with every fresh wave of howls from the woods. I can’t stand to see him this way—I thought I would be able to handle it, for his sake, that I could let him keep trying to push through as he has been, but I can’t, and that, too, is for his sake.
       His struggle is visible, almost palpable, part of him eager to rejoin his kin at last, part of him yearning to stay here in the home we’ve built together. I smile at him, though my own heart is breaking, and say, “I’m sure. It’s all right. Go with them.”
       He takes me in his arms and we share a long, deep kiss; when it ends he holds me still, tight against his chest, and I breathe deep the familiar, musky scent of his skin, listen to the thunder of his heart beneath my cheek, soak up the warmth of him, doing my best to memorize this moment for all the long nights to come.
       I walk outside the cottage with him, the snow sparkling in the moonlight, our breath like ghosts in the frosty air. “I’ll be back soon, I promise,” he says, earnest.
       I know he means it when he says it; I just pray he remembers his promise once the forest reclaims him. “I’ll be here,” I say, and relief flickers across his face.
       One more kiss, murmured I love yous, and then he sheds his clothes, unbothered by the cold. I gather them, and when I straighten, the great gray wolf is standing in his place. The sight steals my breath, as it did the first time I ever saw it, and slowly I reach out and stroke him from the crown of his head down his back, my hand sinking into the soft, thick fur. He nuzzles against me and I kneel, wrap my arms around his neck and hold him close a few moments more while the snow soaks through the skirt of my gown, chilling me to the bone, before I let him go and stand.
       The pack has redoubled their clamor, though now their howls are wild, raucous things of joy rather than grief, a frenzy of shadows, riotous with excitement as he starts forward. Mother wolf, father wolf, brothers and sisters, all eager to welcome him back to the fold.
       He looks back at me once with my husband’s blue eyes—making sure I’m still here? Or memorizing the sight the way I saved our moment earlier?—and then, when I nod, turns and streaks away, snow spraying from beneath his paws as he races toward the woods.
       I watch until the trees swallow him, another round of howls resounding from their depths. There’s a new voice in the chorus now, strong and ringing, and I know this one, too, like I know my own soul. Standing on our doorstep, I listen to it blend with the others, just as clear, just as joyful, clinging to the sound of it as if it were a line I could follow to him, or that could lead him back to me.
       Gradually the howling grows softer, the echoes fainter and fainter; the pack is moving on, heading back home. The echoes of his voice last the longest, but at last even they fade, severing the line, and the night falls silent for the first time in a year, the stillness broken only by the hushed rustle of the pines, the crisp crackle of snow swept up in sparkling swirls by the wind like clouds of falling stars come to earth. I linger outside a few moments more before I finally turn away, his discarded clothes clutched to my chest, and go back inside the cottage, bolting the door behind me.
       He’ll be back, I tell myself. You know he will.
       By candlelight I exchange my sodden dress for my nightgown, slip a ribbon into the book he left on the table to mark where he’d stopped reading, and then I fold his clothes and tuck them away in their chest, neatly, carefully, just as I’d do on any normal day; he’ll need them when he returns. After that’s done, I blow the candle out, the scent of smoke lingering in the chill air, and climb into bed, the blankets cool enough against my skin to make me shiver, and as I curl up and wait for them to warm, I lie awake and listen to the silence.
About the author:
         Sarah Cannavo is a writer haunting southern New Jersey. Her work has appeared in the Story Unlikely podcast, If I Die Before I Wake Vol. 8: Tales of Halloween Horror, and JOURN-E, among others, and her adaptation of the short horror film OverKill was published in Pulp Modern: Die Laughing. Her story “Unreality” and novella “Wolf of the Pines” are available now on Amazon. She’s been rumored to post on her site The Moody Muse at, and occasionally been sighted Tweeting @moodilymusing. If you listen closely on moonless nights, you may be able to hear her screaming “DAENERYS DESERVED BETTER” into the darkness. 

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Tyrants in Writer's Clothing
(Part 2 of the Don't be an Idiot Series)
by Danny Hankner
“It’s never been easier to be published and never harder to be read.”
Getting along with people has never been an issue for me. I like people, and I like making them laugh. I can’t tell you why I do, only that this is how I’m wired, and there’s no reprogramming those circuits. And what was passed down from my father I’ve now passed onto my son who, even as a toddler, was going out of his way to get a laugh and feedback by doing something ridiculous (like chasing his sisters around the house with his bare bottom) and then asking, “Was that funny, da-da?” I guess that makes us people people.
But there’s one class of humans I take exception to - petty tyrants.
When we think of ‘tyrant’, we picture bejeweled dictators with aviators and harems sipping goblets of wine in banana republics. But the truth is, these schmucks come in all flavors: bullies, abusers, and elitists, just to name a few. And they’re all around, living amongst us, disguised as ordinary citizens until they must insert themselves and their narcissistic demands.
And the writing world has not been spared.
If you’ve been around, you’ve noticed that I have no patience for the current plague that’s swept over the West. Call it Wokism, cancel culture, or whatever nonsense is being shoved down our collective throats. Nobody but a radical fringe minority and their brainless followers care about this, but for some reason, it’s entrenched its ethos firmly into the literary landscape, just as it has in Hollywood and abroad. Forget quality. Pay no heed to raw talent. Let’s tank sales and drive once great icons of storytelling and powerhouse franchises into the dust of our own self-righteousness. You know of what I speak, for we’ve all seen it.
It is the New Religion, and it is to be worshipped and obeyed. And the price for disobedience? Ridicule, excommunication, and persecution. We’ve all seen this, too. The best comedians boycotted, talented actors fired, and everyone with a voice de-platformed and silenced. Is it any wonder so few are willing to stick their necks out? In fact, why don’t you go ahead and list off the names of the authors, magazines, and publishers who have publicly cried foul? Go ahead, I can wait.

While you rack your brain for these sparse, brave few, let me tell you why bending the knee to this ideology is so detrimental, not just for our society, but for you as a writer…
This article is for Member's only. To keep reading, simply click HERE. Haven't yet become a Member? There's no better time than NOW to take advantage of the many benefits, all for one low annual price! Go ahead and sign up today - what's holding you back?
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Marketing is all about telling stories, and that's why we're looking for the next sponsor.
And we need your help! 
Picture this: 
       A print anthology with your organization's name on the cover, brimming with stories themed after whatever it is you do. Perhaps you're a non-profit bringing awareness to the skilled trades, a business that helps farmers, or a podcast about the paranormal; how cool would it be to hold in your hand a professional book dedicated to your organization, filled with stories written by the top writers of today? Stories grab attention, change hearts and minds, and sell product. If you're interested in learning more, send an email to 
If you help land our next sponsor, our very own editor-in-chief will give you a personal critique on a story: a line by line up to 2,500 words, or a general review of up to 10,000 words.

Literary Spotlight
       "A rising tide lifts all boats" is not just an aphorism; it's how Sam Robb has tried to live his life. Whether working as a Naval officer, software developer, preacher, or politician, he's tried to be an encouragement to others. That spirit has carried over into his career as a science-fiction and fantasy writer. A veteran of software start-ups, he enjoys the energy and enthusiasm he sees when working with small press publishers. His short story publications so far have included science-fiction, fantasy, and horror.
          Sam is also an integral member of the Alpha Mercs, a writing group with an anthology problem. He was the editor for the Mercs' first anthology, Minstrels in the Galaxy. He also runs #TeamAndMore, a website providing tools for aspiring authors. Those include a running list of anthology open calls to help new writers make their first sale. You can find Sam's books on Amazon; or sign up to follow him through his newsletter, Perceptions.

Listen on:
Spotify     Apple     Amazon     Libsyn

Tired of the industry
       I found you on Submission Grinder and chose to submit because I am so unbelievably sick of how radical and woke the rest of the f****** publishing industry is. It would be nice to publish somewhere – anywhere -- that's just interested in good writing, not agendas.
Crime Dog
PS - I work at a large public university, which means even a whisper that I’m not radical left could get me fired. Which is f****** insane. You can publish that too, just change my name.

Did someone say 
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Are you in the business of writing and looking to expand your base? Perhaps a little marketing exchange is in order - where we introduce our audience to yours, and vice versa. It's easy, and free, and everyone wins wins wins! Email us at for more info.

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The Excrement List
Disobey our submission guidelines, 
and find yourself amiss.
Disobey the guidelines,
wind up on the list.
(It's like when restaurants used to post bounced checks on the wall, but for the digital age)
As a publisher, we have rules that writers must abide by if they want to get published. Some of these aren't that big of a deal, but others, like ‘if you submit to our contest, don't submit this story anywhere else until the reading period is over,' or ‘don’t mark our emails as spam', are a major no-no.  Offenders get put on our ~dun dun dun~ Excrement List, aka lifetime ban on getting published. We keep this list to show people that - for once - we're not joking. Don't be like the perps below - you're much too savvy for that:
Gillian W, Cat T, Adam M, Olasupo L, Mick S, Leslie C, Patricia W, Tim V, Andrew F, Sam P, Aaron H, N. Kurts, Paula W, Marcy K, Mark301078, carnap72, N. Phillips,  A Bergsma, Sharon S., Mfaulconer, Mikeandlottie, Rebecca C, Nathaniel L, Maxine F, Patrick W, Brendan M, William S, Sandra T, Daniel L, Jennifer C, Chuck G, Salmonier, Bernie M, Stephan R, Elizabeth E, Lisa C, Bob E, Titus G, June T, Eileen W, Judy B.
Disclaimer: Story Unlikely is a literary magazine that publishes fiction and nonfiction, but cannot guarantee distinction between the two.  The views expressed in the articles reflect the author(s) opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher and editors.  The published material, adverts, editorials and all other content is published in good faith. Story Unlikely cannot guarantee and accepts no liability for any loss or damage of any kind caused by this website and errors and for the accuracy of claims made by the content providers.
On this website you might find links to the websites, third- party content and advertising.  By using our website and online magazine you acknowledge that and agree that Story Unlikely cannot be held responsible and shall not be liable for content of other websites, advertisements and other resources.  Story Unlikely reserves the right to make changes to any information on this site without a notice.  By using this site, you agree to all terms and conditions listed above. If you have any questions about this policy, you may contact us.
By responding to this email, you are granting  Story Unlikely permission to use your email and name in any future publication.
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