Everyone always wants to know the answer to the question "I wonder what they're looking for?" Although our submission guidelines are specific, they're more about the nuts and bolts of a potential submission. The part of the acquisition process that is the most obscure for the writer is the subjective part, which is rendered even more difficult to guess because of the unique requirements of a shared world. The Darkside Codex is a huge, complex world and has been from its conception. But what makes a shared world so much fun is that the world is never finished. Never. Writers are bound by the canon, but have extraordinary license to build and expand upon it.
The main thing I'm looking for is a great story. Yes, I know. Trite. Basically, I want to see stories that can stand on their own merit, as if they don't rely upon the shared world. Sure, you can write something that expounds upon the world beautifully, but I have to care about the characters, I have to have an emotional stake in the resolution of the conflict, and I have to "see" the story in my head, like a movie. In other words, you have to engage my interest. Even if there are a few small flaws in your story content-wise, I'm experienced enough to judge whether a story can fly with regular editing, whether it needs to be revised/resubmitted, and whether it's just not going to work.
One thing you absolutely need to make sure that you do is to send me a clean manuscript with proper grammar and spelling. The downside to being experienced enough to see past structural flaws to the heart of the story is that experience makes me a little intolerant of easily fixed mistakes. A word to the wise--do NOT rely upon spell checker or grammar checker software for your submissions. Go through your submission word for word, line by line, page by page. Spell check, for example, cannot differentiate between homonym errors--and nothing is worse than a manuscript where the author incorrectly uses to/two/too or there/they're or its/it's.
(hint: homonym errors are my current submissions pet peeve...be warned)
And finally, when I read your story, it needs to have the feel of Southwatch. That doesn't mean a rubber stamped style from the first couple of books. CA Chevault's Storm Angel and Daniel Ausema's The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame are very different in style, tone, and feel. For one thing, Storm Angel is set primarily sunside while The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame is set darkside--and both stories reflect their settings in tone, style, character, and conflict. So your submission needs to fit in with the part of the Southwatch world where your POV character(s) primarily reside. A girl who was caught in the burning rains in Bricktown is going to have a completely different voice than a young aristocrat who's the favorite drinking buddy of Thomas Amberville, the Baron of Southwatch. Also, the feel of the setting is going to be different as well. While there are good times to be had darkside, for the most part the lower you are in Southwatch, the more desperate your situation. There's room for any author to play in Southwatch, no matter what side of the Dark Cloud you play on.
Hopefully, all this will help any potential authors as they prepare their submission for The Darkside Codex. Let me remind you, too, to take advantage of the opportunity to send me the first two-three chapters pre-submission. I am more than willing to look at what you've got and plan to do, determine if it is working within the world, inform you of any changes in the world that will affect your story, and give you my honest opinion of your work. This isn't a submission, and I'm not looking for publication polish. All this is for is to help you to complete your TDC submission by giving you feedback at a relatively early stage. You can learn how to do this by looking at our submission guidelines.
Best of luck to you, writers! I am looking forward to seeing your Darkside stories soon--
Editor's note: Celina Summers is not only the editor reading submissions for The Darkside Codex, but she's also the co-creator of the world (with Richard C. White) and the Editorial Director of Musa Publishing. With a writing background in speculative fiction and sixteen novels and novellas to her credit, she's happily combined her love for the great shared worlds of the past like Dragonlance and Thieve's World with steampunk and other spec fic genre mashups in The Darkside Codex.