Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I'm Back!

Just a quick note to say that I'm Back! We kinda got nailed by Irene here early Sunday morning. Not much in the way of flooding in our neck of the woods but she took out enough trees to heat a small city for the winter. And with the trees coming down, so did the power lines. After four days without electric we're finally back and I'm hoping to get caught up in the next day or two. Hope everyone stayed safe and dry!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Another Anthology Review

"Speedloader" is reviewed over at the Guilty Conscience blog. You can check it out here

Snubnose Press

Brian Lindenmuth is the guest today at Criminal-e where he talks about Snubnose Press.

On the Crime Anthology/Collection Front

There's a new print anthology out called "D*cked" with a collection of short stories with a most unusual theme - dark fiction inspired by Dick Cheney. The lineup a who's who listing of noir writers from Ken Bruen to Patti Abbott. You can find a list of the authors and a peek into the book here "D*icked" is edited by Greg Bardsely, Kieran Shea, and Jedidiah Ayres. You can read Kieran's thoughts about this collection of stories here

Nigel Bird is one of the editors of "Pulp Ink" but he also has a second collection of his own short stories out called "Beat on the Brat". There's a great interview with Nigel here There's also another review of "Pulp Ink" here

Paul Brazill has a collection out called "Brit Grit" which has been reviewed by Chris Rhatigan here

There's an interview over at Criminal-e with Kieth Rawson about his recently released collection, "The Chaos We Know".

And there's a very nice review of "The Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles" over at Sabrina Ogden's blog.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Setting Story Cupboard

Looking through my posts for August, I realized I hadn't done a story cupboard post yet this month. For some reason these posts seem to get the most hits according to my stats, so they must be of some help to you writers out there. And there's an added bonus, I love writing them!

Our county fair is this week, which got me thinking about setting. For me, the fair is a great story starter. You've got all kinds of wonderful characters, from carnies to clowns, that can stroll through your story.

Oh, and great places to commit crimes. You could hang a body from the Ferris wheel and watch it go round and round. Have someone stomped to death in the animal barns, or smothered with one of the needlework exhibits. And that's just a bit of murder. You've got pickpockets who could pick the wrong pocket, thieves, kidnappers, or rival exhibitors who try to sabotage each other.

Bodies of water are great places to set stories, just ask Mark Twain. You've got oceans, rivers, ponds, creeks, swamps. All of these are great places to hide bodies, kill someone, find buried treasure or just steal from one of the cottages. Back years ago, they used to strip the copper water pipes out of cottages to sell for scrap - still doing it these days as a matter of fact.

And of course you've got grocery stores, parking garages, malls, warehouses, the list of settings goes on and on. You just have to pick a spot and imagine what kind of crime could be committed there and how.

Oh, and if you're writing sci-fi, how cool would an intergalactic carnival be?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Noir Nation

I've been hearing a bit a rumbling around the 'net about this new market, but they didn't have much up in the way of a website. Stopping by today I've found that they've put up the table of contents for their first issue which will launch on September 1.

"Noir Nation: International Crime Fiction", is an eprint market. Each issue will be made available for your readers with teasers on their site. If you write noir, get your pencils sharpened because they will be opening to subs from all around the world for their second issue on October 1. Pay is $100 for short fiction. You can check them out here

hat tip to Paul Brazill

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I'm a bit late on this one, but has just finished up what they're calling "Noir Week", where they've looked at both crime noir and sci-fi noir. Here's the link for all the articles

And I know we have some Robert E. Howard fans that stop by and Tor also has a slew of posts about Howard and Conan.

Friday, August 19, 2011

What Do You See?

As many of you know description is my weak spot when writing. Elmore Leonard says to leave out the stuff people skip. Well, I skip those long drawn out character descriptions. I don't care if a character is wearing Walmart Haute Couture or Armani. Eye color, hair color, I don't need to know. And footwear? Unless they're stomping on somebody's face with a pair of steel-toed boots, they could be barefoot. I can picture them from the things they do and that's the way I tend to write, which is frustrating for some readers who want to know all the details of what a character looks like or what they're wearing.

So, why am I talking about this? Because I just came across some description that doesn't describe in minute detail but you can still see and know these people. From Stanley Ellin's "The House Party".

"That was Hannah, her eyes bright with tears-she could turn on tears like a faucet-and her hand was gripping his so hard that his fingers were numb under the pressure. Hannah with the overdeveloped maternal instinct, and only a husband to exercise it on ... That was Abel Roth chewing on a cigar-even at a time like this, that reeking cigar!-and watching him worriedly. Abel with his first successful production in five years, worrying about his investment ...And that was Ben Thayer and Harriet, the eternal bumpkins ...And Jake Hall ...And Tommy McGowan ... All the familiar faces, the sickening familiar faces.

"But there was a stranger, too. A short stout man with a look of amiable interest on his face, and splendidly bald, with only a tonsure of graying hair to frame his gleaming scalp. He ran his fingers reflectively over his scalp, and nodded at Miles."

How cool is that? You have all the characters described in two short paragraphs and a great snapshot of who and what they are, including the narrator.

In the Long Run

Lately I've been thinking a lot about character actors. You know, the actor whose name you can never quite remember but you can't stop watching when they're on screen. From the past, actors like Frank Morgan, Alan Hale, Mildred Natwick, Jack Elam and Walter Brennan will always get me to stop and watch a movie. These day it's actors like Marcia Gay Harden, Lance Hendriksen, Sam Elliott, and Ron Perlman who will make me sit back and watch knowing that I'll be in the hands of people who know their craft and will turn in an excellent performance.

These folks, with a few exceptions, were never famous in their day, but they worked consistently and for a longer stretch of time than those famous actors who usually hit the skids after a ten year stretch in the spotlight.

We writers are in much the same boat as actors. We're not all going to be that superstar whose books fly off the shelves and into the hands of eager readers, or have books that are made into movies, and have millions in our bank accounts. No, for the majority of us, our names will be vaguely familiar and people will smile as they recall a story or two that we wrote.

We're the "character" writers, the ones who fill up the middle of anthologies and magazines while the superstars hold the treasured spots and have their names on the cover. And that's not a bad place to be. Our work is smiled upon by editors because they know we can deliver a story that won't make their anthology or magazine suck.

As I look around the web I find many of these not so famous writers, still working and getting their stories out there for us to read. Never in the fame and fortune spotlight, but comfortable where they are. Who are they? Well, writers like Bill Crider, Joe Lansdale, Marcia Muller, Michael Bracken and Ed Gorman, just to name a few. Whenever I see their names, I stop and read because I know they'll weave me a good story and when I'm finished reading, I will have been thoroughly entertained by a well crafted tale.

Excellent company for any writer to be in, don't you think? And something better to strive for than one of those scarce slots on the superstar road of fame. Oh, I'm not knocking fame and fortune, it's a goal every writer is working toward, but learning your craft and turning in consistently good work is just as important and could be more satisfying in the long run of a writing career.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Portrait of Dorian Gray

Okay, this has nothing to do with short stories but I found this article about the actual portrait of Dorian Gray quite interesting.

Hat tip to Hell Notes!

Angie's Desk

Angie's Desk has an informative look at the rights an author should or shouldn't sign away when entering into a contract with a publisher. And the post right below that one is Angie's monthly roundup of anthology markets.

A Different Kind of Challenge

Barbara Fister has issued a call to bloggers asking them to blog about the women's contribution to crime fiction. This is being done in connection with the 25th anniversary of Sisters in Crime. There's no deadline for being a part of this project. You can find all the details here

While I enjoy books written by women authors, I thought it might be fun to write about female short story writers who write crime. :) Either way, it's a good opportunity to help writers get their names out to the reading public.

Hat tip to The Rap Sheet!

A Look Inside

For those of you who'd like an inside look at Pulp Ink head on over to Allan Guthrie's Criminal-e blog where he's posted the opening paragraphs of all the stories.

And Ron Brown has posted a review of Keith Rawson's new collection, "The Chaos We Know" on his blog, Criminal Thoughts of R Thomas Brown.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Who Said Shorts are Dead?

If you're looking for short stories to read, drop on over to Spinetingler where Brian Lindenmuth has gathered together a long list of collections and anthologies that out now or soon will be.

Not included on the list but well worth a read are two from Snubnose Press. Anthology "Speedloader", and a collection from Keith Rawson called "The Chaos We Knew". And available soon will be "Monkey Justice" from Patti Abbott and "Gumbo Ya-Ya" from Les Edgerton. And Snubnose is still open to submissions for collections, novellas, and novel length fiction.

And from Brian came this great article about putting together a novel that is actually a collection of short stories. I have been writing connected short stories for years, nice to see that there's actually a market for them. At the end of the article you'll find a list of novels done in short stories. And it's a long one!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pulp Ink

The anthology "Pulp Ink" went on sale today at Amazon and Smashwords and at one point was sitting in the #10 spot on the mystery anthology chart. The idea behind this antho was using the soundtrack and lines from the movie "Pulp Fiction" to create short stories.

Editors, Nigel Bird and Chris Rhatigan gathered together an amazing group of talented people who will just blow your socks off. And you don't have to believe me, check out Ron Brown's review of the stories here I do have to admit that this is the first time one of my stories has been "icked". :)

Market News

Literary zine "storySouth" has opened to submissions until December 15.

For those who write historical shorts you might try "Alt Hist". They are looking for historical and alternate history fiction shorts of under 10,000 words. They are a print and ebook publisher with subs through Submishmash. Pay is $10 or 1 copy.

Musa Publishing is a new enterprise which started up this month. Of interest to readers here is the fact that they're also starting a new zine called "Penumbra" which is looking for shorts of 500 to 3500 words in the sci-fi, fantasy, and horror genres. Payment is 5cents a word. They also have three calls listed for special issues with themes and deadlines for stories under 3000 words. You can find details here They're looking at an October 1 launch for the zine.

And for you sci-fi writers, we have Schrodinger's Mouse They're looking for stories of 2500 to 5000 words, stories under 1000 words have a flat pay rate of $15 and articles pay 2cents a word. There was no pay listed for longer stories but I think it might be the same as articles, something you'll need to check. They have a query form on their guidelines page.

Yellow Mama

The August issue of Yellow Mama has hit the virtual streets with stories from Jason Duke, Matthew C. Funk, and Jim Harrington, just to name just a few. And they've opened for submissions today! Check it out here

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Would You Look at that Cover! Now how cool is that cover? Still can't quite believe I'm in there as I've never in my life watched the movie, Pulp Fiction, which was the basic theme for this anthology.

Zines: What to Look For

In the last post, Ron asked if I'd put together some of the tell-tale signs that a zine doesn't meet professional standards. And yes, you can be a professional market without paying. :) As you know, many writers and organizations believe that if the writer isn't paid that it's not a pro market. But we're talking online zines here and unless you're writing sci-fi there are very few markets that pay professional rates.

1. One of the first things to look at is the over-all appearance of the zine. Is it readable? Is it easy to maneuver? Are the links working? Would you be proud to have your story displayed on the site or embarrassed to have anyone see it there?

2. Is there a submission page? Believe it or not, I've found sites that have no guidelines in place. All they have is an email address and a sentence or two that tells you send your best stuff. A good zine should have not only a submission address but a word count, formatting instructions, and a few paragraphs that explain what they're looking for.

3. Is there a masthead or page where you're introduced to the staff? It's nice to know who you're going to be working with. A short bio and link to the editor's personal blog can help a writer decide if they want to work with this person. And how they maintain their own websites and blogs is a good indicator of how they'll manage their zine.

4. Have the stories that are posted been edited? This also applies to editorial content. Are they filled with misspelled words? Are they formatted properly? Is the punctuation where it's supposed to be? Now, not everyone is going to like every story on a site, but after reading two or three, do you find yourself scratching your head and wondering how these stories ever got published? A good editor will publish the best stories they can find, they'll make sure that they're edited and easy to read.

5. You can generally tell how long a zine has been in business by scrolling to the bottom of the page and checking out the copyright date. On a blogzine, the archives will generally show how long they've been in business. New zines can be tricky because you don't know if there will actually be a first issue or not. And for zines that have been in business for a long time you can tell if the issues are posted in a timely manner or just helter-skelter.

6. How fast do they respond to submissions? If the response time listed is longer than three months you might want to find another market. Believe it or not, I've seen zines with eight months or longer response times. I can understand this with a professionally paying market because they'll be swamped with subs and it can take that long to wade through them. I have noticed that many zines are now posting submission periods where they accept subs for one month, then respond in the following month which makes it easy for both editor and writer.

That's some of the basics to look for. Every writer has to decide for themselves if they are comfortable with the market. You need to ask yourself if you can work within their guidelines, and can you format your story the way they want it done? And I know it's been said, but a writer really should study the market they're submitting to so they can be sure their writing is a fit before submitting.

Many writers refuse to submit to non-paying markets. You'll usually find the payment schedule in the guidelines or within a contract that is posted on the site. On the other hand, there are some non-paying markets such as Out of the Gutter and Needle (print zines) where the company you'll be keeping is worth more than a few cents a word. These zines also get reviewed in places like Bookgasm which is a huge plus especially if your story is singled out. And yes, there are online zines such as ThugLit(closed now), Beat to a Pulp, Spinetingler and PulpPusher where the company is stellar and you're proud to see your story posted alongside authors you admire.

I guess that pretty much wraps it up, but feel free to tell us what you look for when submitting and things that worry you about possible markets.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Starting a New Zine

I'm a huge fan of the online zines. They provide a place for beginning writers to cut their teeth by learning how to submit, deal with editors, and learn about rejection. And yes, with a few exceptions, they are looked down upon by many of the professional writers out there because they're not, for the most part, paying markets.

In the last few weeks I've found two new online markets, La Criminophile and Icemedia, for crime fiction. The blogs were set up and the calls for submissions issued, then bam, they were gone. No explanations, just vanished.

I was really excited about La Criminophile because I really believed that the people behind the zine had a great idea. Icemedia, I found a couple of days ago but didn't mention. Why? Because the editor had published one of her own stories as an example of what she was looking for, but reading through the story I found several misspellings. If she didn't care enough about her own work to edit it properly, how could she respect ours?

It is so easy to set up an ezine. Get an idea, set up a blog, and post a call for submissions. And this is the problem with many new zines. There's no thought put into it before the subs do or don't come rolling in. These are all things I look for when searching for new markets, you can almost tell who's in it for the long run and who's just starting up on a lark. And yeah, sometimes, they fool you.

I've been in on the beginnings of several new zines. The editors asked for feedback on their ideas. My first question has always been, "Are you sure you're up for this?". Zines are a lot of hard work, from setting up the pages to editing the stories and writing rejection letters. You're also going to have to put up with a lot of shit from writers who don't have a clue how to act professionally.

To start, you need to have a vision of what you want your zine to be and stick with it. You need to surround yourself with a support system of people who are willing to help with the work, especially if your zine takes off. You need to know that running a zine is time consuming and will eat into your writing time and your family time if you aren't careful.

If that doesn't scare you and you're still willing to get into the zine business here are a few tips that might help.

1. Run your zine like a business. You're offering a market for writers so be as professional as you expect them to be. Set up guidelines that say more than, "send me your best shit" but don't get so nit-picky that you scare off potential contributors. Set up a page that explains who you are and why you're getting into the zine business. If you're a weekly, monthly, or quarterly set the pub dates and hit them. People will only show up to read if you're there on time. They won't come back if your weekly issue turns into a whenever-I-feel-like-it issue. And writers get tired of their stories being held in limbo until you finally decide to put it up. Your new zine is a business, you're self-employed, and if you don't do the work it won't get done and you've failed.

2. Most zine editors are writers and you have a circle of writer friends and writers you admire. Tell them what you're doing and ask for submissions for your first issue. Most of them will be glad to supply a story, either new or a reprint. Once you've got your issue ready, post it. With this issue you've given new writers an example of what you're looking for, you've set the tone of your zine, and writers looking for markets know that you're taking this new project seriously. Don't believe me? Take a look at Needle magazine and Beat to a Pulp, that's how they got started.

3. Have fun with it. Yes, it's work, but it's also your "baby", so to speak. If you're having fun putting it together, it will show. Readers and writers both will respect the trouble you've gone to for them and they will spread the word. That word of mouth will be the best advertisement your zine will get to help turn it into a success.

There are probably a million other things that you need to know if you go ahead and start a new zine. What I've posted here are just a few basics I've learned along the way. Enough to know that I don't want to be in charge, but has given me a healthy respect for those who take on the job and succeed.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Wish Fulfillment Characters

I'd never heard the term Mary-Sue before this weekend, but boy, has it been making the rounds! Here are a few more links for those interested in learning about wish fulfillment characters :)

From Zoe Marriott She also gives us the name for the male counterpart Gary-Stu.

In response to Zoe's post we have Holly Black's

And then there's Christa Faust who has coined a new term for us, the Jenna Sue, after one of her characters was termed a Mary-Sue by a reviewer.

And off the top of my head, here's a few Gary-Stu characters that came to mind while I was reading these posts. But truth be told, I doubt that any of them have been referred to as such by reviewers. Jack Reacher, Dirk Pitt, Doc Savage, and Tarzan. How about you? When you write, do you have a wish fulfillment character in mind? You know, that perfect creature you'd like to be.

Friday, August 5, 2011

And Just Because

I enjoyed this essay by Sarah Rees Brennan called "Ladies, Don't Let Anyone Tell You You're Not Awesome".

Burnt Bridge

The August online edition of "Burnt Bridge" is live with an interview with PulpPress publisher, Danny Hogan and fiction by Matthew C. Funk and David James Keaton.

Market Updates

Schlock magazine has opened submissions to their December issue with the theme apocalypse. The deadline is November 1. They also have some podcasts up this month for those who enjoy listening to their shorts. Check them out here

Back a while ago I mentioned the new market "Comets and Criminals". I'm happy to report that they've moved their opening issue up to October 1 from the projected January 1 launch. You can keep track of what's going on and see what stories have been accepted so far on their blog. The zine is here This is a paying market for sci-fi, crime, and western fiction.


"Ride" is the name of Keith Snyder's bicycle fiction ebook anthology. He has extended the deadline to September 21 for short fiction with a bicycle theme. You can find the details here

Monday, August 1, 2011

Frank Bill

There's a great interview with short story writer, Frank Bill, over at the Gutter Books blog. Frank is the author of a collection of shorts called "Crimes in Southern Indiana".

If you'd like to win a copy of his collection drop on over to Ron Earl Phillips' blog and enter his contest. He's looking for stories about where you live. The deadline is August 25 for up to 2000 words in any genre. You can find the details here

And if you'd like to know more about Frank and his books stop by his blog, House of Grit.

First of the Month Market Openings

Well, it's the first of August and if you're looking for an open market stop by Duotrope's recent updates page and you'll find 72 markets that have opened for your submitting pleasure today. Among those of interest to readers here are Shock Totem, Red Penny Papers, and Ghostlight.

I also had word from BV Lawson that The Baltimore Review is switching to an online journal with more content in 2012. They're using Submishmash for submissions. You can find all the details at

And if you're not reading BV's excellent blog "In Reference to Murder", you should be. Not only does she keep you up to date on all things mystery but she has one of the best sources of markets and reference sites available for mystery writers. Check it out here

New Issues

Issue #7 of Crimefactory has gone live with work from Sean Doolittle, Todd Robinson, Matt Funk and Edward Grainger, just to name a very few. Check it out here

And the lovely Patti Abbott is this month's featured author at All Due Respect with her story "The Perfect Day".