Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Is There a Story Hiding in Here?

There's nothing I hate worse than writing a perfectly good story only to discover that I missed the story entirely. What? Huh?

Oh, yeah, you can miss the story. For me, I was so busy trying to fit my entire cast of characters, who I think might work in a novel, into an 1800 word short story, that I missed the story. Man, I had characters up the ying-yang and their being there made perfect sense to me because I built the entire story around my need to have them there. But a member of my crit group said you've got way too many people in this story and shouldn't this story just be about Harry?

Pause for the head thumping here. Yes, the story was about Harry and what he needed to do. I didn't need all those other people running around (there were about eight of them) and I certainly didn't need to set the story on my fictional street. Nope. So, now I'm back to the drawing board and writing this story the way it should be written, by focusing on Harry and what he needs instead of trying to write a novel in 1800 words. Sheesh.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Crime and Suspense Update

Crime and Suspense opened up for new submissions today. So, if you'd like a chance to get a story into this venue before it closes at the end of the year, get writing. And be sure that you read the guidelines carefully. Mr. Burton is a stickler for getting things right.

Slip Your Reading Glasses On

The Spring issue of Mysterical E has hit the streets and one of my favorite short story writers, Patti Abbot, has a great story in the new issue called "Hunting and Fishing in the Keys". I was so sure where that story was going but when it got there, it wasn't at all what I expected.

When you're done there, click on over to BTAP for the Weekly Punch. Albert Tucher is up with a new Diana story, and I think its one of his best yet, called "No Hands".

Another friend of the corner, Paul Brazill, has not one but two stories up at "A Twist of Noir" and Brian over at Book Spot Central has done a review of "Sins of the Father". Three out of five stars ain't too shabby.

A big round of Snoopy Dances for these lovely friends of The Corner. And I know I've probably missed somebody, but I'm waaaay behind in my reading.

And if your writer's brain needs a little lift drop on by John Connolly's blog, And Another Thing, and read this blog entry http://www.johnconnollybooks.com/2009/03/gates.html It's a wonderful thing to realize that even the biggies in the business have their doubts but aren't afraid to push the envelope into something new and different.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Time for the Voting to Commence

Here is the full list of nominees for the Second Annual Spinetingler Awards. Winners are determined by public vote, the voting is open until April 25, so get on out and vote! Here's the url to the voting poll http://www.spinetinglermag.com/node/35
Congratulations to all the nominees!

The nominees for the 2nd Annual Spinetingler Awards are:

New Voice

Toby Barlow - SHARP TEETH
Declan Hughes - THE PRICE OF BLOOD
Brian McGilloway - BORDERLANDS
Castle Freeman JR - GO WITH ME
Cornelia Read - THE CRAZY SCHOOL
Kevin Wignall - WHO IS CONRAD HIRST?
Austin Williams - CRIMSON ORGY

Rising Star

Christa Faust - MONEY SHOT
Jeffrey Ford - THE SHADOW YEAR
Allan Guthrie - SAVAGE NIGHT
Andrew Klavan - EMPIRE OF LIES
Olen Steinhauer - VICTORY SQUARE


Lawrence Block - HIT AND RUN
Dennis Lehane - THE GIVEN DAY
James Sallis - SALT RIVER

Graphic Novel

100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Femme Noir by Christopher Mills and Joe Staton
Hawaiian Dick by B. Clay Moore and Steven
GriffinIncognegro by Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece
Scalped by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera

Best Editor

Ben LeRoy - Bleak House
Charles Ardai - Hard Case Crime
Neil Nyren - Putnam
John Schoenfelder - Thomas Dunne

Best Reviewer

Ali Karim
Larry Gandle
Lesa Holstine
Karen Chisholm
Glenn Harper

Best Publisher

Bleak House
Hard Case Crime

Special Services to the Industry

Declan Burke: Crime Always Pays
Barbara Franchi: Reviewing The Evidence
J. Kingston Pierce: The Rap Sheet
John & Ruth Jordan: Crimespree
Peter Rozovsky: Detectives Beyond Borders
Ruth Jordan & Judy Bobolik: Bouchercon 2008

Best Cover

AT THE CITY’S EDGE by Marcus Sakey - Cover design by The DesignWorks Group
DEATH WAS THE OTHER WOMAN by Linda L Richards - Cover design by David Baldeosignh Rotstein
EMPTY AFTER AFTER by Reed Farrel Coleman - Cover design by 2Faced Designs
FIFTY TO ONE by Charles Ardai - Cover design by Cooley Design Lab
MAD DOGS by Brian Hodge - Cover design by Jill Bauman
SHARP TEETH by Toby Barlow - Cover design by Leah Carlson-Stanisic

Best Short Story on the Web

Cold Rifts by Sandra Seamans (Originally published at Crooked)
Fruits by Steve Mosby (Originally published ay Spinetingler)
Hard Bite by by Anonymous-9 (Originally published at Beat to a Pulp)
Lenny and Earl Go Shooting Off Their Mouths by Ray Morrison (originally published at Word Riot)
Random Acts of Fatherhood by Robert Pesa (Originally published at Darkest Before the Dawn)Red Hair and Black Leather by Jordan Harper (Originally published at Thuglit)
She Watches Him Swim by Claude Lalumiere (Originally published at Back Alley)
Sisters Under the Skin by Naomi Johnson (Originally published at A Twist of Noir)
They Take You by Kyle Minor (Originally published at Plots With Guns)
Wishing on Whores by John Weagly (Originally published at Thieves Jargon)

Winners in each category will be determined by public vote. Voting will be open until April 25, 2009. Please follow this link to cast your vote in any or all of the categories, to see the covers nominated and to follow the links to the short stories.

Congratulations to all the nominees. Winners will be announced April 30.

*Please note that the voting boxes are inside a box with a scroll bar.

My Take on Flash Fiction

Below is an essay that was published over at Book Spot Central last October. It pretty much sums up my feelings about flash fiction. Of course, Grim Graffiti and Muzzle Flash are gone now but there are others who have stepped up to take their place like A Twist of Noir and The Flash Fiction Offensive. Flash isn't for everyone but there needs to be a place for every kind of writing in the crime genre. A place for beginners to spread their wings and professionals to hone their skills and try new things so they don't get stale.

Crime Fiction’s Bastard Child
by Sandra Seamans

Mention flash fiction to some crime zine editors and they act like they’ve been force-fed the barrel of a gun. Anthony Neil Smith, editor of the newly revived Plots With Guns, said in a recent interview, “I hate ‘flash fiction’. Ugh. I’d rather have 2000 words that ‘feels’ like 1000.” His attitude reflects the view of many crime fiction editors towards the ever growing flash fiction niche being carved out in the crime genre.

So, what is this “crime flash” that’s rocking the genre’s boat? The flash stories being written and offered up to readers tends to pick at the scabs of society revealing the darkness under all those beautifully arranged tea cozies. They’re dark and dirty, with language that would make a drug dealer blush. And the sex? There’s more prostitutes working flash than walking the streets.
And how did this explosion of crime flash on the internet get started? I’d say it was Tribe’s aptly named site, Flashing in the Gutters. Started on a dare, The Gutters opened for business in January of 2006 and flourished until Tribe shut it down in December of that same year. The Gutters gave crime flash dignity.

Tribe leveled the playing field for writers in the crime genre. The word count topped out at 750 so everyone had to cut and prune to bring their stories down to the bare bones and still contain all the elements of a short story. Tribe had a knack for combining talented novelist like Allen Guthrie and Victor Gishler, with short story writers like Sarah Weinman and Stephen D. Rogers, then spicing it up with new to the genre writers like Sandra Ruttan and Patti Abbott for a great mix of stories and feedback for writers. The place rocked with words and stories and Tribe made everyone welcome, no matter their experience or lack thereof.

When The Gutters closed, the slack was picked up by sites like DZ Allen’s MuzzleFlash and Mystery Dawg’s Powder Burn Flash, with several zines like Grim Graffiti and Spinetingler posting flash fiction onto their virtual pages. Spinetingler even going so far as to offer up a special flash fiction issue in Spring of ‘08. On the print side of crime fiction, only Matt Louis’s Out of the Gutter includes flash.

With few markets and no pay, why are more and more writers jumping on the crime flash bandwagon? Easy. Number one, it gets their name out there in front of readers and the bios that are attached allow readers to follow writers that they enjoy. Second, they can explore characters, grow them into longer stories and possibly a novel. If a writer has enough stories out there, he has a ready made fan base for the day he finally gets a novel published. Third, and probably the most exciting, a writer can explore subjects that don’t lend themselves to mystery markets like Alfred Hitchcock or Ellery Queen. Flash fiction allows a writer to take a risk with their writing, to explore topics that are off limits in conventional crime fiction. With the freedom of flash, even established authors can take a story over the top without fear of reprisals from their base readers.

Is there a big difference between a short story and a flash story besides the brevity? On the surface, no. All crime fiction relies on twists and turns with a surprise at the end. How else does a writer keep the reader involved, willing to go along with the protagonist? The only difference being that there is no finesse with flash, no one to hold the reader’s hand and walk him slowly through the story. The reader is dropped right into the middle of the action and never allowed to catch his breath, rather like an afternoon quickie - fast and furious, then break out the cigarettes.

And perhaps that’s why many readers prefer the short story form. With the traditional short story they’re allowed to stroll down that dark alley exploring all the cracks and crevices, getting to know the players better, taking time to look at the scenery, something flash doesn’t have the time for. Flash is out in the open and in your face, roaring down the street like a drive-by shooting.

Crime flash fiction may never get the respectability that it deserves, but I believe that it’s helping to change the face and tone of the crime genre by opening reader’s and writer’s minds to the possibilities that exist outside of the mystery writing box.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Case of the Missing Rant

Earlier today I posted a major rant about something I'd read on another blog that had upset me on several levels. As I wrote, the thrust of the rant changed and became the question of why do writers feel the need to put down other forms of writing just because they don't like them. I didn't want the post to feel like an attack on another writer, which wasn't my intent but could be read as such, so I deleted it.

But I'd still like to throw a couple of questions out to you guys.

Why do writers feel the need to attack other writers? In the original post I referred to Stephen King's comments about Stephenie Meyer's skills as a writer, but I've found a lot of writers making nasty comments around the web about writers whose work they don't like or don't feel is up to their standards, either in form or genre (the cozy/noir wars). I mean, come on, none of us stepped out of the womb writing, we had to learn the process word by word, year by year until some editor took a chance on us.

My other question is why do writers feel the need to attack the different forms of writing that exist out there. Novelists look down their noses at short story writers, short story writers look down their noses at flash writers and, heck, everyone looks down their noses at poets and reviewers (just kidding guys). Every form of writing requires a certain discipline that has to be learned and honed by years of practice. Not everyone can achieve success in every form but they can try and in their trying we should applaud their efforts to learn, not slap them down because they're not up to our standards or they don't write in our preferred form or genre.

Got an opinion or a rant of your own? Feel free to vent in the comments.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Doubting Writer

Do you ever wonder why you write? I mean think about it, you spend your time putting words down on a page, carefully crafting a story, when all the while you have no idea if it will ever be seen by anyone besides yourself. Which begs the question, is writing for yourself enough?

And then there's the frustration of the submission/rejection syndrome. The frustration of wondering if you're ever going to be good enough to crack those upper tier markets. The frustration of second guessing yourself, wondering if you're smart enough or talented enough to actually be a writer, until you just want to toss every word you've ever written into the fire and walk away from the desk to live a normal, word-free, life.

And still you come back to sit at the desk and put pen to paper and fingers to keyboard crafting yet another story. Are we all just crazy? Or is this what it means to be a writer? How do you deal with the doubts?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Another Zine Shutting Down

Just read the news over at BV Lawson's excellent blog In Reference to Murder that Crime and Suspense will be shutting down at the end of the year. Presently they're closed to subs but I will let you know if they open up again so you can slip a story into one of the last issues.

Crime and Suspense is a subscription zine so the stories were only available to paying customers, but Mr. Tony Burton, the editor, has opened the archives so the stories are available to everyone. Just click on the Subscriber's Area and treat yourself to some new and old authors and their stories. Oh, and for all you Bo Fexler fans out there, check out the May/June 2008 issue. Urls to the left, happy reading, everyone.

Roll Out the Red Carpet

We've got a chorus line full of Snoopy Dances going here, folks. Sandra Ruttan has just announced the finalists for the second annual Spinetingler Awards and Wow! Just Wow!

Spinetingler Awards: Best Short Story On The Web NomineesMarch 23rd, 2009 by Sandra_Ruttan Filed under Book, Mystery, News.

The full list of nominees for the second annual Spinetingler Awards will be announced in a matter of days. The Spinetingler nominees have been selected by an editorial panel; the winners will be determined by public vote through an online voting system that will allow readers to have their say in each of the ten categories.

In anticipation of the pending announcement, we’ve decided to announce the nominees in the short story category early to allow readers the opportunity to check out some of the short fiction that we felt stood out this year. The nominees are:

· Cold Rifts by Sandra Seamans (Originally published at Crooked) - http://www.podiumfinishes.com/Crooked1.pdf

· Fruits by Steve Mosby (Originally published ay Spinetingler) - http://www.spinetinglermag.com/library/s08/fruits.html

· Hard Bite by by Anonymous-9 (Originally published at Beat to a Pulp) - http://www.beattoapulp.com/stor/2008/1221_a9_HardBite.cfm

· Lenny and Earl Go Shooting Off Their Mouths by Ray Morrison (originally published at Word Riot) - http://www.wordriot.org/template_2.php?ID=1532

· Random Acts of Fatherhood by Robert Pesa (Originally published at Darkest Before the Dawn) - http://darknessbefore.blogspot.com/2008/11/randon-acts-of-fatherhood-robert-peza.html

· Red Hair and Black Leather by Jordan Harper (Originally published at Thuglit) - http://www.thuglit.com/zine/thug20/text/Redhair.pdf

· She Watches Him Swim by Claude Lalumière (Originally published at Back Alley) - http://www.backalleywebzine.com/she%20watches%20him%20swim_lalumiere.htm

· Sisters Under the Skin by Naomi Johnson (Originally published at A Twist of Noir)http://a-twist-of-noir.blogspot.com/2008/12/twist-of-noir-026-naomi-johnson.html

· They Take You by Kyle Minor (Originally published at Plots With Guns) - http://www.plotswithguns.com/3Minor.htm

· Wishing on Whores by John Weagly (Originally published at Thieves Jargon) - http://thievesjargon.com/workview.php?work=1251

Head on out and start reading guys. I've read most of these stories and they're great. Huge Snoopy Dances going out to Anonymous-9 and David and Elaine at Beat to a Pulp, and Christopher Grant's A Twist of Noir, all good friends of The Corner. And an especially big Thank You to Geoff Eighinger for accepting my story "Cold Rifts" for his zine Crooked. Kisses, Hugs, and Snoopy Dances all around!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Flash Markets

I've put up the links for some of the flash fiction markets that are out there. Most of these I'm familiar with, some I've been published in and others, well, I'm just not literary enough to crack. While I was looking around for links, I stumbled across two new markets. Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers, I found at The Rap Sheet. Flash Fire 500, I found at Duotrope. Both of these are new, having just started up in January. Flash Fire also is for adults only and has a blogger block that you have to click on to get into the site. And speaking of Duotrope, I did a search for flash markets and got 763 hits, so there are a lot of choices out there if you're willing to go looking.

Many of the zines in the top section, like MystericalE, Crime and Suspense, and Bad Things, also take flash fiction. Others, like The Flash Fiction Offensive, Literary Bitch and Powder Burn Flash are straight flash markets. Even some of the print venues that are listed take flash. Check the guidelines, folks. That's especially important with the flash markets. Many of those listed cut off at 500 words, others at 1000, and there are several that are 200 or 250. Word counts matter in the flash arena. There's even names for the different categories, a 55er is self-explanatory and a drabble is 100 words exactly.

In the resources column you'll find several listings that you should sign up for if you're really looking for flash markets. The Flash Fiction Flash newsletter comes once a month and is filled with every type of flash market out there.

Like, I said, the markets are out there, you just have to be willing to put in the time and work to find the ones that fit your stories.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Deadlines Looming

Finding markets is a big part of a writer's job, especially if you're writing shorts. A couple of posts in different places reminded me that every zine you find isn't always an open market. So, how do you know and how do you to find out?

There's a couple of ways to figure this out. Check out the last posting, there's always dates on the issues or the last post if it's on a blog site. If you're looking at one that says Fall 2007 you can pretty much assume that they've folded. Some of the good owners will state in their guidelines that they're no longer open to subs but will leave the archives up so writers can link to their stories. In the last couple of years, many zines and print mags have started blogs or have a news section on their site with submission updates and publishing news. Check them out. When was the last post? And finally, if there's nothing else to check, scroll down to the bottom of the page, most zines will have a copyright note at the bottom if it's not the current year, it's probably closed.

E-mailing a query to an editor or publisher is another way to find out if the market is open, that's how I discovered that Pine Tree Mysteries was open to subs once again. And, of course, not all editors will respond. I know, I know, all of this is extra work, but writing isn't all fun. In the end, if you're going to stick with this writing bug, you have to realize that, yes, indeed, it is a business and you're self-employed. Doing the heavy lifting is entirely up to you.

***I almost forgot that at Ralan.com there is a dead markets listing. It's all in alphabetical order and gives the date of death.

And now, the looming deadlines:

A Twist of Noir's Alienation contest. You've got eleven more days to get those stories in, folks. Christopher says the entries are slow coming in and he'd like to see a lot more before the deadline. http://a-twist-of-noir.blogspot.com/2009/01/interlude-5.html And don't forget, first prize is $25 and there's no entry fee.

Crossed Genres western themed issue is down to the last few days, too. Again, March 31 is the deadline. Urls to the right.

Big Pulp also has a March 31 deadline.

Shroud is closing to subs on March 30, so you've only got ten days left if you're looking to submit here. But don't worry, if you miss this deadline they open again on June 1.

Over at Bad Things, Chris Pemental has put up a notice that he's going to do the weekly flash that I mentioned before. So, for you guys who love flash, check out the guidelines and get cracking.

And don't forget Crooked, Geoff is now publishing as the stories come in and he's put quite a few up in the last few weeks. Drop on over there and have a read, leave some comments ( writers love their egos rubbed once in a while ) and submit something. It's not just publishers that keep zines afloat, but the writers who submit and advertise them so readers can find the stories.

And a question for you guys. Paul Brazill had a flash published in the daily FlashShots ( snoopy dancing is recommended here, folks ) which reminded me that I have a lot of flash markets in my files. Since I started this blog with just crime zines and markets in mind, I left off quite a few markets that publish flash, most of them non-paying, but if you guys would like them listed in a separate flash column, I'd be happy to post them for you. Just drop me a note in the comments and if there's enough interest I'll put together a list for you.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

They're Alive!

Last week I ran across a blog post by Rafe McGregor asking if the short story was dead. http://rafemcgregor.blogspot.com/2009/03/short-story-rip.html I think Mr. McGregor was thinking more along the lines of actually making a living or getting paid for short stories like they did back in the 30's and 40's and right up until the sixties when there were a variety of magazines that published short stories.

While short story writers no longer have the print venues we used to, I believe that zines have taken up a lot of the slack. Hey, just take a glance to the left. There are a lot a zines out there and many of them on that list actually pay. Yeah, I know it's mostly a token payment but it's better than a slap in the face, right?

But there's something else I've noticed going on in the short story arena lately. People are talking about them, and not just writers. There are now four review sites for short stories. Anyone looking for something quick to read can find them through these sites.

Nasty, Brutish, Short http://nastybrutishshort.blogspot.com/

Eastern Standard Crime http://easternstandardcrime.blogspot.com/

Book Spot Central launched their new review site last weekend with reviews of 5 stories and promises to do the same every week at http://www.bookspotcentral.com/2009/03/short-thoughts-on-short-fiction/ That link is to last week's review you can find them as always with the link to the left. There's also a spot on their forum where they discuss shorts in every genre.

The last one is a print venue with Bill Crider manning a new column in Mystery Scene Magazine. And yes, the link is on the left.

For other short story spots you can check out:

Criminal Brief http://criminalbrief.com/ where they discuss writing short stories.

Cullen Gallagher at Pulp Serenade posts Stories for Sunday where he reviews a golden oldie short and provides a link to the story http://pulpserenade.blogspot.com/

Author Kelly Para provides a site for flash fiction called Fictional Musings where she post flash stories from beginning and experienced authors. Lots of good reading in the archives and if you've got a flash send it along and Kelly will publish it for you. http://ficmusings.blogspot.com/

And if you think there's a lack of good stories out there, check out Story Souths Million Writers award that's going on right now. With two weeks still to go for nominations, there are close to 200 stories and their urls posted. This is a great place to find new markets and check out stories. And you writers and editors out there should be nominating stories because it does drive traffic to the stories and the site. http://www.storysouth.com/millionwriters.html

And finally, if you don't think you can make a living writing short stories, check out Michael Bracken's blog http://crimefictionwriter.blogspot.com/ Not all of his income is from short stories. I think he broke it down last year and it was about 1/4 but still, that's nothing to sneeze at. And he doesn't confine himself just to crime but also publishes in the women's true romance magazines, sometimes multiple stories in a single issue. His blog is the place to go when you think there are no markets and that writing shorts is a waste of time. He shows you what can be done if you're willing to do the work.

So, are short stories dead? HELL NO! They're alive and well and living on the Internet.

For Barbara

and anyone else who'd like the recipe.

Sour Cream Cinnamon Rolls

1 cup sour cream
2 tblsp shortening
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 pkg. active dry yeast
¼ cup lukewarm water
1 egg
3 cups flour
2 tblsp soft butter
1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Heat sour cream in saucepan until lukewarm. Stir in shortening, sugar, baking soda and salt.
Sprinkle yeast on lukewarm water; stir to dissolve. Add yeast and egg to sour cream mixture. Gradually mix in enough flour to make a soft dough.

Turn out on a floured surface and knead lightly for a minute, form into a ball and let rest for 5 minutes.

Roll into 13 X 9” rectangle. Spread with butter. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon ( I mix the sugar and cinnamon together first ). Roll up like jelly roll from long side. Cut into 12 slices. Place in greased 13 x 9 x 2” baking pan. Let rise until doubled, about 1 ½ hours.

Bake in 375 oven 22 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan; cool on rack. While warm, drizzle with confectioners Sugar Icing. Makes 12 rolls.

Confectioners Sugar Icing: combine 1 cup confectioners sugar, 2 tblsp milk and 1 tsp vanilla: beat until smooth.

Just a warning, the dough is quite soft and sticky. I like to divide the slices between two 9” round cake pans, it makes it easier to remove the rolls from the pans.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Once - Twice

Three times fabulous! There's a new meme going around called Five Fabulous Blogs and I've been tagged by three guys who (whom?) I consider great blog friends. Take a bow gentlemen as I tag you right back per the rules.

David Cranmer http://davidcranmer.blogspot.com/
Scott Parker http://scottdparker.blogspot.com/
Paul Brazill http://pauldbrazill.blogspot.com/

And having to choose just two more when there are so many great blogs out there that I read, most of which have been tagged already, like Patti Abbott and Barbara Martin. So, I'll go with Clair Dickson's Bo Fexler blog where Clair has been charting the beginnings of Bo this past week. http://bofexler.blogspot.com/ and the understated Gerald So http://geraldso.blogspot.com/
who has a knack for pointing me in the direction of some excellent TV shows. And please check out the links to the left for so many other great blogs that I enjoy and hope you will too.

If you guys want to play, tag me back, then add four more blogs to make a fabulous five. There's a lovely icon that goes along with this meme that you can pick up at David's blog. As you can tell from mine, I haven't learned the finer points of pictures on blogs.

Now, for the rest of this meme I have to post five fabulous addictions in my life.

1. Ralan.com I'm constantly checking for new markets there and looking to see what's open for subs.

2. CrimeSpot.net Yeah, I'm a blog whore and from CrimeSpot I can see the whole world.

3. Short stories. I love writing them and reading them (As if you couldn't guess that one!)

4. Computer Solitaire. Enough said.

5. My homemade sour cream cinnamon buns.

I'd just like to add that while I haven't been blogging very long it's nice to know that so many of you find this blog helpful and that, of course, makes the whole endeavor worthwhile. Cheers and hugs and Snoopy Dances for everyone!

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Have you ever imagined that one perfect place where you could just sit down and write to your heart's content? You know, that place where there are no interruptions, the weather is always perfect, the coffee's always hot and the beer's winter cold.

I know that place, it's alive in my head. A small cottage with a big front porch that looks out over the most perfect spring-fed lake I've ever seen. The sun's slipping up over the mountain casting a pink hue over the entire world. I'm wrapped in an over-sized sweater, sitting on my porch sipping coffee, the laptop sitting on the wicker table beside me waiting for my fingers to stroke the keyboard.

Over the scent of the coffee, the aroma of locust blossoms blend with the wild scent of multi-flora rose to waken my senses and open the possibilities of the day. I reach for the computer and start to pound the keys watching the story blossom on the screen in front of me. And the world is perfect.

Okay, you can wake up now. Nobody has that perfect place to write. Let's face it, most of us are lucky if we can grab an hour here or there to hit the keyboard and as we work our way through the day, our story spins itself out in our head waiting for those few precious moments when we capture the magic of those words on paper.

The real writer grabs every free second to write down words and sentences to compose their stories. They don't sit around waiting for the perfect situation, the perfect place, the perfect day, the perfect...well, let's face reality here.

The world isn't perfect and if you keep waiting for perfect, you'll never get that novel or short story written. You'll live in the world of wanna-be. You'll be on your death bed still waiting for the perfect moment to write that book you always wanted to write. And it will be too late.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fractured by Karin Slaughter

I first heard of Karin Slaughter from an interview gone wrong with Ian Rankin back in 2007. I won't repeat all that went on but the upshot was that Karin was one of those writers who wrote graphic violence. Now, my library caters to the cozy readers. If there's a cat in the mystery, it's stocked. The most graphic books they carry are written by Patterson and Sandford, so I was surprised to run across one of Ms. Slaughter's books in the paperback rack last year.

That book was the first in her Grant County series, "Blindsighted". And while the book was good, there wasn't any graphic violence that I couldn't live with. I've read far worse. While "Blindsighted" was a good read, I didn't go in search of more books in the series. The characters were interesting but they just didn't appeal to me.

Then last week I picked up "Fractured" and couldn't read it fast enough. While I didn't know it at the time this book is the third in Slaughter's Will Trent series. Again, not any of the graphic violence that I'd been led to expect, just a deep emotional ride of a story. But what really struck me about this book was the two main characters, Will Trent and Faith Mitchell. Both of these characters have issues that they're dealing with but neither uses them as a crutch. They don't blame their past or their handicaps for their failures in life, they use them to solve the case. A refreshing change from many of the crime books out there.

But for me, the real revelation was in the writing. I'd read once that you should put everything you have into the book you're writing, hold nothing back for the next one, and this book does it perfectly. It made me realize that by putting it all out there you satisfy the reader. When the book was done, it was done. No cliffhangers involving the characters personal life or the storyline. If there's never another book in the series, it doesn't matter, this one was complete. And if she puts another one out there, hell, yes, I'll read it.

This book was a great read and I highly recommend it as a reader. And as a writer, it made me realize that what I've been trying to accomplish with my character, Rachael Reilly, can be done and successfully. I learned that I don't have to keep to a strict genre pattern in my story, just because that's how it's always been done.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

On Writing

It's been a lovely week for finding posts about writing in the blog world. It all started with a conversation about setting on Patti Abbott's blog http://pattinase.blogspot.com/2009/03/setting.html then Charles Gramlich took it one step further at his blog Razored Zen with the post comfort vs discomfort http://charlesgramlich.blogspot.com/

Next up was a beautiful post by Tom Piccirilli called "The Gift and the Disappointment". This is how we all should feel when we write. http://thecoldspot.blogspot.com/2009/03/gift-disappointment.html

At Poe's Deadly Daughters, Elizabeth Zevlin talks about the voices in our heads. Hey, we aren't really crazy! http://poesdeadlydaughters.blogspot.com/2009/03/voice-in-authors-head.html

And to wrap it up nicely is Alexandra Sokaloff at The Dark Salon with her post "Your First Draft is Always Going to Suck" http://thedarksalon.blogspot.com/2009/03/your-first-draft-is-always-going-to.html While you're visiting The Dark Salon you might want to check out some of the back posts. Reading Alexandra's blog is like sitting in on a creative writing class. Lots of good stuff there.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Snoopy Dancing at A Twist of Noir

A Twist of Noir has some of the best noir stories around these days. Don't believe me? Drop on by and check out the latest crop of stories Christopher has posted. Two I recommend are "Easter Egg Hunt" by Michael Pelc #55. Michael's a member of my online flash critique group and, boy, does he know how to creep you out with a story. The second story is by a good friend of The Corner, Paul Brazill. His story is #53 "The Magic Hour". If you like black humor, you're gonna love this one. So here's a big Snoopy Dance going out for two very fine writers.

And don't forget that the deadline for A Twist of Noir's alienation contest is fast approaching. March 31 is the deadline, you can find the guidelines here http://a-twist-of-noir.blogspot.com/2009/01/interlude-5.html

Monday, March 9, 2009

Generating Ideas

A lot of successful writers complain that the first question they're always asked is where do you get your ideas. What surprises me is that this question bugs them so much. Of course newbies starting out want to know how to come up with that brilliant premise that will snag them that million dollar contract (extra large chuckle here), who wouldn't?

But the truth is, we generate our own ideas by the way we look at the world around us, part of that write what you know that's driven into every writer's head. So, where do you get your ideas? Here's a couple I've been mulling over.

Have you ever seen a discarded grocery bag or box laying alongside the road? Sure you have, but have you ever imagined that there's a head in the bag? I always thought that would make a cool story. Then they found one - yeah, a head in a plastic garbage bag - tossed out on the side of the interstate. One of those trash pickers you see cleaning the side of the road found it. The Staties then did a roadside search and found all the parts of a woman's body except her hands. They were found at the suspect's home.

Sounds pretty far-fetched doesn't it? But now you've got a basis for a story and here's where the fun part comes in. You start to play the "what if?" game. What if the suspect is being framed. Come on, think about it, would you leave the hands of your victim on the heat duct in your basement? That's where they found them. Want to go deeper? What if the trash picker was the victim's father or the killer? You've now got a revenge story or a cat and mouse game with the cops. Or what if you start with the owners of a new home finding the hands? What if they're from more than one victim? Now you've got a serial killer story.

The other idea that's been tugging the "what if?" strings is this huge brass horse that's bolted to the stone frame that houses a neighbor's mailbox. I've even gone so far as to ask my husband how you'd cut this damn thing off to steal it. This is strictly a country story that revolves around the world I live in. Most folks around here don't have a pot to piss in and the price of scrap metal is at an all time high. Everyone is stripping down old cars and farm equipment and hauling them to the junk yard. So, what if someone wanted to steal this horse for scrap? Rumor has it that the owner of the house is a drug dealer, easy enough assumption with the electronic gates and the dogs roaming loose at night. But don't forget you're looking at good old boys here. If the city bred drug dealer kills the kid stealing the horse what's going to happen?

As a writer, you have to look at the world around you in a "what if?" way. And it's not just the world you see, but things you hear or read. A simple phase can generate at least a half dozen "what if?" questions. Don't think so? What if this - "The right or wrong of it didn't matter" - the real writers out there are already turning that over in their heads. A crime about to take place, a revenge story, buying or selling stolen goods, a cop about to step over the line, a hit man taking aim on his target, or a rape victim deciding against an abortion.

There are ideas everywhere, you just have to start writing and let the story take you in the "what if?" direction that feels right to you.

On another note, the newest issue of Pine Tree Mysteries is up. If you're wondering what the editor is looking for or just want some new reading material, check it out. Support your local zines, folks.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Darkest Night

Perhaps it's the changing of the clocks or Barbara's great story, "A Stash of Goods", over at Beat to a Pulp but it seems to me that most crimes and crime stories take place at night, or in a dark place (oops the electric went out, a cellar or attic in a house, a cave or mine shaft, the woods), or during a storm. And maybe its just human nature to want to hide our darkest thoughts and deeds under a midnight cloud. And is it this fear of the dreaded dark that has us turn our clock forward and back so we can grasp every last bit of daylight to push back the nightmare fears that walk in the dark?

If you're stopping by while the sun is shining click on over to BTAP (link to the left) and read Barbara's story. If it's after dark, grab your Teddy Bear or your honey before you start to read. Yep, we're Snoopy Dancing here at The Corner again! Way to go, Barbara! Now there's a lady who knows how to use the dark to send a chill up your spine.

And just as an afterthought. Can anyone name a short story where the crime takes place in broad daylight? I know of one. "The Payoff" by Stanley Ellin takes place in the sunshine of Miami Beach. Now there's a short that will rock your perception of a crime story.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Dash of This - A Pinch of That

First up, the Story South Million Writers Award for fiction. While there is a cash award given to the best story, this award process is a great way for zines and writers to draw attention to the work they're doing. The nomination process provides links to stories and zines, which is great press for the world of short stories. So, what are you waiting for? Head on over, read the rules and nominate your favorite short story of 1000 words or more that was published last year (2008). Hey, nominate your own if you're so inclined. And you editors out there - you can nominate three stories that you published last year. Here's the url http://www.storysouth.com/millionwriters.html Step up! Don't be afraid to admit that you're a short story junkie.

Ran across a couple of markets that are open to submissions. They're both spec-fiction print markets.

Shimmer is looking for stories under 5000 words, you'll find the guidelines here http://www.shimmerzine.com/guidelines/fiction-guidelines/

Crossed Genres has a Western theme with a March 31 deadline. What they're looking for in space westerns can be found here http://www.crossedgenres.com/current.htm and the regular guidelines are here http://www.crossedgenres.com/submissions.htm They're asking for stories in the 1000 to 8000 word range.

And a couple of Snoopy Dances are in order again for friends of The Corner.

I'm fast becoming a fan of Jack Martin/Gary Dobbs short stories. As Jack Martin he writes one hell of western that you can find in the archives at Beat to a Pulp call "A Man Called Masters" and currently he's up at A Twist of Noir with a nasty little bit of crime fiction call "Loose Ends" under Gary Dobbs, entry number 51. Go on, have a read, you won't be sorry.

And congrats to Scott D. Parker who picked up a reviewing gig over at New Mystery Reader Magazine.

Links to the left - Hurrahs to the right!

If there's anyone else out there who's had a bit of success, drop us a line here at The Corner and I'll send a Snoopy Dance your way. It's always nice to know if the posts and links are helping you guys in your search for markets.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Up For a Challenge?

I sometimes forget about this neat little magazine. The First Line Magazine supplies the first line and you supply the story. Fiction or non-fiction, 300 to 3000 words and they pay. The next deadline is May 1 for the Summer 2009 issue and the sentence is:

"For two weeks now, I've been trying to figure out if people are laughing with me or at me."

The First Line is a lit magazine but they're open to all types of stories. You can find the guidelines here http://www.thefirstline.com/submission.htm

So, are you up for it?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Procrastination Updates

While going through some old e-mail files, I found a marketing list that had been compiled by a member of SMFS back in 2005. Some of the links were dead, but I found three that might be helpful and posted them in the market sources column to the left. Some days it pays to hang on to old emails.

One link went to Kerlak Publishing's anthology call for stories page and I found one listed that might be of interest to the corner's readers. The editor is looking for WTF mysteries, but there's a catch, no swearing in the story. He explains what he's looking for here http://www.kerlak.com/storycall.html and the deadline is April 30.

Oh yes, I nearly forgot. Plots with Guns is looking for cross genre stories for their May issue. Yep, sci-fi noir, Plots with Ray Guns. http://www.plotswithguns.com/4info2.htm

And yes, like the title says, I'm doing this rather than write. But hey, at least I'll have some markets at my fingertips when I do finally finish a story.

And a quote today from WH Auden.
"How do I know what I think, until I see what I say."

***David Cranmer has reminded us in the comments that Out of Gutter is open for submissions. Issue 6's theme is sexploitation. Here's the url to the guidelines http://outoftheguttermagazine.blogspot.com/2007/05/submission-guidelines.html

For Your Listening Pleasure Markets

All those new gadgets out there have created a new market for short stories. Beside reading stories on a screen you can now listen to them with your ipod or whatever gadget you're holding in your hand these days. Listed below are a few markets that are open for submissions and all are open for your listening pleasure. So, if you don't have to time to read, you can still enjoy short stories by just plugging in during your travel, exercise, or washing dishes times.

Courtesy of Cynthia Sterling's newsletter is The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine. While their preferred genres are sci-fi, fantasy, and horror they're open to all well-written stories. You can find their guidelines here http://dunesteef.com/submission-guidelines/

SnipLits has been around for a while and right now they're closed to subs but you can still listen to a wide variety of stories at this site. http://sniplits.com/

CrimeWAV.com podcasts stories on their site. They aren't open to submissions but seek out stories from anthologies and zines to broadcast. They have a nice mix of new and well known authors there. http://crimewav.com/

And finally there's Well Told Tales which is a pulp fiction podcast. They're open for subs and their link is in the zine column to the left as I've mentioned them before.

I've noticed at Ralan.com that there are quite a few new sites that are podcasting now mostly in the sci-fi and horror genres if you're looking for this type of market for your shorts.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Save a Genre - Read a Western

Gary Dobbs, over at the Tainted Archive http://tainted-archive.blogspot.com/ , has launched Wild West Monday in an effort to spark more interest in the Western genre. Come on, folks, you know you love westerns, so step up and demand that your library and local bookstores stock them. And if you mystery lovers don't know where your loner protags came from, you need to take another look at those drawling, long-legged legends that brought justice to the west. For a prime sampling, stop over at Gary's blog and read the first four chapters of Chap O'Keefe's "The Sheriff and the Widow".

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Wow! 100 Posts!

Who knew when I started this blog that I'd manage to hit a hundred posts in four months. I've got to say that I'm enjoying blogging and all the folks who stop by. There have been a few surprises along the way, such as Robert Fate stopping by and the student who reviewed my story in The Thrilling Detective for a class writing project. All in all, it's been a fun ride that I hope continues for a long time.

Now, on to a few other things. Relating to the last post about writing, yesterday I came across a writing post at Tom Piccirilli's blog that works in nicely with the rest of the links I posted. Mr. Piccirilli discusses outlining. Here's the link http://thecoldspot.blogspot.com/2009/02/fuck-outlining.html As you can guess from the link title he doesn't think much of outlining.

I don't know if you noticed or not but I've added some new links to the left. A column of print magazines and most of the links take you straight to the guidelines. With my computer out, I actually found the top of my desk under all my files, notepads, and scribbled notes. I also found a few resource links I'd forgotten about, also added to the left.

Crimespree Magazine opens for fiction submissions today and until the end of the month. They only take subs every other month so get polishing.

I got a note from Chris Pemental today. He'd like to open up Bad Things for weekly flash pieces if anyone is interested. If so, drop him a line at chris (at) chrispemental.com and let him know. Tell him Sandra sent you.

And a few of Snoopy dances are in order.

First, a dance for David Cranmer and his excellent zine Beat to a Pulp. You've pulled together a great zine, David. Keep up the good work. And for those who haven't read the latest issue, link's to the left.

Second, there's a new issue of Plots with Guns up which leads to our third.

Big time Snoopy dance for friend of the corner, Keith Rawson, who's hit a tipple play of stories this week - You can find him at Plots with Guns, The Flash Fiction Offensive and PulpPusher. Way to write, Keith!

And finally, a quote today from Clint Eastwood. While he's referring to acting, this works equally well for writing.

"Once you're in the character you can do anything."