Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spread the Word - It's Time to Vote

You will find the complete list of Spinetingler nominees and the voting poll here

And a big congrats to all the nominees in every category with a special Snoopy Dance for two friends of the blog, Patti Abbott, whose Friday's Forgotten Books nabbed a nomination in the Special Services to the Industry and Community category, and Corey Wilde in the Best Reviewer category. Hooray!! We're Snoopy Dancing here at the Corner again today!!

What are you waiting for? Get on over there and check out all the nominees, then get to voting!

Wednesday Linkage

First up, in case you haven't heard, there are new issues of MystericalE and Plots With Guns out there for your reading pleasure.

And I stumbled across the Innsmouth Free Press yesterday while I was clicking around. is the link to their submission page. They open to short story submissions of 300 to 5000 words inspired by the work of HP Lovecraft. They pay $10CAD for 1000 to 5000 words and $5CAD for flash under 1000 words.

Over at The Kill Zone blog they're doing first page critiques for some of their readers. Even if you don't care to submit one, you'll find lots of interesting information for newbie novel writers if you scroll on down through the posts from this week. Lots of good stuff here that applies to short story writers as well.

Jason Sanford has an eye-opening post about anthologies and one editor in particular. I know I learned a few things by reading "Too Bad You Can't Cash Good Karma"

And NK Jemisin has an interesting post about writing for yourself and not the market called "I Am the Market" While the idea is fine and I do tend to write for myself, not every story done this way will find a market. I know, I've spent the last two days searching for a market for a crime/ghost/dark humor/wacko fantasy story. Still looking!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On Editors

I love when new links show up in my inbox because I know that there will be something useful to tuck in my mental backpack as I trek along this writing path. This morning I woke up to find that Michael Bracken had sent me a link to Jeremiah Tolbert's excellent blog and an essay about editors.

As writers we tend to have a love/hate relationship with editors. I was very fortunate early on to get a few hand-written notes from editors along with those stacks of clone rejection letters. They've helped me stay on the path and keep writing even through the frustrations. But like Mr. Tolbert says, that's not the editor's job. His job is to find the best stories for the readers of his periodicals not pat me on the back to make me feel better.

So, go read the 5 Lies, and be thankful that there are editors out there actually reading your stories, even if they have to pass.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Odd Bits

Over at Criminal Brief yesterday, Leigh Lundin had an interesting take on "Sex and Violence, I Swear" His post came about because of a forum discussion started by EQ editor, Janet Hutchings about trying to keep her readers happy and trying to add dark stories to the EQ content. I don't envy her trying to strike that balance. Dell's forum has some very interesting topics under discussion most days and it's well worth your time to stop by from time to time.

If you haven't been dropping by Spinetingler on a regular basis, why not? Since they've changed the format of the zine the content has been coming in at the rate of two or more posts a day that cover the many outlets open for the mystery/crime genre. Today you'll find a new short story, "Cheap Bastard", by Hilary Davidson and the first in this year's series of Conversations with the Bookless featuring Naomi Johnson. And if you scroll down a little further you'll find a link to a new Inspector Rebus short story by Ian Rankin. If you aren't acquainted with this author's series, this story is an excellent introduction. You can find all of this and more at

And finally a very interesting call for submissions. Twelfth Planet Press has put out an anthology call for their 2011 anthology "Speakeasy". They're looking for fantasy short stories set in the 1920's. The submission period starts June 1 and ends September 30. Stories should be 2500 to 7500 words in length and the pay is AUS$50. You can find all the details at Hat tip to Charles Tan for the link.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Finding Goals

The other day Michael mentioned goals we set for ourselves as writers, which set me thinking about goals, about what writers actually want from their writing - more to the point, what I want from my writing.

All of the writing magazines create this fantasy world of fame and fortune that writers swallow whole and actually seem disappointed when the world doesn't live up to their writing "bibles". I know, I've been there. It took a long time for me to realize that I couldn't write myself into a million dollar tax bracket. Sure, there are quite a few writers who have achieved that giddy height, but they're just a small percentage of the writers who are out there pounding on keyboards. What I did learn was that I could get better at my craft by writing. That each story I wrote needed to be better than the last one otherwise I was just writing myself into a rut. So that became my new writing goal, to always make the next story the best one I'd ever written. It didn't matter if I was writing for publication or a flash challenge, the story had to be the best I could do.

As a writer I can set all kinds of goals but unless I actually put my butt in the chair and put in the hours and the effort I'll never come close to any of them. But I've also come to realize that putting in all that time and work doesn't guarantee that I'll score the winning touchdown. Luck plays a major factor in being a successful writer. Getting my story in the right place at the right time is just as important as writing the best that I can. So my second goal - get the stories out the door. Get them in the hands of editors and readers. A story sitting a drawer is of no use to anyone.

So, my conclusions after all this heavy thinking? As a writer, there are basically two goals you have to chase. Write the best story you can and submit it. Push yourself by reaching for the better markets, either by pay scale or prestige, depending on where you've placed your own personal goal posts. If you fail, at least you'll know that you tried, but you can't truly be considered a failure if you've stayed the course and kept your stories in play.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


The newest issue of Crimefactory has hit the virtual streets with loads of good stuff to read.

Here's the line up for issue 2:


KIERAN SHEA (Who provides us with our first serialized story)



Well, what are you waiting for? Go read!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mamet Rules

If you're going to take advice about writing you won't get a better source than David Mamet.

Hat tip to Brian for this excellent link!!

Flash Links

Over at The Flash Fiction Chronicles there's an essay by Randall Brown called "Six Things Your Flash Desires". And he's absolutely right! Flash desires nothing more than to be flash.

If you enjoy Mr. Brown's post at FFC you might drop on over to his site You'll find all kinds of tips, observations, and even prompts to help you with your flash writing. The man loves flash and it shows.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spinetingler Award Short Story Nominees

Here are the nominees for the 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Short Story on the Web. You can find the original announcement at How cool is that list? And a big Hoo-Ray for David Cranmer whose zine Beat to a Pulp captured three nominations!! Congratulations to all the nominees!!! We're having a big Snoopy Dancing Party here at the Corner today.

2010 Spinetingler Award: Best Short Story on the Web nominees

A Wild and Crazy Night by John Kenyon from Beat to a Pulp
At Least I felt Something by Sophie Littlefield from The Drowning Machine
Blurred Lines by Michael Moreci from A Twist of Noir
Flesh Rule by Frank Bill from Plots with Guns
Insatiable by Hilary Davidson from Beat to a Pulp
My Father’s Son by Alan Griffiths from A Twist of Noir
MSM by Anonymous 9 from Plots with Guns
The Present by Mark Joseph Kiewlak from A Twist Of Noir
Survival Instincts by Sandra Seamans from Pulp Pusher
The Tut by Paul D Brazill from Beat to a Pulp

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Marketing Question

I've had a question nagging at me for a while now, so I thought I'd toss it out here and see what floats back on the tide.

Do you submit your mystery stories to Ellery Queen or Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine? These two magazines seem to be the Holy Grail for mystery writers but when a zine gets thousands of submissions a month and takes up to eight months to respond, do you find it worth your time and effort?

Most of the time my stories aren't a comfortable fit for either of these zines, though I have submitted several times to both of them over the years. But something I noticed when reading them, especially in a bunch of EQ's that I had, was that nearly every author published is an award winner or has a novel published. Plus there seems to be a group of regulars that are published frequently enough that you know their subs land on the editor's desk without lingering in the slush pile. I'm not complaining here, these writers have earned a first class ride, but it does cut into the chances of those of us who do land in the slush pile.

Which brings me back to my question. Do you submit to EQ and AHMM on a regular basis and do you think it's worth the time?

Monday, March 22, 2010


Keith Rawson has posted an open letter on his blog to writers who have been published in PulpPusher. He's offering to post your stories in the archives of Crimefactory. You can read the details here Thanks for the generous offer, Keith!

Market News

It really sucks when a great zine just disappears without a word. RIP PulpPusher, we're going to miss you.

With a hat tip to Paul Brazill we have the zine Forever Nocturne. They're looking for shorts of 1000 to 5000 words for their October 2010 issue. You can find the guidelines at This will be their sixth issue so you'll be able to check out what they're looking for story wise.

The Spring issue of Scalped has gone live though they're still closed to submissions for the next issue.

10Flash is closed to subs. Their next issue will go live on April 1 and the next call for subs will be up on April 15.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Musings

Have you ever seen something that defies words? Living in the country I witness spectacles of nature that most people don't have the opportunity to see and if I tried to describe it they probably wouldn't believe me. Would you believe me if I told you that I actually stroked a wild blue bird? Once, while picking blackberries in the woods, I felt eyes staring at me and turned to find a doe and a fawn watching me. Or that one foggy night while driving home I saw a shrouded figure in the road, and when I started to open the car door it spread its magnificent wings and flew away? That was the first and last time I've ever seen a crane standing in the middle of the road in the gloom of night. Freaky and amazing at the same time.

But its the fire rain that always leaves me speechless. I've seen this phenomenon twice in my life. It comes in the late summer after a brutal thundershower sweeps through leaving the just turning leaves dripping with shimmering raindrops. Late afternoon, just at sunset, and I look into the woods and catch my breath at the sight of a wild fire heading straight for the house, then I realize that the golden, orange glow is the setting sun reflecting off the rain drenched leaves and I laugh with relief and weep at the beauty on display.

Twice, I've seen the fire and both times I've been the lone witness. My husband laughs at my fancies, but I treasure those glimpses into a world that only I have seen.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Makes You Think Links

Michael Bracken sent me this link to an essay by Camille Gooderham Campbell. Ms. Campbell is an editor at Everyday Fiction. Writers often wonder what makes them a professional writer and not a hobbyist and this essay pretty well sums it up. If you act in a professional manner, you're a professional, at least in the eyes of the editor you're submitting to. Of course, if you're not making a living at it, that puts another spin on the discussion.

Michael also has an interesting piece up on his own blog about writing crap that's well worth a read. I must admit that I hadn't looked at "writing crap drafts" in quite that way before.

Over at the Mysterious Matters blog there's a post about what makes readers of mystery fiction, at least the author of the post, cringe. There's some excellent points to consider while you're writing.

"The Batman Fallacy" by A. Lee Martinez While this post explores comic book superheroes, the points about real life and fantasy can also be applied to crime fiction. You've got to admit that some of the crime fiction heroes out there feel like they've donned the cape of superhuman powers.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Marketing Anthologies

Over at Jason Sanford's blog he's soliciting pre-orders for the seventh volume in The Polyphony anthology series from Wheatland Press. So why am I linking to this? Because the discussion in the comments section is well worth a read by short story writers.

Anthologies are a big part of our market, but is buying every one that hits the streets our responsibility? Yes, if we're included, we buy copies and help advertise the anthology but how much can we do realistically? And are publishers relying solely on the writers for advertising or should they shoulder the responsibility of getting the word out? Hard questions.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Professionals and Shorts

With a big thank you to Brian Lindenmuth I have this link to Nick Mamatas' blog that continues the discussion from Jim Hines' post about short stories. There's lots of comments and discussion going on about shorts and whether short story writers are professional. I expect this post will spawn even more blog posts that will weight in, I'll keep you posted as I find them.

The Roaring Woman

When I'm clicking through blogs and links I try not to limit myself to just the mystery genre though most of the links here are for mystery writers. What I've found is that by reading about other genres I can find new ways of looking at the mystery genre.

Marie Brennan's essay "First Girl Ever" over at the SFnovelists site is a perfect example. Ms. Brennan is talking about fantasy in her essay and girls who had to dress as boys to become the knight who slayed the dragon. The interesting thing is her take on the girls who came after that special "first" and how they were treated.

So, how does this relate to the mystery genre? I was thinking about female PI's. How Kinsey Milhone and VI Warshawski were basically girls dressed up in boy's clothing. Of how the girls coming up in the genre now are even more ferocious and lethal or go to the extreme of being so girly that you want to barf. Writers in our genre seem to be afraid to let the women be feminine while still being able to take care of themselves. There doesn't seem to be a happy medium, though Marcia Muller's Sharon McCone does walk that line of perfect balance, at least for me. Of course the flip side of this, as always, is the women as victims and how much degradation you can force on them before they break. But that's another conversation.

Another interesting post I found was about using short stories as a step-up to becoming a novelist. Jim Hines did a survey and found some interesting results with the comments adding more interesting points to the discussion. While Mr. Hines' essay is sci-fi/fantasy based, the myth that writing shorts is a must-do to break into the novel market is just as true for the mystery genre. Me, I just write shorts because I love the form and the freedom.

Serenity J. Banks, editor of DF-underground ,left a comment on a post from last month. The submission guidelines page url has changed This is a new market that was just starting up when I first posted the link. They've gone live with some shorts, so go have a read and see if you've got something that might be a fit for this paying dark fiction market.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Characters and Openings

“I was eighteen and pregnant the night my daddy died. Somebody put a shotgun to his head and blasted his brains all over his favorite reclining chair. Hell of a mess that was. I heard they had to toss that old chair out in the trash cause there just wasn’t no cleaning the blood and brains out of the fabric. Pity, it was a nice chair.”

That's the opening of a short story I was working on this weekend. The story is an old one, that had a male protagonist but didn't seem to go anywhere until I heard this voice talking me. And it wasn't a guy. I expect the story, when it's done, won't be anything like what I imagined the original to be.

As I was reading that opening dialogue again this morning, I started thinking about this post over at Charles Gramlich's blog. Charles and many of the commenters don't like stories that start with dialogue, but I find that many of my short stories start either with dialogue or an action scene. I rarely walk slowly into a story. One thing that struck me with all the answers was that nobody considered how we meet real people. Yes, you see them, but you make your basic judgement of that person by what they say. Should we treat fictional characters any differently?

So my question to you today is how do you like your stories to open? Would you read a story that opened with that paragraph I wrote or would you need to know more about the character and where she is before she opened her mouth?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Rainy Day Musings

It's a grey, rainy, Saturday, and I've spent a few hours blog-jumping around the web which has quite a few thoughts chasing through my brain. The Left Coast Crime Convention posts are interesting. I can't imagine myself at a convention surrounded by all those people. Or worse yet, walking up to a writer I admire and saying hello. That's just not in me, heck, I barely leave comments on the blogs I read. I was always the chubby little girl sitting in the corner with her ears tuned to catch every conversation within hearing distance. In truth, I'm still that little girl, always listening, still afraid of crowds, living in my own little world.

On Rara-Avis they've been discussing the NY vs small press publishers a bit. James Lee Burke got his start with a small press but as soon as NY called, he was gone. I see this with a lot of novelist out there. They're so eager to be published they'll jump on the first boat that passes by. I think what irks me, is when the call comes from the bigger boat, they jump again. Whatever happened to loyalty, to staying at the dance with the date who brought you? When a writer actually gets to a point where they could make that small press some money, they leave. Yeah, I get the prestige that comes with the big fancy publisher, the buffing of the fingernails on your lapels, but what about the little guy who stuck with you when you were nobody? What's in it for him to keep publishing unknowns if they're just going to leave?

And I've been thinking about writing today and my place in the scheme of things. I think writing is one of the few things you can do in life that leaves you both depressed and exhilarated at the same time. In some ways, I like being a nearly unknown writer. I can write stories that please me, if they don't work, that's okay because there's no one out there waiting with bated breath for my next "masterpiece". Being nearly unknown also drops the occasional email in my inbox from an editor looking for a story or a reader who has just read and enjoyed one. So I go tapping along wondering if my writing will actually take me anywhere and yet, still excited that an editor or reader noticed my efforts.

I know, there's not much rhyme nor reason to this post, just some rainy day thoughts that were crowding through my brain. What about you? Where does your mind travel to on rainy days?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Are Your Characters Alive?

One of the hardest things for a writer is creating characters who are more than cardboard cutouts or cliches. So, how do you breathe life into a character? Got me hanging, I'm still trying to figure that out for myself, but Jim C. Hines has a very interesting essay up on his blog that addresses this question.

The title, Strong Women Characters, is a bit misleading because the information Mr. Hines gives can apply to any character, male or female, that you're writing. As I read through the essay, I was doing a checklist in my head about the story I sent out a couple days ago. I think I passed!

Mr. Hine's essay was spawned by this essay which has some wonderful insights into writing strong well-rounded female characters.

So, how do you make your characters come alive on the page?

Writing Tools

I ran across a couple of links yesterday that might be useful for both your writing and in your search for markets.

Writers Free Reference I found this site while clicking through the links at Gemini magazine. There are over two thousand links to help writers find what they're looking for.

And if you've ever found yourself wondering what an editor is looking for, you'll find Jim Harrington's Six Questions helpful. Mr. Harrington poses six questions to editors and posts their answers on the site. You'll find links to a variety of zines and their editors responses. For you zine editors out there, Mr. Harrington is always looking for new editors to question so if you're interested, drop him a line. I discovered this site through the Apollo's Lyre blog where Mr. Harrington posts essays about writing flash.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

All or Nothing?

Clicking around the web today I ran across this essay by Brian Hodge It's a wonderful essay about writing a story without holding back, putting everything you have right there on the page for everyone to see.

Then I read "The Truth and All Its Ugly" by Kyle Minor over at Fifty-two Stories. Damn. There it was, all laid out, everything Mr. Hodge talked about in his essay. The story is a simple father and son story but there's nothing simple about it. It's a sci-fi story, taking place in 2024, and yet, you could walk out on the street today and meet this man and his son. And in the end, Mr. Minor breaks your heart with the simple truth about life and how ugly it can be. Well done, once again, Mr. Minor.

Writing isn't just about putting words down on the page, its about creating life on the page, with living, breathing characters who make you laugh and cry all at the same time.

Odds and Ends

I forgot to mention this the other day when I saw it, Beat to a Pulp is closed to submissions until April 10. If I don't write things down they slip through my mind like water through a sieve.

I don't usually mention contests that charge a fee but this one is sponsored by The Writer and the Gotham Writers Workshop. The fee is $10 to enter a 2000 word short story. First prize is $1000 and a 10 week online creative writing workshop. Second is $300 and Third is $200, each with a short online course. You can find all the details at The deadline is May 31.

For those of you who do enjoy entering contests you can find quite a few listed at just click on the March Writers Wanted button. You'll also find quite a few non-fiction anthologies listed along with several fiction calls. Anthologies Online updates their links monthly and they're a good source for a variety of markets.

And a newly discovered flash market called Fiction At Work. This is a non-paying market looking for what they call short-shorts of up to 300 words and issue submissions up to 750 words. They have their publication divided into several sections. You can find the guidelines at this link Oh yes, they like humorous pieces to take your mind off your job while you're at work :-)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Talking Genre

Thanks to Charles Tan's fabulous Bibliophile Stalker blog, I clicked on the link to this great essay about lit, genre and horror by Peter Straub. Mr. Straub gives us a great deal to think about in this essay, from the publishing end of the business to the writers themselves. Here's a delicious sample:

"Genre fiction came into being because publishers discovered from the pulps that there was a market for it, and it stays viable because it’s like food, people keep buying books by Robert B. Parker and Michael Connolly to get the same delightful taste in their mouths over and over, as if the books were made of maple walnut ice cream."

For the entire essay go here

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Anthology Markets

From Paul Brazill we have the following markets that are open to flash.

FLASH! from Lame Goat Press This one is looking for flash up to 1000 words and they'll accept submissions until full. There's no pay and no copies for this one.

Daily Flash from Pill Hill Press The cap is 500 words for this one but there's also no pay and no copies.

End of the Rainbow Triangulation This anthology is put out by ParsecInk.Org They're looking for both flash and short stories up to 5000 words and they're also taking reprints. This is a spec-fiction anthology and the theme is End of the Rainbow. There's a March 31 deadline on this one and the pay is 2cents a word.

New Issues

Getting low on reading material? We've got you covered. Here's the new issues that are out on the virtual streets (I'm a little late with a few!) has John McFetridge as their featured author this month.

Pine Tree Mysteries has three new mysteries for your reading pleasure Editor, Morgan Drake, hosts one of the few cozy and softer hard boiled sites.

Issue 8 of Sex and Murder is up.

Issue 38 of Storyglossia is live

The March issue of The Gumshoe review is up with a short story by Lee Hammerschmidt along with their usual reviews

And a new issue of Thieves Jargon is open for your reading pleasure.

While it's nice to post links to the monthlies and quarterlies don't forget zines like BTAP, A Twist of Noir, Powder Burn Flash and a dozen others who post weekly. Support the zines - Read a story!

Market News

Just pulled my head out of the keyboard and discovered that I haven't been here for a few days. Yikes!! To make up for my disappearing act, I've found a few market links that might be of interest. I've mentioned Kerlak's Steampunk anthology call before. This is a paying market, $20, and the deadline is March 31 so if you're working on a story for this one you'd better toss a little coal of the fire and pump up the steam pressure, there's not a whole lot of time left.

If you have a published vampire story hiding in your drawer, there's a new press, Books of the Dead Press, looking for reprints to publish in an anthology called "Best New Vampire Tales". They're looking for stories under 10,000 words and the pay is a penny a word. The deadline for submitting is April 30. You can find all the details at

The online zine Horror Bound is looking for submissions for their new anthology called "Fear of the Dark". Stories should investigate the human fear of the unknown, the dark and the common themes found in nightmares. The submission period is March 5 to December 1 for 1500 to 5500 word stories. The pay is a penny a word CAN. You can find the details at

Publisher, Lida Quillen, left a note about the FMAM anthology on the FMAM group stating that if you've had no response to your query or submission by March 20 feel free to send it elsewhere.

Probably most of you have heard about "Needles" the new print crime magazine that's the brain child of Steve Weddle and John H. Jacobs. There's no guidelines or calls for submissions, so I'm guessing that their first issue will be invitation only. You can find out about this new zine here

Friday, March 5, 2010

Another One!

A couple of days ago I mentioned that The Feral Pages was going to be an annual anthology instead of a bi-monthly. There was a new note up on the site today saying that the doors are closing due to health issues. And health issues are the reason given over at Ligature Marks, they, too, are closing their doors after only two issues. Sigh. I hate having to deliver bad news.

Markets and a Contest

The other day, Brian Lindenmuth sent me a link to this post which questioned the submission guidelines of the new zine, NextSomething, that Next Read was starting up. The original requirements were that each submitter had to purchase a subscription to the zine before they could submit. The guidelines have since changed and everyone is welcome to submit. They're looking for stories up to 5000 words with a theme of sci-fi combined with myth. The deadline is April 14, there is an online submission form and a token payment if your story is accepted. If you'd like to read more about the controversy over the original guidelines just click on the home button at Next Read and scroll down to read the various posts and discussions.

Paul Brazill sent me a link to a flash contest This contest is done in association with Blog Talk Radio which hosts a great many writer and reader talk shows on its site. The contest is looking for 500 word stories based on the picture that's posted. Prizes are books and an interview on a radio talk show. The contest is divided into two parts for pros and amateurs

And Flash Me magazine is hosting a special sci-fi/fantasy/horror issue this fall. They're looking for 1000 word stories in one or a combination of the genres. Submission dates are April 30 to August 31. Payment is $25 for each story. You can find all the details at They're also open to regular submissions at the moment. This is a paying flash market.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Short Thoughts

Oh, dear God, duck, she's thinking again! Over at the Do Some Damage blog there's a pair of post about short stories. Joelle Charbonneau is new to writing shorts and had some questions and the responses were interesting. Then, today, John McFetridge has a post about the possible future of shorts and how they might change.

Any of you who have been around the blog for a while know that I love shorts. That's what I write, along with a bit of slice of life non-fiction. I'm not a novelist and several failed attempts are proof of that. All my novel ideas turn into short stories and that's fine with me because, like I've said before, I love shorts.

And by now, you're probably wondering why. Well, I'll tell you. There's a freedom in writing short stories that doesn't exist in other writing. You can pull any idea out of the air and simply run with it. You don't have to worry if it will please your agent or publisher or if the idea will even sell. You only have to please your own imagination.

Shorts give you the freedom to explore genres, create characters that book readers would hate, and dive deeper into the human mind than most readers and writers care to go. You won't always find a market for these stories, but just being able to write them helps you grow as a writer, to gain confidence in your writing and to explore ideas that most writers would shun.

How do you learn to write shorts? Just sit down and hit the keyboard. Find the central idea and stick with it, don't wander down paths that have nothing to do with the idea. And yes, you'll trip and fall off the path, but that's what rewriting and editing is for. You'll find characters that don't serve a purpose, a stray thread that you can pull out without unraveling the whole story and strings of words that can be replaced by just one or two, even whole paragraphs that can be dumped.

And study. Not just books on writing, but short stories themselves. Over on the left you'll find links to all kinds of zines, take some time to read them, study what other writers are writing, and don't limit yourself to just one genre. Read the lit stories, the sci-fi and fantasy, the horror stories. Each genre can teach you something different, something that can take your voice in directions you've never thought of before. Above all, enjoy the ride.

In the links sections to the left, you'll also find other short story writers like Michael Bracken, Bev Vincent and Jason Sanford. These gentlemen are pros who know how to write and sell short stories, you'll find all kinds of good advice on their sites. There's links over there to some of the classic stories so you can see how it used to be done. Knowing what came before can help you see where to go that will be both unique and building on what's been done before. Pick up old anthologies at the used book stores, some of those writers will blow your mind with the stories they've written. Keep learning and don't be afraid to experiment. Be fearless.

Now that I've bored you to tears, I'll leave you with a link. There's some excellent advice here about avoiding the standard plots and characters that live in genre, hell, in any type of story.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Market News

First off, my apologies to Paul Brazill who sent me a link to a radio talk show yesterday. I should have paid closer attention to the date in the email. It was a call-in show about short stories with Lynn Alexander, editor of Blink Ink, that aired live last night. While you can no longer call in to read your stories or ask questions the half hour show is recorded and you can have a listen here

Over at Fried Chicken and Coffee they're sponsoring a contest in honor of Southern short story writer, Barry Hannah, who passed away yesterday. The deadline is March 31 for short stories of 2000 to 4000 words. First prize is a collection of some of Barry's books and a $25 gift certificate from B&N. You can find all the details at

From Cormac Brown we have the new quarterly zine Dark Valentine Magazine They're looking for dark fiction of 500 to 5000 words. The pay is $10 per story. They also have a section called Through a Lens Darkly for writers to write a story of up to 1000 words based on a posted picture. There's no pay for this section of the zine. You can find all the details at

Woodland Press will be publishing the "Mountain Magic: Spellbinding Tales of Appalachia" anthology. They're looking for short stories up to 2500 words set in the Appalachia region with a magical bend (not the dragon and wizards type of magic) The submission period is March 20 to June 21 and the pay is 5cents a word for shorts, $5 per poem. You can find the details here

If you're looking for a new zine for your gritty flash pieces you might want to check out The Molotov Cocktail The deadline for the first issue is March 10 for a March 15 publishing date. They're planning on publishing twice a month so submission will be accepted continuously. This is a non-paying market.

And a few markets notes:

I believe I mentioned Dark and Dreary here as a market, but the word at Duotrope is that they've closed up shop and shut down their web site.

Big Pulp and CrimeSpree are both open for submissions this month urls to the left.

And Wig Leaf is open for flash subs of under 1000 words.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Flash Challenge Day!

A couple of weeks ago Daniel O'Shea issued a flash challenge and today the "Shall We Prey" Noir is going live. You'll find my piece below, and links to nearly thirty stories at Daniel's blog Going Ballistic

By Sandra Seamans

Melody Jean heard the whispers rushing in waves through the congregation as she walked down the aisle to her seat. She tried to ignore the snide remarks and pointing fingers, focusing, instead, on the stage. Reverend Mack was preaching hard, wrestling with the devil himself. His body, sheathed in faith, protected him from the snakes wrapped around the length of his arms, their fangs inches from his glistening face.

The baby in her arms stirred, her tiny lips searching for the comfort of her mother’s breast. “Shhh now, Rose, your daddy’s wrapped in the arms of God, those rattlers won’t hurt him none.”

Melody Jean could feel the congregation’s eyes on her. She knew they were gossiping about her baby. Her mother had begged her to stay away from the Reverend and his snake-lovin’ holy rollers. Mama believed there was evil lurking behind the double doors of Holy Signs Church, but how could she turn her back on God when he’d given her such a precious gift?

Reverend Mack’s snake defying sermon was winding down. Shouting praises to God, he brought his rabid followers to their knees, ready to do his bidding.

“Bring me the Magdalene,” he shouted. “Her faith must be tested.”

Hands reached for Melody Jean, but she shook them off. With her fifteen year old body held straight and proud, she walked alone to the front of the church, Rose held tight against her heart. The deacons were rolling the glass testing box across the stage. She’d heard the quickly hushed whispers about the box. The rumors that nobody who entered the box lived to talk about their test of faith, but she wasn’t worried. She had faith, a whole mountain of it. A God who could gift her with the sweetness of Rose wouldn’t, couldn’t, turn his back on her.

“Naked she sinned, naked she’s tested.” said Reverend Mack.

“Naked she sinned, naked she’s tested,” intoned the congregation.

Melody Jean held Rose out to the reverend, when he refused to touch the child, Deacon Aldrich took the baby from her. She untied the strings of her cotton sundress, allowing the soft material to slide down her body and lay crumpled around her ankles. Stepping out of her panties she stood naked before the congregation.

“The baby also,” said Reverend Mack. “Naked she entered the world, naked she’s tested.”

A startled gasp rose from the congregation before they intoned the chorus, “Naked she entered the world, naked she’s tested.”

The baby’s clothes were removed and she was placed in her mother’s arms. Melody Jean stooped low and wiggled her way into the four foot square box. She settled herself on the floor of the box sitting cross-legged. With Rose nestled in the cradle of her legs, Melody Jean laid her hands on her bare legs, palms up in supplication.

“The Serpent,” said Reverent Mack, lifting a deadly Copperhead from its cage and holding it high for all to see. “God said unto The Serpent, ‘I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed’. But I say, if the woman embraces her faith she shall lift up The Serpent and it shall not hurt her.”

Reverend Mack eased the snake into the glass box and closed the door. Silence descended on the church as everyone watched the trio in the box. Some sat gleefully awaiting the coming dance of death while others moved their lips in silent prayers for Melody Jean and her child.

The snake slithered across the box, drawn to Melody Jean’s body heat. The snake slid over her bare leg, its tongue flickering in and out, tasting the tempting flesh of mother and daughter.

Melody Jean sat perfectly still, the snake’s skin as soft and cool against her skin as the touch of Reverend Mack’s hands. She shivered with remembered pleasure as the snake settled into her lap. Slowly, The Serpent raised its head, stretching higher and higher, until they were face to face.

“Not since Eve, have I beheld such a beautiful woman,” said The Serpent. “I wonder, what it is that I shall tempt you with? Your nakedness doesn’t shame you. Perhaps your life? Shall you trade your child’s life for your own?”

“You shall have neither, Serpent.”

“Ah, but there you’re wrong. Reverend Mack desires your death and the death of his sins, which would be this lovely baby. How can I disappoint the man who worships me? We are one, he and I. His will is mine.”

“Reverend Mack is one with God, he will not allow us to die.”

“Look at him, child. The sweat pools on his brow as he waits for his sins to be cleansed. He merely craved the delights of your body, not your love nor the life of that precious tidbit in your lap. I will consume his sins and he shall be set free.”

Melody Jean looked at Reverend Mack. His face was beaded with sweat, his eyes glowing with anticipation as his tongue darted in and out of his mouth, licking his lips. The Serpent spoke the truth. Reverend Mack wasn’t a servant of God, he served the devil and his own secret pleasures. Mama was right about the evil that lived in this house of worship.

Her hand reached out, fingers closing around the base of The Serpent’s head. She lifted his twitching body high above her, feeling no surprise when Reverend Mack’s feet left the floor. She twisted the head until she heard the bones crack, then tossed the offending creature to the floor. Picking up Rose, she pushed through the door and crawled out of the box.

Reverend Mack’s body lay on the floor, his head twisted at an odd angle. Stepping down from the stage, Melody Jean picked her way up the aisle towards the door, her bare feet tiptoeing through the stricken congregation writhing on the floor like a multitude of headless snakes.