Monday, May 31, 2010

Who Are You?

I ran across this post about writing your author bio this morning

Author bios are the hardest part of the writing process for me. When I first started out I listed every newspaper, periodical and whatnot I'd been published in. Pretty stupid, especially since most of those publications had nothing in common with where I was currently submitting a short story. I learned over time, that the editor is more interested in your story than your bio unless you've been published somewhere spectacular. I think the best piece of bio writing advice I received came from PulpPusher editor, Tony Black. He asked for a bio that would show why I was qualified to write the non-fiction piece he was publishing.

I use that as a rule of thumb now. If I'm submitting to crime venues, I list three or four of the best crime venues I've been published in, then include my blog site address. The same for other genres I submit to. Since most bios are only 50 to 100 words I try to keep it as short as possible. How do you cope with bio writing? What do you think is too much or not enough? I'm curious about how other writers compose their bios.

As this is Memorial Day, here in the states, I'd like to extend my heartfelt thanks and prayers to those who serve and those who have given their lives for our freedom. God bless each and every one of you.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Musing

I was thinking about the things I miss from my younger days and the 26 episode seasons of TV shows popped into my mind. Yes, can you believe it? Every new show had 26 episodes! You got to know the characters, learned how they ticked, where they were vulnerable; you became almost intimate with them. I miss that.

I don't watch new shows anymore. Why bother watching a show that you suspect is going to disappear after only one, two or three episodes? Most of the time, I wait for the shows that succeed to air on the cable networks - then I get to know them.

I think that's one of the reasons people don't like flash fiction. It's there, then poof, gone. Nothing or no one to invest your time in. Some readers look at short stories in the same way. But with shorts, you've got the option of using a few words to endear your characters to the readers, a paragraph or two to make them real. You have the option, when you write, to make the reader care about what happens to your character. And as a writer, that's what you want. To make the reader care enough to keep reading.

And, of course, I have a link. Over at the Mystery File blog there's a 2007 essay about character versus plot in detective fiction written by Bill Pronzini. The only thing a writer actually has any control over in this business is the story. You can make it plot driven or character driven but, either way, you ultimately have to make the reader care enough about the story to keep them reading.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


If you're working on a short story for Shroud magazine you might want to take a quick break and read this post by editor, Timothy Deal. Their deadline for this year's submission period is July 31, take your time and make it the best story you can write, not some slap-dash-beat-the-deadline story.

And, hey, his advice is true of any market you're submitting to!

Sex, Shorts, and Rejection

Rejection is part of this crazy business we're in, but even worse than the rejection is the time it takes some markets to finally get around to that rejection. Jason Sanford wrote an amusing rejection letter on his blog to the literary journal who just sent him a rejection letter - six years after he submitted the story! The longest I ever waited for a response was 10 years, but I was lucky it was an acceptance and a $50 check for a slice of life piece I wrote. What's the longest time you've ever waited for a response to a submission?

If you're looking for some summer short story reading, drop on by Jedidiah Ayres' Ransom Notes post at Barnes and Noble for some anthology suggestions.

If you're short on cash or don't want to wait for an order to drop in your mailbox stop on by A Twist of Noir for a real treat. Christopher has published a short story by 30's pulp writer Paul S. Powers in collaboration with his son, John, called "Wine Without Music" There's a great introduction by his granddaughter, Laurie.

Candace Havens has an interesting essay about sexual tension over at Genreality.

Which leads me to this new market that Paul Brazill dropped into my e-box yesterday. If you're looking to dip your toes (or other body parts) into the erotica market, Every Night Erotica might be a dandy place to start. They're looking for erotica stories up to 2000 words in all the erotica genres. They have an online submission form and they pay $3 per story. And if erotica is what you're interested in don't forget to check out this link You'll find all kinds of short story markets at this site from zines to anthologies.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Market Notes

Over at Duotrope, I found an anthology that might be of interest to some of you. It's called "Bewere the Night" and it's to be published by Prime (I'm assuming this is Prime Books as there is no link to the publisher in the call. ) The editor is looking for short stories of 1000 to 7000 words about were-creatures in an urban fantasy vein. Original stories will receive 5cents a word, reprints 1cent per word. The deadline is December 31 with a May 2011 publication date. You can find the details at

Michael Ray, editor of Redstone Science Fiction, dropped by the Corner and left a comment about his magazine. Redstone will be open to submissions on the 1st through the 15th of each month through the summer. So if you're working on a story and afraid you won't make the June deadline, don't worry. It's always nice when editors drop by.

Apex magazine opens for submissions on June 1. They're looking for shorts up to 7500 words. According to their guidelines, they're looking for dark weird stuff in the sci-fi, fantasy and horror genres or a good mix of those genres. The pay is 5cents a word and they will accept reprints from respected zines (a list is in the guidelines) for a $10 flat rate. They also accept poetry.

Garrison Keillor has an opinion piece up at The Baltimore Sun that I found quite interesting and a bit nostalgic.,0,5036071.story There are days that I miss my typewriter and being able to format a story as I write it. Don't miss the erasing and white-out, though I do miss the whizzy sound of paper being yanked from the barrel feed :)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Finding the Point

I find myself dropping by Chuck Wendig's blog, Terrible Minds, several times a week. Why, you might ask, the man is loud and he uses curse words, why would you want to read his blog?

Because I always find some truth about writing in his posts. The man believes in what he's doing and he's not afraid to share what he's learned or what works in his writing process. Take yesterday's post for example And not just the post itself, but the discussion that follows is full of intelligent ideas to consider when you're writing.

The big what-is-this-about question raises it ugly head every time you put words to paper. I've never been one to ask before I start writing - but somewhere into those first five hundred to a thousand words of a short story I do start asking myself what is this about, why is this character acting like this, is there a point here? If there's no underlying reason for the characters to be doing what they're doing the story usually falls flat on its face.

So, you're wondering, does every story need a point? Well, haven't you read a story and got to the end and said, "Yeah, so?" I have, especially in some of the neo-noir work. It just seems like the writer is going from one massive gross-out scene to the next and then the story ends without there being any rhyme or reason for the character's actions. All stories need a purpose, they need to have a reason for being other than for the writer to get a publication credit for their resume.

In a short story you don't need to beat your reader over the head with your theme, but it does need to be there to make your story more than just pretty words. Every story deserves a reason for being.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Markets and Cool Links

Over at Dark Valentine there's a new photo prompt up for flash writers. The Through a Lens Darkly section of DV is non-paying and takes flash stories up to 1000 words. The quarterly zine itself will be premiering on June 11 with stories from Cormac Brown, Paul Brazill, Elizabeth Zelvin and others. Sure to be a great issue with a lineup like that. They've also opened submissions to the second issue with an August 8 deadline and a September 3 publication date. Stories selected for the zine receive a payment of $10. They're looking for dark stories in any genre. You can check them out here

The First Line is seeking submissions for their Fall issue. The deadline is August 1. I think you could have a lot of fun with this sentence! "Three thousand habitable planets in the known universe, and I'm stuck on the only one without ______." (fill in the blank) This is a paying market, you can find all the details at

With a hat tip to Charles Tan, I found this link to an essay about the work of Shirley Jackson. I think it would be so cool to write a short story like "The Lottery", that still affects people long after its first publication. I found it interesting that she and the New Yorker, where the story was published, received hate mail because of that piece of fiction.

And a huge thank you to Michael Bracken for sending this link my way!! This essay about short story writing is excellent, but do be sure to follow the links at the bottom of the page for more essays about shorts and writing in general. There's a lot of good information about writing on this site!

Monday, May 24, 2010

This and That

Ran across some interesting links this morning in my clicking travels. Cassandra Jade's blog gives us five reasons to read in a variety of genres.

I know quite a few of the writers who stop by here are into comic books and graphic novels so I thought this link might be of interest to them especially, but to fans of short story writer, Harlan Ellison also. And comics are basically short stories with pictures, aren't they? And yes, Harlan Ellison has written a comic book in The Spirit series.

Ever said no to a publisher? Scary thought, isn't it? Well, Jim Hines did just that and he lives to talk about it here

I'm a writing hoarder. I have drawers full of stories I've written over the years (some of them god-awful) that I keep. And the truth is, some of those stories have been rewritten and published when I've seen a call that those discarded stories might be a fit for. Sarah Zettel does a better job of explaining hoarding here You just never know what a publisher is going to need.

And David Bishop has an interesting essay over at Angry Robot Books called "Faking It" which boils down to being true to yourself when you write. There's some good advice here no matter where you are in your writing life.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

How's Your Little Hobby, Honey?

Beginning writers, struggling writers, even those-who-have-made-it writers will catch a glimpse of themselves in Allison Brennan's post over at Murderati today.

Sometimes I think only another writer can understand the desire to put words on paper. Only another writer can understand that writing is time consuming. Only another writer can feel the way you do when you sit down and start spinning a story. The fears and doubts about finding a publisher or wondering if you are good enough are damn near crippling at times, but when your family just shrugs off what you do...that can hurt.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Markets Galore

A tip from Brian Lindenmuth sent me out checking markets this morning and I've got quite a few links for you.

Brian's market comes via Nick Mamatas. The Pedestal is looking for bizarro flash fiction. No clue? Neither do I. The Pedestal guidelines describe it as weird, absurd, horrific, uncanny, and/or grotesque speculative fiction. I like Wikipedia's definition better, it sounds like more fun. plus they have a few authors you can check out. The Pedestal is a very, and I mean very, high end literary market. They have an online submission form and the pay is 8cents a word. This call is for 250 to 1000 words and the deadline is June 14. You can find all the details at

I've seen the notice for Redstone Science Fiction's magazine in several places. They open for subs on June 1 and close June 15 so this is a very tight window for those interested. They're looking for sci-fi of 750 to 4000 words with payment of 5cents a word. They'll also look at reprints from respected sci-fi markets (there's a list) with payment of 1cent a word. You can find all the details here There's an interview with the editors here

Shock Totem is closing to subs on June 1 but will reopen August 1.

Over at they have a listing of markets that are open for submissions, some for a while and some to close shortly. There were way too many to list here, so drop on over and check them out. They're a great source for market news. There are listings for pro and semi-pro zines and several anthologies.

Pill Hill Press has added several more anthologies to their list of open submissions. Only three writers, chosen by the editor, will be paid and receive copies for these calls. Sort of like a contest deal.

I came across this new press over at Duotrope called Kite Hill Press. They're looking for mostly GLBT stories for e-books from 2000 to 45,000 words and print books from 50,000 words and up. Guidelines are here I found their payment information at this link They pay no advances but authors receive 35% royalties on the net profits for print books and 40% royalties on the net profits of the e-books. They also break down their meaning of net at the link.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Random Thoughts

Over at Bookfox I found this link to an interview with short story writer Robin Black where she talks about the lack of stories about older women. Personally, I enjoy writing stories about older women. You have access to so much backstory and historical moments that have made this character who she is. Of course, all characters have a back story but when you can toss in the moral codes, the church beliefs, things that were expected of women in the past, you're looking at a very rich character.

David Cranmer asked a very interesting question on his blog the other day. How long do you like your short stories? He had as varied a response to his question as there are readers. I think Scott Parker pretty much nailed it, though, a story needs to be as long or as short as necessary because every story unfolds in different ways. Of course, as writers, we have word count restraints unless we choose to look for a different market than the one we're targeting. As an online reader, I prefer stories no more than 2000 words for two reasons. One, I find it difficult to read online at some of the sites - white print on black page is the worst. And two, I have too many interruptions through the day and its pretty hard to stick a bookmark between the pages and come back later and pick up where I left off, or sometimes even to remember where I was. With print stories, I love how a story can be "filled out" and explored on a larger scale and still be kept under 10,000 words.

Brian Lindunmuth posts writing quotes over at Spinetingler on a regular basis. Yesterday's quote was from Adrian McKinty. "Coincidence has no place in twenty first century writing." That's just the first sentence of the quote for the rest

First off, I understand from a reader's point of view that just suddenly having a character stumble onto a clue is rather like cheating is nothing but coincidence. Its not like all the clues to a real crime are laid out in a neat little row for someone to follow. That would be a happy coincidence and certainly make a policeman's life much easier. You'll have false leads or you'll be so sure of who did it that you'll collect only clues that make that person guilty, until some chance remark or lab test sets you off on another path. Our characters are human beings and all of life is chance and coincidence, to deny that aspect of humanity is to make our characters almost super-human.

And finally, Paul Brazill dropped me a note to say that the Radgepacket 5 anthology is open for submissions. There's also an online zine for Radgepacket. This is British based and wants British crime fiction. I don't believe this is a paying market as I didn't find mention of payment while clicking around the site.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Bit of This and That

I just shook my head over this one Author Matt Bell is writing a short story live online over at Everyday Genius He started on Monday, but you can go back through the posts and see how this is all unfolding. Hat tip to Brian Lindenmuth for the link.

This seems to be a bit of a trend for writers, especially those who write novels. Dan O'Shea has been posting his novel online as he writes it. He's up to chapter 18 of "The Gravity of Mammon"

I don't know about you, but I don't think I could do this. My first drafts look like something scribbled by a five year old. I can write a first draft pretty fast when I'm working on a story, but posting it online would make me feel like someone was looking over my shoulder. My mind shudders at the thought.

Gutter Books, the off-shoot of Out of the Gutter Magazine has started a blog. They're posting news items and interviews. One of the interviewers for the site is friend of the blog, and BTAP editor, David Cranmer.

The voting has started for the Million Writers Award. As I've mentioned before, the voting is open to the public, you can find the details of how and where here

And Sniplits has announced that they will open for submissions on June 21. The timeline for submitting mystery/crime stories is the months of August, September and October. They accept stories in most genres so check the guidelines to see when to submit your story. This is a good paying market and they also accept reprints. Click on Authors at the top of the page to find the guidelines and timeline. Just be forewarned that this market can take up to and over a year to respond, so send your story and forget about it, they will get back to you.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Keeping On

One of my writing pet peeves is the over use of the word it. Such a small word but one that writers rely on, sometimes heavily. I'd never given "it" much thought until a writer I know said, "Never start a sentence with It." Much to my amazement, I realized she was right. By using a specific word instead of "it" makes the writing better, and easier for the reader to understand what you're trying to say. Don't believe me? Marshall Payne has an excellent post on this topic called "The Elusive Pronoun: It!"

Sarah Zettel has an interesting post about staying the course when you're writing called "Don't Stop The Writing" My husband is in the flagstone business and like he says, the cut stone is like money in the bank even when the buyers aren't buying. Someday, someone is going to need it and you'll have it. You're not wasting your time when you're working. Good advice, not just in the stone business but for both your short stories and novels.

I don't have a Twitter account but I will confess that I "eavesdrop" on the Twitterers on a regular basis. That's how I stumbled across Tom Russell's blog, Notes from the Borderland. He has some very interesting essays on his site. This one about writing is what took me to the site but I found a real jewel when I found this post which ties in perfectly with Ms. Zettel's post.

Keep on keeping on, my writer friends!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Book Sale Finds

I had a wonderful afternoon digging through tables and boxes of books. It was the first of the summer book sales. The books are all donated and the proceeds go to our local historical society. I took over two boxes of hardcovers and a brown paper bag full of paperbacks to donate and came home with my shopping bag full for a grand total of five bucks.

With so many different people donating, you never know what you're going to find, but I was surprised to see quite a few advance copies of books, not this years, but fairly new. Got my mystery fix with a Crais, several Paretsky's that I'd missed and "The Pearl Harbor Murders" by Max Allan Collins. I'd seen his name mentioned all the around the web, so when I saw this book, I grabbed it. This will be my first reading of any of his work.

I also managed to snag four short story anthologies. It's funny how things collide. Jedidiah Ayres had mentioned Pinckney Benedict on his blog and I'd seen his name mentioned in several other places and what should I spot first off? "Town Smokes" by Pinckney Benedict. Great stories so far! I liked the title of Pam Houston's collection "Cowboys Are My Heroes" so I grabbed that one. And I found two sci-fi anthologies. One a collection by Larry Niven called "Tales of Known Space: The Universe of Larry Niven" and the other is "A Treasury of Great Science Fiction" edited by Anthony Boucher that has a great line-up of authors.

I'd seen the name Charles Grant before so when I came across several of his books I picked up two. One called "In The Mood" which sounds excellent and another called "Black Oak:Winter Knight". I looked Mr. Grant up and discovered that he passed away several years ago, but, wow!, was he prolific. I also found a book called "Friday" by Robert A. Heinlein.

As I'm fond of Southern writers, I was pleased to come across two books by Southern writers. The first is "Sullivan's Island" by Dorothea Benton Frank and the other is "Bad Ground" by W. Dale Cramer which sounds like a great read.

How about you? What treasures did you find this weekend?

Million Writers Short List

The top ten selections for the Million Writers Award are in. Congratulations to all the finalists with special Snoopy Dances going out to ThugLit and Eric Beetner!! Great to see a crime story crack the short list! Public voting begins tomorrow and ends on May 31. You can find all the details at And here are your finalists:

"Secondhand Objects" by Renee Simms (from 42opus)
"I Am My Rooster" by Taylur Thu Hien Ngo (from Blackbird)
"The Library" by Jolie Braun (from BluePrintReview)
"Non-Zero Probabilities" by N. K. Jemisin (from Clarkesworld Magazine)
"A Song to Greet the Sun" by Alaya Dawn Johnson (from Fantasy Magazine)
"The Moose Head Haus" by Tom Burkett (from Storyglossia)
"Ditch" by Eric Beetner (PDF download, from Thuglit)
"Eros, Philia, Agape" by Rachel Swirsky (from
"This Program Contains Actual Surgical Procedures" by Roxane Gay (from Twelve Stories)
"Hospitality" by Summer Block (from Wheelhouse Magazine)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Spinetingler News

Spinetingler has opened to submissions as of yesterday. This is a paying market. You can find all the details at

There's also a new interview up with Joe R. Lansdale which you can find here

Wearing My Rose-Colored Glasses

Hmmm...I just spent a half hour struggling with a post about writers getting paid for their stories, then deleted it. Money/payment seems to be a big taboo topic for writers. If newbies talk about the big bucks the top loop of writers receives, they're considered jealous and if those upper crust writers dismiss those who write for little or no money, well, they're just snobs. Does that about sum it up? I think so.

I don't make a lot of money with my writing. My most profitable year, I made about $1000, but I was writing a weekly column and getting paid a whopping $15 a week for it. Usually I make between $100 and $200 a year which pays for paper, writing books, and envelopes for mailing out submissions. I pretty much break even and most people would consider that just a hobby, which in all reality it is. Still I write, despite the fact that I don't make the big bucks.

Why? Because, money or no money, I love it. Because its what I choose to do with my time. Because...there's a hundred different reasons but it all boils down to the fact that its something I choose to do. I write, I research markets and I submit. What I try not to do is become stagnant.

What do I mean by stagnant? It means writing the same story over and over, submitting to the same markets that publish everything that comes their way. If you're going to write, stretch those muscles. Learn your craft, submit to markets that edit and reject and sometimes pay. If you want to become a paid professional that's the route you need to take.

Am I a shining example of what to do? Hell, no! I'm just stumbling through the best I can. I've never had money, so for me, the writing is the important thing and something I never expect to make a living at. Would I like to make the big bucks? Sure, but not at the expense of the writing. And yes, I'm weird and have a rose-colored picture in my head of what I'd like the world of writing to be.

Well, I guess I'm done preaching now, but I do have a couple of links for you.

Michael Bracken sent me this link yesterday about how to go about getting your money when the publisher doesn't send you that check.

And this goes to Neil Gaiman's web site. Mr. Gaiman is getting lambasted for accepting a $45,000 speaking fee.

We've got both ends of the writing spectrum covered today!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Market Day

Over at they've put up the May call for submissions There are quite a few calls for poetry included for the poets among us. I also discovered a fledgling quarterly on the list called Southern Grit that might be of interest to our Southern writers. They're looking for short stories of 1500 to 6000 words for their September debut issue. This is a non-paying market. You'll find the details here

There were two markets listed on the SMFS list this week.

The first is a zine called Pulp Empire They're looking for shorts of 2500 to 15,000 words in all the pulp genres from sci-fi to westerns. Your story will be posted online for three months then collected into a print copy from which you'll receive royalties. Be aware that when they accept your story you're giving them 1st electronic rights and 1st North American print rights. If I understand print rights correctly, if they don't print your story, you still don't have the right to have it printed elsewhere without their permission and you might have to give them the money you receive. Please correct me if I'm wrong on this point. Just something to be aware of if you decide to submit here.

Pulp Empire is also looking for reviews of pulp related work and they publish press releases from pulp publishers and websites.

The second market was Wicked East Press This is a small press specializing in anthologies. They have 5 short story calls for horror, mystery and pirate themes and 2 flash calls listed. There is no pay here, except for a copy of the book you're story is in. And nothing for the flash themed books.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm having a problem with some of these small press anthologies. On one level it's great to have a market, but to not pay the writer, at least with a copy of the anthology, when you're depending on them for sales doesn't quite sit right for me.

When you don't give the writer a copy, the press is depending on the writers to purchase at least one copy each which guarantees X number of sales ( in the case of some flash anthologies, at least three hundred ) and that seems just a tiny bit shady to me. And yes, I know, I give my work away to the ezines, but I think there's a difference between an online zine and a publishing business which is looking to make a profit on their books. That's my opinion, yours may vary, just be aware when you're submitting.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Short Story Goodness

I drop by the Bookfox blog about once a week. There's always something new and interesting on the site. This week I discovered that it's Short Story Month. and from this site I dropped over to the Emerging Writers site which has everything connected to short stories at the click of your mouse. Now, grant you, its mostly literary, but everything is a learning experience.

Over at Craig McDonald's blog I read a very interesting interview with short story writer Laurie Lynn Drummond.

And speaking of interviews, Duotrope has a new feature on their site. They're doing interviews with the editors of the different publications on their site. If you scroll down to the bottom of this page you'll find links to the interviews and the zines. I find it helpful to know what an editor's likes and dislikes are.

When we're writing, everything comes down to voice. Writers are always told to find their voice but no one seems to be able to explain where and how to get that elusive voice. Nathan Bransford has some tips on his blog that are worth a look.

I also ran across a non-paying print market called Midnight Screaming that might be of interest to some of you. They're starting their second year of publication and they're looking for shorts up to 3000 words, flash under 1000 and poetry. They want creepy horror stories and they're actually looking for hit man and serial killer stories that the mystery zines are getting tired of. You can find the details at

Monday, May 10, 2010

Here and There

So, where do I begin today? I've been collecting links for the last two days, and added a couple more this morning. It truly amazes me how much information exists out there and keeping up is nearly impossible. And I love it! There's always something new to learn or to employ in your writing to make it better.

Michael Bracken wrote a post called "Be A Prop Master" Keeping track of items in your story is crucial, but what this post brought to mind for me was remembering what your character is doing, too. I once had a character sitting in a chair one minute, then the next she was in a fight, without ever leaving the chair!

Charles Gramlich has an interesting conversation going on his blog about show vs tell. And it's a strange thing, but when I start a story, its all tell. The show comes in the rewrite for me, that's when dialogue and actions move into a story. That's probably a back-assward way of doing it, but that how my stories come. Like I've said before - I have a weird mind.

Madeleine Robins has an interesting post about rewriting called "The Right Words". Holding together a short story can be a challenge some days, I can't imagine the struggle to hold together a novel.

Over at In Reference to Murder, BV Lawson has a whole bunch of links with tips on writing, publicity and the business. She also has links to two contests - one short story and one novel. BV's blog is a great source for all things mystery so take some time and click around her site, you won't be sorry.

On SMFS this weekend there was a link posted to a month long online writers conference Here's a link to their schedule to see if there's anything of interest for you In order to log in for the conference click "enter the conference rooms" then click "Log In" On the third page you'll find a link to register. Not sure why there isn't a direct link to register. For those who aren't able to "attend" the panels you'd like, you'll find transcripts of the panels here

Looking through the schedule of this conference I noticed that they have something for just about every genre from sci-fi to romance so they've pretty much got everyone covered no matter what their writing interests.

And finally, a pair of market notes. Nefarious Muse has closed to submissions and with a tip of the hat to James Reasoner we have a new zine called Chain Story. This is an invitation only market but don't let that stop you from reading. There are stories up so far, from Nathan Long, Robert E. Vardeman, Jeffrey J. Mariotte and Michael A. Stackpole and all the genres are covered.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sunday Morning Musings

It's been a strange morning. Looking out my window this morning I saw the hen turkey that's been lurking about the yard and the field just beyond my window this past week. She fluffed her feathers in the dirt around the bottom of the pine tree then walked along the side of the road picking stones until she disappeared from sight. I think she may be preparing to nest in the field. I look forward to future sightings and maybe a glimpse of the babies when they hatch. And, believe it or not, it's snowing! Snow on Mother's Day, in May, who'd of thunk it? And with the lilacs in full bloom nearly three weeks early.

I have some links that I'll probably post up tomorrow, but there's been a question on my mind for some time so I thought I'd toss it out on the ether sea and see what floats back.

The question is about pen names. I know there are many reasons to use one. The more prolific writers of decades past used them so they wouldn't be referred to as hacks. David Cranmer and others use one name for Westerns and another for Crime stories and Michael Bracken uses a variety names for his confession stories. Many women use their initials or a male pen name because they feel their work will considered better or more salable if written by a man. And there are many gentlemen who use female pen names for romance novels and cozy mysteries for the same reasons. And yet, writers like Robert Randisi and Ed Gorman seem to do all right writing in various genres under their own names.

My questions? Is it better to use a pen name if you're writing in a variety of genres or does it just confuse readers who are looking for your work? The big thing now is to brand yourself, so if you're branding, do you have to set up a platform for each pen name? And something I haven't figured out yet, is why an author uses a pen name then has something like Amelia Loving writing as JD Mysterious put on the cover. Why bother with the pen name if its not a secret? Feel free to wonder or answer along with me on this Sunday morning.

And Happy Mother's Day to all you Moms out there and the Dad's who are taking on that responsibility for one reason or another. Mothering is a tough job and you're all loved mightily for doing it!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

More Short Thoughts

Scott D. Parker has an interesting post over at Do Some Damage called "When the Well Runs Dry" In the essay he talks about reading something so great that you fear you'll never be able to reach that stage in your writing and you're tempted to quit. He also touches on having so many ideas that he jumps from story to story without finishing any of them.

I think these are thoughts that are common to every writer. I don't know how many times over the years I've been ready to toss the whole writing thing into the trash and never look back, but the stories keep filling my head and the desire to write them down draws me time and again back to the keyboard. And ideas tend to overrun themselves at times, so I just jot down the idea, the paragraph, or whatever struck me and set it aside to keep working on the story in progress. Yes, my mind will drift off to the other idea, and I'll let it, because I know that when I sit down to write I'll have a better idea of what the story is about and where I want to go with it.

I've found that it's just a matter of discipline, of making yourself stick to a story as long as its flowing. If the story stops coming, then move on to something else because there are times when the words don't flow and you need to step back and let your mind and the characters mull over what comes next. Over the years I've discovered that taking that step back leads to a better story and takes me places my first thoughts would never have considered.

Over at Criminal Brief this morning, John M. Floyd has an excellent post about writing tight. I especially like this quote from Alfred Hitchcock that he included. "A short story is life with the dull parts taken out." You can find his essay here If you're having trouble keeping on point with your short story, John has some good tips to follow.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Scattered Links

Sometimes the links I come across all seem to mesh together but today isn't the case. I've found links that will some will love and other will say WTF? to. But that's the fun in finding links of interest. I've found that no matter what the subject matter, it's a learning experience and there's always something that I can toss into the short story fold.

First up are two links that came my way via Brian Lindenmuth. This first one links to a blog called Guide to Literary Agents, but you'll find a whole lot of good advice on this site. The link Brian sent is for finding your voice and the piece links to 5 other sites. The first link didn't work for me but the others all did. There's a link for Children's writers among the "how to to find your voice" advice but the one I found especially helpful for me was Looking through the site I found that it contains a great deal of writing advice for those looking to improve their writing skills.

The second link is for our comic book writers. This is a fun site for illustrators but there's also advice that writers can use in their stories.

For our Western writers. Bookgasm has an interview with Western author, Larry D. Sweazy, who has some very interesting thoughts about the genre.

And finally, Jason Sanford has an essay up on his blog called "Living in a World Where Most Writers Suck". Sounds awful? There's some very interesting thoughts in the piece and others in the comment section. And its always good to get an editor's take on that slush pile we all land in.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Needle Flash

The guys over at Needle Magazine have posted a flash challenge for all you writers out there.

They're looking for flash stories of 1000 words or less with a needle in the story. And that's any kind of needle from phonograph, tattoo, syringe, knitting needles or whatever kind of needle your deviant brain can conjure up. Hmmm...random farm equipment springs to mind.

Everyone who enters will have their name dropped into a bowl ( or maybe, it being Needle and all, a toilet bowl?) and one will be randomly picked to win a T-Shirt or mug. The stories will also be looked over for possible inclusion in the July issue of Needle. If you're in, just drop your name in the comments of the post at this link.

Little Bits

Over at the Women of Mystery blog the lovely Kathleen Ryan has posted some contests that might be of interest to some of you.

I've noticed that whenever writers talk about shorts they tend to use the title, "The Long and Short of It". Yeah, that's the title of this essay by novelist Alma Alexander. This is a very lovely piece that actually shows the difference between how a novelist would tell a story and how a short story writer views the same story. Lovely stuff.

And over at Spinetingler, Brian Lindenmuth has created Crime Song Wednesdays. Every week he posts about a noir song, so when I heard this song yesterday, I thought about Brian. Even cozies need a song now and then :) If you need a good chuckle on this rainy morning (at least its raining here) this is the song for you.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Short Story Gold

Courtesy of Michael Bracken we have our first three links to articles about short stories.

The first is an interview with Atlantic Fiction Editor, C. Michael Curtis. While his insights into writing short stories are wonderful, I was pulled up short by this statement. "As for genre writing, I doubt it helps much, and it teaches at least some bad lessons. But sometimes you just want to get away." At first I was insulted by that, but then I got to thinking. Yeah, I'm here to entertain my readers, that's really what writing short stories is all about for me. You can find the interview here

The next link is from Lisa K and it provides a great insight into marketing your short stories.

And the last one is the first in a series of ten tutorials aimed at the newbie short story writer from author, Sally Zigmond. And yes, even you pros out there will probably learn something. Here's the first part For those of you who can't afford classes, this is an excellent opportunity to further your short story education.

And if you haven't taken time to listen to Michael's interview over at the Reading and Writing Podcast, you really should. The podcast lasts for half an hour and is very informative. Though I've got to admit that knowing Michael lived in Texas, I was expecting to hear a cowboy drawl, which he doesn't have. :-) Voices always surprise me. Take a listen here

Courtesy of Charles Tan's blog, I ran across an essay by Lydia Sharp with some very good tips for writing short stories.

And one market note. has changed their submission guidelines publishes Sci-fi and Fantasy stories online. This is a pro market and the competition is stiff. They're looking for stories under 12,000 words and the pay is 25cents a word for the 1st 5000, 15cents for the next 5000 and 10cents a word after that.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

On Writing

I love finding blog posts about writing and there's been quite a few lately that I've found interesting. So here you go.

JM McDermott has an essay called "The Long Wait" where he gnashes his teeth at the long wait most zines impose on our stories. It was nice to hear someone voice the complaints we all have but can do nothing about if we want to published in the higher end zines.

Juliette Wade has an interesting post on world building that speaks to all the genres, not just fantasy. Some very interesting thoughts here

Now if you're easily offended by bad language, please skip the next link, but I found this a fun post. Written by Chuck Wendig its called "New Writing Technique: The Rectal Thunderbolt" Mr. Wendig makes some good points while keeping you chuckling.

Back a while ago the anonymous writer of the Mysterious Matters blog posted some tips on writing cozies. When you click on the today's link you'll find some tips for writing hardboiled.

I also ran across Eric Rosenfield's blog Wet Asphalt the other day where he has a post about magazines worth reading. He has a list of zines and links where you'll find some interesting markets for your work. You've got to love it when people make lists like this.


It's been a bit crazy around here of late but I've been collecting links the past few days. I have quite a few so I'll break them into two posts. This first one is for the market links that have come my way in the last few days.

Out of Gutter has opened for submissions to their 7th issue. The theme for this one is the UK vs the US, crimes of course. There's two editors for this issue, yeah one for the UK and one for the US. There's no pay on this one but you'll usually find yourself in stellar company in this magazine plus Bookgasm reviews every issue. The deadline is July 15. Also the editor has started a new press called Gutter Books The first book out is a collection of shorts from the first three issues and they'll be looking at submissions. You'll find the guidelines at the site.

For those of you who like to mix romance with the paranormal there's a call for submissions to an anthology called More Scary Kisses. They're looking for shorts of 1000 to 8500 words with a November 1 deadline. The pay is 2 copies plus AUS 2cents per word with a max of $100. You can find the details at

Afterburn has opened for submissions They're looking for action oriented sci-fi, fantasy, and horror stories of 1000 to 10000 words. There's an online submission form and the pay is $30.

The 15th Chizine Short Story contest has been announced. The submission period is June 1 to the 30th. They want dark stories under 4000 words. The top 3 stories will be published in the fall issue of Chizine and the authors will be paid 7cents a word. You can find all the details at

There was a call for submissions that came through the crime-writers Yahoo group for a zine called Primalzine This is a non-paying market looking for trauma-based fiction, poetry and artwork in any genre. Short should be well under 10000 words. You can find all the details at

Also open for submissions this month are CrimeSpree Magazine, Shroud and for our poets, The Lineup has opened for their next issue. You'll find urls for these markets to the left in the print section.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Flash Challenge Day

Today is Patti Abbott's "Sweet Dreams" flash challenge and here's my entry. You will find links to all the stories on Patti's blog Happy Reading!

By Sandra Seamans

Toby Evans plunked down on a bar stool next to one of the regulars. “Hey, man, did you see that? This whole damn place just sprung up out of the ground like a bunch of dandelions. Them folks in Heritage told me the place was haunted, but hey, this is beyond anything I’ve ever seen.”

The bartender walked over and set a beer down in front of Toby. “And what would a kid like you know about haunted?”

“Cause I’m a ghost hunter. Toby Evans: Ghost Hunter Extraordinaire. I’ve got the number one show on cable.”

“Never heard of you, Mr. Ghost Hunter,” said the bartender, “But I suppose that will be remedied after tonight. Ain’t that right, Ralston?”

The man next to Toby said, “Yeah, Tink, don’t nobody ever leave The Half Way House.”

“What do you mean, nobody ever leaves?” asked Toby.

“Hey, Tink, you wanna get me beer? This kid wants to hear about Ruby Sullivan and that ain’t something I can talk about completely sober.”

Tink drew Ralston another draft then wiped his way down the bar to serve his other customers.

“Ruby Sullivan? Is she the babe who haunts this place? Them folks in Heritage were pretty tight-lipped about the ghost I’d be hunting. Kind of odd, what with them paying me twice my fee.”

“Hold onto your britches, kid, I’ll tell you. I just gotta get myself in a telling mood. Oh, yeah, and you can put all them ghost hunting gadgets away. I guarantee you this place is full of ghosts tonight. You might even say it’s ghost hell here at The Half Way House.”

“What’s so special about tonight?”

“Its Ruby’s night.”

“Girl’s got her own special night? I suppose some dude promised to marry her and she keeps coming back looking for him. Damn brokenhearted ghosts are a dime a dozen.”

“I wish it were something as simple as a broken heart that keeps bringing her back,” said Ralston, draining his glass and pushing it forward for another refill.

“You know, there are some things in this world that a man should never have to witness. Things burned into his brain that even a wire brush to the eyeballs won’t erase.” Ralston shook his head.

“You’re saying something awful happened to this Ruby?”

“Awful doesn’t come near describing what goes on here. You see, Ruby was more woman than any man in Heritage could handle. I guess that’s probably why they done what they did. How could they know the kind of curse they’d conjure up? Which ain’t no excuse, mind you.”

“What’d they do?”

“They stretched her out on that pool table and took turns. When she tried to press charges, the Sheriff told her whores get what they deserve. She hung herself from that beam up there,” said Ralston, nodding toward a noose that was swinging from the beam above the pool table. “The first year she came back, Tink burned the bar down. It didn’t help.”

“She still comes back?”

“Yup, bar and all.”

“What’s she do when she comes back?”

Ralston watched Tink step out from behind the bar. He walked over to the jukebox, dropped a dime in the slot and pushed a button. The sounds of The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” came pouring into the room.

“You feel it, kid?”

“Feel what?”

“That tightening in your crotch. Your pecker pushing hard against the zipper.”

The kid gulped and nodded. They both jumped when the door blew open. Ruby had arrived.

Her red hair and electric blue dress ignited the room with a sexual fire. Every man in the bar tossed back another beer and tried not to look at her seductive figure. But the fire was there and the flames couldn’t be doused with beer or closed eyes.

Her hips swayed to the music as she danced toward the bar, her skirts riding up, showing a milky white thigh.

“How about a lemonade for your darling daughter, Tink?”

Tink picked up a sweaty pitcher and poured her a tall, cool glass of pink lemonade.

“Maybe you’d best go upstairs, girl, away from the customers. You’re not a child anymore.”

“But, Daddy, I’m the reason they come here. Hell, this old bar would be dead if it weren’t for me. Ain’t that what you said?”

Tears welled up in Tink’s eyes, “To my ever-loving shame, that’s what I said, Ruby, darling.”

Ruby spun away from the bar, a smile on her face. She started swaying to the music until every man in the room was feeling an uncomfortable pressure between his legs. She turned towards Toby, and grabbed his hand.

“I’ve got me a real cutey this year. What’s your name, darlin’?”


“Well, T..T..Toby, welcome to The Half Way House. My name’s Ruby and you’re all mine”


“Ummm…you get to climb on me and…well, you know.” She smiled and slid her body up on the pool table, her skirt pulled up around her waist. “Your turn to ride the wild whore, T..T..Toby.”

Toby looked at Ralston, but Ralston just shook his head. “Your decision, boy.”

Toby licked his lips, dropped his jeans and climbed on. He rode her hard and fast, until he glanced toward the bar. The look of horror spreading across Ralston and Tink’s faces made him pause and look down at Ruby. He was riding a pile of milky white maggots. As he tried to push away, they drown him in a wiggling white wave, consuming his flesh until there was nothing left but bones.

“Pour me another, Tink, before we’re drop back into eternity,” said Ralston. “Maybe next year Heritage will send a man with enough balls to stand up to her and we can get free of this place.”

“Don’t matter who they send, you can’t kill the dead. We’re trapped in this hell because I didn’t stop you. And she ain’t never going to forgive her Daddy for that.”

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Last Dance

Life got in the way of blogging yesterday, so without further ado, here's the final list of Spinetingler winners.


Best New Voice
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville

Rising Star
50 Grand by Adrian McKinty

The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly

Best Mystery or Crime Comic/Graphic
The Hunter by Darwyn Cooke

Congrats! And a huge final round of Snoopy Dances for all the winners and nominees. It was a fantastic list of the people and talent that lives in the mystery community. Hooray!!!!

For a complete wrap-up go to

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Tingling Updates

Best Cover - Finch written by Jeff VanderMeer and illustrated and designed by John Coulthart

Best Short Story - "Insatiable" by Hillary Davidson published by Beat to a Pulp

Congratulations to the winners!!!!

And a big Snoopy Dance for Hillary and David - way to go, guys!!

More Spinetinglers

Two more Spinetingler winners:

Special Services to the Industry and Community - Bookgasm

Best Reviewer - Lesa Holstine

The categories are being announced every ninety minutes throughout the day. You can follow them through this link

Congrats to both Lesa and Bookgasm!!

The Derringer Winners

In the category of flash fiction, 1,000 words or less, the winner is:
"And Here's to You, Mrs.Edwardson," by Hamilton Waymire.

In the category of short fiction, 1,001 to 4,000 words, the winner is:
"Twas the Night" by Anita Page.

In the category of long fiction, 4,001 to 8,000 words, the winner is:
"Famous Last Words" by Doug Allyn.

In the category of novelette, 8,001+ words, the winner is:
"Julius Katz" by Dave Zeltserman.

And finally, the Golden Derringer committee would like to announce the awarding of this prize to Lawrence Block in recognition of his contributions to the field of short mystery fiction.

Let's have a huge round of Snoopy Dances for all the winners!!! And a special Hooray for Anita Page as we shared pages in the Toys for Tots anthology "The Gift of Murder" where her story was published. Way to go, Anita!!

Markets and a Contest

I'm not sure if I mentioned this market before but "Hazard Cat" is looking for submissions in all genres but the stories must have cats. The pay is 1/2cent per word for stories up to 5000 words with a flat $5 for poetry and artwork. You can find all the details at

I also ran across a zine called Black Heart Magazine which is looking for dark stories up to 2500 words and flash pieces under 500. This is a non-paying market.

The second Watery Grave Invitational kicks off today over at The Drowning Machine. This is a great opportunity for short story writers to get their stories before a larger audience. All you have to do is email a link to your best e-pubbed story of 3000 words or less by May 7. The story you link to must have been published on or before April 15, 2010. You'll find all the details at the link.

And just a note to say that I'll be popping in with more posts as the day goes on. The Derringer Awards will be announced today and The Spinetinglers will be announcing their winners throughout the day. So stay tuned!

BUSTED FLUSH PRESS has won in the Spinetinger category of Best Mystery/Crime Fiction Press, Publisher or Imprint!!! Congratulations!!