Thursday, May 31, 2012

Writing Shorts

Alexandra Sokoloff takes a look at the art of the short story.


Yep, it's me.  Paul Brazill was kind enough to invite me over to his blog for a chat.  Thanks, Paul!!

Anthology Call

Thunderdome has placed a call for a new print anthology titled "Bloody Knuckles".  They're looking for short stories up to 5000 words that are centered around mixed martial arts.  Deadline is December 15.  Payment is 5cents a word but will be paid out of the royalties not up front.  You can find all the details here

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Selling on Kindle

Short story writer, Michael Bracken, has a blog post up that updates his Kindle sales over the past year.  A good dose of reality for those who believe Kindle is the best way to get rich writing.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Horror Tree

Horror Tree has quite a few new listings for zines and anthologies, both paying and non-paying.

The Red Penny Papers

The Red Penny Papers opens for submissions of both short stories and serials on June 1st.  Pay is 1cent a word up to $25.  Check out the details here

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Memorial Day always brings my uncles drifting back into my mind.  They served in WWII but they rarely spoke of it, at least not in front of us kids.  The story I do remember is of the night they all happened to arrive home after the war ended. 

It was a warm summer night and there were twelve people crowded in four bedrooms upstairs in my Grandparents house.  And they couldn't stop talking.  (The next door neighbor verified this saying, he and wife didn't get much sleep that night for listening to the laughter and stories drifting out the open windows.)  The vision this story created for me was of the Waltons saying good night to each other at the end of the show.  My uncles were great storytellers though and while the Waltons said goodnight, I picture my uncles topping each other with stories of where they'd been and what they'd seen and done.  And rooms filled with the joyous laughter of being home safe and sound in the loving arms of their family.

Good night, my beloved uncles, know that you're missed, but always remembered.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cold Rifts

I remember when my first son was born and everyone was oohing and aahing about how beautiful he was and I thought they were all nuts.  He had this red, wrinkled face, scratches across his nose, and made mewling sounds as he squirmed around in his blanket.  I couldn't see anything beautiful about him, except he was mine and I loved him.  He eventually grew out of that wrinkly little face and became quite beautiful as children go.

My new collection reminds me of that long ago day.  And I wonder how other people will feel about "Cold Rifts" because not everyone likes the same type of story.  While all the stories are crime stories, there's also some humor and paranormal mixed in.  I know that I'm a better flash writer than a long story writer, but I tried to bring that same quality I use in flash to the longer pieces.  Hopefully I succeeded.  Time and reviews will tell.  I dread reading the first reviews.  I'm biting my nails in anticipation, wondering if readers will hate my "baby" or think okay, this ain't too bad.

Whatever happens, I'm still happy with this collection, not because it's perfect, but because I believe it contains some of the best work I've ever done.  It's been a long road getting here and I'm thrilled that Snubnose Press decided to publish "Cold Rifts".

And if you haven't picked up a copy for your e-reader yet, it's free for a couple of days so get yourself a copy and let me know what you think.  Just no tomato throwing, please. :)

Just discovered it's in the UK also.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Free Tomorrow (Sunday)

New Release from Snubnose Press, but wait until tomorrow when you can get it for free.  Of course you can take a peek inside today and read the first story if you'd like.

Loving Shorts

I love to see what people are searching for when they land on this blog.  I think the strangest one was "zoo sex" after Patti's last flash challenge.  I don't even want to think about that :)  But yesterday someone landed on here searching for "the target audience of short stories".

As writers we have to target our short stories to certain markets and the readers they serve.  But that search made me think about the short story audience in general.  From the time we start to read, we read short stories.  All those Golden Books, our fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and fables are short stories.  All through school we read short stories from the classics like Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" to modern day story tellers, which for me, was a story called "Flowers for Algernon" that our English teacher mimeographed from a magazine.  Short stories stick with us, usually far longer than the novels we read.

Take a look at TV.  Each episode is a short story.  As far back as I can remember episodes of programs like "The Twilight Zone" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and even some of today's shows, like "Unforgettable", are based on short stories.  And so many movies, from "Stage Coach" to "Brokeback Mountain", began life as short stories.

For most beginning writers it's the short story that comes first.  We learn to write by taking baby steps.  Most of my first stories ranged from 500 to 1000 words.  From those first shaky steps our writing begins to grow and expand into longer work.  But for those short story beginnings we might never have written.

We are a world of short story readers.  We love this short form, even if we're not totally aware of that fact.

Friday, May 25, 2012

What's in a Name?

Characters, especially series characters, both on TV and in our reading tend to affect the way we react to other stories and shows.  Take today for instance.  I read this first sentence to a short story - "Cash was missing." - and immediately flashed on the character Cash Laramie from David Cranmer's short story series.  And my first reaction was, oh no, what happened?

Funny how popular characters can do that.  I knew it wasn't a Cash Laramie story, but the word still drew that gut reaction from me.  It's also one of the reasons that I always google my story character's name.  If you're writing a hard-hitting story, you don't want your character to have a name that implies sunshine and rainbows.  You also don't want to use a famous person's name.  I once discovered that a character of mine shared a name with a famous sports figure.  Yeah, I don't follow sports, so I found myself changing the name through the entire story.  Now, I google first instead of when I'm done.

Names are important and they can make or break a story.  They can convey character traits, like Whiskey Joe, or body size and work ethic like Cannon.  Names bring a lot to a story, so think carefully before you give your character a name.  Consider how you want readers to perceive them.  And unless you're writing a humorous story you certainly wouldn't want your six foot tall, three hundred pound bad guy to be stuck with a name like Cuddles. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Traditional vs Self-Publishing

Nathan Bransford has some well-reasoned thoughts on traditional vs self-publishing and there's some good discussions carried over into the comments.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Entangled in Romance

If romance is your genre you might want to check out Entangled in Romance Press.  They do both print and ebooks and pay royalties.  Right now there are several submission calls open for novellas.  One is Zombie Fairytales, another House of Horrors, and a pair of Christmas themed calls.  They also publish YA romance.  You can check out the calls here and be sure to click on the links for more information.

On Writing

Wonderful, wonderful essay by Greg Rucka, not only about writing strong female characters, but about writing characters and building worlds.  Go read, now.

Short Stories - Hooray!

Hey people, it's short stories.  Who cares that men are the target audience?  Or that only men can write men's fiction.  Or that only best selling authors are eligible to submit their stories.  They're selling short stories, people.  And who doesn't love a well-written short story, no matter who wrote and marketed the damn thing?

The announcement could have been a little less condescending though. :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Writer's LIfe

I don't think I've ever read a truer picture of what a writer's life is like than this one.

Tom Piccirilli

Benoit Lelievre has a wonderful interview with author, Tom Piccirilli, on his Dead End Follies blog.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Science Fiction Trails

Science Fiction Trails has opened submissions to their annual issue.  They seek sci-fi stories set in the Wild West of 1850 to 1900.  1000 to 7000 words.  Payment is $20 plus a copy of the magazine.  There's no deadline listed.  You can find all the details here

Sunday, May 20, 2012

storySouth Million Writers Award

The storySouth Million Writers Award has announced its long list of notable stories of 2011.  You can find the entire list and links to stories here

But a huge congratulations and a round of Snoopy Dances go to:

Patti Abbott whose story "The Proper Training" was published in Plots With Guns. 

Steve Finbow, one of Snubnose Press' authors, for his story "The Men Who Stare at Guitars" published in 3AM Magazine.

And Art Taylor whose story "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" was one of my favorite reads this year.  His story was published in Pank Magazine.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Plasma Frequency

Plasma Spyglass Press has opened submissions to their new zine "Plasma Frequency".  This is a bi-monthly spec-fiction magazine due to launch on September 5.  They're seeking flash to 1000 words and shorts to 5000.  Payment is 1cent a word.  You can check them out here

Friday, May 18, 2012

Out of the Gutter

Out of the Gutter is revamping their site and going online with new content.  They're looking for book and movie reviewers, non-fiction pieces, and short fiction.  Submissions open on June 1 but you can check out the site and get a feel for what they're looking for here  Welcome back, OOTG!!

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Specutopia is a new spec-fiction zine that's going to launch in July.  This bi-monthly market is looking for shorts of 1500 to 5000 words.  Pay is 1cent a word.  You'll find the guidelines here

Thanks to Katherine Tomlinson for the linkage!!

Anthology Call

White Cat Publications has issued a call for submissions for their first anthology called, "Airships and Automatons".  Steampunk stories up to 5000 words with an emphasis on airships or automatons.  Deadline - when filled.  Payment is 5cents a word for original stories, 1cent a word for reprints.  You can find all the details here

Anthology Markets

For those of you looking for anthology markets, Angie's monthly list has been posted.  Check it out here


An interesting look at comic books and superheroes.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Has anyone else noticed the legion of psychiatrists that have joined the crime shows on TV?  The Law and Order franchise always had one or two on speed dial but I was surprised when Criminal Intent brought one in for Goren in the last season.  After all, Goren always got into the heads of the bad guys quite well on his own.  Then Jeff Goldblum's father was a psychiatrist which took over a couple of shows.  The new USA drama Common Law has two male partners doing marriage counseling sessions, Mary Shannon had to talk with one before the end of In Plain Sight, and that guy in Awake has two psychiatrists.

Is it so important to get into the heads of both the cops and the criminals?  Do they add anymore insight to the show or are we supposed to believe that everyone needs a good psychiatrist to make it through the day?  And I wonder, is this going to spill over into books?  Are we going to need a professional to explain what's going on in our character's heads or will we still trust our readers to figure it out?  Just curious.

Proceed with Caution

Another press you might want to steer clear of.

Hat tip to Brian Lindenmuth who passed along the link.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Watery Grave Invitational

Over at The Drowning Machine the lovely Naomi Johnson has announced the start of this year's Watery Grave Invitational.  If you'd like your name tossed in the hat for an invitation to participate just send a link to one of your stories that was published last year.  Even if you're not selected, it's a great opportunity to get your work out there for the reading public.  You can check out all the rules here

Friday, May 11, 2012

Female Partners?

Okay, it's time to put your thinking caps on.  Katherine Tomlinson, on her blog this morning, posed this question.  Are there any mystery series out there that pair two female leads ala Cagney and Lacey?  Katherine thought of Rizzoli and Isles but I drew a blank.

If you can think of any drop a note either here or over on Katherine's blog  And isn't this an interesting topic for discussion?  Why isn't there more stories with women paired together to solve mysteries?  Sort leaves the field wide open for writers, doesn't it? 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thoughts on Flash

Recently I read a crime flash story that reminded me that not everyone knows how to write flash and write it well.  There are a few rules of thumb that work well for crime flash and help make a story more than a setup for a punchline.

1.  You shouldn't use more than two or three characters in a piece that's no more than seven hundred to a thousand words.  Yes, there are exceptions that work but it's a fine line to hold.

2.  Simple names for your characters work best.  When you have multiple characters, please don't give them multiple names like Amy Jo and Billy Bob.  When you have six characters and a dog, each with multiple names, your readers are going to get frustrated trying to keep everyone straight in their head.

3.  Stick with one law enforcement agency.  If your local sheriff can handle the job, let him.  Don't bring in a pair of FBI agents, the State Troopers, and a PI to help him.  Good rule of thumb - One good guy, one bad guy.  Think High Noon not the OK Corral.  And yes, I just mixed Westerns with crime fiction, maybe Die Hard and The Sugarland Express would be better examples.

4.  You've got a great punchline for your story.  Forget it.  Make the story about the punchline not a exercise to get to that great punchline.  If you're writing humor, the punchline is a great device, but most crime stories are grounded in the crime or its aftermath and the joke doesn't always work.  Readers need a satisfying payoff, not an "Oh, God, he didn't just say that, did he?" ending.

5.  Flash is short and fast.  Keep it as simple as you can.  Pick and choose your words carefully.  Use active verbs to keep the story moving forward.  People read flash for a fast, smack you in the face story.  They don't want to get waylaid by purple prose and side trips that don't go anywhere.

Of course there are exceptions to all these rules, but if you're new to flash, stick to the basics.  Keep it as simple and on point as you can.

Monday, May 7, 2012


When I was packing up a couple of boxes of books to take over to the book sale Saturday, I tucked in a large volume that contained three Theodore Sturgeon novels.  For two years I'd tried to read this book, sampling each novel then setting it aside.  Other readers have said that you must read Sturgeon, but well, he just didn't appeal to me.

As I worked my way through the tables and shelves full of books I came across a slim book of short stories by, you guessed it, Theodore Sturgeon, and I slipped it into my bag.  And I'm so happy I did.  The forward, by Sturgeon himself, was worth picking up the book for.  I was surprised to find that he didn't really like being classified as Science Fiction writer. 

"Science fiction is my best friend and my worst enemy," he says.  And later, "Yet the best writers in the field write science FICTION, not SCIENCE fiction.  Let me tell you something:  you can not write good fiction about ideas.  You can only write good fiction about people.  Good science fiction writers are good fiction writers."

And as I've started reading the short stories I can finally understand why readers appreciate Sturgeon's work. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Anthology Call

Hades Publications is seeking submissions for their anthology, "Urban Green Man".  Fantastic stories up to 5000 words involving the mythology of the Green Man in any form.  Payment is 3.5cents a word, $20 for poem.  At the site you will find a link at the top of the page directing you to places on the net to do research on the Green Man myths.  Deadline is November 30 with publication in 2013.  All the submissions details are here

For Sherlock Holmes Fans

Crimeculture is sponsoring a Sherlock Holmes Flash Fiction Competition.  This is a no fee contest looking for Sherlock stories of no more than 400 words.  The catch?  You have to feature Holmes in another time and place or in a different genre.  The deadline is June 15.  The top ten winners will be published on the Crimeculture website and the winner will be interviewed, published, and receive a set of BBC Sherlock Holmes audio books.  You can find all the details here

Friday, May 4, 2012

Sirens Call Publications

Sirens Call Publications is a new epublisher looking for novels and novellas.  They're seeking dark fiction in various genres.  They also have three anthology calls listed and a bi-monthly ezine they're accepting submissions for.  Payment is a percentage of royalties.  You can find all the details here

Apex Publishing

Apex Publishing is seeking a blog editor.  This is a non-cash paying position but with many side benefits.

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Great article by Edgar Rice Burroughs written for Writers Digest in 1930.  The writing world hasn't changed all that much over the years.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Anthology Call

This call is for a charity anthology to be published by Written Backwards Press.  Called "Chiral Mad", they're looking for 1000 to 5000 words of psychological horror.  Payment is one copy and the proceeds go to Downs Syndrome charities.  They've already solicited stories from writers they've worked with and will open for public submissions on May 16 and close August 20.  You can find all the details here

New Issues

The Big Click
All Due Respect
Frontier Tales
And the lineup for the upcoming third issue of Pulp Modern

Writing Style and Voice

I've had people tell me that they love my voice or my style of writing, but the truth is, I've never understood what they meant.  I just write the stories with my character's voices.  It's the people who inhabit the stories that make the stories what they are.  So it was quite interesting to read this gentleman's take on the difference between voice and style.

Not a Girlie Girl

Great essay by Kirstyn McDermott about "Girls and Consequences".  And yes, most girls, especially in my age group, wanted to be boys when they were growing up.  Hey, boys got to have adventures, while girls only dreamed about slaying those dragons.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Anthology Call

Dark Opus Press has listed the details for their next anthology titled, "For all Eternity:  Tales of the Seven Deadly Sins".  The anthology will consist of seven stories, each one about one of the deadly sins.  Stories must be 3000 to 6000 words, payment is 1cent a word.  You have a good lead time for this one as subs don't open until July 1 and close July 31.

Dark Opus Press also publishes the print magazine Bete Noire which will open for subs on June 1 to the 31st.  You can check out their guidelines while you're there.  Payment is $10, if I remember correctly.

The Horror Zine

The Horror Zine is open for submissions.  This is a non-paying market but the authors you get to share pages with includes Joe R. Lansdale, Ed Gorman, and Ramsey Campbell.  You can check it out here

More Marketing

And Richard Parks takes a look at markets and explains how he decides where to submit his short stories.

Short Marketing

Dean Wesley Smith has an interesting post about going the traditional route of paying magazines or self-pubbing your short stories.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

And the Winners are...

Congratulations to all the winners!!!

It was great to see so many categories for short stories.  From best collection to a single short, Spinetingler had them all covered.  A big round of Snoopy dances for both Spinetingler and all the nominees!!!

Anthology Call

Paper Golem Press has an interesting submission call for their anthology "Cucurbital 3".  They give you a prompt and you write up to 5000 words.  The prompt consists of three words:  Madness - Darkness - Mattress.  You get to combine these three words into your story.  Deadline is June 30, payment is 1cent a word.  You can find all the details here

Anthology Call

Blood Bound Books has opened submissions for their horror anthology "DOA II:  Extreme Horror Collection".  Payment is 1cent a word for stories of 750 to 5000 words.  Deadline is August 1.  You can find the details here

They're also open to novel and novella submissions on the same page.  Scroll down for the anthology submission guidelines.