Short Fiction Monday – A Rant OR Douche bags, Get to Steppin’

Today, on this cold and cloudy Short Fiction Monday, I am pissed the fuck off.

Many of you know about Asfixia – and if you don’t, go here. SUBMIT! – and the submissions are finally coming in. Some great, some not so great, and some that I couldn’t even get through because, honestly, I don’t think they were serious submissions.

I’ve also gotten some pretty interesting hate email.

I know. Sounds ridiculous, right? HATE mail for putting together an anthology of short work – a medium that not only is hard as hell to write, but just as hard to market. But I love short stories, so I’m willing to put in the time and work that goes into crafting a fantastic anthology of fantastic work from fantastic authors. I, however, am NOT willing to listen to cocky, whiny, amateur writers tell me how it is. 

Because I am professional enough to not send each of them a reply email stating exacting what I think of their complaint, instead I will post this. Call it a PSA.

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If you have a problem with a publication’s guidelines, payment arrangements, or the editors of the publications themselves, DON’T SUBMIT TO THEM.

I’ll say it again.

If you have a problem with the PUBLICATION’s guidelines, payment arrangements, or the editors of the publications themselves, DON’T SUBMIT TO THEM.

We (and I mean a collective “we” – the people who sit and read submission after submission looking for magic) don’t care that you think your work is worth more than what we are offering. We didn’t come to you. You decided that you are TOO GOOD for us, so do the mature thing and move on. Don’t email me with semi-clever remarks expecting me to do something about it. All that we are going to do is make a note of who you are, and make sure that should anyone come to us with your work looking for an opinion, we’ll be sure to recount your little hissy fit.

If you became a writer to make money, you’re in the wrong industry. You may make money. You may make a lot of money. But most likely, you won’t. That’s just how it is. If you don’t care about your work being read then PLEASE stop polluting the market stream with your shit. 

This has been your Monday morning PSA. Enjoy your day, everyone. Read something.

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Heir to the (not so) Throne – Public Domain and Legacy

Publisher Weekly published an article today regarding the beloved character Sherlock Holmes and an author/lawyer asking that he be legally declared within public domain.

You can read the article here: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/copyright/article/56020-lawsuit-seeks-to-put-sherlock-holmes-in-the-public-domain.html

The debate occurring in the comment thread boiled down to this: once work is able to be considered public domain, should it even be considered so, regardless of the law? Or should the heirs be taken into consideration even if the author has not built a trust in which to do so?

One commenter observed that it’d behoove an author to dictate in detail what should happen with their work and the rights to their work when the public domain time occurs. 

It made me wonder – what would I do?

I love my children. I love my partner. But should my characters or my stories reach a point in which other writers wish to weave them into their own prose, why should I deny them that?

It ALWAYS comes down to money, but coming from a writer who has to seek out other ways in which to make ends meet, money isn’t everything. It really, really isn’t.

If I am so lucky as to have a writing career that is monetarily successful, I will set aside money for my daughters to have a good start. They will go to college and they will not want for anything during those four years in which they discover their passions and pursue their dreams. But then, they’re on their own. They will make their own way. They will work hard. And they will appreciate it when they are older. 

What they will NOT do is grip the noose around my characters and my work purely for money’s sake. My characters were created to live, to thrive, to be read. I hope that they do.

 

Short Fiction Monday – Excerpt AND Contributions?

‘allo, dearies. 

Here is your short fiction fix on this lovely Presidents’ Day Monday. It’s like a double-whammy of shit, isn’t it? It’s Monday, AND you can’t go to the bank and get laundry money because they’ve closed for some obscure holiday that doesn’t really mean anything anymore. Never fear, Crunchy-Smooshy is here for you.

Excerpt from a yet-to-be-titled WIP:

 

There’s a formula for gauging phone calls before the other party has answered. One ring, and they’ve been waiting for something important that isn’t you. They’ve been staring at it, playing with it, willing it to ring. And then finally, FINALLY, it comes to life. It’s better to just hang up without introducing yourself, lest you send your own hide in for verbal slaughter. Four or five rings, and you’ve torn them away from something; dinner with the family, an engrossing novel, a homemade explosives project. Take these on a case by case basis. Women are more likely to turn you away than men, especially if you’re me. I’ve been told my voice is sultry when detailing the many uses of a telephone book.

Three rings, though, that’s the sweet spot.

This isn’t something they teach you when you answer an anonymous internet ad looking for people who wish to ‘work from home!’ ‘All you need is a computer and a telephone! It’s EZ!’ You learn by doing.

Three rings and they’ve been waiting for you to call. No, really, they have. It’s their day off and nothing interesting has presented itself as a suitable distraction. You are their distraction.

Don’t worry about selling, the anonymous emailer attached to the anonymous ad tells you. Just log your calls and collect your money.

Sometimes I don’t even market what I’m supposed to. The spreadsheet in my weekly email will call for entertainment magazine subscriptions; I sell them slippers made in the likeness of their favorite United States President. God bless America!

Sometimes, a girl just wants to have some fun.

 

I’d had a productive morning. One entry left on my daily spreadsheet, and it was just past two.

One ring. Two rings. Three rings.

“Hello?”

Perfect.

“Good afternoon. Would you be so kind as to connect me with the matron of the home?”

I cradled the phone between my shoulder and ear while fingering a copy of Little Women. I’d finished reading it over lunch and was itching to try it out.

“Who’s calling, please?

Her voice was calm but reserved.

“Jo March, madam. I’m calling to invite you to participate in an unbelievable opportunity in literature.”

I wished Jo March had a British accent. I loved doing British.

Shuffling against the speaker on the opposite end. She was switching ears.

“Is this a joke?”

“Fiction is no joke, ma’am, unless of course you’re reading comedy. Then all of it is a joke! Unless it’s bad comedy, in which case it’s better used as kindling in my humble opin –“

“Just get to the point, please.”

“Yes, yes, of course. I am offering escape in the form of words. Penny Dreadfuls, specifically. For the cost of a typical novel you will receive five stories in which you are taken through perilous adventures, one after the other.”

I paused.

“Hello?”

She’d hung up.

Unfortunate, since I hadn’t had the chance to tell her about the imaginary friend that accompanied every purchase.

Classic characters are always a risk.

I logged the call, sent my end-of-day email using an out-of-date but perfectly useable desktop computer, and considered my options for the rest of the afternoon.  

 

CONTRIBUTIONS?

Would you like to contribute a story to short fiction Monday? Email me at authorlady22@gmail.com. 

Submissions are also STILL open for Asfixia. Send me ALL THE WORDS!

Join a talented writer friend of mine as she chronicles her journey through self publishing. Also look for this book because it’s fucking awesome and I told you to.

Dangling on the Edge of (In)Sanity

ebook cover

 

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I decided to publish my first novel myself. I have several reasons for doing this, and not a single one is related to actually earning money. While that would be nice, I suspect I’ll break even if I’m lucky. That’s okay. This adventure was concocted with other goals in mind.

“IN THE BONES” is available at Smashwords, and it’s almost ready for release on Amazon, although the official launch date won’t be until mid-March. If you’re curious about that, I’ll be having a virtual launch party on my Facebook page and giving away a few goodies to some lucky guests.

The process of publishing my first novel myself, which includes editing (of course), cover design, marketing, nail-biting, and much more profanity than usual, has taught me a few things I didn’t know (or didn’t want to admit I knew) about…

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Short Fiction Monday – “The Writer”

I submitted this story to a local short-short competition. Although it was a finalist, it didn’t win. I hope you enjoy it, then write your own short-short. What’s the best story you can tell with the fewest number of words?

 

“The Writer”

It was every bit of December outside. The writer didn’t have a pen but he was determined to get his story out before it turned putrid in his gut.

His mind swam and his tongue was cotton. He needed another drink. 

A moment of reflection, then, release. He had to do it quickly. To get it out. To get her out.

“You’re drunk,” a voice said behind him.

The writer shrugged. Shimmied. Zipped. The purge left him lighter.

Her name would sit, steaming and yellow, where he’d written it, forever. Or at least until Spring.

Storytelling Here

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There’s a story my mother likes to tell people when they hear that I’m a writer. It goes something like this:

When Katrina was in kindergarten, her teacher, Mrs. Fowler (silly woman) asked to talk to me after school one day. She sat Katrina down and asked her to read some stupid ‘See Spot Run’ book and was absolutely flabbergasted that she was able to read the entire thing without stumbling. So I said to Mrs. Fowler, “Watch this.” I pulled out my pocket bible and handed it to Katrina. She flipped to a random page and began to read.

 

Now, the only reason I know this story to be true is that I remember that day. The part I remember most vividly is that, to distract me, Mrs. Fowler asked me to start counting while she spoke to my mother. I was an easily bored child. 

I’ve always loved words. I read my mother’s Stephen King and Nora Roberts novels when I was in sixth grade because I was bored with everything in my middle school library. I wanted a challenge.

When I was nine, I wrote my first story. It was called “The Girl and the Elf.” Pretty self explanatory as to what it was about. It wasn’t for school. I just wanted to write. 

I’m telling you this to attempt to explain the beginnings of my passion for STORY. A passion, I think, has begun to dwindle in mainstream fiction. 

I like ALL stories – fictional, historical, anecdotal. There’s magic in story. In the telling of a tale that transports the reader (or listener) to a different plane of existence. It is the ultimate means of escape and the best ones make the reader forget they are holding a book in their hands. 

As I’ve grown older and grown into the Writer pants I slipped into years ago, I’ve begun to notice that it takes longer and more exhaustive searching to find those special novels that really trap you between their pages. Why is that?

There are some GREAT writers out there – seasoned and new, but it’s almost impossible to find their work in the sea of shit that sloshes the shelves of bookstores, now. It’s mind-boggling how books like the Twilight series and Fifty Shades can dominate the coveted front and center tables of even the small bookstores and novels like Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander, Skippy Dies by Paul Murray, and others have to be hunted for.

My generation has the greatest number of tools at their disposal to date, and I’m disappointed in the lack of contribution to literary creations. Where did our imagination go? If you say television and video games, I’m going to surprise the shit out of you and call shenanigans. It’s laze. That’s right. The old fuckers who give us the stink eye are right (in this case). We would rather be told stories than tell our own – and they’d better be easy stories, too. Ones we can process without having to think too much. Oh, and sex. There has to be A LOT of sex.

Gross, isn’t it?

We need to revive a love of story. It’s how we started as a species. We didn’t create language to bitch at each other. We did it to tell stories.

Writers, I encourage you to expect more from yourselves. Don’t sell yourself short. Explore the ways that stories could be told. Be different. Allow yourselves to be a little bit nuts without worrying whether your work is “sellable.” Dig into the stories of others. Read. Listen. Learn.

Non-writers, I encourage you to demand more from your storytellers. We’re listening.  

Palms – A Short Story AND SHORT FICTION MONDAYS

Mondays suck, even for those of us who work at home. Why not improve it a little by throwing some fiction into the world for other Monday sufferers to enjoy? We’ll call this our new tradition. I’ll post some from me and from other writers, as well. Below is a story of mine called Palms. I’m particularly fond of it, but it has yet to find a home. I hope you all enjoy it.

 

The neon “open” sign hung in her kitchen window, just above the fence, where it could be seen from the road. She kept all of her other shades drawn, except that window. Sometimes she stood behind it, dark room enveloping her and “Palm Readings, $5” sign below her, staring at traffic to give her robin’s-egg-blue 1920’s bungalow more bleak mystique, less Better Homes and Gardens. She’d pin her dark hair back and give curious passers-by full view of her European lines and near-black eyes. She never saw their faces, but she knew when they saw her.

She majored in theater in college. She could hold that pose, that scowl, for hours.
Mary was psychic in the way that all women are psychic – uncanny lie detectors, especially in those under the age of adult; noses for the rotted garbage stench of impending personal doom; unparalleled seers of a coming monthly bleed. But, people won’t pay to see a vision of a bloated tampon. They don’t care if the relationship line in their palm reminds Mary of the crack that severed her own marriage three years ago. So when they asked the big questions – what does it mean? When will I die? When is that money coming that you promised me in our session last week? – she improvised.

It was ten AM. She had only just assumed her post at the window – dressed today in a blinding purple and gold scarf over her usual black sweater – when the alarm pad jingled the entrance of a customer.

That was fast, she thought, and commended herself on the scarf.

Hand penetrating a can of cheddar-flavored Pringles, the man surveyed Mary’s foyer, frequently freeing a crisp, only to stuff it, whole, into his glossed mouth. His calves were peppered in bits of tissue, mostly hairless. Black stragglers poked out from beneath his knee-length cargo shorts, betraying his lack of commitment to stripping the entire leg. Paired with an improvised, Bass Pro Shops, off-the-shoulder number, he didn’t look so much confused as insane. Mary inched closer to the Smith & Wesson taped beneath her conjuring table.

“Welcome,” she said, mustering a decimeter of sincerity. Five dollars was five dollars.

Shiny Lips grunted.

In one languid motion, Mary sat and placed her hands, palm up, on the table.

“I know why you’re here.”

“Don’t imagine many people come here other than to get their palm read,” he said.
The vibe was instantaneous. He was, as her fourteen-year-old daughter would say, a hater.

“Five dollars,” Mary said.

He dropped the Pringles can and palmed five one dollar bills onto the table before taking a seat across from Mary. She scooped the damp bills into a cigar box.

“Joe,” he said and placed his palm into her awaiting hand.

A paste of cheddar-flavored powder and sweat caked in the creases of his palm.

Mary handed him a disinfectant wipe. “I can’t read this. It’s tainted.”

Joe mumbled something along the lines of psychic… can’t even read through chip dust, and wiped his palm mostly clean.

Putrid Swiss cheese left to dry on the counter overnight – that was Joe’s palm. Rough, flaking, and smelling vaguely of feet. They say a person’s hands say a lot about how they spend their time. Soft, lineless hands belong to a creature of convenience – of remote controls, buttons, and phones that call other people to do things for them. Callouses eat the hands of those on the other end of the line. Mary couldn’t really read palm lines – she doubted anyone really could – but she could read hands.

“You’re a hard worker,” she began, studying the long, cavernous crease at the center of Joe’s palm as though it might begin to speak, “too hard.”

“Ain’t that the motha-fuckin’ truth,” Joe said.

No wedding ring.

“Not married.”

“Look, lady, I don’t need you to tell me the stuff I already know. I need to know stuff I don’t know, ok?”

Mary closed her eyes to roll them discreetly.

“Do you have a specific question you’d like answered?”

Joe eyed his upturned palm like it might strike him the second he looked away.

“Kinda.”

She held his palm carefully, willing herself not to squeeze it. Five dollars was five dollars, no matter how much a backwater, borderline retarded, pain in the ass –

“Am I a faggot?”

Oh.

Mary’s gaze settled on a smear of pink just above his upper lip, pocked by five o’clock shadow.

“Pardon me?”

Mary winced at her pathetic attempt at stalling, but she hoped that Joe would back-pedal if he thought she hadn’t heard him.

“Fag-got,” he said, enunciating each syllable, a spray of crumbs showering over them, “pe-ter puf-fer. Fudge pack-er.”

Why couldn’t he just want to know about the money like everyone else? Money and their dead relatives. Both were so easy to wing.

The money’s coming.

Mom says, ‘hi.’

Vague, satisfying.

A self-taught psychic, Mary relied on twenty-year-old library books. None of them mentioned how to handle life-altering questions of self-identity. That’s how people end up in therapy, or worse. Early on, Mary became like a politician, delivering evasive answers that satisfied the listener because it was exactly what they wanted to hear.

What the fuck did Joe want to hear?

Mary centered her heart chakra, or was it throat? Whatever the hell it was that was lop-sided, she centered it, then expelled it from her body with a deep sigh.

Joe’s hand weighed a thousand pounds in hers.

Her eyes found his. They were wide, vacant. “I’ve no fucking clue, hon.”

A pause. A nod.

Joe left, his Pringles can still perched against a table leg, but a stench lingered.

Mary loosed the curtain over her leering window. Poured a glass of chardonnay from a box at the back of the refrigerator. She wondered if she was too old to go back to school.

Can’t do anything without a degree these days, she thought, and drained the glass.