Monday, January 29, 2024

Past Missteps

 


 

 

Several years ago, when I was much stupider, I briefly interned for a reasonably well-known agent. I let her know ahead of time that I had a vacation lined up where I would be off grid about a month after I started, which she was on board with.

 

However, due to some wires getting crossed on my end and some stressful visa shenanigans, my last email to her before I left didn't end up getting sent, and I didn't notice until I got back - effectively meaning I accidentally ghosted her a week early. I apologized profusely once I returned, but she never responded, and, in what I now recognize as a stupid move, I slunk off in shame and never tried to contact her again.

 

So, my question is, what should I do if I ever try to query her? Should I pretend to be just a random queryer and pray she doesn't remember (and that my novel is good enough to catch her interest), or mention that I briefly interned for her and hope that I don't immediately get banished to the shadow realm if she remembers I accidentally ghosted her?

 

 

Trust me, she remembers.

You should acknowledge your internship with the addendum of "I still regret I slunk off in shame after accidently ghosting you for a week."

 

Don't apologize again.

Don't try to fix things.

 

We've all goofed up in major ways.

 

Let your spiffy query and excellent book carry the weight.

 

A savvy agent doesn't let stuff like that get in the way of nabbing a good book.

 

There are only two things that put an intern on my fecal roster:

Being rude to writers.

Posting crap about their internship on social media.

 

Notice that ghosting isn't one of them.

 

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Do I really need an agent?

 

 

 

Here's a question for the blog: does a reasonably established but not MAJOR author really need an agent?

 

I've been querying for months with a really good project because my agent is retiring.  I'm getting full requests and plenty of "this is a great project but not for me" -- and no offers. And I'm also still selling work: short stories, and probably soon a re-up from the small startup press that did my summer book. And starting a new series next week at Level Best, with a second one picking up there in April.

 

My last two books -- X, and Y -- both earned out, which I would think might be a selling point in my favor.

 

I know I'll probably never bring in the Big Deal. But as Paulie Walnuts used to say, I am earnin'. Is this the point where I just go it alone and have a lawyer friend review major contracts in the future?

 

We were doing so well until we got to the end.

 

Yes you can sell work without an agent. The kind of projects you describe don't really pay enough to interest most agents.  It's the same amount of work for a small earner as a bigger earner. Guess which one I prefer.

 

But having a lawyer friend review your contract makes me scream and cling to the chandelier.

 

 


 

 

You need a very specific kind of lawyer here: one who knows publishing contracts.  If you need names, email me and I'll give you some.

 

But you can't just hand this off to a lawyer who isn't versed in publishing. THAT is a recipe for disaster and I don't want to tell you how I know.

 

Meanwhile, keep writing. I like your books.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Pet Card flash fiction results

 

Sorry for the dreadful delay in posting this.

I was beset by a foul ailment that laid me low.

I'd say it was fur deprivation, but I did have a nice long week with Mx Pix the parkour puss.

 

There's no critique on these; they're all terrific and besides, they're your furred friends. They're perfect even when they're not.

 

That said, the entry by Fburgos was breathtaking. I read it once and thought, ok, got it.

Then I read it again.



 

Dimitrius Harmata

 

    Hi! I’m Fluffy.

    I chose to spend one of my nine lives standing guard over Dimitrius during the rough 90’s.

    My reward was a bat I caught all by myself!

 

Geeze Louise, I'd like to have seen video of that!

 

Craig F

 

    All who visit are advised to keep their hands to themselves. Yes, he’s a large cat, and he might be my pet, but his name is Bob for a reason

 

This cracked me up.

 

Kate Larkindale

 

    I'm Frankie the Fearful, fleeing the house at every knock at the door since 2017. But I'll cuddle with you in bed every night too.

 

He sounds like a sweetie.

 

Steve Forti

 

    Zoey: (noun) petite cuddly feline. Black void. Impatient eater, fluffy yarn ball destroyer, spring chaser. Scared of the dark. That comfy seat you wanted? It’s mine. Your bed? Also mine.

 

I love Zoey! Mine is my favorite word too.

 

Erin Scruggs

 

    I’m Molly the maltipoo: master of suspense. Hobbies include rolling dirty (in the grass), sprinting (at Olympic speed), and barking at animals on television (especially make-believe creatures in allergy commercials).

 

As any sensible dog does!

 

Luralee

 

    Pepper—now known as whiny dog

 

    Used to sit

    Used to stay

    Got spoiled by Grandma.

 

    Still a sweetheart.

 

Oh Grandma!

 

 

 

Erin Scruggs

 

    I’m Stetson the schnoodle: a loyal companion. Skills include licking people (unexpectedly), napping (snoring loudly while farting silently), and winning staring contests (especially effective when grandparents and bacon are involved).

 

Stetson's not intending to eat Grandma is he?

 

 

Beth Carpenter

 

    Wascally wabbits destroying your garden? You need Annie, the rabbit chaser who never slows down.* Call 1-800-462-6643, that's 1-800-GOANNIE.

 

    *Disclaimer: Annie has never actually caught a rabbit.

 

Reminds me of submitting client work to The New Yorker. Haven't made it yet but will die trying!

 

MaggieJ

 

    Marilla: I am Maggie’s moggy, defender of hearth and home against mice, rats, shrews, snakes, bats, and all things like that. Weasels are my specialty: quick clean kills ensured.

 

Weasels!!! Yikes!!!

 

Just Jan

 

    Captain Jack, a.k.a. the Boston Terr(o)r

    Peg-legged. Born under a bad sign.

    Lack of intelligence surpassed only by absurd loyalty to anyone with food.

 

Love Boston Terr(o)r!

 

Lennon Faris

 

    Poppy: Watchdog, snuggler.

 

    Ready for any* threat:

 

    - Humans wearing hats

    - Bubbles

    - Bunnies (includes free murder)

 

    I will protect you! Will work for cheese.

 

    *no bad guys please

 

You never know what Bubbles is up to!

 

Mother of Monster

 

    Monster, Maine Coon Extraordinaire. I shed so you don't have to.

 

Or: I shed so you can too!

 

Amy Johnson

 

    Chloe

    mama canis

    Gentle and joyful doter on children of various ages and species.

    Temporarily transforms into mama ursa to protect them from the vacuum cleaner.

    aka: Good Girl

 

oh the evil vacuum!!

 

Karen Baldwin

 

    He dominates me.

    “Ow! Don’t bite my hair! It’s 4 a.m.!”

    His eyes squint his desire.

    “Fine!”

    As he chomps the Whiskas salmon flakes, I coo, “Love you, Indie boy.”

 

We are all slaves to our feline overlords.

 

Michael Seese

 

    Allie, a.k(anine).a. "Doggo"

 

    Chasing balls since 2018

 

Catching balls since ?

 

E.M. Goldsmith

 

    Rest in peace, Frankie. The best pug ever.

    I will see you on the other side. Keep watch

    as you always have. I’ll be home soon.

 

Not too soon E.M.!!!!

 

Theblondepi

 

    HUBERT THE DOG

    Angel on Earth

    now angel in Heaven

    (treats still accepted)

 

I'm sorry for your loss. I still mourn my Newfie, gone for many years, but never forgotten.

A good girl always.

 

Tomas Zandir

 

    Holly: One of a legion of feline impersonators sent by rulers of planet Xanon to enslave human population of Earth. Mission wildly successful!

 

Bowser, household dog, is still a problem.

 

One feels for Bowser.

 

travelkat

 

    My name’s Patrick, King of Cats;

    Look on my Snores, ye Mighty, and despair!

    Nothing beside remains

    In the colossal wreck of my food-dish

    Now it’s time to play.

 

Nice homage to Percy Shelley, who did in fact have a cat (or more than one!)



“When my cats aren't happy, I'm not happy. Not because I care about their mood, but because I know they're just sitting there, thinking up ways to get even.”

― Percy Bysshe Shelley

 

 

 

J.R. Raglow

 

    From hello Molly, you choose me?

    As sweet as fine chocolate

    Lab of my life,

    Bar dog, car dog, barn dog, bird dog,

    Danger detector, domain protector,

    Partner, companion, friend.

 

This is just perfect.

 

KDJames

 

    Cauliflower, aka The White Ninja

 

    Intrepidly Accessing the Inaccessible, since 2008

 

    Specialities

    - napping

    - purring

    - shedding

    - acrobatic zoomies, extra

 

    Payment

    - fish, chicken, treats

    - effusive praise

    - petting, scritches

 

    Contact

    - invitation only

 

Invitation only indeed!

Lovely.

 

 

Colin Smith

 

    Seouler and Momo: Bug-catchers extraordinaire. Proving you need neither sight nor sanity to hunt pests.

 

They use The Force!

 

BJ Muntain

 

    Little Girl Dog creeps

    Softly in my dreams; Angel

    Racing lightning down.

 

    Koko, my heart dog,

    Always beside me; Angel

    He will always be.

 

Angel seems very aptly named.

 

SDK

 

    Kokhan: Cat for hire.

    Will shred all your enemy’s soft furnishings and knock over all fragile artefacts of value.

    In and out in 30 mins. Discreet. 100% satisfaction guaranteed.

 

Tip him with tuna?

 

Tain Leonard-Peck

 

    Prehistoric reptile, mix-and-match critter. Alligator tail, lizard legs, hydraulic cutter jaws. Living behind glass for your safety, not mine. Pet me at your peril, turtle with a snap.

 

Hydraulic cutter jaws!!!

Love this.

 

John Davis Frain

 

    Calvin

    Experienced walking companion

    No leash necessary

 

What a good boy!

 

EasternRose

 

    Thelma and Louise, bonded rescue rabbits.

 

    Plunging in cars not their thing.

 

    Will beg for Timothy hay.

 

    Will cuddle for willow.

 

So glad they are not intent on driving off a cliff.

(that scene still haunts me.)

 

 

Kregger

 

    Barn Mouse: Extraordinaire!

 

    Creepy, poopy, destructive.

 

    Cohabitant: Kregger

 

    He hates me.

Yes, but does he call you a "tailless toilet user"? (Duchess of Yowl)

 

 

 

Fburgos

 

    My name is Hudson

    I'm a cadaver dog

    And I just found my master.

 

oh god, the subtlety and ambiguity of this just blows me away.

 

 

Barbara Etlin

 

    Echo, Sheltie (always remembered)

 

    Intruder-chaser, Blue Jays very short stop, model, philosopher, poet

    Hobbies: napping, guarding the bathroom door

 

    I'm a Sheltie. Don't call me "mini Lassie."

 

Indeed not!!

 

 

 

*****

Thanks to all of you who took the time to write and post entries.

They were indeed a day week weeks brightener!

 

Friday, December 15, 2023

Medicinal Flash Fiction

 

I'm still under the weather but I console myself by saying at least I don't have pneumonia (which two of my friends have now) and at least I don't have covid (which half the world seems to have now.)  Time for some medicinal flash fiction!

 

 The usual rules apply:

 

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

 

2. Use these words in the story:

jolly

roger

beach

bum

shell

 

If you are Steve Forti, or wish you could be, I hope you thought you'd prevailed forever BUT NO!!  If you are Steve Forti or want to be you must also use pneumonia.

 

 

 

 

3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.

 

4. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

 

5. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first, then post.

 

6. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

 

7. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title.)

 

8. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.

 

9.  There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE.

 

10.  It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.

Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog, and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

 

11. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (For example: "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!"). Save that for the contest results post.

 

12. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.

 

13. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story.

 

 

Contest opens: Saturday, December 16, 2023 6:57 am EST

 

Contest closes: Sunday, December 17, 2023 8:00am EST

 

If you're wondering how what time it is in NYC right now, here's the clock .

 

 

 

If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's an .xls spread sheet here http://www.colindsmith.com/TreasureChest/

 

(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)

 

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid. I'm also on Bluesky: @janetreid. bsky.social

 

Ready? SET?


Not yet!

ENTER! 

Sorry, too late. Contest closed.

 

Monday, December 11, 2023

No monday post

 A bit under the weather these past few days.

More to come later this week.



Friday, December 08, 2023

Flash fiction contest of a different sort

A friend and I were talking about her dogs and she casually mentioned she had business cards for them!

 Well, that made me curious so I asked to see one.

Kind soul that she was, she didn't mention she'd have to go digging, but dig she did.

 

Here it is:

 


 

So this week's flash fiction contest is: write copy for your dog/cat/dragon pet of any sort and post it in the comments column of this blog post.


Word count limit: 30 words.

You must include your familiar's name. You don't need to tell a story.

And your familiar doesn't need to be anything but themselves (ie couch potatoes are not discouraged.)


Here's what I would write about my fuzzy friend Mx Pix:


Mx Pix: Parkour Champion of Astoria Queens.

I leap while you sleep.


Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Including maps with requested pages

Dear Janet,

 

The question is regarding maps in novels and sample pages (In usual fashion, my cart is bopping along the rocky road pushed by the nose of my weary horse. This is for my next and as yet unfinished novel). 

 

I did read your old posts regarding graphics and maps and understand why graphics are generally frowned upon for debuts and that illustrative maps are typically outsourced. 

 

 

However, I do actually have the skillset to do this (the map illustrations, I mean. Jury is still out on the writing bit). I was in a graphics heavy profession in my formative years and can more than competently do black and white line art. 

 

The actual question: Hypothetically, when an agent requests sample pages, would one include a sample of said map graphic as an embedded image in the word or PDF document if it’s relevant to the submitted pages? The book does not specifically need maps, though it would be delightful to have them, as there is a bit of wandering. 

 

 

 

 I love love love maps in books, and I'm not alone. Maps, even of "real places" like St. Mary Meade, are fun to look at. 

 


 

And of course fantasy maps are just the cat's pjs. Even ones that are more art than informational.

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 


However, when an agent requests the manuscript, including art is not implied. 

 

What you can do is put the maps on your website and reference that in your query.

You have a website right? (no, you don't, I checked). 

You MUST have a website, and being able to include maps is just one more reason to get cracking. 

I've gotten on my soapbox about the value of websites in previous posts.

Also the jury is NOT out on your writing skills. You ARE a good writer, and I have the flash fiction entries to prove it.

Monday, December 04, 2023

Flash fiction contest results

 

Thanks to all of you who stepped in to assuage my pain at the shellacking I've taken from Steve Forti. It was medicinal flash fiction indeed!

 

Here are the entries that caught my eye.

 

Steve Forti

 

“I mean, who mixes meerkat with warthog? Ridiculous. And don’t get me started on Pac-man. ‘Cuz there’s Ms. Pac-man. Did she have just one choice in a guy? Is there like a whole race of Pac-men out there running from ghosts? And how do sheets stay on ghosts, anyway? Or pants. Is there naked ghost butt on every surface top in haunted houses? Oh, remember that ghost episode of Punky Brewster, when… hmm? Oh dear… I’m doing it again. What was the question?”

 

“Have you reached a verdict?”

 

“Oh yes. We the jury find the defendant guilty of first-degree murder.

 

Talk about not seeing where this was headed.

Very nice example of a twist.

 

 

 

Amy Johnson

 

 

Help. I—"

Phone hangs up.

Unknown number.

Just some youth, wart.

Acme of his day: prank calls.

Button up coat.

Rush to the train.

Dad’s voice?

Call him.

“Fine, honey.”

Xerox machine.

Lost in thought.

What-ifs.

“Operator, . . . trace the call?”

“Impossible.”

Questions:

Should I have checked on the neighbors? Familiar voice? Prank?

Zigzagging thoughts.

Gasping for breath.

Numbness.

“Missed you in the meeting.”

“Everything okay?”

“Trying . . . can’t get a response. She’s catatonic. Hurry!”

“Kin? They’ll want to contact someone.”

“You’re going to be okay, ma’am.”

“Very unusual.”

 

I have a feelling once someone explains this to me, I'll understand it's brilliant (this is Amy Johnson after all) but I just don't get this one.

 

 

french sojourn

 

He paused, in suspended cartoon gravity, and reflected on the gravity of it all.

 

One of many things that escaped him, yet again, was his punk-ass fowl nemesis.

 

Had he been thwarted by the time / distance variable? No.

 

Had he re-wired the faulty recalled ACME activator button? Check.

 

He went over the formula he had used… Height over Mass times the square root of pi, should equal the foot/pounds applied to the radius of the…

 

Why was he getting that sinking feeling?

 

He heard a distinct beep-beep, as he started accelerating.

 

He pulled out his sign that read.

 

Drats!

 

 

Why was he getting that sinking feeling just cracked me up.




 

 

Kregger

 

Minnesota Fats stared down his cue. “You got spunk, kid.”

 

“Rac’ me, Rudy.”

 

The corpulent man obliged, aligning the “one” ball on the button.

 

Fats blew chalk from his felt tip. “I’ve never lost a match with money. Bet a buck?”

 

“I eat pi’ for breakfast. Make it a fin. I feel lucky.”

 

“No luck involved.” Fats watched the rack scatter, sinking the seven. “Nice shot.”

 

“Rac’ me.”

 

“Make it a C-note?”

 

“How about a stack of C-notes?”

 

“You’re on.”

 

Break. One ball left.

 

“Athwart side pocket.”

 

Fats exclaimed, “Who are you?”

 

“I’m a skinny little boy from Cleveland Ohio.”

 

I think this depends on knowing something about pool.

As a shark, my only pool knowledge involves lurking in the depths for dangling toes.

 

 

 

 

Colin Smith

 

“We want the truth. Warts and all.”

 

The Senator peered over his glasses at the punked-out figure sitting before him.

 

Menacme Spike, aka John Jones, shivered, cold perspiration beading on his lip. He pulled at his unbuttoned collar and cleared his throat.

 

“No,” his voice shook. “No, you don’t.”

 

“This is a congressional hearing,” the Senator said, glancing at his colleagues. “You must say what happened. Whatever the consequences.”

 

“Whatever?”

 

“Whatever. It’s time to come clean.”

 

“But it was murder!”

 

“I know.” The Senator smiled uncomfortably.

 

“Mum…” The word caught in Jones’s throat.

 

“Yes.”

 

“But Dad… it weren’t your fault.”

 

oh ho! Nice twist!

 

 

Madeline Mora-Summonte

 

She twists me – the top button – into place, her fingers nimble, her nails painted pink to match the diner's uniform. She smiles at the mirror. Nothing thwarts her spunkiness.

 

The stranger in the grimy Mac Meats cap orders peach pie, coffee. His greasy gaze lands on me, lingers too long. She tenses. Her heartbeat races at my back.

 

In the alley, he shoves her down, tears her clothes. The other buttons fly off.

 

I hold on. She does not.

 

When he's done, he cleans up, leaves.

 

But his fingerprint, pressed into me, stays.

 

I really love stories from an unusual perspective.

 

 

 

Michael Seese

 

 

I loved Lilith, warts and all. Spirited, spunky, with hair of enchanted gold and eyes of midnight. Alas, I could never free her from the elegiac memories’ wicked whispers. And once her inner demons began worming into me, I could no longer have her in my world. My pitiful “I'm sorry” sounded wholly insufficient, as she fought back the tears.

 

“But…”

 

“Tonight let’s just be together, and forget. Then tomorrow, you must leave.”

 

Her resignation weighed heavy on both of our souls.

 

“You'll be happy on Earth,” I offered, stanching my own sorrow. “I hear there's a lovely garden.”

 

 

oh! ohohoh!

 

 

 

 

NLiu

 

Kidnapped Bobbin Button, held in Castoff Castle,

Discovered Count Stitches had been a dreadful rascal.

He’d bred Monopis Crocicapitella, farmed an army.

Soon to be unleashed in a wool-ravaging tsunami.

But Bobbin was courageous, and also good at reading.

She sneaked notes to Polly and Esther. Together they got weaving.

The moths flew free. Chewing ensued.

But in the end their only food

was Stitches himself. He’d miscalculated,

and by his minions was masticated.

‘Cause manmade is mothproof, and linen too,

But fin-de-siècle Stitches? Thwarted moth poo.

In stitchpunk an acme soon comes unravelled.

Little Bobbin grew up – and travelled.

 

Holy smokes.

 

 

 

John Davis Frain

 

Mom hits the AC. Me? I crank the heat. Thank goodness for our dual-zone climate control sofa. We watch split-screen TV together. Horror on her half, comedy on mine.

 

She taps the volume button, but I’ve thwarted her this time. Removed the batteries from her remote.

 

A ding from the kitchen. Dinner is shrimp—sweet for Mom, sour for me.

 

“What’s dessert?” I ask.

 

“Apple pie with arsenic sauce,” Mom says. “I’ll have the pie.”

 

Always the spunky one, Mom almost Forti’d me again! I replace her remote-control batteries. She won’t hear the oven ding, and the pie will burn.

 

Ha!

 

 

 

Mallory Love

 

He’d been called everything from “punk” to “maniac mess.” The worst was “delusional.” That one came from the court-ordered therapist and caused him to be locked up in the psych ward on Christmas Eve. Made him so mad, but he had a list for people like her. Come tomorrow she would regret trying to thwart his plans.

 

He heard tapping at the window. Showtime. He buttoned his coat. Glass shattered. The alarm sounded as he took a flying leap. He waved to the stunned faces below as the sleigh rose higher.

 

He’d been called everything, but the best was “Santa.”

 

Ha!

 

 

 

 

 

Ash Complin

 

My daughter has her mom's button nose, a reminder of who I lost that day.

 

I started overeating, my bad habit.

 

She grew, became smart, like her mother.

 

She got me a wrist tattoo: a crossed-out pi, a joke to thwart my irrational dessert binging. She wanted me to live forever. She made me want to live at all.

 

She went to her first punk concert, the ACME Rockets, but never came home. Overdosed. I never knew she had a habit, too.

 

Now when I reach for a donut, I see the tattoo, and I take two.

 

I miss you, Bunny.

 

yikes!

 

 

 

This week's winner is Michael Seese.

there were several terrific entries and it was very hard to choose just one.

 

Michael, drop me a line and tell me what you're reading these days and I'll get a prize book in the mail to you.

 

Thanks to all of you who took time to write and post entries.

They were balm for my wounded pride.

 

 

 

 

Friday, December 01, 2023

Flash ficton contest to assauge my thorough besting by Steve Forti

 

I am surrendering to the brilliance of Steve Forti.

I've never managed to thwart him.

I slink off in shame.

 

However, we'll have a flash fiction contest to assuage my pain.

 

 

 The usual rules apply:

 

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

 

2. Use these words in the story:

punk

button

thwart

acme

pi

 

 

If you are Steve Forti, or wish you could be, just enjoy your victory.



 

3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.

 

4. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

 

5. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first, then post.

 

6. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

 

7. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title.)

 

8. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.

 

9.  There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE.

 

10.  It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.

Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog, and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

 

11. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (For example: "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!"). Save that for the contest results post.

 

12. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.

 

13. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story.

 

 

Contest opens: Saturday, December 2, 2023 6:46am EST

 

Contest closes: Sunday, December 3, 2023 10:00am EST

 

If you're wondering how what time it is in NYC right now, here's the clock .

 

 

 

If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's an .xls spread sheet here http://www.colindsmith.com/TreasureChest/

 

(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)

 

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid. I'm also on Bluesky: @janetreid. bsky.social

Ready? SET?


Not yet!

ENTER! 

Sorry, too late. Contest is closed.

 


Wednesday, November 29, 2023

yes, Jeff Somers IS brilliant (don't tell him I said so)



Jeff Somers has a terrific substack going that uses movies to illustrate points about writing. It's true-to-form Jeff: hilarious, and helpful.

Here's one of his recent points that really hit home for me:




Restraint can be challenging when writing a story, because it sometimes feels like it’s not writing. Depicting something in a realistic fashion sometimes feels like you’re simply describing an experience and not value-adding as a creator, or something¹³. The urge to dress everything up, to make every character “quirky,” every scene emotionally loud, every speech a brilliant soliloquy often has the opposite effect: The scene in question feels over-written, overwrought, and artificial.



13 You know you’ve spent too much time in Corporate America when you casually drop a phrase like “value-add” in everyday footnote conversation.





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Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Flash Fiction contest results (final)

 I had such high hopes.

I figured string quartet would finally thwart Mr. Forti. I originally had Ouagadougu (the capitol of Burkina Faso) but I thought for sure he'd be able to twist that into something hilarious.

 

I guess I should quit finding my prompt words in the Acme Dictionary.



But string quartet?? 

Well, not only did Mr. Forti thwart me, a bunch of the rest of you formed a Forti Mob and did me in as well.

Fortunately, this week I am cat sitting so I have in-house purring to sooth me.


Ms. Pix my purry companion

And then, to make matters worse, Mr. Forti sweeps the competition and wins the whole damn flash fiction contest.

There were some blazingly good entries this week, but I have to recognize genius even when it's cloaked in Nemesis.

(which is better than being cloaked in emesis, I guess).

 

Steve, send me your preferred mailing address, and what kind of books you like to read, and I'll get your prize in the mail next week (cat-sitting so not post office-ing).

 

Thanks to all of you who took the time to write and post entries.

It was a buffet of fabulous writing.

And if anyone has any ideas on how to stymie Steve, I'm ALL EARS!



Monday, November 20, 2023

Nov 19 FlashFiction contest prelim results

 


A lot of you want to be Steve Forti!

Here are the various ways you deployed string quartet:

 

french sojourn “G-String Quartet”

Steve Forti best ring quartet

Tim Lowe hamstring quartet

 

BJ Muntain blust'ring quartet.

Beth Carpenter string. Quartet,

J.R. Raglow  A string, quartet of queer days, has mired me in a shoal

 

Colin Smith a string quartet of fishing lines

KA Claytor tie around hamstring. Quart Ethylbenzene,

Michael Pappas string quartet of sticky web

 

KD James  Gaudiest ring quartet ever.

Diana The same fish she'd later string, quartets at a time, on her hook for dinner.

Amy Johnson “Four siblings, four former foster kids, four theoretical physicists,” says the article. “A string quartet.”

 

 

 

Here are the entries that caught my eye.

 

 

BJ Muntain

 

Pedro led the llama train, sure feet plodding between mountain wall and drop. The trail widened into a meadow near a shoal stream. Siesta time. The llamas grazed. Pedro's thoughts floated into dreams.

 

A rhythmic cry of alarm. A scream. He jumped at the blust'ring quartet. Llama to llama, he pulled them off the huddled figure.

 

"You can't help on the full moon," he told his son.

 

"It's daytime!"

 

"Tonight's a full moon. Even I smell wolf on you. Go home."

 

He calmed the llamas as Miguel slunk homewards.

 

"Travel the world," he grumbled. "Have adventures. Come back a werewolf."

 

That final line just makes the whole piece.

 

 

E.M. Goldsmith

 

Raine left no footprints in the muddy shoals.

 

It had to be a dream. She awoke on the couch, dropped in front of the television. Relief.

 

A nightmare from the true crime documentary. A view of the sandbar in the river flashed on the screen. She had been friends with the accused. Oliver. Decades ago. Everyone said he was innocent of that triple murder. Until the water pulled back from that sandbar to expose the old bones. She stared at Ollie’s image, remembered. Her body turned to bones.

 

A momentary horror. The knife. The pain. Then floating. And light.

 

I'm not exactly sure what's going on here but "her body turned to bones" is wonderfully enigmatic.

 

 

Just Jan

 

Before I met Chip, I never thought a tollhouse toff could fall for a bit of sugar and spice from the Shoals. He was all mine, right up until the day he spied a bunch of ne'er-do-wells floating around the kitchen: Rainier cherries. Sour cream. Cream cheese.

 

And Graham.

 

Snickerdoodle, Chip cried, Graham said I'd make the PERFECT addition!

 

Don't listen to that cracker, I wailed. He's nothing but crust!

 

Chip insisted. Persisted.

 

Sorrowfully, I desisted.

 

I'll be back, he promised, as he dropped over the side of our jar, but my semi-sweetheart never returned.

 

We were both crushed.

 

wonderfully imaginative

 

 

 

 

 

KAClaytor

 

“Touchdown!”

 

Chad jumped up from the snot-green couch—the most he’d moved in days. Cheetos rained down like confetti, neon orange bits smearing into the new carpet. He dropped the remote, picking it up with his bare toes. “Tallulah, fetch me another beer. Be quick about it.”

 

Wives are given a toll-free number, if the time comes.

 

A recording offers instructions with measured reassurance.

 

“To keep the body from floating…”

 

Tallulah scribbled furiously, ‘Twenty-pound weight, tie around hamstring. Quart Ethylbenzene, for sedation…’

 

Now, out beyond the shoal, Chad, his beer, and his remote keep company with the others.

 

Homage to the dearly departed snot-green couch.

(for those of you new to the reef, this was the description of my former couch, the one I revised with a carving knife)

 

 




 

 

 

 

 

John Davis Frain

 

Water Patrol pulls over Frain’s wife and boards her vessel.

 

“So you were fishing?”

 

“Following the shoals of herring to catch my husband’s dinner.” She points. “He’s down below.”

 

“But your boat has no cabin below.”

 

“Oh.” She winks. “He’s not in a cabin. He’s testing a floatation device.”

 

“How does that work?”

 

“It doesn’t,” she says, forcing a teardrop. “It’s why we’re drifting apart.”

 

That line took a toll on his patience. “I’ll have to cuff you for that one,” the officer groans.

 

“It was still worth it. I couldn’t live with that guy anymore.”

 

I love Frain's wife!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mallory Love

 

I dreamed I went to the lighthouse again. Like a spirit, I dropped off the cliffside and floated along the shoals and shores of the dark sea. The light chased me as I traveled. But it couldn’t catch me. I was unrestrained, ethereal.

 

I could sense you in the tower, watching, waiting. Sometimes you'd question your sanity. The loneliness took a toll. That’s how our fight started. With the questions turned accusations.

 

Now you direct them at yourself. Did I slip, or did you shove me?

The machines beep, but my eyes can’t open. See you soon, in my dreams.

 

oh my!

 

 

NLiu

 

I think of you whenever I hear the Raindrop Prelude.

 

I was a lone wolf, skinny and scabbed with mange, who mistook you for the moon – floating exalted, so bright, so cold – and sang you a wild nocturn.

 

Condescending, you invited me in, taught me more civilised music. I grew – stood on two feet, every aria tolling sophistication, your feral little protégé.

 

I cringed at your heel. But it was your shoal heart I craved.

 

One bold night of storms, I took it.

 

Only flesh it was. Only flesh.

 

Still, I think of you whenever I hear the Raindrop Prelude.

 

I'm not exactly sure what's going on here, but it's lovely.

 

 

Here are the four finalists

 

Steve Forti

 

“The Olympics.”

“What?”

“Jus’ sayin’s, all. The best ring quartet’s the Olympic logo.”

“That’s five, dummy.”

“Audi.”

“A strong contender. We floating ideas, I’m going brass knuckles.”

“On brand. Clever thinking.”

“Jupiter’s got four rings, ya know. Joe Montana, too.”

“My phone before it goes to voice mail.”

“That’s the winner right there. Love the creative juices. So we all agree? The bloody outline of the four bullet holes we put in the ayatollah here makes the second best ring quartet?”

“Fo’ sho’.”

“All right. Drop him in the hole and get burying. It’s about to be raining palace guards.”

 

Talk about a twist of an ending!

 

 

Ash Complin

 

With the threat of extinction floating over us, I'm proud to announce a new, tidal form of energy production. We will begin construction on the shores immediately.

 

I won't be koi. I've paid atoll most severe. My scale reading has doubled. My health has gone to Shell. Sandy, my wife, dropped me for my best chum.

 

But, I couldn't do this alone. I've only seen further than others by standing on the shoalders of giants.

 

With our new generators, we can finally bring the fight to the dam surface-dwellers. May the Kingdom of Atlantis rain forever!

 

Oh suite mother of godiva!

 

 

Diana

 

Some days grandma misses her home so much she says it felt like a physical pain in her heart. She misses the rain the most, precious when it came, pounding the ocean like drums. She misses slipping off as a child, neglecting her chores to float among the bright shoals of fish. The same fish she'd later string, quartets at a time, on her hook for dinner.

 

Grandma grows very silent when I ask her why she can't go back. There's nothing left to go back to, she says.

 

Dropping twenty nuclear bombs on an atoll doesn't leave much behind.

 

my heart just stopped when I read that last line.

 

 

 

Amy Johnson

 

Four siblings.

 

The parents float in and out, but Chelle makes sure the younger ones eat, get to school.

 

In sixth grade, Chelle reads L’Engle. Her shoal of classmates misses the points. Chelle reads it to Vincent, explains the bug on the string. Next, Ty. Then, Rosie.

 

Four siblings sent to four separate foster homes.

 

Bus rides, treks through the rain – to check on the three of them, drop off library books, encourage them. Incredibly, none of it takes a toll on Chelle’s GPA.

 

“Four siblings, four former foster kids, four theoretical physicists,” says the article. “A string quartet.”

 

I'm going to need some more time to pick the winner, clearly.

What an array of wonderful this is!

 

Let me know what you think in the comment column.

Friday, November 17, 2023

En garde, M. Forti!

 

I'm renewing my efforts to thwart Steve Forti!

It's almost the end of 2023! I must prevail at least once!!

 

 

 The usual rules apply:

 

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

 

2. Use these words in the story:

 

shoal

rain

drop

atoll

float

 

If you are Steve Forti, or wish you could be, you must also use the word: string quartet BUT you can NOT use it to mean a group of four stringed instruments!

 

 


 

 

3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.

 

4. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

 

5. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first, then post.

 

6. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

 

7. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title.)

 

8. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.

 

9.  There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE.

 

10.  It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.

Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

 

11. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (For example: "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!"). Save that for the contest results post.

 

12. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.

 

13. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story.

 

 

Contest opens: Saturday, November 18, 8:12 am EDT

 

Contest closes: Sunday, November 19, 10:00am EST

 

Back to the later times this week because I'm heading out on vacation on Sunday!

 

If you're wondering how what time it is in NYC right now, here's the clock .

 

 

 

If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's an .xls spread sheet here http://www.colindsmith.com/TreasureChest/

 

(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)

 

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid. I'm also on Bluesky: @janetreid.bsky.social

Ready? SET?


Not yet!

ENTER! 

Sorry, too late.

Contest is closed. Results to come.