Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Finesse, Lying, and Just Plain Ignorance

 


 

A query letter is a pitch to an agent to read your book.

It's not a deposition, or even a frank conversation with your dear mum.

 

In other words, you don't have to tell the whole complete, every last detail of truth.

You don't need to say it took you six years to write this frigging novel.

 

You really don't want to say that you never want to look at it again.

 

You can gloss over previous publishing efforts if they don't have a public face.

 

You should leave out that you think agents are blood-sucking leeches and clearly have limited taste since your book hasn't been snatched up with glee yet.

 

That's finesse.

 

Lying is telling me you've never published anything if you have.

Lying is telling me you've never had an agent if you have.

Lying is telling me you have an offer when you don't. (I've opined on that before)


 

 

Lying is never a good idea.

 

And then there's just plain ignorance, and that's the one that can really trip you up.

 

Ignorance is telling me you won an award that doesn't exist.

Ignorance is telling me you trademarked your book (when you mean copyright, and don't do that before querying anyway.)

 

Ignorance is telling me an agent liked your work but was too busy to take it on (you didn't recognize a form rejection.)

 

Lying is an automatic pass, but so is ignorance.

I'm very reluctant to take on people who don't know what they don't know.

 

It's one of the reasons I'm very glad to answer questions (if I can) here on the blog.

 

Got any?

 

 


Sunday, September 18, 2022

Preliminary results for the Change It Up flash fiction contest

Here are the entries that stood out for me.

Did you like the change up?

More of these, or back to prompt words?

Timothy Lowe  

Nobody knew the bomb was about to go off. Not the nurses, not the technicians. Certainly not Tom Syzlak, who’d come to have his kidney out.

 

He was at the vending machine when it happened, a short pink scar wriggling wormlike across his abdomen. The nurses had told him to rest, but Tom was as stubborn as his cancer, and hospital food had never suited him. Later, when they’d begun to sort things out, he’d wonder why he had such a tough time deciding between Cheetos and Lays. But as it turned out, the indecision wound up saving his life.

 

I'd start with the  last phrase: Indecision saved his life.

 

Les Edgerton  

One day I found a volume of poetry by Robert Frost

in the prison library at Pendleton

and checked it out.

Back in my cell, I read:

Home is the place where, when you want to go there, they have to take you in.

When I made parole, I called my mom to tell her my good news.

I found out that my dad had never read Robert Frost.

At least not that poem.

 

This is more like a whole story. I'd cut the last line, just to make that penultimate sentence the punch line.

 

 

NLiu  

Marta had wanted her wedding covered by the press, but she'd been thinking of Hello. Not this.

 

"The body was in your hotel room when you arrived?" the officer prompted, scribbling on his pad.

 

Marta's hands shook. She took another pull of champagne. "No."

 

The officer looked up. "Well, when did you make the discovery?"

 

"When I was leaving - for the ceremony. The… It wasn't there before that."

 

"You sure?"

 

"Certain."

 

The stranger's face swam in her vision. Sunken. His blood slicking the carpet. She shivered. She'd been in the bathroom, inches away. Why hadn't she heard anything?

 

 

 

Cecilia Ortiz Luna  

For most of these second graders, it was their first time to see a lion up close.

 

Benjamin Sturgis boasted that he was the only one tall enough to feed the giraffe.

 

The school bus reeked of sweat, juice boxes and Off spray.

 

“Quiet!” Miss Dill yelled from her seat beside the driver.

 

She stood up, counted the heads.

 

Twenty-eight.

 

She counted again, this time with the use of her index finger, murmuring the numbers while walking down the aisle.

 

Twelve girls, sixteen boys.

 

Oh, no.

 

She looked at the tiny faces one by one.

 

Where’s Megan Dubanowski?

 

 


LynnRodz  

I had four husbands; none of them were mine.

 

Who's at fault, me or them? When I was with them, I didn't know they were married. Now looking back, the signs were all there. But when you're young and in love, or lust, you don't pay attention to those details. You don't ask yourself why he couldn't spend his birthday with you, or Christmas, or other important dates. You went along with reasons that were unreasonable. Naive, stupid? Sure.

 

So, am I being unreasonable now if I want revenge, to destroy their lives as they did mine?

 

Watch.

 

GREAT first line.

 

 

Colin Smith  

It’s one thing when your neighbor turns up dead on your doorstep; it’s quite another when he then asks for a cup of sugar.

 



Kate Outhwaite  

“Tell me about finding the girl.”

 

“Again?”

 

“Again.”

 

“I went home. I slept. I woke early and went for a walk. Ended up in the Cool Zone. Heard a noise. Found the girl in the airlock. Brought her back. The End.”

 

“Your chip lets you into the Cool Zone and opens airlocks?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Because of who you are?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Okay. Well, no matter who they are, no one just accidentally wanders into the Cool Zone. Plus airlock doors are 8 inches thick, vacuum-sealed and completely sound-proof. So, Sal, I have to ask again: why did you open the airlock doors?”

 

I''d start with the last phrase: why did you open the airlock doors?”

 

 

Madeline Mora-Summonte  

The snake that slithered under the sliding glass doors was my second unwanted visitor of the day, but was still the less slimy and more welcome of the two.

 

 

Jenn Griffin  

The first time didn't take, so I killed him again.


charlogo  

If a door opens, Mom grabs my little sister’s hand. I grab the other one. Not because we’re the hand-holding kind. It’s so Lark won’t take off.

 

Toys everywhere, but all she wants is the evergreen tree out back.

 

Last week she toddled into the bathroom and held out a pinecone.

 

Mom gasped. “Larkie, did you go outside while I was in the shower?”

 

She nodded.

 

Fun fact: My sister could fly before she could talk.

 

Mom said she was sad and mad because if Lark had gone over the fence like Whiskers, we might never see her again.

 

I'd start with:  Fun fact: My sister could fly before she could talk.

 

Brian  

Her face is white in the dim light. She isn’t wearing shoes or a shirt, only a white bra and panties. She is crouched by the side of the building, watching the corner. I can see her breasts rise and fall as she breathes. Her face is streaked with sweat and dirt, and bruises cover her body. “Excuse me,” I start to say, but she turns and puts a finger across her lips. “Quiet,” she hisses. “If they hear you, we both die.”

 

I'd start with:  “Quiet,” she hisses. “If they hear you, we both die.”

 

Brig

 

In a room quiet enough to hear a pin drop, the third pin fell.

 

John Davis Frain  

Amber Flynn pours a glass of wine, curls into the nook of her sofa, and finally takes a deep breath when her phone chirps.

 

Can we talk? 11 pm. My place!

 

It’s her friend, Cheri. The one Amber buried in the woods nineteen hours ago.

 

 

B D MacCullough  

Drowning in the desert hadn't occurred to me.

 

Sharyn Ekbergh  

Our mother wasn't the kind you went looking for if she was missing.

 

Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Change It Up Flash Fiction contest!

 

Long time blog reader Kitty Myers and I had a quick exchange about prologues/usefulness thereof, and I had a light bulb moment.

 



 

How about we have a flash fiction contest that isn't prompt words, but a prompt concept?

 

To wit: Write something that creates tension, and makes us want to know more.

 

 

 

Here are some examples of a single line that does that:

 

The Scopuli had been taken eight days ago, and Julie Mao was finally ready to be shot.

Leviathan Wakes

James Corey

 

 

They shoot the white girl first.

Paradise

Toni Morrison

 

 

"You screwed up, Mr. Cates"

The Electric Church

Jeff Somers

 

 

Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet. 1977, May 3, six thirty in the morning, no one knows anything but this innocuous fact: Lydia is late for breakfast.

 Everything I Never Told You

Celeste Ng

 

They were in one of the “I” states when Zeke told Isaac he had to ride in the trunk for a little while.

 

By a Spider's Thread

Laura Lippman

 

 

He was gorgeous and he was naked but, unfortunately, he was dead.

Death and the Redheaded Woman

Loretta Sue Ross

 

 

Let's give it a try and see if it works/has benefits/thwarts Steve Forti.

 

 

 The usual rules apply:

 

1. Write something that grabs us and creates tension in 100 words or fewer.

 

2. Use these words in the PROLOGUE

There are no prompt words.

 


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, 9/17/22 2:51am EDT

 

Contest closes: Sunday, 9/18/22 10:00am EDT

 

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.

Ready? SET?


Not yet!

ENTER! 

 

Rats, too late. Contest closed!

 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

The weather has felled me again

 I get brutal headaches when the barometer dances a jig; I've been stumbling around for a couple days now with limited brain power.


Fortunately I realign with the universe fairly quickly.

And Kitty Myers gave me a great idea for a flash fiction contest, so check back on Friday.




Monday, September 12, 2022

at least you recognize this is foolish

 

 How much does (assumption of) gender preference play a role in who to query--am I shooting off a proverbial foot by excluding men from my queries because my novel doesn't seem like something to their preference--or is it really more about what a person can sell? 

 

I understand finding the right agents means finding someone invested in the story and willing to read, re-read, and re-re-read a client's manuscript. Finding the agent that actually does feel "drawn into the opening pages" is no small feat. I've (likely wrongly) assumed an agent interested in say, Romance for example, tends to be women and this has bearing on what they'll represent.

 

 

You're shooting yourself in the foot by excluding men in general from your query list.

 

Unless you absolutely do not want to work with a man no how no way**, in which case you're in the wrong place cause we let men work in all aspects of publishing and you're bound to run into one sooner or later.

 

Blanket assumptions about what groups of people like/don't like/think/believe/act are what make one any number of -ists.

 

Assuming men in general don't read romance is sexist.

 

And assuming something about a particular agent is equally dangerous. If my incoming queries are any indication, people who start their queries with political assumptions about me are wrong 100% of the time. 

 

Query everyone. Sort 'em out when they come with offers of rep based on what they say and what they've sold.

 

 

 

**A recent Twitter post about a job applicant reveals this as a less-than-effective thing to tell prospective employers.

 



 

 

Friday, September 09, 2022

Help needed: where to find reputable agents?




Hi Janet,


I tried to sell two novels through a wonderful agent of your acquaintance, but after a few years of representation she decided it was time for both of us to move on. She was very good to me so you'll find no sour grapes here.



Flash forward more than 10 years and I find myself eager to test the waters with a new manuscript, but holy shit what happened to the publishing business? I'm clueless, and as I sort through the Google vomit I struggle to distinguish scam from sincerity. Back in the day, a few hours on Writer Beware and Absolute Write would have had me prepped and ready to go, but now? Where can I go for legit publishing advice from someone who's not trying to sell me something?




The denizens of the Reef are more clued-in about how to assemble a list of agents-to-query than I am.

My lists tend to be places to successfully hide bodies.





Chums, can you lend the writer a hand here?
What works? What should be avoided?

 

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Getting a publishing lawyer to review a contract when you have an agent.



If an author has accepted an offer of publication and their agent is negotiating a contract with the publisher, is it common/acceptable for the author to also have the contract reviewed by a publishing lawyer before signing it?



If you want to have your publishing contract reviewed by a publishing lawyer, tell your agent. Sooner rather than later.

As most agents do, I have a boilerplate contract with all the major publishers, and a lot of the smaller ones too. This boilerplate reflects negotiations going back many years now. I know what they'll negotiate and more importantly I know what they won't.

When an author wants a publishing lawyer to review a contract, they won't know what's been negotiated previously. I'd rather have those conversations BEFORE I start negotiating on the author's behalf.


(I can still remember a writer's lawyer who wanted to change the royalty reporting periods. Not the royalties themselves, but when the reports would be issued.)

However, if you want a lawyer to advise you on the contract, a reputable agent will not stand in your way.

It's not common (at least not in my experience) but it's totally acceptable.




Tuesday, September 06, 2022

What are the odds?


We read a lot about how few manuscripts get picked up by agents, but what percentage of books submitted to publishers are then put under contract for publication? I.e. what is the rejection rate at that level? And then how many of those that are accepted by a publisher actually reach bookstore shelves?



This isn't Las Vegas.

You can't count cards to assess the odds.

Which is of course utterly maddening to people who like order, and some sense of control.



Let's break down your questions:

What percentage of books submitted to publishers are then put under contract for publication?




I think you mean sold here. How many submissions are actually sold.
What you've not mentioned is over what length of time.
I've sold books that have been on submission for more than 10 years.

I sold other books for that author, but the first book he queried me for took 10 years.



The late, deeply mourned Phillip Spitzer sold a novel for his client James Lee Burke after 17 years on submission. I'm still in awe. Of Phil and Jim. Both are masters.



What is the rejection rate at that level?

Every single novel I've sold, including those that won awards and hit best seller lists got rejected by somebody. You simply can't avoid rejections. Using that as any kind of measurement is not a good idea. Rejection is often not for anything the author can control.

BUT, you don't get one bite at the apple. If Buttonweezer Books says no, then Deep Pockets Books might say yes. You only need one yes.

And if the first manuscript doesn't sell, most agents will ask you to bring up one of your novels from the bench and see if that one gets a bite.


How many of those that are accepted by a publisher actually reach bookstore shelves?

When you say shelves, it implies actual physical shelves, but an awful lot of books are sold on the .com sites of bookstores. They don't have to keep inventory there, and they can "carry" a lot more books than they have room for in actual stores. And of course Amazon is almost 100% web based sales.


It would be rare for a book to be bought by a publisher then not be made available for sale either in stores or online.


It does happen, but usually if the author hasn't provided a publishable book on a multi-book contact, or doesn't finish the book (particularly in non-fiction.)


There are clauses in publishing contracts that require a publisher to make a book available for sale within a certain time period, or rights revert.


But the question you're really asking is how can I assess my chances of success in a crowded field?

You can't.
I can't either.

But that doesn't mean you should retire from the field.


To quote the great baseball coach Jimmy Dugan: "“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.”

Any questions?

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Vacaton N+5

 This is my very favorite mug.

Mostly cause I had to be quite crafty to get my mitts on it.

(no, I didn't purloin it but the hint of theft was wafting about)


 I don't use it every day though.

This is the mug I use almost every day.

I use it cause it holds the full dose of coffee I need every morning. The WH mug holds only half of what the Powell's mug does.


What's your favorite mug? Is there a story about why? Do you use it every day?

Monday, August 29, 2022

Vacation n+3

 

Amtrak has lovely new train cars!

I love riding the train.

Hadn't been on one since the start of the pandemic, but I screwed my courage to the sticking post for this vacation.


What's your favorite way to travel?

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Vacation day N+1

 

Wait, I have to go back to work?


I'm dawdling as fast as I can!

What are you doing this weekend?

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Hello Bookstore!

 

 

The Bookstore in Lenox, MA

There's a wonderful documentary about this store.

You can see the trailer here.

One of the great things about going on vacation was the route took us near Lenox, so of course we had to stop and buy books and meet the owner.  


Do I have to come home?


Sunday, August 14, 2022

After a while, crocodile

 I like the guesses you made on yesterday's blog post, but you're all over the map (ha!).

None of you were close. 

I'm staying with a friend for a few days before heading to the final destination.

Here is the friend:


I was seriously overdue for cat petting!

Saturday, August 13, 2022

See ya later, alligator!

 


I'm off!

I'm kinda nervous about this trip. I haven't left the city in at least 2.5 years.

I haven't even left my little neighborhood in Bushwick much these past pandemic years.

But a pal has persuaded me to venture out -vaxxed, boosted, masked - into the wider world.

Well, wider world in that it's not Brooklyn, but it's also going to be isolated, rural and hopefully deliciously watery!

Have a guess where I'm going?

Or even the direction!

Are you headed out anytime soon? Where are you headed!



Tuesday, August 09, 2022

RIP Snot-Green couch




The Snot-Green couch at the start of her life


The Snot-Green couch after the "facelift"



The snot-green couch (may it RIP) finally had to be evicted.
One too many prong pokes from the bedraggled cushions.

After getting my second booster shot, I came home on the bus and got off right across from the furniture store where I’d bought SNC lo! these many years ago.

In I went and said “sell me a couch.”
If you ever need to feel loved, say that in a furniture store.

Bare-chested nubile young men arrived bearing chairs, coffee service, and a tray of delicacies.

A pleasant hour transpired while I viewed the options,  sat and re-sat, picked the one I wanted, pronounced it suitable, and handed over wads of cash.

Next day two hefty men who could clearly bench press a building arrived carrying the couch as thought it was a purse.

Up three flights of stairs in 90+ degree weather. More wads of cash into their mitts to say thanks.

Assembly ensued and now I sit on the new couch with nary a prod, prong or problem.


I'm now working on developing lolling as a fine art. 

 

 

New couch on Day One

 

Monday, August 08, 2022

August 7 FF contest finalists


Lennon Faris

It was a night that, between gulps of coffee, we techs called a real shitshow at The ER for Magical Creatures. So far we’d:

 

- Purged a toxic ingestion from a dragon’s depths. (It was a politician. We voted to put him back.)

- Expressed chupacabra anal glands (a showy, frothy baptism for Linda).

- X-rayed a selkie pup (defecating atoll chunks).

 

Last appointment, checked the file. “Nail trim for…demonic sabertooth hippogriff? Cool.”

 

We entered, halted. Re-read file.

 

“D.S.H.”

 

I touched my razor-thin scars. Whispered, “Hitchiker’s Guide phase.” My assistant sprinted for a towel.

 

“Hiya, buddy.” I wiped sweat.

 

“Meow.”

 

 This is subtle and hilarious and innovative.

 

 

 

 

S.D.King

“Stop lying!”

 

“I’m not!”

 

“Aliens didn’t get into your car and eat lunch with you!”

 

“I think they were aliens. They were short, greenish and had phasers.”

 

“Right. Here to take over Earth? Grab the tin foil!”

 

“I’ll show you. They put their contacts in my phone.”

 

“You ate KFC and texted?”

 

“They loved it and we got frothy Starbucks frappes- a tollhouse cookie, too. But McDdonald’s fries – I think they cried. Wait, here comes a text now!”

 

“Earthling, the depth of your civilization overwhelms us. If you choose to take over our planet, we will comply. Uploading coordinates now.”

 

I love the fresh take on alien invasion AND that the MC is being scolded for eating KFC and texting!

 

 

  

 

 

Kregger

My wife likes Wordle, but I don’t.

 

I started with Hangman. A four-letter word got me sent to the principal and a call home.

 

Boggle drove my parents into a froth shrieking, “That’s not in the dictionary!”

 

Word Jumble messed with my dyslexia.

 

Scrabble and its cousin, Words with Friends, dropped depth charges on my head. My peeps aren’t showy, but I still lost.

 

Then the mother of all word games, the NYT Sunday crossword. It took a toll.

 

Then Wordle?

 

Now Quordle?

 

My newest phase is called Curdle.

 

That’s where I express a lung, screeching AAIEEE!

 

Copyright?

 

 This hits so close to home I'm a little worried that Kregger is actually me.

 

  

 

M.R. Howe

People depend on me; important people. My position isn’t as showy as the Neophysicists', even though we both wear white coats. They barely regard me when they come to my station, but they need me.

 

It happens in phases, carefully monitored: heat; purge; drain. Insert the implement to proper depth, froth forming a wispy atoll at the surface of the fluid.

 

Dr. Buttonweezer steps toward the door, distracted. He pauses and turns, concern flooding his features as he considers the flask.

 

“Did I remember to say extra cream?”

 

He didn’t.

 

He didn’t have to. I’m good at what I do.

 

Well, of course I'm partial to any mention of Felix Buttonweezer!

But I like this cause it plays on our expectations.

 

 

 

  

LynnRodz

"A word for a series of islets?"

 

"Atoll."

 

"Distance to the bottom of something?"

 

"Depth."

 

Here she goes again doing the NYT's Sunday crossword. Then she's all showy, bragging how she always finishes it. She doesn't tell everyone I'm the one who does it for her.

 

Now 'she does' Wordle.

 

"A five letter word with h-a-e in it?"

 

"I dunno, figure it out yourself."

 

"Com'on, I'm on a winning streak."

 

"Cheat!"

 

"Not the right word. Gimme another."

 

"CHEAT!"

 

"Alexa, you're going through another phase. I can always turn you off."

 

"CHEAT! CHEAT! CHEAT!" Froth coming out of the speaker.

 

"Alexa?"

 

 

This just cracks me up completely.

 

 

It was very hard to pick just one winner.

I vacillated a LOT. 



But in the end I had to go with LynnRodz for topicality and totally cracking me up.

I just love the idea of sending Alexa into a frothy meltdown. 



LynnRodz, email me with the kind of book you'd like to get as a prize!



Thanks to all of you who took the time to write and enter!

It was a pleasure to read your work.


But oh boy, did I learn a lesson here. The prompt words just weren't very flexible were they?

Next time I may have to use lochs, locks, and lox!



Sunday, August 07, 2022

Preliminary results for the flash fiction contest

These are the entries that really caught my eye.


CynthiaMc
 

I'm from north Florida, the most southern part (Miami, a suburb of New York being the most northern).
 
So why were we diving the only atoll off Key West ahead of a hurricane instead of holing up in a bar like normal people?
 
Because my adopted cousin Binky swears he saw a spaceship.
 
And where I work it's publish or perish.
 
"Did you bring your phaser?" I asked in my snotty scientist voice.
 
We dove beneath frothing whitecaps to showy tropical fish at max depth
 
...to the spaceship...
 
"Sorry, Cuz," Binky said telepathically, "We need another scientist."
This just cracked me up.
 
 
BJ Muntain
From the depths of the Pacific Ocean, from the frothy surf of the newly risen Atlantis Atoll, welcome our next guest... how do you pronounce your name?
 
Prince Knu'kg.
 
Okay, Prince. What happened? I thought Atlantis was underwater.
 
Every thousand years, our home rises to the surface. We will be visible for three months.
 
Visible is right. Folks, can you see this video? Isn't that the most showy island you've seen? What are those things flying around it?
 
War dragons.
 
War?
 
Every surface phase, we raid your world.
 
But...
 
Thank you for your invitation. We couldn't come ashore otherwise.
 
I'm always a sucker for dragons.

 
 
Lennon Faris
It was a night that, between gulps of coffee, we techs called a real shitshow at The ER for Magical Creatures. So far we’d:
 
- Purged a toxic ingestion from a dragon’s depths. (It was a politician. We voted to put him back.)
- Expressed chupacabra anal glands (a showy, frothy baptism for Linda).
- X-rayed a selkie pup (defecating atoll chunks).
 
Last appointment, checked the file. “Nail trim for…demonic sabertooth hippogriff? Cool.”
 
We entered, halted. Re-read file.
 
“D.S.H.”
 
I touched my razor-thin scars. Whispered, “Hitchiker’s Guide phase.” My assistant sprinted for a towel.
 
“Hiya, buddy.” I wiped sweat.
 
“Meow.”
 
This is a perfect twist ending to a hilariously inventive story.


 
S.D.King

 

“Stop lying!”
 
“I’m not!”
 
“Aliens didn’t get into your car and eat lunch with you!”
 
“I think they were aliens. They were short, greenish and had phasers.”
 
“Right. Here to take over Earth? Grab the tin foil!”
 
“I’ll show you. They put their contacts in my phone.”
 
“You ate KFC and texted?”
 
“They loved it and we got frothy Starbucks frappes- a tollhouse cookie, too. But McDdonald’s fries – I think they cried. Wait, here comes a text now!”
 
“Earthling, the depth of your civilization overwhelms us. If you choose to take over our planet, we will comply. Uploading coordinates now.”
 
This is a delightful twist on alien invasion!
 
Colin Smith

“You by land, me by water?” said Eric. “I was an Olympian, you know?”
 
“Me too,” said Joe, stretching his legs. “Water’s choppy. May the froth be with you!”
 
The lagoon had a five-mile diameter, rimmed by land a half-mile wide. The prize waited on the opposite side of the island.
 
“Depth of insanity,” she said. “Lads being showy. A stupid phase.”
Maizie sipped her margarita watching the water.
 
Two hours later, she saw splashing and heard distant running.
 
The running came closer, but the splashing didn’t.
 
“Eric!” she shouted.
 
“I guess…” said Joe, panting,”…the island took atoll on him.”

 
May the froth be with you is a perfect line.
 
 
 
Kregger
My wife likes Wordle, but I don’t.
 
I started with Hangman. A four-letter word got me sent to the principal and a call home.
 
Boggle drove my parents into a froth shrieking, “That’s not in the dictionary!”
 
Word Jumble messed with my dyslexia.
 
Scrabble and its cousin, Words with Friends, dropped depth charges on my head. My peeps aren’t showy, but I still lost.
 
Then the mother of all word games, the NYT Sunday crossword. It took a toll.
 
Then Wordle?
 
Now Quordle?
 
My newest phase is called Curdle.
 
That’s where I express a lung, screeching AAIEEE!
 
Copyright?

This cracked me up because of course AAIEEEE is usually heard here when I tackle that stupid damn Wordle game that I can NOT stop playing.

 
 
M.R. Howe

People depend on me; important people. My position isn’t as showy as the Neophysicists', even though we both wear white coats. They barely regard me when they come to my station, but they need me.
 
It happens in phases, carefully monitored: heat; purge; drain. Insert the implement to proper depth, froth forming a wispy atoll at the surface of the fluid.
 
Dr. Buttonweezer steps toward the door, distracted. He pauses and turns, concern flooding his features as he considers the flask.
 
“Did I remember to say extra cream?”
 
He didn’t.
 
He didn’t have to. I’m good at what I do.

 
Aha! Felix finally graduated from medical school!
 
 

Beth Carpenter
“It starts with an icy glass mug. The next phase is a single generous scoop of frozen vanilla cream in the depths, followed by a waterfall of carbonated syrup solution, sweet and bubby, washing over it and foaming up into an atoll of the richest, creamiest froth you can imagine, so thick you could eat it with chopsticks. Then, a showy spritz of whipped cream, topped with a cherry.” I smack my lips. “Frozen perfection.”
 
“Ooooh.” An awed silence follows as the pescatarian, refined sugar-free, kale smoothie-fed children contemplate the legend. “Now tell us the one about funnel cakes, Grandpa.”

 
I had to look up pescatarian.
Fortunately it does not mean "a diet rich in kale."

 
 

 
C. Dan Castro
1530. Final phase.
 
Baker “wakes.”
 
The Arkansas sways, pummeling waves spraying froth. Sneaking aboard wasn’t hard.
 
A hundred warships list nearby. Relics.
 
In the ocean depths, Baker’s timer counts.
 
60.
 
The atoll. Silent, scorched rock. Thank Baker’s “ancestors.”
 
50.
 
Laughter haunts me. Kids who won’t grow up.
 
40.
 
Miles away, American ships monitor. Entertain reporters. Politicians. A showy monstrosity.
 
30.
 
My hands tremble. Clean. Bloody.
 
20.
 
I designed it to end the war.
 
10.
 
Two cities, now shattered walls with children’s silhouettes.
 
5.
 
I’m called...
 
4.
 
...the hero scientist.
 
3.
 
But I can’t...
 
2.
 
...stop thinking...
 
1.
 
...about those children—

 Haunting
 
 
 
french sojourn

“We are gathered here today to bid farewell to Fargo Phil.
Let’s all lift a frothy brew, and toast to his last strike.
 
Cheers!
 
He was a showy pro-bowler, but all those sequins only covered his dark and lonely past. His game was improving, and at a phase when his outside curve was finally tightening up.
 
Love takes a toll on us all, but Sadie left him in the depths of depression at such a difficult time, what with the Kenosha regionals a week away.
 
Sadly, the break-up killed him, …cose we all knew how poorly Phil handled a split.”
 

Only cause I've watched The Big Lebowski more times than I care to reveal did I recognize the bowling humor here.

 

 
LynnRodz
"A word for a series of islets?"
 
"Atoll."
 
"Distance to the bottom of something?"
 
"Depth."
 
Here she goes again doing the NYT's Sunday crossword. Then she's all showy, bragging how she always finishes it. She doesn't tell everyone I'm the one who does it for her.
 
Now 'she does' Wordle.
 
"A five letter word with h-a-e in it?"
 
"I dunno, figure it out yourself."
 
"Com'on, I'm on a winning streak."
 
"Cheat!"
 
"Not the right word. Gimme another."
 
"CHEAT!"
 
"Alexa, you're going through another phase. I can always turn you off."
 
"CHEAT! CHEAT! CHEAT!" Froth coming out of the speaker.
 
"Alexa?"
 
This is the definitive Wordle story.
 
 
shanepatrickwrites

Knitting in a toll booth, she remembers that phase of her life. The click-clack of the needles, echoing the gunfire of her last night in the life. The showy mistress of a narco, she rose from the depths of Medellin barrios to whisper advice to Escobar’s second, crushed under her lover’s weight. Red froth pouring from his mouth. She glazed her eyes, hoping they’d think her dead, too.
 
“Vamos, cabron. Todos muerte.” The gunmen left.
 
Her ears rang for days. She disguised herself as an old woman, knitting her way north.
 
A million purls later, “One dollar, please.”

 
this is brilliant, but it's not really a story.

 
Amy Johnson 
A sweltering Saturday, a mourning jog, penance for a week of tiramisu.
 
I’m struck from behind. My face slams into the sidewalk. I look up. This shirtless guy in showy runny shorts keeps sprinting. I scoop up my front teeth, shove them into my sock. I mutter, “Telf-tentered.”
 
A few blocks later, there’s Shirtless on the corner. In the jumping jacks phase of his workout. I mutter, “Nartittitic.”
 
Almost home, sweat froth stinging my eyes, something strikes me from behind. Shirtless! The depth of my fury! Everything goes fuzzy. Visions of a picnic on an atoll beach. I mutter, “Tiramitu.”


 
This is intriguing but I think I'm missing something. What's a Sirasisu?

 

These entries are the preliminary list of finalists.

Did I miss any that you particularly liked?

Do you have a favorite? Who do you think should get the prize?

 

Let me know in the comments column!

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Friday, August 05, 2022

Wordle Flash Fiction contest

 I've been playing Wordle for a while now, and it drives me bonkers a good half the time. 

BUT time to make Wordle earn its keep!

A flash fiction contest using Wordle words!


 

 The usual rules apply:

 

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

 

2. Use these words in the story:

 

Depth

Froth

Phase

Showy 

Atoll

 

 

(NO Steve Forti extra prompt word this week. I have retired from the field of battle. Forti Thwarts the Shark!)

 

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, 8/6/22, 9:32am EDT

 

Contest closes: Sunday, 8/7/22, 10:00am EDT

 

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.

Ready? SET?


Not yet!

ENTER 

Sorry, too late.

Contest is closed.

 

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

What I was doing instead of writing a blog post

 

One of my editor pals likes to torment me with delicious new books.

This is the latest one.

Got it in the mail yesterday (Tuesday) and that was the end of getting anything else done!


Are you reading something that's keeping you from your to do list?

Monday, August 01, 2022

why I don't give notes on queries or requested fulls

 


 

Janet, post-edit memo

 

I just sent back notes on one of my client's novels.

 

Here's how it unfolded:

 

I read the novel twice: once to get the plot and characters in my brain, the second to be able to see the action unfold knowing what the whole story was.

 

You can only see the clever things being laid in if you know what the end will be.

 

The two reads took me about four days total. (I was doing other things too.)

 

I made notes on both reads.

 

Then it took me about two days to write the notes into a memo, revise, and polish.

 

Total elapsed time is probably 25 hours.

 

Now this wasn't 25 hours straight. I don't have the concentration for that right now.

 

And the key thing about revising an edit memo is you have to look it over at least a couple times, more likely five or six, and you need some time between those passes.

 

If I "fix" fewer than three things in  a memo, I know I'm getting close to the final version.

 

So, what does all this mean for you?

 

Investing 20+ hours in a novel I know I'm not going to add to my list is a bad use of my limited resources.

 

That's why I don't offer much, if anything, in notes on requested fulls, and nothing at all on queries I pass on.

 

Expecting/wanting  notes on a full, or a query, is simply setting yourself up for disappointment.  Avoid that. There's enough disappointment in publishing without asking for more.

 

Any questions?