Friday, April 26, 2013

"Please Give Me A 5 Star Review" - #FridayFlash

Morning rush, we're shorthanded and every customer has a special order. I can see them shuffling, huffing, eye-rolling and muttering. One surreptitiously - or so he thinks - holds up his LifeFone. Reading my badge and knocking a few points off, no doubt. The woman in front, her skin's tan exceeding her handbag's, wrists clanging with aurelian fandango, purses her lips at the scent of failure obviously emanating from me.

"That's not what I ordered. I distinctly said without ketchup." Turning to the people behind her, she loudly asks for God's help in dealing with "these people who can't perform a simple task. Probably up half the night with 3 brats from 3 different fathers."

I don't have kids but I did have 3 different "fathers" and so perhaps she has some shred of psychic ability. What she does have is a LifeFone, which she wields like a crucifix. At this rate, by the time my shift is over I'll be lucky to have 1 or 2 stars, enough to get paid the bare minimum.

I apologize profusely, admire her blouse, produce the gift card I'd gotten from my boyfriend Giorgio, and offer it to her for her “trouble”. She grudgingly accepts it and drops it into the cavernous maw of her alligator bag. 

"I'll give you one, little girl, because you seem to at least be making some effort. Unlike most of you people." Her eyes slide to Giorgio, who is slowly dragging an overflowing trash bag to the door. I want to tell her that he lost part of his foot by snatching a child out of harm's way (which earned him so many stars that we could eat and pay the rent for almost a year) but it felt safer to distract her evil stare from him.

"Yes ma'am. I do try, ma'am. Thank you so much for coming in today, and I hope to see you again." She holds up the gadget and I feel my badge tingle as a star is added to my rating.

Barring anymore censorious customers, I'll earn enough this week to keep the electricity on for another month. There's talk that the next generation of Lifefones will live up to their name. Trying to weed us out by means of poverty is simply taking too long.

Which leaves buying a lottery ticket and keeping my eye out for for places where fools rush in.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How To Publish A Short Story Collection: Tips For Getting Agents’ And Editors’ Attention For Your Short Stories (From Writer's Relief)

 Thanks to Writers Relief for permission to  copy and post this article.

At Writer’s Relief, we’re approached by countless writers every year who want help submitting their short story collections to literary agents. The short story is an exciting literary form that many writers have mastered, but few writers truly understand how to get a collection of short stories published.
It takes talent and practice to make short stories work. Some novelists begin their careers with stories and work their way up to longer forms (novels or memoirs). Other writers prefer to work in the short form and eventually find themselves with a stack of stories inches high, wondering, “Why not turn my short stories into a collection?”
Short stories are becoming increasingly popular, not only because they are mini works of art, but also because busy people have shorter attention spans. There are hundreds of literary magazines and journals looking to publish individual stories (and Writer’s Relief keeps tabs on all of them), but finding a home for a collection of short stories is no easy task.
Major publishers want novels because they sell, and they infrequently consider novellas or collections of short stories. Short story collections are harder to place because editors are unwilling to take chances on unknown writers; unless you’re Alice Munro or William Faulkner, you will find it considerably more difficult to sell your work.
Before you protest about the number of successful anthologies on the market, be aware that anthologies are generally collections of stories by a number of different authors—collections appealing to those who are looking for a particular theme or subject matter. Anthologies of work by a single, unknown author are very difficult to sell.
Many writers get frustrated and end up self-publishing their work, especially if they’re simply looking for limited quantities to give to family and friends. But for a writer looking to sell a decent number of books and see his or her collection at the major bookstores, the marketing process can be a nightmare. When you self-publish, you are responsible for nearly all the marketing and publicity efforts.
Don’t let us thoroughly discourage you from trying to get your short story collection published—there are some things you can do to increase your chances.
Publish selected works. It’s easier to sell a collection if you’ve had at least a few short stories previously published in reputable literary journals. Submit individual stories to quality magazines on a regular basis, and with each publication credit, your credibility will increase.
At Writer’s Relief we highly recommend that writers build their credits first rather than approach literary agents with a group of unpublished stories. National exposure in quality magazines is key to attracting an agent’s attention.
Theme. It also helps if the stories have a common theme or subject to tie them together. James Herriot was a country vet, not an aspiring author, but his collection of stories had a cohesive theme, and the series is still popular today.
Go for a novel. Some agents recommend scrapping the whole idea of a collection and refashioning it into a novel. They might also recommend selling the collection as part of a two-book deal, with the story collection designed to generate interest in the second book, which would be an actual novel.
Enter as many short story writing competitions as possible. An award-winning story can land a publishing deal. It can also boost a writer’s self-confidence—always a bonus.
Consider small presses. There are far more small presses than big publishing houses, and they tend to specialize in niche marketing. They also tend to publish out of love for the genre and may be more receptive to a short story collection if they love the quality of your work.
Get a literary agent. If you have an agent, your chances of selling a collection are better than for unagented writers. To be a writer who gets an agent for a short story collection, you’ll need a strong bio. Also it may help in your query letter to mention that you have a novel in the works.
Get schooled. Short story collections are far easier to sell when their authors have top-notch credentials: publication credits in quality magazines, awards, grants. Graduating from a quality MFA program is a plus as well.
To learn more, check out How To Write A Query Letter For A Short Story Collection. We help writers submit their individual stories for publication because we’ve found it’s the best way to help writers improve their bios (so that they can be competitive when approaching literary agents). If you would like Writer’s Relief to help you submit your individual short stories for publication, or if you would like us to consider working with you on a collection, give us a call!

This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, an author’s submission service that has been helping creative writers make submissions since 1994. Their work is highly recommended in the writing community, and there are TONS of freebies, publishing leads, and writers resources on their website. Check it out!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Book Spine Poetry

Estrella Azul of Friday Flash created some "book spine poetry" and challenged others to try and create their own. The idea is to stack some books and create a poem using the titles. So here is my attempt, and if you'd like to view Estrella's and links to other samples, go here.  (I don't have a particularly large library, and many are textbooks, but I gave it a shot.)

A murder in Paradise,
in the valley of mist.
Self incrimination
in my blood,
a traitor to memory.

Look again.

A secret gift, to break the silence;
the airmen speak.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Spoke In the Gears - #FridayFlash #Steampunk

  Lord Tyndale hooked one sausage finger in his cravat and sighed. Steam was a godsend in many respects; he'd grown up when the majority of London homes were heated by fireplaces, not much of an advance from those savages in the Colonies, and he had never quite gotten the damp cold out of his bones. These urchins were blessed with comfort in a well-appointed workshop with equatorial heat. Too much so, he suspected; inventions had fallen off lately, and that would never do. Just last week, the Pennyfarthing Shop had launched both a steam velocipede and a steam aeroplane based on the Henson Stringfellow model. The Prince Consort had even paid them a visit.

     A black-haired child sat with tongue protruding in concentration, fixing a fleck of gold in place. Tyndale scrutinized the object. It was a finely wrought armature of silver in the shape of a rearing horse. From its ivory hooves to its glistening obsidian eyes, from the hundreds of gears interlocked and enmeshed so as to form metallic tissue to its proudly flagged tail, it was every inch a possible masterpiece. The boy looked up eagerly and remembered to slide his tongue back into its cavern.  Surely the Master would finally be pleased and allow him his freedom.

     He waited. Lord Tyndale sighed, looked up at the rafters in theatrical despair, and then nudged the boy with his foot. "Well, start it up, Walsh, er Wade...whatever you're called."

     "Wes, M'Lord. doesn't start."

     "Ah, you need more time. Perhaps you can continue after the others leave. At least have the kindness to explain what it will do. A nefarious instrument for the War Board? An ornamental steering device for the new class of airships? We can certainly sell a few to those pompous Transit Captains."

     "It doesn't do anything."

     Tyndale wished he had his own relief valve as he felt the pressure rise in his chest. "Yes, yes, idiot child, I understand that it is currently not functional. But what WILL it do?"

     Wes picked at a bloodied cuticle on his index finger. "It won't do anything, sir. Ever. It'' look at, sir. Because it's beautiful. It's...Art."

     The shrieking whistle of the man they had to call Master reverberated through the workshop, down the steam and smoke shrouded alleyways, and might have shifted the Pride of Mayfair off course had she been any lower in the atmosphere.

     "So you fasten a few cogs to some wire and call it art. Art is beauty WITH FUNCTION! THERE MUST BE A PURPOSE! WITHOUT PURPOSE WE, AND EVERYTHING AROUND US, ARE USELESS!"
      He swept the majestic equine to the floor, mopped his brow, and struggled to regain his composure. Casting about for something, anything, of worth, he settled upon two shadowy figures in an opposite corner.

     "Briggs, tell me you've got something to salvage my integrity. Something...ahhh. Yes."

     The apprentice had swept a piece of canvas away, revealing a human-like object seated beside the worktable.

     "A clockworker. Wonderful. But far too delicate to work the mines or the looms, for that matter. It will need to be twice as substantial."

     Nathanial Briggs, already halfway toward a Class A freedom certificate, smirked at Wes and then adopted a suitably pious attitude.

     "M'Lord, it was built for the express purpose of replacing the striking matchgirls over at Bryant and May. Think of it, sir:  we would be saving thousands of women and children from fossy jaw and cruel working conditions by using these instead."

     Tyndale thought he might suffer an apoplectic fit. "You think that they will purchase mechanicals when they can hire otherwise useless human beings at a pittance? And what of the masses who will be turned out to starve in the streets? Great Machine in the sky, are you all without vision? Without a concept of consequences?"

     While he was speaking, Tyndale had been idly stroking the copper forelimb of the clockworker. Now this was art, beauty with function. It was both graceful and elegant, with smooth sweeping curves and a faint sheen of fine oil; it even seemed to exhale a warm metallic scent which tickled his aristocratic nostrils. There was just the hint of a breast, sloping gently down to a narrow waist...

     That evening the man known to some as the Master, to others as the fabulously wealthy Lord Tyndale, was seen hurrying through the streets with a cloth-draped object. To some, it looked like it might even have been a dead body, but no one questioned such things in the streets of London after dark.

     Several months later, the unfortunate young artist called Wes found himself sitting on a bench aboard the Aether Steam Transit Company's airship Pride of Mayfair, headed for penal servitude in the Colonies. The man chained next to him cleared his throat. Wes thought he looked vaguely familiar.

     "What's the sentence, lad?"

     "Ten years. Deliberately and willfully wasting company funds on work of no particular value. Courtesy of Lord Tyndale. You?"

     The man roared with laughter.  "Lifetime banishment for surgical malfeasance. A certain wealthy Lord had an embarrassing mishap with a clockwork mechanical. And though we've advanced to the point of various gear- and piston-driven limbs, even the best inventors in our world have yet to create a working prosthetic for certain parts of a man's anatomy. He's managed to get me out of the country so that word doesn't spread of his lack of function."

     Wes grinned. "Perhaps we could work together in the Colonies. I believe that we could create some remarkable devices together."

     "And adventures, lad. We'll have adventures. Dr. Robert Liston." He smiled ruefully as he tried to extend his hand but was brought up short by his chain.

     "Wesley Broward. At your service."

This is my very first attempt (and a bit rushed this week) at Steampunk flash fiction. Gentle critique is always welcome.