Archive for January, 2010

Joel WillansFor the week of February 7 through February 14, Flash Fiction Chronicles is  having its second String-of-10 Contest—String of 10 TWO—for the best 250-word story written from a specific prompt: a series of ten words given to you on February 7, 2010.

JOEL WILLANS, nominated for the Pushcart Prize and winner of the Yeovil Prize and Global Short Story Award  is our guest judge for this contest.  Find out more about Joel BELOW.

 GUIDELINES

  1. Read the contest’s String of 10 Writing Prompt which will be available at 12:01 on February 7, 2010 here as well as on the FFC Daily Prompt Page and at Gay Degani’s Author Thread at Every Day Fiction. 
  2. The contest is open to stories of  up to 250 words. Entries over the word limitation will be disregarded.
  3. Submit via email addressed to flashfictionblog@everydayfiction.com.   All entries must be copy and pasted into the body of the email. No attachments will be opened.
  4. There is no entry fee.
  5. You may enter as many 3 separate and different stories up to 250-words each. 
  6. All stories must contain at least four words from the String of 10.  Any stories without at least four words from the string of 10 will be disregarded.  The prompt words may be slightly modified such as tense, number, etc.  (Example: walk can be amended to walks, walked, even walker or walkers)
  7. The aphorism that is given doesn’t not need to be found in the story, but rather to be used as an additional source of inspiration.  No story will be judged on its use.  Note may be taken if a story uses the aphorism in an inspired way.
  8. What matters most is your story, not the prompt words or quotation.  Seamless integration of any four of the prompt words is the goal. 
  9. All entries must be in English, original, unpublished, and not submitted or accepted elsewhere at the time of submission. Flash Fiction Chronicles/Every Day Fiction/Every Day Publishing reserves one-time publication rights to the 1st- through-3rd winning entries to be published at Every Day Fiction and Flash Fiction Chronicles.
  10. Entries must be received via email by 11:59 PDT Sunday, February 14.
  11. Winners will be notified by March 20.  Publication will follow in April. 
  12. The preliminary decision the judges of the top 10 and the final decision by guest judge, Joel Willans, of the top three stories are final.

 Stories from the first String-of-10 Contest can be read at these links.

 1st Place: The Haircut by Sharon E. Trotter

2nd Place: The Forever Summer by Mary J. Daley

3rd Place: Choices Made by Jim O’Loughlin

 

PRIZES

BOEDFtwo1st Place: Winner will have his or her story published at Every Day Fiction in April 1010 and be paid the standard payment of $3.00 per story.   A copy of The Best of Every Day Fiction TWO along with a copy of Pomegranate Stories by Gay Degani, the editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles  will also be awarded as well as an “I Write Every Day” t-shirt.

2nd and 3rd Place: Winners will have their stories published at Flash Fiction Chronicles in April.  (NOTE:There is no payment for publication at Flash Fiction Chronicles.)  A copy of The Best of Every Day Fiction TWO along with a copy of Pomegranate Stories by Gay Degani, the editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles  will also be awarded to both 2nd and 3rd place winners.

 

 ABOUT JOEL WILLANS

Originally from Suffolk in the UK, Joel Willans has lived in Canada, Finland and Peru. A copywriter and travel blogger, he now gallivants between East Anglia, Helsinki and Spain. Joel’s stories have been broadcast on BBC radio and published in more than a dozen anthologies and many magazines. In 2008, he was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and won the Yeovil Prize and Global Short Story Award. “By ma biscuit or kiss ma fish”, his short story collection, is currently shortlisted for the Scott Prize, while his flash fiction can be found at places like Prick-of-the Spindle, Pank, Word Riot and Boston Literary Magazine. His story One Bright Moment is Every Day Fiction’s most popular story of all time.

walter1I found myself snared by a detective story last week when a stranger e-mailed me from California. He’d found an article I’d written on children’s book author and illustrator Holling Clancy Holling (Paddle-to-the-Sea) and wanted to know if the man had ever served in the Army. I replied that nothing in my research popped up, but I was cc’ing the director of a historical society in Michigan devoted to enshrining Holling in children’s literature.

A daily exchange of e-mails among the Californian, the archivist and me in New Jersey continued for a week as, together, we uncovered the probability that the jacket with the buck sergeant’s chevron was indeed one Holling wore in 1918.

I love these out-of-the-blue queries. There was the National Parks Service employee putting together an exhibit who wanted to know more about my write-up on the actual first shots kicking off the Civil War—not those at Fort Sumter, but a battle at Fort Barrancas, Fla., four months earlier. And another query from an amateur historian—like me—asking about King Philip, who nearly drove the colonists out of New England, “I understand [Philip’s] head was displayed in Plymouth for 25 years. Is there any documentation as to what happened to the head after the display?” (No, and neither do we know what happened to Einstein’s brain after it was dissected and distributed around the world.)

Often, there’s no positive response. One person wrote from Holland, “I think I’m descended from Willem Kieft, the notorious governor of New Amsterdam [who massacred hundreds of Raritan, Wecquaesgeek and Wappinger tribes people].” It’s doubtful, I replied; Kieft was drowned at sea while being recalled to England. Or the high schooler stating, “I’m writing a paper on Bacon’s Rebellion [Virginia, 1675]. Can you tell me everything you know?” No, dammit! Do your homework.

It’s likely that writers welcome the figurative knock on the door that rescues them from the horror of filling a blank screen with captivating words. The unsolicited e-mail certifies the writer as expert, at least in the petitioner’s eyes. Receiving an accolade, like the elusive Pushcart Prize, or being included in an anthology also is validation that we’re doing something right.

But I have a deeper sense of appreciation for readers who respond. A writer’s fiction or non-fiction is broadcast to the world, receiving hundreds of hits on Big Pulp, Bewildering Stories, Military History Online, and other sites. This is information sharing—not communication. It’s akin to winking at a woman in a dark room: You know what you’re doing but not sure if she’s getting the message. Communication only takes place when a reader comments or writes back. And isn’t communication what we’re all searching for? Someone who responds like Holden Caulfield, who says, “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it”?

Yes! This is what the Internet has given us. A medium that encourages comments and questions to complete the circle of communication. That’s why I write. And respond to readers’ questions and comments. You can e-mail (w.giersbach@att.net) anytime and I’ll get back to you. Unless you ask me to do your homework.

 

Walter Giersbach’s fiction has appeared Bewildering Stories, Big Pulp, Every Day Fiction, Everyday Weirdness, Lunch Hour Stories, Mouth Full of Bullets, Mystery Authors, OG Short Fiction, Northwoods Journal, Paradigm Journal, Short Fiction World, Southern Fried Weirdness, The Short Humour Site and Written Word.  Two volumes of short stories, Cruising the Green of Second Avenue, have been published by Wild Child (www.wildchildpublishing.com).  He also served for three decades as director of communications for Fortune 500 companies.  Walter’s website can be found at http://allotropiclucubrations.blogspot.com.

rumjhumThere used to be a girl who bled her emotions, ideas, thoughts and dreams into books.

She bled them and resurrected them. Again and again, until reality blurred and she no longer recognised humans of flesh and blood but saw and sought out characters from, often brittle and silver fish infested pages; slices of paper that reeked deliciously of other peoples visions.

She was a frivolous fool. At her best she was fey. The number of times she tumbled into an undignified heap for having mistaken a callow character for something from her beloved books were countless! The number of times she woke up to find herself impaled by an irate teacher who demanded to know why she was grinning or looking weepy for no reason occurred too often to be entertaining to her schoolmates.

Behind her back they called her names. She didn’t  care. She had found Hemingway,  a man who had died just before her birth and fallen in love. She didn’t understand that. Death could not be a barrier. To her, he was alive, pulsating-ly alive, like a sea god come to her room in the moonlight.

It was a strange love. And it began with The Old Man and the Sea.  Becoming progressively obsessive with each book that she read.  After her fourth reading of that novella, and the devouring of volumes of Hemingway out of which some struck her more forcefully – Snows of Kilimanjaro, Torrents of SpringFor Whom the Bell Tolls, Islands in the Stream, A Farewell to Arms, To Have and Have Not…she even went ahead and read two of his nonfiction books – Death in the Afternoon and A Moveable Feast.

After that she was no longer able to differentiate between the books. In her heart they had become one churning sea of people and situations with the narratives often intertwining and getting tangled up like spools of embroidery thread stuffed into a very small container. The spools would stay stuffed and become like one motley homogeneous mass. In later years, she felt the lump in her brain every time her muse flicked his tongue over it. It was not an unpleasant sensation; quite the contrary.

During those young years, the confusion in her head didn’t stop her from reading. Nor did it diminish her love. Hemingway often visited her in the middle of a basketball game or a maths class. Suddenly everything would become liquid celadon; her aura turning somewhat witless. She would doodle in her maths exercises book instead of writing the sums. She would snatch the ball out of her own team mates hands and toss it to the other side without thinking. She vaguely comprehended the inappropriateness of her behaviour and tried to hide them with lame smart alecky remarks that convinced no one and did nothing for her reputation.

It was not that she only read Hemingway. There were many authors who gripped her, heart, mind and soul, intensely, madly. In that sense she was not a faithful lover. But she remained loyal to Earnest Miller Hemingway in the way the Devadasis remained loyal to their Temple Gods. There were strong and lasting relationships born of her readings of other authors. But Hemingway’s bearded face always hovered over the rim of her horizon. She could never visualize any writer the way she could conjure up an image of Hemingway instantly.

Years passed and for a time the struggle of existence forbade any deep reading. She read in snatches and bits. A phase came after she married and had children when she was reading only nursery rhymes and fables and Dr. Spock. The spectre of a smiling eyed white bearded Sea God rarely rose to haunt her. By this time she had married a smooth cheeked man with a dimple on his chin, whose only exposure to hunting had been a sparrow that he had killed as a twelve year old with his air gun and had been sick for days with the horror of that knowledge. He was a good man who was never jealous of her books.

One day this good man who was her husband decided to bring home the latest book by Hemingway, even though he had been dead for more than three decades. That was another magic about Hemingway. His books continued to spring up long after he died. No wonder she never truly believed him dead in the first place. Her husband wanted to give her a birthday present that would make her eyes light up the way diamonds are supposed to light up a woman’s eyes. He went out and bought True at First Light. She was delighted and started to read straightaway.

Halfway down the book she put it down. The liquid celadon feeling receded leaving a chalky taste in her palate. An emptiness washed over her in the afternoon light. Her husband saw the shadows and felt a little annoyed that he couldn’t please her after all.

It took her some weeks. During which time she went back again and again to the book, only to put it down again. For several years she did not open another Hemingway book; she did not reread any. When at at last she went back to reading Hemingway, she began again with The Old Man and the Sea.  And this time, she did not lose herself. She went out to sea with Santiago and returned, carrying his wounds in her heart but without being possessed of either Santiago or Hemingway.

(Taken from an earlier post in Writers & Writerisms)

Rumjhum Biswas is still living in Chennai, India, but in another part where there were no mosquitoes until the rains came and all the incy wincy spiders were washed away. No she isn’t implying that spiders eat mosquitoes, but if they did she’d become a millionaire by breeding spiders and selling them all over the world, instead of being another poor writer who gets to answer the door and the phone because she is at home and that means she has a cushy life! She has a blog to prove that it’s not: http://rumjhumkbiswas.wordpress.com. You can also find her at times at Flash Fiction Chronicles.

Joel WillansFor the week of February 7 through February 14, Flash Fiction Chronicles is  having its second String-of-10 Contest—String of 10 TWO—for the best 250-word story written from a specific prompt: a series of ten words given to you on February 7, 2010.

JOEL WILLANS, nominated for the Pushcart Prize and winner of the Yeovil Prize and Global Short Story Award  is our guest judge for this contest.  Find out more about Joel BELOW.

 GUIDELINES

  1. Read the contest’s String of 10 Writing Prompt which will be available at 12:01 on February 7, 2010 here as well as on the FFC Daily Prompt Page and at Gay Degani’s Author Thread at Every Day Fiction. 
  2. The contest is open to stories of  up to 250 words. Entries over the word limitation will be disregarded.
  3. Submit via email addressed to flashfictionblog@everydayfiction.com.   All entries must be copy and pasted into the body of the email. No attachments will be opened.
  4. There is no entry fee.
  5. You may enter as many 3 separate and different stories up to 250-words each. 
  6. All stories must contain at least four words from the String of 10.  Any stories without at least four words from the string of 10 will be disregarded.  The prompt words may be slightly modified such as tense, number, etc.  (Example: walk can be amended to walks, walked, even walker or walkers)
  7. The aphorism that is given doesn’t not need to be found in the story, but rather to be used as an additional source of inspiration.  No story will be judged on its use.  Note may be taken if a story uses the aphorism in an inspired way.
  8. What matters most is your story, not the prompt words or quotation.  Seamless integration of any four of the prompt words is the goal. 
  9. All entries must be in English, original, unpublished, and not submitted or accepted elsewhere at the time of submission. Flash Fiction Chronicles/Every Day Fiction/Every Day Publishing reserves one-time publication rights to the 1st- through-3rd winning entries to be published at Every Day Fiction and Flash Fiction Chronicles.
  10. Entries must be received via email by 11:59 PDT Sunday, February 14.
  11. Winners will be notified by March 20.  Publication will follow in April. 
  12. The preliminary decision the judges of the top 10 and the final decision by guest judge, Joel Willans, of the top three stories are final.

 Stories from the first String-of-10 Contest can be read at these links.

 1st Place: The Haircut by Sharon E. Trotter

2nd Place: The Forever Summer by Mary J. Daley

3rd Place: Choices Made by Jim O’Loughlin

 

PRIZES

BOEDFtwo1st Place: Winner will have his or her story published at Every Day Fiction in April 1010 and be paid the standard payment of $3.00 per story.   A copy of The Best of Every Day Fiction TWO along with a copy of Pomegranate Stories by Gay Degani, the editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles  will also be awarded as well as an “I Write Every Day” t-shirt.

2nd and 3rd Place: Winners will have their stories published at Flash Fiction Chronicles in April.  (NOTE:There is no payment for publication at Flash Fiction Chronicles.)  A copy of The Best of Every Day Fiction TWO along with a copy of Pomegranate Stories by Gay Degani, the editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles  will also be awarded to both 2nd and 3rd place winners.

 

 ABOUT JOEL WILLANS

Originally from Suffolk in the UK, Joel Willans has lived in Canada, Finland and Peru. A copywriter and travel blogger, he now gallivants between East Anglia, Helsinki and Spain. Joel’s stories have been broadcast on BBC radio and published in more than a dozen anthologies and many magazines. In 2008, he was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and won the Yeovil Prize and Global Short Story Award. “By ma biscuit or kiss ma fish”, his short story collection, is currently shortlisted for the Scott Prize, while his flash fiction can be found at places like Prick-of-the Spindle, Pank, Word Riot and Boston Literary Magazine. His story One Bright Moment is Every Day Fiction’s most popular story of all time.

jamforFFCSecrets escape acute adorations, escape attack from the critical masses by nature of being hidden. When someone mentions SECRET concerning another’s interests, ears attune toward the sound of the one speaking, and syllables are licked from the air as if they were ice cream.

In today’s world, we have books for DUMMIES, how-to books and authors expunging themselves of secrets that supposedly made them billions of dollars.  The bestselling Bible Code reveals secret codes in—you guessed it—the Bible.  Self-help gurus attune the individual’s consciousness to his inner-nature through secrets of Eastern gurus now finally revealed for the FIRST TIME!

Secrets linger in courtyards, whispers of political intrigues and veiled threats spoken from seats of power.  They empower innuendo that cannot be understood by the masses teeming with ignorance, such as the Freemasonry symbols used in some of author Dan Brown’s works, until the spell of ignorance is broken by the solving of riddles—riddles that reveal secrets.

There have been how-to books concerning writing as well, works that promise to reveal the tips and tricks (secrets) to those willing to purchase them.  Most are good self-help modules to improve one’s writing, and some are quite excellent.  However, the catalyst for “writing secrets” often comes through writing groups based in the internet; one unknown writer reveals something he found on a blog, which is turn revealed to his group.  Someone within his group becomes excited and reveals that secret to another writing group she belongs to based in the UK, and pretty soon the SECRET starts to lose some of its secrecy.

This is where I come in.  I have a large private web office where secrets are often shouted from the rooftops.  Within my private office linger lots of editors concerned with promoting their publications and seeking quality writers, as well as those who wish to improve their own writing, both editors and writers alike.  Often, someone posts something of interest to the craft of storytelling.  More often than not, there are little snippets within what is presented—secrets, if you will—that go without comment.

I’m going to reveal one of those snippets based on an outline that swept through my private office and out again, with nary anyone commenting or saying a word.  Graeme Renolds is the writer who supplied the blueprint, snatched from another writer who received it from another… and through the grapevine it comes.  Graeme is a fantastic writer, astute and always willing to learn and evolve in his craft, which is how he came across the outline.  I believe he altered the outline somewhat with some modifications.

Here is that outline:

Story Flow Blueprint

Step 1: Characters, conflict, and major story goal are introduced
At the very beginning of your story, the characters, the opposition/conflict, and
the overall goal of the tale are introduced.
Step 2: Characters begin their journey
The characters will begin consciously or unconsciously making preparations for the “journey” or adventure that they will be undergoing throughout the tale. A deeper sense of their abilities and motivations is given to the reader during this section, a means of letting the reader “get to know them” better.
Step 3: First goal is determined
The characters make a decision to take some action relative to helping them reach the story goal. That goal is identified for the reader, as are the reasons behind it.
Step 4: Actions are taken to reach that goal
The characters take some action designed to bring them closer to the goal outlined in the previous step.
Step 5: Characters are prevented from reaching their first goal
The first goal is thwarted, either through the actions of the opposition or some other circumstances that are not under the characters’ control.
Step 6: Characters react
The characters react to the fact that they failed to reach their goal.
Step 7: Stakes are raised
The stakes the characters are facing if they do not reach the story goal are raised, which in turn raises the tension and excitement of the story for the reader.
This is also where the characters react to the raising of the stakes.
Step 8: A new (second) goal is developed
Determined not to let one set-back prevent them from reaching their goal, the characters develop a new, larger goal (since the stakes are now higher).
Step 9: Actions are taken to reach the second goal
The characters take some action designed to bring them closer to the goal outlined in the previous step.
Step 10: Characters are prevented from reaching their second goal
The second goal is thwarted, again either through the actions of the opposition or some other circumstances that are not under the characters’ control.
Step 11: Characters react
The characters react to the fact that they failed to reach their goal for the second time.
Step 12: Stakes are raised
The stakes become even higher, with greater consequences in the event of failure. The characters react to this change.
Step 13: Low period begins
At this point the characters are feeling their failures. They are demoralized and uncertain just what to do next. Some may even be on the verge of giving up. It is only the high stakes that keep them in the game now.
Step 14: Third goal is developed
With uncertainty and confusion running rampant, the characters try to rally and push onward. A new goal is developed, though this time the specter of failure
looms close at hand.
Step 15: Actions are taken despite uncertainty
Determined not to give up without a fight, the characters push through and attempt to reach the goal one more time, despite the fact that their chances of success look slimmer by the minute.
Step 16: Dark time begins
The characters fail miserably and the terrible circumstances they have been trying to avoid seem all too likely.
Step 17: Characters react to the dark time
Despair sets in as the characters reach their lowest emotional point in the story.
Everything they feared is about to come to pass and they seem to be completely out of options. The stakes are at a fever pitch by this point.
Step 18: Pivotal change occurs
A crucial event takes place that makes the character’s all too well aware that they don’t have the option of failing. Maybe their lives are on the line. Maybe it is the life of
a loved one or the fate of the entire world. Whatever it is, the characters must face it and decide that they have to give it a go or die trying.
Step 19: Goals are revised one last time
For the last time, the characters set a goal and go for it with all they’ve got. They are at their limit, not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well. This is the
point of no return.
Step 20: Final showdown happens, the opposition is defeated and the characters
react to their success

The characters face off against the opposition and this they succeed. The opposition is defeated and they are left to figure out just where to go from here.

One thing that is most interesting is that this blueprint is built for plot, and it creates stories entirely too long for flash fiction.  In fact, by itself this blueprint is 743 words.  I used it experimentally once shooting for 5,000 words, and I soared to 7,000 words (with the way I love description).  With that in mind, what good is this blueprint for flash fiction?

Well, breaking it down into smaller patterns is beneficial.  Removing steps can shorten it up.  But why would a writer of flash fiction want to do that?

One concept I found from this blueprint that swept through my office—and was forgotten about rather quickly—are the failures disclosed to the protagonist’s accomplishing of his/her goals.  Particularly, Step 5, Step 10, Step 16 and Step 20 reveal the secret I’m referring to, and that is one of failure. Writers are well versed with the concept of failure, often calling it rejection—although every bestselling novelist has had stories rejected including Stephen King.  The most beloved heroes often fail repeatedly before procuring their goals.  Some even fail at the story’s end, as did Mel Gibson’s historical character in Braveheart. The world (readers) are well acquainted with failure, and when they read about a character who fails as many times as they do, AND THEN SUCCEEDS, they tend to identify more with that character.

But this blueprint is already 743 words.  How could a writer of flash fiction utilize it?

One way is to get right to the action.  Editors are always saying how they want stories that begin with the action. But what if an astute writer began not only with the action, but with the mentioning of two or three previous failures as well?  What if the writer began with a character… say, at an abandoned castle surrounded by werewolves?  The writer could use some back-story to fill the reader in on the previous failure of the character trying to lead his village to safety from the growing werewolves.  After setting out on a two-day journey for the safety of a nearby citadel, the village is destroyed (a failure).  A new goal emerges.  Now the character must protect those who still survive: his family.  The stakes are raised because he loves his family, thus the drama intensifies.  He fails.  Now, alone, he is in the castle ruins, a very dark time in his life indeed.

Here come the werewolves.

Do you feel this sudden shift in intensity?  Just briefly mentioning the past two failures (secrets snatched from this blueprint), the story intensifies and, perhaps, we can use more dramatic language at this point: Behold now the iron will of the nefarious agents of abominable intent. See how negative the distraught hero embraces his doom.  Yet somewhere in the back of his mind, he hears his children’s voices saying, “Daddy, don’t give up,” and he remembers lessons he taught his children.  As howls fill the air and jaws snap at his heels, the hero races up the castle to the bell tower of the desolate abbey still attached.  After slamming a heavy oak door and barring it, he gazes at the vast sky because the roof is gone, recently collapsed.  Only his sword and an rusted iron bell hangs and—an idea!

Our hero rings the bell by beating it with his bloodied sword.  It creates a sad sound, a dull noise, but the more he beats it the more rust falls away; the outer casing comes off like crumbling armor.  Beneath the veneer of rust gleams solid metal, and now the sound rings pure and loud: CLANG, CLANG, CLANG! The werewolves cannot stand the tolling of the bell, and the hero rings the bell until morning, weeping the entire time, until the sun’s rays drive away the evil.

Failure is a tool to increase tension for your characters and readers, a secret for writers of both flash fiction and novels.  And it came as a nugget of truth buried within the blueprint listed here.  What other secrets lie in the blueprint above?  What secrets do you have regarding writing?

Please comment and reveal your writing secrets!

Liquid-Imagination

Silver Pen

American Zoetrope (where my private web office, Liquid Imagination, resides)

Silver Blade (sister publication of Liquid Imagination)

John “JAM” Arthur Miller owns Liquid Imagination Publishing, an ezine combining artwork and music with speculative fiction and poetry to create a new art form. JAM has over 65 publishing credits/acceptances with various publications ranging from anthologies, print publications and ezines. He is on the Board of Trustees at Silver Pen, a non-profit organization created to promote literacy.  JAM has full physical custody of three small children who have tamed his writing and slowed him down somewhat, and that’s just fine with JAM. The importance of optimism combined with the occasional YIPPIE (regardless of rejection) for writers is a frame of mind that, JAM believes, must be attained for optimum performance. “YIPPIE!!!”