by Andreé Robinson-Neal

Andree Robinson-Neal

Is it me, or is it hot in here? The FFC thermometer is about to pop, thanks to all the great content we had in June. Sarah Crysl Akhtar started us off with a bang as she hammers home some issues about the best of times, the worst of times, and originality. Susan Tepper‘s UNCOV/rd shed light on Doug Holder and his poetic views on city living. Kathy Fish lit a fuse as she told us about the beautiful flashes of life. We had a moment to recover from that, and then Julie Duffy hit us again with her detailed lesson on genre; Julie’s piece this month was a bright introduction that offered five great points on developing and maintaining our voice within the confines of what publishers want.

Gay Degani upped the ante by having a heated discussion with a few writers on the importance of reading to develop a writer’s voice. Speaking of voice, Sarah Crysl Akhtar took us back into the archives for a  look at a tasty bit of flash. But voice is not enough: Samuel Snoek-Brown turned up the heat with his piece on the importance of place.

Christopher Bowen settled us down and turned our focus to a topic that should burn our professional coals: contracts. His enlightening interview with Tyler Crumrine at Play Inverse Press offered some insight on what we might want to look for before we sign on the dotted or digital line.

But then Sarah Crysl Akhtar turned it up again by fanning the flames with her trip back into the archives to revisit The Horses to remind us how horror should make us feel.

We were able to put away our oven mitts as the month ended, but the last notes were anything but cool. Alyssa Ast reminded us that as authors we are responsible for promoting our published works and pointed out a few easy ways to optimize our author websites. And in case you were busy burning up the pages or keyboard during the month, Jim Harrington gave us a thorough list of flash fiction market updates.

Summer is just beginning so pull out your parasol, mix up a big batch of fresh lemonade, and set a spell; FFC will bring you a fresh serving of heat as we celebrate July.

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Andreé Robinson-Neal got bit by the writing bug back in the late 1970s while watching Rod Serling and reading Ray Bradbury–both of whom are everyday inspirations; although she has worked in education for more than a quarter-century, she has never been cured of her penchant for speculative fiction. Find some of her flash fiction at starvingartist.com. She writes under the name AR Neal, who will hopefully one day be identified as a famous NaNoWriMo participant.

by John Towler

JC Towler

I’ve read a lot of flash as an editor at Every Day Fiction. (We have a tracking system that counts how many stories we’ve commented on, and I passed the 5000 mark during the second week of March.) It seemed to be a good time to come up with a “Top 10″ list of the most memorable pieces we’ve published in my four-year tenure. This list is based on my memory and opinion, and does not reflect any sort of editorial consensus of Camille, Carol, Joe or any of the other fine folks I work with.

These are all great stories from talented authors. I hope you’ll give them a chance if you haven’t experienced them already.

1. Cog Work Cat by Joyce Chng, published May 2010

The story blends poetry, fantasy, and love in a way that I don’t think has ever been eclipsed at EDF. Joyce has given us a couple of other very good stories, but this one was her best work.

2. Strikethrough by Matt Daly, published June 2012

A powerful piece about healing achieved in an unexpected manner. This is the only story Matt ever submitted to us, but he gave us a gem.

3. Saving Darth Vader by Kip, published May 2010

This story is one of the quirkiest roller-coaster rides you’ve ever been on. At one moment you are laughing out loud and the next nearly in tears for the feline protagonist. Kip gave us a number of great stories, but this one stands above them all.

4. The Destiny of Archer Deft by Douglas Campbell, published February 2010

Douglas is a regular contributor with an enviable near-perfect publication track record. It seemed everything he gave us was gold. But he went out on a limb with this piece and it is a laugh riot. Long live the Snooty Bird!

5. To Catch a Wolf by Warren Easley, published May 2012

Somebody brought up that May 16 was National Flash Fiction day and it just so happened we had the perfect story to celebrate the occasion. (We actually made it into a Flash Fiction Week at EDF and all the stories we published around that time were exceptional.)

6. Fire and Light by Sarah Crysl Akhtar, published July 2013

Sarah is EDF’s  Scheherazade. I don’t think there are many months that go by that do not feature one of her stories. She has a gift with words and a bottomless imagination and picking a favorite of hers was tough. This was not her highest-rated story from the readership, but it is the one that has stuck with me.

7. Speed Demon and Clockwork Dancer by J.R. Hume, published October 2013

The prose in this story is part of what makes it special, but one of the best anthropomorphic flash pieces I’ve read. J.R. is a long-time contributor to EDF. His Tears of an Android is another great read, but we picked that one before I started with the magazine, so it didn’t make this list.

8. Three Wishes by Cat Rambo, published August 2013

​We do not publish a lot of micro fiction at EDF. (Of the ​over 2,000 stories we’ve published, only around 30 have been 250 words or less.) I think Cat’s Three Wishes is the best of the bunch and it accomplishes the unusual feat of finding a twist on the well-worn three wishes theme that’ll moisten your eye.

9. The Widow’s Tale by J. Chris Lawrence, published October 2011

Chris has joined the EDF team as a slush reader for the time being, but I will look forward to the day he returns to the writing world so he can crank out more terrific pieces like this for us. (Well, hopefully for us.)

10. Idiot Robot by Shane Rhinewald, published July 2013

Comedy and science fiction seem to work well together on the big and little screen (Mork and Mindy, 3rd Rock, Futurama, etc.) but we have a tough time finding flash that pulls it off. Shane’s genre-blending piece finds the right balance and, like all good science fiction, speaks to issues beyond the words on the page.

If you are looking to have your story published by Every Day Fiction, you should first read our guidelines. It is embarrassingly apparent when people have not.

The key to publishing a story with us is to find that ideal mix of good writing, fresh ideas, and some sort of character development. We’ve had to say “no” to stories with knockout prose but which follow the “boy meets girl” trajectory with predictable outcomes. We’ve read pieces that are brilliant conceptually, but are delivered with a clumsy prose style that make them unsuitable. We love working with authors who don’t mind taking a bit of editorial direction and shaping their flash into something our magazine can publish.

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J.C. Towler is in the market for a gently-used Time Turner or Transmogrifier. He has been an editor at Every Day Fiction since 2010, but wears more hats than you could possibly be interested in knowing about.

 

by Andreé Robinson-Neal

christinefandersonChristine F. Anderson is the force behind CFA Publishing and Media; of her many talents, she is a skilled marketer. After shopping her own manuscript, she gained deep insight into the process of bringing a book from idea to manuscript to bookshelf/ebook seller. She took some time away from her work to share insights on the value of marketing with FFC.

What is your relationship with writing?  How long have you been writing? What have you had published?

I have been writing since my earliest memory, including writing haiku in the third grade. I was alway one to journal, write letters, and keep meticulous notes in school. I wrote and self-published my memoir, Forever Different, in 2013.

What was your experience like getting published?

I had several contracts from various publishers, all who required an astronomical retainer for marketing services. With more investigation I realized that what they wanted was for me to do a lot of the work before submission, so I decided that since I didn’t have the type of money they were requiring I would try self-publishing.

What made you start your own publishing company?

I started Christine F. Anderson Publishing & Media in order to give authors who have a story to tell fair representation when it came to publishing and publicity and marketing.

Talk a bit about your marketing background; how did you decide to focus that experience toward the world of publishing?

I obtained my MBA (Masters, Business Administration) in Marketing from New York University’s Stern School Of Business in 1991 and felt that in order for a book to be well-represented it had to have a considerable amount of marketing.

Let’s face it: this is a saturated market, particularly since the advent of self-publishing opportunities. I utilize various methods, including  social media outlets, and have developed a plan that works for my authors.

Why is the marketing aspect so important for new authors? How does it differ in the small press or self-publishing market as compared to the larger market?

Since we are on content overload when it comes to the publication of books, it is important for new writers and those who are looking to work with a small press or to self-publish to develop their own unique brand. I encourage all my authors to be different. Dare to be different!

What marketing skill or advice do you believe is most important to new writers?

The most important marketing skill I can suggest to a new author is to start by doing the research: who is the audience of your book? Start by knowing that and the rest of the marketing process tends to go smoothly.

What have you seen as one of the biggest obstacles for new writers wishing to get their work to market? How do you see yourself helping them overcome this obstacle?

I think the biggest obstacle facing writers is the lack of guidance; the key is to publish good work and I feel that accepting mentoring and guidance is vital to success. I would like to think that my authors can learn from my experiences since I am a writer, I self-published, and already made all the mistakes!

In your experience, in what areas do traditional marketing strategies fall short for new and existing authors?

I think the old adage of “build it and they will come” is nonexistent in the pro-publish market; taking an ad out and waiting for sales just won’t cut it. In this era, communication and contact are key and if you are not accessible and don’t stay in tune to current demand, you are dead in the water. Thank the good Lord for the dawn of social media, because it gives us access to that market demand in ways we never had in the past. It has helped answer a lot of the prayers of marketing executives.

What one piece of advice would you give to writers looking to publish?

I would tell them to write from the heart and to tell their story with the intention to inspire others!

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Christine F. Anderson obtained her MBA in Marketing from New York University’s Stern School of Business in 1991. She has a long successful corporate career working for such companies as Citicorp and MGM Grand, Inc. She became an independent author in 2013 and while working on self-publishing her memoir, Forever Different, discovered a void in affordable book publishing and couldn’t find a publisher that provided a pro-active and  aggressive publicity and marketing strategy, so she decided to launch Christine F. Anderson Publishing & Media. It is Christine’s desire to give a voice to fellow authors’ works and guide them through the difficult world of publishing and promotion and assist them in achieving the greatest level of success with a fair business model. Her motto is “Tell your story to inspire others.”

 

by Sarah Crysl Akhtar

Sarah AkhtarSometimes another author’s story brings out our inner Rumpelstiltskin–that primitive urge to tear ourselves asunder in frustration. I found Dani Ripley’s Jellyfish (9/2/12) so breathtakingly astonishing that I could neither comment on it nor leave a vote when it first appeared. I felt myself out-written in the sci-fi genre for life.

I’ve accepted that now, and can say without pain that Jellyfish is a perfect sci-fi story, capturing the grandeur, mystery and terror of space with unmatched elegance and grace. Even the spelling of the protagonist’s name–Kapteyn–struck me as a way of making the mundane memorable.

“Kapteyn is dead. No, that’s not right. He’s thinking, therefore not dead. His body is lost. He floats, smaller than an atom. No. That’s not right either. He’s confused. The sensation isn’t entirely unpleasant. He processes.”

From this crystalline-pure opening, Jellyfish sustains an exquisite melding of intellect and feeling.

I was baffled that after 31 total votes cast, Ripley’s story achieved only a 3.4 rating. Eight of the nine commenters used words like “captivating” and “intriguing;” found Jellyfish thought-provoking; its prose was called “exquisite” and “authentic.” But many of them felt unsatisfied, felt a certain flatness or incompleteness.

I profoundly disagree. I’m stingy with stars; I don’t like to dilute the value of a five-star rating by sprinkling it around too freely. You’ve got to touch me with some irresistible force to pry my hand open. But I’ve made things right now, and gone back and given this story what I knew it deserved from the first read. Take a look at Jellyfish, and see why.

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Sarah Crysl Akhtar‘s shtetl forebears gifted her with the genes that impel her to make much from little. So of course she writes flash fiction, cultivates orchards on her windowsill and bakes fabulous shortbread. Her son gives her what’s immeasurable–the best of all possible worlds. Less miraculous fruit of her labors has appeared on Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Online and Perihelion SF Magazine.

by Susan Tepper

author_photo

Pat Pujolas is the author of jimmy lagowski saves the world (Independent Talent Group, 2012). Nominated for a XXXVI Pushcart Prize, Pujolas has also been published in Outsider Writers, Connotation Press, Jumping Blue Gods, and ManArchy magazine. He’s credited with two episodes of MTV’s animated series “3-South.” (from Goodreads)

Susan Tepper: Your book cover immediately captivated me. I thought of those ‘protests’ outside the NY Public Library on Fifth Avenue, years ago, where a dummy with a similar head piece was displayed to bring public attention to human rights issues in third world countries. What is the metaphorical significance of this ‘covered head’ for your book?

Pat Pujolas: The cover of jimmy lagowski saves the world (Goodreads, Amazon) was designed by Steve McKeown, who insisted on reading the entire manuscript before he began creating the art. In his words, “The image of the inhaler represents all of Jimmy’s insecurities/awkwardness/life barriers. It replaces his head because that’s either how Jimmy sees himself or how he feels the world sees him.”

Pukolas_coverAs the author, I chose that particular design (and image) for similar reasons: as you mentioned above, the replacement of the human face and/or head is a powerful metaphor for dehumanization. In this case, Jimmy imagines himself as a monster or an alien who must hide behind a mask. Note too, the placement of Jimmy on the cover; he is quite literally being marginalized (or oppressed) while the book’s title represents “the weight of the world” pressing down on him. I love it.

 

BOOK EXCERPT:

Two days before he was scheduled for jury duty and/or to commit suicide, Jimmy Lagowski received a postcard in the mail; the handwriting was feminine, in red looping ink, with no return address. All it said was, “Jimmy Lagowski, have you saved the world yet?”

ST: This novel startled and amazed me. It’s quirky-quirky. Characters appear in early chapters, do their thing, disappear, only to reappear as an important part of previous character’s life but at a much later date. It’s most definitely what Malcolm Gladwell has termed “The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” meaning (I think) that if you get enough people-connections, the variables can become practically infinite in terms of who has intersected with who’s life. You pulled it off flawlessly in this book.

PP: Thank you. That’s definitely a theme here. And unfortunately, those intersections can result in positive or negative outcomes. The tragedy at the center of this novel is an accident, the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And so I wanted to create a scenario equally “accidental” where the result is positive, and deeply rooted in what makes us human beings. With 7 billion people in the world, it’s easy to feel insignificant at times. But as Gladwell theorizes, with all those people interacting with one another, paths begin to overlap, and stories begin to emerge. Sometimes, those stories give us that wonderful human invention we call hope.

ST: So would you say that Jimmy Lagowski (or jimmy lagowski as in lower case for your book’s title)— would you say he is the Kevin Bacon of this book? Overall, what makes Jimmy tick?

PP: Jimmy is definitely the Bacon, but so much more! He’s a lightning rod, a catalyst, and he might just be our next prophet. After all, he does speak to the sky (and in Chapter Four, “the sky” speaks to him).

What makes Jimmy tick is a tougher question. He is an anti-hero, and as such, is motivated toward inaction rather than action. I believe his greatest desire is to escape: from his appearance and from reality. If you asked Jimmy though, he would probably tell you that his greatest desire is to find Dagmar again. She represents his life before the accident, before our collective innocence was lost, and therefore she embodies that same escape.

ST: Did you story-board this novel in order to keep the characters in a type of ‘return/comeback’ placement, or did you keep it all in your mind and just let it spill out?   Your characters drift in and out so effortlessly, as if you know them and their situations personally.  It’s impressive.

PP: For longer works I like to create the outline and structure first; this novel was a challenging and complex idea to execute. From the beginning I envisioned the plot structure as a rope with frayed ends and a knot in the middle. The frayed ends represent the different voices/people coming together for the trial (the knot), then going their separate ways— for better or worse. Over the previous few years, I also had amassed a collection of voices in my head; when I looked around that fictional jury box, I imagined a face for each voice, then a character, then a history. The hardest part was deciding which parts NOT to tell.

ST: Which character (s) did you miss most of all when the writing was completed? And why? Because I could see you have so much empathy for all of them, despite their human flaws.

PP: Of course it would be Jimmy Lagowski. For 18 months I had the amazing opportunity to live through him, think his thoughts, feel his pain. I would like to be there to see the look on Jimmy’s face when we tell him that we found Dagmar. That chapter is still un-written; the message here is one of imperfect or fractured hope. And, besides, as Jimmy would tell you, “The best stories are those left unfinished.”

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 Susan Tepper has authored 5 published books. The latest is a novel in stories called The Merrill Diaries, from Pure Slush Books. She is a named finalist in storySouth Million Writers Award for 2013, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in fiction (2010), and nine times for the Pushcart Prize. Tepper is a staff editor at Flash Fiction Chronicles where she conducts the interview series UNCOV/rd. www.susantepper.com

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