Saturday, May 30, 2009

Day one-hundred-fifty, story forty

I finished and submitted my 40th short story of the year a few minutes ago. It's a 700-word bit of literary crime fiction I started writing on Thursday. I sent it to a non-paying, on-line literary publication.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Day one-hundred-forty-six, story thirty-nine

Earlier this evening I finished writing my 39th short story of the year, a 3,500-word ghost story. I started writing this story on April 18 after I saw an abandoned house out in the middle of nowhere. After my protagonist buys the house, he learns that the previous owner had disappeared.

I emailed the story to an editor a few minutes ago.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Day one-hundred-thirty-seven, story thirty-eight

I finished writing my 38th short story of the year this morning, a 700-word mystery. I started writing this on July 13, 2006, and finally finished it. Hardcopy goes in the mail later today.

Yesterday in Blood and Bone reviewed

From GoodReads, Ed had this to say about my collection Yesterday in Blood and Bone:
A ton of very short fiction, each with a twist in the tale. Dark, noir book.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Day one-hundred-thirty-five, story thirty-seven

I just finished writing my 37th short story of the year, an 800-word romance involving a security guard. I started writing this one on June 14 of last year. Hardcopy will go in the mail tomorrow.

Six years, or 72 consecutive months

Today's mail brought contributor copies of the July 2009 Hustler Fantasies containing "Fuck or Fucked?" (not my original title), a hardboiled story about a hitman, retired by a heart attack and subsequent quadruple bypass, who becomes the subject of an open contract.

With publication of this story, I have had one or more pieces of short fiction published each month for 72 consecutive months--that's six years of short fiction. During those six years I survived a divorce and my own quadruple bypass. I also wrote one hell of a lot of short fiction.

The streak started with the August 2003 Hustler Fantasies, which contained two of my stories, and has included short stories in nearly every genre. Excluding those months when I had collections released, my best month was April 2008 when I had nine stories published in four different publications, followed by July 2006 when I had eight stories published in three different publications, and March 2005 when I had seven stories published in four different publications and June 2006 when I had seven stories published in four different publications.

My short stories have appeared under my own byline, under a variety of pseudonyms, and, in the case of confessions, without any byline at all.

Because editors determine which stories to accept and which issues to put them in, this is a publication streak that I don't have much control over. I can not predict how long it will continue, or even if it will continue at all.

On the other hand, there are a few things I have control over. These are things I've done, and will continue to do, that explain the reason for this streak and why it might continue into the future:

Maintain high productivity. The more stories I write and submit, the greater the odds that I will continue getting published with regularity.

Target multiple genres. There don't seem to be enough paying markets in any single genre to support a highly productive short story writer. Therefore, I write in multiple genres.

Target multiple publications. Even within the genres, I spread my work out among multiple publications.

Write themed and seasonal stories. I try to write some stories that are tied to themes or seasons, thus producing stories that are most suitable for specific magazine issues. For example, I've had particularly good luck with Christmas stories (published in December) and Valentine's Day stories (published in February), but have also written St. Patrick's Day stories (March), April Fool's Day stories (April), Back-to-School stories (September), and Diabetes stories (October).

Although I have additional stories scheduled for publication in June and July, I don't have any scheduled for August. It's probably too late to submit anything specifically for August, so if I haven't already put something in an editor's hands that fits an August issue, I may see my streak end.

But I hope I don't.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Day one-hundred-thirty-two, story thirty-six

I finished writing my 36th short story of the year a few minutes ago. It's an 800-word romance involving go-karts. I wrote the opening sentences on May 18 of last year as an example of a "meet cute" for a writing class I was teaching. I liked the opening so much I copied it from my class notes and--over the course of a year--turned it into a complete story.

The hardcopy will go in the mail tomorrow.

My name's Michael, by the way

"My name's Michael, by the way."

"Welcome, Mr. Bytheway. We've been expecting you here at--"

"No, no, no. My name's Michael, by the way."

"Yes, Mr. Bytheway. I understood you the first time."

"No, you didn't. My name's not Bytheway. It's Michael. 'By the way' is a crutch writers use when they need to introduce characters to one another. It's often done in romantic fiction as part of the 'meet cute.'"

"The 'meet cute'?"

"That's a different post. Stick to the subject."

"So why do they do it?"

"Because it's easy. Writers use this crutch when they can't or won't take the time to be creative. There must be a zillion ways to have one character introduce himself to another without resorting to 'by the way.'"

"A zillion? Surely you're exaggerating."

"Maybe I am. And don't call me 'Shirley.'"

"Yes, Mr. Bythe-- Michael. Perhaps you could share a few examples."

"I can."

I introduced myself and stuck out my hand.
"Pleased to meet you, Michael," he said as he grasped my hand. "I'm Steve."

He glanced at the name tag pinned over my badge. "Nice to meet you, Officer Bracken. I'm Bob Smith, attorney for the plantiff."

"The name's Bracken. Michael Bracken. Yours?"

I handed him my business card and waited. He moved his lips while he read so I waited longer than usual. Finally, he looked up and, as if to confirm what he had just read, asked, "Mr. Bracken?"

We'd been talking for ten minutes and I still hadn't told him my name. I decided I would wait until he asked. If he asked.

I interrupted him. "I didn't catch your name."
"I didn't throw it."
"So what should I call you?"
"Don't call me. Don't ever call me."
"I think 'Meathead' will work. You can call me 'sir.'"


"Well, you should get the idea by now."

"I do, Mr. Bytheway, I do."

Monday, May 11, 2009


I received my 15th acceptance of the year earlier today, this for the romance story I submitted to an anthology editor on April 29.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Day one-hundred-thirty, story thirty-five

I finished and submitted my 35th short story of the year a few minutes ago. It's a 1,500-word bit of erotica.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Day one-hundred-twenty-nine, story thirty-four

I finished and submitted my 34th short story of the year a few minutes ago. It's a 3,700-word bit of crime fiction about two college boys and what happens to them during spring break.

Last week I saw the call for submissions for an anthology and wondered if I could come up with something appropriate. I made multiple false starts. Then on Wednesday I found a file on my computer from March 11 of last year, an opening scene of less than two hundred words. The characters were all wrong but the setting and basic events depicted in those <200 words had potential. I redrafted the opening and started piecing the story together, not realizing what I had until I had gone through multiple drafts. Unlike most of my stories, I wasn't sure what this one was about, where it was going, or how it was going to get there until I had a near-complete, but quit sloppy draft. Then I revised, rewrote, and rearranged until I had a story.

And now it's in an editor's hands.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

What would you do for a Klondike Bar, or to sell a short story?

While egosurfing, I found my name mentioned in a 2007 discussion thread about writing short fiction for a living. In one of the posts, Michael D. Turner wrote:
[T]here are some things I'm probably not willing to do to sell stories for a living. I won't pass myself off as Black, Korean, Vietnamese, or some other ethnic or "racial" type. [...] I'd pass myself off as a women writer to sell romances, except I haven't developed the touch to write romances yet [...]

I have two different reactions to this, one from the creative side and one from the business side.

From the creative side: Isn't pretending to be something we're not a major part of writing fiction? I'm a middle-class white male but I've written stories featuring both genders, multiple sexual orientations, various ethnicities, a variety of socio-economic classes, a wide variety of occupations, and on and on and on. Writing only stories populated by people like me would be pretty damned boring.

From the business side: I've never pretended to be anyone other than who I am when dealing with editors, but I've had work published with bylines that were not my own. There is a long history of female writers using male pseudonyms (especially for science fiction) and male writers using female pseudonyms (especially for romance). This is a marketing tactic that I readily embrace. If the difference between an acceptance and a rejection is my byline, then I'll change my byline.

How about you? What are you willing--or not willing--to do to sell a short story?

Monday, May 04, 2009

And look like a rhino's butt, too

Christian Wiman, editor of Poetry, in the May/June Poets & Writers, on the need for writers to protect their creative side:
"The self that writes may need to be a delicate and protected creature, but the self that submits to magazines ought to be as tough as a rhino's butt."


I received my 14th acceptance of the year earlier today, this for reprint rights to an essay.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Day one-hundred-twenty-three, story thirty-three

I finished my 33rd short story of the year a few minutes ago. One of the two stories Plot Monkey and I outlined last Sunday while waiting for Amazing Race to start, it's a 1,000-word country romance. I've submitted it to a magazine to which I've not previously submitted.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Day one-hundred-twenty-one, story thirty-two

I finished and submitted my 32nd short story of the year earlier this evening, a 2,500-word romance involving two college students and a skateboard. I started writing this story on May 2 of last year. I wrote half of it and then stalled. I showed what I'd written to Rebecca, my personal plot monkey, and she gave me some ideas on ways I could finish the story. I cherry picked from her suggestions and found the last half as easy to write as the first half had been.