Thursday, February 25, 2010

Clean up your act

A few days ago I received a copyedited short story manuscript back from an anthology editor with a note that it's "always a treat to edit a story that doesn't need much editing."

Of all the things an editor can say to me, that's probably the best. I strive to produce clean manuscripts that, if not perfect, are as close as I can get.

Why? Because I also sit on the other side of the desk and see the God-awful manuscripts many writers submit--manuscripts filled with spelling, grammar, and stylistic errors; manuscripts filled with extra spaces and inconsistent paragraph indenting; manuscripts that make me scratch my head and wonder just what the hell the writer was thinking when he hit the send key or stuffed hardcopy in an envelope.

I may never be an artist of staggering genius whose name adorns magazine covers or whose stories open or close anthologies, but, by God, I'll be one of the craftsmen editors rely on to fill a magazine's back pages or an anthology's middle section, one of the craftsmen he knows will produce solid stories requiring minimal editorial effort during editing and production. It's a good thing to be.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Story nine

I finished and submitted my ninth short story of the year this evening. This time it's a 5,100-word confession with a Father's Day theme. I started writing this story on the 19th and worked on it every day except Sunday, which means I averaged 1,000 words/day.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010


My article "Hunt Youth Discover Gardening!" appears in the March/April issue of Texas Gardener.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Story eight

I'm printing out the final draft of my eighth short story of the year and will drop it in the mail tomorrow. This is a 3,100-word bit of erotica I started writing October 11, 2008. I'd completed about a third of the story--the opening scene, the last scene and some notes in between--before I picked it up again earlier this week.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I received my 10th acceptance of the year earlier this evening, for a 3,700-word bit of crime fiction about what happens to two college boys on Spring Break in the Caribbean.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Pick-up line prompt

On the SMFS list a writer mentioned that her critique group's writing prompt was to create a 100-word flash using a coroner's pick up line...and that none of the six members could even think of a pick-up line for a coroner.

Here's what I came up with:

By Michael Bracken

Detective Peters sat at his desk, thinking about the new coroner, an attractive young redhead who'd been assigned to the case as soon as the detectives realized there was a serial killer on the loose. Peters was daydreaming about her and wondering if she thought of him the same way.

He was startled when the phone rang, and he snatched the phone's handset from its cradle. "Detective Peters."

"I'm finished with the voodoo killer's latest victim," the new coroner said in her most seductive voice, "so if you want, you can come down here and get a little head."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Story seven

This morning I finished and submitted my seventh short story of the year. This is a 2,100-word story about a hitman unable to fulfill his contract.

On January 5 an anthology editor who previously accepted one of my stories asked if he could include me as a probable contributor to an anthology he was about to pitch to a publisher. This doesn't happen often. Not to me. So, of course, I said he could.

This past Monday I received an e-mail from the editor telling me the publisher had OK'd the anthology. I had already jotted notes for possible stories just in case the anthology sold, but I didn't really like any of them. Tuesday I had another idea. This one I liked and I spent the next several evenings writing and rewriting the first two paragraphs. The first two graphs set the tone and I couldn't write the rest of the story until I was happy with the opening.

Yesterday morning I wrestled the opening into shape, spent the day writing the rest of the story, and surprised myself late in the day with a little twist that made my planned ending even better. I let the ms. sit overnight, proofread/edited it this morning, and sent it off.

Now I wait to see if I met the editor's expectations...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Story six

I finished and submitted my sixth short story of the year this morning. It's a 2,100-word confession set at a wedding.

I wrote the first paragraph on January 27, wrote the rest of the story yesterday, and did the final proofread/edit this morning before sending it off.

Monday, February 08, 2010


I received my ninth acceptance of the year in today's mail, this for an erotic vampire story I submitted February 7, 2009.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Tending to my story garden

I've spent the past few days tending to my story garden.

My story garden contains several hundred stories-in-progress.

Some freshly planted seeds are nothing more than a title, an opening sentence, or a one-line description of the concept.

Others stories have sprouted into opening paragraphs and opening scenes.

A few stories have matured into spindly outlines, with structure but no foilage, while others are a disorganized riot of foilage that needs to be trimmed into shape.

A few are almost ready to bear fruit, missing only a scene or two.

So I've spent the past few days tending to my story garden, plucking away dead growth from a few stories, adding foilage to a few outlines, adding structure to a few sprawling stories, all the while reminding myself of the many story seeds I've planted over the years.

Before too long, one of the story seeds will grow into a mature story plant, ready to share with others.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


My science fiction short story "I Can't Touch the Clouds for You," first published in the July 25, 2005, edition of Sun, was reprinted in today's edition of Seeds.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


I received my eighth acceptance of the year earlier today, this for the story about "One Night Stan" I submitted Sunday evening.