Tuesday, June 30, 2015

New horizons for authors of short fiction. Option #1.

Magazine name:  Zoetrope All Story

Website:   www.all-story.com

Country:  USA

Publishing details:   Zoetrope: All-Story is a quarterly literary publication founded by Francis Ford Coppola in 1997 to explore the intersection of story and art, fiction and film.  Circulation: 20,000.  Issues per year: 4. Manuscripts per issue: 6-8.

Types of stories wanted:   Genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction

Page length and payment:   First serial rights and 1 year film option.  Pays $1000. They consider unsolicited submissions of short stories and one-act plays no longer than 7,000 words. Excerpts from larger works, screenplays, treatments, and poetry will be returned unread. They do not accept artwork or design submissions.

What I like:  You can read partials of contracted stories in their back issues to get an idea of what they like. They read and respond to every submission. The odds of being accepted are about the same as with WW using the figures from both magazines’ submission-to-stories-published ratio.  All story receives 12,000 submissions a year and prints 30(ish) stories a year.  WW receives 36,000 submissions a years and prints 104(ish) stories a year.

They invite writers to take advantage of the Virtual Studio, a free online writers' workshop sponsored by All-Story and its publisher, Francis Ford Coppola.  Zoetrope: All-Story was a winner of the National Magazine Award for Fiction.

What I don’t like:   Nothing.

Submission Guidelines

They are a staff of two, assisted by a small team of brilliant and generous volunteers, who are collectively dedicated to reading and responding to the 12,000 submissions All-Story receives annually. To aid them in this commitment, writers should submit only one story at a time and no more than two stories a year.

Before submitting, non-subscribers should read several issues of the magazine to determine if their works fit with All-Story. Electronic versions of the magazine are available to read, in part, at the website; and print versions are available for purchase by single-issue order and subscription.

Simultaneous submissions are accepted, and first serial rights and a one-year film option are required.  They do not accept unsolicited revisions nor respond to writers who don't include an SASE.

Response time:  5 months.

How to submit:  
All-Story does not accept submissions via e-mail. Send stories with cover letter and SASE to:

Zoetrope: All-Story
Attn: Fiction Editor
916 Kearny St.
San Francisco, CA 94133

More info:  

From Michael Ray, Editor of Zoetrope.

What is the likelihood of a lesser-known writer being published in Zoetrope?

“Our sole ambition is to publish the best writing possible, as we judge it; and in achieving that ambition, we do not consider a writer's resume, or lack thereof. In truth, magazines make their reputations by presenting work by never-before-published writers who then go on to illustrious careers. So the new writer with talent is the ultimate draw for most magazines. That's a fairly long way of saying that the unknown writer faces exactly the same chances of publication as the famous one.”

What would you like to see more of in submissions to Zoetrope?

“Humor--we see few stories that attempt to be funny, and even fewer that are successful.”

What would you like to see less of?

“Poetry, political screeds, memoir, film treatments, lunatic rantings--only as we don't publish those forms.”

Friday, June 26, 2015

Appearing in issue #25, June 22, 2015

Title:  Stick ‘em up!

By Author:  Joyce A. Laird


Tag line:  Not everyone had a rootin’ tootin’ good ol’ time when the Wild West Festival came to town!

Police characters:   Tom Ringer, Jessica Hiller.  (Patrol officers I think.  It was never really divulged what they were aside from two people getting out of a squad car.)

The gist:  The safe at Rod & Reel Sporting Goods store had been robbed. The thief was dressed like a cowboy, with a bandana covering his face, and he took off towards the fairgrounds where a Wild West Festival was being held.  Sam, the owner, reported that besides the bandana, the thief wore a black cowboy hat, had dark eyes but he was squinting so he couldn’t really be sure, was tall and thin, and was walking funny.  When asked about the ‘funny walk’ he said he walked strange.  No other description was given.  He said the guy had a pearl-handled .45. 

One of the store’s employees, Jack, was on probation for some juvenile ‘stupidity’.  but the owner felt that Jack was not the thief.  During the police interview of Sam, Jack showed up from a visit to the probation office because he had gotten a text to check in, but when he got there it was closed. The owner of the store next door, Marjorie, came in next demanding to know why the police were there.  She came in with her manager, Frank.   Marjorie put her arm around Sam and told the officers that Sam had a heart condition and added, “hasn’t he give you enough information?”  

Frank pointed to Jack the probationer and said, as his dark eyes flashed, that he warned Sam not to hire the kid.

The cops knew who the robber was.

Crime scene:    Rod & Reel Sporting Goods store.

Clues:    Dark, flashing eyes.   How stupid is that?   How many people in this world have dark eyes?   And the store owner wasn’t even sure about that because the guy was squinting.  Ay-yi-yi. 

Suspects:   Jack the probationer, some random cowboy from the festival, or the dark flashing eyed guy, Frank.

Red herrings:  None.  Lord, I wish there were some in this dumb story.

Solution:  Frank knew about the safe.  He was the same build as Jack only shorter, so he boosted his height using lifts which gave him an unusual gait.  Then using a disposable cell phone Frank sent Jack a text, allegedly from his probation officer, in order to get him out of the way and under suspicion.  What  Frank forgot was his eye color was different from Jack, who had light blue eyes.

My two cents:  Holy cow poke poop.  What a mess this was. The solution was almost a whole column long.  It had to be because besides the dark eyes clue, there was little for the reader to go on.  Of course the dark eyes clue was enough really in this sadly written tale.  The only thing I liked was that there was a Wild West show in town.  I thought that was fun and could lead to a great set-up.  Sadly, I was wrong.

How did Frank know about the safe?  That wasn’t revealed in the story.  I suppose the reader has to guess?

Putting lifts in your boots doesn’t give you an unusual gait.  That was just dumb.

A disposable cell phone? (rolling eyes here)  You know, we do have caller ID.  If the probation office had called, it would show up on Caller ID.  Duh.

The fact that Marjorie told the cops to leave Sam alone and ‘hasn’t he given you enough information’ just boggles the mind.  First of all how would she know what information he gave the cops?  Secondly, she’s interfering with a police investigation.  She’s lucky she didn’t get a fast boot out the door, or a seat in the back of a patrol car.

Probation officers don’t send text messages.   If Jack thought that it was a real text for him to report, why didn’t he call the probation officer instead of running down to the office in the middle of a work day? 

     Clue:  The dark eyes was okay, but we didn’t learn that Jack had blue eyes until the solution.  That’s just wrong.  How can the reader figure out the answer if the clue is missing?   The lifts/gait thing was also a very bad clue.  Again, no mention of the heights of these individuals, so how would the reader even know to think about that sort of thing?  We didn’t know that one guy was shorter.  We didn’t even know that they had similar builds.  There was so much missing in this story, it should never had made it past the first reader’s cut.

     Motive:   Unknown.

     Police Work:  They let other people into the store in the middle of their investigation to listen to and hear what was going on.  Just not done.

     Writing :   What can I say?  I think the reader is the one who got robbed. The whole thing was just dreadful. 

     Characters:  Confusing, missing information, no likeable people here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I’ve got a challenge for you. We're branching out. Let's make a storm.

"What's the matter?  You don't have enough rain to make up a storm? " -- Elliot Moss  https://soundcloud.com/elliotmoss/slip

There is life after you get your rejection letter from WW.  Yes, I know, they pay well.  Almost the best in the fiction story publishing market.  But let's face it, folks, they only pick two a week.  Tons of great stories get the Big R.  Stories that could be pitched and sold to other magazines.

So I’ve decided that each week on Tuesday or Wednesday I’ll pick one market that buys short fiction (generally under 2000 words, but not always) and I’ll give you the lowdown on submitting.  And not just for you-solve-its but all kinds of markets including romances, mysteries, sci-fi, Christian, and children's stories.  Magazines from all over the world that publish in English.

Take the information, unearth one of your rejected stories and tweak it, change it, revamp it… or heck, just throw it out and start new… but submit something to the new market each week

What have you got to lose?  (Most markets take on-line submissions.)  

I will not include markets that don't pay.  Not even the ones that give you a free copy of the magazine.  Or ones that promise your name will be seen by a kajillion people.  We want dead presidents. 

On Fridays I’ll still post my take on each week’s Woman's World mini-mystery.  I’ve been asked to continue; encouraged by a few, and threatened by one.  And I do get a kick out of shredding the tales that are truly awful; the stories that are so terrible they make you cringe.

The URL for my blog will remain the same for the time being (http://wwmysterystory.blogspot.com/) but the name on the banner has changed to: Short Fiction. Write it. Sell it.

“Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.’ — Ray Bradbury

Friday, June 19, 2015

Appearing in issue #24, June 15, 2015

Title:  The missing Mrs. Mooney

By Author:  Elizabeth Palmer


Tag line:    Once the detective reviewed the highlights of the case, she narrowed the list of suspects to one…

Police characters:   Detective Faith Wood

The gist:    Bank president, Gen Mooney, reported his wife missing.  She didn’t show up for their anniversary dinner at the restaurant last night, her phone went straight to voice mail, and her new dress was still hanging on the closet door when Mr. Mooney finally went home to check on her.  He claimed he had spoken to her yesterday as he left for work. He claimed she was first going to the gym and then had a salon appointment.  None of her friends that he called, according to the husband, had spoken to her or saw her after she left the salon.  Mr. Mooney feared that she had been kidnapped, although he hadn’t been contacted yet.  Mr. Mooney had not brought a photograph with him to the police station but Det. Wood noted the report the husband had filed listed her as 5’6”, 120 pounds with brown eyes and blonde hair.  When asked if he had a picture of his wife on his phone he glared at the cops and said his wife’s pics were on her own phone and the Internet and that she was always taking photos of herself.

Det. Wood interviewed the hairdresser who said Mrs. Mooney was there for a very long time getting her hair and nails done, and she had a facial.  She said it took a long time to bleach her long hair as she wanted a completely new look. She told police that there was a bit of a scene when the first Mrs. Mooney walked in.  The two wives exchanged venom.  It was divulged that Mr. Mooney had been seen flirting with his personal trainer. 

 Det. Wood’s next interview was at the gym.  She met with the woman Mr. Mooney was allegedly flirting with, a young, pretty blonde woman.  This woman told Det. Wood that the ‘older woman’ had been in the gym the previous day.  She said the wife was headed to the beauty salon when she left.  The trainer made a catty remark about how the hairdresser had her work cut out for her.  When asked if she had a relationship with Mr. Mooney, the trainer said no, adding that she doesn’t date married men, even ones with money.

 Det. Wood went on-line to view the victim’s profile.  The victim had posted that she was looking forward to her anniversary dinner with her husband. There were dozens of photos on the site, including shots of the wife and the personal trainer.  Det. Wood noticed that the wife and the trainer  looked quite alike except for their hair color.  So much so that they looked like sisters that were ten years apart.

 Just then Captain Bowen informed Det. Wood that Mrs. Mooney’s body had been found in Deer Lake.  He said they suspected suicide.  Det. Wood decided suicide was out as no woman gets her nails and hair done, posts how happy she is about her anniversary dinner on-line, and then goes and kills herself.

     But she had a suspect.

Crime scene:    Unknown.

Clues:    The wife’s hair color.  The husband glared at the cops when asked for a photo.  Not sure why he was glaring, but it displayed strange behavior.  I can tell you in real life distraught people, as well as guilty people, often behave oddly because they are under pressure.

Suspects:   According to the story, the ex-wife, the girlfriend, or some random kidnapper.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:   The husband killed his wife.  He told the cops she was blonde, but she was a brunette the morning he told the cops he had last seen her.

My two cents:    I thought this was a smartly written story.  The clue was so well hidden (and I was looking for it) that I had to go back and read the story again.  It was refreshing to read a good whodunit that was modern and not corny or clichéd. I realize it's not within the author's control, but even the tag line fit.  Sometimes WW's tag line is so overt it gives the clue away.  Although a complete blonde job is not 'highlighting' it was still a clever hint.

Clue:  Excellent

Motive:  Spot on.

Police Work:  No problems.

Writing:  Nicely done.  Paced well.

Characters:  All believable.  The story had a bit more about the detective feeling a bit dowdy in her uniform next to the pretty blonde, etc.  I left those parts out for brevity but they did create a believable and likeable detective.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Appearing in issue #23, June 8, 2015

Title:  Color me scared

By Author:  Robin Kristine Ireland and Tracie Rae Griffith


Tag line:    When the sergeant stopped at the salon for a manicure, she got the kind of break she wasn’t expecting!

Police characters:   Sgt. Kelly Winslow

The gist:    The bank has been robbed two days ago.  Sgt. Winslow and the rest of the force had been working nonstop on the case, but Winslow had today off.  It was a Sunday.  Their prime suspect was Lee Simon, a former convict.  His old van had been spotted at the scene and found hours later at the edge of town, the engine blown. Speculation had him still in the area, perhaps walking back through the woods to his ex-wife or to try to get another car from his buddies.  Winslow was at the salon getting her nails done.  She shook her head, trying to forget the case on her day off.  The usually chatty salon owner, Marie, was quiet, and her associate was absent.  When Winslow asked about the partner, she was told Janice was picking her kids up from school.  Marie tried to get Sgt. Winslow to use a color today instead of the normal clear polish she always got.  Winslow declined.  Marie persisted saying she had some new colors.  She suggested Sunset, and placed the bottle in front of Winslow on the table.   When Winslow again said no thank you, Marie suggested the color Onward, and placed that next to the first bottle.  Later on the manicurist picked up a bottle of color and said she highly recommended it, calling it Summertime. 

Winslow’s studied Maries’ eyes and Marie gave a little nod.  Winslow put a finger to her lips to indicate that Marie should remain quiet.  She pulled her gun from her purse and headed to the storeroom at the back of the store where Simon was hiding crouched behind a stack of boxes.  She apprehended him and let Janice, who was bound and gagged, out of the closet.

How did she figure out where he was?

Crime scene:    Bank robbery.

Clues:    The nail polish names.  The day of the week.  

Suspects:   Only one, Lee Simon.  The mystery to solve was his location.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:   The nail polish colors Sunset, Onward and Summertime spelled out SOS.  Also as it was Sunday, Janice couldn’t have been picking her kids up from school.   Sgt. Winslow knew something was up.

My two cents:    I think this story was overdone and had some believability problems.  My nail salon is closed on Sunday.  I would have placed the story on a Saturday just to avoid any conflict in any reader’s mind.  The authors were trying to think outside the box and present us with a fresh story, but I think they got caught up in trying to produce a clever clue.

Clue:  If the bad guy is hiding in the back room crouched under some boxes, couldn’t Marie have just written out a quick note to the sergeant while she kept up her friendly chatter?  “Help.”  “He’s in the back.”  All the color nonsense was a bit over the top and iffy at best.   That Janice was picking her kids up from school was a good hint. 

Motive:  We don’t need to know the bank robber’s motive.  This isn’t that kind of story.   I don’t penalize a story by holding back a star for motive when one isn’t necessary.

Police Work:   A couple of problems.  First of all when you have a major crime, all days off and leaves are cancelled.  Sgt. Winslow would never have gotten a day off only two days after a bank robbery in her city.  Maybe… MAYBE … a lowly officer, but never a sergeant.  Bank robberies are federal crimes.  The FBI is called in.  “Where’s your sergeant, we’d like to speak to her and see her files.”  “Oh, she's off today getting her nails done.”  WTF?

 Next, she’s trying to relax and get the case off her mind.  That would never happen.  The police are so pumped up, they live, eat, and dream about the case. 

Off duty cops often do carry their ‘weapons’.  They don’t refer to them as guns.

Writing:    I liked the fact that his old car broke down, but there was no mention of having interviewed the ex-wife or that they checked on the buddies.  Why didn’t the bad guy just put the two women in the closet and ride off in one of their cars?  It’s been two days and he’s still in town?  The story mentioned he was holding a knife when he was apprehended.  Where is his gun?  Did he rob the bank with a knife?  I'm assuming he got some loot from the hold-up.  He couldn't pay one of his buddies to drive him out of town?  He's holed up in the back of one of the town's businesses?

Characters:   The sergeant was not believable in her actions.  The manicurist was not believable in the way she chose to tip off the cops.  All she had to do was dial 911 and hang up.  The cops respond to those kinds of calls.  She didn’t think of that, she didn’t think to mouth ‘help’ to the sergeant, she didn’t think to write a note on the sergeant’s bill… but she figured out SOS with the names of nail polish colors?  Sorry, Tracie, it all left me shaking my head.  This story wasn’t up to your usual good standards. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Appearing in issue #22, June 1, 2015

Title:  Unhealthy appetite for murder

By Author:  Phyllis Whitfield


Tag line:     A careful diet and plenty of exercise couldn’t protect the fitness expert from a case of lead poisoning.

Police characters:   Detective Bea Smart and Detective Charlie Young.

The gist:    Wealthy TV exercise guru Mark had been shot and killed in his home.  The detectives arrived within half an hour of the crime. The body, dressed in expensive gym clothes, was found sprawled on the kitchen floor.  Next to him were two gym bags, one black and one purple.  Both bags had splattered orange juice on them.  Also found was the remains of a healthy breakfast; a partly eaten grapefruit, yogurt, and the broken OJ glass.

The victim’s fiancé was present, cover girl Meg.  Meg called 911 when she found the body.  She claimed that she and Mark walked to the gym every morning and that’s how she came to be at his house. The purple gym bag was hers.  She said they were to be married next month.  When asked if Mark had enemies, she told the police that he was a self-made man and had stepped on people on his way up.  She told police to speak to his former tennis coach, Brad, who, according to Meg, despised Mark.  She also suggested the police talk to Mark’s ex-wife, who also hated Mark.

Tennis coach Brad said that he had stopped by the house that morning, saw Mark’s car in the driveway, but that no one answered the door. He claimed that he had no love for Mark but that they were business partners.

The ex-wife was at a yoga class.  She says she too was at the house this morning and had stopped to complain out his late alimony payments.  When the police told her Mark was found shot this morning, she claimed he was alive when she left.  She pointed a finger at Meg the Model, saying she was a gold digger and that rumor had it that Mark was going to dump her for someone who had a cable TV exercise show that could advance his career.

Detective Smart knew who the killer was.

Crime scene:    Mark’s home.

Clues:    OJ on both gym bags.

Suspects:   His girlfriend, his ex-wife, and his business partner.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:  Meg’s purple gym bag was splattered with OJ which told police she was there when the glass fell from his hand.  She was angry when he told her that he was leaving her, fell into a jealous rage, and shot him.

My two cents:    I thought the clue was neatly in place, and inserted early in the story so that the reader sort of forgot about it.

The tennis coach didn’t really have a good motive. I knocked him off the list right away.  It had to be one of the two women.  Unless she was in the will, the ex-wife didn’t have a motive to kill off her source of money, sporadic as it was.  That leaves the current girlfriend.

 Here’s the true life message, folks.  Don’t mess with women.

Clue:   Decent clue, well placed.

Motive:   The motives were lacking.  Only one suspect had a real one.

Police work:  The detectives told the wife that her ex had been killed by gunshot.  Not a detail they would have revealed.  They asked the tennis guy if he owned a gun but didn’t ask the model.

Writing:  The story flowed well.  The pacing was good.  A typical WW story.

Characters:  Not the strongest. There was nothing memorable about any of them.  No personality.  They were neither likeable nor dislikable. Forgettable really.  And that includes the detectives.  Smart had the clichéd black coffee and a donut for breakfast.