Friday, August 28, 2015

Appearing in issue 33, August 17, 2015

Title:  Don’t bank on it

By Author:  Phyllis Whitfield


Tag line:    When it came to identifying the thief, the clear-eyed detective did a better job than the surveillance camera!

Police characters:   Detective Beth Smart and her assistant (?) Charlie Young

The gist:    Brenda, who works in a jewelry story and was working late doing inventory, was getting in her car to make a bank deposit (a whole week’s worth) when someone hit her and took the money pouch out of  her canvas bag.  She said it was dark in the parking lot and she didn’t see who did it. She said she normally puts the money in her purse but used the canvas bag this time because she was going to pick up sandwiches and soda on her way back for everyone.

 Employees, Sarah and Billy, heard her scream and came running out but they didn’t see the culprit.  Billy is Sarah’s boyfriend.  Billy wears glasses. Billy told the detective that a strange guy came in the store today asking about expensive watches.  He didn’t ‘look’ right and Noel, another employee, thought he acted weird. Noel was acting nervous in front of the police, tugging at his tie. 

About this time the owner comes running in.   He yelled at Brenda who then burst into tears. He told her putting the money in a canvas bag was a bad idea, that it was sure to attract attention.  He said things like, “Can’t any of you do the right thing unless I’m here to tell you what to do?”

The surveillance camera lens was blocked by a large tree branch and didn’t capture the crime.

Detective Smart didn’t need the surveillance footage to know who stole the money.

Crime scene:   Jewelry story parking lot.

Clues:    The canvas bag.

Suspects:   This so-called weird guy, or one of the employees who might have seen Brenda put the money in the canvas bag.

Red herrings:    The weird guy.  The nervous tugging on the tie.  The author mentioned one guy wore glasses.  I thought maybe the cops would be able to see a glint of eye glasses in the surveillance footage…but that didn’t happen.

Solution:   The owner knew the money was in the canvas bag.  He wouldn’t know that unless he stole it.  He had a gambling debt and was also going to file an insurance claim.   He knew the surveillance camera was blocked by a branch.

My two cents:   There’s a link missing here.  Brenda normally puts the money in her purse.  The owner knows that.  So why did he grab the canvas bag? 

Brenda was going to pick up sandwiches and soda for everyone … so she took the canvas bag?  What?  The deli doesn’t have bags?

What dumbass makes a deposit once a week?

The tag line doesn’t work.   At all.

Clue:    The canvas bag is the clue but in the big picture it didn’t work.

Motive:    Greed, debt.  Stupidity.  Oh, wait, that’s not a motive.

Police Work:  I don’t understand a detective having an assistant.  What is that?  Detectives don’t have assistants.  They’re not clerical staff; they’re a para-military organization.

Writing:  Well…it rolled along okay.  The angry, mean boss making Brenda cry was a good tactic.  It took our attention away from the fact that a clue was being given.

Characters:   Nothing awful.  Nothing notable.

One star for hiding the clue well.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sell Yourself Short - Option #8

Magazine name: Writers Digest

Country:  USA

Circulation:  This is an eight-times-a-year publication founded in 1920 with a circulation of 110,000. Their readers include men and women of all ages and varying levels of writing skill and success. The majority of their readers live in the U.S. and Canada.

Page length and payment:  For manuscripts, they pay 30–50 cents per word, on acceptance, for first world rights for one-time print use and perpetual electronic use. Should they want to reprint anything they have purchased from you in anything other than electronic format, they will pay you 25% of the original purchase price per use. Contributor copies are sent to writers and artists whose work appears in that issue. 

For lengths, see below.

What I like:  An index of each year’s issue contents is available at so you can see what topics have already been contracted or done to death. 

 You can purchase copies via the newsstand or

On-spec submissions are preferred.  I don’t like to have to query.  I like to send the story off and be done with it.

What I don’t like:  Can’t find anything. 

Submission guidelines: Each submission must include your name, address, daytime telephone number and email address.

Response time: 2–4 months response time.

How to submit:

Types of stories wanted:   


This upfront section of the magazine is the best place for new writers to break in. Each Inkwell features an 800-900–word lead story that kicks off the magazine. The article ranges in style and tone every issue, but often takes the form of an opinion-based piece, weaving a narrative and drawing out tips for readers. It can be a great place to discuss theoretical or timely concepts.

Inkwell also features short pieces of 300–600 words (how-tos, trends, humor, insight on news that will still be relevant when our next issue hits stores, weird and intriguing tidbits about the writing world). Traditional queries are accepted for Inkwell, but on-spec submissions are preferred. Include “Inkwell:” and the name of your piece in the subject line of your query.

5-Minute Memoir
Secretly my favorite section of the magazine, 5-Minute Memoir is their new venue for 600-word essay reflections on the writing life.  

While 5-Minute Memoir is a diverse spot in which they want a writer’s individual style and voice to come through, the essays they love most are those with a strong narrative element, relaying an experience and its subsequent wisdoms and takeaways for writers. Submit on spec to, with “5-Minute Memoir” in the subject line.

Reject a Hit

They claim they need more of these 300-word, short-sighted rejection letters!

This back-page feature is a humorous fake rejection letter, of 300 words or fewer, spoof-rejecting a classic or beloved book. As the intro to the feature goes, “Let’s step once again into the role of the unconvinced, perhaps even curmudgeonly or fool-hearted editor: What harsh rejection letters might the authors of some or our favorite hit books have had to endure?” Winning submissions generally focus on books in which a broad base of readers would be familiar with, and poke fun at a short-sighted or absurd editor—not the original author of the featured book. For Reject a Hit, they accept on-spec submissions only. Submit your letter via email (no attachments, please) to with Reject a Hit: [Book Title]” in the subject line.

Reject a Hit is humorous, but not mean-spirited. It is not the place to list all the reasons you hate a particular book. To help you understand the spirit of Reject a Hit, browse through the archives of published rejections

Please do not send submissions pertaining to any of the following, as they have already been soundly rejected:

Frankenstein Stoker

Harry Potter by JK Rowling

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The Elements of Style by EB White

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

Fun With Dick & Jane by Gray and Sharp

Marley & Me by John Grogan

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Romeo & Juliet by Shakespeare

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Crime & Punishment by Dostoyevsky

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

The Odyssey by Homer

Charlotte’s Web by EB White

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

The Godfather by Mario Puzo

War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

“Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

My Life at The New York Times by Jayson Blair

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

Animal Farm by George Orwell

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Old Man & The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Tulips & Chimneys by e. e. cummings

The Shining by Stephen King

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Runny Babbit (A Billy Sook) by Shel Silverstein

Webster’s Dictionary by Noah Webster

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

Middlemarch by George Eliot

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snickett

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

This blog is on V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N..... YAY!

See you next week.  Don't fight. 

There's no food in the fridge but there is a bottle of wine.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Appearing in issue #32, August 10, 2015

Title:  Crime ring

By Author:  Patrick Scaffetti

 Tag line:    Linda wasn’t exactly sure who had stolen the diamond ring but she was leaning toward one suspect…

Police characters:   None.

The gist:    We’re at Whispering Breeze senior condominiums.  Linda, who likes to do crossword puzzles and fancies herself a mystery solver, is at the pool.  Also in the pool is Simon, a guy who fancies himself a ladies’ man.  There is Lillian who is sitting with Harold, and also Helen who is sitting across from them.  Lillian had been nicknamed Diamond Lil because she liked to wear lots of expensive jewelry.  Harold was known to favor the blackjack table.  Helen was known to be jealous of Lil’s jewelry and often made catty remarks about her.  Also at the pool was Chester, a man with a reputation for filing false insurance claims. Chester was limping from a recent suspicious fall.  His left leg was allegedly injured.

All seemed calm at the pool… until Lil cried out that her diamond ring was missing.  Simon started looking in the water for the ring.  Harold said he had to leave to go gambling. Helen speculated that Lil didn’t really lose the ring, that she just wanted the attention.  Chester said it was time for his medication and left the pool area leaning on his left leg.

Linda said she knew who had taken the ring.

Crime scene:   The pool area at the senior condos.

Clues:    Chester’s limp.

Suspects:   Harold the gambler, Chester the cheater, or Helen the coveter.

Red herrings:    Harold liked to gamble.  Helen was jealous of Lil’s jewels.

Solution:   There was a column long explanation about how Chester stepped on the ring in the pool and clenched it between his toes and tried to walk off with it but it was in the wrong foot from the leg he had injured and Linda saw him limping on the wrong leg.

My two cents:   Good grief.  Did the man never hear of bending over in the water and taking the ring out of his clenched toes and slipping it into his bathing suit?  Into his cheek? Or just palming it?  What a dumb story.   Too many characters introduced all at once.  The entire first column talked about Linda and how she liked to do crosswords and how she liked to solve mysteries and how long she lived at the condos and how she knew all the neighbors….yada yada yada.  Get on with it already.

Then we get a plethora of old people at the pool with very little background or even any details of real interest.  We’ve got Linda.  Well, she didn’t do it because she’s the ‘sleuth’ here.  We’ve got Simon, who thinks he’s a ladies’ man.  That doesn’t shout thief.  Then we’ve got Lil and Harold.  I supposed he could steal from her.  He certainly made a quick getaway and didn’t stop to help her look even for a minute.  Some boyfriend.  Then we’ve got Helen, who was jealous of Lil’s jewelry. The author never did say why.  There’s no depth to these characters.  Finally we have Chester, a man known to pull a fast one.

Clue:  Chester’s limp.

Motive:  None specifically written into the story. Was it greed or did Chester just like to take advantage?

Police Work:  None.

Writing:   It was a bit convoluted with too many characters.  Linda got the most attention but the others were rushed.  I can see why.  With six people in the story it’s hard to give us a nice feel for the characters.  The solution was not believable.  Imagine an old man with a diamond ring clutched in his toes trying to walk out of the pool area?  Ridiculous.

Characters:  Wooden.  Too many.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Sell Yourself Short - Option #7

Magazine name: One Story

One Story, Inc. is an award-winning, independent, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit literary publisher devoted to promoting the art form of the short story and supporting the authors who write them.


Country:  USA

Publishing details: One Story is a literary magazine that contains, simply, one story. Approximately every three-four weeks, subscribers are sent One Story in the mail, or on their digital devices.

One Story publishes one story at a time, and they only publish an author once, so readers always get a new voice. For each story, they post a personal introduction from the editor on their website, as well as a Q&A with the author explaining their process, and invite comments on their blog, Facebook, and Twitter, so readers can share their thoughts. Each issue of One Story is artfully designed, lightweight, and easy to carry.

One Story is available only by subscription in print or on your digital reading device.

Circulation:  Over 15,000 readers

Types of stories wanted:   One Story is seeking literary fiction. They can be any style and on any subject as long as they are good. They are looking for stories that leave readers feeling satisfied and are strong enough to stand alone.

Page length and payment:  Because of the format, they can only accept stories between 3,000 and 8,000 words.  One Story is offering $500 and 25 contributors copies for First Serial North American rights. All rights will revert to the author upon publication.

What I like:  One Story is devoted to the development and support of emerging writers. They have published over 180 different authors, many at the beginning of their careers. They mentor these writers, helping them navigate the publishing world, and promoting their books through email blasts, on their web site and social networks, in a quarterly printed insert in the magazine, and at their annual Literary Debutante Ball. 

What I don’t like:  I don’t like that you have to have an account with them to submit.  I don’t like that once you sell to them, you can’t sell to them again.  But…hey, let’s try to get that one sale, right?

Submission guidelines: They accept submissions from September 1st through May 31st.

They accept PDF, RTF, and TXT files that are less than 500KB. Please include the story title and all writer contact info on the first page of the submitted file.

One Story is looking for previously unpublished material. However, if a story has been published in print outside of North America, it will be considered. No stories previously published online will be accepted.  Simultaneous submissions accepted but please notify us immediately if your submission is accepted for publication elsewhere.

Response time: One Story receives close to 100 submissions each week. Please understand that they do not have time to comment on individual stories. They usually can respond within 8-12 weeks, but it sometimes takes longer. If you don’t hear back within that time, please be patient. It is their goal to make sure each submission gets a good read.

How to submit: They have an automated system for you to send your work. It will securely send their editors your story and email you a confirmation that it has been received. To use the automated system, you need to have a One Story account. When you are ready to submit please visit their Submission Manager.

 You can check the status of your submissions at any time by going to the login page. “Received” means that your story has been received and is in their database. “Under consideration” means that your story has been assigned to a member of their editorial staff.

More info:   Published for over 13 years the publication has garnered dozens of respectable literary awards, including the PEN/Nora Magid award for editorial excellence.


Friday, August 7, 2015

Appearing in issue 31, August 3, 2015

Title:  Not a Lovely Lady!
By Author:  Tracie Rae Griffith and Robin Christine Ireland
Tag line:    The beauty pageant contestant turned out to be not-so-beautiful after all!

Police characters:   None.

The gist:    A woman, Bobbi, who has a home business, Lovely Lady, gets an e-mail from a beauty pageant contestant ordering $400 worth of products, a big order for her.  The pageant is called Miss Sunshine. The woman said she would be in the area on Tuesday and wanted to meet at a café to pay for and pick up her order. Being wary of scams where people are lured out of their homes for some purpose and then their homes are burgled, Bobbi gets her brother to house sit while she makes her delivery. Bobbi waits at the café meeting place, but the woman doesn’t show.  Just as she was about to leave, a man came rushing in and introduced himself as Marie’s husband.  He said Marie got tied up and couldn’t come herself, but he had a copy of her order and a check for $642.18.   When Bobbi asked for another check for the correct amount, the husband said he didn’t have another check on him and that Marie must have made a mistake. He asked her to refund him the difference and that would make them square. He pressured Bobbi a bit saying he would have to go buy the products somewhere else if this didn’t work out.  
Bobbi knew it was a scam and told him so.  How did she know?
Crime scene:   This was an e-mail scam.

Clues:    It’s a Miss Sunshine pageant. 

Suspects:   The “husband”.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:   In the e-mail “Marie” said she was entering the Miss Sunshine pageant, a contest where the contestants cannot be married.  The “husband” sent the e-mail with the intent to get $400 worth of products, and a nice little check for $242.18.  Bobbi got his license plate number and reported the scam to the police.

My two cents:   I liked the setup of this story.  It starts with an e-mail.  Something different.  Bobbi was in tune with how scams work and asked her brother to watch her house.  I thought that was a good detail.  This was all believable and relevant to today’s world. There was nothing corny or dumb in this modern tale.  The title fit and the tag line didn’t give it away.
Clue:  I had to go look up the rules for Miss Sunshine.  I didn’t realize you couldn’t be married and be a contestant, so I missed the clue.  But it’s there.

Motive:  Greed.

Police Work:   No officers were included in the story but the bad guy was caught by the license plate, which happens all the time in real life.

Writing:   The story flowed well, it was well constructed, and the authors made you like the ‘victim’.

Characters:   Believable.  The bad buy was smooth and even though Bobbi wanted that sale she hesitated and gave it some thought.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sell Yourself Short. Option #6

Magazine name:  Fast Fiction/That’s Life!


Country:  Australia

       Frequency: Weekly
       Australian Circulation: 185,049 (Dec 2014)
       Readership: 1,016,000 (Dec 2014)
Types of stories wanted:  Humorous, positive, contemporary stories with strong plot.  Avoid boy meets girl and HEA.  No stories narrated by animals or babies.  This is a family magazine, no graphic crimes, sex or domestic violence.  For Themes see below or go to

Setting should usually be in Australia unless there's a real need for the setting to be elsewhere eg a Scottish castle.  Set spell check for English Australia. Male viewpoint stories are welcome.  Core Target: Women 25+. Content: Real Life.

There are two ways they publish fiction:
     1) A one-page story in the weekly edition of that's life! Magazine o
     2) A range of one, two, three and four page stories in their quarterly Fast Fiction magazine, released seasonally (Summer/Spring/Autumn/Winter)

Page length and payment (if known):

1 page = 600-900 words

2 pages = 1200-1500 words

3 pages = 1600-2000 words

4 pages = 2200-2600 words

These are approximate and the final word count printed will depend on the design of the page/s. You don't need to overly cut or edit your story to fit the word counts.    

All invoices will be submitted to the finance department when the issue is sent to print. Please note the payment is for how many pages are published, not the pages/word count of your unedited original submission.

The payment rates are as follows: (In Australian dollars)

that's life! weekly magazine

(one-page story) = $300

Fast Fiction quarterly

1 page = $200

2 pages = $300

3 pages = $400

4 pages = $500

What I like: 

“If you don't hear from us...

If your story isn't accepted it can be for any number of reasons. Sometimes we have already published, or have in stock, a similar story. Or we may feel it will not appeal to our readers. But this does not mean we will not like another of your stories, so don't lose heart. Keep writing and sending them in!”

Exclusivity term: 90 days after the date of first publication. 

What I don’t like:  

  Couldn’t find anything to gripe about.

How to submit:   They accept only emaile submissions. Email your story, for both the weekly magazine and quarterly magazine, to and you should receive an auto-response acknowledging your submission.

Send your stories in Microsoft Word format, as an attachment to the email. Please do not paste/write your story into the body of the email.
Send one attachment per email. Do not attach multiple stories.

Please do not heavily format the story with tabs or headings, and use single spacing between sentences. Include your name and contact details. Include the following in the subject and body of the email:
- Story Name

- Theme (* See below for themes)

- Word Count

For example: The Magician, Spooky, 1200 words

Response time: If you have not heard anything from them in 90 days, it is unlikely your story will be used. You are welcome to resubmit stories six months after your first submission.

More info:  They accept stories that have either never been published anywhere previously worldwide and/or have not been published in an English speaking publication. If it's been published in English, in the UK or USA for example, unfortunately they can no longer consider your story, so please do not submit.

Please understand that due to the bulk of emails they receive, they are unable to reply individually to submissions, nor can they reply to follow up correspondence asking if stories have been received, read or accepted.

Editor: Linda Smith. Katherine Davidson, newest editor 2015.

They have a new Writer's Agreement in place and you MUST complete it for your story to be published with them. If we don't have an agreement from you and they want to use one of your stories you can find the agreement in their website.

Send seasonal stories six months in advance (and remember Aussie seasons are opposite to those in the UK and USA.)

In the weekly magazine, they run a wide range of stories and do not publish them with strict themes, except for the annual events below. Please note for themes they will need to receive submissions at least two months before the event.

- Australia Day (Jan)
- Back to School (Jan/Feb)
- Valentine's Day (Feb)
- Easter (April)
- Anzac Day (April)
- Christmas In July (July)
- Mother's/Father's Day (May/Sept)
- Halloween (Oct)
- Melbourne Cup Day (Nov)
- Christmas (Dec)
- New Year's Eve (Dec/Jan)

For the quarterly Fast Fiction, they have SIX themes, so your story should fall into one of the following categories:

- Romance (All things love)
- Heart warmer (Sweet stories/happy endings)
- Thriller (Keeps you guessing until the end)
- Revenge (Someone gets their just desserts)
- Sixth Sense (Spooky/Scary/Spiritual/Mystic/Fate and Fortune)
- Light Bite (Everything else! A fun, easy read)