Tear-Stained Contemplations from The Land of Sherry — Starring YOU

Great things from tiny sparks
Great things from tiny sparks

That’s right. While I sit here in Jerez, wondering when I’ll catch a hop back to The Land of Styron and Barbecue, I’m thinking. Contemplating. Writing a script in my head and picturing a bright, Art Deco marquee with all your names on it, scrolling in some infinite while-do loop.

I love this image and I love the cast of characters. Because I can say with all the surety of an infallible pope that I would not be here without y’all.

So, here we go, lighting up that marquee one name at a time in a rough, if-memory-serves-me sort of order of appearance. Trigger warning: this is gonna be a long post, and there will be exactly zero animated GIFs.

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June Round Up (and a prize)

It struck me that updating my Shorts & Flash page every month doesn’t really work — I lose all those little monthly announcements and progress reports when I overwrite them. So I’ll try to do a blog post instead. Mostly because I like re-reading myself.

Here’s what’s up:

June continued to rock and roll, with several acceptances, including a short listed story over at Bath Flash Fiction Award (“Papaya Dreams, Runaway Girls”) inspired by my time living in the UAE. It didn’t win a prize, but I was thrilled to be in the top 20 out of 800-some odd entries.  “On the Rocks” and “Stripped” were picked up by Sediments Literary Arts Journal; “Why I Won’t Be Saying Grace at Your Dinner Party” will go live soon in Crab Fat Magazine’s Atheist Issue; “Table Manners” was Story of the Week in Fifty-Word Stories; Bull: Fiction for Men took my four-part collection “Holy Thoughts;” I’m once again on Reflex Fiction’s long list with “I Ain’t No Fairy Tale Woodcutter;” Ellipsis Zine will be publishing “Neverland;” and…drum roll…I placed FIRST in The Short Story/TSS‘s Flash 500 Competition with “Silent Sex” (which happens to be an excerpt from my novel in progress). The only bad news is that my ‘on submission’ list is beginning to wane, so I guess I’d better get my fingers moving and start hitting that Submit button.

The numbers for June:

Submissions: 7
Acceptances: 6
Rejections: 7

A complete list of publications can be found on my Shorts & Flash page. As always, thanks for reading!

The First Three Years (and a slight change in habits)

2017 is a good year. A very good year.

For starters, it marks my fiftieth circle around the sun.

But there’s more.

On August 7th, I’ll be three years old: it’s the anniversary of the day I started writing creatively. Still trying to wrap my little head around how that happened. (And if you were at the Bath Flash Fiction Festival this past weekend, you know I’ve got a pretty tiny head. I’m okay with that; it means there’s less space for those wicked ideas to travel when these half-century-old neurons start firing.)

Three years means this:

  • Five novels (one currently on sub)
  • Two literary agents
  • Eighty short pieces published or forthcoming
  • A few juicy nominations and prize wins
  • Regular teaching gigs
  • Love–oodles of love

It’s the love I like best.

So here’s a run-on of thank yous to Bud Jillett and Elizabeth Davies for doggedly reading the first Danny Jones thriller on Scribophile and turning a piece of garbage written in four short weeks during November 2014 into something I could successfully query a month later; and to Jude Higgins for saying “Anyone want to join me in writing a story a day?” in April 2015, and throwing me ‘catkins’ (WTF?) as a prompt, which turned into “House for Sale” and then turned into one of my first published flash pieces; and to The Molotov Cocktail for holding an April Fool’s Day contest and actually choosing my odd little cat story for an honorable mention; and to Ani King for writing the brilliant, experimental “Conjugate ‘To Be’, Using Complete Sentences,” which I will never forget and constantly return to when I need a bit of inspiration; and to Charlotte Gruber for being a persistent and kind critique partner; and to Alec Shane for signing a new writer who probably had more ideas than talent at the time; and to Kathy Fish for championing flash fiction addicts; and to Syntax & Salt for inviting me to read their slush; and to Sophie van Llewyn and Kayla Pongrac and Stephanie Hutton–the indomitable members of Flash Force Four (I’m the other one)–for sharing their work and reading mine and supplying an unlimited quantity of tough love; and to my new agent Laura Bradford for cracking the whip (just a little) and getting Danny Jones into shape; and to Aeryn Rudel, because he sets the bar high, high, high on the spec-fic front; and to Clarkesworld for pushing my dystopian short story “Vox” into the second round, assuring me the piece had legs; and to all the crazy, beautiful, devoted, encouraging writers I met at the first Flash Fiction Festival in Bath; and to my husband, because he knows exactly when I need to hear three magic words: “Take-out tonight.”

That’s some love.

My good friend, the exceptionally talented novelist Ellen Bryson, paid me a compliment not long back: she said I had built something amazing. Well, maybe I did, but I started with a pile of crumbly bricks, not much more. Y’all added the mortar and did the pointing. So thank you.

Now, with a self-imposed deadline for the novel version of VOX, and the seeds of a novella in flash germinating in this wee head of mine, I need to make a few temporary changes. Stepping back from the flash frenzy is one of them — it’s just not possible to crank out two thousand words a day on a book (and read slush, and give my Flash Force Four gals the attention they need, and teach) while juggling dozens of flash deadlines. I’ll still write some shorts, but probably won’t be adding much to the repertoire until I get the novel under control.

And (this is the hard part)–I need to alter my Twitter habits, at least for a wee bit.

Now that we’re back home to The Land of Styron and Barbecue, a fine and friendly land that really does exist, I’ll be Twittering for a short period at the end of my writing day. I will, necessarily, miss out on a few announcements. I won’t have time to read everything. I won’t always be the first in line to share your stories and successes.

I’ll still be here, just at a slightly lower RPM. So please, keep me informed, and I’ll do my best to stay in the loop.

As for the upcoming birthday, prezzies may be sent either virtually or by post to me in late September. I prefer liquids with a rather high proof.

Write what you love

Let me tell you a secret. I want to be Stephen King.

[Warning: This post is animated GIF-free.]

Okay, I don’t actually want to be Stephen King. I don’t want coke-bottle glasses and I don’t want to live in Maine, nice as it is in July. I’m also happy being a few decades younger than King is.

But I’d still like to write like the man writes.

Here’s the thing. I’m not Stephen King. (apologies for the rhyme — it’s not my fault his surname rhymes with ‘thing’)

I’m just me. Christina, Tine, that chick from Somewhere in the American South, or whatever I happen to call myself on Friday evenings.

Take-home message? Sure, I have one. It tastes like “write what you love,” not what you want to/pretend to/hope to love. Read more

Good News and Bad News


The good news first: I and some of my favourite flash fiction writers are now for sale on Amazon.com. Check out The Molotov Cocktail: Prize Winners Anthology for details. There’s some fantastic work in here by fellow writers Sylvia Heike, Aeryn Rudel, Fred Senese, and others.

Shiny-new dead-tree format!
Shiny-new dead-tree format!

The bad news second:

Saturday Night Reader, the magazine that published my humourous piece “Debt,” is closing its doors. It’s going to be a SAD-urday Night.


A Reader’s Rubric

I’m not much for rubrics, those pesky little university-endorsed things that supposedly make grading papers objective so that when Suzie the Freshman visits the Dean to complain about her under-inflated grade, you’ve got something to back you up.

[As always, those looking to be stimulated by seizure-inducing animated GIFs of random celebrities are encouraged to try a different website. I hear Sesame Street’s is quite colourful.]

I’ve never been much for grading writing, either. My favourite grad-school professor limited our syntax papers to two double-spaced pages because he said, and I quote, “Most people can’t get from the first to the last word in a sentence without losing their minds.” He didn’t want to read twenty pages of shit, and when I started teaching, I understood what he was talking about.

But I digress.

It turns out I do have a sort of rubric, even if it lives in my head. It’s a simple one, and starts with a single question:

Is this good?

Now we have talk about what “good” means.

When I’m reading flash fiction slush (which, by the way, I like a lot more than reading frosh comp five-paragraph essays on sleep-inducing topics like ‘The Dangers of Cell Phone Usage’ or ‘Why Carbonated Drinks are Bad for You’), I have a list of questions running in my head. Here are a few:

  1. Does this resonate with me?
  2. Is this memorable?
  3. Do I ‘get it?’
  4. Has this concept been played out before?
  5. How original is the form?

I’d like to expand on each of these. Ready? Let’s go. Read more

The gift of flash

Great things from tiny sparks

I had a few alternate titles in mind for this post:

  • How I got the flash bug and why I’m in no hurry to get over it (gag)
  • I write flash, and you should, too (even worse)
  • A flash a day keeps insanity at bay (true, but way too rhyme-y)

[Attention: This post contains no animated GIFs of celebrities freaking out. It does, however, include an awesome photograph by Morgan Sessions via Unsplash for those who appreciate the beauty of stillness.]

So I went with something shorter, sweeter, and all multiple-entendre-ish. Consider it my gift to you.

Great things from tiny sparks

I got all nostalgic the other day last month here on Le Blog and put up a few links and pics of the short stories I grew up with. You won’t find them on your ten-year-old’s school reading list, which is too bad. If more kids read Shirley Jackson and Stephen King, I think we’d live in a better world. Especially if all of Jackson’s and King’s work was in cursive.

But I digress.

Flash fiction is a gift. Read more