Welcome to 2017

I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions.  I feel like January is this tumultuous time when everyone has unreasonable expectations about how much change they’re capable of superimposing onto their lives.  In February it’s best to sit back, take note of what you were able to accomplish and revise those goals so you might actually have a prayer of achieving some real change.

So, with that said… Whew.

Bit of a rough start, don’t you think?

Well.  Never mind all that.  Best to write it off as a free trial month and move on.

I’ve got some big things in store for this year.  Posts will be a little less frequent but hopefully a little more regular.  Last year’s schedule was a bit too tough to keep up and it led to an extended hiatus that I’d rather not repeat.  So, with that “revised expectations” theme in mind, let’s just take it slow with one post a week and see how we feel after that, how’s that sound?

Tune in next Wednesday for the premiere of a new series of short flash entitled: Miss Margaret Moneypenny’s Etiquette Guide to the Apocalypse.

I’ll see you then.


How To Research Publishers

Well, Flash Fiction has passed.  The comments are coming in and as you work on your revisions it hits you: you’ve really got something here!  You should publish this!  But where should you look?  Should you just google publishers and hope for the best?  (Short answer: no.)

I mentioned this briefly in my post about the Submission Checklist.  For a refresher, the first step in getting published is to research your market finish your story.  Sorry, got ahead of myself there.

What kind of story do you have?

This assumes that you have a finished story that you’re satisfied with, now you’re just looking to find it a good home.  Before you get started you need to categorize your story.

  • Genre
  • Style (is it literary? humorous? appropriate for young audiences?)
  • Word Count:
    • 0 – 300ish Micro Fiction
    • 300ish – 1,000 Flash Fiction
    • 1,000 – 5,000 Short Story  (Ok, some markets allow up to 10,000 or 12,000 for short stories but most I’ve seen top out around 6,000 max.)

For this example let’s say you’ve got a Mystery, in the style of a hard-boiled noir, approximately 2,500 words.  It has some gratuitous language, but at this point you’re not editing, just noting that could be an issue.

Searching for a Publisher

The next step is to search for markets by genre.  The Submission Grinder and Duotrope are both excellent sites for researching potential publishers and tracking your submissions. Why not Google?  Well, I’ve used it occasionally, but it’s not very useful.  You’ll occasionally find lists of publishers or sponsored content, but sometimes the information is out of date and a publisher may have closed.  You really need a dedicated site to find the best results.

I’ve used both and recommend either of those two sites above, but because The Submission Grinder is free to use, I’m going to use that one in this post.  Feel free to follow along.

To search you don’t need an account.  To log your submissions you do.  Let’s just worry about how to search for now.


Ok.  So you click on the search field and then fill out the basics for your story.  Leave it as general as possible to pull the most results or use the filters to slim down.  I find that Story Subject and Story Style are best left blank – hardly any market uses those fields, even if they accept stories in that style.  The best thing is is fill in these three fields:

  • Genre
  • Story Length
  • Minimum Pay Scale
    • Pro: $0.06 per word or more
    • Semi-Pro: Usually between $0.01 and $0.05 per word
    • Token: Less than that.  Usually $5-$25 per story regardless of word count.

Applicable markets will fill in below, with Genres, Lengths, Payment Rates and Average Response Days listed on the side to help you pick what to find.  Once you find one that’s interesting click on the listing.


Here’s a magazine that looks like a good fit for my example.  Since the piece is Noir in nature, their descriptive paragraph should catch your attention.  The other info seems to fit with the other criteria, so you should click on the Website and Guidelines links (in the red box) to read more about the publisher.

That’s important – sites like The Submission Grinder are primarily a search engine/database.  It’s up to you to continue researching the publication by going through the website and reading the stories available.  If you still think you can see your story fitting in with them go ahead and check out their submission guidelines to polish your piece.

If your story is a little over their word limit (10-20%) you can probably trim down enough to fit it to their limits without major revisions.  If the language is a little coarse/content is a little too grim you can do an edit to tone things down.

Which Publisher is right for me?

So how do you pick who to submit to?  Determine what your priorities are.  Pro-paying markets are always going to be more competitive.  Maybe you want to submit it to several places at once, so you only pick publishers who accept simultaneous submissions.  Maybe you want ones with the quickest turn-around because you hate waiting for an answer.  (Note: you may be in the wrong field if patience isn’t your thing.)

I personally like to pick magazines that I enjoy reading, whose stories I admire, and whose content seems to gel well with my own voice.  I feel like those magazines are the ones that have the highest chance of accepting me, even if the money isn’t as good.  If you’re getting a lot of rejections and you know that the work is good try shopping out your story to a lesser known market in a different pay bracket.  Smaller publishers are hungry for good stories – don’t overlook them.

Have a publisher you love that needs a little attention?  Want to ask about one you’ve found?  Leave a note in the comments!

Publisher’s Spotlight: Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines

Hello genre lovers!  You all know how much I love speculative fiction, but what magazines are out there for other genres?  Today we look at Mystery stories in the sister publications,  Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine!  Their guidelines are almost identical, but EQMM is more specific, so I’ve included their info below.

  • In their own words:Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine welcomes submissions from both new and established writers…  Almost any story that involves crime or the threat of crime comes within our purview… With the exception of a regular book review column and a mystery crossword, EQMM publishes only fiction. We are especially happy to review first stories by authors who have never before published fiction professionally. First-story submissions should be addressed to EQMM‘s Department of First Stories.
  • Genres they accept:We publish every kind of mystery short story: the psychological suspense tale, the deductive puzzle, the private eye case—the gamut of crime and detection from the realistic (including the policeman’s lot and stories of police procedure) to the more imaginative (including “locked rooms” and “impossible crimes”). We need hard-boiled stories as well as “cozies,” but we are not interested in explicit sex or violence. We do not want true detective or crime stories.
  • Word count limit: EQMM uses stories of almost every length. 2,500-8,000 words is the preferred range.  (But they’re open to almost anything.) AHMM suggests anything  less than 12,000.
  • Payment: $0.05 – $0.08 per word, sometimes higher for established authors.
  • Simultaneous Submissions*: Don’t submit to both at the same time:

Stories submitted to AHMM are not also considered by or for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, though we share the same address. Submissions to EQMM must be made separately.

Please do not simultaneously submit the same story to AHMM and EQMM. If we reject your story, for whatever reason, you are then free to submit it to EQMM (and vice versa).

As for whether you can sim-sub to other publications, they don’t say.

  • Multiple Submissions**: Unknown
  • Schedule: Open.  EQMM responded in about 3 weeks.  AHMM is longer, with a 6 – 8 month queue for their slush pile.

*This means whether they will allow you to submit this story to another publisher at the same time or not.

**This means whether you can send them more than one story at at time.

Reminders when submitting:

Read the publications:  You’ll need to purchase an issue of the magazines to see what kind of style gets their attention.  It will also give you an idea of what’s been done before so you don’t end up sending them something too similar to a recently published story.

Read the guidelines: I don’t post everything required for their submissions, just the basics.  Furthermore, this is a static post.  Publishers change their submission requirements at will so it’s always a good idea to read and re-read them, even if you’ve submitted to them before.

Follow the rules: Do I really need to say this?  Don’t send pieces over the word count.  Don’t send content they specifically warn against.  Don’t send weirdly formatted manuscripts if they give you specific instructions.  “But Liz, I–” Nope!  No, no, no.  If you do not follow the rules you risk being a pariah to that magazine – and worse, editors can exchange notes on who’s being a pain.

Happy submitting!

I Hold Your Hand in Mine by Tom Lehr

Liz’s Note: Today’s “story” is actually a hilarious song by the fantastic Tom Lehr.  If you’re looking for excellent MicroFiction sometimes you need to look no farther than a talented lyricist.

I hold your hand in mine, dear,
I press it to my lips.
I take a healthy bite
From your dainty fingertips.
My joy would be complete, dear,
If you were only here,
But still I keep your hand
As a precious souvenir.
The night you died I cut it off.
I really don’t know why.
For now each time I kiss it
I get bloodstains on my tie.
I’m sorry now I killed you,
For our love was something fine,
And till they come to get me
I shall hold your hand in mine.

Political Satire: Comedic Writing (Part Two)

Note: Today’s regularly scheduled MicroFiction piece has been bumped to Wednesday in order to give everyone a little more time to think about Political Satire in time for the competition on Friday.

Political Satire tops the list of genres NYC Midnight writers are scared of getting.  I think a lot of that fear comes from the fact that people don’t understand it as a genre.  So before we get into what it is, let’s start by debunking a common myth:

Political Satire is not a bunch of jokes about politicians.

Quips about Donald Trump’s hair or David Cameron being replaced by a cat need not apply, not matter how clever your joke is.  So what is it?

Satire is a genre of writing that criticizes and attacks vice, folly and abuse, particularly of ruling parties or those in power. It is marked by anger and a desire to change or destroy that which it attacks. It has a definite target and often uses humor to make a specific point. It does not simply “make fun” of a subject but seeks to inspire change.  – TV Tropes

Here are examples that have elements of the genre, but not quite there:

  • The Jungle & Uncle Tom’s Cabin – these seek to inspire change, but they don’t use humor to illustrate their points.
  • Animal Farm – that’s an allegory.  Political Satire often uses allegorical elements, but a straight allegory is not the same thing as satire if it doesn’t have the humor.

Jokes about political candidates might be funny, but political satire doesn’t have to be overtly about politics to make a political point.

The plot of a political satire piece usually has nothing to do with the subject or message you’re trying to get across.  For example, both “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift and “Baby Cakes” by Neil Gaiman are, on the surface level, stories about eating babies.  But the point they’re trying to make is very different.

Swift’s piece is about British policies regarding the Irish and the cruelty and indifference towards the plight of the impoverished.  Gaiman’s piece (originally a short story but linked as a comic) will make anyone consider converting to vegetarianism.

Some points on this:

  • You don’t necessarily have to agree with the points in your political satire piece.  Gaiman has said, “For the record I wear a leather jacket and eat meat, but am quite good with babies.”
  • Hyperbole is your friend.  Obviously neither Swift nor Gaiman was actually advocating eating babies.  But if you’re really good, your satire might get mistaken for the real thing.
  • Political satire is timely.  Remember: it’s meant to inspire change.  So while you could write a piece similar to Swift’s regarding politics of a bygone era, it doesn’t really fit the spirit of the genre because the issue is already over.
  • Some issues are pretty timeless.  For example, Aristophanes’ Lysistrata is about women going on a sex-strike to protest a war.  It’s been adapted several times, most recently in the film Chi-Raq by Spike Lee.


Since we’re talking about Flash Fiction in particular, let’s look to the following examples of sketch comedy for ideas.  These are quick skits and would easily translate into a complete story that will fit in under 1,000 words and will give you a more modern take on what Political Satire is.

  • “What if Bears Killed One in Five People?” is a political satire of the issue of rape on college campuses.
  • Amy Schumer parodies a commercial to satirize the regulations limiting accessible birth control (and one other issue, if you watch through to the very end.)
  • Key & Peele use a skit about the zombie apocalypse to make a point about racism.

I hope you recognize these skits and the comics who produced them – hopefully Political Satire will be a little less scary when you realize you’ve already been exposed to it.  I suggest you check out more of their sketches, as well as South Park and The Colbert Report for other examples.

So, with that in mind, how do you write a Political Satire piece for the Flash Fiction Challenge?  Well, my advice is to pick an issue to write about.  What do you care about?  What’s in the news today?  Read through your Facebook feed and current events news pages to get ideas.  Embrace your inner snarkiness and start joking about it about!


Have any examples of your own or questions to share with the class?  Leave them in the comments below!


“Mistress Morphine” now available in HAVOK!

My story, “Mistress Morphine” is now available in the latest issue of HAVOK magazine!

Love comics?  Epic battles of good vs. evil?  Then you will love this issue!  There are nine original flash fiction stories, including “Mistress Morphine” by yours truly.

Check it out today!

For more information on how to submit your own writing to HAVOK and Splickety Publishing check out their info in Publisher’s Spotlight.

Make ’em Laugh: Comedic Writing (Part One)

Last week I left off with a few subcategories from the NYC Flash Fiction contest that deserve an in-depth look.  Today we’re going to be discussing the comedic genres, particularly these three:

  • Comedy
  • Political Satire
  • Romantic Comedy

So, what’s the difference between these?  Way back when we only had two dramas (Comedy and Drama) a Comedy meant it had a happy ending, usually a wedding, while Drama ended with a tragic death of some kind.  These days we use Comedy to mean that which makes you laugh.  The differences between the comedic genres come from how it makes you laugh and why.


In a broad sense, comedy covers all the sub-genres but in general, let’s talk about Classic comedies, aka comedies that are not making fun of something in particular but are their own self-contained stories.  Early examples include Commedia dell’Arte with stock characters and improvised situations, and Shakespeare’s comedies such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It.

Some common tropes of comedic genres:

  • Mistaken/Hidden Identities
    • Twins
    • Long lost relatives
    • Disguises
  • Trickery of some kind
  • Stock Characters (i.e. the Lovers, the Servants, the cuckolded buffoon, the greedy miser, the doddering professor.  Since you’re meant to laugh, flat caricatures do well here even though they can be hallmarks of bad writing in other genres.)
  • Gender bending (A classic trope from Shakespeare to Bug Bunny.  Beware of distasteful humor regarding transfolk here, the same way you’d do well to avoid racial/ethnic humor in your stock characters.*)
  • Differing personalities having to work together  (Buddy Cop movies)
  • Mad cap adventures
    • Babies
    • Animals
    • Cross-country races for fabulous sums of money

For a more complete list, and/or if you’re out of ideas and forced to write something comedic, start clicking through this page until inspiration hits you.  (Be forewarned, lots of TV Tropes links are coming, set yourself a timer so you don’t fall down the rabbit hole.)

*Before anyone starts arguing about political correctness and its place in modern comedy, I want to first say that you can of course write whatever you want.  But if you’re a novice comic I would advise you to avoid polarizing tropes.  If you’re trying to make a point about race it takes a lot of skill, and even then people may not get the joke. And if you’re not, it’s just lazy writing to rely on outdated tropes.

Romantic Comedies

I’m not going to go into too much depth on this because it essentially has a combination of the above tropes, with the added emphasis on one or more couples and a focus on their romantic relationship.  In dated works it meant the couples got married at the end, in modern takes it means the couples either “get together” or maybe even rekindle a fading romance.  Unlike the other Romance genre, this one should have a happy ending, regardless of how unrealistic it may be. Indulge in a little wish fulfillment.

For flash fiction you should probably stick to the relationship itself, but it should be noted that Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, one of the earliest examples of the RomCom, has its dramatic moments, so don’t feel limited if you want to include some heavier plot elements.  It’ll flesh out the story and add depth to your characters.

Sitcoms are good modern examples of short-form stories, but if you’re looking for novels most of the greats tend to parody certain genres (Terry Pratchett: Fantasy, Douglas Adams: SciFi, Christopher Moore: everything from the Bible to Shakespeare to Vampires.)

This is as good a place as any to talk about the difference between Parody and Satire.


Parody is the practice of copying the mannerisms, style or appearance of a work or its author’s voice to make a point about that work (or sometimes unrelated other works)…it is often good-natured or affectionate. It only attacks the style and content of a fictional work and not real-life events. -TV Tropes

Remember when we talked about what fell under Fair Use?  That’s parody: “Something you’ve seen before in a different form.”  You’re making fun of someone else’s concept or intellectual property or a genre or whatever.  You’re joking about a concept that you yourself did not invent.  (Side note: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies sounds like it ought to be a parody, but it’s actually played straight and gets away with it because the Jane Austen work is in the Public Domain, same as the Wizard of Oz and Wicked.)

While Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is original content, it’s a parody of the SciFi genre in much the same way Galaxy Quest is a Star Trek specific parody.  What do I mean by that?

The protagonist, Arthur Dent, rejects his call to adventure and spends most of the novels as a reluctant hero.  He and the main love interest never really get together.  The climax of the novel, leading up to Arthur being the chosen one for having the ultimate answer question to Life the Universe and Everything is never actually resolved.

A parody can be funny without having any real jokes in it.  For example, the episode Pillows vs. Blankets on Community is funny precisely because it’s played straight – a pillow fight documented in such a way that it parodies the Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary.  It’s the absurd situation that makes the comedy, and it’s not quite as funny if you don’t get what they’re parodying.

As for Satire… I’ll be honest, this post is much longer than I expected it to be, and I don’t want to rush that one, so we’ll have to get into it on Friday instead.  But before we go, I want to leave you with this:

General Pointers

Everything I’ve listed above are plot-related comedic tropes.  You should note that when it comes to comedic writing there are other ways to tell a joke that have nothing to do with the plot.  They include but are not limited to:

  • Timing
  • Sarcasm
  • Hyperbole
  • The Unexpected

The last one is my favorite.  There’s just something about the unexpected that makes me laugh, and I love that good comedic writing will work jokes into the description as well as the dialogue and situations. Like the quote below:

The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t. – Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Comedy is an art, and I can’t really go into what’s funny or why.  I can’t teach you how to tell a joke; it would take far too long and I’m out of time as it is.  But check out the following resources to unlock your inner comic:

Got any tips and tricks for comedic writing?  Authors/novels you love?  Share them below!

Ebb and Flow

Celia sat in the little rowboat, the rhythmic sound of wooden planks slapping the waves all to keep her company as she floated further from the bank of the river.

The current took the boat westward away from the looming plantation, white as bone, its windows full of soft yellow light.  She felt as thought it was watching her and took only shallow breaths until it passed from sight.

The forged papers were carefully stashed in her satchel along with a small sum of money she hoped would quiet whoever might ask too many questions regarding where she came from, where she was going.

Ahead was a lone woman with a rifle slung over her shoulder, waving her on.  Soon they’d be running, but for now she let the ebb and flow carry her onward to days when she could breathe easy once more.

Publisher’s Spotlight: Grievous Angel

Who likes Short Shorts? Grievous Angel likes short shorts!  They’ll pay Pro-rate for anything under 700 words (and accept poetry too!)  Details below:

  • In their own words: “We are looking for original Poetry and Flash Fiction…At the risk of stating the bleedin’ obvious, apart from the word length, the key factor with Flash Fiction is it has all the elements of a traditional self-contained short story, including a beginning, a middle and an end, even if some aspects may be implied. Flash Fiction is NOT an extract or vignette from a longer story and should never end with the words To Be Continued…
  • Genres they accept:We are a SFF&H genre-only webzine. This means Science FictionFantasyHorror and related speculative fiction sub-genres, including Urban Fantasy, Low Fantasy, Mythos, Steampunk and Magical Realism, as well Humour/Satire riffs on these genre.” (Emphasis is theirs.  Copy/paste did something funny today.)
  • Word count limit: Flash: 700 words max. Poetry: max 36 lines each, up to 5 poems submitted at one time.   They encourage micro-fiction.
  • Payment: $0.06 per word or $1 per line of poetry.  $5 minimum for the short stuff.  (Note: You’ll need a PayPal account to accept their payment.)
  • Simultaneous Submissions*: No
  • Multiple Submissions**: No (but up to 5 poems at a time.)  Please do not submit again until 6 weeks have passed (it helps keep the slush pile down.)
  • Schedule: Open.

So get to it and submit those short shorts today!

*This means whether they will allow you to submit this story to another publisher at the same time or not.

**This means whether you can send them more than one story at at time.

Reminders when submitting:

Read the publication:  Flash is short and their stories are freely accessible on the site.  You have no excuse not to do your research and see what kind of style gets their attention.  It will also give you an idea of what’s been done before so you don’t end up sending them something too similar to a recently published story.

Read the guidelines: I don’t post everything required for their submissions, just the basics.  Furthermore, this is a static post.  Publishers change their submission requirements at will so it’s always a good idea to read and re-read them, even if you’ve submitted to them before.

Follow the rules: Do I really need to say this?  Don’t send pieces over the word count.  Don’t send content they specifically warn against.  Don’t send weirdly formatted manuscripts if they give you specific instructions.  “But Liz, I–” Nope!  No, no, no.  If you do not follow the rules you risk being a pariah to that magazine – and worse, editors can exchange notes on who’s being a pain.

Happy submitting!