Flash Fiction: Lucky Lady Robes

Note: Generally, I save fiction over 500 words  for paying markets, but every once and a while, I write an odd story like this that just doesn’t fit in most markets. 

Lucky Lady Robes

By Sara Codair

In-home sales and independent consultant programs had been around forever, but none took off like Lucky Lady Robes. They hadn’t even been in business a year, and in some parts of the southwest, traditional stores struggled to keep customers. Up here in the northeast, that spark was just hitting the kindling.

“Now is the time to sign up, if I am going,” I told my friend, Lucy. Swaddled in brown scarves and blonde hair, she looked like a calico cat trying to be a human.

“I’ve only heard good things about them.” Lucy lifted a steaming mug to her mouth, breathing the steam until if fogged up her glasses.

“People don’t want to get sued,” I muttered into my Darjeeling tea. Still too hot to drink, I placed it on the table and re-read my contract for the tenth time. Something about the 80% wholesale discount and optimistic market analysis for my area seemed to good to be true, but all that the convoluted, red-inked document really told me was that I couldn’t get a refund, ever, and that if I defaced the company’s sacred brand image, they would burn me in court.

“You can’t keep bad news off the internet.” Lucy’s hands shook as she tilted her latte to her mouth and sipped. “Trust me, if there was something sketchy, someone would’ve said something about.”

“I’ll do more research.”

“If you do become a consultant, I’ll be your first customer.” Lucy grinned, put her mug down, and looked me in the eyes. “This is a golden opportunity. You’d be foolish to waste it.”

###

IMG_3031My first shipment of Lucky Lady Robes came in super quick. I was giddy, fluttering like magic as I tore open the box and inhaled fresh plastic. I rescued a pair of leggings from their transparent prison and ran my hands over the softest fabric I’d ever felt. My fingers quivered with joy as I traced corn silk swirls through the grass green background. I didn’t realize until I reached the end that I had smeared blood all over that pair.

Cursing my clumsiness, I ran to the sink and rinsed my sliced palm. I guessed I cut myself during my exuberant box opening. I bandaged my hand and liberated the remaining leggings. The colors varied, but they all had strange geometric shapes. Some had cat eyes. One pair had suns so realistic I thought they’d burn me if I touched them. I carefully hung each pair on my display, photographed them, and transferred them to a bright pink rack.

I uploaded my pictures to Facebook and had my first sale that night. Half my inventory was gone in three hours, but true to her word, Lucy bought the first pair.

The next morning, she wore the black and red, geometric beauties to our weekly coffee date.

Lucy gazed at the ceiling, walls, and floor, but she never made eye contact. “They’re as heavenly as pajamas, but it’s socially acceptable to wear them to work. Have you tried them yet?”

“No,” I admitted. “I had to pay for my inventory up front and didn’t have much to invest.”

She laughed at me. Her cheeks creased when her mouth opened, but her eyes stayed absent. “Trust me, you need a pair or ten for yourself. I can’t wait for your next sale.”

###

IMG_3032Lucy bought three pairs at my second sale, and five at my third. Soon, all of our friends were buying, sharing, and tweeting about how comfortable their new leggings were.

I aw dollar signs left and right.

The dresses came next. The sweaters and shirts rode their tails to my inventory. The colors and styles varied, but they all had equally mesmerizing patterns, which, paired with luxurious fabric, enchanted customers.

I thought my inner circle would stop buying after a while, but they didn’t stop. These clothes were like crack and my friends were viral junkies, spreading their addiction to everyone around them.

After a year, I paid off my student loans, bought a house, and upgraded my car. Lucy was on the verge of losing her house, another friend was working 80 hours a week to pay down her credit card debt while a third was getting calls from collection agencies several times a day.

I told them to stop buying. I had a big enough fan-base now that even if a fraction of my customers bought from me at every sale, I’d be making more than I ever did selling cell phones. They didn’t stop – not even when I blocked them from my group and ignored their phone calls.

It was this strange, desperate behavior that led me to start researching the patterns. After venturing into dark corners of internet I hadn’t known existed, I learned that the symbols were from ancient cultures all around the world: sigils old gods used to keep follows worshipping.

I’ve never been superstitious and didn’t believe that symbols could influence anyone, but I was offended. What Lucky Lady Robes claimed as original artwork was appropriated from old religions that been all but wiped out by historic colonizers and conquerors. I blogged about this, hoping it would make people see through the company’s schemes.

Literally three minutes later, I had an email from corporate headquarters informing me that I violated the contract. Six days passed. I was assigned a court date. I hired a lawyer, thinking the worst that could happen was I’d lose my profits and go back to selling phones.

I lost the case, but I never got to hear how much the fine was. Buttery soft leggings had twined all around my limbs and up to my head. Sound couldn’t get through the thick fabric. No one heard me scream when they caught on fire.

 

 

Micro Fiction: Are We Like the Phoenix? 

Are We Like the Phoenix?

watch cano.png
The above image is made from two free stock photos from Unsplash.

“This little venture of yours has got out of hand.” Gracen sat next to the ships wooden helm even though they weren’t steering.

“That doesn’t mean I can stop.” Lisbeth removed her burnt goggles and brushed pieces of ash off of her leather pants.

Gracen closed brown their eyes and pinched the bridge of their nose. “But volcanoes? You can’t fix anything if you’re dead.”

Through the porthole Lisbeth only saw gray – fog and ash blended into a pasty haze that forced them to rely on technology to navigate or to stay put and hope their regular horn blasts kept someone else form crashing into them.

The fog came and went, but the ash stayed.

Even though her and Gracen were making progress towards the equator, it still seemed like the frequency with which they encountered bergs cubes had increased.

“I only get one shot. I need to be certain.” Lisbeth rubbed the round edge of their gold stopwatch. Even over the rhythmic growl of the ships engine, Lisbeth heard thousands of micro gears churning away. Of all the arcane devices she possessed, this one was the most powerful.

“You think it will work?” Gracen ran his hands through graying hair. He wasn’t even thirty, but like most of the surviving humans, he looked twice his age.

“It has to.” Lisbeth had been on land six times this month. She hadn’t run into another living person, and as far as she could tell from the instruments, they’d only passed two other ships.

Time travel was humanity’s last hope.

2018 Publication Round-up

2018 is just about over, and while it may not have been my most fruitful year for producing new work, it was a fantastic year for publishing. My first novel was published. My short fiction and poetry appeared in nineteen publications

Of all of these, my favorite is my novel, Power Surge. For short stories, I’m most proud of “Ink and Ash” in The Society of Misfit Stories.

For flash fiction, it’s a tie between “You Won’t Believe How This Creature Changed Their Lives!” in Vulture Bones and “Roots” in The Cascadia Subduction Zone.

“Butter is Not a Dress” in Hashtag Queer Anthology Series is the best poem I have ever written!

If you’re looking for pieces to nominate for awards, check those out! Below is a roundup all of my 2018 publications, including cover art when applicable, links, and a short blurb for each story.

January 22:

“It Sucks to Be a Succubus” in Unnerving Magazine.

A succubus tries to have a fun night out without killing anyone.

February 6:

“Snow Fox” in Once Upon a Rainbow Volume Two

 Jealous Queen E’s attempts on Snow Fox’s life are trending.

March 5:

“The Blind Girl and the Troll” in Asymmetry.

A troll hungry troll decides to aid a refugee instead of eating her, and it alters the state of his existence. 

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 8.25.23 PM.png

March 21:

“Thunder Cars” in (Dis)Ability Short Story Anthology

Food shopping with anxiety is like weathering a storm.

April 3:

“Liberty Underground” in Teach. Write.

There is more to this seemingly haunted house than meets the eye.

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 8.31.16 PM.pngMay 1:

“You Won’t Believe How This Creature Changed Their Lives!” in Vulture Bones

Two siblings find a magical creature. 

May 31:

Dragon’s Bane” in Menagerie de Mythique Anthology.

Not your average dragon hunter

June 20:

“Gala Down” in Drabbledark

Politics and food don’t mix well.

June 22:

“Butter is Not a Dress” in Hashtag Queer Anthology Series

A poem about gender identity and clothing.

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 8.44.12 PM.pngJuly 23:

“Roots” in The Cascadia Subduction Zone

Home isn’t always the house you live in.

July 31:

“The Debutante” in Fantasia Divinity Magazine

A steampunk match-making AI. 

August 30:

“Djinn and Tonic” and “Surviving Seaglass” in Chronos

Two speculative drabbles that explore how supernatural being perceive time.

September 19:

“The Omen” in UnSung (Better Futures Press)

*There is no link to this one because shortly after publication, the publisher appeared to have folded.

September 20:

“A Kitten for the Kelpiecorn” in Four Star Stories.*

A kelpiecorn adopts a kitten.

*The issue it appeared in is no longer available and has yet to appear on the sites archives page.

October 1

Power Surge (The Evanstar Chronicles)

Being hunted by demons isn’t the worst part; it’s the lies.

October 14:

“A Curious Case in the Deep” in Broadswords and Blasters.

Two brave ocean explorers make an unexpected discovery.

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 9.17.20 PM.pngNovember 6:

“Piggish Persistence” in Empyreome Magazine

One magician tries to subvert the pharma-guild’s control on the medical. potions industry

November 1:

“Denial and Acceptance” in Trump Fiction: ECR Special Edition

Aliens invade in the final days of the Trump administration.

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 9.21.06 PM.pngNovember 12, 2018:

“Ink and Ash” in The Society of Misfit Stories

When the government outlaws the use of wands in magic, two siblings find themselves on opposite sides of the law.

November 30, 2018:

“Behind the Scenes” in Unrealpolitik

Werewolves play an important role in the National Park Service’s future.

 

Five Friendly Places that Pay for Fiction

Finding a place to publish a short story can be intimidating. Submitting a story  I’ve poured my soul into out to a literary magazine is scary enough without worrying about what happens to it once it lands in someone’s slush.

And there are so many places that publish fiction. I have to think about things like what kind of stories the market publishes, how much it pays, what their response time is and whether or not they take simultaneous submissions.

There are many markets I send short stories to over and over again only to be repeatedly rejected, but I’ve had great experiences publishing with the following five markets. I’ve had at least one story accepted by each, and sent a second after publication. They are listed alphabetically.

  1. B Cubed Press not only published the most profitable anthology I’ve ever had a short story in, but it is run by an enthusiastic editor who cares about his authors as much as he cares about the quality of their stories.
    • Responsive: All submissions get a receipt confirmation so the writer knows the story isn’t languishing in email limbo. All submissions get a response once a decision is made. Editors periodically post updates on the BCubed Press Facebook Group. Most questions are answered promptly.
    • Strong Community: There is a Facebook group populated with an engaged community of writers who support each other and share ideas.
    • Short  Story Pay: $.02 a word advance + royalties and an e-book
    • Read B Cubed”s latest anthology “More Alternative Truths”
  2. Broadswords and Blasters
    • Responsiveness: Confirms receipt of stories, responds to all when a decision is made, and is known to give personal responses when time allows.
    • Active on Twitter: Broadswords and Blasters engages with authors and readers on twitter. When open for submissions, they use twitter to be transparent about their selection process. However the two things that impress me most are how supportive they are of their authors, and how quickly they are growing
    • Short Story Pay: $15 per story + an electronic copy of the issue
    • Read an issue here
  3. Fantasia Divinity
    • Responsiveness: Generally, emails get an auto response that confirms the submission was received and provides information about response times. Once a decision is made, all stories get a response.
    • Active on Facebook: Fantasia Divinity has a very active Facebook page where they share status updates about where they are in the process of getting a book or issue ready, cover art, and releases. If they get behind on their responses, they generally will post about it so waiting authors know what is going on.
    • Short Story Pay varies per project. Original stories accepted to the magazine receive ½ of a cent per word. Stand-alone pieces are royalties only. Anthology pay varies between the magazine rate and printed contributor copies.
    • Read an issue here
  4. Nine Star Press
    • Responsiveness: An auto response confirms receipt of stories, and once they receive a response email once a decisions is made. Most of the rejections they sent me have been personalized.
    • Strong Community: The NineStar Press authors Facebook group is a fantastic place to meet other writers, find critique partners, get advice about marketing stories and discuss your craft. They are one of the most supportive and generally awesome writing community’s I’ve had the chance to be part of.
    • Pay: Royalties + e-books.Note: While NineStar does publish short story anthologies, novelettes, and novellas, they are primarily a boutique novel publisher.
    • Read my favorite NineStar Press Novel
  5. Owl Hollow Press
    • Responsiveness: All submissions get a response once a decision is made. Every rejection I received from them was personalized.
    • Very Social: Owl Hollow Press is active on a number of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They are the only publisher I’ve worked with who has ever mailed authors free swag to use as promotional material. The bookmarks were very popular at work.
    • Short Story Pay: $50 per story + 1 print copy. OHP does publish novels, but  I think the pay (royalty rate and/or advance) may very from contract to contract.
    • Read their latest anthology here

If you choose to submit anything to any of these markets, please do your own research too. I did my best to provide accurate information, but these markets can update their rates and policies at any time. Plus, I’m human, which means I make mistakes. The publishing world is scary; these are just a few of many places I’ve had positive experiences publishing short stories with.

Read their guidelines carefully, and make sure they publish the type of story you are sending them. If you are unsure if a market is right, reading some of their published material is a good way to learn more about their tastes. Whether you read their previously published works or not, just please please make sure you follow their submission guidelines. I can’t count the number of I’ve times I seen editors stress how important this is.

B Cubed Press, Broadswords and Blasters, Fantasia Divinity, Owl Hollow Press, and NineStar Press are not the only markets I repeatedly submit to, but something about my experience with each was memorable enough for me to send them more work after they published the first accepted piece. Some of those submissions were accepted, but others weren’t. Of course, I won’t let the rejections stop me from sending these editors more stories in the future. They can’t get rid of me that easily. 😉

 

Happy Book Birthday Half Breeds!

Half Breeds 1
Kicked out of private school, Allen has to brave a public high school where most of the kids don’t know supernatural creatures exist. He expects to be miserable, but he finds himself romantically pursued by two people: a shy, but fascinating boy named Jeremy and a spunky girl named Chloe. The demon in Allen wants to feed off Chloe, but the human part of him is falling for Jeremy. Which will win?

Today, my first stand alone story, a novelette called Half Breeds is released to the wild. The ebook is for sale and ready to download on Amazon and on Nine Star Press’ website.

Of all the short stories that I’ve written, Half Breeds is one of my favorites. Sometimes I struggle portraying emotion and sexual tension without being corny, but in this story more so than others, I feel like I managed to balance emotion, tension and humor.

Half Breeds may be a paranormal tale featuring teens who are half demon and half angel, but in it, I explore very human concepts, like sexuality, consent, self-image and the feeling of being a monster. These are topics I love to write about because they are always snaking around in my mind, but sometimes, they make people uncomfortable.

Since consent and sexual harassment are largely discussed, public issues, I was a little worried how readers would react to a particular scene where Allen, the main character, doesn’t respect another characters revoked consent while they are making out. It’s an important scene because it’s a realistic situation in Allen makes the wrong choice, and has to face the consequences of it.

One review said “The bathroom scene made me a little uncomfortable to be honest but I think if you truly read it in the context of the story it’s tolerable…… kind of” while another said “Codair handles these issues with grace and humor.” The point, at least to a certain extent, was to make the readers uncomfortable, to make sure they saw how the character made the wrong decisions, and how it affected him after.  I don’t want to alienate readers, but on occasion, I write things people shouldn’t be comfortable with because in some ways, it forces people to think about the issues more than hash tags  or vague posts.

Serious issues aside, I hope you find that Half Breeds a spooky and funny Halloween story that makes you think.

 

New Micro Fiction: Padded Walls

Note: As some of you know, I often participate in a weekly writing contest called “Cracked Flash Fiction Competition.” The following piece won this week. I owe this weeks judge, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, a big thank you for catching my typos and still choosing my story in spite of the,.

Padded Walls

By Sara Codair

“When this is over, I want my sanity back,” said Elena as matter-of-factly as one could say anything when wearing a straightjacket in a padded room.

The padded walls spread their crusty purple lips, revealing row upon row of pointy yellow teeth and laughed.

“I mean it.” She waggled her pointer finger at the ceiling.

“Who says it will ever be over?” The wall’s lips cracked as it spoke.

“Who said I was talking to you,” retorted Elena, tearing her eyes away from the ceiling so she could glare at the wall.

Black blood dripped out of the wall’s cracked lip, trickling down to the floor. “No one leaves here alive.”

Elena laughed. The sound was harsher, more maniacal than it had been two weeks ago.

“You do not believe?” asked the wall.

“You’re the reason I’m here.” She crouched down, wriggling in the straightjacket that was not nearly as tight as the orderlies thought, thankful for all the months she’d trained prior to taking this assignment.

“You can’t do that,” said the wall.

Elena arched one eyebrow as she shrugged off the jacket and used it to wipe up the black blood.

The wall opened its mouth and screamed. Elena didn’t flinch. It inhaled, sucking in air so hard her hair blew towards its maw. She closed her eyes, cleared her mind of the all the drug-induced hallucinations she’d had during her stay Frommington Hospital, waiting for the wall to show its true face.

She whispered words of power in the ancient tongue. The blood soaked jacket caught fire. The wall screamed as it burned with the jacket. The door opened as orderlies rushed in to put out the fire. Elena charged through them and strolled out of the burning hospital like she owned the place.

The Dreaded Short Story Query

The Dreaded Short Story Query

By Sara Codair

Querying short stories is the most stressful part of the publication process for me.

The word query has a slightly different meaning in the world of short stories than it does for novels.When you query an agent of publisher about a novel, you are essentially submitting a cover letter and sample to see if they are interested. However, when you submit a short story, you generally include an extremely brief cover letter and the full manuscript. Writers refer to this as a submission, not a query.

 

The short story query is actually a follow up letter. If the publisher does not respond to the story in their advertised timeframe, then you are allowed, and in some cases, expected to follow up with an email. For me, this is more stressful than the actual submission.

The longer a market takes to respond to my story, the more I start over-analyzing their silence. Did they forget about my story? Did they put it in their maybe pile? Are they just really backlogged? Any of these are equally possible.

If they are just backlogged, I feel bad adding more material to their reading list, even if it is just one email, so I always keep my query email short.

I take cues from their submission guidelines regarding how and when I can query. Most publications will provide some information about querying in their submission guidelines. For example, Firefly has this near the end of their guidelines: “if a month has passed from the day you have submitted to us and you haven’t heard from us, please feel free to send a query with either “Query” or “What The Heck” in the subject line. We find the latter more cathartic.”

I queried them once, but in the end, they were just backlogged and rejected my story. Other markets, like the Sockdolager and Museum of Science Fiction, have responded to queries telling me my story has made it past their first round and is being held for further consideration. The most successful querying experience I had was with Helios Quarterly as it turned into an acceptance.

Some markets have made querying unnecessary with extremely specific guidelines and efficient submission managing systems that allow writers to track their stories progress through the queue. However, many smaller and/or new markets can not afford said software, so they rely on email.

The best advice I can offer is keep it short, and make sure you read the guidelines first. If a market says “don’t query until three months have passed” then make sure three months have passed before you query.

Most of my queries look something like this:

Dear Editor (s),

I sent you my story, “The Best Short Ever,” on June 4, 2016, and have not heard anything. Could you please confirm you received it and provide an update on its status?

Thank you,

Sara

Or

Dear Editor (s),

I sent you my story, “The Best Short Ever,” on June 4, 2016, and have not heard from you. Are you still considering it?

Thank you,

Sara

If I addressed my cover letter to a specific person, I will use their name. Otherwise, “Dear Editors” works fine.

I’ve never had an editor get made at me for querying. Most of the responses I get are sympathetic or apologetic. If a market says you can query after X days or months have passed, then do it. Just keep your letter short and polite. It will give you peace of mind and remind the editor you exist.