A Winning Story

Almost three weeks ago, I got an email from Women on Writing notifying me I was in their top ten for their Winter 2016 contest. I happy danced all the way from the women’s restroom in Flatbread back to my table. It was exciting and boosted my confidence.

The days between now and then were full of rejections. Sometimes, I would get three or four in one day. One morning, three came in a couple hours. I’ve developed pretty thick skin when it comes to rejections, but the onslaught was starting to wear it down and erode my confidence. It made me wonder what wasn’t working with my stories or process, wondering if my idea of what was “good” and what editors and slush readers thought of as “good” was just too different.

Yesterday, I spent the morning selling what is left of my seaglass jewelry at a yard sale in Maine. I was trying not to check my email to much because I was almost out of data on my phone. Around 9:30, I gave in to my curiosity and refreshed gmail on my phone. The first thing I saw was a rejection from Clarkesworld. The second was a newsletter from Women on Writing. I opened it, expecting to my story as the last runner up, only to find my face staring back at me as the second place winner.

Let’s just say that everyone at the yard sale was notified of my win. I was very excited to not only have another “published” story, but to actually get paid for it.

I don’t write for money. I write because I need to write. However, everything in contemporary America costs money, and in order to justify the amount of time I put into the writing, I need to get compensated for it. Knowing my story was selected over hundreds of other and getting money for it felt good. It proved writing was more than just a hobby. It made me feel like artist, and like a professional.

I did it once, I can do it again. I will not let rejections get me down. I’ll keep pushing against the tide until I reach the next island – the next acceptance letter.

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If you are interested, you can see my story, and the other winners, by clicking this link: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/69-FE1-Winter16Contest.html

 

Deceit in the Dark

Deceit in the Dark

By Sara Codair

The vampiress hissed. “Mortal fool! Challenging me will be your doom!”

The knight arched one eyebrow. “Perhaps it will be your doom.”

She screeched, hoping to intimidate him. Her most terrifying, earsplitting howl failed to impress the knight. His eyes and skin were like ice and snow. His was hair weak sunlight glistening on the polar ice. He still had that damned eyebrow raised. It was so unfair that he could arch his right brow so perfectly. She had been practicing for three centuries and had never mastered the trick.

“You’re a fool, challenging me at night in my own castle. Every man and woman who has tried before you became my breakfast.”

The knight laughed.

She rolled her eyes.

A sharp pain pierced her chest. It was the first pain she had felt since Count Dracul had turned her on her 18th birthday. Looking down, she marveled at the iron stake sticking out of her chest. She watched her skin shrivel and turn to ash. She clung to consciousness long enough to see the knight peel off flesh colored gloves, revealing the green skin of a pixie.

“Green bastard!” she yelled. She never would have rolled her eyes if she knew he wasn’t a slow mortal.

“New technology. It lets us blend in with humans and not be burned by iron.”

Count Victoria wanted to curse him one last time, but her throat was already gone.

His blonde hair turned coal black; his face grass green. “I’m no mortal, and certainly no fool.”

The rot and ash reached the vampiress’ brain, and she was no more.

The End.

©2016 Sara Codair

This story was originally posted on Cracked Flash as an entry for their weekly writing contest. It was the week’s honorable mention.  The judge, Mars, suggested I remove the first few lines, and really, she was right. The originally piece started with the line “But the night belongs to me.” I either needed to add more dialogue before or just cut it, and since anything I could think to add would be boring, the first few lines went bye bye, making the piece shorter and catchier (at least in my opinion).

 

 

Musings on Mash

Waking up to see my work published on a high traffic website always puts me in a good mood. Today, my article,  “Sew Your Story,” was featured on the Mash Blog.

This was particularly meaningful for me because Mash Stories has been an important part of my development as a writer.

Last summer, someone in my writing group asked for feedback on a story she planned to submit to Mash. After being inspired by her story, I paid a visit to Mashstories.com. Writing a story using three key words seemed like a fun challenge, so I  tried it. The words “Congress, Art, and Jealousy” were the inspiration for the first flash story I ever wrote. It wasn’t very good, and got rejected, but it taught me something important – I could finish something.

I had been writing all my life, but seldom finished what I started. I had two very rough drafts of different novels and dozens of beginnings, scenes and vignettes with no end in sight and half developed plots. Writing flash fiction taught me that not only could I write a story through to its end, but I could also revise it and edit until it was a polished piece.

I kept working on craft. I picked one of my novel drafts and focused on revising it. That is where I got the idea for the sewing metaphor discussed in”Sew Your Story.

When I was taking breaks from the novel, I worked on short stories. Some of them were flash, but eventually, I did work my way up to longer shorts.

On my third Mash competition (Halloween, Missile, Common) , my entry, “Above the Influence,” got short-listed.  This was my first fiction publication. Mash had taught me a second lesson. Not only could I finish and polish a story, but I could also do it well enough to published, to be be one of the top twenty-ish stories in a competition with hundreds of entries.

Around the time I got shortlisted, Mash had started a “Mash Club.” Joining cost money (regular submissions were free) but members received detailed feedback, quicker responses and were allowed multiple submissions. I had a lot of ideas for they key words and loved feedback, so I joined.

The next five stories I sent mash (two in that competition and three in the following quarter) got rejected. However, each rejection was followed by two or three pages of extremely detailed feedback from multiple judges. I used that feedback to revise each rejected story, and then I would send it out to another market.

This week, I found out one of those stories was accepted for publication in an anthology that Centum Press plans to publish this summer.  This will be my first piece of fiction to appear in a printed book.

So thank you, Mash stories, for giving me the inspiration, confidence and guidance to dive into the world of flash fiction. And thank you to the writing group members who introduced to Mash, encouraged me to write flash fiction and read/critiqued the rough versions of my stories. You know who you are.

A Win on Cracked Flash

For the past two months, I have made it part of my weekend routine to participate in the Cracked Flash writing competition. They post a sentence and some inspiration images allowing writers 24 hours to come up with a 300 word story. All entries are posted to the comments. The following Wednesday, a winner and two runner ups are chosen.

This Wednesday, my story, “Her First Rodeo,” won.  

This is my second time winning this competition, and I’m just as excited as I was the first time. In an world so full of rejections, it is refreshing to see somebody appreciated my writing – to see somebody gets me. Cracked flash is a unique competition that I would recommend to any writer.

One thing that sets this apart from other contests is the time limit. 24 hours is not very long. Because I have other projects I’m working on, papers to grade, and occasionally, people to see, I usually only have time for two drafts. One where I write the story and exceed the word count, then another where I cut back and improve the language. Some weeks my stories have flat characters and week plots. Some weeks, they are funny and dynamic. Twice, they have been good enough to win.

Winning does’t mean the stories perfect, and the judges know that. My favorite part of this competition is that their statements about the winners usually point out a few things they liked about the story and one or two ways it could have been better. While I can’t send my 300 word to a lot of publications because simply being on the web means it is “previously published” I could revise it and expand it until it morphs into a new story.

The short might be like a cucumber seedling. It starts out small, but turns into an enormous vine that produces dozens of delicious fruits.

My 300-word story about a sheriff and his apprentice placing a tracker on an outlaw alien might just evolve into a 3,000 word story about those same to characters tracking said alien, apprehending him, and realizing he wasn’t a villain at all but a victim who was framed.

It will take a few months for this seedling to grow into sprawling vine, so please take a few minutes to look at this little green baby and don’t forget to visit Cracked Flash on Saturday for some #writing #inspiration.

Her First Rodeo

By Sara Codair

“It’s a bad plan, but if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s making bad plans work!” said Joe.

The Cantina was dark place that reeked of stale beer. Horrid country was barely audible over the drunken shouts of ranchers–exactly the kind of place their quarry would hide.

“We’re gonna get killed,” muttered Molly. She was rookie, fresh out of the academy.

“Every man in here is carrying a gun.”

Molly wasn’t wrong about the guns, but Joe was unconcerned. They were a crucial part of his plan. He walked straight to the the counter and order a shot of whisky before shouting, “I’m looking for Greggor Tams. First one to give me intel gets fifty bucks.”

The men froze. Conversation ceased. The automated singer crooned about losing his wife, truck, and hamster while the click of safeties switching off improved the melody.

“We ain’t snitches,” said a man whose face resembled a raisen.

Joe grinned. No face matched his quarry’s, so he examined each gun and hand carefully, focusing on a gleaming silver pistol, held by a blue-tinted hand. Alien magic could create some good illusions, but the flaws always showed closest to objects from their home-worlds, especially laser-pistols.

He knew Molly had spotted it when she fainted.

“I ain’t askin nobody to snitch,” shouted Joe. “Just wanted to see how my apprentice held under pressure.”

“She didn’t hold at all,” laughed raisin face, putting his gun away.

“Next round’s on me.” Joe slipped three bills to the bartender, picked Molly up and carried her to his truck, careful to bump his quarry on the way out and plant a tracking device.

Molly sat up as the pulled onto the road. “I can’t believe that worked. The fainting act is the oldest trick in the book.”