Showing posts with label positive proof. Show all posts
Showing posts with label positive proof. Show all posts

12 May 2014

A Visit with Darlene Poier and Laura Crowe

by Fran Rizer

Alberta, Canada’s Darlene Poier is no stranger to SleuthSayer readers and writers.  Both Leigh Lundin and I wrote about her several years ago when John Floyd, Leigh, and I had stories published in the same issue of her magazine Pages of Stories.  Recently I interviewed Darlene about her new magazine, Ficta Fabula, which includes include my story "Positive Proof" in this issue.

     What is your mission statement for Ficta Fabula?
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Darlene Poier, Publisher of Ficta Fabula
What a great question. It’s good to know what a business stands for. Our mission statement at Pages Of Stories, Inc. is “To inspire creativity and imagination by providing high quality reading entertainment for people all over the world.” I truly believe that too many people just concentrate on making it through the day unscathed. We don’t seem to get very many opportunities to use our imaginations and be creative and ultimately have fun. Short stories provide a great 10 – 15 minute break where the reader has no responsibilities and can just sit back, relax and let the words on the page create pictures in their minds.
    Do you publish stories in all genres?  If so, what is the most common in the magazine?  If not, what genres are not acceptable?
We accept all genres of fiction and it seems that crime and mystery lend themselves to making excellent short stories. Romance and dramas are also right up there with good tales.

     What is the most frequent weakness that prevents acceptance of a story?

Ah, that’s the million dollar question. Each magazine has its own set of standards and requirements. I’d like to emphasize that when we turn down a story, it’s not really a rejection but more of a statement that it’s not the right story for the magazine at that time. I strongly encourage each author to keep shopping their story around. If it’s a well constructed and compelling story a magazine will pick it up.
As for Ficta Fabula and its predecessor Pages Of Stories, well, it’s tricky. We want stories that appeal to the mainstream public and as a result I’m very fortunate to have the assistance of a story selection committee. There is no one thing that I could pinpoint. Sometimes it’s the plot that doesn’t work for this market, sometimes it’s incomplete character development, and sometimes it’s too many loose ends in the story.
Editor Laura: Final acceptance decisions are made by Darlene but from my point of view, weaknesses that cause a story to be rejected—and involve too much editing time—include proofreading and typographical errors, disappointing or unfinished endings, or weak storytelling skills. Stories that work unfold on the page and draw readers in, and connect with them on an emotional level; too many authors rush through the vital elements of setting and character development and the story suffers for it.

     What are the word requirements for Ficta Fabula stories, both minimum and maximum? Can you tell us how, or perhaps why, you determined the limits?

The minimum word limit is 1,000 words. I like to give our readers stories that have more detail in them so that when they are enjoying this escape in their day, they can really dig into it.

     Ficta Fabula has a new editor, Laura Crowe.  Please tell us about her.

Laura and I first met when she submitted a story to Ficta Fabula’s predecessor, Pages Of Stories. She is a talented author in her own right and has done an awesome job editing FF. I’ll let her tell you the rest..
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Laura Crowe, Editor of Ficta Fabula
Laura: I am a writer, editor, teacher, and owner of Imagine It In Writing. My short stories and articles have appeared in numerous Canadian magazines including Pages Of Stories, The Prairie Journal, Every Day Fiction, and Horizons. My first book, Take Flight: True Stories of How Dreams Shape Our Lives, is a unique collection of true short stories contributed by thirteen authors that I edited and compiled.
Besides writing, I love working with authors one-on-one as an editor, specializing in fiction and memoir. I also offer mentoring programs, and am available for speaking about the writing and editing process, doing readings of my work, and teaching writing classes. 
When not writing, I'm usually in my piano studio, or outside on my deck with a cup of coffee and a great book. I live in Alberta with my  husband, two daughters, and two quarter-Siamese cats.
I can be contacted at 403-518-5858.  Or find me on the web at

     Back to Darlene:  When will the next issue of Ficta Fabula be available and how can readers obtain it both electronically and in print.

Alas, FF is no longer available electronically but I’m working hard to bring it back. The next printed issue is available this month.  If anyone would like to order this awesome magazine (said completely objectively!) containing the work of the most talented authors surrounding the globe, then just send me an email at

      Please tell us a little about you personally such as who's in your immediate family, where you live, and what do you enjoy in addition to publishing? 

Ok, a little about me. I’ve been married to Gary for nearly 20 years and we have no children but two gorgeous critters. Kayla is an awesome 14 year old canine companion. She’s our little girl with a fantastic and funny personality. Persephone is a wonderfully cuddly feline friend. (I’m a fan of alliteration). She’s a 3 ½ year old long haired beauty. She’s a bit of a stinker in the middle of the night but in all the time we’ve had her, we’ve never heard her hiss at anyone or anything.
We live in a little town just north of Calgary, Alberta where we are blessed with mountain views and prairie sky.
In addition to publishing? What else is there?  Gary and I are big fans of warm tropical locations and go down to the Caribbean just about every spring. Gary is a huge football fan and I love old movies and when the weather permits I like to spend time in my garden. We love to travel and this year we’re determined to see more of the natural beauty that is all around us. I also enjoy giving back. Both Kayla and Persephone were adopted from animal shelters so we work to give to them. As well, the YWCA women’s shelter program is dear to my heart and I participate in a fundraiser every year (if interested the link to my fundraising page, it is: Beyond these activities and working at a day job outside of publishing – that makes for a pretty busy time.

How did you select the name Ficta Fabula for this magazine and what are your plans (or dreams) for your publishing company, Pages of Stories, Inc.?
Well, the name came with the help of Google Translate and roughly translated from Latin it means fiction story. I’d been playing around with different titles in different languages and when ficta fabula showed up in the window I knew it was a winner.
I’m planning on Pages Of Stories, Publishing being the provider of the best fiction to our readers out there. Our special ABBA issue is the start of what I hope will be an annual magazine of special issues. I’d like to start publishing novels and novellas in 2015 and we’ve just launched Fabulous Fiction Fridays where everyone who registers can enjoy a short story direct to their inbox every Friday. I also want Pages Of Stories Publishing to be the publisher of choice for many authors. I sense much of the frustration with other publishing companies and I’m determined that we’ll operate differently. It’s no easy thing for an author to submit their work to a complete stranger for evaluation and I want people to know that we respect and appreciate that effort. Laura and I are collaborating on a book for authors with tips and suggestions about preparing novels and other stories before submitting to a publisher and how to best go about submitting it for the best results. Down the road we’d also like to offer workshops and retreats. We also want to offer more value to the discerning reader. Soon we’ll be announcing something special for them off the Pages Of Stories website. I believe that collecting good fiction and sending it out into the world will bring a smile to someone’s face at some point in the day. If we’ve made someone’s day better, then we’ve achieved something special.
Is there anything else you'd like to say?
Darlene:  Happy reading.
Fran:  Ditto

28 April 2014

The Story of a Story

by Fran Rizer


Once upon a time, a writer of magazine articles and promotional materials for entertainers read about a seminar being held at the local university.  Several big name fiction authors including James Dickey were featured speakers and would serve on panels to consult with attendees about their work.  A short piece of fiction or the opening fifteen pages of a novel could be submitted for a contest.  The writer sat down, wrote her first short story on a portable Underwood, and sent in "Positive Proof" with her registration.

Did she win the contest?  No, but an interesting thing happened. 
On the last night of the conference, one of the "big" names sought her out.  

"I was one of the short story judges," he began.

Being more in awe of successful authors back then than she is now, she replied quietly, "Yes, I know."

"I wanted to tell you that I fought for your story.  I thought it should have won first place, but I was outvoted."  He smiled.
"For some reason, they went with that usual southern memoir kind of story."
Fran Rizer in the Eighties

"Thank you," she replied and thought no more about it.  Her first fiction was no more 'southern memoir' than what she writes now. It was about the Kennedy assassination.

The writer continued selling pieces to magazines and really had no desire to delve into fiction again.  "Positive Proof" lay dormant for several years.  I am that writer, and the story of "Positive Proof" is my story.


After my divorce, I joined a writers' group at the local B&N.
Every time I took in nonfiction or even magazines with my articles printed in them, I heard, "Oh, that's fine, but fiction is a different ballgame.  It's a hard nut to crack."

One night the man I thought of as "the guru" (I had private nicknames for each member of the group), passed out brochures about the Porter Fleming Fiction Competition, sponsored at that time by the Augusta, GA, Arts Council.  (The contest is now in its twenty-first year and sponsored by Morris College.)  

That's the first and last time I ever paid anyone to read something I've written, but I dusted off "Positive Proof," wrote a check for ten dollars, and entered the contest.
The nineties

No, I didn't win first. That went to George Singleton, an already successful short story writer from the Greenville, SC, area whose fiction had been published in Playboy. 
George won $1000. With my prize came $500 and an invitation to read the story at the Arts Festival. I accepted both.

The reception and readings were a wonderful experience. To make it even better, George came up to me at the end and told me he liked my story and was positive I could sell it.

I sent the manuscript to only one mag, which was a big mistake because it was a mystery magazine, and that story isn't a mystery. Devastated when I received a personally written rejection letter stating that the story wasn't suitable for them, I put "Positive Proof" back in a bottom drawer. My magazine features always sold first time out. Why should I inflict this self-induced agony of rejection on myself? 

IN THE 2000s

A few years after my retirement on disability in 2001, I ventured into fiction again.  In 2006, I contracted with Berkley Prime Crime for the first three Callies.

Early 2000s

In 2012, I realized that much would be made in 2013 of the fiftieth anniversary of JFK's assassination, so I pulled out "Positive Proof," updated it a bit, and sent it off to Strand in plenty of time to be considered for publication in 2013.
I still haven't heard from them, so I assume they didn't want it.
The Fran Rizer who sold
"Positive Proof"

On a whim, I sent that story somewhere else a few months ago.  I am pleased to announce that "Positive Proof" has found a home and will be published next month.  Check back in two weeks to see who is publishing it and where you can read it.

Until we meet again....take care of you.

03 July 2012

Brief Versus Short

 by Dale C. Andrews

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
    Last week I received an eagerly awaited piece of mail – a check.  The amount of the check, paid in compensation for a 26 page document I wrote this year, may not have been huge, but neither was it all that modest.  It was, for comparisons sake, more than  my annual salary  back in 1972 when I was still programming computers.  It was also about 8 times more than I have received in total for the short stories I have sold over the past few years.  Unlike those stories, this novella length document wasn’t fiction at all.  The check was payment for a legal brief that I agreed to write in a case involving a challenge to new consumer regulations published by the United States Department of Transportation. 

    I know, I know.  I make a point here and elsewhere of being a “recovering” attorney.  But this case tempted me back into the legal arena since I was asked to defend regulations that are pro-consumer, and with which I personally agree.  Also the payment would be, well, generous. 

    The last 20 years that I practiced law I was the Deputy Assistant General Counsel in the Department of Transportation’s litigation office.  For a host of reasons I enjoyed that position much more than I had my previous 15 years of practice in the private sector.  At DOT almost everything that I did revolved around the written word.  I specialized in appellate and Supreme Court litigation, so there was no interviewing of witnesses or trial work for me.  Rather, I spent my years writing and editing the writing of others.  When I was in private practice it bugged me no end to think that every hour I spent on a project needed to be billed to someone.  Time and money were stapled together at the ankles.  Separating hours worked from compensation received is one of the greatest joys in working for the government.   While work still stacks up, there is nevertheless the opportunity to give each task the amount of time it requires rather than the amount of time that can justifiably be multiplied by an applicable hourly rate.  Nonetheless, I am human, and I like money as well as the next guy.  So I admit that it was the prospect of those billable hours that enticed me to write that brief this year.

    By contrast, each of us here at SleuthSayers, I will bet, is marching to a different drummer.  You basically can’t make anything close to a living writing short stories.  The last mystery writer who may have been able to eke out that sort of living was Ed Hoch, and I would be very surprised if there are any more of his ilk out on the horizon. 

    This was not always the case.  O. Henry wrote virtually only short stories, and apparently lived well.  Shirley Jackson left a handful of novels, but was principally known for her incredible short stories.  Faulkner, Hemmingway and Steinbeck each cut their teeth on short stories, as did Stephen King. 

    It is interesting to speculate as to what has changed since the heyday of magazine fiction.  John Floyd, in a column last week, set forth a list of outlets that currently pay for new short stories.  That list is paltry compared to the publications that were readily available at neighborhood news counters in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.  And why is this the case?  Economics teaches us that the magazines that are no more ceased to exist only because readers stopped purchasing them.  It’s pretty simple – when readers go away the market contracts.  Since the demise of many of those short story outlets coincided with the rise of television it is tempting to link the two.  Did readers leave because of the advent of television?  If so, why was that the case?  Mystery stories were a hallmark of radio programming before televisions entered our living rooms and yet the market for printed short stories thrived alongside radio dramas. 

  Thinking about this I was reminded of an episode on the Twilight Zone – actually, the 1985 re-boot of the show on CBS.  The episode, part of the 1985 Christmas show, was titled “But Can She Type?” and centered on a much-abused secretary who was transported into a parallel universe where secretarial skills were revered.  The scenario of that episode is not unlike the situation that short story authors find themselves in – we seem to be stuck in a universe that no longer fully appreciates our contributions.

    It is possible, with the advent of epublications and stories and books that are obtainable over the internet without ever being published in hardcover, that the pendulum may now be swinging back to a more amenable position.  But I still am a bit of a skeptic.  After all, the demise of all of those mystery magazines that we bought as kids was not a fluke – they left the shelves because the public stopped buying them.  Does the ability to download a book or a story heighten the public’s interest in acquiring the story?  Of course from an economics standpoint it could be that the readership market, while still narrow, is also deep, and that on-line availability of mystery fiction will appeal to those still interested in the genre who, for whatever reason, are not frequent purchasers of hardcopy books and magazines. 

    Regardless of whether these new outlets are harbingers of better things to come, at least, as John pointed out last week, there are markets that are out there right now.  But there are also strange disparities.  I spend roughly the same amount of time on a short story that I spent on that brief to the D.C. Court of Appeals.  My writing style changes somewhat when I shift from fiction to persuasive rhetoric, but it doesn’t really change all that much.  I still end up using the same words, the same organizational approach, and pretty much the same cadence.  But one of those efforts, if successful, brings monetary rewards that are probably at best only about five percent of the potential of the other. 

    In any event, no matter how the economics sort out, those of us committed to spinning yarns are in this for non-monetary gratification.  We are also in it for the long run!