The Raven Short Story Contest always rounds out our year nicely, and Autumn 2019 produced a wonderful crop of tales sure to sustain us well into the new year. JJ Lee joins us fresh from Issue 24 as our featured author, now acting as ultimate decider for this season’s winner. From his deliberations, a clever raven emerges victorious:
Mike Donoghue for ‘Life4Sale’
‘Life4Sale’ showed in its epistolary structure a great command of character voice. The world building and the weird factor are efficiently established without ever forgetting that character motive and conflict are what make a short story tick. It never bogs down in the spec fic mechanics. I appreciated how it is the kind of story you may find on Black Mirror or, if you’re old enough, classic Twilight Zone.
The runners up garnered additional praise
MFC Feeley for ‘Dannemora Sewing Class’
‘Dannemora Sewing Class’, a very short short story, daringly makes a section and POV break in the middle and it works. The focus is on a single interaction and we discover through the POV switch that it has ramifications. The story demonstrates the writer’s skill and his or her ability to inhabit characters with a realistic diction.
Rob McInroy for ‘Zoroman’s Cave’
‘Zoroman’s Cave’ is a throwback with the hyper intelligent yet sinister narrator reminiscent of Lovecraft’s high-pulp style narrators. The volume of verbiage and contortion of the narrator’s thoughts can come across as quite dense, high falutin’ even, yet it flowed. It made for a smooth read. For that I thought it should be recognized as a standout and a great nod to the classic weird story genre.
Congratulations to these authors! Thank you to JJ Lee for his perspicacious eye, and thank you to all submitting authors for bringing us your best and supporting Pulp Literature Press.
Remembrance Day makes us think, among others, of soldiers who were also writers, filmmakers, and readers. We’ve heard about days of long boredom and tension between battles, when men and women waited, or worked to recover their health. We imagine them taking time for their passion for story in those calm moments.
They wrote poetry, essays, stories, and letters home. Scrounged film and took movies. And even though work was sometimes lost, or forgotten afterwards in attic boxes, much survives. We think of Tolkien’s son Christopher reading tales of Frodo and the Ring his father sent to him at war, and Gertrude Stein driving ambulance in Paris, and then hosting fellow writers after hours. Did Wilfred Owen read his work aloud to other soldiers?
For those at war who made it home, we imagine their pleasure in returning to firesides, armchairs, and desks to read and write again.
To do what you love can sometimes be stressful. -Toni Braxton.
Books are big work
What’s more, we have to think up every bit of them, and choose the right set-ups and surprises for our readers. Making these judgements can take a lot out of writers.
Choices take Energy
I’m not saying we’re unique in having to make hundreds or thousands of great and small decisions in a working day. All professions demand the study and dedication in their areas of expertise. But many also have built-in moments of reflection and revitalization, with retreats, study groups, and vacations.
Appreciate Your Advancement
The beauty of these pauses is that we can take whatever time we like to look back and see how far we’ve come. Then we can adjust our braces and tighten our bootlaces for the road ahead. What’s more, we can thank our lucky writing stars that we’ve chosen work that goes a long way towards satisfying our need for challenges, over which we have a lot of control. Work we dreamed of doing when we were little, perhaps, and which we’re still fortunate to enjoy.
I hope you’ll have another great week in your writing career. Cheers, Mel.
What’s unkind about the Raven Short Story Contest? Why, making us choose, of course! It’s never easy deciding which stories will make the cut. Sometimes it’s like choosing between apples and automobiles: both are useful, and many are beautiful, but I wouldn’t want to ride in one or eat the other.
But choose we must. And so here are the authors on the longlist, alphabetically by first name:
Hannah Van Didden
Jonathan Sean Lyster
Thank you, writers, for being so unkind to us, and congratulations on winning us over this far with your words. The shortlist will be published soon!
This month will see the highly anticipated debut of Matthew Hughes’ novel, What the Wind Brings. With a slip stream narrative, and elements of magical realism, readers might be tempted to believe this novel is a work of fiction — which it is — but it is also based very firmly on real people, real ideologies, and real history. Here is the inspiration for his novel, some 50 years in the making:
In 1971, Matthew Hughes came across an intriguing footnote in a university textbook on cross-cultural conflicts and assimilations. In fewer than two dozen words, the footnote said that a group of shipwrecked slaves had been castaways on the coast of 16 th century Ecuador and had managed to build a new society in conjunction with the indigenous people.
Hughes thought, “That would make a great historical novel.”
But researching the events proved difficult. There was very little English-language scholarship about the Zambo state; most of what was available was in Spanish-language journals in Spain and South America. But as the years went by, Hughes kept a watching brief on the subject, gathering what information was to be found in academic papers.
By the second decade of this century, the Zambo state had caught the attention of several North American scholars. Papers and books began to appear, and the true shape of what had happened in Esmeraldas began to emerge. In 2014, The Canada Council for the Arts awarded Hughes a major grant and he began the process of putting the story together.
In 2018, he found a publisher in Pulp Literature Press.
The Zambo state remains a distinct ethnic identity in parts of Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. Their history was largely ignored, thanks in large part to historical whitewashing that has only recently been re-examined. We believe What the Wind Brings is a credit to that new research, as well as a credit to well-researched and masterfully written historical fiction.
What moves us to take on a writing career? First, the spark. Then, a sense of determination. And a love of hard work. But at some point, as for our stories’ protagonists, we run into problems that present difficult choices. Here are two of the most common obstacles we face.
The Inner Obstacle
The inner obstacle tends to be either a lack, or a surfeit, of confidence; the former can freeze us into inactivity and sorrow, and the latter creates writers who are unwilling to learn.
For both these conditions, the determination to make learning about writing a lifelong goal, is a sovereign cure.
The Outer Obstacle in a Writing Career
The outer problem is often lack of hours in our day. Because we can’t expand the earth’s orbit around the sun, we must make tough choices.
As it happens, most of these involve breaking the addictions that are peculiar to our millennium. Less time on whatever these may be for each of us — bingewatching shows, or perhaps playing with our phones — gives more time in the day to draft, outline, revise, and market, without impoverishing our relationships and health.
I wish you another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel.
It’s not every year you get to celebrate publishing 20 issues of genre-busting literature. We want our readers to reap the rewards, and our contributors to shine in the spotlight, so every week we have been offering up a selection of deeply discounted past issues, based on one of the authors, poets, or artists whose work fills the magazine’s pages. Perhaps we’ve saved the best for last, but that’ll be up for you to decide. Please raise your glasses to week 36, the final week of Pulp Literature’s Year of Authors!
Valentina Cano is a student of classical singing who spends whatever free time she has either reading or writing. She also watches over a veritable army of pets. Her work has appeared in numerous publications and her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best Of the Web.
Wally Swist has produced over three dozen books and chapbooks of poetry and prose. His poems have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies, such as Alaska Quarterly Review and Spiritus, the latter issued by Johns Hopkins University Press, as well as popular magazines such as Rolling Stone and Yankee. Readings of his work are online at National Public Radio and Sahara: A Journal of New England Poetry published a special issue devoted to his work in the winter of 2003. His recent books include The Bees of the Invisible (Shanti Arts) and A Bird Who Seems to Know Me: Poems Regarding Birds & Nature(Ex Ophidia Press).
William Kaufmann’s passion for writing is matched only by his passion for clay. He is an award-winning potter working in Western Wisconsin. His recently completed first novel, The Change, won the 2017 SDSU Conference Choice Award and is being shopped by Trident Media for publication.
Zoran Pekovic is illustrator, animator, ux and graphic designer kindly nested in Montreal, Canada. His portfolio is called Pekta and his latest projects are “Relationship,” “Running,” and “Psychology.”
It’s not every year you get to celebrate publishing 20 issues of genre-busting literature. We want our readers to reap the rewards, and our contributors to shine in the spotlight, so every week we are offering up a selection of deeply discounted past issues, based on one of the authors, poets, or artists whose work fills the magazine’s pages. Welcome to week 35 of Pulp Literature’s Year of Authors!
Tais Teng works as a writer, cover artist, illustrator and sculptor. He also paints murals and decors for theater. When he was a bit younger he wanted to become a starship pilot, but writing and drawing those places isn’t too bad. He’s been the cover artist for four issues of Pulp Literature and his story ‘Growing up with Your Dead Sister’ appeared in Issue 8.
Theric Jepson is author of the novel Byuck and the novella Perky Erect Nipples, neither of which feature as many naked women as you might expect. You can find him online by visiting thmazing.com, or by just googling “thmazing” and clicking at random. He lives in El Cerrito, California, with his wife, three sons, and an unholy convergence of snails.
Tobi Alfier (formerly Cogswell) is a multiple Pushcart nominee and a Best of the Net nominee. Credits include various journals in the US, UK, Sweden and Australia. In 2012 and 2013 she was short-listed for the Fermoy International Poetry Festival. In 2013 she received Honorable Mention for the Rachel Sherwood Poetry Prize. “Lapses & Absences” (Blue Horse Press), is her sixth and latest chapbook. She is the co-editor of San Pedro River Review.
Trevor Shikaze from Edmonton, Alberta, enjoys long walks on the beach, fine wines, cheap whisky, watery beer, free champagne, and hangovers. His turn-offs include cat people, dog people, and mole people.
Tyner Gillies, author of the novel The Watch, lives in the Fraser Valley of BC with a girl who is far too good for him and two moderately chubby cats. He’s a full time lawman, a novice scotch drinker, and a bit of a meat head. Tyner won the 2013 Surrey International Writer’s Conference non-fiction writing contest with the gut-twisting, beautifully written ‘Blood in Her Hair.’ His humorous fantasy ‘Of Siege and Sword’ in our inaugural issue was of an entirely different tone, and we’re delighted to be publishing another light-hearted dark story ‘The Lord of Lawn Ornaments’ in Issue 24, coming out this fall.
Better still, imagine several great spots, because a writing career shouldn’t depend upon a particular spot, or even a particular time of day. Imagine yourself happy at work, dealing cheerfully with interruptions, (or devising a way to avoid them), and returning to work.
Second, you might decide your next step.
Just one next step, because writing is complicated enough without multi-tasking. What is that next step?
If it’s too big for the time you have, you might chunk it down and identify the first bit of work. Imagine what it feels like to finish today’s writing work. What would it look like if the writing went smoothly?
Third, consider the drafting math.
The math is encouraging. If a writer has a cogent outline to write from – you might carry an outline notebook or blank outline graphic organizers through the week, for 5 to 10 minute free preparation time now and then – then 3,000 words drafted a week equals 2 short novels, about 70,000 words, or one longer novel, a year.
Have a great writing day. And I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career.
Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and the Monument Studios Mysteries starring Frankie Ray asThe Extra. Mel is Senior Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.