All posts by Melanie Anastasiou

A Writer’s Life: Creating Something New

One of the great things about being a writer, and living an author’s life, is that we can be confident that we’re making a difference in the world.  Each turning point, thrill, laugh, satisfying ending we write, is an act of creation, leaving the sphere of readership a little richer.

The Big Picture

Jean Rhys wrote, “All of writing is a huge lake.  There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky. And then there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys.  All that matters if feeding the lake.  I don’t matter. The lake matters.  You must keep feeding the lake.”

Thinking of the big picture is one of the great methods for getting down to work, feeling the energy that accompanies the understanding that what we do, matters.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers, Mel


If you’re a fan of Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, you might try her pocket-sized writing guide The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume. Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

From Pulp Literature Press

 

Mary Rykov’s Poetry to be Published in 2019

Congratulations to Issue 2 and Issue 9 poet, essayist, and fiction writer, Mary H. Auerbach Rykov, poet.  Mary recently signed with Inanna Publications and Education to launch her debut poetry collection, *some conditions apply*.  A Fall 2019 release is planned for this book.  The acceptance follows hard on the heels of the publication of several of her essays, as well as exciting forays into flash fiction.

On her website Mary writes encouraging words for poets everywhere:

Just Keep Writing and Sending Them Out

When the prolific poet, David W. McFadden, won the 2014 Giller Prize for Excellence in Poetry for What’s the Score? (Mansfield, 2013), my first poetry manuscript was still seeking a literary home.

“David,” I asked, “what advice can you give me?”

“Just keep writing and sending them out.”

David was right. I kept writing and sending them out. Eventually I scored. Seven years, twelve manuscript submissions (six full manuscripts, six manuscript excepts), and three title changes later, my debut poetry collection, some conditions apply, will hatch with Inanna Publications and Education Inc. in 2019. Thank you, Luciana Ricciutelli, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief. What seems like a long two-year wait is the necessary production schedule of most small presses that work with minimal staff on shoestring budgets for the love of literature. After seven long years wafting in the ethers of Submissionland, these two years will pass quickly.

I share with you what I learned… Read more here

My First Job

Mary’s funny and beautiful essay “My First Job” appears in Numero Cinq Magazine

By the time I was seventeen, I was a singer-songwriter—a tumbleweed riding the wind, barely making ends meet. I sang a lunch set at the Penny Farthing coffee house for my lunch and dinner. And I lived in a downtown Toronto rooming house across the hall from Murray the Speed Freak who, according to the Addiction and Research Foundation, should have been dead six months ago… Read more

About the author:

Puerto Rico-born Mary Rykov is a Toronto music therapist-researcher, editor, educator, and writer.  She holds a PhD in Adult Education (OISE/UT, 2006) and an MA in Music Therapy (NYU, 1995).  Her songs, fiction, poetry, and nonfiction appear in various venues.  She freelances as a writing mentor and editor in multiple genres and serves as proofreader for Pulp Literature Press.

 

An Editor Dishes on Story Submissions

We’ll soon be reading manuscripts for acquisition again at Pulp Literature Press. What strikes me first is the talent that comes through our e-portals.  Space is an issue, and we wish we could take more stories, if only our magazine had a thousand pages.  As well, we’ll often reject a story because we’ve published our quota of, for example, zombie tales.  Or … we’re looking for more zombie tales.

Other than fit, what do I look for in stories for our quarterly, and in novels for our press?

Here are three great reasons I read on.

These may be worth identifying as a time-saving effort for any submission.

  1. The author nails time, place, tone, promise of genre, and a hint at the central conflict on page one, often paragraph one, and continues to do so with the start of each new scene.
  2. It’s clear that the writer has dug deep for ideas for turning points, that are possibly archetypical, but not clichéd, within the genre.
  3. I can tell a fellow editor what this story is about in a sentence and we’ll both still want to know what happens. It’s about a guy who’s ambushed and sent into 30 years of cryogenic sleep, and has to return to his own past to get even and create a better future, second time around. (The Door Into Summer, Robert Heinlein.)

When it comes down to it, as an acquisitions editor, I’m also an avid reader.  I hope to be a big fan of your work.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week.  Cheers, Mel


If you’re a fan of Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, you might enjoy her pocket-sized writing guide The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume. Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires you through 30 days of hints and help with narrative structure.

From Pulp Literature Press

 

The Winner, The Hummingbird Flash Fiction Prize

We are happy to announce the winner of the Hummingbird Flash Fiction Prize!

The winning story is ‘Just Down the Hall’ by Jeanette Topar.

Our final judge, Bob Thurber, enjoyed reading all of the finalists several times before deciding that ‘Just Down the Hall‘  “had qualities that glowed in the dark atmosphere and sense of dread the story presents. Nicely done.”

Congratulations to our winner!

Here’s a taste of  Jeanette Topar’s winning story.

Truth was, Mrs. Cole had become a little afraid of 902. Late in the evenings she’d hear 902’s footsteps slide across the tiled hallway, hesitating outside her door. “Is this my place?” her neighbour would ask.  Mrs. Cole would mute the volume on her TV and hold her breath as she sat quietly in her tidy living room waiting for the woman to shuffle away.  The last few times Mrs. Cole had encountered her, 902 was wearing nothing but a gray slip that blended with the color of her skin and matched her hair…

Jeanette Topar receives $300 and publication of her haunting tale in Pulp Literature Issue 17, Winter 2018.

The Editor’s Choice

For the Editor’s Choice, we had to think very hard before selecting from the titles in the Hummingbird Prize long list.  But we were united at last in selecting the moving story ‘The Bruised Peach’ by William Kaufmann.  This story will also appear in Issue 17 of Pulp Literature, Winter 2018.

Congratulations to our winners.  And a big thanks to our fine entrants.  Our deep appreciation goes to final judge Bob Thurber and his keen judgement of flash fiction. Bob Thurber is known throughout the flash fiction universe for his intense, no-holds-barred storytelling, and is the author of Nickel Fictions: 50 Exceedingly Brief Stories, Paperboy: A Dysfunctional Novel, and Nothing But Trouble.

Our next contest, The Raven Short Story Contest, opens September 1st.  Stay on top of all our contests by subscribing to our free newsletter.

Aurora Nominee Melissa Mary Duncan

Congratulations to Melissa Mary Duncan. She is nominated in the Best Artist category for the Aurora awards. This is Melissa’s second nomination.

A Pulp Literature Favourite

We are big fans of Melissa’s work. Managing Editor Jen Landels found Melissa while we were putting together Issue 1 of Pulp Literature.  The Beer Fairy became the first compelling visual for the magazine.

We always find it hard to choose among her bewitching works.   Melissa also created the covers for Issue 5, Fondly Remembered Magic, Issue 12, The Story Teller, and soon-to-be-released Allaigna’s Song: Overture, by JM Landels.

 

Melissa writes: “My inspiration comes from only one source. When I draw or paint the subject may be sparked from a Celtic legend, a tale from the Brother’s Grimm, the lyric from an ancient ballad or the melody of a carol but the finished painting and whatever the viewer finds in it comes from the heart.More here.

Melissa lives in the historic city of New Westminster, British Columbia with her husband, author dvsduncan. Having a playful inner landscape, she confesses to having a hat addiction, wearing Edwardian clothing, reading in the bath, and watching British dramas whilst drinking lemonade. A proud mother of two and grandmother of three, Melissa remains a student of Celtic, English and Northern European history and mythology.

We love  Melissa’s calendar, and her gorgeous, magical, book Faye: The Art of Melissa Mary Duncan.   Her new book, Sketches on the Road to Elfland,  will be out in time for Christmas.  Melissa also has a video coming out soon on the process of her art. Check out her trailer message here.

Amazon reviews of Melissa Mary Duncan ’s work

“LOVELY BOOK fabulous artist!!!! a must own if you love fantasy art.”

“Sometimes whimsical, sometimes haunting, always exquisitely detailed and beautiful, Melissa Mary Duncan’s artwork is full of folkloric, historic, and classical influences, as she shows us glimpses of a world which surely must be right behind the next tree. Each piece has a tale to tell, and every time I look through this book I see something new tucked in a border or hidden in the background which I hadn’t seen before.”

“The pictures are beautiful at first look and extraordinary when you look closer and see all of the nuances she builds into each piece of art. The anecdotal stories in the book are a very special insight into the artist and her daughters which adds a heart-warming personality to each piece.”

 

 

 

 

Stronger Narrative Structure, 3 Ways

art by Mel Anastasiou, narrative structureOn a panel at this year’s  Creative Ink Festival, three of us talk about planning processes for strong narrative structure.

The first describes himself as a “pantser”.  He writes what comes next, and doesn’t worry about outlines. He thinks hard about his story and its turnings; he doesn’t write it all down.

The second is a “move sections around” writer, who, like Truman Capote, believes in the scissors over the pen.  She writes great scenes, trusting her inner writer that they’ll fit into the plot and move it forward.  Her inner writer doesn’t let her down.

I’m the third writer on the panel. I’ve tried pantsing and moving scenes around. These approaches brought me no success, because I needed to strengthen my understanding of storytelling.  I read, digested, applied and analyzed everything available on narrative structure.  Now, I outline everything.  Story, scenes, character arcs for everybody.  I do this partly because I want to go to my drafting desk ready to write, partly because I love outlining like the first Greeks loved Prometheus’s gift of fire, but mostly because the criticism that I used to get from editors was, I can’t tell what this story is about.

As I gaze at the two gifted writers beside me I reflect that each of our approaches to story planning involves a confident understanding of narrative structure, and careful use of available writing and planning time.  What a pleasure to know that some aspects of writing come naturally to each of us, and that the rest may be learned.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career.

Cheers, Mel

From Pulp Literature Press:

If you’re a fan of Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, you may enjoy her pocket-sized writing guide The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume. Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

From Pulp Literature Press

 

A New Fantasy Novel from Rebecca Gomez Farrell

Congratulations Rebecca Gomez Farrell, author of ‘Thlush-a-lum’ in Pulp Literature Issue 5, on her new book out with Meerkat Press.  Her fantasy novel Wings Unseen is available for preorder.  Here’s a taste of what lies in store for her readers.

To end a civil war, Lansera’s King Turyn relinquished a quarter of his kingdom to create Medua, exiling all who would honor greed over valor to this new realm on the other side of the mountains. The Meduans and Lanserim have maintained an uneasy truce for two generations, but their ways of life are as compatible as oil and water.  … more here.

 

Rebecca Gomez Farrell writes all the speculative fiction genres she can conjure up.  An associate member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Becca’s shorter works have been published by the Future Fire, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Typehouse Literary Magazine, and Pulp Literature, among other outlets. She is thrilled to have Meerkat Press publish her debut fantasy novel, Wings Unseen, in August 2017.

Thlush-a-Lum

excerpted from Pulp Literature Issue 5, Winter 2015

Markella’s earliest memories are of the sounds outside her window.  At hours when no men moved, rustling branches and shuffling grass woke her.  A beating pulse like slower, fleshier helicopter blades banished sleep:  thlush-a-lum thlush-a-lum.  In summers, the heat in her attic bedroom hot enough to incubate, Markella pushed the window open and dozed to the endless static drone of cicadas.  In winters, choking radiator warmth wrapped tight around her, she cracked the window and the low, deep hoots of an owl drifted in with the freezing breeze.    … read more in Issue 5.

 

Creating and Sustaining Suspense and Tension, Part 2

If we create suspense and sustain tension during the plotting and drafting stages, then we save truckloads of time on revisions.

Try one or more of these to sustain tensionWriting tips from Pulp Literature
  • Keep the story goal and central conflict front and centre, with a hint at the start of each scene, so readers remember what matters most deeply to our point of view character.
  • Within the parameters of genre, establish that anything can happen.  If the author has something unthinkable happen at the start, within the genre’s context, that raises the tension.  Readers never feel a hopeful young squire is safe just because he’s young and hopeful.  See the first scene of George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones.
  • Remove tension killers.  Capote said, “I believe more in the scissors than in the pen.” Check ends of scenes and chapters, make sure there’s no sentence that seems to finish things off.

More on tension and suspense next post.  In the meantime, I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers, Mel.
The Writer's Boon Companion, Thirty Days Towards and Extraordinary Volume

If you enjoy Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, you might try her pocket-sized writing guide The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume. Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

From Pulp Literature Press

Congratulating Andrea Lewis, Issue 10 Author

What My Last Man DidAndrea Lewis, the Issue 10 author of Vellum, has a new book out with Indiana University Press. It is a collection of linked stories, called What My Last Man Did.

“Following generations of one family across nearly a century, each of Andrea Lewis’s intertwined, engaging short stories evokes an intense sense of place and time, from New Orleans in 1895 to Grand Isle, Louisiana, during the hurricane of 1901 and on to London during the Olympic Games of 1948. The people in these ten vivid tales face tragedy and real-world catastrophic events—war, hurricanes, the Great Depression, racial tension—in their pursuit of love, family, and belonging.” –Indiana University Press.

 One reviewer wrote “Andrea Lewis’s linked stories about Hannah Delgado and her family’s “frayed skein of love” may make you fall in love with both a new writer and the fictional family she’s created.”

Andrea Lewis’s stories, essays and prose poems have appeared in Prairie SchoonerCatamaran Literary ReaderCutthroat, and many other literary journals. She lives with her husband, Wendell Tangborn, on Vashon Island, Washington. She is a founding member of Richard Hugo House, a place for writers in Seattle.

Congratulations, Andrea!

Get “What My Last Man Did” here.

Pulp Literature Issue 10, Spring 2017

If you’re still hungry for more of Andrea’s wonderful prose you can read her short story ‘Vellum’ in Pulp Literature Issue 10, Spring 2016.

Creating Suspense and Sustaining Tension, Part 1

At the wonderful Creative Ink writing festival I sat on panels on creating tension and suspense.  I have been thinking ever since about ways to accomplish these.  And, from the point of view of time management for writers, if we can create suspense and sustain tension as we plot and draft, then we save a crazy amount of hours on revisions.

First, it’s worth taking the time to develop a protagonist the reader will care deeply about. We’ve heard of the Monkeysphere — the theory that humans can only keep a certain number of people close to their hearts.  Along with family members and friends, we appear to have  room for fictional characters as well. Right, Netflix?

To develop engaging characters, it’s worth taking the time to list flaws and balancing strengths.  I see so many flawed protagonists in our subs box, but few of them achieve the balance that helps the reader take them to their hearts. Balance involves developing

  • inner and outer longings.
  • kindnesses and sacrifices.
  • falls and redemptions.

Look at the extraordinarily flawed and engaging Lisbeth Salander, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  She’s not all flaws; in fact, her ferocious loyalty, physical strength, and world-beating intellect balance all the imperfections that make us love her.  Looking at my submissions inbox, it seems that there’s a lot of great work on developing flaws in characters, but not much attention to the strengths, as if somehow strengths were old-fashioned.

Once we create that engaging character, half our work in sustaining tension is done for us as the readers bring their own anxiety for the protagonist to the page.  The stakes, depending on our genre, may be survival, love and belonging, power, or freedom. These same stakes resonate with us all, through a character readers can believe in and take for our own.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week.  Cheers, Mel.

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