Interview Transcripts

Michael Arnzen: Poet and Horror Writer -- Flash Fiction 10/14/04

Mary Rosenblum

This is our Professional Connection live interview with Michael Arnzen, poet and horror writer.

 

Michael Arnzen's latest books include 100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories www.rawdogscreaming.com  and Gorelets: Unpleasant Poems www.fairwoodpress.com

 

A tenth anniversary edition of his Stoker Award-winning novel, Grave Markings www.deliriumbooks.com/essentials.htm   was recently published in hardcover by Delirium Books . He teaches in the Master's degree program in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University, just outside of Pittsburgh, PA. If you'd like a taste of his work, visit his website,

 

His online newsletter, The Goreletter, won this year's Bram Stoker Award for Best Alternative Form. You can also take a look at the newsletter at: http://gorelets.com/cgi-bin/mojo/mojo.cgi?f=list&l=goreletter

 

Last time Michael visited us, we talked about poetry and horror and how they related to each other

 

but tonight's chat fits in nicely with what we have been doing on the website this week, in the Forum.

 

We're going to talk about Fast Fiction.

 

Michael, welcome! Great to have you back!

Michael Arnzen

Greetings everyone. Happy to be here again!

Mary Rosenblum

Do you want to start out by sort of defining 'Fast Fiction' for us? Do you mean short

 

or written fast, or both?

Michael Arnzen

Heh. I guess it often IS both, but I usually just mean "short" when

 

I think of "flash" fiction (or fast fic, quick-fic, sudden fiction, etc.)

 

And there are degrees of "short," too.

Mary Rosenblum

What are the subgenres...so to speak...of short?

Michael Arnzen

Well, everyone (including editors) thinks of it differently, so it's a bit moot

 

but I think of stories under 1500 words as "flash fiction" and

 

stories under 250 words as "microfiction"

 

but no matter which form we're talking about, it still has to be fiction:

 

that is, be narrative -- a story -- with a beginning, middle, and end.

Mary Rosenblum

This is a very applicable topic for students at Long Ridge, since the early assignments have 1000 word limits...and a lot of students

 

complain that they can't DO a beginning, middle, and end in 1000 words. What do you see

 

as the real key to a short short story?

Michael Arnzen

Change. I think something significant has to change -- usually in the character -- from beginning to end.

 

Often that "beginning" (or origin of the conflict) can be unspoken,

 

and often the ending (the resolution of the conflict/problem), too, can be implied (off screen)

 

but so long as either the character or the reader's assumptions have changed during the course of the story

 

then you've got a story!

Mary Rosenblum

Aha...so it's a matter of focusing on the change, and implying as much back story...or future story... as possible?

Michael Arnzen

I think so, Mary. What is implied is usually what the reader is asked to search for when they RE-read the piece.

 

But the first time through, they want to experience a moment pregnant with meaning,

 

whether an intense conflict or a turning point in the character's life

 

but sometimes flash fiction can be something like a "joke" where the tale is bare-boned, too.

Mary Rosenblum

So one method, in other words, is to have layers? A surface layer of action or drama, say, and then

Mary

a deeper layer that offers clues to the larger story?

Michael Arnzen

I really like how you put that: "layers." Often readers are looking for character motive, and there isn't time for it in the usual sense, so

 

it must be implied. Flash fiction demands readers to read between the lines, like poetry.

Mary Rosenblum

Hmmm... this fits rather neatly into my own feeling that fiction is a spectrum

 

that runs from novel on the long end to poetry on the 'short' end. :-)

 

Although some short shorts ARE shorter than many poems!

Michael Arnzen

Nice! Yes. The boundaries between forms get blurry the more the reader is asked to concentrate on language rather than story.

 

But I truly think character and conflict make the difference between poetry and fiction.

Mary Rosenblum

I think that's the best distinction I've heard, actually. I like that.

smeagol

Hi. I am glad you came back to chat with us. I only caught the last 30 minutes last time. Can you say more about having the resolution or ending "off screen?"

Michael Arnzen

Hi Smeagol!

 

I suppose an apt metaphor is taking the reader to the edge of a cliff, but stopping just at the edge

 

and letting them leap off themselves, rather than taking them down with you.

 

shakes his head

 

Or maybe that isn't it at all.

 

But I think good flash fiction resonates at the end. It leaves you thinking about outcomes and possibly sends you back to the start of the story again.

 

Like, you don't always have to say "and then she killed him" at the end.

 

Your reader should feel that a particular ending is inevitable (or probable). And then draw the conclusion themselves. This isn't ALWAYS true, but often.

pook

Some of the short fiction in so implied I'm not sure what is meant by the story. I always reread them.

Michael Arnzen

Yes, sometimes writers are too ambiguous.

 

But I admire writers who can get me interacting in the story in a way where my anticipation is picqued.

Mary Rosenblum

Do you find that it annoys you if you can imagine more than one ending?

Michael Arnzen

Not necessarily. Maybe it's because I'm a creative writer, so everytime I'm reading, I'm sort of writing.

 

But I think writers are smart to construct a tale so that there's at least one obvious "likely" outcome

 

but also at the same time "layer in" another possibility, as we suggested before.

 

Like all writing, the storyteller has to communicate clearly, I think, to at least meet the needs of an average reader. ...

 

But also layer meanings into the story where it invites rereading and rediscovery of other meanings.

 

In other words, "subtext," I suppose.

Mary Rosenblum

That's where I find myself admiring talent...when I read a story that will work for a casual and average reader and yet challenge a more skilled reader.

Michael Arnzen

Yes, and as writers we are always training readers on one level to become more skilled.

smeagol

The ending should definitely tie things up, no? I mean it shouldn't leave the reader trying to figure out what the story means, should it? My writer's group is analyzing a short short right now and we are shaking our heads asking ourselves "now what the heck was that?!?"

Michael Arnzen

That's true. A conflict should be resolved. But again, the "final outcome" might be more complex than the simple resolution or tied ending.

 

Good fiction can satisfy the need for that conflict to be resolved, while maybe also opening up new ones.

 

Flash fiction seems to invite more interpretation than longer pieces. But you're right, Smeagol, that a story that's too

 

ambiguous about things doesn't get the job done. Again: every story needs a beginning, middle, and end.

pook

You can use dialogue in fast fiction to show character and plot, right?

Michael Arnzen

Definitely, pook! In fact, the skill in flash fiction becomes packing meaning into the various elements of fiction

 

so that, say, dialogue is telling us something about character, or setting is telling us something about the conflict.

 

Everything in a short-short should be doing double-duty, if the tale is to be succinct.

Mary Rosenblum

I think that's what I like about it --

 

the challenge to make every word, in effect, do two or three or more things. It's a lot of fun.

Michael Arnzen

Right on, Mary. I like that it's so tight, brief, succinct, to the point. Writing flash fiction has really helped me master "pace" in my longer work, too because of that.

Mary Rosenblum

It would...much as writing short fiction really gave me good pacing in my novels.

craig

Would the Writer's Digests Magazine short story contest be considered as flash fiction because they require the word limit to be no more than 1500 words?

Michael Arnzen

Definitely, Craig. That looks like a good contest to try!

 

Do they have a specific theme this year? I don't recall.

Mary Rosenblum

There really is no absolute definition of 'fast' or 'flash' or short short is there? But usually it's less than 1500 words?

Michael Arnzen

I think WD offers a good prize. It's hard to find markets for flash fiction that pay enough.

 

Agreed, Mary. There is no absolute definition... The editorial guidelines really say it all.

chatty lady

Where do you look for the markets specializing or at least publishing these short shorts?

Michael Arnzen

Good question, Chatty Lady! There are a number of places that I recommend.

 

But first let me say that publishing ONLINE seems to be the largest market for flash fic,

 

because people who read online don't want to scroll a lot. So less is definitely more.

 

I find that many sites listed at ralan.com are looking for short-shorts.

 

Another GREAT place to learn about paying markets is (hold on while I look up the URL)

 

FlashFictionFlash yahoo group : http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FlashFictionFlash

 

It's a newsletter more than anything, run by Pam Casto, who has written for WD on the subject.

 

They list paying markets, subscriber sales (which are clues on places that are receptive to flash), instructional bits, contests and more!

 

Of course, you could always query an editor or try a short-short on them cold. Never know!

Mary Rosenblum

Storyhouse.com is a print short short market. They print the stories on ...coffee labels! But they pay 15 cents per word so they're better than many.

 

BUT they are very slow to respond.

Michael Arnzen

I love the novelty of that market. Haven't submitted to them, but I love the idea of reading a story while I make my morning coffee. Good inspiration!

pook

Are you familiar with the website poewar.com? They have a fast fiction contest weekly where people submit 300-600 word stories with a constraint.

 

This week it's the story has to start with a smell. It might have to have each sentence longer than the next, next week.

Michael Arnzen

I'm tempted to say "a lot of them will stink" but that's just crass. I love the idea of writing a short short about a smell. I'll look into it!

 

Thanks, pook. (Curious what smell you'd use to launch the story).

Mary Rosenblum

Now that one hooked me, too, Michael!

Michael Arnzen

Oh, another marketing trick: submit to places where others have published shorts. Like, if you see a flash in a "year's best" anthology, look on the copyright page.

 

Someone told me they did that using my book, 100 Jolts, which has 100 stories in it!

Mary Rosenblum

Good technique, all.

 

That's true. Jolts is a dictionary right there. LOL

Michael Arnzen

An "obictionary" even. :-)

Mary Rosenblum

There you go! :-)

 

We have an editor in the audience:

writermom

I am the editor for a new section in Just For Mom online magazine I am looking for unpublished Moms and Dads to submit their stories of 1000 words or less I am also looking for non fiction and poetry I will take any subject just use the Just For Mom guidelines

writermom

The address to send submittals too is timeout@justformom.com  editor Chris Weigand

Mary Rosenblum

So there you are.

Michael Arnzen

Awesome.

Mary Rosenblum

Yes, that's rather cool! Thanks, writermom!

smeagol

I work for a publisher of poetry, but we are thinking of perhaps publishing collections of Flash Fiction in the near future. However, another publisher in our area was recently asking for submission of flash fiction, but didn't get very many (at least not enough to publish a collection). Are there a lot of people writing this right now, or is still considered a new and upcoming market? Or perhaps a trend?

Michael Arnzen

I bet you'll get a lot of humor pieces. I think flash fiction often invites humorous conclusions.

 

That's a tough call, smeagol. I don't know if it's a trend or not. Sometimes this is a matter of

 

reaching the writers. Like, list your guidelines in FlashFictionFlash newsletter and you'll get swarmed with manuscripts.

Mary Rosenblum

I was also going to suggest that the call for submissions may not have gone to the right forum.

Michael Arnzen

I do know that READERS >love< flash fiction! Quick, easy reads.

Mary Rosenblum

I know quite a few people who write flash fiction regularly.

arfelin

Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Mag's monthly Mysterious Photo Contest asks for micro fiction (under 250 words about the photo).

Mary Rosenblum

Markets are leaping out of the walls! :-)

Michael Arnzen

Yeah! I love that contest in AHMM! ...

 

There is an issue here regarding pay that I'd like to raise.

Mary Rosenblum

Please do.

Michael Arnzen

The reason many writers don't write flash is because of the economy of publishing that pays by word.

 

The market almost makes writers write long if they want to pay the bills. But "less is more" when it comes to a successful flash.

 

Anyway, this is one of the reasons why you don't see much flash by your favorite writers.

 

And why no one makes a living off of being exclusively a "flash fiction" writer.

 

But editors seem to like the stories -- they can fill a page, for instance -- and readers always enjoy a quick read.

Mary Rosenblum

Well, this also applies to short fiction, alas. Flash or novelette!

 

If you're paying a mortgage you're likely to do it with novels.

Michael Arnzen

Yes. A novel per room!

 

Heh. But writing flash has many other rewards. It trained me to be a better self-editor, for example

Mary Rosenblum

Yeah, about that! :-)

arfelin

So should flash fiction be plot driven? Or is it more about the meaning and mood of the writer's word choices?

Michael Arnzen

Good question arfelin.

 

It depends on the intention of the story. Actually, there's little room for "mood building"

 

if that's all the story has, then it's going to fail to satisfy the fiction reader -- it becomes more like poetry (a vignette, at best).

 

I'd say that flash has to be CONFLICT driven, but not necessarily plot driven. Plots are often super-short, or implied.

 

A short-short could be the length of ONE SCENE, for example.

 

So the build up is crucial, but can be off-screen.

Mary Rosenblum

And the scene that IS on screen contains the change, right?

Michael Arnzen

Exactly. Or pushes the reader to the edge of that change, so that its occurrence is inevitable and deducible.

 

I'm back to the "pushing off the cliff" metaphor again. Sorry :-)

 

I did want to say again that the "change" can simply be in the reader's viewpoint or assumption about the story.

Mary Rosenblum

Well, that's not a bad metaphor, is it? We DO force our readers over that ending cliff and sometimes they really don't want to go there.

Michael Arnzen

Indeed. That last step is a lulu.

paja

I don't understand what you mean about the reader changing. Would you expand on that?

Michael Arnzen

Sure thing, paja.

 

Let's say we don't find out until the last line that the story is set in a Nazi concentration camp. That can make us do a double-take and question what we had taken for granted about the setting, etc.

 

That has a "pay off" that isn't just located in the character's change. It sets us retroactively searching for meanings

 

and wondering how the writer "tricked" us into assuming the story was about something different.

Mary Rosenblum

And rereading the story...or rethinking it...from a totally different awareness.

 

That's also a great way to make a reader come face to face with his or her automatic assumptions.

Michael Arnzen

Precisely. And that makes us question our assumptions. Yes, Mary! We think alike!

Mary Rosenblum

No kidding... In unison now... :-)

paja

In longer work we would be sure not to do that to a reader? But flash plays with the brain, so to speak?

Michael Arnzen

Well, paja, I don't mean to suggest that all flash fiction is a "mind game" but it is permissible in this genre

 

because it provides a satisfying sense of closure. Flash fiction often follows the structure

 

of the joke, believe it or not, even when it's not funny. You see a lot more "gimmick" or "trick" endings in flash

 

than in other genres, because of the desire to end with a bang.

Mary Rosenblum

It seems to me that where we could easily wear a reader out in a longer piece, we can ask readers of short shorts to work harder at finding everything that is in the story.

Michael Arnzen

Well put, Mary. I find the "simple" joke-like short-short stories to be unsatisfying, usually.

 

I just thought of another source of inspiration on the web, but it isn't a >market< per se.

Mary Rosenblum

Oh yes?

Michael Arnzen

Award winning writer Bruce Holland Rogers has a site called shortshortshort.com where subscribers (cheap!) can get a story in e-mail every few weeks.

 

He's so good at it that he explores different approaches to the form and inspires writing the craft.

 

I think subscriptions are just $5 a year or so.

Mary Rosenblum

Actually, Bruce is a friend of mine and I subscribe to his stories. He really does explore the genre...and yes, I think it's 5 dollars per year.

chatty lady

I get Bruce’s stories and they are terrific.

Michael Arnzen

He's a more literary sf/f writer. My stuff is darker. But I always find myself wanting to write after I read Bruce's shorts.

 

Right on, Chatty Lady!

Mary Rosenblum

Yes, for those of you interested in short shorts, here's a great course for very little money!

paja

Does metaphor works well in flash?

Michael Arnzen

I think it does, paja, since the form is inherently experimental, and invites more "poetic" approaches.

 

Thus, prose-poems are perfectly acceptable to many editors who are open to flash fiction.

 

One can employ an extended metaphor -- or even an allegory -- to good effect here. If a metaphor is too long, readers lose patience.

 

So the answer is definitely yes. But if it's TOO ambiguous or symbolic, some readers might get lost.  So long as there's a beginning middle and end...it's a story.

paja

Prose poems?

Michael Arnzen

Well, let's just say poems without the line breaks.

 

It's a tough genre to define. One where the borders between poetry and prose get blurry.

 

A prose poem is looser about the strictures of fiction and calls attention to the WAY words are used as much as to the storytelling.

Mary Rosenblum

I think they're really the blurry meeting between poetry and story.

Michael Arnzen

The writer is more present in a prose-poem than in a short story. Maybe that's the difference. The writer's language calls attention to itself and the craftsman behind it. Whereas in a story, the writer sort of gets out of the way !

shayon-joseph

Is there a "standard" word count for prose-poetry?

 

 

Michael Arnzen

I don't think so, shayon-joseph...but once a prose poem goes over a page, it starts to feel long.

 

I think of them as single paragraphs.

joanc

I think if you're able to write fast fiction and do it well, it gives you the opportunity to get rid of the clutter in your prose. Sometimes being published for less pay may be a good start in creating an effective resume.

Michael Arnzen

Indeed, Joanc! I can't tell you how much my writing -- and especially REVISING -- got better working on 100 Jolts.

 

You train yourself to cut away and cut away. And to put things succinctly. So you definitely get sharper. And selling those pieces DOES build up a resume.

 

In fact, I don't worry much about pay for short stories. I tell myself that the pay will come when I sell them all in a book collection later on. But you should never undersell yourself, either.

Mary Rosenblum

Good advice.

 

And short work DOES get you attention from critics and the publishing world.

Michael Arnzen

Definitely. Especially if it's a knock-out story! One friend of mine sold a short-short

 

that has gone on to be reprinted in "year's best" collections and several overseas books. And it's been made into TWO short films!!!

 

it's called "Echoes" by Lawrence C. Connolly. It appeared in one of the early BORDERLANDS anthologies.

 

I think it's only 1200 words.

Mi

http://www.lawrencecconnolly.com/

smeagol

Funny thing. You know that story that I mentioned that my writer's group is analyzing (and it has left us scratching our heads)? Turns out it was written by Bruce Holland Rogers. It is about these two people fighting, then at the end they both jump off a cliff and while arguing they begin to flap their arms. It turns out that they can fly. So maybe we should take another look at that story!

Michael Arnzen

Sounds like that ending is symbolic, smeagol. He's writing in the mode of fantasy or magical realism, I think.

 

Where anything goes!

Mary Rosenblum

Bruce does like magic realism and does quite a bit of it.

shayon-joseph

Michael, do you write nonfiction on a regular basis at all?

Michael Arnzen

I write it often, but not necessarily on a regular basis, Joseph. I'm curious why you ask. Have you seen my newsletter for writers? Or ...?

 

The opening "column" in The Goreletter is a non-fiction humor piece, too. So now that I think of it, I do write it regularly.

Mary Rosenblum

For those of you who have not checked out The Goreletter, it's an excellent newsletter.

 

I recommend it. :-)

ellenj

How do you shorten a lengthy story into a short story?

Michael Arnzen

That's a tough one to answer, ellenj, because every story has different elements that could stand to be cut

 

but generally, you cut the adjectives and adverbs, the descriptions that aren't pertinent to the storyline,

 

while also condensing: getting rid of passive voice, letting verbs do more work, and cutting to the chase.

 

And I think I live by Elmore Leonard's advice: to cut the boring parts that people would skip.

Mary Rosenblum

That's good advice generally! Even for novels!

Michael Arnzen

I was thinking that sometimes a story >shouldn't< be cut for cutting's sake. Some stories should be longer

 

particularly if the writer is exploring a character's psychology or motives.

Mary Rosenblum

I have to say that I think every story has a natural length

 

and if you cut it too short, you lose the heart of the story. Sometimes, I think you need to change the plot or the focus in order to shorten the piece.

janp

Have you any comments about short, shorts meant just to entertain--not break the brain --as the one smeagol has been speaking of?

Michael Arnzen

Well, janp, that's definitely a goal: to entertain. That can be accomplished through style (imagine a humorous voice in a cowboy story, for example) or the use of comic action. ...

 

I think entertainment has a lot to do with meeting and breaking expectations...pushing the envelope a little so that people expect the unexpected.

 

But I write horror mostly, so that's part of what I do.

Mary Rosenblum

Michael can I put you on the spot a bit? Can I ask you to use a story that you have written

 

and take us roughly through your process of crafting it? Where you started, how you created it? Or feel free

 

to create a new one right here, if you are so moved. :-)

Michael Arnzen

Hmm...this is going to be tough in this format! Let me take a look at 100 Jolts and see what I can come up with.

Mary Rosenblum

Yes, you can't really write it out here, but even your method of roughing out a story would be instructive, I think.

Michael Arnzen

Here's an example. I have a piece in Jolts that appeared in the online zine Insolent Rudder. Here: http://www.insolentrudder.org/stories/story40.html

 

It's called "In the middle" and it's only 4 paragraphs long. Not even half a page in my collection.

Mary Rosenblum

Great!

Michael Arnzen

If you go to that website, you'll see the painting that inspired my story. I actually saw it in an art museum, mused over it, and began writing!

 

I broke out my palm pilot and wrote the first draft on it. This was a student exhibit at the school where I teach, so I was able to get the student to send his art to the magazine. .

 

Anyway, I was thinking about art students, and art, and their motives, so I had a setting for the piece. The t-shirt on the painting

 

says "sex. murder. art." So I started with that, wondering what on earth it meant.

 

So I began drafting a piece about an art student who wears that shirt.

 

I wrote: "The hallway is empty, save for one teenager who approaches me. He is large, trucker-size, sweating. He wears a black t-shirt emblazoned with three words:"

 

"Sex. Murder. Art."

 

Notice how I used first person, writing from the position of a person who is uncertain and puzzling. Which was exactly how I was feeling as looked at the painting.

 

I got the details from the painting as far as the "teenager" goes.

 

The key phrase clicked in my head: "murder's in the middle."

 

That line is very pregnant with meaning. How does murder get "in the middle" between sex and art?

 

So I next wrote…

 

"The words are stacked with sex on top and art on the bottom. Murder's in the middle."

 

I did this so the reader would be sure to see what I was seeing in the painting and wonder about it, too.

 

What follows are more clues that raise the bar by SUGGESTING possible connections between art and sex and murder, without really saying what it might be.

 

I wrote:

 

He passes me by. I know he just left art class. I heard that today they would be exposed to their first nude model. But it's only 11:17 -- class shouldn't be over yet. Perhaps he finished early. His footsteps echo down the empty hall like the period after each word. I follow him.

 

I associate nude drawings with art, so I added that. The reference to time is a suggestion that the teen has done something wrong.

 

And the final line "I follow him" does what I was talking about before: it pushes the reader over the edge. Why doesn't the observer just ask him? Or hold him for questioning?

 

And who IS the observer, anyway? Student, teacher? These are the sort of questions I wanted to raise in the reader's mind without

 

closing off possible interpretations. It's a more literary story than others in the book.

shayon-joseph

Good stuff.

Mary Rosenblum

I agree...and it does all the things you talk about quite clearly

 

leaving us thinking of possible scenarios that might play out just beyond the edge of this story and for me...I'll undoubtedly spend time thinking about murder in the middle of art and sex.

Michael Arnzen

Thanks, Joseph! It's sort of an "enigma" story more than anything else. One could simply think that the teenager killed someone in an art class, but maybe there's more to it than that.

 

Anyway, if I've said anything, it's that one can find inspiration for a story anywhere -- in a portrait painting, for example.

 

You just have to be receptive to it...and musing.

Mary Rosenblum

Thanks. It's nice to see the process in action, so to speak.

 

So what advice do you have for those who are interested in exploring flash fiction further?

Michael Arnzen

Read it. A whole new world of possibilities for approaching fiction will open up to you if you read around. I recommend books like "Sudden Fiction International" and "Microfiction" and "Sudden Stories" -- all available on amazon.com.

 

And websites, too: I've linked to some on my website, but here's a few I particularly like:

 

vestal review, 42opus, and minima magazine. Do web searches and they'll turn up.

 

There's also a book I just published in, called Small Bites, which is a charity anthology for Charles Grant, available at www.shocklines.com  .

 

And 100 Jolts, of course.

 

My second piece of advice would be to try to challenge yourself to write one a day, every morning (or every night before you nod off to bed).

Mary Rosenblum

That's an excellent challenge.

Michael Arnzen

The more often you write it, the better you get, obviously. But other ideas will click and you'll start developing short shorts into longer, salable pieces.

Mary Rosenblum

It becomes short short practice and an idea file...two achievements for the price of one.

Michael Arnzen

There's a website, even, you can use if you're daring. I think it's called oneword.com. They have a prompt and you have one minute to write a story.

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, that sounds like fun!

 

What happens if you're still writing when the buzzer goes off?

Michael Arnzen

The timer literally clicks while you fill in a form! ...

 

You're allowed room to complete the story, but it does go off and interrupt your flow momentarily. I used it a lot, but never clicked "post" when finished because I wanted to save my electronic rights. So I'd copy and paste what I did into my word processor instead.

Mary Rosenblum

Ah yes...that does bear mentioning...the electronic rights issue.

 

Published on that sort of site is STILL published, yes?

Michael Arnzen

Yes. So any type of "magazine" or other venue you submitted it to would only be buying reprint rights. Which means less money, usually. Plus I like to give first rights to more collectable venues, like offbeat print mags or something. A web page where anyone can post the results of their "challenge" is not very reputable a publication to claim on a resume, either, despite it being "published."

paja

I love writing from pictures. Do you use them often?

Michael Arnzen

I love using pictures, too, paja!

 

I do it often, when I'm just story-hunting (I've usually got so many things already going, that I'm usually not actively hunting...)

 

But the images suggest so much that I feel like I >have< to write a story about them, sometimes! I read a book called Hideous Beauties by Lance Olsen, in which every story is inspired by a famous painting. The stories are edgy and literary, but what a project!

Mary Rosenblum

What else sparks stories for you, Michael? Music? Conversations?

Michael Arnzen

Oh, Mary, story ideas just pop into my head all the time...I've trained myself to be more receptive to them over the years, I think.

 

Sometimes I'll run with a curious line from a song lyric or poem, sometimes it'll be something my wife told me she saw on CNN, sometimes

 

it'll occur in my dreams. I think I try to keep one "odd" idea in my mind at all times, and then wait for something else to connect it to.

 

Like, tonight I had the idea that a flash story might withhold the idea that it was set in Nazi Germany all along.

 

Now I'll just file that in my head and wait for the perfect premise to present itself to me that would fit that sort of story. Don't know where it'll come from, but it'll certainly come eventually.

ladybird39pm

Would the books you mentioned be available in the library in Canada?

Michael Arnzen

Quite possibly, ladybird39pm! Not sure. If you can't find a book at the library, and you're looking to save , another option might be getting e-book versions of books.

 

They're often half-price or lower. For example, I saw that 100 Jolts is listed on amazon.com for a very low price in e-book form. Or fictionwise.com has a number of short-shorts by different sf/f/h authors.

Mary Rosenblum

www.fictionwise.com  is a site where you can download stories for a price.

joanc

I suffer with narcolepsy, so the dream thing works great for me. A lot of my stories come from my dreams.

Michael Arnzen

Exactly. Like, for .50 cents!

 

That's great, Joanc! I think writers have to be in touch with their dreams -- or their dream state -- to really get the reader involved.

Mary Rosenblum

Before we run out of time, Michael, what projects are you working on now? Any new books due out soon?

Michael Arnzen

I love waking up with a great story idea in mind. One flash fiction collection -- Cigar Box Faust, by Michael Swanwick -- features stories he claims he even WROTE in his sleep!

 

Time flies! Let's see.

Michael Arnzen

My next novel will be out from Raw Dog Screaming Press in 2005. It's called PLAY DEAD

 

about pathological gamblers who play poker with cards "made" out of their murder victims. It'll be in a really sweet "sculpture-bound" edition as well as a hardcover edition.

 

See www.rawdogscreaming.com  for details on this one.

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, cool and macabre idea, Michael.

Michael Arnzen

I'm also looking forward to the release of my next poetry book, Freakcidents, from Shocklines Press in hardcover soon.  They’re at Shocklines.   www.shocklines.com  That's a bookstore that sells many of my books.

 

(Play Dead, incidentally is 52 chapters, in four parts (suits!) just like a deck of cards. They'll be designing custom playing cards to go along with it!

 

I'm also working up a suspense thriller (about kidnapping) right now, but it's slow going and I don't want to say too much about it.

 

Let's just say that I'm trying to get back into the mass market with my longer fiction.

 

Oh, one last thing.

 

Another recent cool sale is a story to an anthology called Poe's Lighthouse, where all the contributors were invited to

 

complete or collaborate with a fragment of a story that Poe never finished! I'm excited about that one. It was fun to "collaborate" with Poe!

Mary Rosenblum

Wow, that would be fun!

Michael Arnzen

That book will come out from Cemetery Dance Publications next year, I think.

Mary Rosenblum

Sounds like it will be an interesting anthology.

Michael Arnzen

Otherwise, I invite everyone to subscribe to my newsletter, The Goreletter. I include news of upcoming works and other goodies in there.

 

http://www.gorelets.com

Michael Arnzen

It's free!

shayon-joseph

Sounds like you're busy Michael.......that's great!

Mary Rosenblum

Ditto.

arfelin

Thanks Mary & Michael! I know what I'm going to be doing this weekend.

Michael Arnzen

Thank you!

Mary Rosenblum

Well, with all the markets we turned up here, you all should be able to send stories off!

writeaway

Michael, this has been great. Thanks! Please come back soon.

Mary Rosenblum

It has been great.

Michael Arnzen

You guys ask good -- and sometimes tough! -- questions. Loved it.

Mary Rosenblum

I really enjoy talking with you, Michael.

writermom

Thanks Michael and Mary it was a great forum and thanks for the opportunity to plug my new section.

Michael Arnzen

And I, you. Thanks so much for inviting me to join the group.

Mary Rosenblum

Thanks for coming!

 

We'll let you go, and I will certainly invite you back! Keep us posted about new publications!

 

Thank you for coming, all!

Mary

And thanks for being a great guest again, Michael.

Michael Arnzen

Okay, my eyes are getting hardboiled at this point. Again: thank you for such a great conversation. This is a great group of writers! If anyone sells any short shorts in the months ahead, I'd love to hear about it.

 

Best wishes to you all, and with your writing. Remember: LESS IS MORE!

Mary Rosenblum

We'll keep you posted!

Mary Rosenblum

good night!

Mary Rosenblum

Less is more!

Michael Arnzen

Good night all!

Mary Rosenblum

Good night all!

 

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