Sunday, September 26, 2010

Flashes from the Other World

Authored by Julie Ann Weinstein

Magic without the hocus pocus, these stories explore the ethereal blur between reality and not, between dream and sleep, between love and 'other than' love. They
present relationships with a tender wackiness. Tossed into the mix are mischievous ghosts, who give the talking plants and even the seductive and vocal grains of sand a run for their money.
Quirky and offbeat, these stories will touch your heart, although they may tug at
your funny bone first.

About the author:
Julie Ann Weinstein has published over ninety short stories and is a Pushcart Nominee. She is an editorial
consultant and a flash fiction workshop leader in the Southern California area. Julie is also published under the name Julie Ann Shapiro. She currently lives in Encinitas, California, where she is working on future short story collections

Women of the Round Table

Authored by Phibby Venable

Women of the Round Table centers on a group of friends who meet regularly around a kitchen table.
Nothing is as it appears, and none of these women are ordinary. Each of these characters shares a
common ground which gradually becomes invested with greater meaning ... bound together by
generations of birth, death, and the miraculous ... a crystal has been handed down to a pair of sisters.
It has power in it: each holder can make one wish.

About the author:
Phibby Venable is an Appalachian poet and writer whose works appear in numerous
anthologies, magazines, ezines, and journals, both nationally and internationally.
When she's not writing, Phibby is an avid photographer, and also devotes time to
humanitarian and animal rescue efforts.

Saturday, September 25, 2010



My first encounter with the flash was in 1948 during the Golden Age of Comics when all us kids in Brooklyn, New York, read those super-hero comic books.  My favorite was “The Flash” who dressed as the Greek/Roman god Mercury and, though he could not fly like Superman, he could run faster than the eye could see.  We waited anxiously for the release of the next Flash comic so we could delight in our hero’s vanquishing still again his arch-enemy “The Shade.”

During that same time, Illustrated Classic Comics were also popular.  My sisters and I collected them in a huge cardboard box until vacation time when we’d drag the box out of the closet and then dive into masterpiece literature.  Years later a college professor of mine in an English Literature course marveled how I was able to discuss so many of the classics.  He suspected I may have read so many of those thick tomes, and that amazed him, but the truth was much more believable: I read the comics!  Of course, I didn’t share that flash bulletin with him.

Only in the past ten years have I come to learn about another kind of flash, one that applies to writing.  Like the comic books that delivered in its few pages complete stories, flash fiction, sans illustrations, delivers quick stories too.

While the words “flash fiction” originated in 1992 with Flash Fiction, an anthology of short-short stories edited by Denise Thomas, James Thomas, and Tom Hazuka, the short-short story is not new at all to the literary scene.  In fact, it’s been an art form that can be traced back thousands of years.  Aesop’s fables were quick writes.  So were the parables of Jesus.  The Chinese writers of old called their very brief tales “minute fiction” because of the short time it took to read them.  Other names included “the smoke-long story” because reading one took as long as smoking a cigarette; “the pocket-size story”; “the short-short story”; “sudden fiction”; “postcard fiction”; and a long list that most have replaced with the popular term “flash fiction.”

The flash is right up my alley.  From the time I can remember, I’ve never been able to sit still.  My mother used to say, “We need to tie you up with rope so you sit still!”  I was always going somewhere, doing something, moving on to go someplace else, do something else.  I’d sit and do my homework and squirm like the proverbial boy with ants in his pants.  Sure, I loved to read, but only in small doses, something my wife Sharon finds strange.  Sharon who can sit and read a novel in just a couple of days!

So it seemed a good idea, after years of writing short stories, to try my own hand at writing much shorter ones.  I joined two computer sites. Six Sentences and Pen 10, and submitted work to each as often as I could.  One requires a limit of six sentences to tell a story.  The other limited the story to ten sentences.  From there I joined Smith Magazine so I could tell stories in six words.  Then I joined another called Thinking Ten. There was no stopping me!  Finally, I wrote a collection of 164 of these short-short stories, called it Flashing My Shorts, and submitted it to All Things That Matter Press that published it in January 2010.

Flash fiction is short but how short?  Not all writers agree.  Just when the consensus appears to be “fiction between 300 and 1,000 words,” someone out there extends the maximum to as high as 2,000 and the minimum as brief as Ernest Hemingway’s famous story told in a mere six words, “For Sale--Baby Shoes, Never Worn.”

When it comes right down to it, there are no hard and fast rules about the number of words in a flash piece, That is usually decided upon by the editor or publisher to whom flash fiction is submitted.  One needs to read the guidelines first.  And there are types of quick fiction that must subscribe to an exact word count.  I mentioned the six-worder, but there are also the 100-worder called the drabble, and the 50-worder understandably called the half-drabble.  My short-short stories run the gamut of 50 words to 1,000, with most of the stories ranging between 250-400 words.

It makes sense that e-zines would favor a shorter fiction than was popular before the advent of computers.  Sitting before a computer screen to read page after page of a short story is a literal eyesore.  Add to that, it seems nowadays anyway, the general attention span in our society has fallen somewhat, making it harder and harder to keep readers hooked to a story.  The longer they sit, the more those pesky ants bite, so it makes good sense to tell a story in the shortest amount of words.

But a flash story is still a story!  It must satisfy the elements of a story.  It must have at least one character (two is also good ), a setting, a problem to be solved by a protagonist and an antagonist to make the resolution a kind of tug-of-war struggle.  Flash fiction does not have the luxury of descriptive expansion, drawn-out dialogue, more than absolutely needed exposition.  But it must, like its short-story cousin, hook readers immediately, keep their eyes focused on each line, and at the conclusion release them completely satisfied a story has been told and resolved.

Writing flash fiction forces writers to revise their work, a writing step some writers ignore.  They feel indebted to their first draft’s inspiration and won’t change a word.  Flash fiction changes that mindset.  It helps writers learn how to eliminate the unnecessary words, to tighten their writing so that, though short, their flashes can stand tall.

In my flashes I try to come up with a hook of a first sentence, one that jumps into the middle of the story’s action without back story or anything that will slow the story down.
I let action and dialogue reveal the characters’ motives and in the end I try to show some change in one or both of my main characters, usually for the better.

If you haven’t tried writing flash fiction, you might want to do a computer search on the subject and visit the different sites that offer hints in writing it and places where you can submit your work.

I had intended to keep this blog under 1,000 words, but then I said to myself, “This is a blog, duh!  It’s not a flash story!”

One last thing:  If you are looking to read some flash fiction, if you are like me, a reader who can’t sit still for long, who wants a story, whole and entire, in the space of no more than two pages, why not visit  There are plenty of books to choose from.  I would recommend my own: 

Flashing My Shorts at                  
which is also in Kindle edition at

I also recommend Flashes from the Other World by Julie Weinstein, soon to be released by All That Matters Press.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rachel's Children

Surviving the Second World War

Authored by Jean Rodenbough

The stories of warfare as experienced by children may take a lifetime to understand and describe. For some it took many years before they were able to reflect upon the meaning of the war as they lived through it. What
happened to children across the world during the Second World War, in the years 1930 to 1945, shows a common theme of emotional upheaval, fear and hunger. The author was a child living in Hawaii when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and remembers what the war years were like. She has gathered accounts from others to include along with hers. These are their stories.

About the author:
Jean Rodenbough is a retired Presbyterian minister living in Greensboro, NC. A poet and
writer who has published books on fiction, poetry, and pastoral care, she is active with organizations working for peace and justice. Jean's interests also include chip carving and playing the recorder.


Authored by Robert Rubenstein

"He was so close, he could smell them. He didn't want to hurt Hitler. Who would want to hurt Charlie Chaplin? He just wanted to give him a love tap from the Jewish nation."

Joshua Sellers and Bobby Gillman have been given the chance of a lifetime. They have made the American Olympic team and are poised to run as Jewish-American athletes in front of Adolf Hitler . The place is Berlin; the time, 1936. An almost certain victory awaits the pair in the 4x100 meters relay. Joshua knows it will make a difference -a victory by Jewish athletes.

But what happens to him when he is told on his twenty-first birthday by his own coaches that though he is fit and able, he cannot run in Germany?

Racing with irony through the veins of inevitable, bitter, history, brimming with palpable life from the Coney Island shores to the cherry blossomed streets and cabarets of Berlin, Ghost Runners exposes the far-reaching menace of American Anti-Semitism. Whether on a local Berlin train, or at a lavish party at the Air Ministry, Joshua must test his courage against hard truths about the betrayal of an American Dream. Haunted by love for a heroic German-Jewish athlete he left behind, Joshua believes his fate is hers to share, despite the distance or the waning breath of dying memories. What happens to Joshua in the high Southwestern desert? History has passed him by, but wisdom may yet be seen in the hopeful eyes of disabled Native American children. An American always, the hope of the Jewish people becomes a universal anthem for him.
A provocative first novel, twenty-five years in the writing, based on real events about the Eleventh Olympiad and the American athletes, Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller, GHOST RUNNERS is historical fiction with an edge. It hopes to generate a dialogue that needs to be had in order to put that sorry chapter of American history to rest.

About the author:
Robert J. Rubenstein is a retired teacher and evaluator of children with special needs. He has had articles, short stories, and two children's books published. A single parent with two sons, he lives near Coney Island and likes to swim and get sand on his feet. He travels frequently to the Southwest and likes being a minority among the Native-Americans. GHOST RUNNERS, historical fiction about two Jewish runners not allowed to compete in the 1936 Olympics, has been both his passion and his haunting for the past thirty years. He welcomes comments at His blog is

Sunday, September 12, 2010



Shamrock and Lotus
Authored by Cassie Premo Steele

A compelling novel that intertwines the stories of people from Ireland, India, and America, their lives touched by the untold stories of global immigration. Claire is the American wife of an executive in the World Bank,
living in Dublin during the economic boom times. Brigid is a single Irish woman who, after spending
most of her adult live working as a midwife on Native American reservations, is now returning
home to Ireland. Padmaj is a man, originally from India and now an Irish citizen, who owns restaurant in Dublin. As they connect with each other across cultural differences and learn to face their histories of
violence and immigration with honesty and love, they learn that all people share common dreams of
a renewed world.

About the author:
Cassie Premo Steele is a Pushcart Prize nominated poet, a monthly columnist for Literary Mama, and the author of six books. She provides individual coaching, classes, and workshops through her Co-Creating
practice, which teaches people to live balanced lives through creativity and connections with the natural world. Cassie lives with her husband and daughter along a creek in South Carolina, and would love for you to visit her at


Just released!

South Wind Rising

Authored by Frederick W. Bassett

"South Wind Rising" is a deep, rich portrait of a boy coming of age in a South graced with the power of nature but troubled by lurking dangers. Bassett's forthright narrative is direct and compelling, and Barsh Roberts's sexual education is by turns funny, sweet, moving, and filled with surprises.
- Valerie Sayers, novelist and Professor of English, Notre Dame University

About the author:
A native of Roanoke, Alabama, Fred Bassett is an
award-winning poet who holds four academic degrees. His poems have been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies. Fred lives with his wife Peg in Greenwood, South Carolina, near their grandchildren.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Born in Bucharest, Romania, Oana lived twenty years under the grotesque dictatorial regime of Ceausescu. She has worn many hats: translator, teacher and wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center worker. Oana lives in Phoenix, Arizona, where she devotes her time to her animals and to writing. She is an active member of Central Phoenix Writing Workshop. The Healings -- the hilarious story of a lonely man and his cat, traveling from “healer” to “healer” in their quest for wholeness -- will be soon released by ATTM Press.

The English Language Dream
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since I could hold a pen, but my evolution as a writer is a little bit awkward. I have discovered myself as a writer relatively late. I started writing in high school and college, and in more than one language. But right after I finished college and I started working as a translator, I stopped writing. And I could not write anything for over ten years or maybe more.
After I immigrated to the US in 2001, I started having this strange dream. It was a recurring dream about my graduation and my Master’s degree. In my dream I was either refused graduation and sent back to study more, or I would discover that I had never been awarded my degree because of a missing exam. Regardless of the characters and the events from my dream the reason that prevented me from graduating was the same: I had yet to pass the English language exam.
That dream had haunted me. It was very powerful, in most cases I would wake up and run to the drawer where I kept my diploma to see if it was real and if it was there. And then, I could not understand it. English was not my major. Why would I have to go back to school for English? I studied Polish, Chinese, I had learned other languages as well, French, German and Yiddish, but English was mostly a communication tool. I passed English with flying colors. I had never thought of English as being the language I would choose to express myself in writing.
And then one day, it just happened. One afternoon in 2008, I joined the Central Phoenix Writing Workshop, I went to one of their meet-ups and I started writing. It didn’t happen overnight; it took me a few months to start writing as in writing and sharing my thoughts with other people. But if you think of it, overall it was pretty overwhelming. I joined the group in 2008 and my book will be released in 2010.
What was the most unusual thing you discovered while writing your book,The Healings?
The most unusual thing I discovered was the fact that the characters live inside your mind. Or they become you. And when you place them in a situation or another, you go there as well. By case-studying them we are simultaneously studying our own selves.
I think writers -- and generally speaking artists -- are very brave people. If you have the guts to reveal so much about you, this means you are at the point where you do not feel like hiding things from your self and others. The scariest lesson I have learned about people -- remember, I grew up under a communist dictatorship -- is that anything you say can and will be used against you. It’s a rule that applies wherever there’s a social group, but it became very obvious under terror.
The message a writer should send out there is a message of honesty, if you will. And of inner strength. If you are not afraid or ashamed of the imperfect being that you are, your words will have weight and true healing powers.
What makes The Healings stand out from the crowd?
Simplicity. I love keeping things simple. My character is honest and simple. His problem is that he tries to understand a world that is made complicated by people, societies, agendas. The truth is not easy to find, as it is often masked, covered, disguised, or sugarcoated.
But the way his message is delivered is simple as well. Short stories, short sentences. He is blunt sometimes, painfully blunt. As my friends would say, “Typically Oana.”
What is the purpose of writing sophisticated endless sentences, making the reader sleepy, except perhaps if your target audience suffers from chronic insomnia. Besides, times have changed, too. I have my coffee in the morning while driving to work and not on the porch indulging in the latest written Word of Wisdom. I wish I could but… So are my readers, so I am trying to show respect to them.
Another thing would be the fact that my main character is nameless and there are very few hints as to his physical appearance. Why? Because I wanted the reader to follow his mind, and not get distracted by irrelevant vanities. The man in “The Healings” is one of us. He can be any of us. I want the reader to be able to relate to him instantly, to be able to place himself in this guy’s mind. It is a journey into the universal mind and body, not into someone’s color of the skin, hair or eyes. His problems could be ours as well: family, education, politics, religion, poverty, love, success, loneliness etc.
His quest for what he calls Knowledge forces us to examine our own daily journey through life, the people we interact with, the things we learn… or not. By laughing at him, we laugh at our own human nature.The idea of the book is that we all need a break and some comic relief now and then. And the cat helps with that a lot. The cat is everyone’s favorite.
Are you a cat or a dog person?
Neither. I am an animal person, period. I have worked with many species, both domesticated and wild. I have been observing animals and people since childhood. Animals taught me very valuable lessons as to our instinct-driven behavior. I know, I know, many people, especially men rush to assure me that they are not animals. I find that hilarious to say the least. But, if you want to learn more about how I feel about the animal side of humans, read The Healings.
What projects are you working on at the present?
I am currently working on a memoir titled “Romanian Rhapsody.” It is a book about those “magnificent” twenty years spent under the rule of great terror and stupidity. It’s not a grim book -- after all, I am here and I have retained my sense of humor -- but rather a different perspective on achieving personal freedom and rising above hell. Believe it or not, it can be done. The hardest part is not surviving and escaping, but coping with the aftermath. And for some of us, the aftermath can last for a very long time, or it can last forever.
Will the "mechanical" standards of writing hold? Grammar, sentence structure, etc.? Does it matter? Why or why not?
I have always said that a writer is born a writer. To me, things are pretty simple. One can or cannot write. Of course grammar, punctuation etc. are important as a general value. As a writer I admit that I admire originality and a little bit of playfulness as well. Some very good folks can and will play with the language, nothing wrong with that. Language belongs to everyone and no one. Words even migrate from one language to another -- why wouldn’t they, they don’t need an immigrant visa to become citizens and settle in. Let’s not become fanatics and attach ourselves emotionally to every comma and every word. Always remember that the “object of your desire” might be replaced in a few years with another one. Who knows, maybe fifty years from now, there will be no commas, bored users -- read: the real owners of the language -- will replace them with a pause or a star. Having said that, I have also seen writers locking horns over mechanics, and not once. With all due respect, at some point it is ridiculous. We are not defending a certain purity of expression, we defend a form. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
As long as the message is delivered correctly, I could not care less for such existential issues, as: “Colon or… semi-colon?” So, moderation, moderation, moderation. When I am unsure, I always ask my editor. Why? Because he knows better than me, that is his job, and I truly respect his knowledge. I don’t want to hold two jobs. Being a writer is more than enough for me.
The long way from manuscript to print. How did you find your publisher?
How did I find my publisher? This is a story that need to be told. When I read at the writers’ meet-up what was to become the opening chapter of The Healings, my now-friend and writer Kenneth Weene ( author  of Widow’s Walk and Memoirs from the Asylum) looked at me and said: “I like it. Keep writing. A year from now you’ll have a book.” I looked at him in great surprise. Back then I had no intention to write a book. No, I rephrase: I thought I wasn’t capable of writing a book. Then Kenneth stopped going to the meet-ups -- personal problems, working on his books -- and he showed up again right when I delivered the last chapter. He then looked at me and asked: “What are you going to do with this? Where are you going to submit it?” I replied: “I don’t know.” “Why don’t you try and submit it to my publisher, see if they like it? It is a great publishing house and I love working with them.” Which I did. And they liked the book, and here I am. I am very grateful for meeting Ken. It’s just one of those life situations. I call him “my guardian angel in publishing.”
I think there must be strong chemistry between you as a writer, your editors and your publishers. It’s not just the book itself. It’s not just the writer. It is a greater work. I was lucky to get both, awesome editors and an awesome publisher, which is ATTM Press.
How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
The written word has a power that not even writers are aware of at times. I think of my words as arrows. Once released, you cannot take them back. And yes, they can kill too.
The word will have its strength and deliver its message regardless if it is delivered electronically, on paper or even scratched on a wall or rock.
I am not afraid or concerned about the future of the format; I am rather curious to see the future of the audience. Will people still read tomorrow or they will switch to other forms of enterntainment such as movies or shows, that require less effort on their side?
That I am curious to see.
How did you get to be where you are in your life today?
That is a hard question. Where am I? I don’t know. Had I known, I wouldn’t have written The Healings. But wherever I am, I got here through hardship and a very scary hard-to-predict twist of events. At some point in my life, I was thrown financially and emotionally at the very bottom of the bottom. It was a very abrupt landing, it involved a lot of traumas. But, being who I am, I took my time and looked very carefully at the situation and the people who were around me, as a whole. I have discovered that, oh well, the overall outcome of that ordeal was a tremendous personal growth. Sounds ridiculous, but it gave me a totally different perspective on who I was and where I was going. For the first time in my life I knew exactly where I wanted to be. In my writing, that is.