Posts in "News and Events" Category

Win a debut mystery/thriller book bundle!

Friends of mine who love a good book bundle giveaway: I’m partnering with several kick-ass 2019 debut authors to give away copies of our new books to one lucky entrant.

The books included are:

SOPHIE LAST SEEN by Marlene Adelstein

PAST PRESENCE by Nicole Bross

LITTLE LOVELY THINGS by Maureen Joyce Connolly

ONE NIGHT GONE by Tara Laskowski (That’s me!)

COME AND GET ME: A Caitlin Bergman Novel by August Norman

HER DAUGHTER’S MOTHER by Daniela Petrova

The contest runs from May 25 through June 15, 2019. To enter, just fill out the form here at this link. Entering gives you a chance to win all six titles, plus you’ll be subscribed to our author mailing lists*, which will give you more scoop on our books and other giveaways and news.

Enter to win all these lovely books!

*You can unsubscribe at any time. Please see the full contest rules for more details.

My first Malice—A recap.

This past weekend I attended my first Malice Domestic convention in Bethesda, Maryland. I’d been to the Agatha Award banquet dinners in the past — cheering on my husband Art Taylor as a nominee (and four-time winner!) of the Agatha, but this was my first time attending the full conference.

I’ve heard often from regular attendees that Malice is a family, but I never truly understood what they meant by that until this weekend. So many wonderful people have been so kind to me in small and big ways, and that generosity is so amazing. Like all families, there are, of course, some moments of disagreements or bickering, but overall, Malice has always felt very warm and welcoming, and as a debut writer, I’ve never appreciated that more.

Art and I brought our son Dash with us, and while he wasn’t the only child there, he was certainly in the minority, and yet everyone eagerly accepted him into the fold. We had a babysitter (THANK YOU, AVERY!) watching over him, but at times it felt as though we had hundreds of people watching over him. And us, too! During one panel, Art got a text message from someone saying, “I have your name badge!” Turns out Art had lost the name tag in his badge without even realizing it, but he had it back, safe and sound, before the panel was even over.

That’s family.

This year was also my first Agatha nomination — for Best Short Story — so both that was both exciting and a bit nerve-wracking, I’ll admit. And yet, once I got into the swing of things and started to feel that warmth, I realized that no matter what, everything was going to be just fine.

The weekend was a whirlwind, as all good conferences are, but here are some highlights:

  • My first Malice panel on short stories, with fellow nominees Leslie Budewitz, Susanna Calkins, Barb Goffman and my husband Art Taylor, moderated by the wonderful Michael Bracken. I got to talk a bit about Dash entering his first writing contest (which embarrassed and excited him, apparently).
Short story panel!
  • Lunch with my Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine editor Linda Landrigan. It was so great to catch up with her. Later in the weekend, I also got to record an audio reading of my very first AHMM publication, “The Monitor,” which I’ll link to here when it goes live!
  • Talking with new friends and old. I’m sure I’ll forget someone, so I don’t want to even attempt to name names, but I love love love you all!
  • Author signing on Saturday morning, where I got to sign the very first copies of the advance readers of One Night Gone!!
So happy to be signing my first novel!
  • The Agatha banquet! Although I spent the majority of it super nervous, it was truly an honor and a delight to find out I was tied with Leslie Budewitz as a winner of the Agatha for Best Short Story! What an amazing experience! I have my own teapot now! Also, massive congratulations to all the winners this year: Ellen Byron, Sujata Massey, Dianne Freeman, Shari Randall, Cindy Callaghan, and Jane Cleland!

Now it’s back to (boring) reality again. But, can’t wait for next year!

A mysterious kind of week

This week has and continues to be a whirlwind! Last Thursday, we traveled up to New York City for the Edgar Awards. We spent some time at the Dell Magazines cocktail party, where my friend Stacy Woodson was honored with the Readers Choice Award for her story “Duty, Honor, Hammett” in the Nov./Dec. 2018 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, along with other friends Josh Pachter and David Dean rounding out second and third place.

2018 Readers Choice Award winners for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
From left, David Dean, Janet Hutchings, Stacy Woodson, and Josh Pachter.

Later that night, I got to see my fabulous husband take home an Edgar for Best Short Story!

Art Taylor! And Mr. Poe!

If that wasn’t enough mingling for this introvert, I’m now looking ahead to this coming weekend and the Malice Domestic convention in Bethesda, MD. I’ll be on a panel at 2 p.m. on Friday, 5/3, with the other Agatha Award nominees for Best Short Story–Leslie Budewitz, Susanna Calkins, Barb Goffman, and Art Taylor. You can read all our stories here if you want to check them out!

I’ll also be doing an author signing from 10-10:30 a.m. on Saturday, 5/4, and I’m told there will be galleys of One Night Gone out in the wilds of the conference (or stuffed into registration bags), so if you happen to snag one, come see me so I can practice signing my novel. AHHHHHH!!!!

Cover RE-REVEAL: One Night Gone

Surprise! Just when you thought I had a cover….I have a new cover.

The smart, lovely team at Graydon House/Harlequin decided that my original cover didn’t quite speak enough to the suspense/thriller genre that my book really fits in. So they gave it a facelift! And a beautiful one at that.

For those of you who were fans of the creepy house in the original–good news! It’s still there. But we’ve shifted focus slightly to the stormy night sky instead of the sandy beach, giving the overall look one with more menace and intrigue. Check it out!

Same house, added creepiness!

Story Sprint—Writing a Story in 20 Minutes

Everyone has a reality show these days—housewives, house hunters, doctors, singers, sword-swallowers. I’ve always thought it would be the most boring show in the world to watch writers write.

And yet, about 60 people showed up last week in Old Fairfax Town Hall to do just that—watch writers write. Well, to be fair, we went into a different room to do the actual writing, but the purpose of the evening was to see what three writers could do with the same first line and same last line and twenty minutes in between to craft a story.

I was pleased to be one of the three writers, along with Zach Powers and Colleen Kearney Rich. I will admit—I was terrified leading up to this event. I’m generally a fast writer, but writing under pressure? I wasn’t sure I’d be able to come up with something—anything—coherent.

Luckily, the audience was great, and the lines they chose were just interesting enough to be interesting, but not so crazy weird that we couldn’t come up with anything. Here were our first and last lines:

Grandma’s cookbook is worn and torn, a living record of splotches, comments and comfort.

When the plane lands eight hours later in Rome, the airport is completely deserted.

My first thought—zombies. So I went with it. I am actually proud of the story I came up with, though I’m not going to share it here since I want to work with it some more and maybe, at some point, submit it. But we’ll say that it was not so bad that I was embarrassed to read it aloud, so I consider that a win.

In fact, I was impressed with all three of the stories—all different in tone and plot despite having the same starting and ending point. It was fascinating to hear them all and see the audience response.

A really great event overall. Thanks so much to Fall for the Book, George Mason University, and the City of Fairfax for hosting us. I had a blast!

Photos by George Bradshaw

“The Case of the Vanishing Professor” named an Agatha Award finalist!


It’s been a wonderful writing week. I turned in my final book edits for ONE NIGHT GONE on Sunday…and then found out that my story “The Case of the Vanishing Professor,” which was published last year in the May/June issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, was named a finalist in the Best Short Story Award for the Agathas!

I first started writing the story about 12 years ago, when I got the idea of writing about a woman named Nancy Drew who really hated being named Nancy Drew. For a long time, though, I couldn’t decide what her story would be beyond that—so I kept writing a bit, then putting it away for a long time, then bringing it back out again. Finally, it came together when I put Nancy at a cheesy murder mystery dinner. It soon becomes clear that other suspicious things are going on besides the story on stage—and Nancy, like it or not, gets sucked into solving the mystery.

Read the full story below. You can use the arrows and controls at the bottom of the embedded PDF to navigate through the story. You can also download the file to print and read offline. Presented with permission of the publisher.

Laskowski_Case_of_the_Vanishing_Professor

And, as if getting the nomination wasn’t enough, I’m also thrilled to be sharing the honor with my husband, Art Taylor, who is also a finalist with his short story, “English 398: Fiction Workshop.” And we are both thrilled to share the slate with the fine writers Leslie Budewitz, Susanna Calkins, and Barb Goffman.

Thank you so much to Linda Landrigan and all the wonderful folks at Dell Magazines.

Let the partying begin—we’ll be celebrating this victory up until the Agatha banquet dinner at Malice Domestic in May. Whee!

Check out the full list of nominees here. Congratulations to all!

Bystanders named a ‘best book of the year’ in The Guardian

What a lovely post-Thanksgiving story to wake up to! This morning, The Guardian released part 1 of their Best Books of 2017 story–asking authors to discuss their top favorite reads of the year. I’m honored–and oh so thankful–to discover that Jennifer Egan named Bystanders as one of her three recommendations.

You can read the selections here and shop for all the book lovers on your list.

Bay to Ocean Writers Conference: Flash Fiction Resources

Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting “Tiny but Mighty: How to Write Amazing Flash Fiction” at the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, Maryland. As I promised attendees, I’m posting my handout here of some resources for flash fiction writers, some of which was adapted from an earlier handout for a novella-in-flash panel created for the Conversations and Connections Conference in Virginia.

In addition, here are the stories I read aloud or mentioned during the presentation: Soap by Katrina Denza, Nightstands by Cole Meyer, and Gravity, Reduced by Kara Oakleaf.

Tips, Prompts, and a Reading List from Tiny but Mighty: How to Write Amazing Flash Fiction

A Bay to Ocean Writing Conference 2017 panel by Tara Laskowski

 

Tips for Writing Flash:

  • Start at the flashpoint—by definition, flash begins at the moment of conflict, when all the action is nearly complete.
  • Focus on the powerful image(s)—Find one or more powerful images to focus your story on.
  • Hit them where it hurts—go for an ending that offers an emotional impact. Play against expectations with a sense of narrative mystery or devastating twist, a poignant implication or declarative last sentence that leaves the reader breathless, and going back for more. Not an “aha” moment or a punchline. An ending more nuanced than that.
  • Strive for the concrete. Eliminate the word “thing” or “something,” for example. Replace that word with an actual concept, image, noun, etc, that explicitly participates in the image you are portraying.
  • Write the whole story, then eliminate useless words.
  • Stay away from punchline endings or “joke” flash fiction.

Some Flash Prompts:

Fictionalize a true moment: Start a flash piece with a specific memory of your own grounded in the five senses (touch, smell, feel, seeing, hearing) – For example: the feel of an aunt scratching your scalp or the smell of your child’s bedroom. This memory should be specific enough to work into a moment. Find the story from there.

Use pictures, paintings, or music to inspire a flashpoint.

Tell the story backward or play with the idea of memory and nonlinear time in a story.

Think of writing a flash piece as a scene when working on something longer, say a longer short story or as a novel chapter.  Flash is inherently raw with emotion. When wanting to draft a pivotal moment, take the time to draft a flash piece – with a beginning, middle and end — to represent that moment between your characters.  Break down the action to its bare essentials for more impact.

Write a story only using dialogue. Use no dialogue tags.

Find a dictionary. Open it to a random page, close your eyes, and point to a spot on the page to select a word. Do that several times to generate a list of random words, then write a flash that includes all of those words.

For Further Reading

Flash Guides

The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction edited by Tara L. Masih

The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction edited by Dinty W. Moore

A Pocket Guide to Flash Fiction edited by Randall Brown

Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook edited by David Galef

What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers edited by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter

Flash Fiction Collections

Mad to Live by Randall Brown

Severance by Robert Olen Butler

A Kind of Flying by Ron Carlson

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis

The Coast of Chicago: Stories by Stuart Dybeck

Whiskey, Etc. by Sherrie Flick

Wild Life by Kathy Fish

Maybe Mermaids and Robots Are Lonely by Matthew Fogarty

Surrounded by Water by Stefanie Freele

Truck Dance by Jeff Landon

Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons by Tara Laskowski

Lust by Susan Minot

May We Shed These Human Bodies by Amber Sparks

 

Journals That Feature Flash

Smokelong Quarterly

Brevity

Every Day Fiction (open to genre)

Gamut Magazine (paying market, genre)

matchbook

Monkeybicycle

Nanofiction

Necessary Fiction

District Lit

The Collagist

The Short Form

The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts (paying market)

Wigleaf

Whiskey Paper

Shotgun Honey (crime fiction)

Gay Flash Fiction (LBGTQ)

Shimmer (diversity)

Abyss & Apex (speculative fiction)

Cease, Cows

Aphelion (science fiction and fantasy)

Daily Science Fiction

Narratives-in-Flash

Matt Bell, Cataclysm Baby

Chris Bower, Margaret Patton Chapman, Tiff Holland, Meg Pokrass, and Aaron Teel, My Very End of the Universe: Five Novellas-in-Flash and a Study of the Form

Aaron Burch, How to Predict the Weather

Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

Evan S. Connell, Mrs. Bridge

Matthew Salesses, I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying

Lex Williford, Superman on the Roof

Presses that Publish Flash Collections

Curbside Splendor

Jellyfish Highway

Matter Press

Rose Metal Press

Press 53

Stillhouse Press

Flash Stories

The Heiress by Tara Laskowski: matterpress.com/journal/2015/03/02/the-heiress/

The Cage in the Woods by Joe Lucido: wigleaf.com/201509cage.htm

Cravat by Roseanne Scott: www.smokelong.com/cravat/

Conjugation by Jen Michalski: www.smokelong.com/conjugation/

Bartleby Snopes contest (2000 words or less): http://www.bartlebysnopes.com/bartleby-snopes-issue-14.pdf

Transplanting by Lisa Smithies: http://www.smokelong.com/transplanting/

Dive by Dawn West: http://www.smokelong.com/dive/

Marriage by Anna Lea Jancewicz : http://www.matchbooklitmag.com/jancewicz.html

Happy book birthday to Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons

Once upon a time I thought of a title for a story: “The Etiquette of Adultery.” I liked that title so much that I wrote it down on a piece of paper and carried it around in my wallet with me for about a year. One day I decided to write the story, wondering what an etiquette guide for adultery would really look like. I sent it off to Necessary Fiction, and editor Steve Himmer wrote a nice note back saying he loved the concept but thought I should expand the story a bit more.

That note made sense to me and sparked something inside me that became the catalyst for this book. An editor’s job is mostly thankless–I know, having edited SmokeLong for almost seven years now–but I also don’t think that editors often realize how much impact a kind, encouraging, honest rejection letter can have on a writer. Sometimes a sentence or two or a quick suggestion can help solidify an idea or start someone off on another path with a story. In this case, Steve’s note didn’t just help make “Adultery” a better story, but it also started me on the trail of a series of etiquette stories, which eventually created a book.

The thing is, the stories were so very fun to write. Most of them teeter on the edge of flash-fiction-length–the longest story tips just over 2,000 words, I believe–and the form allowed me to play around with all sorts of fun experiments, creating an unofficial guide to our darker selves.

The first edition of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons was published by Matter Press in 2012. It sold out of its print run and was only available as an ebook for the last few years, but now–now!–my friends, it’s back. And cuter than ever.

The newly revised Modern Manners, published by Santa Fe Writers Project, includes two new etiquette stories (“The Etiquette of Voyeurism” and “The Etiquette of Gossip”) and comes in paperback in an adorable, stuff-it-in-your-pocket size.

Here are some kind things folks have said about it:

“Sly, clever, original take on the sad, bewildering, dead-on truths of being human.”

— Kathy Fish, author of Wild Life and Together We Can Bury It

 

“The anxiety-ridden instructees of Laskowski’s stories tap dance their way through various awkward situations ranging from adultery to dementia. It’s fun to laugh at them, but by the end of each story, you can’t quite remember why you thought they were so dumb in the first place; these characters have problems and deal with their problems with dignity. Each of these stories start out in a sarcastic vein, yet the problems they address are heartbreaking, and each and every one of them realizes a protagonist, fully formed, with a past, a present, and a future.”

— L.W. Compton The Collagist

I’ll also be celebrating Modern Manners‘ birthday at the AWP conference Feb. 9-11 in Washington, D.C. Check out my events page for more information about readings and panels and things. Hope to see you and your inner demons soon!