Tag Archives: short story

The Train: A Short Story by Cendrine Marrouat in the Featured New Book Spotlight


Let’s welcome Cerine Marrouat and her short story, The Train, to West of Mars!

(Throw confetti. Okay, it’s paper shreds to reduce plastic and be good to birdies. And maybe some dryer lint for nest building.)

I’ve gotten to know Cendrine via Counter.Social and its lovely writing community. I’m really delighted to host her today, which means… let’s get right to it, shall we?

Cendrine, what song makes you think of your new short story, The Train?

While writing my short story “The Train,” I often listened to Leigh Nash’s “Nervous In The Light Of Dawn.”

I chanced upon the song a few years ago and immediately fell in love with Nash’s haunting voice. It also has some of the most beautiful lyrics I have ever heard. To me, they speak to the need for self-love and the importance of introspection, which feature heavily in “The Train.”

The first note of this song is, indeed, haunting. And Nash’s voice is nice and light… this is lovely music! And yes, a new-to-me musician, so YAY for that, too. I love it when my author friends widen my musical horizons.

What’s the story about? I’m curious, especially as the song plays.

You never know what a train ride may have in store. Maggie is about to find out as she journeys to Coueuses to visit her family.

“A powerful and deeply touching story with layered characters that all felt real.” – Berneta L. Haynes, author of Eve and the Faders

Ooh. All the potential… and then this song? I’m there. Are you?

Note that The Train is currently a preorder, BUT the release is later this week, so you won’t have to wait for long! Go buy barely-in-the-future you a present!

Here’s a universal link for you. You all know how much I love these; you get to pick your retailer!

Of course, connecting with Cendrine is the way to go.

More links can be found here

Remember, if you’re an author, have a friend who’s an author, know someone with a book to promote, the Featured New Book Spotlight is here! It’s such a lovely way to meet new authors, see what they are writing and listening to, and expand all our musical horizons, all with one simple question!


Call for Submissions! Triangulation: Dark Skies


I thought this cover would compliment the post, even though it has nothing to do with… well, anything other than the theme. In my mind. Let me know if I nailed it.

Local-to-me Parsec, Inc has put out a call for submissions for their literary magazine, Triangulation.

The theme is Dark Skies.

What does that mean?

From their site:

Triangulation: Dark Skies will be a celebration of the dark. This year, we are joining forces with the International Dark-Sky Association to raise awareness of the dangers of light pollution—to human health, to animals and plants in the nighttime ecosystem, and to the future of astronomical research on our planet. We’d like to see proactive characters experiencing firsthand the dangers and consequences of a world without darkness, but even more than that, we want stories celebrating our place in the universe, and our ability, as sentient beings, to see into the depths of space. Give us past, present, and future accounts. Cautionary tales. Secondary worlds and altered timelines. The effects of light pollution are many and varied—feel free to explore any aspects, from neurobiological studies, to life in an alien star system, to legends out of time.

Do you love it? I love it. I can feel some creative juices flowing already.

Submissions open December 1 and close on the last day of February, and should be made through my favorite submissions site, Submittable.

And they are a paying market! So be sure to check out the guidelines (aka rules) and follow them. Don’t set yourself up for failure. You are better than that.

As always, if you want my fine editor’s eye to look over your piece before you send it in, drop me an e-mail. I give discounts on editing when you say your intended market is one you first saw here. (HINT)

Good luck, and also as always, if your story makes the cut, come back and let us know. Do a Featured New Book Spotlight! Brag about it! Send us buy links so we can read it and brag about you, too.


Featured New Story: Justice by Julie Doherty


Featured New Book Spotlight

Let’s all welcome Julie Doherty to West of Mars!

I met Julie via the Running Wild Anthology of Stories, Volume 2, and she’s pretty awesome. And her story? LOVED it. Voice, detail… this is the kind of fiction I adore and, oddly, have been reading a lot of lately.

So let’s get to it. Julie, what song makes you think of “Justice”

“Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield. Part of the lyrics go “I am unwritten, can’t read my mind,
I’m undefined. I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, Ending unplanned.”

Readers have called my novels “romance with teeth,” so I’m no stranger to dark, edgy writing. However, producing “Justice” for this anthology gave me a chance to skip past the smooches and straight into disturbing. What a rewarding challenge!

I love that! “Skip past the smoochees and straight into disturbing.”

Pick up your copy of the anthology — and be sure to leave a review! Reviews help other readers find great new reads.

And connect with Julie, too.


Featured New Short Story Spotlight: Idylls of the King by Amelia Kibbie


Featured New Book SpotlightIt’s time to welcome my anthology-mate Amelia Kibbie to West of Mars!

Her story is directly after mine, so if you sat down to ONLY read mine (bless your heart for being such a dedicated Susan fan), well, just keep turning the pages. I did. I mean, how could I speak with any authority if I didn’t?

So her story is called Idylls of the King, and I’ll let you read it to find out what that means. But first, here’s Amelia with the song that makes her think of her story.

Richard Robbins’ soundtrack to the movie A Room with a View comes to mind. I don’t think about this story in terms of lyrics to a song, which is odd for me because I could usually name you a whole soundtrack. It’s sappy, but probably “Because You Loved Me” by Celine Dion would fit as well. When you find the right person to love you and support you, it does lift you up to reach the things you couldn’t reach before, and I think my characters realize that by the end of the story.

Sappy is fine! And I like that the story transcends lyrics; I’m so much more literal than that, so it’s neat to meet someone who is my polar opposite. I hope Amelia brings us more of her perspective in the future.

Ready for more about the story? Here you go:

“Idylls of the King” is a short story included in the Running Wild Anthology of Stories Volume 2, and tells the tale of two young teens and their classmates who are evacuated from London to escape the bombings in WWII through Operation Pied Piper. The schoolchildren move into Willowind House, the country estate of the elderly but formidable Baroness, Lady Barlow. The Baroness takes an interest in the class misfits, James and Arthur, and uses the myths and legends of King Arthur and his knights to teach the boys the courage to not only stand up to their bullies, but to dare to find their first love in each other.

Grab your own copy of this fun and incredible (if I may say so) anthology. Lots of great stuff to discover in here.

Connect with Amelia:


Featured New Story Spotlight: All God’s Creatures Got Reasons by Frank Oreto


Featured New Book SpotlightLet’s welcome Frank Oreto to West of Mars this week!

Frank’s got a few things that make him pretty cool: he’s local to me, part of a writer’s group I belong to and will one day make an in-person appearance to, AND he’s got a short story to tell you about. I know we’ve got some other short stories featured in the spotlight in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned and expand your literary buying habits now!

So Frank’s got a short story called All God’s Creatures Got Reasons, and it’s in the Hinnom Magazine, #5. I’ve never heard of this magazine, so you KNOW it’s time to investigate and learn about it.

But first… Frank, what song makes you think of your story?

“Yummy Yummy Yummy I Got Love in My Tummy” for the most horrible reasons imaginable.



I’m… scared now. Which I suppose I ought to be, given that this is a group who’s pretty hard-core Science Fiction, Fantasy, and horror. I mean, this is the source of that way-cool pizza-themed call for submissions I posted a few months back.

(Know what’s worse? When I dug up the song on YouTube, I recognized it! I am NOT that old. I mean, really. I am not. I just know weird shit.)

So. Back to Frank and his story because to be honest, I need to get myself a copy of this. I mean, don’t you? Between the title and the song, how can you resist?

But if you’re still on the fence, here’s how Frank describes the story:

We’re all heroes in our own story. But what happens when what you do, the act that gives you purpose, makes you the worst person in the world? Find out in “All God’s Creatures Got Reasons.” Featured in Hinnom Magazine #5. Available now.

Yeah, it’s hard to summarize a short story, but now I’m even MORE intrigued. Who gets eaten? Who’s the hero? What’s this about God’s creatures and reasons?


Let’s ALL get a copy. It’s an Amazon-only thing, I think, but if you’re more Amazon-averse than I am, let me know if you find other retailers and I’ll update.

And connect with Frank!


Susan’s Publishing Tales: Market Suggestions Needed!


If you haven’t seen me looking for market suggestions at various spots over on Facebook, you’re missing out!

The story is a fun one, of course. I was talking to one of the boy’s classmates, who told me she’d had a final with the essay prompt of “puddles.”

After not writing for so long, something in me woke up.

I wrote two pieces. One won’t come out under my own name, I don’t think, but either way, it’s being held for the launch of a bigger concept.

But the other? Like nothing you’ve ever seen from me before.

And… I’d like to take a crack at submitting it around before I put it up on Wattpad and let you all read it for free. Because I like it. And I’m proud of it. And I want to share it with a lot of people who are new to me.

It’s been so long since I’ve been on this end of publishing that I don’t know any markets, any calls for submissions, any anything, for the most part, and certainly not for something this special. So… I’m hoping you guys can help me out and make suggestions for a market or three.

It’s a flash piece, about 1400 words. It’s about grief, love, redemption. The girl says it’s happy, too.

Anyone got ideas?


Susan’s Book Talk: A New Story!


A long time ago, in what feels like a second lifetime, I wrote a bunch of short stories. Like, a ton. And I saved them on my hard drive.

Last summer, after I had to unpublish Mannequin, the girl rehomed that little short story of mine onto Wattpad. And then she took a stroll through my hard drive and my archives. She handed me a bunch of stories to edit and polish up, chose a few to publish immediately, and then… got involved in her own Wattpad activities. (No, you can’t have her names.)

Yesterday, she decided it was time to take one of the stories and get it up on Wattpad. And so New Management is now alive for your reading pleasure.

It’s a story of the Trevolution, and you long-time fans will recognize the characters. Maybe even the situation, although if you need a prompt, here are the two stories this builds on: Twirling and Game On. Neither are in a Demo Tapes collection yet… they’d be in #5, which if you’d like, you should speak up!

So here it is. New Management.


Lines of Distinction: Broken by Susan Helene Gottfried



Peace… now that’s a better shiny than actual shiny things. At least from where I stand. But then, I’m standing in a place that’s all my own.

I love this short story of mine. It’s rough. It’s edgy. It’s not for the faint of heart or family friendly.

But it is rock and roll and it is gritty and it is something I’m proud of and stand behind.

Pick up your copy today:

Also available on:
Page Foundry


Featured New Book: Broken by Susan Helene Gottfried


Yeah, so it’s tacky to feature myself. But it’s been quiet around here again; what’s with these spurts?


So… what song makes me think of my short story? Like many before me, it’s a hard choice. Ozzy’s Crazy Train is an option ’cause if there’s anything going on with Ice Cubes in Hell, it’s a crazy train. This band is dysfunction city — and sadly familiar to many of us inside the biz.

Maybe I’d settle on Nothing More’s breakout song, This is the Time (Ballast) — as a warning to my fictional friends that what gets revealed this night needs to be moved past.

Or there’s my son’s favorite song (Not): Katy Perry’s Roar, since Broken describes the events that happen when T finds her voice — although she’s never been the sort to bury it in the first place. T’s a pretty in-your-face sort of woman. I like her for what it’s worth.

The Amity Affliction’s Pittsburgh? A definite contender, as this band, these people are lost and drowning.

Funnily enough — or not — I have three of these songs in my Spotify playlist that keeps me company at work. I bet you can’t figure out which is the one not on the list…  And yes, I’m sticking to these four. It’s MY site, MY interview question. I get to break the rules.

Here’s the long description for Broken:

For T and the rest of Ice Cubes in Hell, it’s a routine night backstage after their set, opening for the notorious Vanessa Kontempt. The party’s in full swing when T walks in, but she’s not in the mood. Not tonight. Things spiral downward when she finds some groupies raiding her stage clothes. One breaks the heel off her favorite boot, and as T confronts the band’s tour manager about the destruction, secrets are revealed. Secrets which might tear the band apart … or bring them closer.

The story won’t be released until the 15th — that’s just next week! — but you can preorder it now.

Smashwords  (Uhh, no affiliate link this time. Go figure.)




#Rocktober Cover Reveal: Broken by Susan Helene Gottfried


The good news is that the editing is keeping me busy. The bad news is that means my writing is taking a hit. And given that a lot of my clients come to me because I am an author and I have my fingers in publishing, I suppose I gotta put up.

This one, I’m glad to put up. It’s my new short story, called Broken. Broken_One


My very longtime (I started to say old, but I don’t want either of us to be old) Metallica friend, Carol, did the cover. Go visit her. Tell her I sent you.  You deserve a cover by someone like Carol.

It’s a short story, as the cover makes pretty darn clear, and it’ll be for sale for 99c once it’s up and able to be preordered or out-and-out for sale. (Yes, I’m writing this in advance.)

Ready for the description? Too bad. Here it is.

For T and the rest of Ice Cubes in Hell, it’s a routine night backstage after their set, opening for the notorious Vanessa Kontempt. The party’s in full swing when T walks in, but she’s not in the mood. Not tonight. When she finds groupies raiding her stage clothes and one breaks the heel off one of her favorite boots, things spiral downward. As T confronts the band’s tour manager about the destruction, secrets are revealed. Secrets that might tear the band apart … or bring them closer.

I’m crazy proud of this story. Took me a long time to get right, and I had to run it past my editor, too, for help pulling it all together.

Buy links will be arriving as soon as I’ve got ’em. Pick up your copy and help me keep my fingers in the publishing pie.



Featured New Story: Clara by Faith Cotter


What was it? Last week that I put out a call for reviewers for my buddy Faith Cotter’s new short works. As I said then, Faith is a buddy from the Boy Scouts, a woman I bonded with over writing, archery, and the difficulties of being a female Boy Scout.  She’s good people, and I’m proud to know her.


And as I said, I’m pleased as anything that she’s joining us in the publishing world. Be good to her. Buy her stuff. Read it, leave a few words of review. Or contact her for a review copy.

Remember, reviews help sell books.

So… off the soapbox and onto the important stuff.

Faith, what song makes you think of your story?

Blinding by Florence and the Machine

I first heard Blinding three years ago and the minute I heard it and really dug into the lyrics, I knew that there was something about this song that was very strongly connected to what I write about—the ghost that haunts all my stories, if you will.

Though Clara is a fictional, it is inspired by the first elementary school I attended, with its dark hallways and ornate staircases and nuns in old-fashioned habits. Writing this story was the first time I realized that my memory, as tangible as those years are even now, could play tricks on me. (I was utterly convinced we had a series of taxidermied animals on the way to the principal’s office and I was fascinated by them: a bit of decay amongst people with so much time ahead of them. Old classmates, now grown up, say otherwise.)

As for the story itself, and how it connects with this song: Yes, this is a story about two young girls. But I know that if I am going to write a story that centers around children, there needs to be something else there, something that children can see and something that old folk like me (aka adults) can see as well. I wrote Clara as a story heavy with familiar and unfamiliar motifs and themes in the hope that different readers will interpret those themes differently, based on their lived experiences. For some, it will be political; for others, maybe they will feel nostalgic. For me, this story is really about waking up. It’s about shaking off sleep and standing up and taking off. And through the use of the song’s motifs and archetypes as familiar to us as our childhood school days, Blinding encapsulates Clara so well. And that’s all I want to say about it.

The rest, reader, is up to you.

So… if Faith is old, what does that make me? Decrepit?

Ahh… well, on to the book description:

Catholic school kid Clara Cooper wants to go home. She has some unfinished business to attend to, and really needs God to give her attempt at truancy a bit of heavenly aid. When she fails to convince the nurses, the principal, and her mama that she is sick enough to leave school, she decides to take matters into her own hands. Over the course of her small adventure, she makes friends with an old bear and fellow truant Nhi Nguyen, and discovers that there are lessons that can never be taught within the confines of the towering school that makes up her world.


It reminds me of my own Mannequin… a young girl, learning lessons of life. Pick both stories up and see what you think. Do they compare?

Here’s the buy links:



(more retailers to follow!)


Personal Links:

Author website



Amazon Author Page







Call for Reviewers: Short Stuff


No, I am NOT asking for you to review me. Sheesh. I haven’t been called Short Stuff in years. Guess people got tired of having their kneecaps boxed ’cause that was as high as I could reach.

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West of Mars friend Faith Cotter is about to release two short pieces — one a short story and the other a short narrative essay — and would like to enlist the help of friendly people who’d be interested in leaving some reviews to help her launch these properly.

I’ve read some of Faith’s earlier works. She wrote wonderful essays about life at Scout Camp — the same Scout Camp I used to take my son to until he wasn’t a Cub Scout anymore. But while there’s a hint of nostalgia about those earlier works for me, the fact that she also holds a Journalism degree from Point Park  University and has won awards for her writing ought to help bolster the cause.

Grab a hold of this chance to help a new-to-the-scene writer, why don’tcha? No, I didn’t edit them (sadly) and I haven’t read them. But Faith sure wishes you would.

Drop her an e-mail if you’re interested.


Featured New Book: An Idyllic Place for Murder by Liz Milliron


If you’ve looked around the site since the redesign, you’ll know Liz Milliron’s name. Or, you’ll recognize her real name: Mary Sutton, the head of our non-fiction department and one of our e-book formatters. Mary’s one busy woman! On top of writing and being a West of Mars subcontractor, she also has a day job and a family with needs. And I think there are some pets in there, too, but I’m not 100% certain.

Idyllic Place

She’s here with the first short story in her Laurel Highlands Mystery series. I was thrilled to find a fellow soul sister in Mary, in that on top of everything else, we share a love for Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands. I’m not sure where her love of the area came from, but what’s important here is that Mary shares it.

The story was originally published at Mysterical-E, and she’s got the rights back, so … it was time to let a wider audience know about Jim and Sally. Once you’ve met them, you’ll be glad you did.

So, Mary/Liz… what song reminds you of your book?

I don’t have a particular song in mind for this story. However, thinking of my protagonist, Jim Duncan, always puts me in mind of Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen is classic rock, simple lyrics, just a hard-working every day guy. No punk, no death metal. Just a guy singing about life, usually in a small, working class town. And that’s Duncan, just a guy trying to do a job. He lives in a rural county and likes it. He likes being a cop, being a hard-working guy, doing a job he loves because he wants to do it. And he’s a little working class. But he’s, um, really not lucky in the relationship department. He had a wife he loved and lost her. So if I have to pick a song that represents Jim at this point, it’d be The Boss’s “I’m Going Down.” The song is about a guy who sees a relationship that used to be perfect going down in flames. And that’s pretty much where Jim is in the relationship department – down in flames.

Ahh, Springsteen… I’ve seen him live twice. He truly holds a special place in my heart, and that’s before we get into the really good stories (and the fact that he inspired my own short piece, Keys, which is in Demo Tapes 4).
See? I told you Mary is cool.
Ready for the story’s description?

The Laurel Highlands seem idyllic, but for Trooper First Class Jim Duncan, they’re anything but.

When a young woman from Pittsburgh ends up dead inside a rental cabin Confluence, it’s up to Duncan to find the killer before the event brings unwanted publicity to one of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s most scenic regions. There seems to be a built-in suspect in the local character known as The Creeper, but if Fayette County public defender Sally Castle has anything to say, The Creeper won’t end up in prison without a fight.

Previously published at Mystericale.com, “An Idyllic Place for Murder” is the first story in THE LAUREL HIGHLANDS MYSTERIES series.

This makes me want to read it, and I already have. Don’t be left out.

Get your copy:




And Apple, too!


Author website



Featured New Story: Sweet Deadly Lies by Annette Dashofy


Yep, we’re going three for three with the Lucky Charms anthology. I don’t know about you, but I sure hope the other nine contributors weigh in.

Today’s author has been a friend of mine for probably going on ten years now (wow). Annette Dashofy is one of the coolest, most persistent women I know. A true pro author, through and through. No one’s celebrating her recent string of success more than me.

Well, other than Annette, herself.


She’s not the music lover I am, but stay tuned for the song. It is indeed an earworm!

I firmly believe in the importance of a good title. I’ve had stories rejected over and over until I changed the title. Then they were picked up immediately. After a few of those, I make a greater effort these days to get it right the first time.

For me, titles either come very easy, often before the story completely forms in my mind—or they fight me tooth-and-nail. Nothing fits. Nothing sounds right. Such was the case with the short story I wrote for my local Sisters in Crime chapter’s anthology, Lucky Charms:12 Crime Stories.

My story involved the homicide of a woman who was thought of as sweet…at least to those who didn’t really know her. My protagonist, Officer Abby Baronick, knew otherwise. The deceased loved to stir up trouble by telling lies. Lies that eventually got her killed.

I had a blast writing the story, which included Detective Wayne Baronick, Abby’s brother, who also has a part in my upcoming novel Circle of Influence (Henery Press, March 2014). But when it came time to give this story a name, I was stuck. Thankfully, I have a great bunch of critique buddies who had read it and could brainstorm ideas with me.

Keywords from that brainstorming session triggered a musical memory. An earworm. The exact song title didn’t work, but with a slight modification, “Sweet Deadly Lies” was born. Now I can’t listen to the song without changing the words in my head. “Tell me lies, tell me sweet deadly lies…”

You know you need a copy… here’s the links:
Amazon digital

Amazon print


Mystery Lovers

Barnes & Noble digital: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lucky-charms-pittsburgh-sisters-in-crime/1117388201?ean=9780991051311

Barnes & Noble print


Apple iBooks

Get to know Annette.


Featured New Story: Batter Down by Liz Milliron


As promised, there’s more fun from the Sisters in Crime chapter who are proudly appearing in the Lucky Charms anthology.


This week, I bring you my good friend Liz Milliron, who is known in other circles as Mary Sutton. Split personality? Nah. Just a different name for each genre she writes in. It actually makes sense, even if it makes it hard to find all of her writings in one spot. She’s worth tracking down, no matter her name. I promise (and not just because she handles a lot of the non-fiction editing for West of Mars!).

Now that the introduction’s done, let’s get down to business, shall we? Liz, what song makes you think of your book?

My anthology story, Batter Down (written as Liz Milliron) centers around the death of a player for a fictional independent-league baseball team. And nothing puts me in the mindset, musically, of baseball like John Fogerty’s Centerfield. This is a rocking rendition with Fogerty and Keith Urban. Now, obviously, Fogerty’s classic has nothing to do with murder, but I can’t think about baseball without this song running through my head. In fact, I’m humming the chorus right now, just typing this, and baseball season is only a glimmer on the horizon. The song just seems to capture the magic of baseball for me, hearing the crack of that bat on a warm summer night. And my protagonist, Jim Duncan, has in fact tuned in to the game for that reason – to listen to a little baseball on a summer afternoon, hanging on his boat with his canine buddy, Rizzo. Unfortunately, that’s not really to be. But, because of the baseball connection, it still makes me think of this song.

I have to confess: baseball isn’t one of my favorite sports, but I, too, think of Fogerty’s classic when the subject comes up. Which, since the Pirates did so well last season, has been fairly often.

Want more about the story and the anthology as a whole?

A record-breaking baseball streak takes a deadly twist when star player Johnny Pierce is found dead on the day he was set to break the team’s consecutive-game hitting record. Jim Duncan and Sally Castle team up to figure out if this was a random act of violence – or if Johnny’s streak meant bad news for someone determined to keep him from continuing.

Inside LUCKY CHARMS you’ll find twelve crime tales from the members of the Mary Roberts Rinehart Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime, Inc. You’ll dig into gritty police procedurals; enjoy a spangle of suspense; tuck into a cozy or two; and thrill to a cool touch of noir. Each story tells a tale of surprising good luck or of good luck gone sour. We invite you to brace yourself for an entertaining read.

You know you need a copy… here’s the links:
Amazon digital

Amazon print


Mystery Lovers

Barnes & Noble digital: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lucky-charms-pittsburgh-sisters-in-crime/1117388201?ean=9780991051311

Barnes & Noble print


Apple iBooks

And connect with Liz/Mary, too! You’ll be glad you did.