The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

January 5, 2010

Short stops #2

Never having heard Ben Franklin's aphorism that fish and company both smell after three days, the bitter cold has settled in for a long visit. And it stinks. So grab a throw, the hot toddy of your choice, and the laptop. Then see if some of these short stories don't chill you to the bone in spite of your preparations.
Steve Weddle's Missed Flight is a poignant story about what's to be done when a runaway is returned home to abusive parents. You can make your flight reservation at Beat to a Pulp, where you will also get a little Mortification from Sophie Littlefield. It's painfully good stuff.

If you wander on over to Pulp Pusher, Gerard Brennan provides the atmospheric tale of a tense snitch who's got Nothing But Time, and a limited amount of that. Sandra Seamans reminds us that females have great Survival Instincts, and that more often than not we are deadlier than the males. And Dave Zeltserman surrounds the reader with Nothing But Jerks, a story that is as gritty and cold as any of his longer works of noir.

Sandra Seamans, a very busy writer, rewrites the lyrics of a classic Rodgers and Hart song, and gives us Once Upon a Blue Moon, a vignette of a twisted family that recalls another loathesome tribe, the Peacocks, if anyone remembers that chilling, killing clan. You can hum along at Thrillers, Killers 'n Chillers.

I wonder if my bro-in-law, an inveterate Wal-Mart shopper, would enjoy a trip to the big box store with Keith Rawson's protagonist in Retail Therapy: A Wal*Mart Story. At least this guy gets his books from a real bookstore, then goes to Wal-Mart for his other needs. A sociopath with class, right? Check out Rawson's blue-light special at A Twist of Noir.

Interested in some flash fiction? You know those rowdy neighbors of yours that are always fighting? Talk to Stephen D. Rogers over at Powder Burn Flash. He'll see that you get Peace Restored. While you're there, do a little shopping if you're not burnt out by that earlier trip to Wal-Mart. You might just find that -- Congratulations: You're our one-thousandth customer! courtesy of Mark Robinson.
A brief comment to webzine publishers: Readability.  If the stories on your website are in white print with a black background (and that seems to be a very popular color treatment at crime fic webzines), that's really hard on these old eyes. If you want people to read the stories, make the readability factor as high as possible. Pay attention to line spacing, too. When the lines are too close together for comfortable online reading, I have a tendency to just move on to another site. I bet other readers do the same. It really isn't enough to just throw words against the wall. Showcase your stories by making them oh-so-easy to read. You'll be doing yourself a favor, because readers will stay longer and be more willing to return.

18 comments:

  1. I've read a couple of these, and there's some really good stuff here. Thanks, Naomi.

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  2. A great selection there. Survival Instincts is a big scary fave of mine.

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  3. Great recommendations, Naomi...both for readers and for the bloggers posting them. I've heard numerous people comment on the strain white font on a black background creates.

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  4. White on black is bad, but it's cos it's like holding a stencil up to a bright white light on most monitors. It's brightness that hurts our eyes.

    I favour very light grey text on black for reading. The less glare off the screen the better.... and white backgrounds are the absolute worst for glare. Ahem.

    Yes, I know that's not what I use on my own blog, but I compromise with #eeeeee for the background with black text.

    But text size is the real decider for me. I'm getting old too and I hate having to bust out my glasses.

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  5. Oh. But you've completely convinced me about the line spacing. The line spacing here looks way better than mine. I don't see a simple way to change that from the customize menu - anyone give me a clue where to look in the html/css?

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  6. Thanks for the nice words about my story.

    And you're quite right about the stories by Sophie Littlefield, Keith Rawson, Sandra Seamans, Gerard Brennan, Dave Zeltserman, Stephen D. Rogers, and Mark Robinson. Some really top notch stuff there.

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  7. Anton, I have to refer you to Corey about the line spacing. I'm no designer, I just know when the page is hard for me to read. And yes, my own blog (I just share this one) has the closer line spacing, too. I don't see anything in the settings or layout of the template that allows for that, so it must be in the html, which I wouldn't dare to touch!

    Help, anyone?

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  8. @Anton (and Naomi) I'd recommend you check out the Readability Bookmarklet. It's one of the best free pieces of software I found in '09 (with credit going to David Pogue). With all the variability among so many blogs, websites, etc. available on the web, this is one thing that can be truly helpful for those having reading difficulty with page layouts and templates. HTH

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  9. You, sir, are the best! I'll have a look at this right now.

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  10. Michael, I'm having an issue with the Readability tool. When I go to this page: In Krychov's Room, and then click the Readability button, what I see isn't the story anymore, it's the homepage for that webzine. On my Readability settings I first used terminal, then changed it to novel, but I still get the same results. I think this must be a fabulous tool, if I can figure out what I'm doing wrong.

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  11. Wow, nice find Le0pard13! My firefox is pretty secured so I had to manually add it as an add-on and now I can't wait to play with it.

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  12. Naomi, I don't think you're doing anything wrong. I get the same results as you using Safari 4.0.3 and Firefox 3.5.6 on a Mac. I also tried it on IE 8 on XP (after I installed Flash Player onto Fusion's VM). The funny thing was I got that webzine as soon as I landed there; and that was BEFORE I installed Flash. So I'm beginning to suspect READABILITY is experiencing a conflict with sites that are based on Flash (like that one). It's probably worth dropping a comment on their blog or a message via email. This issue seems to be theirs. HTH

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  13. Had a look at In Krychov's Room. Ironically, if you visit it with Firefox running Noscript but allowing the usual google schhhtuff it's pretty readable, with gray text on a #ffffff white background. Enabling "pulp pusher" scripts turns it into the white on black you hate so much, NJ. It's probably the flash overlay that's conflicting with the Readability plugin.

    Enjoyed that story, BTW.

    Oh I think I figured out line and a half-ish spacing. I searched through my template until I found the .post listing. The stuff after the { seems to define the style. I added an "line-height: 1.6em;" to mine and it's spaced it out. eg if I make it "line-height: 1.8em;" it spaces it out even more. This is what the whole of my entry for .post looks like now to give you an idea what to search for:


    .post {
    margin:.5em 0 1.5em;
    border-bottom:1px dotted $bordercolor;
    padding-bottom:1.5em;
    text-align:left;
    line-height: 1.6em;
    }

    Although now I've changed the "text-align:left;" to justify, although I'm not so convinced I like it.

    How does it look?

    The Black Dogs Reading Room

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  14. Michael and Anton, you guys really are the best. I'll play with the line spacing on wotlarkspip, and I'll try Readability with some non-flash sites. Thanks to both of you!

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  15. Oh, lord, yes! This works great with the TKnC site. Now I don't have to squint or read up-close and hunched over. YES! Michael, you are my hero! You should get an award from all the webzine editors and they should post a link to Readability on their sites.

    (Maybe I will trust you on that nasal gel after all.)

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  16. Nice overview, Naomi. Good work and thanks.

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  17. Naomi,
    Your advice about checking readability level is excellent. Changing line spacing seems more difficult (impossible?) to do with the standard templates I use for my blog.

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  18. Joe, I think you can change the standard template using the bit that Anton posted in his comment:

    .post {
    margin:.5em 0 1.5em;
    border-bottom:1px dotted $bordercolor;
    padding-bottom:1.5em;
    text-align:left;
    line-height: 1.6em;
    }

    Find the bit in the html that begins with the .post, and then add the one line (in bold) about line-height. I tried this on my wotlarkspip blog and it worked. But be sure to save a copy of your template on your hard drive before making any changes!!

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