Are You Happy? by Benjamin Imamovic

But don’t just read my story, take a look at the stellar choices below:

It Wasn’t Slim Ricky by Chris Rhatigan
The Strap by Michael Keenaghan
The Matchmaker: A Highbrow Comedy Coupling “Brief” and “Straightforward” by KJ Hannah Greenberg
Twenty-Five Grand by Court Merrigan
Corridors by Martin Garrity
A Visit From Mr. Spike by Jesse Lee
I’m Just A Guy by Liam Sweeny
Arequipa by Mike Gibson

You can read all the fine tales here.


As writers, we all need time to de-stress and relax. In this sense, Onions News is like a guilty pleasure for me. Consistently hilarious, the fake news show’s video features have more than once made my day a little better. Though almost every story is excellent, below I have listed some of my favourites. More often than not there’s real satiric bite behind the jokes, and nowhere better is that illustrated than in the examples below:

5.      Disney Geneticists Debut New Child Stars

We’ve all had that (overbearingly strong) feeling, that today’s pop music is all the same (crap). And that, all Disney kid’s shows are copies of one another. And now, we have no reason to doubt our refined inner critic.

4.      Hollow Point Bullets Recalled That Don’t Explode In Targets

Imagine a horrible world in which bullets don’t call people. Wars would be pointless, and we would all have to find other means to settle our disputes. I shudder at the thought. Thankfully, said useless bullets are quickly being replaced by even better alternatives: bullets that set the organs of the victim on fire. That’s better!

3.      FDA Approves Depressant Drug For The Annoyingly Cheerful

Don’t you just hate those people who never let the life’s hard moments get to them? Whose faces seem stuck in permanent grins and who, probably, dream of rainbows while you dream of being chased by zombies towards the edge of a bottomless cliff? Thankfully, there’s a cure and this news story has the answers you need to kill that annoying laughter of the guy behind you.

2.      DNA Evidence Frees Black Man Convicted Of Bear Attack

Imagine the surprise when a judge acquitted one black man who was sentenced to life in jail after allegedly mauling his victim. Thankfully, DNA evidence has allowed just such a controversial move when it found that a bear was actually responsible for the attack that left several bear-like traces behind.

1.      ‘9/11 Conspiracy Theories Ridiculous’ – Al Qaeda

We’ve all had our suspicions: either it was the aliens or it was the Bush government. And now, after listening to this esteemed Al Qaeda operative, we can all finally leave the issue behind. It wasn’t the aliens after all, and it most definitely wasn’t Saddam.

I recently read Jim Dodge’s ‘Fup‘ – a 120 page novelette about immortality, whiskey, wild pigs, magical ducks and a cursing grandfather and his grandson Tiny. It’s a brilliant story, and a very quick read. So much is compacted within its 120 pages, that to not look at how Dodge manages to keep it all contained would be a sin.

I have, below, listed every turning point in the work: first, the page number, then, the description of the action, and finally its rating of 1-5. 1 is the smallest turning point/change in the story, and 5 would be the biggest. Then, I’ve put this info into the graph, showing the turning points and where in the story they occur.

We can see several trends: the story starts off highly erratically, mixing several POVs and time changes. The back story is most highly prominent between pp 49 and 67, and it’s here where the story is at the half way. Interestingly, Fup, the female duck who becomes the main character is also introduced at this half way mark. After Fup’s arrival, the story takes off again, although this time, the progression to the end is much more smooth and controlled. Dodge, therefore, formulated his story by incorporating the back story, conflicts and character development in its beginning, so that the reader has a clear frame of reference before Fup arrives to disrupt this balance created.

So, let’s begin:

The duck is mentioned and Gabriel dies. Major T/P. [5]

The Indian gives Jake whiskey. Major T/P. [5]

Cliff Hobson tells Jake about taxes. Minor T/P. (but without it, Jake might not have adopted Tiny) [2.5]

Jake learns of Gabriel’s death. Major T/P. [5]

Jake sees the ducks in the sky – not a T/P but more a re-affirmation of him settling down and become a grandfather. [3]

The storm that sweeps in from Hawaii: a symbol of change. Maybe a premonition of Fup’s arrival? Leads to the checkers game where we are allowed to learn more about the characters (BTW: “Jake dreamt constantly now, like a stick carried by the river” that’s such a good line) [2.5]

Bill the Thrill – Jake sells his stock and gets a distributor – I think from this point on Jake’s no longer immortal; he has sold his soul by commercializing his whiskey. If so, major T/P. [4]

First mention of Lockjaw. [2]

Jake wins the long checkers match, weather is clear. What we learn of during the storm period (Bill the Thrill and Lockjaw) must, if my logic is right, both have negative implications on our MCs. [1]

Fup arrives – Major T/P. [5]

Jake feeds Fup the whiskey – they become directly tied by its magic properties, Tiny only has a little of it and drinks less than both of them. Minor T/P. [2.5]

Drive in – Fup becomes one of the family – literally (Minor T/P). This is a happy scene, and will, by logic, be followed by conflict. [1]
Fup is increasingly being given human characteristics – finally indicating a preference for certain genres of movies (!) The gradual way Fup is characterised adds authenticity to the narration. [1]

Sunday morning pig hunt is first mentioned. [2.5]

Fup can smell and follow wild pig, first connection with lockjaw [4]

Lockjaw is seen once, twice [1]

Lockjaw’s POV (!!!)  Lockjaw is immortal. Not sure who’s telling us this, omniscient narrator or Lockjaw [2.5]

Johnny Seven Moons introduced. Is he Lockjaw? Seems too simple… [3]

JSM leaves, says he enjoys the domestic gone wild. Is he Jake’s opposite (who is wild gone domestic)? [2]

Jake meets Lockjaw. Jake is saved by Death Whisper. Interesting: whiskey/alcohol was the downfall of native American Indians. So, what does whiskey actually represent? If JSM is the ‘real’ Indian and Jake’s Indian is ‘tainted’/corrupted by his pursuit of a white man’s drug, maybe Lockjaw is JSM. [4]

Jake is bored of immortality – he needs to ‘teach something he didn’t know’ – teach Fup to fly – Major T/P [5]

Jake throws Fup and she falls, unable to fly. [2]

Jake loses his teeth trying to get Fup to fly. Clearly this is a mistake. Fup has already been domesticated and it’s too late for her to change. [3]

Tiny shoots Lockjaw, Fup gets in between the barrel and Lockjaw, dies [5]

Fup is reborn out of Lockjaw’s innards, flies, and dissapears. [5]

Lockjaw is really dead, is buried [2]

Jake dies [5]

Jason Michel’s Pulp Metal Magazine is where I got my first publication, and a few after that. Ever since then, the magazine was close to my heart: its eclectic mix of entertaining stories, fresh ideas, and sometimes very good writing fitting for a ‘full time’ literary magazine rarely disappoints.

Jason is himself a man of many worlds. With influences ranging from Cormac McCarthy to Lovecraft plus a hell of a lot of heavy metal, his writing spans genres and ideas. He has written two cracking books so far: Confessions of a Black Dog, a modern journey and a deep exploration of self and others, unlike anything you might have read before, and The Wrong Mind and other fictions, a collection of gothic horror inspired tales that, while gruesome and never holding back, remain firmly planted within our own human reality.

I ask Jason about his magazine, his writing, and where he sees the future heading for him and other writers who have found a home online. His answers never disappoint, and there’s lots of things new writers, including myself, can learn from his advice.

1:What drove you to create Pulp Metal Magazine?

It was a drunken idea that popped into my head just before last Christmas. I didn’t think there was any mag out there that really mixed all the literature/horror/sci-fi/noir/comic/heavy music/b-movie stuff I was into. It was a very self-indulgent idea.

Anyway, I got in touch with that bloody good-for-nothing rascal P D Brazill (who’s a fucking powerhouse) & asked if he wanted to be involved. He did.

& the rest is a sorry tale …

2:Can you tell me about your process? Do you start with a sentence or an idea? Can you see the whole story initially or is writing for you like walking through the dark? What gets you going and keeps you writing?

Jesus, it’s all of the above.

I enjoy experimenting with style & methods. It’s play, a game, a puzzle. There is no answer just an ongoing process.

With my novel, Confessions Of A Black Dog, there were loads of things going on in my head that went into the writing. Dreams, experimenting with layout, research, drawings, real life & death.

I thought I knew how it would end but there hit a point where it began to write itself in a very real sense. Translating a bombardment of images into words that were, hopefully, interesting to read.

3:Your magazine urges its potential contributors to make their writing, above all, fun and not pompous. Can you elaborate on this, especially reflecting on today’s online creative environment?

We’re story tellers aren’t we?

Not some counter-cultural gurus. Not political activists. Not (A)rtists.

Doesn’t mean that our stories won’t give people something to feel something, think about, to mull or puzzle over. But really. I get up for work every weekday, y’know?

You need a fucking sense of humour & a step back to realise that it is only language & that is the most mercurial thing of all.

Which is why I don’t have poems in my mag. Poets are, in general, a preposterous lot. Give me an honest disgruntled hack any day of the week.

To quote the mighty Maximus – ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!?

4:You have listed a wide variety of interests and influences, from music to film to paintings. How do these, sometimes varied and contrasting media, influence your own writing?

There are many facets to everybody that do jar with other parts of who we think we are. As we are nothing more than a very flawed process. It’s a constant struggle for some kind of breakthrough. As Heraclitus said “War is the father of all”.

Genre is something that is dismissed by the intelligentsia & lit-snobs as some form of lesser writing & yes, there are a lot of “bad” writers out there, but when it’s done properly & with intelligence & soul it transcends all of those barriers of mere taste. It’s usually the middle-classes sneering at the proles, as usual. I consider Crime & Punishment & The Brothers Karamazov to be exemplary instances of crime writing.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be discriminatory. Discrimination is of the utmost important to one’s judgement of the world around you. Otherwise you’ll turn into a mall sucking slug glugging 2% beer while staring through panes of glass at all the latest fashions. & you’d deserve it too.

5:You’ve self published The Wrong Mind and other fictions on Lulu. What are your views on traditional big print publishers and where we’re heading in the future with Ebooks?

Whoa there! Let me just polish my crystal balls!

I think we have to look at the big picture & not just at individual sectors.

Trad media is slowly learning that it has to diversify or die. But hey, that’s capitalism for you. (Unless you’re a bank, of course).

I saw that Old Prune Face, Hillary Clinton, said the other day that mainstream news channels were losing the “information war” to newer channels like Al Jazeera & Russia Today.

All this seems to show that in the wake of the information revolution the media is fragmenting & atomising along with the rest of society. Yet, at the same time there are these huge facile & tawdry media events that seem to engulf people’s lives.

I don’t think people are going to be able to make any money from writing or from music in the near future, the basest circus-masters notwithstanding. It is the age of Simon Cowell.

But maybe that’ll inspire more ideas as the money factor is taken away from the equation.

I haven’t really answered your question there, have I?

6:What do you think about writers using Myspace and Facebook to promote their works? How important is it for you to have a strong web presence?

The only responsibility to maintain any kind of presence I have is to the writers who send me their stories/ideas. The writers who I’ve become acquainted with because of the net are a thoroughly loyal bunch to a man(& woman). These people rally behind you, they really do.

I try my best but, to be honest, the net is depressing me more & more. That fear of constantly keeping up with things is a right pain in the arse & I’m far too idle for that.

I’m quite anti-social & the idea of having hundreds of “friends” just makes me queasy. They should have something called “passing acquaintance-book”.

The democratising of creativity could well be its momentary death knell.

I happen to think that the greatest writer in the world is lurking somewhere in a room somewhere & that no-one will ever read his work (certainly not in his lifetime).

A greater part is timing & circumstance & don’t let anybody tell you anything different.

7:Where do you see yourself and your writing in five years’ time? Any plans for another novel?

I believe Danny Hogan’s mighty Pulp Press is publishing, Bad Eye, a novella of mine that I wrote after COABD. It’s a pulpy dystopian revenge story. All good fun.
I’m also 35,000 words or so into a surreal noir story – Death Street.
Who knows how the bejimminy that’ll pan out.
I tend to see myself as a variety of different people depending on environmental & internal situations so who knows who I’ll be in five years time.

I’ll generally be avoiding the men with butterfly nets until then.

Jason, I want to thank you for your time and all the best to you

I started A Small, Good Magazine to help new writers break into the publishing market. Anyone new to the world of online publishing can easily feel overwhelmed by the information and various options available. I hope that our presence makes that adjusting process a little easier at least.

What are you looking for?

As the name implies we are a small magazine, but we aim for big things. All I ask is for your best work: above all, I want to see real honesty and clarity of expression. The best of writing, I believe, is more real than real life. I welcome both fiction and non-fiction, as well as non-rhyming poetry.

What are you not looking for?

Please don’t submit science fiction, haiku, romance, or fantasy.

Any word count limits:

100-2500 words. The longer the piece, the better it has to be.

Cool. So how do I submit?

Send your submissions to Make sure you include ‘Submission’, the name of the piece, and word count in the header. You may include attachments if you wish, but always make sure to copy-paste your work into the body of the email.

Do I own all the rights if you decide to publish my work?

The writer, of course, owns all the copyright on the text. If you decide that you need to take your work down, for whatever reason, just send me an email, and I will do so.

Do you accept work previously published?

Yes. I care about the quality of the writing above everything else. If another magazine asks for exclusive rights, send me an email and I will take down your work.

Will I be paid?


Any last bits of advice? Perhaps a single sentence to nicely sum up what I should be aiming for?

Yes. Get to the heart with the least cuts possible.

P.S. What inspired the name?

Raymond Carver’s award winning story A Small, Good Thing.

Nam Le is a young Australian writer who imigrated to Australia with his family when he was less than one. Le’s Vietnamese ancestry is a heavy inspiration for his work, having come to Australia as boat refugees. Indeed, Nam Le’s debut short story collection The Boat both acknowledges these ethnic traditions and breaks them.

The seven stories span the globe in their pursuit of exploration of human condition. Le manages to somehow successfully imagine the condition of characters far removed from his own reality, something that many authors may not have dared to attempt, especially as their first work. With that said, the strongest stories in this collection are the first and the last (Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice, and The Boat): both partly autobiographical.

Love and Honor is a fine work of meta-fiction. It chronicles the life of a main character who shares Le’s name, and who, like Le was at the time of writing, is attending the Iowa’s writer’s workshop. A father’s visit proves monumental turning point for Le’s character, and after a big discovery about his family’s past, things will no longer be the same.

The Boat is a passionate and heart-felt tale of people forced to seek a better life. It vividly describes the horrors of the so-called Boat people and the reader cannot help but empathise with their condition. This is a hugely topical story for Australia and a recommended read for people seeking an authentic angle largely unexplored.

The Boat’s style can be heavy at times – Le is prolific in metaphor and simile. While many images work, some stick out a little too much as if composed by a writer seeking to create imaginative writing over good good writing.

For a first work, The Boat is a fine promise for good things to come from Nam Le.

The good folks over at Blue Lake Review have been nice enough to publish Bread and Coffee and Cigarettes. Blue Lake Review is a new magazine, but already excellent stories and new talents abound. The other stories featured in the April issue of the magazine are:

– Tom and Marian, by Phyllis Green

– Home From the Dead, by Tom Sheehan

– Tomorrow Belongs to Us, by Cathy Rosoff

A wide range of stories this month, and all I can recommend.

I hate formatting. A part of this, a big part of this, is due to the fact that I’m too lazy to remember the rules. Cathy C, over at the AbsoluteWrite forums ( has posted a hugely useful guide for formatting manuscript submissions. The guide covers submitting both short story and novel manuscripts. While the guide is designed for print submissions, unless dictated otherwise, online submissions are expected to follow the same submission rules.

The guide covers the following points of interest, their definition and when they’re used in industry:

– Bold fonts
– Chapter breaks
– Chapter start points
– Courier 12
– Courier new
– Cover sheet
– Font size
– Formatting
– Headers
– Indentation/Tab stops

and many others…

He is seen by many to be one of the most important and influential American short story writers. For me, Carver’s short stories showed me how writing can be architecture, in that it can be both beautifully organic and at the same time clinically measured, restrained. In The Art of Fiction, No. 76, Carver talks about his own writing process, his drinking stage and the impact of drinking on his life, but he also talks about that thing that used to get him going – the first sentence. His writing habits, Carver explained, were either all out or nothing, when he wrote, he wrote as much as he could, and when there was no inspiration, he would wait for it to arrive. The revealing, personal interview has something for everyone, whether you are a Carver fan or not.

My last post concerned Aristotle’s poetics. Today I’m going to have a look at the first of the concepts covered, that of poetic imitation.

On imitation of characters as real people:

‘…it follows that we must represent men either as better than in real life, or as worse, or as they are.’

Aristotle’s point is a subtle one, but hugely important. As writers we must be aware of the choices we make, of the words we use and when we use them and for what purpose. In representing characters we need to have a conscious understanding of the reasons why we depict one character as good and the other as bad.

Most actors will tell you that they don’t play bad characters as bad people. Nobody thinks of themselves as bad, most sane people have a reason for the way they are, the way they act. It is these reasons that we must carry across on the page.

On imitation of objects through rhythm:

‘For as there are persons who, by conscious art or mere habit, imitate and represent various objects through the medium of color and form … the imitation is produced by rhythm, language, or ‘harmony,’ either singly or combined.’

Writing styles act like instruments – the order of words on the page contribute, shaped the meaning ascertained. Not only does the way an object comes into existence change, the rhythm of our writing forms the world itself.

Aristotle talks about the pleasure of rhythm. He knew about the power of chants and persuasive speaking, all using common elements of melody. Today, science has confirmed that our ear is a finely tuned calculator, it enjoys repetition, a steady beat, and order.

On imitation of events through narrative voice and tense:

‘For the medium being the same, and the objects the same, the poet may imitate by narration- in which case he can either take another personality as Homer does, or speak in his own person, unchanged- or he may present all his characters as living and moving before us.’

The narrative mode, or the way the narrative is delivered is something I personally don’t give much thought prior to starting the writing process. In other words, for me, it just happens, I get a fairly good idea at the start of the story that POV should be second person, for example. That is probably not the best way to go, indeed Aristotle argues that poets imitate (a conscious decision, therefore) the world around them, and it is their imitation that gives meaning and life to the objects and people inhabiting their world.