Flash Fiction "Dog Days of Summer" Edited by Barbara Venkataraman: Review/Giveaway

Review by Kathleen Costa

Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of  A Year of Shorts collection.

Flash Fiction is a unique writing challenge; a challenge Barbara Venkataraman made to herself, her writing family, and several colleagues. These writers, along with Barbara, were challenged to address a special theme (holiday or season) to “capture a mood, a memory, or an experience using exactly 100 words.” They could be poignant, thought-provoking, reminiscent, or cleverly funny, but only with 100 words...easy peasy!

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Not so fast! I have been reading and reviewing Barbara’s books, including her six-book Jaime Quinn mysteries, so after reviewing the first three flash fiction collections, I was intrigued to learn book four, Dog Days of Summer: Flash Fiction, was in the planning stages. I hummed and hawed, knowing I can’t order pizza in a hundred words, and decided, “Why not?” I set to take up the challenge. I had a great idea and started writing...164 words! What? It was like pulling teeth for me to give up a word here or a quip there...131 words! Better. I thought about the one thing I hoped to share, just one. Then I removed any extraneous word that didn’t help me impart that one thing, the thesaurus became a friend in the process, and thankfully contractions count as one...100 words! I did it! And with Barbara’s editing advice, I submitted and had accepted two flash fiction gems: Ice Cream Hero (Do you remember racing for the ice cream truck?) and Forever Invitation (Revenge can be refreshing.).

Dog Days of Summer: Flash Fiction Earns 5/5 Cold Lemonades...Absolute Fun!

Summer can be viewed through a multitude of perspectives, and Dog Days of Summer: Flash Fiction, the new Flash Fiction collection from Barbara Venkataraman and friends, touches many of them. With eighteen authors involved, readers are entertained not only by their perspectives on the summer season, but also their varied viewpoints, writing styles, and emotions readers feel. Each passage, from its personal memories and daydreams meant to distract to a bit of fun and some comeuppances, often has a punchline that makes you gasp or giggle or question, “Well, what next?” For me it was also turn the page and read some more!


Sometimes short and sweet is just the prescription: no need to read a previous installment, get locked into hours of reading, or be entangled in a long series. Enjoy these three flash fiction collection spotlighting the holidays with some laugh out loud humor and “I remember when” memories to “Oh, no” or “don’t read with lights out” warnings.

Scary Shorts
earns 5/5 Bags of 100 Bones...Entertaining Halloween Fun!

Twenty-five flash shorts from seven authors, especially favorite author Barbara Venkataraman, are excellent examples of what can be done with only 100 words. With a Halloween theme, authors created vastly different takes on the season from unfortunate standard options on a new car to a treadmill from hell, skeleton crew to costumed cuties, candy corn to pumpkin patches, trick or treaters to grim reapers. Each author has their own voice, humorous or spooky, using descriptive narrative or filled with witty dialogue. Short vignettes that are more treat, but be careful of the trick!

earns 5/5 Santas and More...Entertaining Christmas Fun!

I am pleasantly surprised and entertained that these six authors, especially favorite author Barbara Venkataraman, were able to accomplish it. Using the holiday season, these mini stories, thoughts, quips, and surprises captured the idea of giving and getting with Santa and elves, family and friends, customs and traditions. Some snippets are poignant, others are humorous, some make you think, and others have an air of comeuppance. However they are painted, all fun and well worth the time.

Valentine Shorts earns 5/5 Hearts & Giggles...Entertaining Valentine Fun!

This Flash Fiction collection is sweet on mystery, but not short on entertainment. Six authors, including Barbara Venkataraman, were challenged to write a Valentine-themed tidbit in exactly 100 words. These twenty-seven “heart warmers, morsels of mirth, and love notes” turned out to be an experience worth taking! Each author brought a different style, a different voice, a different perspective, but all wrapped in the hearts and flowers of the season. It was fun, endearing, and even a humorous read. However, like my favorite chocolates several stories begged for more! 


In working with Barbara on my vignettes, I found I was curious about the genre and her involvement. These were her responses...Enjoy!

KRL: What caused you to choose a flash fiction format?

Barbara: After I finished my 6th Jamie Quinn Cozy Mystery, Malice in Miami, I was looking for a short project to work on. Halloween was coming up and I thought, wouldn't it be fun to write some Halloween flash fiction? I asked a few budding writers I knew if they wanted to contribute, and they were all enthusiastic. The first book turned out well, so I decided to do it again for the Holidays and Valentine's Day. It was interesting that when it came to writing Valentine's stories a lot of people wrote about personal experiences. The problem with that was what they submitted were more like memories than stories. I had to do the most editing and guiding for that book.

KRL: What is it about flash fiction that interested you?

Barbara: I've always had a fondness for flash fiction. I enjoy the challenge of having a specific, limited number of words with which to tell a story. It forces me to analyze my word choice so that each one carries it's weight, packs a punch, and does double duty. From editing my kids' college applications to writing letters to the local newspaper, I learned how to eliminate words and embrace every form of punctuation to condense my writing. Stephen King said the first valuable lesson he learned about writing was that the second draft=first draft minus 10%, in other words, tight writing. Writing flash fiction is one of the best writing exercises a writer can do.

KRL: Other than me, who just sent you something unsolicited, how did you get others to join in?

Barbara: Great question! When I came up with the Scary Shorts project for Halloween, there were a few people I had been encouraging to write after they had expressed an interest. I had helped a friend get a letter published in the local paper and had edited a draft of an article for another. I put the word out to them and a bunch of other people I knew and asked if they wanted to write a story. I ended up with the two budding writers as well as my son, my niece, my nephew, a friend, and a friend's son. They loved being included and most of them also wrote for Holiday Shorts. Another friend joined in and I invited one of my readers from Goodreads who had expressed an interest. For Valentine Shorts, I invited a Goodreads author I knew, James Cudney. He wrote three stories and invited another author, Didi Oviatt, to participate. For Dog Days..., I decided to approach more Goodreads authors because we could all benefit from more exposure and a broadened fan base. I was thrilled when ten of them expressed an interest. As for you, Kathleen, you have been a fabulous reviewer and you decided to take up this challenge. You wrote some great stories, and I'm so proud of you!

Be a Big Barbara Venkataraman Fan!

Barbara Venkataraman Blog (A Trip to the Mobius Strip)

Barbara Venkataraman (Goodreads)

Barbara Venkataraman (Amazon)

Barbara Venkataraman has taken all four books from Scary and Holiday to Valentine’s and Summer Shorts and put them together into A Year of Shorts which will release on Amazon June 10. The exciting part is Barbara added more flash fiction from her talented colleagues, including ME! My new six flash fiction are included and spotlight a bit of shadowy fun and a surprise show ‘n tell, a holiday raffle and fruit cake cook-off, and a Valentine memory and some cards in danger. The new set A Year of Shorts collection is the giveaway prize.

Comment below in exactly “Ten Words.” Can you do it?  

To enter to win an ebook copy of A Year of Shorts, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line "shorts,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 19, 2021. US residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section in Kings River Life and in our mystery category here on KRL News & Reviews. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. And check out our new mystery podcast which features mystery short stories and first chapters read by local actors! A new episode goes up next week.

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Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is a 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying her retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband.
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


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