Jan Flanders

As everyone who has not been dwelling under a rock for the past half century knows full well, Jan Flanders is a world-renowned expert on writing, editing, and publishing fiction. A bona fide member of the landed gentry dating back to the Jamestown, Virginia, settlement and a magna cum laude graduate of Ms. Finicky’s Foundational Finishing School of Fiction for Well-Bred Females (FFFSFWBF), she resides with her three Angora cats in the heart of the deep South on the plantation, sadly diminished, where she was born and reared, and which her family has owned since before creation. God forbid she would ever allow it to fall into the rapacious hands of any vile Northern carpetbagger! Rest assured that will happen over her cold, dead body. She is still mourning the lamentable outcome of the late War of Northern Aggression, and if you know what is good for you, you would be well advised not to bring up the subject unless you wish to have your ears roundly pinned back. If anyone knows etiquette, it is our own dear Ms. Flanders, and she is doing you a favor by sharing her expertise with the likes of you, so be certain to keep to your place. If you do not demonstrate proper gratitude and humility, she is likely to give you a brisk rap on the knuckles, or some other especially tender body part, with her ruler to get your attention and ensure your compliance.

Fiction Etiquette with a Southern Twist Twisted Southern

Don’t you just love it when the days get shorter and the leaves are brilliant, when the air is cold and crisp and jack-o’-lanterns and goblins are veritably runnin’ amok? Why, Halloween is mah very favorite time of the year, and—

What’s goin’ on there in the back? Stop your whisperin’ and gigglin’, you naughty young’uns, and speak up so everybody in the class can heah!

She can believe Halloween is mah time of the year—is that what she said? Well! Butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth, would it, missy? You had best hold your tongue, or your dear Ms. Flanders is goin’ to have to administer a sharp rap across your tender little hiney with mah hickory walkin’ stick to remind you of your manners, baby doll. Goblins and witches will have nothin’ on me. Do Ah make mahself perfectly clear? Ah thought so.

Now, settle down, class! Ah swan, we had best get down to business afore y’all get totally out of hand.

Bring that there letter right heah this minute, darlin’, before Ah do somethin’ both of us will regret!

Dear Ms. Flanders,

Stories about demons and vampires seem to be extremely popular right now. On the other hand, so are stories about the Amish. I’m getting the impression some authors are making a cottage industry of these genres. Why, they’re popping out like they’re on a conveyor belt. There are even whole blogs and Web sites devoted to these subjects.

Amish and demons—I don’t get it. What gives?

Mildly Perturbed

Dear Mildly Perturbed,

What’s not to understand? Fantasy has been gainin’ reader share for quite some time, and demons and the Amish are simply the two opposite ends of the spectrum. In these uncertain economic times, honey bun, some folks imagine conspiracies under every rock and a demon or vampire or some such creature in every corner. Those of a more staid

and stable constitution prefer cozy stories about unfamiliar times and cultures they believe to be simpler and happier, where the only perplexin’ issue is whether the charmin’ boy gets the simperin’ girl—hence, romances dressed up in Amish clothing.

As we all know, whenever a product causes those cash registers to ring, suppliers will be jumpin’ on the bandwagon to provide more of the same until the market is so choked with the popular item that everyone loses interest. Consequently, you’ll notice all the writers spendin’ their time makin’ hay while the sun is shinin’ high in the sky. And naturally, now that the market is well nigh flooded, reader interest in these two genres will tumble into the cellar at any moment. And then your fellow writers will find themselves scrambling to latch on to the next big thing.

’Nuf said.

And now that Ah have set y’all to rights on that interestin’ subject, Ah have a thirst deeper than my grandpappy’s well, if you get my drift. Ah am headin’ straight off to mah old Aunt Fannie’s place up the road where she is stirrin’ up a cauldron full of her famous spicy hot cider. And Ah do mean spicy. There is nothin’ more restorative on a cool fall day than her special recipe, Ah assure you!

Be very sure you are back heah next month for another informative discussion of the Sacred Laws of Fiction Etiquette!