Yes, Punchnel’s is having a contest. And the contest period is short. But then, the entries have to be short, too. Here’s the deal:

On Friday, February 10, Punchnel’s and Vouched Books are sponsoring Writer Night at Second Story. It’s an evening of cocktails and conversation and a little light reading, and our special guest will be Frank Bill, author of the much-ballyhooed book of rural noir stories, Crimes in Southern Indiana. We’re also going to host a three-week book club to discuss Bill’s stories before the big event. Details will follow shortly.

But, as part of the event, we’re also running a Hard Boiled-Down Noir Fiction Contest. We want your best noir-style fiction. And when we say “best,” we don’t mean “cliched, hackneyed, done-to-death Sam Spade homages.” We want tough and dark and unflinching and original and–well, read Frank Bill.

And we want it in 500 words or less.

And if you are one of our winners, we’ll publish your story and invite you to read, too.

The Competition Period
Now through Friday, January 27, 2012.

The Prizes
Up to five posts will be selected to appear in Punchnel’s during the week of February 6, 2012. Authors will be paid Punchnel’s normal rate for short fiction ($10 per accepted piece.) Authors whose storiess are chosen will also be invited to read their work as Writer’s Night at Second Story, Friday, February 10, 2012, in Indianapolis. Featured speaker at the event will be Frank Bill, author of Crimes In Southern Indiana. (No reimbursement will be provided for transportation or other expenses. But if you’re local or close, come out and read.)

Rules & Stuff
Entries must be submitted to Punchnel’s through Submishmash (http://punchnels.submishmash.com/submit) and will not be accepted otherwise; and must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Friday, January 27, 2012. There is no reading fee for this contest.

There is a strict upper word limit of 500 words. Entries over the 500-word limit may be considered for publication, but not as part of the Hard Boiled-Down Noir Contest; in fact, all entries will be considered for publication.

Please include “Hard Boiled-Down Noir Contest,” along with the name of your story, in the title of your entry. For example: “Hard Boiled-Down Noir Contest: My Story’s Name.”

Winners will be notified the week of January 30, 2012. Up to five winners will be named.

Normal rights and submission rules apply. See Contributors’ Guidelines for details.

Submit early and often. Good luck!

Also: please “Like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. No, it won’t improve your chances of winning the contest. But it will give you a few more reminders to read the stuff we’re doing here–and maybe inspire you to write for us, too.