Archive for the ‘short stories’ category

Friday Feature ~ Open Country: an allegory

October 21, 2022

This story appeared in the May 2013 issue of the online magazine About Place Journal. Here is a link to the story.

This story is about as close as I’ve ever come to making a political statement with my fiction. The allegory the title refers to is pretty obvious when you read the story. A man with a cabin in the forest wants to be surrounded by only white oaks. The red and black oaks can go find someplace else to grow. But most of all he hates the cedars, which are swarming into his woods, unchecked, and rapidly reproducing. It’s not the forest he remembers from his youth, and he’s cranky about that.

It’s set in a forest much like the one of One-Match Fire, but it’s not part of that universe. I always thought I would have another story suited for About Place Journal, but so far it hasn’t come to me.

I found myself in an unlikely place

September 22, 2022

I was poking around in Goodreads the other day and found myself listed there. Now, there are a half dozen writers listed there by the name of Paul Lamb, and they are not me. But one reference I saw listed a publication called Crossed Genres. It sounded familiar, so I clicked on it, and it turned out to be an anthology that had taken one of my stories back in 2010. I didn’t know it at the time — or until the other day — that the anthology came out in a print edition.

The story is titled “Diaspora” and I’ve written about in several times on this humble blog. The best link is here. I see from that old post that I did know that a print edition was coming, but I guess I never heard anything more about it; I was never sent a copy or invited to purchase one.

But I did find it on Amazon for just a few dollars, so I bought it. I should have it in a few days. It will go on my shelf of print journals that have taken my stories. That will be nice to see when I look up from my creative labors to the bookcase across the room where those journals sit.

I had another story in a printed journal that I did know about at the time, and I was invited to purchase a copy. But the price was $27! I checked around, and several people had complained to a blogger who keeps track of these things reporting the same thing. Apparently it is the method of this publisher to accept work and then solicit purchases from the accepted writers as a reliable revenue stream. I didn’t buy a copy, but I do check occasionally on ABE Books to see if that issue is there and at a reasonable price. Someday, maybe I’ll have that document to put on the shelf across the room too.

Update 5OCT22 – The journal arrived and when I slid it onto the shelf with the other journals I have with my stories, I found that I had already received a copy of it. Not sure how I’d forgotten that. And now I’m waiting on another physical copy of a different journal. I had thought that I would get a free contributor copy, but after a couple of months I wrote to the editor who said that they didn’t have the budget for that. So I bought it for a few dollars (plus shipping). Another to put on my shelf anyway.

“Travel Light” will reappear next month

September 7, 2022

My story “Travel Light” will appear in the second volume of Made of Rust and Glass, an anthology of Midwestern fiction, next month. The official release date is October 4.

“Travel Light” is an older story of mine that first appeared in Penduline Press in 2013. The story is about an office float trip on the Kaw River near my home. I had considered it the foundation for an entire novel about the character featured in it, but then along came the characters in my One-Match Fire stories, leaving no space in my brain for other stories, and that original idea never developed.

Made of Rust and Glass is a print anthology, though there is an e-book version you can buy. I won’t be able to share a link here, but the story is still up at Penduline Press.

“Memento Mori” is now up at Cape Magazine

August 31, 2022

My story “Memento Mori” is now up at Cape Magazine (go to page 60), a British publication that’s been around for more than a decade. I had submitted my piece to the magazine’s “This Is the End” themed call, and they liked it. I hope you do too.

If you read the piece you’ll notice a similarity to Hemingway’s story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.” I take a different direction with my story.

This story takes place in my One-Match Fire universe, though it includes none of those characters and makes no reference to it even indirectly. I have a companion story, called “First, Do No Harm” that connects to this story, and the characters in that are from my OMF stories. They become involved in what happens in “Memento Mori.” I’m still shopping that other story around, so I can’t link you to it to see the connection.


I am in St. Louis this week, looking after Small Paul while his daddy is in Nebraska (I know, it sounds like a made-up place, but it’s real — I’ve been there) and his momma is attending/teaching classes at the university where I got my undergrad degree. So far, we’re getting along well.

I picked up my daughter-in-law from school yesterday, and I barely recognized the place. It’s been a few decades, so even the “new” buildings there looked old to me. But it was busy and vibrant, with lots of students intent on getting an education.

“A System Reboot” is now online at OpenDoor

July 26, 2022

My story “A System Reboot” is now online at OpenDoor Magazine. Here is the link for a download. Click on the Mental Health issue cover, July 2022. Then click on the tiny Go To Link text at the bottom. Then you’ll need to scroll to page 61. (So yet another of my stories that doesn’t appear in the front half of the publication, but it is featured on the cover!)

I wrote about this story in an earlier post. The coincidence of my character regaining her memory on the same day that the nation inaugurates a new president — both a brain and a nation getting a system reboot — might seem too coincidental to be plausible, even in fiction, except that it really happened. My wife did have an episode of Transient Global Amnesia on the day before inauguration. Her recovery began the next day. While I have fictionalized the incident, and left out a lot of family-specific details, it pretty much happened in the real world they way I describe it in the story.

Friday Feature ~ “Pandora’s Tackle Box”

July 15, 2022

I’ve had an affinity for Greek mythology, going back at least to high school Latin class (which I guess should have steered me to Roman mythology, but here we are). And I’ve had a semi-ambition to write my own modern versions of some of the tales just because they are colorful and peek into human nature so well. (Michael Cunningham has done something similar with his collection Wild Swan, though he used folk tales.) My early story “Moron Saturday,” for example, is a retelling on the Diana and Actaeon story.

The only other story I’ve brought to completion in this endeavor is “Pandora’s Tackle Box,” set in the Ozark mountains and dealing mostly with a crusty character I named Old Festus, who stands in place of Hephaestus, the blacksmith of the gods. Hephaestus was tasked with creating Pandora, whose purpose in turn (according to some myths) was to tempt the Titan Epimetheus and bring about his downfall because his brother, Prometheus, stole fire from the gods and gave it to the humans. (The Judeo-Christian character of Eve is believed to have been derived from Pandora.) Hephaestus gave Pandora all of her lovely attributes, and Zeus gave her the box (better translated as “jar”) full of woes and hardships. Pandora, being the weak female character needed to explain/excuse male weakness, opened the box and let all of the woe and hardship into the world, leaving only hope left in the box.

In my story, the ne’er-do-well character Ep wants to win a fishing tournament, and Old Festus sees this as a chance to rid himself of his high-maintenance daughter, Dora, by marrying her off to Ep. He begins this seduction by equipping Dora with some very nice fishing tackle. Ep falls for it. On the day of the tournament, as Ep and Dora are on the water in a small boat, a tussle over the tackle box sends all of the lures to the bottom of the lake. Only one lure remains.

“Pandora’s Tackle Box” was first printed in A Golden Place in the spring of 2011, an online journal that has since disappeared. (They also used my real name in the byline rather than my pen name, so maybe it’s just as well that it’s disappeared.)

I later submitted it to the Harnessing Fire anthology. It’s described as a Hephaestus Devotional. Since my story had the Old Festus character, I thought it might be a good fit, and it was. The print anthology appeared 2013. This is part of a series of devotionals devoted to old Greek gods and demigods published by Bibliotheca Alexandrina. (I’m not clear if their intent is actual worship of the Greek gods or not.) My story appears in the latter half of the bound anthology, which seems to be where all of my stories are destined to be placed.

the momentum continues ~ my story “The Travelers at Rest” has found a home

June 13, 2022

I learned yesterday evening that my story “The Travelers at Rest” has been accepted at WayWords Literary Journal for its upcoming issue 7, projected for a mid-July release. I had submitted my story back in January for their “Vacation” themed issue.

Duotrope lists this publication as having both an online and print version, but I can’t see any online access to their prior issues, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to give you a link. (I think the “electronic” status is a Kindle version of the issue.)

The acceptance letter stated that there would be (might be?) some edits coming. I doubt they’ll be anything I can’t agree with or at least provide a solid argument against.

This is an older story of mine. I had started it in 2009 and just kept tinkering with it. According to my records in Duotrope, I’d submitted this 26 times. Someone else might take that many rejections as a sign that the story just wasn’t any good, but I was always sure of this piece, and my experience has told me that success in this business is due as much to good timing/perseverance as it is to talent. So, after 13 years of effort, this little 1,890-word story has found its home.

The story was built on a phenomenon I’ve noticed a few times in my life when I’ve been traveling. I sometimes run into people I know at the most unlikely places, far from home. And usually they are people I’d just a soon not have run into. My story begins with this, and gives a few colorful examples, but then it transitions to something much better. One reading of this story could even find a supernatural element to it.

So, June has been a good month for me so far.

and then this happened ~ Floyd County Moonshine

June 10, 2022

Way back in April, I mentioned that one of my stories, “The Retreat of the City Folk,” had been accepted by Floyd County Moonshine, an Appalachian journal that called for “local color” stories. I submitted my story and received an acceptance the very next day, which was nice.

At the time, the editor said my story would appear in the September issue, but last week he wrote to me saying they could fit my story into the June issue, which you see above. My contributor copy arrived in the mail yesterday.*

As I said in that earlier post, this bit of fiction is based on an actual incident my wife and I faced at some rural property we owned prior to Roundrock. I compressed the timeline and adjusted the parties involved, but the issue it speaks about — timber trespass — is a serious problem in rural forests. We fared better than the characters in my story, but not much better.

So far, June has been a busy month for my creative life. I’m hoping to keep the momentum.


*My story begins on page 82 of the journal. I don’t think I’ve ever had a story appear in the first half of any print journal yet, so that’s still my ambition.

my story “Memento Mori” has found a home

June 7, 2022

As I was preparing yesterday’s post about “A System Reboot” being accepted at a lit mag, I received an email letting me know that my story “Memento Mori” has as well! “Memento Mori” will appear in the “This is the End” themed issue of Cape Magazine. It is my understanding that the issue will come online this month. When it does, I’ll post a link.

This is an interesting story for me. It’s essentially my rewrite of Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” (though mine is in a dark and dirty place, and I have a different ending — also, thanks, Pete, for the link to your version). I explained this when I made the submission, though I have no idea whether that affected the approval decision. And although it stands on its own and makes no reference to it, the story is part of my One-Match Fire universe.

I had conceived a series of stories revolving around a single incident and how this incident would ripple through the lives of people connected to it, even tangentially. In a different story (“First, Do No Harm,” which I’m shopping around vigorously) two of my OMF characters happen upon the incident and react as their characters would. “Memento Mori” is the incident itself.

I found myself so giddy after receiving two acceptances in a matter of minutes that I continued to check my email repeatedly through the day to see if there were any more! (Alas, no!)

my story “A System Reboot” has found a home

June 6, 2022

I learned over the weekend that my story “A System Reboot” has been accepted by OpenDoor Magazine for its upcoming Mental Health issue. It should be coming out online later this month. When it does, I’ll post a link.

This is perhaps the most unique story I have written. It is about an incidence of transient global amnesia that serendipitously happened on the day before inauguration in 2021. My protagonist temporarily lost her memory for a day due to an accumulation of stress that had peaked that morning. (Among the stress was the dread of what might still happen in the last few hours that the Orange Man was still in office.) Her memory returns — her system reboots — on Inauguration Day, just as the nation is rebooting and leaving a trauma behind.

Such a fine, metaphorical coincidence might seem too pat, too opportune to be allowed. Except that it really did happen that way! And it really did happen to me and my wife! She had an episode of TGA on the day before the inauguration. It was scary for a while, because I feared she was having a stroke. Once that was ruled out, and the “benign” diagnosis of TGA was given, the day became fun in a way. She kept asking me the same questions every twenty minutes, having forgotten that she’d just asked them. Essentially, she lost the ability to make short-term memories for a day, and her long-term memory was clouded for a time. She didn’t know we had grandchildren, didn’t know that our own children were married, didn’t even recognize her iPhone. Most comical of all, she thought that Ronald Reagan was president. I think that was the most merciful aspect of her affliction: she didn’t know who the actual president was at the time.

She was fully recovered by the next day, though she has no memories of the actual event. I began writing this story merely to give her an account of what happened. Then I modified it into a piece of fiction, and now it will be published.