Archive for the ‘short stories’ category

“Velvet Elvis” is now online for your reading pleasure

April 29, 2022

I mentioned before that my old story “Velvet Elvis” had been accepted at Fiction On The Web. It appears today. You can read it here.

This story first appeared in Bartleby Snopes way back in 2011.

The editor at Fiction on the Web likes it most when readers leave comments, so if you feel inclined, please do (at the site, not here, though here is nice too). See if you can find the spelling error in the text.

“Motet” edits

April 25, 2022

I mentioned before that my story “Motet” has been accepted by a lit journal. It’s going through the editing process right now, which is a little new for me since most of my published stories have been accepted as written (or with occasional minor suggestions shared via email). I don’t want to suggest that my prior stories were so brilliantly written that they never needed fine tuning. (The vast imbalance of rejections to acceptances makes that clear enuf.) Rather, I want to show the novelty of my current experience.

I received a redline of my story through Google Documents. I’ve dabbled in that tool before, mostly using it for backup storage before I went to the cloud. (And I should probably go in there and clean out a bunch of old stuff now. Though that is where I found the germ that became Obelus!) So I knew of the document sharing function it had, but I’d never used it. Now I am (I think).

The story as submitted was only 860 words long, but the editor found about a dozen points in it to question/suggest/revise. Many of these had to do with removing passive voice constructions, which I was fine with. There were some verb tense changes suggested as well, Some I accepted and some I didn’t. (One helps imply that a remembered character has died, for example.) There were also a couple of word choice suggestions. Most importantly, and one I didn’t yield on, was the word “counterpoint.” “Motet” is a vocal musical form, as is “counterpoint.” I used that word metaphorically to describe the “arguments” as a homes association meeting. The editor wanted to change it to “counterpoints” in the plural form, making it a more literal conversation rather than musical harmony. So I pushed back on that. I hope he accepts it.

The biggest change of all was the deletion of the last sentence. It sort of sums up the point of the story, and the editor didn’t think that summation was needed. He thought the story ended better with the preceding sentence. Curiously, the few times I’ve had substantive edits to my stories have nearly always been with the endings. (“Velvet Elvis” was considerably improved because of this.) So I yielded on this point as well.

I could see the editor’s points on the suggestions, and I agreed with most or gave counterpoint on others. We’ll see if any of that goes through. I don’t know if I transmitted the story through Google Docs correctly. I sent him a follow-up email just to be sure. There will be a second round of edits, so I should find out then.

Update 27APR22 – The editor reports that he has accepted my responses and arguments to his redline and that the work is done. There will be no need for a second edit. If I opened the correct final version on Google Docs, then the story is in the version I wanted in the end. I guess I’ll see when it finally goes online. I’ll let you know when that happens.

a twofer day

April 15, 2022

One day in February, I had received four rejections for submissions I had made. All at once like that was brutal, but that’s the nature of the biz.

I can balance that with the two emails I received today telling me that two of my stories were accepted! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten two acceptances in a single day, but I’ll take them.

One story is called “Motet,” and it’s the internal monologue of a man as he is raking the leaves in his front yard, reflecting on the neighbors whose leaves have blown into his yard. It’s in the spirit of community and diversity and harmonious blending, and I wrote it last fall when I was . . . doing a lot of leaf raking. I guess it would be called flash fiction since it’s only 860 words long, but I wrote the story I had, and I don’t think adding anything would have improved it. The publication that accepted it (“we are thrilled to accept your piece”) is called The MockingOwl Roost, an ezine that’s been around for a couple of years. I had responded to a call for stories on the theme of “Introspection.” Only 12 days passed between submission and acceptance, which is pretty good in my experience. It looks like “Motet” will appear in the journal in the middle of July.

The other story is one I wrote recently titled “The Retreat of the City Folk.” It’s about two city folk who buy some rural forest land and then have a conflict with a neighbor that costs them time and trouble and money. It’s based on a case of timber trespass that actually happened to me and my wife on some property we had before we acquired Roundrock. The point of my short story was that the two characters were almost literally “babes in the woods” and were outsmarted at every turn. In fact, they don’t get a word of dialog in the story, which is intended to show how passive they are. My story will appear in an upcoming issue of Floyd County Moonshine, a print journal that’s been around for 14 years. It’s based in Appalachia, but it is interested in “local color” stories from all over, including, it seems, the Missouri Ozarks. I had submitted the story only yesterday, and it was accepted today. (That’s the second fastest acceptance I have ever received.) I’m not sure when my story will appear, but the journal is published twice a year.

These acceptances are great news, but they also mean I have to withdraw a number of other submissions I’ve made for the two stories, but that’s the nature of the biz.

“Travel Light” travels again

March 21, 2022

I learned over the weekend that my old story “Travel Light” has been accepted to be reprinted in the Of Rust and Glass Anthology. It will appear in the ezine in the fall edition (though they do have occasional printed editions).

Or Rust and Glass publishes work by writers from all over the American Midwest. “Travel Light” happened to be about an uncomfortable overnight float trip on the Kaw River just west of Kansas City (based on my experience). It had first appeared in Penduline Press in September of 2013, and I was proud of it then, but I didn’t see it traveling any farther than that.

When I found the (open) submission call for Of Rust and Glass, specific to Midwestern writers, I sent it in about a month ago and got the good news on Saturday.

Two weeks and news of two reprints. Now my fingers are crossed for a new story finding a home soon.

Velvet Elvis sings again!

March 15, 2022

My old story “Velvet Elvis,” which I think was where I finally found my narrative style, appeared in the December 2011 issue of Bartleby Snopes, a publication now retired. The digital version is still available here (though the editor told me it will come down eventually). The story won the Editor’s Choice Award at the time.

Fast forward to today and “Velvet Elvis” will be published again! I had submitted it to Fiction on the Web, which considers reprints, and it was accepted. It will appear in the April 29, 2022, issue when it comes online. Fiction on the Web publishes a new story each Monday and Friday, and then the stories become part of the archive there.

I’ll be sure to let you know when the story appears.

“Election Day” is up for reading

August 23, 2021

My recently accepted story “Election Day” is up for reading in the holding pen at Down in the Dirt Magazine. The piece will appear in an upcoming printed volume, but the editor has posted it online already.

“Election Day” has been accepted

August 19, 2021

Well, the drought of 2021 has ended; one of my short stories has been accepted for publication in Down in the Dirt.

I wrote the story “Election Day” based on my experience volunteering at the last two elections in my community. (I’m scheduled for the general election in November too. I’m becoming a junkie.) While the incident I wrote into the story didn’t happen, I had discussed the possibility of it with our site supervisor at the time, and she confirmed that such things do happen. Nor is it an especially atypical incident in modern America; I just framed it into an election day.

The acceptance letter I received is nearly a thousand words long and goes into some detail about the various ways they will publish the story (online later this week, in the v190 bound edition in December, possibly in a collection next year). Curiously, aside from my name in the salutation, there was no personalized information, not even the title of my story, in the acceptance letter.

This acceptance came quickly. I had only submitted to the journal four days before. (While this isn’t the fastest acceptance I received — that one came in a few hours — it is the first of this year.) I am on staycation this week, and I had risen from a four-hour nap (I’d ridden the 26-mile route on the trail that morning) to find the acceptance email.

This is also one of the fastest written stories I have done: two weeks from start to submission. Re-reading it now, there are a few things I would tinker with but I think the story stands well as it is.

I’ll publish the link when it comes online.

“Hush Arbor” is in fron//tera

July 27, 2021

The copy of fron//tera containing my story “Hush Arbor” arrived yesterday. It’s a lovely edition containing stories and poems in both English and Spanish as well as color photos, artwork, and even graphic stories. One of the stories (not by me) is even set not very far from my home in the the Kansas City suburbs.

“Hush Arbor” is a story with two characters from my One-Match Fire universe. It may even have a supernatural element. I’m sorry there’s no online edition I can link you to.

Friday Feature ~ “Race to the Summit”

March 12, 2021

In my early writing years, I spent a lot of time and thought on what kind of stories I wanted to write. Did I want to write in a certain genre? Serious stuff or comic stuff? Realistic fiction or speculative fiction? What did I like to read and could I emulate it? I was still finding my way, perhaps my style, and certainly my subject. So I was trying out different things.

“Race to the Summit” was the second story I had accepted for publication. This was back in 2007 (published in 2008), so nearly two decades had passed since my first published story. I can tell you that I thought a lot about whether or not I was really a writer if it was taking so long to make the magic happen again. (I was writing and publishing a lot of nonfiction in those years.) I began to think that getting “The Mythmaker” published was just a fluke, and I remember setting myself a standard at that time: I wouldn’t consider myself a writer until I had at least ten stories published. That number seemed impossibly ambitious, but if I could achieve it, I would have a substantial body of work that couldn’t be dismissed as luck alone.

So I was encouraged when “Race to the Summit” was accepted for an anthology of speculative fiction: Beacons of Tomorrow. My story is more fantasy than science fiction, or maybe magical realism. I must have been reading a lot of Garcia Marquez at the time for the influence is clearly there. This is one of the few stories of mine that actually received editorial suggestions. I recall one scene that was depicted in a clumsy way that the editor wanted changed, so I did. There may have been a few word changes as well. I wish I could remember more about the genesis of the story; there may be something in one of my journals about it, but good luck finding that! The story involves an earth-bound boy who is infatuated with a girl he imagines to be an angel — a time-honored theme — and his jealousy in learning there is another boy who seems to have captured her attention. What he learns in the end is that he is both right and wrong.

I’m not sure how I learned of the call from Beacons of Tomorrow for speculative short stories, though I suspect it was through Duotrope, which I’ve relied on greatly over the years. By this time, email was the fashion and I submitted in that way. And once again, when the acceptance came through, I kept my success to myself. I suspect I wouldn’t let myself believe it until the printed copy was in my hands. I guess my ambition was a fragile thing. But I now had two short stories published, and I was beginning to believe I might actually pull off this writer thing. Like “The Mythmaker,” my second story appeared in a print journal, and I cleared a space on my bookshelf for these two trophies of mine, where I could see them easily as I sat at my writing desk.

Friday Feature ~ “The Mythmaker”

March 5, 2021

In the preface to the great collection titled The Stories of John Cheever, he notes that he’d left out the “embarrassingly immature” pieces. I remember reading that forty years ago when the collection first came out, and I thought that if a writer of Cheever’s calibre could admit to novice work, I should not be hesitant to say the same about my own.

I am embarking on a semi-regular post on the humble blog in which I visit my published stories and tell you something about them. My thought is that I will do this on Fridays — hence the clever title for the series — but I don’t promise to be consistent about making weekly entries. Still, here I go.


“The Mythmaker” is my first published short story, appearing in the Spring 1990 issue of The Platte Valley Review. It’s astonishing to me that this was more than thirty years ago. I had been writing seriously for about five years by then (and keeping a writing journal even longer), but I’d had no success getting any of my (embarrassingly immature) stories published. Several well-intentioned people, who weren’t writers, told me the conventional wisdom they had heard, that it would take ten years of effort to get something published. I took that as a given at the time and surprised myself by doing it in five years.

My story is a sort of reminiscence by an old man whose family was an important part of Kansas City history but whose fortunes had fallen greatly by his generation. My city has something of a reputation for not knowing its own past. The story and characters are pure fiction, of course. I wrote it for a contest that a local magazine held for Kansas City stories, suspecting, rightly it turned out, that the winning story would be about a divorced woman having trouble coping with her divorce. The only component I missed in my prediction was that she did her laundry in a laundromat. Still, I thought mine was a pretty good story and I hung on to it.

Then I went to a writers conference at the Kearney State College in Nebraska. The focus of the conference was regional literature, which was something I was interested in at the time. This was my first writers conference and I was duly awed by being able to hang out with like minds, most of whom had credentials. By the end of the long weekend, when the conference was coming to a close, I happened to be walking down the hall beside a man attending, and he said, out of the blue, “So what do you write?” I told him I had a story about history and loss, and he said that he’d like to read it. Oh, also, that he was the editor of a journal called The Platte Valley Review published by that college.

When I got home I sent him my typewritten story — this was in the days before email was prominent, so it went by snail mail — and crossed my fingers. I don’t recall how long I waited to hear from the editor, but when I did, it was the best news in the world. He liked my story and wanted to publish it in his journal. I had done it!

For weeks, perhaps longer, I told no one my news. I wanted to savor it as my own private delight. It may have only been when the five contributor copies arrived in a bulging brown envelope that I shared my secret. I don’t recall, but I do remember how it made me feel at the time, that I could do this thing I had so much dreamed about since I was a child.