Archive for the ‘short stories’ category

“Magic for Beantown” finds a home

May 22, 2019

This must be the good news week of the pendulum’s swing. I just learned that my story “Magic for Beantown” has been accepted by Aethlon and will appear in their next issue.

This is the story I’ve mentioned that may or may not have a leprechaun in it, and it’s the one that the editor had sent back to me twice for rewrites. (Another editor I know told me that the second request was a sign that he really wanted to use the story if he could get it in the shape he wanted.)

I have to format the story to the publication’s standards, which won’t be a problem, then send it back one last time.

I don’t know when the issue will come out, and it will be print only when it does. This is my third appearance in Aethlon, which kind of gives me warm fuzzies.

“Twilight of the Alpha Males” is up at Foliate Oak

May 1, 2019

My first bit of flash fiction, “Twilight of the Alpha Males,” is now up at Foliate Oak. It’s a nice publication*, and I’m pleased to be a part of this issue. The story speaks for itself, I think, and it was fun to write, once I came to understand it was whole at only 460 words.

I was “required” to provide a photo of myself, and what you see beside the story may or may not be recently taken and I may or may not still wear a beard and glasses. I also may or may not have less hair. And that may or may not be the best I can do for a smile.

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*Poets and Writers lists its circulation between 5,000 and 10,000, though how can you tell with a website that is free, and how can you estimate and then double your estimate and suggest you’re close?

Do you visit/use Poets and Writers? They had a forum that I used to visit and participate in, but like many forums, it was dominated by one or two contributors who seemed to sit in judgment and speak the “final word” on whatever topic was raised. The forum’s gone now.

seeking magic

April 15, 2019

So I’ve mentioned here a couple of times that I have been working on a story that may or may not have a leprechaun in it. (It’s not that I’m not sure. Rather, it’s that the reader must see the suggestion and decide. I do refer to this character as an “Irish demigod,” so I don’t think there will be much doubt.) Another character wants something and suspects his friend may be able to magically grant it to him, but he’s not specific enuf in his wish, with ensuing, edifying consequences.

I’d sent this story to a journal that had accepted two of my other pieces (including one of the OMF chapters) with reasonable hope. The editor sent it back asking for some revisions. And so I revised the story and resubmitted it. Then, amazingly, the editor sent it back a second time asking for more rewriting. I say amazing not that the editor was still not satisfied but that he seemed to like the story enuf to want to keep working with me to get it in the shape he wanted.

I won’t say I faced an existential crisis, but ’twas a puzzlement. Nearly all of my stories that have been accepted were taken “as is.” Only a handful of times have editors ever asked for any revisions, and those revisions were always minor. So I wasn’t sure what was inside the editor’s mind. Did he want me to fine tune the story with a few changed words and additional bits of punctuation? Or did he want to see something fundamentally different? Knowing which was critical to making the best of this second opportunity he was giving me.

So I turned to a friend who had for many years been an editor of a respected literary journal and presented my near-existential crisis. He and I traded emails for a few days as I told him my situation and he provided his suggestions. (Bottom line: any journal editor who is giving a writer a second chance at a rewrite really likes the story and wants to make it work.)

In the end I chose the fine-tuning approach. Among the points my friend and I discussed were the notions that you have to believe in your story and you have to gauge how much you want to see it published in the given journal. While I would be proud to see my piece in this journal, I leaned toward being satisfied with what I had written. And it’s not as though the two are mutually exclusive. It’s possible that the subtly revised story will meet the editor’s needs and find a home there.

I sent it back to the editor over the weekend with fingers crossed (which I suspect is very weak magic). His past responses have been months in coming, so I don’t think I’ll hear anything about the story’s fate for a while.

(And I’m sure you can see the parallels between my character’s wish for a magical solution and my own with this story.)

bits and pieces

April 12, 2019

When I stepped out of my house yesterday morning at 4:30 to let the dogs out, it was 74 degrees. By the end of the day the temperature had plummeted thirty degrees, with an overnight low forecasted at 33 degrees.

I could say “Don’t ever change, Kansas City!” Or I could say “Don’t ever change Kansas City!” Knowing the difference could save your life.*

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I received a rejection for my submitted story “Icarus” yesterday. I must confess that I was actually not disappointed by this. The publication was one I’d never heard of, and I suppose I was responding to a specific, themed call. But I’ve been thinking lately that I should maybe start aiming for more noted publications. Is this presumptuous? Arrogant? I’m not really sure what those publications are, though several of my writer friends list their credentials on their blogs, and they include some seemingly lofty bylines.

I also suspect that such “lofty” publications don’t need to resort to calls for submissions to attract quality work. In fact, I read a bit about the acceptance ethos at The Paris Review (quite legitimately lofty) and apparently they pretty much only take pieces that they have solicited. According to the article, they’d only accepted one over-the-transom submission in ten years! So far, that hasn’t happened to me. Still, just as with training for a marathon, you have to build a base.

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Here’s a random photo selection from my huge collection:

That’s my current truck, named The Prolechariot by my clever son. When I bought it, more than a decade ago, I had a contest (on my old blog, Roundrock Journal) and the winner would get a package of powdered sugar donuts. There were some good suggestions, but Prolechariot seemed to resonate best with me. The beast is now eleven years old, and I have yet to break 100,000 miles on it even though it takes me to and from Roundrock frequently.

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If you’re a follower of my Facebook page, you’ll know that I’ve been posting photos of various beers I have been drinking lately. One of those writer friends I mentioned has written a book called Stuff Every Beer Snob Should Know, which I’ve read cover to cover. I grew up in St. Louis and came of age in the days when you could cross the river to Illinois and buy beer at a fresh and foolish 19 years old. Thus I was raised on Anheuser-Busch products, or Big Bru as it and its kind are often called. Her book is beginning to wean me from this, and my nearly daily posts on Facebook are my attempts to show that I am making an effort.

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I’m a bachelor this weekend. My wife has taken a four-day trip to St. Louis to stay with our son and daughter-in-law (but no grands, yet). They’ll be doing a 5K at the botanical garden there. My own wild debauchery will likely include haunting the aisles of several used bookstores and maybe buying myself some shirts. Also, yard work. Such hedonism will likely exhaust me. And, of course, there are the dogs I must tend to.

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*Or this blog might.

“Forest Succession” finds a home

April 2, 2019

Can I trust an email I received on April Fool’s Day? The email told me that my story “Forest Succession” was accepted for publication later this month in Heartwood Literary Magazine. When the issue goes live, I’ll be sure to post a link here.

Heartwood Literary Magazine says that it likes Appalachian voices but is not restricted to them. I set my story in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, so I think there must have been enuf similarity to capture their interest.

“Forest Succession” is not part of the One-Match Fire novel, but it does involve one of the characters, and I think of it as the very last story in the chronology for those characters.

I have submitted this story to three other publications that haven’t yet responded, and I’ll need to withdraw it from those, but it has had the honor of being rejected by fifteen other publications and one that never responded after 279 days.

not really Irish either

March 25, 2019

I am told that I have some small Scottish heritage, though I suspect “lineage” is the better word, and “small” should be in italics. I know of no cultural influence from my distant Scottish ancestors (on my mother’s side) that survives in me. It’s not that I would object to having this influence. Rather that it may as well not be listed in my pedigree since it doesn’t seem to affect who I am.

Even less do I have any Irish influence, though my best friend in high school was a first generation Irish American and whose father I could rarely understand because his brogue was so thick. I did understand him, though, when he said St. Patrick’s Day was for people who wished they were Irish.

But neither of these flaws in my makeup has prevented me from working on two stories with strong Irish influences. One I’ve mentioned before is a short story that may or may not have a leprechaun in it. And the other is an entire novel that is set in an Irish-American community and in which Irish heritage plays an important role.

I had “finished” the short story last fall and sent it to an editor who had accepted two of my stories in the past. I thought the possible supernatural angle was risky for the sports theme of the journal, but it had to do with running, so I gave it a try. The editor sent it back to me saying that it was pretty good but not quite there. He actually wanted more of the supernatural element. So I rewrote it and tried to play that up without being obvious and then sent it to him again. And he returned it again, saying he wanted me to be more obvious.

And so I’ve been working on it, not sure just what more I can do with it without giving away the hinted-at leprechaun element. In part because I like hinting and letting readers make the connections themselves but in larger part because the runner will get his wish through a means other than a magical beneficence from a demigod. That’s kind of the whole point of the story. And so I dither. Is this rewrite far enuf to satisfy the editor yet not so far as to give away the store? Is there more I can do to refine this truly fine point? Or is it just not going to get to the shape the editor wants? The fact that he’s given me two chances at rewriting tells me that I should put serious, worthy effort into it. And so I will anguish and wring my hands and let it incubate for another week or so to see if any revelations come my way.

The other Irish-y piece I’m working on, the novel, is one of the Finnegans cozy mystery novels I’ve been dabbling in for the last decade (and what I had begun this humble blog for originally back in 2007). The story is set in a small city that had a strong Irish history. That’s changing now, and that’s where a great deal of the tension in the story comes from. A new ethnic heritage is supplanting the Irish history of the town, and while some embrace this new reality, others (for reasons beyond the obvious) are resisting it.

I can mitigate my lack of authentic Irish cultural knowledge when I write about this community with the fact within the story, the town has existed in the American Midwest (in a state called Illinois) for nearly 200 years, so it is truly more American now than Irish. Thus my deficient Irish portrayal is actually more authentic since the community is not that much Irish any longer.

I have one more chapter to write to finish the first draft, and lest you think I’ve written all of this in the last two weeks, let me say that I had begun this novel more than a year ago when I (foolishly) believed I need to take a break from the One-Match Fire novel that was consuming me with no end in sight at the time. Even so, this Finnegans novel, which is one chapter away from being finished in first draft, is only 49,000+ words. I’ll o’er top the 50,000 word count barrier with the last chapter, and there are a couple of substantive characters/interactions I’m thinking of adding to what’s already written that will swell the word count, but I think it will come in at the minimum word count needed to qualify as a cozy mystery novel.

And that’s what I’ve been working on in recent weeks.

“Twilight of the Alpha Males” has found a home

March 13, 2019

I mentioned here once or twice about a story I wrote that was only 460+ words long yet seemed whole and complete. I dithered with it, thinking maybe there was more story to tell, but when no more story presented itself I figured it was finished. My first piece of flash fiction. I was originally going to call it “Rolling Coal” but then settled on “Twilight of the Alpha Males.” It’s a fun story, with maybe a jibe at some current political situation. (Or maybe not.)

So I began sending it out to see if there was any interest. And it turns out there was. The very first place I submitted it to, accepted it. “Twilight of the Alpha Males” will appear in the May 2019 issue of Foliate Oak Literary Magazine.

I had sent it to two other places, the second only two days ago, and now I must withdraw those submissions.

When the story comes up, I’ll post a link here.