Archive for the ‘short stories’ category

“The Kick”

September 20, 2018

My story “The Kick” appears in the latest edition of Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature. Once again, I’m in the latter half of the volume, but I don’t mind. It’s a good-looking publication. (This is the second story I’ve had published by Aethlon!)

“The Kick” is the closest I’ve come to writing a 2nd-person narrator story. I don’t think it’s quite that, but the voice seems compelling (to me). This story is not part of the One-Match Fire universe, but it does involve running.

Yes, the edition date is a bit old, but it is the most current edition. I suppose they’re a little behind in issues and they’re keeping the dating consistent.

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a week of this, and that, and the other thing

July 13, 2018

How did a week go by and I not make a post? I’ve been a bachelor for all of that time (and a few days longer) while my wife darts around this state called Colorado — I’ve confirmed it’s a real place despite the odd name — seeing all but one of her sisters. So I’ve had parenting duty for the two dogs, the four (!) birds, and countless fish. Plus I’ve been trying to keep the anemic lawn alive in this monstrous heat (consecutive 100+ degree days). Plus working. And reading. And writing. And generally picking up after myself. So I guess time passes when you’re busy with things like that.

And it was only a week before this that my wife was in St. Louis with our son and daughter-in-law, providing emergency transportation while their car was in the shop. And then about a month before then, she was in Seattle with our other son and daughter-in-law and their little girl. And me during all of her trips playing the dog father.

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My One-Match Fire story “Moving Day” came out in THEMA Literary Journal during this week. There was apparently some delay with the printer, but here it is. My piece begins on page 55 (why am I always in the latter half of these journals?) and takes up twelve pages: the largest chunk of real estate between the covers. THEMA, as the name suggests, has a theme for each issue, and I had submitted for the theme “The Face in the Photograph.” In my story a son comes across a photo of his father as an infant, and though he doesn’t realize it at the time, the photo directs the course of the son’s life.

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I managed to make it out to my cabin during the past weekend. I did some weed whipping (having remembered to bring the gasoline this time), found that no mouse had tripped the trap (maybe they prefer Swiss to the cheddar I had baited it with), and swam for an hour in the lake. I’d also remembered my swimming gear, including the hard-soled water shoes, so I could actually swim, with kicks and everything. It was another idyllic hour. And because I swam just before leaving, I thought I didn’t need to shower when I got home. That was a mistake I’ve been paying for during this week as well. I was apparently still infested with chiggers on my legs, and, oddly, my feet. I have been itching for days. Cortisone cream and antihistamines are intimate parts of my life lately. I thought the other day, as I was scratching, that I must find a way for one of my characters to say that the little Ozark cabin is in “Bugbite County.”

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My work on “Spring Fever” creeps its petty pace. Every time I visit it, I hone it a little sharper. I don’t know if I’m nearly finished or if I’m nearly to the point of seeing how bad it is.

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I use this image as my avatar in some places online, so you may have seen it before. I carved it into a Volkswagen-sized limestone boulder in 2005, and for most* of the days and weeks and months and years since then, the initials have been sitting mutely under twelve feet of water in my lake. I used a dull chisel and a hammer with a broken handle to carve this, but the one I carved on the side of one of the sandstone steps leading to the cabin was done with a Dremel.

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*There have been some times when enuf water has leaked out of the lake to expose the boulder.

MTWTF

May 29, 2018

I began writing Finnegans Fogbound as a respite from the One-Match Fire stories and now I find myself working on a stand-alone story “MTWTF” as a respite from Finnegans Fogbound.

In fact, I’ve written a first draft of the entire 4,000-word story in a single weekend! (This has precedent. Years ago I wrote my story “Diaspora” during a stay at a lovely bed and breakfast in New Mexico. And last fall I wrote two stories — “The Kick” and “Forest Succession” — while staying for a week at my son’s house in Seattle.)

I’ve had “MTWTF” for decades. It’s based on an incident in a past life in a faraway city among people who are now ghosts. I’d always wanted to write a story about the incident, but I could never think of a structure for telling it (or a tone). I suppose you can guess the structure I struck upon based on the title, and though it deals with a serious matter, I didn’t think I had the authority to deal with it seriously, so I booted up my snarky narrator and let him do the work. (He proved his worth most recently in my story “Old School.”) Once I had those worked out, the story flowed. 4,000 words of flow, and I half think I want to cut that some, but the story is whole as it stands, and I have already cut out much, including an entire character who merited my narrator’s comic savagery but whose backstory didn’t need to stay.

So, first draft.

I say the incident involves people who are now ghosts, and while I don’t mean that literally, I am certainly haunted by one of them. The central character, the antagonist who is a deserving victim of her own short-sighted do-goodery, has been a recurring voice in my head spanning those decades. Whenever I second guess anything I do or have done or want to do, I hear her voice. She was full of judgment then (as well as unsolicited advice) and her haint still is. I’ve wanted to write this story as an exorcism as much as to tell a comic tale. (Oddly, now that I’ve written about her, I find that I want to pummel her more and may summon her specter again for more abuse.)

So, “MTWTF.” I’ve thought about tossing a lower-case “h” into the title, but I think it weakens the impact of the acronym, and no one is going to be confused without the “h” anyway. I’ll let it simmer for a while. Maybe send it off to a friend who has graciously offered to read anything I send him (and who is getting his second novel published!!!). Come at it with a critical eye and see if there are more words I can remove or condense. And then I guess shop it around.

“Old School” is now online

March 21, 2018

My story “Old School” is now up at Bull & Cross. You can read it here.

I based this story on several things: a conversation with someone who made the basic assertion in the story (I was never certain whether or not he was serious about it); some bosses I have had through the years; and an accounting professor at the second college I attended whose appearance (and perhaps name) I used for the main character in the story.

This story is similar in spirit to my story “Velvet Elvis.” They build to an unexpected yet should-have-been-obvious conclusion.

Enjoy! (but only if you wish; I’m not trying to impose any response, really)

“The Kick” finds a home

March 13, 2018

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned my story “The Kick” before. It’s running related (all of the running I do lately is in my fiction). Anyway, I just learned today that it’s been accepted for publication in Aethlon, in an upcoming edition.

Aethlon published my One-Match Fire story “Runaway” last year (I’m fond of that story), and it was the first and only place I sent “The Kick” for consideration. This is the second publication to accept a second story of mine. Mirror Dance did this as well many years ago.

“The Kick” is not related to any of my other stories or characters. It’s a one-off. And though it has a first-person narrator, he/she speaks of “you” who is the subject of the story, so it verges on being a second-person narration.

Aethlon is a print publication only, so unless you subscribe, I won’t be able to share the story with you anytime soon.

Anyway, happy news.

today is 6MAR18

March 6, 2018

As you probably already know, today is the birthday of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate and perhaps the best-known practitioner of magical realism. While there has been some backlash against magical realism in recent years, the achievements that were made by Garcia Marquez are undeniable. I’ve read some of his works, including A Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera (twice) plus some shorter works.

The company where I sell my labor is international, and we were recently acquired by (or merged with — depends on who is talking) another international company, expanding my exposure to the world. I have daily interactions with people in India, for example. And this is why I wrote the date in the headline as I did. My company has asked us to use this international standard for writing dates, and I have no problem with it. Thus not an affectation.

The Magnolia Review, with my story “Fire Sermon,” came out today as well. The issue is not online, nor it is in print. It is only available to subscribers in PDF form, though I was given a copy by email to see my story and feel the warmth of pride and a kind of achievement of my own. The link is only to the cover art and the table of contents. Here is a link to the issue where you can read my story (if you want). This was their fire issue. Not only is my story, “Fire Sermon,” in it, but there are stories titled “Fire Pit,” “Dustoff under Fire,” and “A Fire in the Neighborhood,” as well as the poems “The Burn,” “Night Fire,” “Beautiful Fire,” “The Fire Chief’s Son’s Sensory Memories,” “Fire Chasers,” “Orange Flame,” “The Fire Triangle Fuel,” “The Fire Triangle Heat,” “Chicago Fire,” “October Fire,” “Feeling the Fire Nearby,” “Old Flame Burning Forest,” “Cotton House Fire,” and even “Prometheus.” There is also a piece of art in the issue named “The Fire That Night.”

There is a single sentence missing from my story. I don’t know if the editor cut it deliberately or not, and it doesn’t affect the flow or “meaning” of the story much, so I’m not going to sweat it. I haven’t read all of the contributors yet (I sometimes do that when my story mingles with others like this), but I intend to read the fiction at the very least.

“Old School” is in session

February 28, 2018

I received two emails recently. (Seriously, I so rarely get emails any more that getting two at once is notable.)

One was a rejection for the submission I’d made of my One-Match Fire story “Twice Blest.” That poor story has a long history, including being accepted last year by a publication that promptly went out of business before it could print my piece. It’s since seen many rejections, but I think it’s a good story that just needs to find the right home. So I’ll persevere.

The other email was an acceptance for my story “Old School” that I had sent away months and months ago and had more or less consigned to the I’ll-never-even-get-a rejection bin. When I looked at the submission in Duotrope’s Digest, it said the likely response date was more than a month overdue. So the approval — even the response — was a happy surprise.

“Old School” is a one off; it’s not part of any of the other story universes I’m working on. It’s also a comic piece, not one of the fraught, literary stories that have been bedeviling me or part of the cozy mystery universe I’ve dipped a toe in. I’ve written about “Old School” on this humble blog once or twice; it’s based on an actual conversation I had with someone.

The editor was kind in his acceptance email, saying generous things about the story and his eagerness to use it. If all goes according to plan, it will appear in Bull & Cross online near the end of March. And since it’s online, I’ll be able to post a link to it so you can read the story if you care to.

Also, I’m required to provide a head shot. I’ll have to find something that is at least a little bit not-unflattering.

(And not that I’m counting or anything, but this marks the 28th story of mine that’s been published.)