Archive for the ‘short stories’ category

“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.

the second life of “Men at Work and Play”

February 25, 2019

One of the early (2014) One-Match Fire stories that saw publication was “Men at Work and Play.” Back then the perfect title (for the whole collection) had not yet been bestowed upon me by a certain poet, and I was calling the slowly growing collection of them my Fathers and Sons stories.

“Men at Work and Play” appeared in Wolf Willow Journal in April of 2014. That may have been the only edition of that publication because less than a year later the publication itself had gone dark, and today the address is hijacked.

Now, though, the story is going to appear again. A newish publication called Defuncted is seeking fiction that had appeared in magazines and journals that are now gone. My experience with Wolf Willow Journal was exactly that.

A problem, though, was that the word count of the story, 3,500, exceeded the maximum preferred by Defuncted. Writers in that situation were welcomed to write to the editor to discuss the possibility of submitting, which I did. I was told to send the story in, which I also did. And over this past weekend I learned that the story will appear in Defuncted in an upcoming issue.

Once I know that it’s reappeared, I’ll provide a link.

Update: And here it is!

how short is long enuf?

February 11, 2019

Dostoevsky is supposed to have written, “I’m sorry this letter is so long. I didn’t have time to make it shorter.”

One technique among writers is to pour as much onto the page as you can and then later come back to cull and edit and refine so that the result is polished but also generally much shorter. You are able to do this because you had sufficient raw material to work with.

I’m looking at a piece of my writing from the other perspective. Over a few recent sessions, I’ve written what I think is a whole story (first draft) that finishes at a whopping 450 words. Something about this feels wrong to me.

I suppose this fits nicely into the category of flash fiction. Generally defined as a complete story under 1,000 words and often far under that. My piece qualifies. And I know as I give it some time and distance that I’ll come back to it and shore up its deficiencies (like maybe a tiny bit more nuanced reference to what/who the narrator stands for), but even so, I’m not likely to more than double the current word count.

It’s a first-person story, mainly because I want to show the narrator’s subtle, bemused contempt for a group of (gullible) people, so it’s really his story. I’ve thought about adding a second character, a stand-in for the object of the narrator’s contempt, but I don’t see how that does anything more than add to the word count and probably distract from what I’m trying to get across.

So maybe it is (or will be) my first piece of flash fiction, but I’ve always been suspicious of that category. If attention spans really are shrinking and the market for shorter short stories is expanding, then am I feeding the need and failing the civilization? (Actually, that dovetails nicely with what my story is “about.”)

Still, I can’t help thinking that what I have is merely a sketch for a better story that is waiting to be written. I feel as though I may be taking the easier path of calling it good rather than making it better. (I recently “finished” another story — one I’ve been working on for literally four years — that comes in at only 1,300 words, and I have the same suspicions about it as well, that I have only some pieces of a bigger story. I’m letting it simmer.)

So I’ll anguish over this for a few weeks as I let it simmer as well and look around for some likely markets for it.

Also, this is the first time I’ve used the term “butt hurt” in a story.

“Twice Blest” has found a home

February 4, 2019

My One-Match Fire story “Twice Blest” has been accepted for publication in The MOON Magazine. It’s supposed to appear in The Power of One-themed issue, which is scheduled for this month, so any minute now! (I’ll post a link.)

UPDATE: And here it is!

I had originally submitted this story for their Atonement-themed issue (coming in March), and the editor wrote back saying she wanted to use it earlier, if that was all right with me. And of course it was! (She also said some very nice things about the story.)

The MOON Magazine had published my story “The Most Natural Thing in the World” back in 2014, so that’s two One-Match Fire stories they’ve accepted. This is the tenth OMF story (of the 24) that has been published, which makes me think the whole might be at least as good as the parts.

“Twice Blest” has a history. It was originally accepted in 2015 by a magazine that quickly went defunct before they could publish my story. Its peregrinations took it to more than a dozen publications before it found a home. I don’t know if that’s a good number or an embarrassing number, but it’s my number. (I’m constantly fussing with these stories, so I think the 2019 version is better than the 2015 version would have been.)

The title comes from the Quality of Mercy speech in The Merchant of Venice, which speaks of how showing mercy benefits both the giver and the receiver. (That’s why I had submitted for the Atonement-themed issue originally.)

So, not a bad start to 2019.

thick skinned report – 1st rejection of 2019

January 5, 2019

I got my first rejection of 2019 yesterday. The first of many, I assume.

I had sent my story “Forest Succession” to a journal in mid-October in a daring move because I wasn’t responding to a themed call for submission but simply found a journal that seemed to align with my story and tone.

I received a form rejection email, but it was professional enuf not to crush my black and shriveled heart too much.

In the last year and a month, I’ve sent the story to sixteen* publications and received twelve rejections (three of which were personalized) and one “no response” (which the pub noted up front was possible). The story has evolved a little bit in that time but not substantively.

I think it’s a good story. I think I just need to find the right home for it. It’s currently in submission at three publications, and I regularly look for journals and calls that might be suitable for it. The story is (what I believe to be) the final one in the overall One-Match Fire cycle, though it is not part of the novel itself. (Not yet. I keep thinking I should just add all of these after-the-fact stories I’m writing to it. Sigh.)


*I had a technical writing teacher in college who provided instruction on when to use numerals and when to use the words for the number in text. He was a bit haughty about it, saying his instruction was the only one we ever needed to heed. (That’s probably why I still remember his name after *mumble-mumble* years.) Anymore, I just write with whatever the thought is at the moment. It’s my blog, after all.

when a rejection isn’t a rejection (but still is)

December 13, 2018

So I received a rejection email for a submission recently, but it’s unlike every other rejection I’ve received, and that’s in part because I’ve chosen to see it as a rejection.

A publication was looking for travel stories, and I had one originally published in 2009 about an experience I had when I was visiting my son in Kenya (“Night Train to Kisumu”). Since the new publication would consider previously published work, I sent in that story on the chance that it would be accepted. (Also, the online journal that had originally published the story has long since disappeared.)

The rejection that was not a rejection (but that I’ve chosen to consider a rejection) came this week. The editors said that they really liked the piece but wanted some changes made to it. The changes were substantial and structural (though sensible), but I didn’t really feel like muscling my way through a ten-year-old story that had already been published and would at best be a reprint and that wasn’t going to garner me a nickel. 

So I responded to the rejection that wasn’t a rejection saying I was offering a rejection to their suggestion of revision. I don’t really expect any response, and I consider the matter closed, but if they come back with an acceptance of the story as written, I suppose I’ll go with it.

whence good ideas?

December 10, 2018

In a past life I wrote a lot of copy for a woman who was publishing a magazine that focused on a lucrative but hitherto underserved market* of big spenders in my town. Her magazine was slick and successful, but her pockets were not deep enuf, and she had to walk away from the venture after two issues. (It was subsequently taken up by other publishers in town, including the local fish wrapper, and continues in various forms to this day.)

I had sustained my writing relationship with her for a while after when she took a job with a propane company, producing newsletters. (This was back in the days of print.) She and I developed a professional friendship that included a few business lunches and chatty phone calls. And one bit of wisdom I gleaned from this was her offhand comment once that the good ideas always come back. Her point was that if an idea keeps presenting itself to you, then it must be good in some way you don’t yet recognize and it is probably worth your pursuit.

And thus is the case with the latest story I’m working on: “Icarus.” A little sleuthing showed me that I had begun this story nearly four years ago, and while I continued to keep notes in the ensuing years and even made an ill-fortuned attempt at writing it (making it a running story, which didn’t have legs), I never achieved the critical mass to really get it underway. (Yeah, I just split an infinitive! Fight me!)

I guess for me, critical mass can be achieved in different ways. Sometimes just the accumulation of notes can be enuf to get me going. In the case of one story, “When We Were Young and Life Was Full in Us,” I had the story in mind but didn’t have some controlling feature I needed. It turned out that what I needed was the correct tone, and once I settled on that (playful innocence), the story flowed. More recently I spoke of my story “MTWTF” (still not found a home, alas) and how once I found the structure for telling the story — the passage of a work week — the story came forth easily.

So it seems with “Icarus.” It’s based on a colleague I knew back in my (dark, dismal) teaching days and a misstep he made. The story is as old as time, or at least as old as men and women have been pursuing relationships, and I saw early enuf how the tale of Icarus flying too close to the sun was apt as a metaphor for the man’s foible. But there was something missing that was keeping me from telling the tale.

Once again, tone to the rescue. I am now trying to tell this man’s (fictionalized, Greek-tragic) story from the point of view of a bemused best friend who tries to help his buddy understand the doom he is pursuing. I’ve made them teachers in an English department so I can toss in some clever words. I think it’s going to work this time.

Of course, half the tale is in the telling.** I know the plot; I can see the end (flames). But getting there is what I have to do. I am lucky to know that kind of tone I’m reaching for, and I think that will guide my word choices, my syntax, the birth of the metaphors, the flow of sentences, the congealing of paragraphs, and all of that.

So, I’m flying forward on what I hope are reliable wings with this story. (And I’m boasting perhaps too confidently, having only amassed a few hundred words so far.)



**A saying that I think I came up with on my own (though I am willing to concede that I read it somewhere and don’t recall)