Archive for the ‘short stories’ category

“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)

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“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.)

the unbearable creativity of distance

November 27, 2017

Depending on when you are reading this, I may be several miles above the planet, winging my way home from Seattle. My visit was circumscribed by the needs (demands?) of a fussy almost two-year-old, so I didn’t do much in the way of sight seeing or touristy stuff. (Nor did I go running, though had I wanted, it happened that the Seattle Marathon took place while I was in town. The day was filled with ominous clouds and frequent rain and plummeting temperatures, but despite such delightful conditions, I could not have done anything respectable with that distance right now.)

I did, however, manage to finish two stories. (I am as amazed as you are!) The first is the story I’d mentioned recently called “Forest Succession.” I’ve already sent it to a trusted reader, and I’m feeling good about it. It is not part of the One-Match Fire novel, but it does deal with many of the characters in there, though much later than the time period the novel covers. (I have a vague notion of writing a sequel to that collection.)

The second is a wholly new story that I’m calling “The Kick” and that is unrelated to anything I’ve written, though it is about running, sort of. I’ve often growled at the word count limit of many publications. A thousand words just doesn’t seem enuf to tell a solid story; the shortest of mine start at more than twice that number. Yet “The Kick” comes in at just over one thousand words, so maybe I finally have a contender. It’s only a first draft, of course, so it is likely to change.

I didn’t have much trouble adjusting to the two-hour time difference in Seattle (though the evenings were tough). Since I am naturally an early riser, I had no trouble with that part of the day; I actually had to sleep in. And since the household was quiet in the early hours, and since I had copious amounts of iced tea (unsweetened, of course), I found myself before my laptop with my ideas in my head, and the words flowed.

So this leaves me with the question, do I need to travel long distances and be in unfamiliar places in order to write? Does it do something to stimulate my creative ferment?

“Moving Day” has found a home!

October 10, 2017

My One-Match Fire story “Moving Day” has been accepted by THEMA Literary Journal and will appear in the Summer 2018 issue next June.

I had submitted the story last June (by snail mail!) and had nearly forgotten that I did. I responded to a themed call for submissions — the theme being “The Face in the Photo” — and sent this story since a photo plays a critical role in it and in the plot of the novel, actually directing the course of one character’s life in part. You can read about my submission in this old post.

So I have a small, one-page contract to sign and return and I’ll get one copy of the printed journal (next June) as well as actual payment of $25! Aside from the 15 cents I got for one story (a Buffalo nickel and a Liberty dime), this is the first time I’ve ever been paid for my fiction. (Actually, not quite true. I was promised $10 for a story years ago, but the check never arrived.)

This is the seventh One-Match Fire story to see publication — that’s one-third of the whole novel — and my twenty-fifth story published.

I had been reviewing my various outstanding submissions in the tracking function at Duotrope’s Digest that very morning and was sad when I learned that I had not seen a single thing published this year (which didn’t make sense since I’ve had two stories published this year). In fact, the day THEMA’s acceptance letter came (via the postal mail, by the way, in my return-addressed envelope), I had received two email rejections for different stories I had submitted elsewhere. I was feeling dejected, but not so much anymore.

a couple of things

June 12, 2017

I mentioned sometime back on this humble blog that I had snuck the word “enuf” into my One-Match Fire story “where late the sweet birds sang” and so was proud to be doing my part to evolve the language in print, in the Selected Places anthology. And I think I also mentioned that I felt I ought to read all of the stories in the anthology. Thus the other day I took down the anthology from the shelf by my desk to begin reading it. But first I wanted to see that word “enuf” in print. So I went to my story in search of it. And I couldn’t find it.

The editor, apparently, didn’t think it was an appropriate neologism to include in her collection. Then I began to wonder what else she might have excised. I started reading the story side-by-side with the file for it on my laptop. And in nearly every paragraph I found differences, mostly in the cases of verbs that were less “powerful” than the ones I’d written. But there was a whole paragraph of nice descriptive detail (the smell of a forest in November) that was gone.

I acknowledge that an editor can do whatever she wants with a story, but generally if it’s something drastic (such as this) then the writer gets a chance to review the changes and even withdraw the story if it’s too much. I was surprised that I hadn’t been given the chance.

It was only when I came upon the name of the dog that I began to understand what I was seeing. I had originally named the dog Jack (which was a name I was considering for my own dog, Flike), but a subsequent story in the cycle included the dog, Jack, as well as characters named Joe, Jon, and Jerry. A friend who read that story commented on the clumsiness of the names, and my wife tried to figure out what great literary shenanigans I was up to with them. So, Jerry became Lee and Jack (the dog) became Buddy.

But obviously this change had happened after I had submitted the draft of the story to the anthology. And then I realized that all of the discrepancies between my draft and the one in print were likely due to revisions I had made to the story subsequent to its submission. I found the original email when I had sent the story, and attached was the draft of the story at the time. And everything lined up. Mystery resolved. Still, “enuf” didn’t make it into print.

__________

I received an email recently from the editor of If and Only If Journal saying that the publication had suffered an unexpected hiatus but that it was going to begin publication again after all. This journal had accepted my submission of “Travel Light” a long time ago. “Travel Light” first appeared in Penduline Press, but If and Only If was looking for such stories and would accept reprints. Thus my story would find a second home. But I hadn’t heard from the editor and the journal online hadn’t posted any news or updates. I assumed that though it was a valiant effort, it had folded as many lit journals do. But then came the surprising good news, reaching my inbox while I was out at my little cabin for the weekend where I am off the grid. Thus I didn’t learn of the email until I got home.