I wrote a first draft of “Wandered” in 2007 — long before even a hint of the Alzheimer’s that would overtake Brad, and several years before undertaking my Fairfield MFA. I can’t even remember what triggered the idea of a son’s efforts to retrace the steps of a dementia-stricken father who disappeared without a trace. Maybe I read something about Eskimos, whose supposed customs crept into the text.
In any case, I set it aside — until Zimbell House early this year solicited manuscripts for their their proposed anthology of stories about people who disappear without a trace. I resurrected my draft, improved it considerably, and sent it off, with more than usual confidence. Sure enough, it was accepted in mid-April, and is now in bookstores.
Easiest place to read it is ==>right here.
The package in the mail was unexpected: The May 2018 issue of the California-based Penumbra Art and Literary Journal, which includes my “Sweet Charity”. I’d completely forgotten the short story had been accepted.
More than a year ago a friend asked if there shouldn’t be a law against panhandling in a nearby town. I said no right away, but continued to think about the question. “Sweet Charity” was the result — and I owe the ending to my Fairfield MFA pals, who didn’t like my original and sent me back to the keyboard.
Counting three stories that will be printed in the next month, by the way, this brings me one shy of an even four dozen stories published. You can read this one at page 86 of the online version of the magazine, but it’s easier found ==>right here
Sometimes I marvel at the way elaborate inventions suggest themselves when I jot down and develop a fragment of memory or description of place. Empty Nest, just published in the Bowling Green online magazine, draws from a very real memory of taking our daughter to college. The rest, I assure you, is pure fiction.
The magazine — a PDF the size of a thick book, with the work of a dozen other short story writers and a flock of poets — is available free here. But you can access my short story much more easily by clicking ==>HERE.
“Montana Mouthful,” the press release said, “is an independent, digital literary magazine devoted to publishing short fiction and nonfiction, poetry, artwork, and photography. The debut issue, themed “Firsts” is now available.”
As it happened, I’d been working on a short story that fit the “firsts” bill. One of those efforts that began with simply trying to paint a physical scene, a mid-summer hayfield, and waiting to see what my protagonist wanted to happen. The title and theme came not from any schoolteacher, but from one of my first newspaper editors. It all came together, and the editors of Montana Mouthful liked it. You’ll have to flip through to page 13, but you can read it –>here.
I wrote my flash-fiction story “Tiresias” back in August, soon after President Trump tweeted that transgendered people would be barred from serving in the military. I sent it to a few literary magazines that thrive on political controversy — and that turned it down.
A small magazine, Ponder Review, accepted it, but has taken three months to get it into print. I thought by now it would no longer seem timely. But Trump (having been told by the courts he can’t do that) is back tweeting about the issue. You can read the again-relevant “Tiresias” at the magazine’s website (where you’ll have to scroll down to page 37) or — probably easier — read it right –> here.
A funny PS: An editor wrote me asking me to add a footnote on who Tiresias was and what his/her relevance is to T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland”. I sent back this:
In Greek mythology, Tiresias was a blind prophet, famous for clairvoyance and for being transformed into a woman for seven years. Sometimes, like the oracles, he would receive visions; other times he would listen for the songs of birds. . . . Tiresias was a useful figure to a wide variety of authors, including T.S. Eliot, who identified him as playing a key role in The Waste Land. In having been both man and woman, he served as a kind of bridge between the classical world and modernity.
The footnote doesn’t appear. I suspect that the editors, at least some of whom must have studied English literature, were embarrassed at needing their memories refreshed.
This is one I set out hoping to make all-dialogue, as I did with “Tattoos,” “Customer Service” and “The Whole Truth”. Didn’t quite make it — had to add a few lines of exposition — but close. It’s now published in Moria. Read it in the online magazine here
— or on this website here
PS — I also this week placed another short story, “The Good Seed,” which will be part of an anthology, titled “The Professor”, to published in mid-January by (!!)Temptation Press. You can get a taste of it here
An anthology called We’ve Been Trumped accepted my short story “Buying Votes” last September, promising to share royalties with the authors whose works were included. (Mine mentioned Trump only in passing; it’s a commentary on the cost of elections.)
The paperback book was expected to have a rather short half-life, and be of no interest after the election. We all know how that turned out — and it seems the anthology is still bought now and then ($11.99 at Amazon, $2.99 as a Kindle book). Very now and then. I know that because I’ve just been told that my quarterly royalty payment is in the mail: $0.25.
I’ll try not to spend my new authorial wealth in one place. Meantime, if you missed it earlier, you don’t need to buy the book to read my story. Click here.
All fiction, I suppose, draws in some way from the author’s own experience. My Birding, published earlier this year by Oracle Fine Arts Review, was inspired by the experience of being recognized as a once-TV-personality on arriving at my new retirement home. The rest, I assure readers, is pure fiction. Absolutely. There isn’t even a swamp here.
I’ve been reading a book on short-shorts, or flash fiction, that includes prompts to try one’s hand at approaches others have taken. One product of that experimentation is a piece I called Dawn Babel. It seemed unlikely to find a home, until I read about an unusual litmag:
“Ordinary Madness is an online literary journal that seeks experimental authors and artists. The idea is that we want short bursts of consciousness, rather than a long stream of epic story telling. We want the moments, the scenes, the fingerprints and seconds of time that we all experience.”
Lo and behold, Dawn Babel is on page 10 of the just-out magazine. Read it here: Ordinary Madness:
Or of course read it here, at the top of the list of published short stories.
Halfway Down the Stairs, a respected online literary magazine whose editors are spread across the globe, set “Gravity” as the theme for its June 2017 issue. Such themes are common, and the editors seldom spell out exactly what they’re looking for; one suspects they’re hoping writers will show them work they hadn’t anticipated but will like.
I’d recently finished a story about an adolescent boy, bullied at school, who comes home in a 13-year-old snit and is sent for a walk to cool down. In the nearby forest he discovers a tree-hut high in a sturdy oak — high enough that gravity, if he fell, would do him real damage. He summons up his courage and climbs.
That was apparently an interpretation of the theme close enough to satisfy the editors. You can read it by clicking here.