Will you cast a vote for my “Scorpions”?

A little help, friends. My short story Scorpions is one of five finalists in a contest by The Penmen Review, the online journal of Southern New Hampshire University’s creative writing program. The finalists will be ranked and prizes given based in part on public scoring. You get only one vote; balloting ends on New Year’s Eve. You can read all five (or only mine, if you’re a blind booster), by clicking here
PS This brings my accepted total to 19.

Topical short-story anthologies

    I’m so new at this that I don’t know whether publishing whole books of topical short stories is or isn’t a new phenomenon. In any case, I now have three stories waiting to be published in palpable paper or ephemeral e-books. The latest is one I originally titled “New Neighbors.” When I learned that Zimbell House was inviting entries for a new anthology to be titled “Neighbors”, I changed my title to Wildlife. It won’t be out until April, so I can only offer a taste of it now.
    Another one accepted last week (total now 18!) is The Terrorist. Like the three dialogue-only pieces, I wrote this one for a competition — by Writers Weekly — with a rather demanding bunch of phrases to be used. It didn’t win that competition, but a Massachusetts-based magazine, “Meat for Tea: A Valley Review,” liked it and will publish it in January.

An age of listening?

   Reading aloud is apparently enjoying renewed popularity.
   I always peruse The New Yorker on my iPad, and am often encouraged to hear the author read an article to me. I’m never tempted, because I read faster than anyone could talk. But I’ve been interested in the phenomenon: In what is often called an age of limited attention span, there are people who want to sit back and listen.
    So I was not entirely taken aback when Kae Sable, managing editor of the Dime Show Review, asked if I might read aloud my Tattoos, which she’d recently published online. “As I read your bio,” she wrote, “I wondered if you still have access to a broadcast environment where you could record?”
    I could probably persuade a few old pals at Channel 3 to give me a hand, but they’re a half-hour away, and I have a decent microphone on my desktop. I recorded a sample to send her, and she said it passed muster. “This feature has been wildly popular in Volume 1,” she wrote.
    Two hours later — two hours! — I finished recording a five-minute story. Thereby hangs a tale.
     I read through it once, played it back, and heard heavy breathing. I pushed my headset mike farther from my nose and mouth.
     Halfway through the second reading, the forced-air heat came on. I finished reading, but when I played it back, the air was audible. I set the thermostat a notch lower.
     I’d barely started the next try when the phone rang.
     I was well into a fourth try at 3 p.m., when my chiming clock stentoriously announced the time.
     I’d almost finished try number five when the dog barked at a workman repairing  a chipped sidewalk visible from the bedroom window. I closed the venetian blind.
     I started again, just before 3:15 – as the damned clock reminded me.
     By this time, I’d rehearsed often enough that I almost had it memorized, and read fairly convincingly. I finished my last try before 3:30, and sent it off to Kae. It’s up with the story: Click here –  Tattoos — to both read it and hear me read it aloud. Reactions welcome.

Another all-dialogue piece finds a home

Yellow Chair Review liked my “Customer Service” so well they accepted it before their deadline for submissions — another thank-you to Bartleby Snopes.

BTW:  brings my count of accepted short stories up to sixteen.  Now if I could find a publisher who liked one of the novellas or the novel . . . .

Get a taste of “Customer Service” here — and pay attention to the agent’s name.


An all-dialogue experiment or two

The rules were absolute: every word within quotes, not even a he-said/she-said.

That was the challenge offered in October by Bartleby Snopes, an online-and-print literary magazine founded in Minneapolis eight years ago. Not an entirely unique idea: Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants is almost entirely dialogue. Nonetheless, a challenge that might be fun.

And Snopes did what I wish every litmag editor would do: Kept what it thought were its best five submissions at any point, promising to report within a few days whether my submission had or had not made it into that probably-publish pile. And if the answer was no, authors were invited to try again, for no additional submission fee.

My first effort, Tattoos, didn’t make the cut — but I kinda liked it, and promptly sent it out to a few others. It was almost as promptly accepted and is now published online by Dime Show Review.

Meantime, I was having fun with the Snopes challenge, so whipped up another, Customer Service. Rejected. Tried again with The Whole Truth. Also rejected. Both have likewise been sent out to others. I especially like the last of the three, and am confident it, too, will find a home. You can get a taste of them (and give me reaction) from Works in Progress on the grey menu bar.

You can read the five Barnaby Snopes winners in January, in its Issue 15. Sad to say, that will apparently be the last issue; editor/founder Nathaniel Tower announced on his blog that he want to put more time and effort into his own writing. A pity.

Meanwhile, you can read my Tattoos online at Dime Show Review — and I’ll keep you posted on the fate of the other two that I wrote to meet Tower’s challenge.


Another accepted – where do they come from?

A friend who browsed the published and about-to-be-published short stories posted here told me he admired the variety of topics and situations that populate my ouevre, and asked where the different ideas come from.

The honest answer is: beats me.  Some draw, usually obliquely, on my own experience. Others — I think I like these best — begin by visualizing and describing a (protagonist) character, and letting my imagination put him or her in a situation that embellishes itself until a story, an insight, presents itself. It’s an approach I came to admire in the collected short stories of the contemporary Irish writer William Trevor, whom some professor in my Fairfield University MFA course suggested I read. Hardly unique to Trevor, but he does it very well.

My most recent accepted story, Parting Company (which will appear in early December in Literary Heist, a fledgling online literary magazine) is an example.  One of my new neighbors has the kind of lanky frame and stride one can recognize a football field away. I played with describing him one day, a kind of idle, musing exercise.  Then into my mind popped a hardware store that thrived in downtown Hartford a half-century ago, but succumbed when a dwindling number of people came into the city to shop. My neighbor — at least as I constructed and elaborated him — would have been at home there. And my maternal grandfather, Charles Lotz, was “a hardware man” who taught me the meaning and overtones of that phrase.

And there I was, writing Parting Company. Sorry to say that I can’t let you read it all until December, when I can post here a link to the magazine. But the copyright rules say I can let you read a lengthy tease.  Read more

 


And another!

I seem to be on a roll getting short stories published in anthologies.  Simone Press, a U.K. publisher, will include my “Beyond the Reef” in an anthology next April.  In inviting submissions, the publisher outlined the theme:“The characters, plot and atmosphere of your short story should be highly influenced by its setting which can be in the past, present or future. . . .    Whatever the situation, the environment that your story is set in should strongly affect the action, plot and direction of your story.”

The copyright terms bar my posting the whole story on my website until the book is out, but you can get a taste here:

 




Hard copy or e-books? Both, I hope!

   Americans still prefer books they can hold in their hands, the New York Times reported early this month.

   That’s good news for those of us who would like to autograph books for eager readers, or pass them along to grandkids or great-grandkids. And nothing beats a book whose spine you can read if you’re perusing a neighbor’s shelves to see what their reading habits are, or a book whose page you can dog-ear down before putting it on the night table and turning out the light.  (Of course, if it’s “War and Peace,” you may be putting it down not because you’re sleepy, but because your wrists ache.)

   On the other hand, there’s something to be said for reading or hearing about an interesting new book and in a few minutes having it on your Kindle or tablet or desktop, probably at less expense than having a hard copy plod to you in the mail two days or so later.

   And for those like me who are “publishing” short stories in obscure literary magazines that friends are unlikely to buy, online reading is a godsend. I’ll get to the exhortation in just a moment.

    The Times’ story drew from a Pew Research Center study that found 38 percent of Americans said they read books “exclusively in print.’ Another 28 percent were reading a combination of digital and print books.

    Using a slightly different measure, Pew found that two-thirds of Americans (65%) said they’d read a print book in the last year, compared to 28% who’d read an e-book, and 14% who’d listened to an audio book. All those figures had changed only marginally in the last two years.

    I’ve begun this website and blog in hopes of building an audience for my writing that may someday help me persuade a publisher to take on my unpublished novel or my two unpublished novellas.  I’m just shy of a dozen short stories accepted by various literary magazines.  You can poke around, get a taste of any of them and read the whole story if you like the flavor.  Look under Short Stories in the menu bar at the top, or click on the right-hand-side icon to read Strawberries, my most recently-accepted piece.

    I’m also trying to learn more about what people like you want to read, by asking your reaction to some works in progress. You’ll find one I’ve been working on this week, Gigolo, if you click on the Help Wanted icon to the right; or pull down Works in Progress from the menu bar — and help me make any or all of them better.

    But keep on reading those solid-in-print books, too; someday I’ll autograph one for you.