Casting for secrets

Zimbell House, which has taken several of my earlier works, invited short stories on a theme of “secrets in the water.” Initially, as I thought of all the rivers and oceans I’ve known, nothing came to mind.
But then I remembered fishing for shad at what used to be the Enfield Dam on the Connecticut River (which has since collapsed). There’s a secret to getting shad to take a hook, since they don’t eat anything on their way upriver. Secrets to tying flies. Maybe other secrets would develop. I started writing, but it took weeks for a story arc to take shape.
Although I suspect the editors were expecting stories of pirates, mermaids and selkies (Scottish mythological seals that take human form), they liked my more prosaic secret enough to include it among 31 in an anthology Secrets in the Water,” available today at Amazon and other booksellers. You can also read it ==>here

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Shortening a mystery

I’m not a fan a super-short fiction, but every now and then I’m drawn to the challenge. An online litmag, 50-Word Stories, wants EXACTLY 50 words. I did something called Earthworm Ruminations that they liked two years ago; this time around I concocted an ending to a real-life Noel family mystery that remains in fact unsolved: What happened to Brad’s family-history engagement ring? Read the fictional answer ==>>here

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Throwing O.Henry out the window?

I suggested to the editor who chose my short story “Ransom” that the author bio mention my debt to William Sydney Porter and Red Chief. Alas, he must not be an O. Henry fan, so there’s no such acknowledgement.
The story did, though, meet the criterion established by the online magazine, Defenestrationism — that, as the name implies, it involves an incident of (figuratively, at least) throwing people out of windows.
It’s a contest. You can read my story, and participate in a reader poll, ==>>here

(But don’t feel compelled to take time to vote. In their 2016 contest, there were 2,494 votes cast, so it would take a LOT of my friends to make much difference. I took second place in 2016 —with a short-short titled “Surveillance” — read it ==>>here — but that year there was no runner-up prize. There is, this year: two will get $30 each. Not exactly a king’s ransom!

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Back to the editorial page

An insanely huge honorarium for a 2018 Joe Biden speech at a Connecticut college was a back-of-the-paper item last week in both the Hartford Courant and the Connecticut Post. Both newspapers missed what I thought the key element: Had someone found a way to make a tax-deductible campaign contribution?
Two decades ago, with a bully pulpit of my own and the resources that went with it, I’d have happily chased it down myself. Instead, I wrote to a couple of next-generation journalistic pals suggesting they take a closer look.
Hearing nothing, I grew impatient, and decided to get the idea out for everyone to think about. My letter to the editor (the shortest thing I’ve ever had on that page!) is in the July 16 Courant. Read it ==>>here:

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The inevitable entropy of Alzheimer’s

Writers are urged to draw on their own experience, to incorporate ideas and events they know well.

Easy to say, but I still find it difficult to work Alzheimer’s into my writing. Nonetheless, I’ve been going through notes I made through those hard years, and managed to put together a piece remembering my dear Brad’s gradually diminishing ability to go anywhere by herself.

The editors of American Writer’s Review 2019 liked it. It’s out now, a thick anthology, and is available at booksellers including Amazon –$15(!!) in paperback, $2.99 as a Kindle book — or you can read it ==>here

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The evolution of a naughty boy’s nana

It’s fun sometimes to look back at how an idea germinates and — often too slowly — blossoms into a story. The seed of “Méchant” was an overactive little boy playing with a toy car while his overworked mother waited (with me and others) to see an orthopedic doctor at UConn Health Center. I imagined another patient volunteering to help with the little boy, and drafted a pretty good description of the setting. I tried calling it “Naughty Boy” and then “Novice Nana,” but it stubbornly refused to grow into a story with a narrative arc.
I set it aside, but came back to it with the notion of developing the novice nana into a frustrated woman who wished she had children of her own. From the start I’d given her enough French fluency to think of the little boy as méchant. I dimly remembered — had to look up — a more nuanced alternate meaning, not just naughty but wicked.
The theme for the next edition of Nightingale & Sparrow was renaissance, and I now had the novice nana entertaining wicked thoughts of her own rebirth. Perfect fit. Out now, available at Amazon with a bunch of other good short stories, or here at my blog

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What’s Wanted? Less is More!

I was at Hartford’s downtown bus station one evening two years ago, watching people while waiting to greet an arriving friend. I began exploring phrases to capture the chalky light and anomie of people coming and going but isolated from one another. By the time I got home, the idea of placing a runaway in that setting had formed.

The resulting story has been offered here and there, and gotten a few favorable comments but no takers. One editor suggested that the ending felt rushed, and might be improved by reworking at more length.

Ironic, because a month ago I learned of two literary magazines looking for short-shorts (under 1,000 words) and for themes that might fit this story. I found it easier than expected to trim it from 1,220 words to 995 – and whammo, in two weeks it was accepted by an online magazine named “Who Writes Short Shorts?”

Read it here

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A Jamaican windfall

I have to confess that I almost wrote “Windfall” as a first-person non-fiction piece, a kind of chapter that might have been added to my Jamaican memoir.

But precisely because the incident and its aftermath are real, and all but one of the characters are still living, I decided to make it into a short story, and add a closing twist entirely different from my own experience.

I think it’s still a gripping story. The editor of the Lowestoft Chronicle had earlier printed “Monseigneur,” my account of my first nights in Phnom Penh. He liked this one, too, and it’s now available online at ==>http://lowestoftchronicle.com/issues/issue37/donnoel/

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Elizabeth “Brad” Noel, 1930-2019

I was at her side when my beloved wife of 65 years died at 2:30 this morning. It is a huge loss, but a blessing for her: the final months with complications of Alzheimer’s were an increasing burden on her despite the best efforts of the caregiving staff of Seabury and the McLean hospice service.

Her obituary can only hint at the wonderful life we had together; read it ==> here.

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Mama’s treasures online

Part of downsizing, on my way to selling the house and moving to Seabury, was selling or giving away clothes. An ad for what seemed a high-fashion consignment shop on the Berlin Turnpike caught my eye. Emily and I took a bunch of Brad’s things one morning—which proved the inspiration for a short story that’s now out in Every Pigeon magazine, readable online ==>>here

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