Ursine hazards

I’ve tried writing for magazines that only consider 50-word or 100-word pieces, and have even had a few published, but it’s not a genre I’m fond of. Even 500 words usually seems too constrained, but occasionally I find a topic that doesn’t need more than that — and then Panoply is the one I try first. When I sent them a piece on taking my bird feeders down, they accepted it in a short three weeks, telling me (what a writer loves to hear) “The writing quality itself is the winner in this piece.”
You can read it in Panoply, ==>>here

 

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The Story of a Careful Man

Seems every time I think I’ve finally exhausted the story potential of my three years at a college-cum-ranch in the California desert, another memory pops up.

The power company lineman who served our district was more cautious than anyone I’ve known, before or since: He worked entirely alone in places where a slip or fall would probably be fatal.

The story I concocted about him wasn’t accepted by the first few magazines I sent it to; perhaps too slow-moving, or too grim. Then I heard of Fatal Flaw Literary Magazine, which invited work “that considers the world through a cracked lens”…”that finds poignancy in unexpected places.”

They liked my The Lineman; you can read it online ==>>here
(Just click on the title, just below the cover)
Or ==>>right here

The Lineman

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Flights of Fancy

I remember long ago a late-season freshet of snow that was briefly blizzard-like, then melted away when the sun came out. Might make the setting, I thought, for a romance lasting little longer.
Some magazines care more about language than character, setting or plot: “work that takes the earthly and makes it ethereal,” one says; others seek “flights of fancy”…”poignant memories”…”explorations of language”. Not my usual style, but fun to try, and this story became a vehicle for florid writing.
I first titled it “Spring Snow”; but as rejection slips came in, I changed the season to appeal to magazines publishing later in the year. It’s out now in a magazine with the quirky title “Door = Jar”. It’s print-only, available at Amazon et al, but you can read my short-short “Autumn Snow” ==>>here.

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Inspired by a photo and a suitemate

A favorite photo is one that Brad took during our vacation visit to the Galapagos islands: I’m posed on a beach with a sea lion seeming to be just over my shoulder.

That photo popped up one day and inspired the fictive imagination. What if being amidst such tame animal life persuaded a lifelong meat-eater to turn vegan? And as I began writing, I decided to make my protagonist a virile athlete, and named him for my multi-sport college suitemate, Flash Gourdine.

The result was “A Flash in the Pan,” a 900-word short-short story. It’s published this month by WayWords Literary Journal, one of those I respect because it’s edited by professionals.

It’s available as an e-book or paperback at Amazon, or you can read it ==>>here

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The End or The Beginning

I’m not quite sure what prompted me to begin the short story that ended up being called “Orchestral Passions”. I began it in June   of 2021, mid-pandemic; I found myself listening to a recording of a favorite opera, Salomé, and wistfully imagined enjoying a concert performance in Hartford’s premier showplace, The Bushnell.
That musing morphed into an older woman’s musings on love and lust at such a performance. I imagined her looking forward to really getting to know the granddaughters whose company the pandemic had denied her.
I sent it off to several magazines, but was especially hopeful about The American Writer, which had published two of my earlier stories and whose theme for the next issue was “The End or The Beginning.”
Sure enough, they took it. This is one of the few literary magazines nowadays that are not online, but available only in print (at Amazon or Barnes&Noble); but you can read my contribution ==>right here

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Getting to Know You

In the wake of the nation’s spate of terrible shootings, there’s been a lot in the news about mental health, suicidal impulses and the like.

My fictive mind began toying with an idea: Suppose a disturbed youngster came to spend a week with a grandmother at a retirement community like the one where I make my home. If Gram was a very wise old lady, she might do some good. I would try to phrase my short story so the reader thought she MIGHT be helping, but avoid a decisive Gram-fixed-that.

I also tried a style I’ve used successfully on occasion in the past: Tell the story entirely in dialogue. It doesn’t always work, but I like the idea of having the reader visualize what the protagonists look like, how they sound, where they are — all the elements that a writer of fiction usually provides to set the stage.

That technique worked, and the story was soon told. I offered it to OpenDoor Magazine, which has published my work before — and which had a theme for this month’s submissions: mental health!

It’s out today, with my story featured on the cover. You can download the entire virtual issue ==>>here, and scroll down to page 107

Or read it ==>>right here at my blog

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Splitting the difference

There’s a writers-and-poets group that meets monthly here at Seabury, often sharing short pieces prompted by a theme our leader offers. Whatever the prompt was in May, my fictive imagination conjured up an older man (not quite as ancient as I) working up an appetite to make firewood of a tree felled in his yard — and looking forward to his loving wife’s massaging away the aches of seldom-used muscles.

My friends liked the story and its unexpected ending, and offered a few suggestions. I tweaked the piece accordingly and offered it to a magazine that’s taken a few of my stories, Flora Fiction, whose theme for the summer issue was “desire.”

They thought my story fit the theme; it’s out now. You can read it online  ==>>here, and scroll to page 32. Or it may be easier to read ==>>right here

 

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A different kind of debt collector

I knew when I started writing Penances that it would be a hard sell: Suggesting that Saint Peter might create a role for a former Mafia enforcer was impious if not sacrilegious. But the idea tickled my imagination; having tiptoed into irreverent territory, I decided to have fun embellishing my blasphemy.

Zimbell House, which had published several of my stories, invited stories on a “debt collector” theme, but wanted 4,500-word pieces. When I told my story in half that, and didn’t see any point to padding it, Zimbell’s editors put my Penances on their maybe-yes list, but ultimately decided against it. A bunch of others turned it down; nobody said so, but I suspect they didn’t like mocking anyone’s faith.

Then Caustic Frolic, the literary journal of the NYU graduate school of arts and humanities, invited stories on the theme of “limbo.” They’d already published two other pieces of mine, and I was confident they’d take this. They did, and it’s out now: Read it ==>>here

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If her past caught up with an old lady

With all the talk about Roe vs. Wade, my fictive mind has been going back to remember – and imagine – what pregnant girls did when abortion was not only illegal but not available nearby, either. Was it a matter or shame or loss, or both? Was the secrecy of their decisions inviolable?

The protagonist of my Relinquishing decides to give her baby up for adoption. In retirement, she thinks that is all behind her — until a visiting speaker prods memory.

borrowed solace magazine liked it, and it’s out now — but they won’t let you read it without buying a copy, so read it ==>>here

 

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Old stories never die

Jean Shepherd had an overnight storytelling gig on New York radio in the late 1950s that was one of my favorites. When one of his stories popped into my head not long ago, it occurred to me that modern technology might allow elaborations Shep couldn’t have imagined.

I made no secret of my debt in rewriting his story into “The Aeronautical Lawn Chair”. The editors of Lowestoft Chronicle liked it, and it’s out today, at http://lowestoftchronicle.com/issues/issue50/donnoel/

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