I began “Street People” eight years ago, not too long after a family vacation that included revisiting the Ancient Bristlecone Forest in the Inyo-White Mountains, just east of the High Sierra, where I’d herded cattle one summer in ancient history. I can’t remember now what prompted me to build the story around a homeless couple out to see America, but it flowed fairly well. Unsure of it, though, I set it aside.t
Last May, I ran across it and decided was worth tweaking a very little bit and sending out. Camas, the literary magazine of the University of Montana, liked it. You can read it here==>
Zimbell Press, which periodically publishes themed anthologies (and has published several of my stories) put out an unusual challenge last fall: Invited stories about a game that ended in death, preferably horrible death. Moreover, they insisted on stories that began with the death scene, and then backed up to posit the setting and the game, leading up to an already-known climax — while somehow maintaining some suspense.
An intriguing challenge. I mulled it for several weeks, and woke up one morning imagining a competition to swim the English Channel. (Don’t ask where that came from; I’ve only crossed The Channel once, on a solid ferry boat.) Zimbell’s editors liked my Crossing well enough to make it the second story in the collection, which is out now: Dead Game. You can get the book (paper or e-book) at booksellers like Amazon and others — or read my story here==>>
I was introduced several years ago to the idea of a short story entirely in dialogue — not even a “he said”/”she said” — so that the reader must infer the setting, and the story, from what people say to one another. I’ve written and had published several in that unusual format.
The newest, “Keepsakes”, is one of my favorites: A daughter is helping her mother prepare — unwillingly — for a move to a place like where I now live. As Jessamine packs things from the closet and dresser drawers, she learns things about her parents that she never knew.
Periwinkle Literary Magazine liked it too; it’s in their inaugural issue ==>> here
If you looked out my desk window at my Seabury home, you’d recognize the setting for Rabbits and Coyotes. If you went out in the morning to pooper-scoop behind your poodle, the rabbit droppings in the grass would tell you what he’d been barking at last night. If you went out to look, on at least some nights, you might hear the yelps of some remote progeny of the critters that you used to hear sing in the California desert. And when your daughter came to visit, she might warn you that those wild animals have been known to go after domestic pets.
And you’d have the makings of a story that appealed to the editors of Metafore, a literary magazine created by students at the little-known Maharishi University in Fairfield, Iowa.
You can read it on page 40 of their ==>>online magazine . . . . or more easily ==>>here.
Third Street Writers, a California enterprise, invited short-short stories on the theme of “adrift”. I imagined a girl who lost her paddle while kayaking, and awaits a hero to rescue her. Third Street didn’t like it, but The Writer’s Club did; you can read it ==>here
I can’t remember what prompted this bit of flash fiction. I first wrote it under the title “Promises,” drawing on more than one state legislator I’ve known who couldn’t quite evade leadership’s arm-twisting on one bill or another. Nobody took it, so after a while I did a very minor rewrite and began sending it out as “Independence”. The Writer’s Club took it; you can read it ==>>here
Pandemonium Press, in California, publishes three oddly-named online magazines. One of them, riverbabble, took my “Sirens” two years ago. Another, Doorknobs & Body Paint, last winter invited short-short (450-word) stories featuring descriptions of hard work. We’d just had a good Connecticut snowstorm; I’d gone out to be sure the men hard at work clearing our courtyard shovelled up to my patio door to accommodate my dog. I whipped out a little vignette, called it “A Path for Peanut”, and sent it out. Hardly great literature, but fun; an exercise in painting word pictures.
They didn’t take it.
In October Doorknobs had a new invitation: Short-shorts set in Bern, with a sub-theme of transcend, and somewhere using the the phrase considered as. It took maybe an hour to give my courtyard a view of the Swiss Alps, meet the other criteria, and re-name the piece “Une Piste pour Le Petit.”
Bingo! You can read it online — and find some other quirky pieces — at the Doorknobs website ==>>here
and find some other quirky pieces elsewhere in issue # 96
(It’s also right here at my blog.)
“We are here,” wrote the editor, “to explore the human condition . . . . submit anything that explores your life views, existence, mortality, spirituality, conflict, and more.”
So the oddly-named online magazine Cleaning Up Glitter planned a different kind of October/Halloween issue. I had written, years ago, a slightly fictionalized account of a memorial service I’d attended, that I’d titled “Seeing Charlie Off.” She liked it; you can read it ==>>here
We’re all surely aware of how much privacy we yield whenever we go online. Suppose, I wondered one day, that our smartphones actually gave reports to Big Brother periodically; what might that conversation sound like?
I called the resulting short-short story Surveillance. Burningword Literary Magazine’s editor liked it; you can read it ==>>here
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