Old Tippecanoe lives on

So It Goes, the annual publication of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, invited stories on the theme of “civic engagement”— and welcomed pieces earlier published elsewhere.

Calliope, then the magazine of the Mensa Society, published in 2016 my riff on the political campaign of Tippecanoe and Tyler too, built around the role of an imagined consultant. I offered it; the Vonnegut editor liked it — perhaps for a relevance to this year’s events. It’s out today, available in print here – or read it ==>>here


Aging among the world’s oldest trees

Canary calls itself “a literary journal that explores one’s engagement with the natural world, based on the premise that the literary arts can provide an understanding that humans are part of an integrated system.” I’d drafted a short story, drawn from my experience herding cattle just east of California’s Sierrra Nevada, that imagined an aging cowboy among the ancient bristlecone pines of that range. An inveterate punster, I called it Bristling Senescence.  It’s out now in Canary‘s handsome online 50th edition

You can read it ==>>there


Arias in isolation

At the height of the pandemic isolation, I spent an afternoon streaming a favorite from The Met, Der Rosenkavalier — and began dreaming up what became less of a short story than a mood piece. I wasn’t surprised when a half-dozen literary magazines turned it down.

Then I ran across Flora Fiction, which calls itself “a collective of creative muses and inspiration. . . . reconnecting with your inner artistic child.”  Sure enough, they liked it, and its out in their fall issue. You could read my story here at my blog, but the online version of the magazine is so colorfully handsome that it’s worth flipping through nine double pages (enjoy it full-screen!) to read my Harmonic Distance.  Click ==>>here


A minimum of last respects

I suppose most of us have been to at least one funeral service that was more perfunctory than pious, a farewell for someone few would miss. My Seeing Charlie Off  was inspired, a half-dozen years ago, by such a service. I wasn’t sure anyone would want to publish it — until I ran across Cleaning Up Glitter.  “We are here to explore the Human Condition,” says founder Amy Tortorella Walsh, “. . . anything that explores your life views, existence, mortality, spirituality, conflict. . . .”

So I sent her Charlie; she liked it, and published it last spring — online, in rather small type. You can read it there ==>>.

But now that I’ve gotten the copyright back (after an unusually long six months), you may find it easier t0 read here==>>



A dog and mariticide

Mariticide is the murder of a husband, and is the context of my short story “Rescue.” The title refers to the wife’s efforts to save her dog that was unavoidably at the scene. A friend who read an early draft thought my ending cruel. But undeterred, I polished it up and sent it off to the Bethlehem (PA) Writers  Group. They liked it, and you can read it at their website ==>here  (or of course right here on my blog).


More from the mountaintop

I’m having a bit of a run, having stories published that draw on my adolescent years on Deep Springs’ Swinging T cattle ranch. Street People, set near the ancient bristlecone pines on our summer range, was out June 1.  Now  Spiders, based on my real-life experience watching a duel between a scorpion and a black widow, is out in True Chili, which bills itself as a a home for cowboy literature. And a third, based on my cowpunching model and guru, has been accepted for October publication. I should mine that memory bank some more!

You can read my Spiders and other cowboy stories at the True Chili website, here===>

. . . or right here on my blog ===>


A pious widow’s worst fear

Letting adoptees discover their birth parents was an issue back when I was covering the General Assembly. Few if any who testified against the change, as I recall, identified themselves as parents who had given up newborns. The lack of public confessions was easily understood.

When the issue surfaced at the Capitol again not long ago, memories popped up. It didn’t take much, in my new retirement community, to imagine an elderly woman — make her the widow of a clergyman — haunted by fear that her teen-age unwed pregnancy would be revealed, and she humiliated, if the infant she gave up at birth showed up shouting “Mama!”

Getting the story together took a bit of work, but when I had it right I began sending it out. A literary magazine called (how do they find these names?) Caustic Frolic liked it, and it’s now published. To read it online,  click===>here



Ancient trees and people

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==>



Crime stories: Tell the outcome first?

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==>>


A conversation about keepsakes

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