I suppose most writers describe best the places they know well. I increasingly find myself placing stories in a retirement community much like the one I’ve lived in now almost six years.
But, I tell any neighbors who happen to read one of these stories, this isn’t about anyone here. Some of us may find common ground in some situations I invent, but they’re fiction.
“New Beginnings” is a made-up story that I hope many of my friends will find as authentic as the locus. It fits the “l’appel du vide” (call of the void — don’t jump!) in Vol 12 of Nightingale & Sparrow, a literary magazine available both in print at Amazon and online ==>>here
Frankly, it’s hard to read there; easier ==>>right here
Not that Emily is likely ever to encounter a problem like my protagonist’s. Rather, because that I learned from her example that a math teacher can retire to occasional classroom tutoring . “Math Game” is out now in Panoply; read it here==>>
An astonishing number of literary magazines nowadays say they’re looking for fantasy (or, as some phrase it, apocalyptic, fabulist, magic realist, paranormal, science fiction, supernatural, or weird stories.)
Although I’ve never been much into fantasizing, from time to time I toy with an idea just to see if I can pull it off. When Sisyphus Literary Journal invited stories with a theme of “truth”, I dug up one of those ideas, polished it, and tried a few titles (“Mona Lisa” and “The Miraculous Camera”.)
It’s a takeoff on a very old fable, and I finally chose a title that’s a broad hint to that origin — albeit most readers may not pick up on the hint until the final paragraph.
I sent “The Geppetto Camera” off in mid-June, expecting to hear nothing before their mid-September deadline. But they accepted it before I could even think about offering it elsewhere, and it’s out now. You can read it by clicking ==>>here
I had the idea in January, 2013: Two women, both widowed young, have been housemates for two decades. Then the one who owns the house decides to re-marry; the other has to make new plans. I sent her to Montana, trolling.
In retrospect, it wasn’t very polished; after trying two magazines, I set it aside. A year ago I resurrected it, and did some re-writing. It’s now one I really like.
So do others. I got several we-liked-it-but-aren’t-accepting-it responses (those are frustrating: encouraging but disappointing) before finally WayWords Literary Journal took it for its issue themed “connections”.
It’s out today. This is one of the few magazines that doesn’t co-publish online; they want you to buy the paperback or Kindle edition. You can, at Amazon. But you can read it at my blog, ==>>here
Most literary magazines publish stories within a few weeks or perhaps a month of acceptance. Until now, the wild outlier in my experience was Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, which accepted my Rescue within four days of submission — and then took ten months to publish it online.
Record broken: The Bookends Review accepted my Doctor’s Orders last September 17, and published it today, 10 1/2 months later! When they sent me a heads-up last week, I had to go back in my files to remember the story.
In both cases I knew it would be a long wait, but didn’t anticipate how long it would seem. In the future, I’ll give preference to those with shorter turnarounds. Samuel Beckett’s characters made him famous by waiting for something that never happens, but I’m not that patient.
Anyway, you can read it now online ==>>here
Or right ==>>at this blog
Often I’m unsure, a few months after completing a story, where the idea originated. In the case of “His Child,” I remember only that a magazine—which did NOT ultimately accept my story—wanted something “loosely based upon the concept of a pause, of silence as an action, as something empty that adds to what is there, of the emptiness someone leaves in a room. . .”
We had friends whom we visited in their home at Lake George in upstate New York. I’m sure that’s the venue I imagined. The rest is . . . imagination.
You can read it in the new edition of Remington Review. You’ll have to tab in to page 12, the first prose piece in this volume. Go to==>>
OR (easier) read right here==>>
I read you four stories this afternoon. Thinking some might want to re-read them,
I thought I’d make them easy to find right here at my blog:
Find Keepsakes, that Ursula and I read to you, ==>>here
Find For Unpolished Beauty, ranching near the High Sierra, ==>>here
Find Time Passing, emphasizing a place called November Falls, ==>>here
And find Strawberries, baking a pie for a lost husband, ==>>here
For a replay of my reading (helped by Ursula Korzenik, go ==>>here
Enjoy! And thanks for giving me an audience!
There must be at least a smidgen of personal experience in most novels and short stories: The setting, often, and some of the characters.
My Maury’s Mustang is fiction only to protect the guilty: Even though it happened long ago, the government must still disapprove of having its horses poached. In this not-really-fiction story, the model for Maury was my best friend in college and on the California ranch near the scene of the crime.
His daughter had told me he had Alzheimer’s; I’d hoped to get it into print in time that he might have memory jogged if she read it to him. I phoned her this week, only to learn that I’m too late; he died earlier this year. I treasure many memories of our years together; his first ride on a half-broken desert mustang among the most vivid — one that surely deserves recording. It’s a “Saddlebag Feature” in the thick Winter 2020 issue of Saddlebag Dispatches. You can read it ==>>here
Ordinarily, part of an author’s task is to describe the place, the setting where a story takes place.
Some years ago I encountered a different approach, especially appropriate for the increasingly popular short-short “flash” fiction: nothing but dialogue—not even a he-said/she-said—and let the reader fill in the rest.
Intimations of Mortality isn’t my first in this format; elsewhere here at my blog you’ll find The Whole Truth, Tattoos, Keepsakes, Surveillance and Customer Service. This latest kicked around for a year and a half . . . and then New Feathers editor Wade Fox snapped it up in less than a month. The third print volume of his anthologies is promised in late January, but meantime you can read my Intimations (and others) ==>>here