Archive for the ‘Short Fiction’ Category

This is one that can’t really be classified — is the story horror, romance, fantasy?  It doesn’t even have a title, though its protagonist’s name is Emily so probably that will have to do.  After all it was only allowed to be one sentence long.

So Emily (we’ll say) was published today as the “Winner of April 6th Story Prompt Challenge” on Carrie Ann Golden’s blog, A WRITER & HER SENTIMENTAL MUSE.  Full disclosure:  Emily may have had an advantage since she seems to have been the only entrant.  But technicalities, technicalities, what’s important was the story had to be based on the picture to the right, and be only a sentence long.  Or, from the official rules (in fact, the only official rule):  “Since this is a one-line story, there is no limit on the word count; however, be creative and use your words and punctuation wisely.”

To read it for yourself, press here.  And as for the competition, since she was an early entrant perhaps Emily (or her circumstances) frightened potential rival contestants away.


This is the time for second quarter royalties to (as it were) come home, and the first report was received this week.  One may recall that royalties for individual short stories in an anthology, for instance, or possibly as stand-alone chapbooks are rarely large, and it’s been my custom to avoid embarrassment on both sides by declining to identify either the publisher or the exact amount.  So let it suffice just to say a significant recipient this time around will be the US Postal Service for selling the stamp to send the check to me.

Then, continuing on the topic of matters postal, I stopped by the post office this afternoon needing to buy stamps for myself, and, having been tipped off, asked for two sheets (in this case of twenty stamps each) of the one honoring last month’s solar eclipse (cf. August 22).  The tip?  If you press your thumb on the stamp’s picture of the occluded sun, rolling it a bit perhaps to assure that all has been warmed by its touch, and then remove it — voila!  The picture you’ll see is now one of the moon!

The announcement, from Editor/Publisher Weldon Burge, was brief:  All of the Smart Rhino books are currently on sale at Smashwords, most at 50% off.  The sale is until March 11, so grab them while you can.  Just search for the individual titles.  But the finding them may possibly not be quite so simple as it may seem (hint:  for some, you may have to toggle the “adult” switch ON).  For mine, press here, but — remember — then toggle the words “Adult Content” at the top right to be sure it’s on (a check mark is good, circle with a slash through it is bad).  Then scroll down past THE GOOD FIGHT 3:  SIDEKICKS for the ones I’insidiousassassinsm in, and ignore PRESIDENTIAL PULP plus the history one at the very end.  These are all anthologies or magazines with stories by me in them, whether or not they may be on sale, with the Smart Rhino ones being INSIDIOUS ASSASSINS and UNCOMMON ASSASSINS (this latter, I think, toward the very end).  But linger a bit, perhaps there are others that you may like too.  Or  if in a hurry, UNCOMMON ASSASSINS can be found here and INSIDIOUS here (the “Adult” switch pre-set), with my stories in each being “The Wellmasters Daughter” (see August 16 2012, et al.) and “Labyrinth (see January 23 2015, et al.) respectively.

In other news, we had another pleasant, sunny afternoon for this month’s “First Sunday Prose Reading & Open Mic,” co-sponsored by the Bloomington Writers Guild and Boxcar Books.  And for two hours, we had a good crowd as these things go, with about eighteen people (fourteen of who persisted through open mike afterward) for featured readers Eric Rensberger, with a contemplative essay on books and dust; Joan Hawkins, standing in for advertised reader Jenny Kander who couldn’t make it due to illness, with a memoir of 1974 Prague under Soviet occupation; and bestselling “rural noir” fiction writer Bonnie Jo Campbell with two short shorts from her MOTHERS, TELL YOUR DAUGHTERS collection, an excerpt from the title story, and the opening paragraph of her novel ONCE UPON A RIVER.  Then after the break (with lovely cookies), mindful of Mardi Gras having been less than a week before, I ended a walk-on session of some five readers with a New Orleans set “Casket Girls” story, “Death and the Vampire,” in which the flavor of Death is found to be, if not the best, at least not bad.

Beginning now (March 3rd) through March 11th, we’re offering 30% off every single ebook title published by Untreed Reads throughout The Untreed Reads Store.  VERY IMPORTANT!!:  There is no discount code for this promotion.  The 30% off will automatically show up during the last step of the checkout process.  . . .  Remember that when people purchase through our store they get EPUB, PDF and Kindle versions for just one price!  Plus, they Pedscan gift a title to someone or send an ebook directly to their Kindle.  So begins the announcement from Jay Hartman of Untreed Reads Publishing, home of two stand-alone short story e-chapbooks by me, the steampunkish-mystery VANITAS and Christmas horror I’M DREAMING OF A. . ., plus my dystopic science fiction novelette PEDS.  To take advantage, press the picture of any of these in the center column and, as an extra, you’ll also find the New Year’s Eve anthology YEAR’S END:  14 TALES OF HOLIDAY HORROR with its opening story, “Appointment in Time,” also by me.

So what’s the occasion?  According to Editor Hartman:  Every year, the ebook world celebrates Read An Ebook Week, and this year is certainly no different!  This year, the dates of the event are Sunday, March 5th through Saturday, March 11th.  Also, he points out, although the discount is only 25%, PEDS and I’M DREAMING OF. . . . are also on sale at DriveThruFiction from March 5 through 11, which can be reached by pressing here.  No coupon code is needed for either sale, though the one directly from Untreed Reads seems the better deal.

In a slightly belated announcement  (I just got the news yesterday myself), EVERYWHERE STORIES, VOLUME II (cf. September 18, 6, et al.) was officially published Monday this week, September 26.  This means it can be ordered on Amazon, B&L, etc., as well as directly from publieverywhere-stories-vol-iisher Press 53, this last by pressing here.  Edited by Clifford Gerstang, and not necessarily genre bound, the book contains tales set in various countries the world over, no two repeated.  Mine for instance, originally published in ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE (also in my collection, STRANGE MISTRESSES:  TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE), is “The Wellmaster’s Daughter,” set in Mali, a horrorish crime tale of family relations gone bad in the Sahara Desert.

For those in the Washington DC/Virginia/North Carolina area, several signings for EVERYWHERE STORIES have been planned, for updates on which one can check out their Facebook page here.  Also for a bit more information, an article on the launch appeared in the AUGUSTA (Virginia) FREE PRESS, and can be found here.

Well, no, or at least I don’t expect such demise is absolutely nigh.  But it is true that really long poems (think Wordsworth, for instance, and poems like “The Prelude” or Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” that go on for pages and pages) are rarer these days than a century or two back.  (Never read either?  I rest my case.)  Not that they aren’t being written at all, but. . . .

And yesterday I finished and submitted an essay, somewhat on request, to answer the question of why new generations don’t seem to appreciate poetry even as much as we do now.  What can we do to tempt them to read it and, hopefully, thus immersed discover for themselves its joys.  What do we as readers and writers find that attracts us?  (More on this later, the essay that is, if it is accepted — if not, you didn’t hear about it here either.)

Well of course there’s TV, and video games, and all sorts of distractions.  I in my essay discuss poems as music, but then can the printed (or even pixeled) page compete with concert footage on MTV?  For that matter, do we (in general) appreciate music as much as, say, people in Mozart’s time did?

But to stick to writing, can it be that we ourselves are changing?  Being spoiled perhaps by technology, but paying a price without even knowing it, part of which may be a dulling to things like poetry.  And so came today, via BIGTHINK.COM, an article by Philip Perry, “Cognitive Offloading:  How the Internet is Changing the Human Brain.”

To pull out two paragraphs:  We know for a fact computers are rewiring our brains.  One study using brain imaging technology showed that receiving reminders for an event actually changed activity inside the brain.  Though cognitive changes are occurring, most of us aren’t aware of them.  That’s not the case for Atlantic writer Nicholas Carr.  He says he notices it when reading.  Carr writes about this in his article, “Is Google Making us Stupid?” which was developed into a book, The Shallows:  What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.  Carr does credit the internet for making research that used to take days available in mere minutes.  But what we get comes at a cost.  Carr believes focus and deep contemplation are what we are giving up.  Furthermore, we may be better at multitasking, but creativity could be suffering.

Several other writers mentioned in the piece say that they used to be voracious book readers, yet cannot seem to focus and follow along anymore, preferring to do all of their reading online instead.  Today, people may be reading more than decades ago.  But according to Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University, we read differently.  We skim, wanting immediate information but missing deeper context, varying interpretations, and some of the richer portions of the reading experience.

May it be, then, that no matter what essays are written by we poets, no matter how tasty the bait we dangle, it will not be taken?  To QuillPenread more, press here.

And, speaking of poems, as of August 30 it seems I’ve had 236 of them published in various magazines and books.  It’s actually more, since the figure doesn’t count ones in VAMPS or in my long out of print chapbook TOWERS OF DARKNESS that haven’t also been published separately elsewhere (though it does count a few poems self-published on this blog only).  Also the figure for prose short fiction and novelettes comes to 271 (with possibly one or two stand alone story chapbooks omitted), for a total of 507 individual publications.  And this is original publications; a number of these have since been reprinted, some several times, as well as re-appeared in collections, but reprints don’t get any extra credit.

And so what, anyway?  Well, for the last few years I’ve been dutifully sending out my bio with submissions, containing a line that, in addition to various books, I’ve had “nearly 400 individual appearances from ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE to YELLOW BAT REVIEW.”  Sometimes I substitute XENOPHILIA for the latter title, but the implication is still from “A to (almost) Z” (though ABORIGINAL SCIENCE FICTION precedes ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S too) and from high circulation and well known to the small and relatively obscure.  For some time, though, I’d been putting off the task of actually counting them since whenever the last time was, but in an idle moment last night I thought, “Why not?”  It was just before bedtime and beat counting sheep.

So for whoever cares,  it looks like I’ll have to change that line to “more than 500.”

SCIFI is its name and it stands for South Central Indiana Fiction Interface, or something like that.  I didn’t make it up, but for those who care, we generally pronounce it “skiffy.”  It’s the writers group that I belong to, monthly meetings involving critiquing one another’s stories.  But SCIFI went highfalutin this morning, with regulars Frida Westford, Christine Rains, and me as invited guests to Indiana University Associate Professor Joan Hawkins’s media class on Science Fiction Television.

No, we don’t write TV scripts, but the class is about how science fiction, and speculative fiction in general, “is a favored genre for reimagining, reworking and critiquing gender roles, human sexuality, the relationship between humans and technology, war, and racial stereotypes.  It is a place where utopic and dystopic notions of government and power are explored, a powerful lens for looking back at our own contemporary reality.”  And, Joan and I both (well, and Frida too, but she wasn’t there when this first came up) being in the Bloomington Writers Guild, she asked me if I, as a bona fide sometimes science fiction (or if not, horror’s close enough) writer, and colleagues if I could gather some, could come into her class one day to give her students an idea of how things work from the creators’ point of view.

And that was, among other things, my first official non-blog announcement that it looks like I’ve got a “Tombs” novel-in-stories coming down the pike (see post just below), allowing as well an DystopiaFullCoverexample I could use in discussing, in this case, far-future dying-Earth themes.  In general it worked like a panel at a science fiction or horror convention with Joan starting off and then the students following with questions about such things as what draws us to speculative fiction, if and how it may allow us to explore topics we might have trouble with in more mainstream fiction, how one gets ideas and how they’re converted to stories, other writers we’re influenced by (Frida and I both cited Ray Bradbury and, specifically, THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, to which I also added Poe, Allen Ginsberg, Bertolt Brecht, and the ancient Greek tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides).  And, Heaven help us!, at one point I found myself actually explaining the plot line of my recent flash story “Killer Kudzu”  (cf. May 21, March 27).

“Killer Kudzu” aside (we also talked about vampire movies some), it was an interesting session and a good one, with the students responding well and coming up with some really good questions themselves.  And not only that, it was a chance to show off and do a Good Deed at the same time.

Also (cf. May 21, 5), “May is International Short Story Month, and what better way to celebrate than with great savings?” to quote from today’s email.  The sender this time is Jay Hartman of Untreed Reads Publishing who reminds us (cf., again, May 5):  “We’ve got tons of titles on sale in every genre, so get big savings on short reads!”  It goes on to say that from now until the end of the month, individual short story titles are $0.50 each and short story collections and anthologies will be available for up to 50 percent off.

These would include my story chapbooks PEDS, I’M DREAMING OF A. . . ., and VANITAS, with all three reachable by clicking one of their pictures in the center column.  And — *BONUS* — the page that will lead you to also includes the short story anthology YEAR’S END:  14 TALES OF HOLIDAY HORROR with its sale discount too.  And from there, of course, one can navigate to Untreed Reads’ main pages, of which they advise, “[b]e sure to explore all of our genres on the left side of our store page to see everything we have to offer,” adding though that one must hurry.  “Sale ends May 31st.”

That’s International Short Story Month, this month, the month of May, and Gerald So of the Short Mystery Fiction Society has put out the call for a reprint story to be presented each day as a way to celebrate.  Cool, yes?  And so the days filled as we, the Society members responded, the first days naturally filled in first until today (well, actually yesterday), not even a week in, the month has been filled.  This doesn’t preclude yet more tales being added — already some dates have been doubled up — but it does mean it’s high time the list be published.  Thus (courtesy of Gerald So, as of 10:45 A.M. EDT Wednesday):

1. John M. Floyd, “Saving Grace”
2. Jeff Esterholm, “Closing Time at Mom’s”
3. Jacqueline Seewald, “The Heir Hunt”
4. Michael Bracken, “Let Dead Dogs Lie”
4. Sarah M. Chen, “The High Road”
5. Mary Reed, “Of Equivalent Experience”
5. Susan Oleksiw, “A Short Walk to Stardom”SMFS-LeagueSpartan-150x147
6. Paul Lees-Haley, “Flash Bang”
6. Jan Christensen, “Who’ s Who”
7. Gail Farrelly, “Revenge of the Cellphone”
7. Jennifer Soosar, “The Psychic’ s Parlor”
8. Erik Arneson, “Not My Gun”
8. Benjamin L. Clark, “A Drover’s Birthday”
9. Anita Page, “Revelations of the Night”
10. B.J. Bourg, “Severed Relationship”
11. J.R. Lindermuth, “A Man in a Hurry”
12. Kevin R. Tipple, “The Tell”
13. Cynthia St-Pierre, “Hide and Seek for Grown-ups”
14. Karen L. Abrahamson, “Neutrality&qu ot;
15. B.V. Lawson, “Gun Love”
16. Josh Pachter, “Jemaa el Fna”
17. Edith Maxwell, “A Questionable Death”
18. Alan Orloff, “Seeing the Light”
19. Barb Goffman, “A Year Without Santa Claus”
20. Su Kopil, “The Surprise”
21. James S. Dorr, “The Winning”
22. Terrie Farley Moran, “A Killing at the Beausoleil”
23. Stephen Buehler, “John&# 39;s Spot”
24. Nikki Dolson, “George Ann”
25. Michael Bracken, “To Live and Die in Texas”
26. Kevin R. Tipple, “Burning Questions”
27. Paul Lees-Haley, “The Good Wife”
28. Debra H. Goldstein, “Violet Eyes”
29. B.V. Lawson, “Wrong Side of the Bed”
30. Craig Faustus Buck, “Heavy Debt”
31. Warren Bull, “Company Policy”

My part in this comes up May 21 with a tale called “The Winning,” originally published in the print-only OVER MY DEAD BODY for Spring 1994, but presented here as reprinted in ezine A TWIST OF NOIR, December 9 2008 (see also below, June 11, May 6 2014; February 18 2012), a psychological horror flash piece of sorts of how a winner may yet become a loser.  For this and others, the earliest in descending order by date, the later ones in the course of time, one can find the SMFS blog by pressing here (whereupon click on “Int’l Short Story Month” on the left, then scroll down the middle to the date/story of choice).

Also Jay Hartman of Untreed Reads Publishing has announced a 50 cent sale for stand-alone short story chapbooks for May, including my titles PEDS, I’M DREAMING OF A. . . ., and VANITAS, as well as a discounted price on the New Years Eve Horror anthology YEARS END, all four of which can be reached by pressing any of the first three books’ pictures in the center column.  Some of these discounts are also available from DriveThruFiction for which (along with a few other publishers’ titles/stories by me — and even two or three that are not!), one may press here.

Untreed Reads Publishing has announced a special 40% off sale on CyberMonday, November 30th.  The sale will include all titles in all formats, including my own chapbooks, the near-future dystopic novelette PEDS, Christmas horror I’M DREAMING OF A. . . ., steampunk mystery pedsVANITAS (originally published in ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE), and the Untreed Reads New Year’s anthology YEAR’S END:  14 TALES OF HOLIDAY HORROR featuring my lead story “Appointment in Time.”  All current promotions for the month of November will be suspended that day only and replaced by the CyberMonday sale.

To take advantage, one can click any of the three titles pictured in the center column or, for any or all four, press here to check out my author page in the Untreed Reads Store — but only on Monday!  All titles then should reflect their regular prices as well as sale prices.

This is from 10BADHABITS.COM courtesy of Robert Dunbar via Literary Darkness on Facebook.  In the words of its author, Justin Howe:  “Here are twelve weird books to get you through the year until next Halloween.  They’re not all horror, but screen-shot-2015-10-08-at-11-39-50-pmthey’re all certainly weird.  And if they’re not enough for you, you can always dip into the weird world of old whaling ship logs to hold you over.”  For the whaling ship logs he provides a link, and they may be interesting in themselves (cf. sample page provided here); for the twelve weird books I can’t really say because I don’t believe I’ve read any myself, although there are several I think I’ll look into.  The title is “A Year of the Weird:  12 Weird Books,” and to see for yourself one need only press here.

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