Tag Archives: flash fiction

The Great KOA Getaway

The Great KOA Getaway

There’s an energizing crispness in the October air – and that’s not all. Regional festivals celebrating local wine, apples, and barbecue lure excited crowds with sweet, smoky aromas and music from homegrown bands. The squawking from a wedge of geese overhead reminds us it’s hunting and camping season. And Halloween is just around the corner.

My latest work, “The Great KOA Getaway,” should get you in the mood. It’s a flash story about an unlucky/lucky ranger caught in the middle of a little misunderstanding at a remote campground. I’d describe it as a mash-up of Twilight Zone and National Lampoon’s Vacation, with just a touch of Lovecraft thrown in. It’s available free (!) at The Flash Fiction Press.

I’ve always enjoyed stories that tickle your goosebumps and funny bone at the same time. And isn’t that what makes Halloween so much fun?

I hope “The Great KOA Getaway” brings a shiver and a smile to your day.

Bewildering Stories’ Third Quarterly Review, 2016

bwblueship

From Bewildering Stories:

Bewildering Stories ends the season — winter or summer, depending on your hemisphere — with the Review Editors’ selection of favorites from the third quarter of 2016. New readers will have easy access to the recent best of Bewildering Stories, and veteran readers will have a chance to catch up on anything they may have missed.

The Quarterly Reviews are not a contest, competition or poll. And there are no quotas: anything — from everything to nothing — may qualify in any genre. Rather, they answer a practical question: “If a friend asked you to recommend something outstanding from the past quarter of Bewildering Stories, what would you choose?”

I’m happy to announce the editors at Bewildering Stories included my piece “Whisper Listing” in their short list of best flash fiction stories.

Quote of the day

Bonfire

“A brilliant flash fiction can illuminate a world in a moment. It can tell an epic story in the space of a page. The compression necessary to a flash fiction piece means it takes on a greater urgency, a controlled burn that means every single word on that page is necessary, is living and breathing and is saying the thing that so desperately needs to be said. Every piece of kindling is cut and placed and perfect.” Amber Sparks

Whisper Listing

Whisper Listing

“In transactions involving haunted real estate, the rule is not only caveat emptor but also caveat venditor.”

The looming presidential election is shaping up as a combination fiasco and tragedy of such staggering proportions, the only thing we can do is laugh. So in a desperate act of escapism, I wrote a satirical flash fiction piece entitled “Whisper Listing.” It’s featured in the latest issue of Bewildering Stories. Here’s hoping it provides a bit of comic relief to our ongoing political agony.

(In real estate, a “whisper listing” is a house for sale in a market restricted to a select group of potential buyers. Celebrities often use them to avoid publicity.)

* Be sure to check out Challenge 680 linked at the end of my story!

Black Ghost

Silver Blade

Silver Blade Magazine specializes in “Cutting-edge Science Fiction, Slipstream, and Fantasy.” The latest edition features my flash fiction piece “Black Ghost.”

The inspiration for this story came from a couple of things. My father, a veteran of World War II, was recently admitted to the “Memory Ward” at a nursing home. Seeing him alone in a wheelchair when I visit makes me wonder if people passing by have any idea what this quiet man, a veteran of the Battle of Okinawa, endured in that war. Short answer: They do not. Nor do most folks consider what they owe to that generation, a generation of heroes which slips away from us day by day.

The other spark for this story was a fascinating article in Ancient Origins about the once widespread practice of interring items in tombs the dead could use in the afterlife. These “parting gifts” weren’t cheap. Consider what archaeologists found in the tomb of Princess Ukok of Siberia:

Buried around her were six horses, saddled and bridled, her spiritual escorts to the next world, and a symbol of her evident status, perhaps more likely a revered folk tale narrator, a healer or a holy woman than an ice princess.

There, too, was a meal of sheep and horse meat and ornaments made from felt, wood, bronze and gold. And a small container of cannabis, say some accounts, along with a stone plate on which were the burned seeds of coriander.

Often, the living would supply the departed with the means to carry on their life’s work. The Ancient Origins article cited a study of tombs from pre-Roman Italy that revealed “indications of the commonality of military service since men’s tombs of the era routinely contained metal weaponry lying across or near the skeletal remains.”

That got me to thinking about the many deities and religions — not to mention nations — that have come and gone over the centuries, and how all of them arose because they met timeless human needs. The more I thought about it, the more intriguing the possibility a future society could adapt this ancient practice. Next thing I knew, I was outlining a story I’d already titled “Black Ghost.”

Stories provide much that religion offers. The tales we read, like the ones we encounter in worship, may not be factual but are nevertheless true and necessary. The cycles of nature, the challenge of growing up and leaving home, and one’s inevitable confrontation with life and death arouse fear and fascination within every human heart. Stories and myths have the power to startle, teach, and assure us on life’s journey. That’s why religion and storytelling have germinated in all cultures.

And whatever one’s views on religion, we can all appreciate the story’s secondary themes of the debt the living owe past generations, the heroism of ordinary people that make life possible, and the boundless potential — and petulance — within every 12-year-old. Enjoy.

Spring tidings

Aztec Midnight

Yes, spring is here, and things are popping out all over. First this from my publisher, The Novel Fox:

Our favorite adventure novella, Aztec Midnight, is now literally a page-turner!

Aztec Midnight is available in both ebook and print. Purchase your paperback copy here

Yes, 2016 is off to a good start. So far, I’ve sold three sci-fi/fantasy short stories to three different publishers. One, The Clincher, came out in early March. A second is due in late May, and another will appear in a print anthology in September. I’ve completed the final edits and signed the contracts, so it looks like full steam ahead. Here’s to a productive 2016!

INFOGRAPHIC: A Map of the Literary Genres

ElectricLit has a downloadable map of all the literary genres plus representative books for each category. A few designations may be confusing — I’ve never thought of Southern Gothic as a branch of horror, and some may question putting C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe under Christian rather than fantasy (most Christian novelists and readers would reject the magic in both Lewis’ and Tolkien’s works). But you’ll have a blast rambling around and even getting lost in this maze of literary geography. Enjoy!

The Writer’s First Commandment

Cameron

The Writer’s First Commandment is: Read. Write. Repeat. Read everything you can get your hands on, because you never know where story ideas will come from.

For example, one of Aesop’s fables provided the inspiration for my flash fiction piece Cameron Obscura:

AN ASTRONOMER used to go out at night to observe the stars. One evening, as he wandered through the suburbs with his whole attention fixed on the sky, he fell accidentally into a deep well. While he lamented and bewailed his sores and bruises, and cried loudly for help, a neighbor ran to the well, and learning what had happened said: “Hark ye, old fellow, why, in striving to pry into what is in heaven, do you not manage to see what is on earth?”

That got me to thinking about a TV news story I’d seen years earlier about two boys who had to be rescued from a well they got stuck in while trying to see stars during the day. They learned two valuable lessons: You can’t see stars from the bottom of a well when the sun’s shining. And it’s easier to get into a deep hole than to get out of it.

The character I imagined getting into such a situation was based on the brother of a college girlfriend. He was autistic, and took things very literally. It fascinated me how this very sweet, kind-hearted young man could tell you all about his impressive insect collection, but couldn’t fix a meal for himself.

The final element came from an article I’d recently read. I’ve always been a science buff, and faithfully keep up with Dr. Daniel Caton, an astronomer who writes a regular column for the Charlotte Observer. In that article, Caton counseled amateur astronomers not to regret their decision to pack up their equipment when bad weather interferes with their stargazing. Yes, the sky might clear up hours later, but it’s better to live with your choice and return later, fully rested.

These various elements came together nicely into my story, and Fabula Argentea accepted it. It occurred to me that I should let Dr. Caton know his column had inspired it. He was pleased to hear this:

Mike,

I loved the story! I’m glad that adding the “never look back” made the difference in getting it published. I liked the title, too–a clever play on words.

And, thanks for the kind words on my column. May I Tweet/FB the link to the story?

Dr. Daniel B. Caton, Ph.D.

He tweeted my story to his followers, and another astronomer re-tweeted it.

I think C.P. Snow would have approved.