“Forgetting” by Lucy A. Snyder has been the ultimate Story of the Month for me. I read it several years ago either as a link from her web site or a story on her site. It’s the melancholy tone that’s stayed with me. The story has five characters – daughter, mom, dad, dog and chicken. It’s amazing what the love of a child can do in this little tale.
The story is no longer available online because it was included in Sparks and Shadows, a collection of her poetry and short stories. And you have the opportunity to win your own copy! A sticky post later today will have the details.
I came across “Alice After the Mall” by John Jasper Owens shortly after it was published in Every Day Fiction. There are many good things about it but it’s the ending I keep thinking about.
The first paragraph lets the reader know where Alice is and why she’s at the mall. It sets up the scene and appears to be an ordinary situation. Sometimes life changing decisions are made in ordinary places.
I think Alice stays on course and doesn’t look behind her. What do you think she does?
This is a special story of the month because it fits in with Father’s Day. Over a year ago I reviewed The Spaces Between Your Screams by Christopher Hivner for Niteblade. One of the standout stories for me was “Salvation’s Children” in which a father confronts a vampire for exacting revenge upon his family.
Owen is a single father who is slowly losing his three children to one of the local vampires. The adult son killed the vampire’s mate. As punishment, the vampire attempts to take away what is dearest to the son… his younger sisters.
Two scenes in particular stand out. The first is when Owen goes to Alexeyev’s house to get back his youngest daughter. He finds his oldest daughter is slightly mad and swinging upside down on a golden rope like an ornament. His reaction of shock followed by anger is real.
Alexeyev is a vampire of logic who is also grieving. In the second scene, Owen and Alexeyev are able to make a personal connection from having lost their mates. Owen makes a difficult decision that is an example of a parent’s tough love. This personal connection lets Alexeyev show compassion which wouldn’t normally fit into his logic.
The ending isn’t a happy one but it’s satisfying.
This month’s highlighted story is “Dragon Snot and Chosen Ones” by Therese Arkenberg. It’s in the first issue of Untied Shoelaces of the Mind.
Arkenberg’s story is one I read a few weeks ago. I knew it was a story worth sharing when I found myself telling my husband about it. It’s humor with a twist. I hope you read it and enjoy it as much as I did.
In a twist to the Story of the Month feature, I’d like to highlight a poem for National Poetry Month.
My husband introduced me to it while the first Resident Corgi was going through chemotherapy. Except for the first six or seven weeks of his life, Zilla was with us for an unforgettable eleven years. The treatments bought us about four more months. It was worth every penny. There were more good days than bad when the end was nearing.
Gravy by Raymond Carver
No other word will do. For that’s what it was. Gravy.
Gravy, these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it, up to and including when he was gold about,
well, some things that were breaking down and
building up inside his head. “Don’t weep for me,”
he said to his friends. “I’m a lucky man.
I’ve had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure gravy. And don’t forget it.”
“Beluga, Beluga” was published in the Fall 2008 edition of Sotto Voce. Nothing happens as expected in this story by Mark Leahy.
The first sentence immediately grabs the reader.
“I wake up on the foam mattress on my sister’s floor and for an hour the cat and I watch squirrels dart across the living room skylight.”
Why is the narrator at her sister’s? Is the hour time wasted? Is there somewhere else the narrator should be? Or is the narrator’s life such a mess that no one notices she’s not where she’s supposed to be?
Leahy picks words and phrases that are concise yet say so much. For example, “we’ve just been vending” conjures up the image of two people standing in front of the vending machine discussing the options and finally making a decision. The act itself is impersonal while the conversation about the choices can be the opposite. Returning to one’s desk with the vending machine prize can be a disheartening experience if the chosen item is not 100% to the person’s liking.
The question of whether the disappointment expressed in the ending is for herself or her sister keeps it from being heartbreaking.
There are a lot of layers to this story and I think that’s one of the reasons why I keep coming back to it.
Christine A. Kirchoff’s “Body At The Beach” in Short Story Library is a prime example of flash fiction with a twist. Not all flash fiction will contain a twist at the end but the twist can make the piece memorable.
This twist (and especially so in “A Girls Pleasure“) is the equivalent of watching two characters in a movie have a conversation on a park bench until the camera pans out to a wider shot – what once looked like a conversation in a park turns out to be a conversation on the grounds of a mental hospital.
The mood of “Body At The Beach” is peaceful. The unnamed main character is jubilant with his good fortune. It is up to the reader to decide if he made his good fortune or if he stumbled upon it.
The Story of the Month feature has been missing the last few months. Either I didn’t read much short fiction or nothing I read stuck. In November, I even had a story ready to post. It was something I read shortly before the end of October and I wasn’t sure if it really fit the criteria for a Story of the Month. Here’s what I said back in April was the criteria:
I’ve decided to do a new feature by the 7th of each new month. As you can guess, I highlight a short story that makes an impression on me. The story may not have been published in that particular month or the previous month – the only qualification is that I read the story after the previous Story of the Month.
There may even be more than one Story of the Month in February. I’ve been catching up on a lot of short story reading!
I usually highlight a short story on the 7th of every month. Really the only short stories I got to read were in the September issue of The First Line and the double issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction. There isn’t anything that keeps coming back to me so I’m going to skip one for October. I’ll read lots and lots of short stories between now and November so I’ll have one for you then!
It’s easy to pigeonhole some authors by the genre or format of their work. Stephen King is not one of them. His work has been published in print, e-book, comic book and multimedia forms. He can write horror, mystery, non-fiction, short stories and novels. And yes… he’s even working on a musical with John Mellencamp. I haven’t really liked his early work but I’ve enjoyed quite a bit of his work during the last fifteen years. This was before I knew about the Corgi connection. Stephen and Tabitha were once owned by Marlowe but now have Frodo as their Resident Corgi.
Let me tell you about “The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates”. It is presently in the October/November 2008 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction. In November it will appear in King’s collection of short stories titled Just After Sunset.
Annie Driscoll receives an unexpected phone call while preparing to face an army of her relatives under sad circumstances. King provides the reader with a setting, the circumstances and the main characters within three paragraphs. Successful short story writers accomplish this quickly while drawing the reader into the story. The dialogue reads true as are Annie’s thoughts and actions after the call.
The tone of the story is a mixture of love and wistfulness with a dash of hope thrown in. Annie’s phone call only lasts a few minutes but she always has it in the back of her mind when she’s in New York. The reader gets to decide how much of the phone conversation is imaginary and how much is real. No answers are given to the reader; in fact, the entire short story is open to the reader’s interpretation.
My husband and I have been apart this week while he’s out of town at a film festival. The distance has been lessened with phone calls at various times throughout his trip and I’m very happy he’s been keeping his cell phone charged. I suppose that’s why the story has been stuck in my head the last week or so.