10 Degrees Cooler in the Shade

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Hot off the virtual press (thanks to the near universality of wifi, even on Mackinac Island) is July’s short story, 10 Degrees Cooler in the Shade. This story started at simply pairing a title idea (with no thought of possible plot, characters, setting, content, etc.) and a photo I took at the Ingham County Fair a year or so ago. (Aside: The 2013 Ingham County Fair starts today and runs all week!) I asked my husband to suggest a name of a guy that sounded like he might be a carny (no offense to those of you out there who might share this name). And off my imagination went.

One of the fun things about writing a bunch of short stories this year is trying out different genres, and this is one I’ve never written–suspense. I hope you enjoy it!

Buy it here for 99 cents for your Kindle and Kindle apps.

One Endless Summer Day: A Story from Life

Just under the wire, June’s short story is here! Well, not here on the blog, but HERE in the Kindle store.

I wrote a prehistoric version of this story way back in my second year of college for a creative writing class. At the time I was sure it was the best thing I’d ever written. When I reread it earlier this month I thought it was pretty atrocious. So I took out all the pretension, changed the POV and the tense, added, subtracted, and molded. A few lines made it through unscathed and unedited. But just a few. It is the exact same story as it was fourteen years ago–just much, much, MUCH better.

Unlike all of my other stories written thus far this year, this one is based on a real event and real people, though most are dead and the living have new names. It’s an artistic, fictional rendering of a very small event that made a very big impression on me, an event that I have never forgotten, but told from the perspective of someone else who was there.

Here is a short excerpt to tempt you…

When did she get so old? It seems to have happened when I wasn’t looking, perhaps one night as I was sleeping. It vexes me that time is quickly stealing away abandon, that most precious of childhood qualities. To be unconcerned, flitting about on the very edge of reality in the silvery world of forests and fairies, wearing a dress made of yellow rose petals and riding upon the backs of ladybugs. To lightly touch down upon the ground on soft bare feet. To wear necklaces of raindrops. To talk to fireflies.

“Paula, what are you looking at out there?”

“Karen. Just watching Karen play in the yard. I’m listening. You were talking about the prices at the meat market.”

“It’s really just ridiculous, you know. I’ve never paid so much for ground chuck in my life, and that’s including…”

And on and on and on. The motorcycles from the front room. The drone of negativity from across the table. I squeeze my eyes shut and push my fingers into my temples.

“Mom, do you have any aspirin?”

“It’s in the bathroom.”

I go into the bathroom, shut the door, and stand for a moment in the lovely still dark, my hands upon the counter. Then I flick on the light and open the medicine cabinet. I scan the jars and bottles lined up in rows, a neat little train of powdered normalcy that daily delivers some relief, some steadiness, one more miserable day upon this earth to the two old people who live in this sad little house.

I tell myself that I need to be more patient with her. That life has not always been kind to her. That I’ll be old someday. That she just wants someone to talk to.

In case you’re curious, the POV character is based on my mother, who loved the original story from my creative writing class. I think she will enjoy this one much more. And I hope you enjoy it as well.

Latest Short Story Now Available (and a peek at summer cover art)

Today is the day! You can now buy Clean, my short story for May, for Kindle and Kindle apps. Just click here.

I’ve got covers mocked up for the next five months of short stories and I’m looking forward to writing stories inspired by the titles and images.

As always, things may change, but for now, here’s a peek at what summer will bring…

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Coming Soon (i.e., as soon as I can get the cover art done)

Here’s a quick sneak peek at May’s short story, which is awaiting a photo shoot and design work for the cover…

The bell above the door jangled and Lindsey swiped the tears away and turned to look at the newcomer. The woman pulled a collapsible cart behind her and walked with a red-tipped white cane toward the machines. Lindsey watched her deftly maneuver the narrow aisle between the washers and dryers. She came to a stop not far away and Lindsey suddenly realized she was not a woman at all.

The legs visible between the black heels and the knee-length skirt were most certainly a man’s. Lindsey could see this even through the dark nylons. And the torso and shoulders and chest, they also belonged to a man. And if there were any doubt left in her mind those doubts were gone once Lindsey took a good look at the woman’s face. Though crowned with a feminine bob and flanked by dangling earrings, the shadow of stubble across a muscular jaw was most certainly a man’s.

“Excuse me,” the woman said to her in the voice of a man. “Is this machine taken?” A manicured fingernail tapped metallically on the hood of the washer.

“N-no,” Lindsey managed in a hoarse whisper.

“Great.” And with a gleaming smile, the man opened it up and began transferring things from the cart into its cavernous mouth.

Lindsey watched closely and saw that everything, down to undergarments, was women’s clothing. She pulled out her phone to text her friend Trish.

There’s a blind drag queen here. Seriously.

Trish’s response came quickly.

No there isn’t. No way.

Lindsey typed furiously.

Swear.

She waited for a response.

Pic or I don’t believe you.

Lindsey switched her phone over to camera mode and tilted it up surreptitiously, trying to get the newcomer in the frame. Then she realized it didn’t matter how obvious she was if her subject couldn’t see anyway. She held the phone out in front of her to get the drag queen and his cane in the frame, but hesitated before clicking the shutter.

She turned her phone off and dropped her hands to her sides, imagining what the coming months had in store for her.

Free Short Story for Kindle to Celebrate a Musical Pioneer

This Elegant RuinIn honor of Anton Dvorak’s death on this day in 1904, I’m making This Elegant Ruin free to download for Kindle today only! Click here for your free copy.

This story begins where Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 ends and follows an orchestra conductor as he comes to terms with a career winding down and a relationship with a young violinist that can never be.

Hope you enjoy it!

And Speaking of Tornadoes…

We Shall Sometime Come to Somplace

Within a few minutes the first drops began to fall, sing-songy, on the roof of the car. The tempo and volume increased quickly and steadily as the sky overhead blackened. Inside the cab it got darker and darker until it was like twilight. Then Ted saw tiny white balls bouncing off the hood in front of him. He turned on his hazards and craned his sore neck to the southwest. And he knew that staying in the car was the wrong choice.

An angry cloud seemed to be stretching its fist toward the earth, slowly circling, grasping, clutching. Ted sat mesmerized a moment. Then a finger began to emerge from the fist and Ted searched frantically for the door handle. He burst from the car with no thought to the hail or the wind or his aching jaw and scanned the fields. Where was the bridge? The farm? So far away that in the black of the storm he could no longer make them out.

But there was the ditch.

Wondering what happens next? Click here.

April’s Short Story Is Here–and It’s Free Today Only!

The next morning the sun was behind a cloud, but they started on, as if they were quite sure which way they were going.

‘If we walk far enough,’ said Dorothy, ‘I am sure we shall sometime come to some place.’

This line from chapter 14 of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Lyman Frank Baum did not inspire April’s short story, but it did provide the title after it was written. I’m particularly proud of We Shall Sometime Come to Someplace as a story that attempts to combine the three main conflicts (man vs. nature, man vs. man, and man vs. himself) into one short tale, and also alludes to three particular well-known stories that involve portals and other worlds of some sort.

I first had the inkling of an idea for this story a couple years ago during a drive in March when the skies were studded with clouds that looked like they belonged to the month of July. It grew from the short note I jotted down about it and an element of one of my recurring dreams.

Because I like this story so much, I’m offering it free on its release day (and that, my friend, is today) so click here and get your free copy! (No, this is not an April Fool’s joke; it really is free.)

We Shall Sometime Come to Somplace

It’s March! And That Means I Have Something for You!

I don’t know about you, but I’m super happy to leave February behind. We’ve gotten through a few winter storms, we’ve had some wonderful temperatures recently just above freezing, we’ve heard some beautiful birdsong around my house, and the sun made an appearance and I could actually feel it. Puts me in a springy mood.

Which is why I painted my bathroom a much lighter color.

Which is why I’m buying vegetable seeds even though I can’t plant most of them for a couple months.

Which is why I’m feeling pretty generous at the moment.

So here’s what I’m doing. I’m releasing March’s short story today (first day of the month!) and I’m making the first two short stories of 2013 absolutely free for a day! So if you missed the last freebie, take heart. This one’s for you…and for the promise of spring.

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