A New Literary Challenge for 2017

In 2013, I challenged myself to write one short story each month, format it for Kindle, create a beautiful cover image, and make it available to readers for 99 cents a pop. It was a fun year that stretched me and, in the end, resulted in one of those stories (“This Elegant Ruin”) being a finalist for the Saturday Evening Post‘s 2014 Great American Fiction Contest, and in the beautiful printed collection which you see on the side bar and on my Books page.

What was great about that venture is that it was completely self-directed and completely within my control. I would succeed or not succeed commensurate with my own effort and I could do everything on my own timetable.

In my writing life now, I do a lot of waiting. The submission process is out of my direct control and there is nothing I can to do speed it up. I know this, but the knowing doesn’t make it any easier to sit and wait. So I continue to write more novels in the meantime, working hard to have options should the first attempt to sell not pan out. But novels are gargantuan projects. And when they are done, they’re just going to get into line to wait behind the rest of their long-form kin.

So I’ve decided it’s time for another personal challenge that I can complete all by myself. This year I will be focusing on poetry, both writing new poems and gathering and editing old ones for a chapbook which I’ll produce myself. I believe I’ll organize it around the four seasons, since so many of my poems reflect themes of nature and the passage of time. I may intersperse some line drawings in there as well. My goal will be to have it completed and ready for purchase in late November. Chapbooks make great stocking stuffers, after all.

New Release! This Elegant Ruin…and other stories

I’m so thrilled to tell you that This Elegant Ruin…and other stories is now available at Amazon! Click here to order.

For the uninitiated, in 2013 I challenged myself to write one short story each month. The twelve stories that make up this collection are the result of that challenge. I’m so thrilled to see them in book form with the incredibly beautiful cover my friend and colleague Heather created.



Now that the kids are back in school, do something for you! Short stories make great reading material for when you just want a little down time (or when you are waiting in the pick-up lanes after school). I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them!

Here’s the back cover copy to give you a bit of the flavor of the writing:


Love and hate. Dreams and nightmares. Luck and misfortune.

In twelve engaging stories, the joys and sorrows of life glow against such varied backdrops as a snowy wood, a quaint country inn, a crumbling metropolis, the shore of Lake Superior, and a lonely country highway. A man in the twilight of his career falls in love with a young woman at the dawn of hers. A girl at the end of her rope finds an unexpected friend in an eccentric stranger. A young man haunted by memories finally gets a chance to forget his troubles. An artist takes stock of his life’s work and discovers an unwelcome truth.

With prose that evokes wonder and fear, regret and relief, Erin Bartels draws meaning from the small moments of life, challenging us to be still, to notice, to dream—and to hope.

First Short Story Collection: Cover Art Reveal!

Over a year ago, I secured the services of Heather Brewer, a talented graphic designer I’m lucky to call a colleague and friend, to design a book cover for me. At the time, I thought it would be a novel. At some point I realized that what I really wanted her to design was the cover for my collected short stories.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a year or more, you probably know that in 2013 I challenged myself to write one short story each month. During that year, I made each story available for Kindle users. Now I’m gathering those stories together, adding more material, and preparing to publish the collection as both a printed book and an ebook.

And this, I’m ecstatic to say, is the cover…


When I saw it, I literally said in a loud and astonished voice (to no one in particular), “Oh my GOSH!” 

It’s breathtaking. And it’s more than just a pretty picture. Not only is it eye-catching, it evokes the kind of emotion that I hope the stories evoke in the reader–a little mystery, a little ache in the soul, an appreciation of beauty alongside an acknowledgement of the broken things. And, importantly, it’s non-gendered. In this collection, there are just as many male protagonists as female, and the themes are more universal than gender-specific, so having a cover that would appeal to both men and women was important to me. What do you think? Have we succeeded?

I’m currently editing the collection and getting the interior ready to go. I don’t have a firm release date just yet, but my hope is that it will hit the “shelves” by late summer or early fall. I’ll keep you posted!

While the Getting Is Good…


At the end of the month, I will be removing my short stories from Amazon as I prepare a collection. The collection will feature the twelve stories I wrote in 2013, including the award-winning “This Elegant Ruin,” along with 13 brand new vignettes, one between each of the stories, plus two to bookend the collection, that will connect to make sort of a “thirteenth tale,” if you will. I’m hoping that collection will be available in both ebook and print by the end of the summer. So if you want to read any of the stories as an inexpensive single on Kindle, you have ten more days to buy before that option disappears forever!

Find information about the short stories here and click through to buy for Kindle.


All Short Stories Free Today!

Don’t forget to download any and all of my short stories for Kindle absolutely FREE today only as my thank you to you for reading! This will be your last chance to snap them up individually for free!

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Water & Light

A young pregnant woman is called into work at the water treatment plant on a stormy Christmas Eve. What happens that night will test her resolve and strengthen her faith. Buy it here for Kindle.

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Memory Man

People say there’s a man who can forget your bad memories for you. Lives in the city somewhere, supposedly. Problem is, I never met anyone who has actually seen the guy. Buy it here for Kindle.



When a man drives across the Upper Peninsula to retrieve a moving truck that has been missing for 25 years, he never could have guessed what was waiting for him inside. Buy it here for Kindle.


The Beginning and the End

The trip never should have happened—wouldn’t have happened were it not for that unfortunate confluence of romantic clichés the night of Courtney’s wedding… Buy it here for Kindle.


The Astonishing Moment

A pleasant kayaking excursion along the southern shore of Lake Superior becomes a dangerous affair when the weather suddenly turns and the light fails. Buy it here for Kindle.


10 Degrees Cooler in the Shade

In the light of a hot summer day at the carnival, there’s always something to see. In the dark of night, there’s always something to hide. Buy it here for Kindle.

One Endless Summer Day

One Endless Summer Day

In summertime, the days can seem endless. Whether that is good or bad kind of depends on what side of childhood you find yourself on. Buy it here for Kindle.



When it seems like everything in life is going wrong, sometimes all it takes to get things back on track is just one thing a little out of the ordinary. Buy it here for Kindle.

We Shall Sometime Come to Someplace

We Shall Sometime Come to Someplace

An unseasonable storm is just the first in a series of strange and surreal events that will set a one man’s life on a very different course. Buy it here for Kindle.

The Door

The Door

An aging homebound artist realizes that his life is not as it seems when something he paints leads him to an impossible–and unforgettable–discovery. Buy it here for Kindle.

Beneath the Winter Weeds

Beneath the Winter Weeds

On a frigid January day, one woman must return to the forest of her youth to finally uncover what lies buried beneath the winter weeds. Buy it here for Kindle.

Merry (Early) Christmas

Look what I stumbled upon while I was updating my Amazon author page:

Click the cover image to get to the Amazon page where this collection is already available for Kindle for just $3.99! Printed books should be available in January or February.

And you’re going to want to hang out there at Amazon and pick up your copy of December’s short story, Water & Light. I wanted to make it free starting Christmas Eve, but the timing with uploading it made that impossible (boo!) so it will be free on Christmas Day and Boxing Day only!

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Thanks so much for your support this year as I carried out my short story writing experiment. It has been such fun and so rewarding. I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store…

Mission Accomplished!


I don’t know about you, but I have rarely, if ever, kept a New Year’s Resolution for an entire year. I can hardly keep myself eating right for three meals in a day. So when I vowed last January to write one short story each month of the year, I was really hoping I’d have the tenacity to succeed, but I figured that somewhere in there, there would at least be a month when I was late and had to make a bunch of lame excuses about how life just got too busy to write.

But lo and behold, last night I finished the 12th and final short story of 2013!

Life did get busy. Crazy busy. For the last three months, every Saturday on the calendar was full. We had to adjust our schedules to fit with a boy who is now in elementary school. We navigated a summer filled with trips and hanging out with friends and canning homemade jam. I spent many evenings with my nose in thick books to prepare for writing a novel. And of course there’s work, eating, basic hygiene, and the like. But writing only happens if you make it happen. And this year, I made it happen.

This is the cover for the last story of the year…

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I will be making it available on Christmas Eve (last minute gift idea?) and it will be FREE on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!

And here are the covers of all twelve short stories for 2013…


It’s been a fun and challenging year, but I think 2014 will be even better. I’m hoping to release a nonfiction ebook called The Intentional Writer: Finding the Time, Space, and Inspiration You Need to Write in January. It’s designed to give beginning and struggling writers encouragement, motivation, and practical strategies to make regular creative writing a part of their lives. If you like my blog posts that relate to writing, you’ll love the book.

And, of course, what I’m most excited about is getting down in words the novel that has been growing in my head and my heart over the past year.

What do you have brewing in your mind for next year?

New Release: Memory Man

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In just under the wire as November comes to a close. Memory Man is a story about the memories we’d like to forget and a mysterious man rumored to help people do it.

Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite.

Detroit is a city with a long memory. Though most folks I know want to forget. Only they can’t. Can’t forget the past. Can’t forget the glory days. Can’t forget the rot and decay. I thought maybe we’d be better off if the whole world could forget what Detroit once was. Then maybe we wouldn’t feel so bad about what it is.

But that wasn’t what I had to forget exactly. And that did seem a tall order for just one man, even if he was miraculous.

Just one more story to go this year! Thanks for coming with me on this writing journey. I’ve had such a great time and have learned so much that I’m planning on sharing in an ebook early next year. If you’re a writer who wishes you were more intentional about your writing, I strongly encourage you to come up with a doable goal for 2014 that will have you writing consistently. Start thinking about it now. The new year will be here before you know it.

I See Free Books in Your Future…

It would appear from the sidebar that this space is close to having 1000 followers, so I wanted to remind all of you lovely readers that I made a promise back in September that if A Beautiful Fiction reached the 1000 follower mark by the end of the year, I would make all of my short stories free for one day (January 2nd, my gift to you on my birthday). As of the writing of this post, we’re 37 followers away from that goal.

First, thank you for reading and for sharing articles with your friends through email, on Facebook, and on Twitter. I hope that you continue to find these posts informative and encouraging.

Second, I do have to apologize and tell you that one story (“This Elegant Ruin”) will not be available as part of this giveaway because it is officially a runner up in the Saturday Evening Post 2014 Great American Fiction Contest and I’m awaiting a contract that will outline which rights I maintain to it. Suffice to say, it will be free online anyway as it will be on the Saturday Evening Post‘s website in January or February. It will also appear in their 2014 fiction anthology. And I believe I will still be able to include it in my short story collection next year (both ebook and printed book).

So, once more…

How can you help make this great giveaway happen?

1.) One easy way is to click the Follow button on the righthand side of the screen if you are not already an official follower of this blog. You’ll get new posts emailed to you automatically–and nothing else. No spam. No ads. Just blog posts. That’s it. When I blog you’ll know about it and you’ll be among the first to know about future giveaways and promos!

2.) When you read a blog post that speaks to you, please share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter or email it to someone you think would enjoy and benefit from what I write about here.

Here’s the other big announcement: Once the January 2, 2014 date passes, the stories will not only no longer be free, they will no longer be available on Kindle. I’ll be taking them all out of circulation as I work on the collection. So get them while they’re hot.

Thanks again for reading.

Overcoming the Fear of Inadequacy

This is a picture of my son.


It is a self portrait made back in March when he was still four years old, sent home in his personal file when he left his daycare/preschool and started kindergarten. Being four, this is as skilled as his self-portrait could be, even though I know he really sees himself more like this:

Do you ever feel like your talent may not live up to your own expectations?

Does that fear keep you from trying something great?

In almost any creative endeavor, we have an idea of what we want the end result of our efforts to be. The knowledge that our labors–our writing or painting or sculpting or songwriting or drawing in crayon–may never quite live up to the perfect standards we have in our heads can keep us from trying. One can feel paralyzed by potential.

But one must still write. One must still create.

My son may not be a real ninja turtle, but he is taking karate lessons.


If you don’t try, you can’t fail. But if you don’t try, you can’t succeed either.

You’ve got to start somewhere.