Catch a Falling Star
Short Stories

Catch a Falling Star

“How long did he lay there before they found him?”

Wynn surveyed the shelves on aisle three and listened to the excited chatter at the front of the store. He found the potted meat and scooped three cans into his basket.

“About a week,” one of them said.

“Guess it was the smell that gave him away?”

“I imagine so. That poor man started wasting away three years ago, though. Don’t have to be dead to decompose . . .”

Read the full story at Reedsy.

A Better Way to Track Stories and Submissions
Writing Tools

A Better Way to Track Stories and Submissions

I’d rather sort socks than manage my content. Once I finish a story, I’m ready to move on to the next idea. In my wake I leave behind folders of disjointed documents labeled “v2” or “v3-b” and emails to different publishers with varying summaries of the same story.

Then I might read about some contest and think, “I’ve got the perfect story.” But which file is the latest? And what was that word count again? Wait. I don’t think I heard back from that last contest. And, would you look at that? My socks don’t match.

You’re judging me right now, aren’t you?

What I need is a database of all my work, including metadata like genre, word count, and work status. Beyond that, I want a way to answer these questions . . .

Read the full article at The Writing Cooperative.

Rose
Short Stories

Rose

“Did you get it?” Loraine asked. “You did bring it, didn’t you?”

Before Donald could lock the car, his wife walked three steps ahead. For a seventy-year old woman with lumbago, she was moving. “Yes, I brought the rose, dear.” He tried not to ruin the moment by sounding exasperated. “You only reminded me three times before we left.” Maybe he should try a little harder, he thought. “Honey, do you even know where you’re going?”

“Well,” she said, looking around. “I thought we’d follow the crowd.”

“I don’t see any crowd. Just that man over there in the booth.”

“And we both know you’re not going to ask him for directions.” Loraine approached a man in a faded blue uniform. “Excuse me, sir. Do you know where we could find –”

“In the back,” the man said, before she could finish.

“But you don’t even know what I — ,”

“Sure I do,” the guard interrupted again, his words muffled by the Louis L’Amour paperback that hid half his face like an outlaw bandana. “Same as everybody else.” He looked up and pointed a fat finger past the gate. “She’s at the end of this row. Just around the corner.” He resumed reading, officially ending the conversation.

“Thank you very much,” Loraine said without a hint of irritation. She called back to her husband. “This way, Donald.” After a few steps, she stopped and allowed him to catch up. “Well, he was nice . . .”

Read the full story at Reedsy.

How I Use Workflowy to Outline and Brainstorm Short Stories
Writing Tools

How I Use Workflowy to Outline and Brainstorm Short Stories

I’m not a linear thinker. My brain is more like a grocery cart with a wobbly wheel. It goes where it wants. So, when I write I use different tools to help collect my thoughts. Sometimes I use Airtable to organize all those abstract elements in my stories.

But sometimes, I need to see the big picture all at once. I need to think in up-and-down lines that collapse and expand. I want structure and organization. Enter Workflowy. I’m using it right now to keep myself from wasting your time while my shopping cart meanders toward the ice cream aisle. (As if that’s the cart’s fault.)

There are two basic ways I use Workflowy for creative writing.

Read the full article at The Writing Cooperative.

Burning the Midnight Oil
Short Stories

Burning the Midnight Oil

This was a contest entry where the entire story is from the villain’s point of view. This is darker than other stories I’ve written. Readers beware.

The man lifted the bottle to his lips, but all he drank was disappointment. It was full when he brought it home. So was the light in the front window. Now, he held an empty bottle and looked out at the darkness.

His bones ached. The day was done, but the toll it took on his body lasted all night. The air around him reeked, a fetid stench of struggle and futility. Nothing stunk like a man’s sweat mixed with dirt he didn’t own. That’s how he knew he wasn’t drunk enough. He could still smell himself over the whiskey . . .

Read the whole story at The Creative Cafe.

How To Read A Book (Of Fiction), According to Mortimer J. Adler
Writing Tools

How To Read A Book (Of Fiction), According to Mortimer J. Adler

I love to read literature, but I don’t always understand it. How many times have I sat down with a dusty classic and a hot cup of optimism only for the cup to grow cold by chapter three? Sure, I get it at some level. Characters, plot, symbolism. Even a blind squirrel finds a metaphorical nut from time to time. But if you catch me reading Faulkner or Dostoyevsky, expect to see a copy of SparkNotes nearby.

I also love to write literature. Call me cynical, but that seems problematic. If I can’t understand it, how on earth can I expect to write it? Maybe that’s why so many accomplished writers insist on a habit of constant reading. Could it be that before I learn how to write a book I should learn how to read a book?

Read the full article at The Writing Cooperative.

Altar Ego
Short Stories

Altar Ego

Behind every joke a preacher tells is a story he’s trying to forget. This is that story.


“So you’re not going to tell her?” Bentley asked.

Vernon studied himself in the mirror, tilting his head from side to side. “Bentley,” he said. “I’m tired of talking. I mean to do it this time.” He looked away from the mirror and into the eyes of his co-conspirator. A thick index finger emphasized his point. “And she can’t stop me.”

Bentley sighed. “Okay. When?”

“First thing Friday morning, when she leaves for her sister’s house. My appointment is at ten.”

“How long will she be gone?”

“Till sometime on Tuesday, plenty of time.”

“And you’re sure you want to go through with this?” Bentley asked, not for the first time. “Is it really necessary?”

Without answering, Reverend Vernon Vanderwalker returned his attention to the mirror. Not bad for fifty-four. Sure, he was a little beefy around the edges. But that wasn’t what bothered him. His biggest problem, the proverbial thorn in his side, was the desolate plain where his hair once dwelled. Maybe it was from age or stress. Maybe it was a tragic case of heredity. Regardless, Vernon’s head was both naked and ashamed. He thought of the Old Testament and how the sins of the fathers visited themselves upon the future generations and wondered. What kind of mess did my Daddy get himself into?

“It’s necessary,” he said.

Read the whole story at Lit Up.

How I Use Airtable to Plot Fiction
Writing Tools

How I Use Airtable to Plot Fiction

Airtable is a fully-featured online, relational database. See how I use it to plot fiction, build characters, and view elements visually as I write.

Hi. I’m Brandon, and I’m an app addict. (“Hi, Brandon.”)

I spend far more time finding, installing, and tweaking writing tools than I do writing with them. I’ve tried them all, from Scrivener to Word, ApolloPad to Novlr. I’ve HiveWorded and Snowflaked my way through so many cool tools that now, before I sign up for a new one, I have to make sure I don’t already have an account.

The Missing Link

Of course, no tool stands alone. I regularly employ a suite of solutions to fit my environment, my task, or my mood. I write with Scrivener. I brain dump and spin “what if” webs with Workflowy. I even use Voice Notes on my phone to talk out scenes while I’m in the car. What I needed was a tool that allowed me to organize and build a story no matter how it came to me.

See screenshots and read the full article at The Writing Cooperative.

A Shot in the Dark
Short Stories

A Shot in the Dark

“Hey, Johnie,” Karma said as her boss walked through the door. She tried to act innocent.

“Get out of my way,” Johnie replied. “I’ve got to pee.” Hunched over, he walked like a penguin toward the back of the salon.

“Well, good morning to you, too.” She preoccupied herself with her clipper attachments and pretended to pout.

Johnie sighed and turned around. “Karma, don’t go all Sylvia Plath on me.” He tapped his foot involuntarily. “We can be besties in a minute. But right now I’ve got a venti Hazelnut Latte springing holes in my bladder.”

He turned and hurried to the restroom. “Good grief, who put all this crap in front of the door.” He started throwing brooms and mops and boxes of toilet paper.

“Yikes,” Karma said. She ran over to help. “Sorry, Johnie. We were cleaning out the storage closet last night. I came in early to put it all up. I just hadn’t got there yet.”

“It’s fine.” Johnie was breathing heavy. “Just move this stuff. I’m dying here.”

Karma shoved the last box out of the way then stepped back and waited.

Johnie threw open the bathroom door, flipped on the light, and screamed at the man staring back at him. “Oh, mercy.”

Read the whole story.

Death and Taxes
Short Stories

Death and Taxes

Josh stumbled to the bathroom and turned on the shower. For a good five minutes, he stood with his eyes closed, willing the hot water to wash away the restless night. He felt blindly for the soap, expecting to knock over one of the fifteen or so bottles that usually surrounded it. When his hand found nothing but a bar of Irish Spring, he opened his eyes. Something was seriously wrong.

Last week, Josh started shaving his head to save money on haircuts and shampoo. His wife, however, insisted on maintaining a strict beauty regiment of conditioners, shampoos, body washes, and lotions. Now, all of it was gone. Reality dawned on Josh. Ellen had left him.

Read the whole story at The Creative Cafe.