Road Trip
Short Stories

Road Trip

“Rerouting,” Siri said for the third time.

“Honey, why don’t you just do what she says?”

Rick glared at his wife. “No. I’m not getting us lost because some nerd in Cupertino thinks he knows the backroads of Escambia County better than I do.”

“But we are lost,” Patti said.

“We are not lost.” Rick turned off the GPS. He had listened to the persistent droning of female voices since Nashville and was tired of it. At least he could put Siri in silent mode. “Once we drop Uncle Glenn in Brewton, it’s a straight shot to your sister’s house.” He pointed to the digital clock in the dash. “See? It’s not even midnight. We’re making great time. We just need to find some gas soon. That’s all.”

Read the full story on Lit Up.

Falling
Short Stories

Falling

The old man sat alone on the bench and watched the family from a distance. Four of them picnicked in the center of the park, beneath a massive oak near a playground and a pond. The father’s tie hung loosely around his neck. His leather loafers and dress socks sat discarded on a nearby quilt. A shirttail escaped the back of his slacks as he ran barefoot through the grass and tackled a boy holding a football. A toddler in a princess dress cheered them on, her red curls bouncing as she jumped up and down.

Clouds were coming. Maybe rain. The old man felt it in his hands and knees. Across the lawn, the father chased his children, unaware of the weather ahead. In the shadow of the oak, the mother looked on and laughed, at least on the outside. The old man imagined her hidden tears as she wondered how on earth she would tell them about the tumor and the treatment and the time she might have left . . .

Read the full story at Literally Literary.

How An Online Writing Community Changed My Perspective
Writing Tools

How An Online Writing Community Changed My Perspective

I once worked for a small record label. Believe me when I say you’ve never heard of it. My role had little to do with music, and my influence was minimal. But that didn’t stop my friends from pitching their material.

“Hey, man. I wrote this song,” they’d say. “Love to get your thoughts.”

There’s this thing called the “Nashville No.” Basically, it’s when someone says, “Okay. I’ll listen to it and get back to you.” Then they don’t. It’s pretty effective. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have a name.

That doesn’t work so well with friends. You see them too much, care for them too much. Assuming their work is (like most pitches) more passion than potential, you eventually have to find an honest but helpful way to give them — perspective.

Read the full article at The Writing Cooperative.

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.