Sunday, June 11, 2017

Mom Goes Political

“Who’s our new president?” my ninety-two-year-old mom asks. “His name is Don?”

“Donald,” I say.

“I don’t know his last name.”


Mom is almost totally deaf. “Dlumf?” she says. “That’s a hard name. I don’t like it.”

T-R-U-M-P,” I say, “like in the card game.”

“Oh, I don’t know anything about cards.”

We repeat letters back and forth for a while. “Trulb, it’s a hard word.”

“He’s been president about 130 days.”

“I read up and always voted for years, but I don’t anymore. . . . T-R-U . . . is it an N or an M?”

M like in monkey.”

“Oh, okay. Weird name. The other guy was president for eight years. His name was hard, too.”

“I remember. Not a common name.”

“Well, I can’t see or hear anymore, but I try to keep up.”

“You do really well, Mom.”

Trump,” she repeats. “T-R-U-M-P. Not sure I’ll remember it.”

"It's okay if you forget."

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Rejection Letter for my Quince Flash Fiction Story

Well, I got a response. Unfortunately, the response was a rejection letter. 
Dear Thomas Kepler, 

Thank you for sending us your flash fiction story, "Perchance Beneath a Quince Tree". We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, it's not quite the right fit for Every Day Fiction. 

Please find attached some feedback from our editorial team. 

Thanks again, and best of luck placing this story elsewhere. 

all of us at Every Day Fiction 
Anyone who submits must be prepared for a rejection letter. That's what I've learned through the years. Also, there seem to be only two reasonable responses: 1) submit to another publication, or 2) shelve the work for a while (or forever).

I'm traveling for now, so my response will be the latter until I get back home.

Here are the notes regarding the rejection. (And, it is important to say that many publications don't bother with personal notes due to the volume of submissions or due to the possible adverse reaction from writers.
"This is unique and there are some lovely moments, but I found the story a bit hard to follow."
The main character of "Perchance Beneath a Quince Tree" also found her "story" a bit hard to follow, since her untrained magical talent slipped her from one alternative universe to another, and she's struggling to get back home to her husband and children. The whole purpose of the flash fiction story was to embody that wonder and elusive experience.

That being said, EDF has a responsibility to its readers--and if that if to provide stories a bit easier to follow, well, OK. One of the good points of shelving a story for a while is to read it later with the editor's criticism in mind. One possibility for a rewrite is to use the flash fiction story (with limited word count) as a basis for an expanded story that doesn't have to be so compressed.

Well, on to other writing. I even have an idea to use the main character of this story in another tale.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Another Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Contest I've Lost

copyright K.S. Brooks
Yep, lost another one . . . and I'm happy.

This contest provided a photo visual prompt, a grey ocean beach, which reminded me of a short story that I've worked on over the last few years, drafting different beginnings, different storylines, different points of view, but never feeling the story was moving in the right direction.

I think writing this 250-word story got me to the right place, allowed me to discover the right angle. So I celebrate my happy loss.

The short story has had several titles:
  • Lonely Is a Bitter Wind
  • Waves Like Dragon Wings
  • People of the Beach
  • Elemental
  • Ocean's Daughter
This flash fiction version of the story was written while traveling on Amtrak, so it was a real pleasure to sit in my roomette, watching the miles roll by, drafting offline on Google Docs. Receptivity comes and goes while on the train, so I worked offline after reading the Indies Unlimited writing prompt. And writing on my iPhone 6+ was easy--a little slower than on a laptop, but maybe that's not so bad. I also really like not having to pack around a lot of electronics!

I'm looking forward to expanding the story from this 250-word shorthand version.

The first line of "Ocean's Daughter" reads: Stone and driftwood and the bitter sea–all is grey, water-worn, salt-bleached and half-buried.

The story is posted in the comments section of the UI blog post, if you'd like to read it--250 words, a quick read! I've linked the title above to the blog page.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Writing About the Quince--Flash Fiction

I've just completed another draft of my flash fiction story "Perchance Beneath a Quince Tree." It was 1,028 words, and I needed it to be less than 1,000. It's now 857! Go, Tom! Way to tighten!

I've always enjoyed revising, oddly enough, and the strictures of writing flash fiction remind me of when I used to dabble writing sonnets, including "modern" sonnets. The boundaries of the form seem to open up possibilities that wouldn't have occurred to me if the form were wide open. Interesting idea about creativity, that boundaries don't limit creativity but channel it.

Here is the first paragraph of the story, as it stands now.
It was the longest dream, it was the best dream, the one I most wanted to believe, and when it faded to morning mists, willy-nilly, I entered, seeking a way home, quickening my pace along the fog-heavy trail, quiet with hope because the track was familiar, reminding me of when I had started out on an early morning, landmarks time-tattered, half-remembered--this shoulder of the slope with its scruff of trees, those early morning shadows.
I plan to submit the story to an online fiction magazine--and then I wait 60-90 days for a response. Sounds like I'll choose another story to work on to keep me busy and happy!

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Sane Environment for Writing

My wife recently said that I am most prolific in my writing when my outside environment is orderly and predictable. "If there's nothing outside that is distracting or disrupting, then you feel completely free to put your attention inside and create."

I hadn't thought about my writing in exactly that way, but I think there's a lot of truth in her observation. When I was teaching full time, I knew exactly when I was going to write, to the minute--usually early in the morning at home and for a few minutes each day during my prep period at school. My goal each week was to write a thousand words from Monday through Friday, and a thousand words over the weekend--2,000 words a week. Ten months at school would lead to 80,000 words.

Also, when I was caregiving my first wife who had cancer, I wrote very little. I was very, very busy, and very, very focused. Now I have focus on my mom (92 years old), and a few other family items, not as intense as with my first wife, but I still see the truth of my wife's insight. I'm slowly moving in the direction of finding my stride, my rhythm of life and writing. I'm turning sixty-five next month, so I'm working through insurance issues, and I'm still enjoying the freedom to be more physical and to enjoy outdoor activities such as bicycle camping and gardening. (Not too much of either during the winter here in SE Iowa, although some bundled up biking!)

I revising a flash fiction story right now to submit to an online magazine. Short story writing is enjoyable right now because the commitment is more short term. Writing within my Dragons of Blood and Stone universe allows my creative juices to flow. I can look at the map and ask myself, "Now what would be going on in that area?" I find the map I've developed a great source of inspiration.

Some writers can write no matter what is occurring in their lives. I can do that, I have just chosen not to. I've always felt that writing is not my total life, that my life includes other avenues of expression. I'm looking forward to writing, just as I'm looking forward to many other pursuits.

Perhaps some time in the future, someone will say, "How much could he have written if he'd really pushed himself?" I understand that, but if someone who really knows me were to hear that comment, I think the reply would be, "Tom is interested in his total life, not just his life as a writer."

There's a certain romance to the troubled, starving, suffering artist persona. There's also a certain anguish, which I'd just as soon avoid. Every life needs a little tomfoolery!