After Dinner Conversation is a unique magazine. Not only do they publish excellent short stories, acceptance is predicated on the premise that what you read is worthy of discussion. “The One That Damned Me” is about a man wrongly accused of a crime. The editors then follow up with philosophical or ethical questions for further conversation. All six stories in the July issue are well written as are topics posed afterwards. There are also free downloads for this issue (pdf, ePub, mobi), but I urge you to buy a subscription. It’s well worth it.
In January, 2020, A Story in 100 Words published my Drabble. (That’s a story of exactly one hundred words, folks.) It can be quite challenging to craft a beginning, middle and end into extremely short prose. At the time, I was struggling mightily with another microfiction piece and my frustration inspired me to write this:
by DL Shirey
The crumpled notebook paper can’t be hurt, no matter how hard it’s thrown. An anemic crackle sounds at impact, a lazy, pointless attempt to uncurl is its sole achievement. The lopsided wad sits atop the unburning end of a Duraflame log. Mercifully, black char ashes the paper’s edge, further loosening the ball until gravity pulls it down to hearth. Still misshapened, I see blue ink, evidence of the second worst opening line in the history of writing. The winner is in my fist, ready to toss to the flames. It’s the only way to bring fire to my words today.
If a bright spot can be found in these days of pandemic and seclusion, it’s that many more new journals have come to our attention. Since March, The Short List has featured 112 new inclusions, places where writers of short prose can submit their stuff. If you’re anything like us, these past few months have been a boon to writing. Now, it’s time to start submitting.
Keep checking back for opportunities to publish your short stories and flash fiction. And if you haven’t already, please follow us on Twitter for notifications about new journals.
Six words published by Briefly Write.
Of the dozen stories published in 2019, this may have been my favorite. Atmospheric and eerie, it tells quite a complex tale in about three-thousand words. First published by Eternal Haunted Summer in their Winter Solstice issue.
by DL Shirey
Veta barked. As dog breeds went, the bone-thin hound would have been hard to identify. Jorge claimed she was purebred, but as underfed, filthy and beat up as she was, Veta looked more like a stray gone wild.
The dog trotted on the sand and gravel in the shade of a four-foot barranca. The edge of the streambed seemed to defy gravity, standing firm against the wind from the Chihuahuan Desert, each gust kicking off bits from the brittle layers of sediment. Sprouts of sour grass clung magically to the walls, out of the direct rays of the harsh, low sun.
This piece was bare-bones from its inception. It started as a 50-word story for blink-ink as a submission to their “Ghost Bus” issue. Although they published a few of my micro fictions previously, this one was rejected. So, I took a hard look at a revision, added a whopping 14 more words and voila. The good folks at dreams walking published it in issue #2.
Horror writing has always been part of my speculative toolbox. When I started writing these stories, there were things I vowed NOT to do: werewolves howling at the moon, unearthing a mummy, or the same old vampire tale. This pledge came with a disclaimer, that I would give myself the go-ahead if I found a unique way to approach tried-and-true monsters. “The Difference Blood Makes” is such a tale. Available in ebook or print it was first published as part of the third Weird and Whatnot anthology (11/16/19 issue).
The Difference Blood Makes
by DL Shirey
[Manchester, England 1951]
“That’s correct. No names, just the place and year where the portrait was taken,” Merrick said. “Most of my subjects prefer to remain anonymous. This scholarly looking devil happened to be in my hometown, a childhood friend patient enough to sit many times while I perfected my process. Over here is an example which better explains it.”
A dozen reporters and art critics hurried after Merrick, toward the gallery’s far wall. His quick pace belied his eighty years. A few of the stragglers were jotting notes. One wrote spry to describe the artist. Another scribbled dapper.
Welcome to 2037. The future is not some bleak, post-apocalyptic wasteland. Oh, contraire. The world is exceedingly happy. Everything is good. All needs are met. Everyone is going to have a nice day. Published by Freedom Fiction.
Four or five years ago, on a trip to New Mexico, I went to a museum and saw an exhibit of paper clothing. Actually, there were more than clothes on display; many everyday objects were also represented—laptop, guitar, bicycle—all made from colorful crepe paper. They came from Vietnam, handmade in tribute to people for whom those objects held special significance. Now, I won’t reveal anything more, that would be spoiling the story. But learning about this lovely tradition stayed with me and was the key to writing “Sunday Dress.” Published by the UK journal ink, sweat and tears.
Here’s a speculative piece that’s a departure from my other stories. It’s told in the voice of an eight-year-old child. From his perspective, he may have otherworldly powers or it just might be his imagination. Published by Bewildering Stories.