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.
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.
With some short stories, persistence pays off. Curveball has been searching for a home for nearly four years. I knew the characters were interesting and plot was good, but the story didn’t fit neatly in a genre; it touched the supernatural and a crime was involved, but it fell somewhere in-between. Submitted 25 times and rewritten twice, this tale was published in October 2019 by Freedom Fiction.
by DL Shirey
Ravé Eloh was born a bit wider than the other babies. Not fatter, wider. The doctor told his mother that Ravé’s body was made up of two conjoined twins who had barely started to separate. Then stopped.
He had a third kidney, he told me, a coccyx with two nubby tails, and a small, secondary larynx. But it was Ravé’s face where the twosome really showed. He had a wider-than-usual space between his eyes, a nose with a broad bridge and slight double hump. And when viewed in profile, one side was more feminine compared to the other.
Although it was biologically impossible, Ravé believed he was one-half woman. He called all his extra parts Renee.
Everyone who reads this piece asks if it’s true. Thankfully, no. It was sparked by the above photo that I happened upon online. The story was originally submitted to Reflex Fiction in April 2019. It didn’t win the contest, but they were moved by it and decided to publish it anyway.
by DL Shirey
The boy beams when finished. Beams. Like the face of God’s son whose name I no longer invoke. For eleven years he’s smiled whenever he sees me. Smiles when I feed him yoghurt. Smiles as I clean up shit and vomit. Gabe is a happy child. Happiest when he finishes a drawing.
Horror Tree has assembled all stories previous published in their 2018 “Trembling With Fear” column. That’s 204 tales of fright and weirdness (I counted). Stories are listed by the month they were published. Mine is in December.
Despite the title, this story is more horror than sci-fi. (And as horror goes, fairly mild.) As Corner Bar Magazine editor Garry Somers told me, “It’s like a Twilight Zone episode, only without the preface by Serling that warns you that you’re about to be freaked out.” Being a TZ fan myself, that is high praise. First published in July 2019.
Where Pluto Used To Be
by DL Shirey
The nausea hadn’t started yet, but it was just around the corner. Right now the problem was itching, and those awful thoughts that if she scratched too hard, too often in the same spot, her skin would shred like grated cheese.
Elsa tried not to scrape her manicured nails where it itched most, on her ankles. Instead she crossed her legs, placing a foot on her knee, then gently rubbed at the itch beneath her pant leg. But a laying-on of hands wouldn’t sooth it, nor would a lotion to moisturize skin. Oxy or Vikes would do it.