Who’s Who of Emerging Writers Anthology

Hey Everyone!

This is exciting news. I have been listed in the book Who’s Who Of Emerging Writers published by Steve Care and Sweetycat Press. I am thrilled to be included with this fabulous group of writers.

Here’s part of Steve’s email:

CONGRATULATIONS! Your bio has been selected for inclusion in the Who’s Who of Emerging Writers to be published by Sweetycat Press and scheduled for release on Amazon on May 1, 2020.

You will be joining 110 other amazing poets, novelists, short story writers and non-fiction writers who have proven themselves as among the best emerging writing talents being published today.

He goes on to say more, but, wow, what an honor!

Here’s the link to a Youtube video promoting the book. Enjoy.

Note: If you look quick at the end of the video in the upper right corner you’ll see my face. Yikes!!

Acceptance Letter For The Standoff

Hi Everyone!

After being slammed with rejections lately, I thought I’d share this positive response for my story The Standoff from editor David Gardiner, at Gold Dust Review:
“Hello again James.
This is a very fine piece of writing, and I will be happy to accept it for publication in Issue 37 of Gold Dust, due out about mid-June. I like the suggestion that the narrator might be something a bit more than human, without its being too explicit. The backdrop is also beautifully painted. I see no need for an edit.”
Wow. Thank you, David!!

To Hold a Hand – Spillwords

Hi everyone!

Hats off to Dagmara K. and the good folks at Spillwords for featuring this story. Thank you so much!

To Hold A Hand

I’ve also posted it below. I hope you enjoy it!

To Hold A Hand

“See you later,” I waved, “Hope it goes well.”

My brother waved back and made his way to where the eye technician was waiting. His look belied his true feelings. I knew how nervous he was. His eyes were pretty bad, scarred years ago from a rare form of glaucoma. There’d be a lot of tests over the next two hours and the end result was be this: Would he be able to continue to drive or not?

A moment later he had disappeared into the inner catacombs of the Minnesota Eye Care Clinic. Now it was just Beth and I.

“Where’s Tim?” Beth asked a minute after he’d left us, “Where’d Tim go?”

“It’s all right, Beth. He just went for his eye exam. Remember. We talked about this.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Shit. I shouldn’t have said, “Remember.” I felt like an idiot. Beth is in her seventh year of dealing with Alzheimer’s. She’s still able to live at home and Tim does an admirable job of caring for her, but still… I brought the two of them here last year for the same tests and the entire time Tim was away from us Beth asked every five minutes, “Where’s Tim? Where’s Tim? Where’s Tim?” I reassured her each and every time that “He’s just getting some tests done. He’ll be back soon.” But, you know how it is with memory loss. You forget.

I was ready for the same scenario this year. After Tim left us, I made sure Beth was settled. “Do you want something to drink? Some water?” A blank look and then a shake of the head. No. “Are you comfortable? A blank look, then a shake of the head. No. “You’re okay then? A nod yes. Okay, good.

Beth was wearing all black today. Black slacks and a black turtle neck. Our Minnesota winter was winding down, but it was still cold out, so she had her black winter coat. Black is was and probably always will be her favorite color. Around her neck she wore a black polished piece of basalt in the shape of a heart on a black cord, a gift years ago to her from my brother, worn today to, as Tim told me earlier, “To make her look pretty.”

I opened my magazine, a publication put out by the Minnesota Department of Natural Recourses. The lead article was about an artist who did plein air painting of northern Minnesota, specifically of the boundary waters and lake superior. They were well done, in my estimation, and I showed them to Beth. She, at one time, was known regionally for her elegantly exact paintings of flowers. She called her work photorealism and it was not only beautiful, but highly sought after. Over the course of her life she’d won many awards and her work is still featured in gallery’s in the upper Midwest. She hasn’t painted in over ten years, though, not since to onset of her disease.

“Beth,” I said to get her attention. She turned to me and I pointed to a scene of waves crashing against a rocky shoreline on Lake Superior, “What do you think about this painting? Do you like it?”

She looked at the colorful watercolor: the shades of blue for sky and water, the tones of browns for the rocks and the white of a nearby birch clump with dots of green for its leaves. I gave her time, wondering what her reaction would be. Finally she looked at me and silently shook her shoulder, indicating, I guess, she had no opinion.

“Do you remember that you used to paint? I asked, “Both you and Tim did.”

She gave me a long look. Would she remember? It would be so great if she did. She and my brother had produced nearly seven-hundred and fifty paintings each over their lifetimes. More than enough, to my way of thinking, to remember.

“I don’t remember,” she said, and sat back.

“Too bad,” I said sympathetically. I thought for a moment, not wanting to give up on helping her to retrieve a portion of her memory, tiny and fleeting though it may have been. I leaned over and said, “They were really good.” I’m not sure if she heard me. Probably not. She’d closed her eyes and it looked like she’d dozed off.

I spent the first hour reading, checking my phone and making sure Beth was doing all right. She was. She dozed a bit and was awake a lot. I was happy that she was comfortable and not freaked out that Tim was not with us. Once when I asked how she was doing she said, “I’m fine. I like watching the people.” I didn’t blame her. This was a big outing for her. Usually she and my brother stayed home, spent their day together and their only break in the day was an occasional walk in their neighborhood. Outings were becoming fewer and farther between, what with his failing eyesight and her increasing memory loss. Getting out like this was good for her. She hadn’t even once asked where Tim was.

Into the second hour, I was reading and kind of dozing off a little myself, to be honest, when I felt a stir to my right. It was Beth. She was awake. I looked at her and smiled and she smiled back. I went back to reading. Suddenly, softly, I felt her move again and in a moment her hand slipped over the arms of each of our chairs and into mine. Her left hand into my right hand. She gently interwove her fingers into mine, and, with her right hand, she leaned over and covered them both. Then she patted them. She and my brother had been together for over forty-one years and in all that time, I doubt she and I had ever even touched, and certainly never held hands. Even to shake, “Hello,” in a greeting. We are not what you call a physically demonstrative family.

I was shocked, yet touched. What would cause her to do something like that? I turned to her and smiled, “Are you doing okay?”

She smiled back. “Yes, I am.” She was silent for a moment and then added, “Thank you for being here.”

Well, I never…What can you say to something like that? Well, obviously, “You’re welcome,” so that’s what I said. She didn’t say anything in return, only smiled back. We were both quiet. Then I had a thought. I went ahead and seized the moment and asked her something I’d been wondering about for the last few years, “Beth, I have a question for you. Do you know who I am?”

She gave me a long look, still holding my hand and said, “I don’t remember.”

“Do you know who Tim is?”

“Oh, yes,” she smiled, happily, “I know Tim.”

“I’m Tim’s brother,” I told her. She stared at me. Another blank look. “Like Dennis,” I said, “You know, you’re bother.”

“Dennis?”

“Never mind,” I decided not to push and make her uncomfortable with not being able to remember who her brother was. I shifted gears and asked, “Are you doing okay? Should we just sit here?”

“Yes.”

So we sat together. I went back to my magazine and read. Beth continued to hold my hand. It was a good feeling.

Fifteen  minutes later, when Tim came back and saw us he smiled, “I guess you guys are doing okay. He pointed to our hands, still interlocked. “Beth likes to do that sometimes. It gives her a sense of security. I’m glad you were there for her.”

He sat down on the other side of Beth and she released my hand and took his. We talked for a while before leaving. We went out to lunch and then I dropped them at their home and I went on my way.

I don’t know if I’ll ever forget that morning with Beth and being with her in the waiting room, being there when she needed someone to give her comfort and a sense of security. Being there to help fill in for my brother. Being there as a friend. I was glad to do it, glad I was there.

Oh, Tim passed his tests. He can still drive, but has to go back again next year to be checked out. He wants to know if I can drive he and Beth. I told him I’d be happy to.

Twenty Twenty Anthology

Hi Everyone!

I’m thrilled that my flash fiction story, Bath Tub Gin, has been included in the Twenty Twenty anthology published by Black Hare Press. Even more exciting is that a portion of the proceeds goes to help fund various Australian brush fire wildlife charities.

TWENTY TWENTY

Here’s the story:

Bath tub Gin

Big Ben Barker ran the bootleg arm of Mickey Finn’s operation on the south side. He ran it like clockwork and with precision. Mickey called him Ben. Ben Barker’s boys called him Boss. And the ladies all called him Mr. Big because he was, well, he was rumored to be well endowed, if you know what I mean.

Yeah, it was a fact that the ladies liked Mr. Big and he liked them. Especially Laura Lane. Man, she was something else. A dancer at Club Go Go, she could shake it like no one he’d ever seen. She wore a black cloche hat decorated with gold sequins, and silver silk flapper dresses that shimmered under the spotlights, showing off every curve of her body. Wow! The first time he’d seen her he wanted her like no body’s business. And the first time she’d slid out of that dress in his bedroom…Well, when they said that the sky was the limit they didn’t even come close. There was no limit as far as Laura was concerned. She’d do anything he asked her to do and leave him begging for more. His desire for her knew no bounds.

No bounds that was until Doris Dalrymple came along. Jeez. She was really the cat’s meow. Better built than Laura, Doris knew her way to a man’s heart that was for sure, and it wasn’t through his stomach. Whew! If Laura wore him out, Doris did it in spades.

But Big Ben wasn’t getting any younger. After a few weeks of trying to manage it with both ladies, he decided one of them had to go. He flipped a coin and was only sad for a moment. Sorry, Laura. It’d been nice to know ya’.

He knew Laura wouldn’t go quietly. Plus, she knew too much about his organization and his business. Enough, anyway, to get nasty if she wanted to, which he figured she would after he gave the news that he was dumping her. So he came up with a fool proof plan.

He booked the presidential suite on the top floor of the Ritz for that Saturday night. He had his boys fill the gold plated bathtub with gin, knowing that gin loving Laura would appreciate the gesture. Then, after he’d gotten her good and drunk, he’d drown her in the tub and claim it was an accident. Easy.

That night he took her to dinner and dancing at the 21 Club. Around midnight they left and went to Ben’s favorite speakeasy for drinks. After they’d had a few he leaned in close enough to get a good whiff of her Channel not to mention a eye full of her cleavage and said, “Hey there gorgeous, how about you and I blow this place and head for the Ritz. I’ve got a room for us.”

“Oh, honey,” Laura said, slurring ever so slightly, “You’ve got a treat for little old me?” She rubbed her hand against his crotch. “Well, I’ve got one for you, too.” She giggled as she stood up and sauntered off, swinging her hips, driving him and his own personal Mr. Big crazy.

He hurried to catch up and took her by the arm, drooling in anticipation. “I’ll have one of the boys drive us,” he panted.

Half an hour later they were in the huge bathroom.

Laura purred like a kitten, “Oh, honey, look at all the gin for little old me.” She dipped a finger in and licked it.

“All for you, sweetheart.” Ben watched her slide her finger around in her mouth and could barely contain himself. Maybe just once more for old time’s sake, is what he was thinking as Laura sashayed up to him.

“Aw, honey, give me a little kiss,” she said wrapping her arms around his neck. “Umm. You feel good.”

Ben couldn’t help himself. In a moment captured by his uncontrollable lust he grabbed her in a tight embrace and ran his hand up and down her firm behind.

Laura ignored his hand as she felt him grow hard against her thigh. That’s all she needed. She slowly turned him until the backs of his knees were propped against the rim of the tub. Then she nibbled on his ear lobe whispering, “Oh, my, baby. You feel so good.” She rubbed against him sensuously. “Who do you love, honey?” She rubbed some more and took hold of his belt buckle. “Hmm? Do you love little old me?”

She felt Ben’s hot breath in her ear. He murmured, “Oh, baby you know how much…” He never finished his thought.

Laura put her hands on his chest and pushed. Backwards he tumbled, splashing into the gin. “What the..” he was starting to say when Laura reached over to the vanity, turned on the electric radio and dropped it into the tub. Still plugged in. He shook and jiggled and jumped, splashing gin over the sides of the tub and onto the floor.

Laura laughed at Ben’s shocked expression. “Do away with me, baby? Not on your life. Oh, wait. I guess I was wrong. On your life, sucker!”

It took less than a minute, and then he was dead.

Half an hour later she emerged from the elevator of the ritzy hotel looking every bit the beautiful woman she was. She stopped by the front desk and said, “I think there’s a problem up in the presidential suite. Something’s clogging the drain on the tub.”

Then she sauntered across the lobby and out the front door never to be seen or heard from again. In her purse was twenty thousand dollars taken from Ben’s wallet. Or Little Ben as she now thought of him, because in truth that’s what he really was. Tiny, even.

She smiled, as she waved for a cab. One pulled up right away. “Airport, ma’am?” the cabby asked.

“Yes, thank you. And please make it a fast. I’m in a hurry.”

He saluted and grinned. “You bet, beautiful.”

She sat down in back and breathed a sigh of relief as the cab peeled away from the curb. Life was good. She was a beautiful woman and she had money, more than enough for airfare to the Bahamas. More than enough to start a new life. No one would ever find her. She stared out the window and watched the lights of the city stream past. She’d never see those lights again and she smiled. That was just fine with her.

Nailpolish Stories

Hi Everyone!

Special thanks to Nicole at Nailpolish Stories for publishing two of my twenty-five word stories this month. You can see them at this link:

https://nailpolishstories.wordpress.com/

or view them below:

Get Mod

After news of the mass shooting he threw his guns away. Then he bought a camera and traveled the country taking photographs of anything living.

Tangoed In Love

His baby girl grabbed a dandelion and stuck it in his face dusting him with yellow pollen while she laughed and laughed. It smelled like love.

 

 

Sticks and Stones – The Drabble

Hi Everyone!

It was a real treat to have my poem featured on Feb 13th on The Drabble. You can check it out by following the link and scrolling to February 13. I’ve also posted it below.

https://thedrabble.wordpress.com/2020/02/13/sticks-and-stones/

Sticks and Stones

They went every summer,

Hiking along the shoreline,

Hand in hand,

exploring.

She was an artist,

Who once did a painting of the rounded rocks and grey driftwood they found.

She called it Sticks and Stones,

An enduring testament to their love.

Laura is taking care of Connie, now,

As her memory fades with Alzheimer’s,

She reminds her of them walking together along that long ago shore,

A time, though she may have forgotten,

She captured forever in the soul of that painting.

Their love for each other,

And her ability as an artist,

Lets those memories live on,

Forever.

Glamour Romance Anthology

Hi Everyone!

I’m super excited that my story, Do You Believe In Magic? is included in the Glamour Romance Anthology published by Grant Hudson and Clarendon House Publishing. Check it out if you get a chance. A lot of my friends have stories in there, too!

https://www.clarendonhousebooks.com/anthologies

Here’s the story:

Do You Believe In Magic?

Carrie and I were out to dinner, sharing a meal at our favorite restaurant, George and the Dragon. We’d been dating for over a year and were thoroughly enjoying each other’s company, so much better than our previous relationships. We were young, in our late twenties, and both had good jobs: I was a software engineer for a medium size electronics company and Carrie worked in the art department for a graphic arts design firm. We’d met at a stargazing class the winter before and had hit it off immediately (under the glow of the Aurora Borealis, I might add.) Now, after all these months, we’d grown very close and felt like we had something special between us.

It was Saturday, February thirteenth, and our date had been a chance to celebrate the end of a rather hectic work week for each of us. Earlier in the evening we’d gone to the Guthrie Theater to see Glensheen, a captivating play set in the nineteen twenties about the life of a young servant girl at the Glensheen Mansion, located just north of Duluth on the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior, a place we visited every chance we got. We’d decided to top off the evening with a late night dinner at George’s, and it had been as scrumptious as usual. We were enjoying a shared dessert of crème brulee when out of nowhere the magician appeared, and he changed our lives forever.

He introduced himself as Theodore and asked, very politely, if we minded if he entertained us with, as he put it, “Some special magic.”

Carrie, being artistic and left brained, immediately said, “Sure. Sounds like fun.”

Me? Well, I’m analytical from the word go and didn’t believe one bit in magic, special or otherwise, but played along since Carrie seemed so enthusiastic.

“Great,” Theodore said, smiling as he handed me my watch, saying, “I believe this is yours.”

My first thought was, Hey! How’d he do that? But I didn’t spend much time dwelling on it, because I was immediately hooked.

Theodore regaled us for maybe twenty minutes. He didn’t do your normal sleight of hand card tricks or anything like that. He was way more subtle, and I think that’s what not only impressed both Carrie and me, but also drew us into his world. He took a silver coin, made it disappear and then reappear under my water glass. He pointed to my shirt pocket and asked if he could borrow the spoon that was sticking out of it. Once he said, “Excuse me. Is this yours?” as he reached down to the floor and picked up Carrie’s thin, gold chain necklace and gave it to her, much to her delight. And then a few minutes later, did it again. He was marvelously entertaining.

But it was his last bit of magic that really blew our minds and it’s stayed with us all these years. I hesitate to even call it a trick – it was so much more.

He was getting ready to leave, after handing Carrie her necklace for a third time, when he paused and asked, “Excuse me, but you two seem so happy. May I ask how long you’ve been together?”

“Just over a year,” Carrie said, giving me a questioning look, like, what’s going on?

“Why do you want to know?” I asked, keeping my voice pleasant. With someone else I might have felt he was prying but not with him. He was just so engaging, and a nice guy to boot.

“I was just wondering. I get the feeling that tonight’s a big night for you two. Is that right?” he asked, in all seriousness.

We both smiled a little at him.

“Well, not much more so than any other night,” I said.

“Just a normal date,” Carrie added. “Why?”

“Oh, nothing,” Theodore said, looking perplexed. Then he lifted an unused napkin, “It’s just that I thought this might be yours.”

He picked up an object from underneath and set it between us on the table. It was a ring. A thin, gold band with tiny agates encased around it that sparkled in the romantic restaurant lamplight. It was beautiful, and, I swear, looked exactly like one we’d seen on a trip we’d taken up to Lake Superior that last summer. We’d come across it in an agate shop in Two Harbors and remarked on its beauty, both of us thinking at the time (but not saying it out loud) what a perfect wedding band it’d make someday for Carrie.

Theodore let the ring lay on the table and then stepped back. I looked at Carrie. It had been such a wonderful evening, like all of our times together were. We were not only happy together but good for each other. The best part of my life was being with her. In that moment, something came over me, a tidal wave of love and emotion that was overwhelming, and, with it, the certainty that she and I were meant to be together for the rest of our lives.

I picked up the ring and said, “Carrie, I love you more than life itself. Will you do me the honor of marrying me?”

I’ll never forget what she did. She leaned over the table, kissed me and said, “I thought you’d never ask.”

Then I slipped the ring on her finger (it fit perfectly) and we giggled like school kids, looking into each other’s eyes, knowing without a doubt that we’d made the right decision.

After a few minutes, it dawned on me that it was Theodore who had prompted this unexpected event. I wanted to thank him, however, when I turned to do so, guess what? He was gone.

Later, when we went to pay out bill, I asked the manager about the magician. He shocked us by saying, “There was never a magician here. Never was, never will be. Don’t need the hassle.”

Well, that was curious. But we didn’t dwell on whether the manager thought Theodore was at the restaurant that night or not. For us he had been, and that’s what was important. On our way out the door I glanced at my watch. It was now the early hours of Sunday, February fourteenth.

Carrie and I have been married over thirteen years now and have two wonderful children. We celebrate our engagement at George and the Dragon every year on Valentine’s Day, where we have a romantic meal, share a crème brulee for dessert, and talk about how lucky we are that we are together. And you know what? Every time we go there it never fails to take us back to that remarkable night so long ago, when we made a lifelong commitment to each other, and I went from being a skeptic to a believer in the mystery and power of magic.

 

 

 

The Mesabi Miner – Flash Fiction Magazine

Hi Everyone!

If you get a chance check out my story featured today on Flash Fiction Magazine at:

The Mesabi Miner

I’ve also posted it below. Enjoy!

The Mesabi Miner

The huge iron ore freighter was thirty miles out when Jerry Jorgenson saw it appear on the horizon, barely visible, a tiny spec. He pulled down his seed company cap to shade his eyes, and used his binoculars to watch as the ship slowly made its way toward where he was standing, close to the shipping canal between Lake Superior and the Port of Duluth. They say that death and taxes were what you could always count on. Well, to that you could add the Mesabi Miner, thought Jerry, as he watched the huge vessel’s slow but steady progress. The freighter had been carrying iron ore back and forth across all of five of the great lakes for seventy-three years, Jerry’s entire life. It was as dependable as the day was long, was how he looked at it.

It took nearly two hours for the ship to make the journey, and as it approached the entrance to the canal it began slowing down, making ready to leave the lake. By now Jerry was surrounded by a boisterous crowd of men, women and children from all walks of life. Everyone was excited and the festive atmosphere blended in perfectly with the bright sun and warm sand and raucous seagulls. The huge vessel was so close he could almost reach out and touch it’s riveted steel immensity: one-thousand feet long, one-hundred feet wide and over fifty feet deep. It was fully laden with nearly eighty-thousand tons of iron ore, and it gave him a thrill beyond words to be standing so close to it.

The wheel house was seventy-five feet above the water. Unexpectedly, a figure appeared at the small window, leaned out and saluted good naturedly to those gathered below. It was the captain. The crowd called out and waved back excitedly. Not Jerry. He wasn’t what you’d call a demonstrative person by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, he watched closely as the captain doffed his cap, expecting to see a grizzled and weathered seaman. But that’s not what he got. He did a double take, and then had to raise his binoculars to make sure his eyes weren’t deceiving him. They weren’t. It wasn’t a man who was doffing a cap and commanding his beloved freighter. It was a woman. And, even more remarkable, she wasn’t even very old. He was stunned beyond belief. What was going on? Was this a sick joke of some kind? What had happened to manly tradition and the stoically competent seafarers who were supposed to be safely guiding the huge iron ore freighters across the always treacherous Great Lakes? More to the point, what was this woman doing on what he always thought of as his ship?

Jerry could not accept what he was seeing. It made him almost physically ill. Then as if to add insult to injury, the captain (That woman!) shook her head and set free long tresses of blond Scandinavian hair that shown in the sun like the finest imported silk. Her tanned face broke into a big smile as she gave the jovial crowd an impish wink and waved enthusiastically to them.

Jerry was aghast. She’s going to smash that ship, that’s what she’s going to do, he thought to himself. I’ll bet my pension check from the steel workers union that she’s going to sink the Mesabi Miner to the bottom of the canal. Then they’ll be sorry. Everybody knows that only men have the knowledge and skill necessary to make it through that narrow passageway and into the port beyond. He folded his arms tightly across his chest in a huff, as if challenging her to fail. Then he watched and waited, expecting the worst.

If the young captain could sense Jerry’s skepticism, she didn’t let on. Undaunted, she turned seriously to the task at hand and, like thread through a needle’s eye, she cool-handedly guided Jerry’s beloved iron ore freighter through the narrow canal into the safe harbor beyond, completing the Mesabi Miner’s journey by tooting it’s horn three times. The crowd erupted as one and began wildly cheering. Not Jerry. He turned away in disgust, the roar in his ears almost too much to bear.

He took two fast steps, and in his haste to get away almost knocked over a young girl about ten years old wearing a Minnesota Twins baseball hat. As he sidestepped her it occurred to him that his own granddaughter was about the same age. She was a delight to be around and was already an accomplished hockey player. It dawned on him that her mom, Jerry’s daughter, was about the same as the ship’s captain. She not only was a wonderful mother, but also a highly respected veterinarian. Damn. It was a pain in the ass to do so, but he had to admit that the world he used to know was changing. Sometimes too fast for him, but it was.

He quickly apologized to the young girl who smiled and said cheerfully, “That’s okay, mister.”

He took a few steps and then stopped and thought to himself, Hell, that lady captain actually did do a good job steering the freighter through the shipping canal, way better than I could have anyway. His shoulders slumped ever so slightly as the realization hit him. Yeah, she really was pretty good.

He straightened up tall, having made what was for him a momentous decision. He turned and gave the departing vessel as snappy salute. Then he begrudgingly joined in with the crowd and began applauding.