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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Avalon Literary Review Publication and Author Commentary: Past and Present

“Past and Present” – 3rd Place winner in Avalon Literary Review’s Summer Flash Fiction Contest

This piece is based almost word for word on one of my own childhood memories. I discovered a strange scar between my thumb and forefinger when I was about eight and my mom told me how I had severed an artery with a pair of kindergarten scissors and nearly died. And at that point I realized that I did sort of remember that – that is, I remembered up until the moment of the cut. I was handmaking wrapping paper for a Christmas present – drawings on lined school paper – and somehow cut my hand open. My mom had already left for work, but she’d forgotten something and came back upstairs to find me “lying in a pool of blood.” That mental image has really stuck with me all these years.

Anyway, I tried in this piece to put a more positive spin on the memory. As an adult, I understand now that all a parent would see was the blood; the sight of your daughter dying in the kitchen. To the child, however, it was all about the present.

Friday, August 23, 2013

On Writing: Blogging

One of the surprisingly interesting things about maintaining a blog are the insights you get into what all of those “anonymous” people on the Internet are doing. Blogger, for example, gives you some basic statistics on who’s viewing your blog: what country they’re in, what language they speak, and what browser and operating system they’re using. The data that’s available from Google Analytics – which I’ve just signed up for – is even more detailed; you can see, for example, not just the countries where your readers reside, but down to the very cities in which they live. On top of that, you can apparently get stats like how long someone spends on a page, how many pages they view per visit, and so on. It’s a bit nosy, really. But somehow I doubt that anyone in South Korea will care if I know the name of their hometown. In any case, I’m looking forward to getting more information on who my readers are and how they found me.

I might not have bothered except that in the last few months, the spammers also seem to have found me. Every time I post, I get a regular explosion of phony hits from places like,, and so on. I guess the idea is that you’re supposed to be so curious as to where the hits are coming from that you click on the link and then see the ad for whatever it is they’re selling. But it’s annoying even when the source is that obvious. Google Analytics is supposed to filter that out, so I’m hopeful that, going forward, I’ll be able to get statistics on page views and referral sources and such without including the garbage.

Now legitimate traffic sourcing, I think, would make for a fascinating sociological study. For example, some people have found my post on incest in The Bible by searching for “brother-sister incest.” Somehow I doubt they went looking for that out of cultural curiosity. Another was looking online for “short stories about squirrels scurrying.” (I’m the fifth hit on Yahoo for that search. But only if you include the “scurrying.”) And, of course, my personal favorite: the frequent people searching for “Bible spandex.” Who ever would have guessed that there was so much interest in that particular subject? It would almost be worth putting up a phony blog containing keywords of particular interest just to see how the stats develop. I would imagine that the results would be both amusing and horrifying. Isn’t the modern age wonderful?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Romance Flash Publication and Author Commentary: The Sublet

This, too, is a modified excerpt from my as-yet-unpublished novel My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Aged. They say that publishing excerpts from your novels is good strategy, and maybe it is. But don’t kid yourself into thinking it saves time because you’re recycling something you’ve already written. If anything, it takes longer than writing a story from scratch. First, you have to build a frame story around a segment that was intended to be a much longer work. Second, you have to make it self-contained, which means adding and getting rid of stuff that no longer fits in the revised version. And finally, you have to adjust the length to make it work for the market for which you’re shooting, and in the case of flash fiction, this can be daunting indeed.
I like the frame story I chose here, which is completely unrelated to the plot of my book. The idea that people are no longer forced to stay in a particular place for work and are thus free to move around as much as they like intrigued me. Perhaps I get that from my days as a professional eBay seller, when I routinely traveled several months of the year and worked on the road. In the modern world the scenario is perfectly plausible, and for people without roots or strings tying them down to one location, the thought of simply packing your suitcase and moving on whenever you felt like it might have some appeal. On the other hand, it would definitely interfere with your love life. Suddenly, instead of just hanging out to see what happens with your new relationship, you have to consciously decide – do you stay or move on when your time’s supposed to be up?
Fortunately, this particular section of my book didn’t require a tremendous effort in order to make it self-contained, which is one of the reasons I chose it. Except for at the beginning, there weren’t a lot of references to events that happened earlier, and those were fairly simple to excise. Trying to get the word count down to under 1000 was awful, though. I started out with 1700 and after I’d whittled it down as much as I thought I possibly could, I still had 1200 words. After I took out the final 200, I was afraid the story didn’t make sense as a story anymore, so I set it aside for a while so I could read it with fresh eyes. I guess it must have worked, though, because the good people at Romance Flash decided to publish it. I only hope the readers like it, too!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pittsburgh Flash Fiction Gazette Publication and Author Commentary: Last Date

My flash fiction piece "Last Date" has been published in The Pittsburgh Flash Fiction Gazette. (Note: Although the story is not overly explicit, the Gazette contains adult content).

There’s actually a lot going on in this little piece. I didn’t even realize it myself until I re-read it just now, a few months after writing it. I thought it was mostly about love and aging; that is, how aging alters our experience of love, which is a theme on which I’ve focused a great deal in my recent work. And it is about that, of course, but what really strikes me now is that, in a very big way, it’s also about loss. The lost love. The lost chance. The loss of libido. The loss of youth.

I can only conclude that I must have been very sad when I wrote this piece. That some small part of me must still wonder, must still be dwelling on what might have been; not just in love, but in life itself. Perhaps it’s like that for all of us as we grow older. Perhaps we all reach a point at which we realize that certain paths are no longer open to us, or at least that they’re now packed with obstacles that simply didn’t exist in our youth.

I think that’s why I started writing again after such a lengthy hiatus. Because in my stories and novels I can explore any path I choose; even those which, for whatever reason, are no longer open to me. I can live the life that, in reality, I chose not to live; take the chances I didn’t take; recapture the opportunities I failed to grasp. And it comforts me sometimes to arrive at the end of that imaginary road-not-taken and conclude that I didn’t miss much after all. That I didn’t have to give up what I have in order to pursue some shadow of a dream that would never pan out in the real world, anyway; that the real charm of the fantasy lies in its very unreality.

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"Last Date" is one of the stories to be featured in my forthcoming collection To All the Penises I've Ever Known: Romantic and Erotic Shorts by Lori Schafer. For more information, please visit the book's webpage or subscribe to my newsletter.